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New woodland creation on former sheep farm in Scottish Borders

Larriston, a former sheep farm,  is one of the largest new commercial woodlands planted in the UK in recent times.

The farm was put up for the sale by the previous owner due to the relatively poor land quality and need for capital investment. Without significant expenditure the farm was no longer seen as a viable farm unit and the poor lamb price coupled with uncertainty over future subsidies didn’t justify the required input.

The property was bought by a private investment client in late 2012, with the help of Tilhill Forestry’s Investment Team, with a view to creating a new commercial woodland. The following three years saw a long and drawn out approval process, with close to 20 iterations of concept design being worked up and consulted on before the final design was settled upon and approval granted for the planting to begin. This was in late spring 2016 and, in a bid to get a head start, approximately 100ha of new woodland was planted before the end of the 2016 planting season.

The balance of the works – vegetation control, ground preparation, fencing and planting were undertaken from late summer 2016 through to July 2017. The cool, wet summer experienced this year has been ideal for the establishment of the young trees and will provide the best start to their life in the Scottish Borders.

After almost a year of intense activity the initial planting phase of the Larriston Farm woodland creation project is now complete with approximately 1.3 million new trees having been planted, bringing to an end the initial surge of activity on this impressive woodland creation project.

While the project has seen in excess of one million Sitka spruce planted, which will help support the forestry industry and wider rural economy into the foreseeable future, there is also a wide range of other benefits:

• 63ha of new native woodland, improving water quality, creating new habitats, enhancing the landscape and protecting our native tree species.

• Potential for new, informal, recreational access loops, linking in to existing core parts and rights of way.

• Protection and enhancement of cultural heritage and archaeological sites.

• Protection of sensitive sites with high ecological value.

• Increase in local population through residential farm properties being brought back into full time occupation.

• 15ha of commercial broadleaf woodland with the potential to provide local biomass for domestic and industrial use for generations.

• The creation of 42ha of diverse conifer woodland providing habitat, diversity and the potential to research alternative species for timber production.

• 350ha of blanket bog on Larriston Moor fenced off and allowed to recover from a long period of damaging intensive over-grazing.

• Long term reduction in peak hydrological flow, potentially reducing downstream flooding issues.

“This is only the beginning of a hugely interesting and productive phase of Larriston’s future. One which will see many rotations of high quality commercial timber produced helping deliver Scottish Government timber targets, while protecting the environment and providing employment and sustainable resource for generations to come.

“The delivery of 560ha of new woodland and all the spin off benefits is a huge positive for the forest industry, local community and Scottish Borders rural economy, both now and for decades to come,” says Andrew Fisher, Forest Manager for Tilhill Forestry


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