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Tarras Valley Nature Reserve and Tilhill harvest timber for major restoration project

Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, together with Tilhill, a member of BSW Group and UK leaders in sustainable forestry, woodland management and timber harvesting, are harvesting over 15,385 tonnes of timber to support projects in Langholm, South Scotland, and to facilitate the largest community-led ecological restoration project in the UK.

For the last 45 years, the ‘Tarras Strip plantation’ was a productive timber plantation, connecting into a rich network of woodlands, including young regenerating trees and ancient wood pastures along the river floodplains.

The area being clear-felled was transferred over to the community of Langholm as part of its historic buy-out of 10,500 acres of the Tarras Valley from the Buccleuch Estate. The timber was nearing time for harvesting, but extensive damage from Storm Arwen meant that felling needed to happen sooner than originally planned.

Over 36 hectares and approximately 15,385 tonnes of timber, comprising mainly of Sitka spruce and Norway spruce, had been badly damaged by Storm Arwen, alongside small amounts of Larch, ranging from 16 to 51 years. It is now being harvested by Tilhill to encourage the natural regeneration of native woodland species which remain across the site.  It is the biggest land restoration project that has been undertaken since the Langholm Initiative – a local community development trust – bought the land in 2021 on behalf of the Langholm community. The Initiative were pleased to secure the services of Mark Seed Forestry and Land Ltd, a Langholm based forestry consultant, to act as their agent throughout the works.

Extensive community engagement has taken place throughout to ensure that local people have been informed and updated about the operations. The team worked closely with partners including Scottish Power and the Council’s roads department to reduce impact on the local community and surrounding infrastructure. Specific attention was paid to timber haulage, which was a big concern locally and all partners have worked closely to ensure the impact on the local area was reduced as much as possible.

A co-design process will follow the felling, led by the Langholm Initiative, to collaboratively re-design the site and ensure it continues to be a rich community resource.

Jenny Barlow, Tarras Valley Nature Reserve Estate Manager, said: “Tilhill offered a competitive price and a wealth of experience and professionalism to help us achieve our aims for the site. The timber being harvested from the site by Tilhill is helping to generate an income for the Langholm Initiative, which will help support investment back into the community land, which in turn encourages long-term sustainability of a shared community asset for future generations.

“The long-term vision for the area is to create a diverse native woodland with improved walking trails for people and opportunities to enjoy the amazing wildlife in the Valley.

“The Langholm Initiative are working alongside the local community to develop ambitious plans to facilitate large scale recovery of nature across the landscape, bringing positive benefits for people and the local community.”

David Biott, Tilhill Harvesting Manager, said: “The objective of the original forest plan was to ensure an income for our clients to reinvest. What is interesting is the variety of wildlife species that have been found amongst the spruce trees and the area around it. Badgers, red squirrels, pine martens, otters, goshawks and other birds of prey are all using this forest for nesting or hunting. I think it’s a brilliant example of meeting a balance between achieving a sustainable income but also providing habitat.

“All the timber will be fully utilised, mainly being cut into green sawlogs for BSW Timber’s Carlisle sawmill, located within 20 miles of the site, making it much more sustainable. We are also working with other third parties such as Iggesund Paperboard to create pulpwood and fuelwood for paperboard production and green energy, while AW Jenkinson will take shavings to create bedding material for animals such as horses, demonstrating a vast array of forest products created from the felling.”

Mark Seed, Forest and Land Ltd, who is the acting forestry agent for the Langholm Initiative, said: “Tarras Valley Nature Reserve and community buyout is utilising their assets to their fullest extent for the benefit of the community. The Initiative is using local, highly professional timber buyers, processors, sawmillers and forestry woodland services throughout the supply chain. It has achieved that rare outcome where the three sustainable aspects of land and resource management meet – socially, ecologically and, importantly, economically.

“The legacy it will leave will be enjoyed by generations to come and is a credit to Tarras Valley Nature Reserve and Tilhill teams. “Our main contribution was the marketing of the timber which has surpassed Tarras Valley Nature Reserve’s expectations and demonstrates that South Scotland and Northern England is genuinely benefitting from long term forestry planning and investments. All woodland types and activities – commercial, native woodland restorations, new woodland creations and timber productions – are directly creating jobs, generating tourism and improving the landscape, and are a significant contributor to the local and regional area.”

The timber harvesting is expected to be completed around April 2024, and the Langholm Initiative will be working with teams of volunteers to complete supplementary planting of native Scottish trees including Birch, Rowan, Oak and Scots Pine in large clusters throughout the site to give natural processes a helping hand.


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