Whilst land reform has been capturing headlines in Scotland in recent years, a determined band have been quietly working away to actually deliver it on the ground – or rather, in the woods.
A new model of woodland tenure which offers affordable access to woodland for woodsmen – woodlot licences – has been pioneered by the Scottish Woodlot Association. The model allows an individual to rent an area of woodland from a landowner on a long-term basis, to manage productively.
The Association’s success was highlighted earlier this month with the signing of their seventh woodlot licence agreement at Speddoch, near Dumfries.
The site on the Speddoch Estate comprises a number of small woodland parcels which have been combined into three separate woodlot licences giving three different families the chance to benefit. One of the new licence holders, Steffi Schaffler, is a horse logger who lives nearby and plans to manage her woodlot using her own horses. The 14 ha woodlot is ideal for them, as Steffi explains: “It’s a great site for horses, not steep and not too wet. I am looking forward to thinning it, which is what horses are really good for.”
Steffi and her partner recently installed a log boiler in their home, so the poorer quality timber they cannot sell as sawlogs will find a ready home in their firewood stack.
Another of the licence holders, Mark Rowe, also lives nearby, though in his case actually on the estate – this local connection is typical of most woodlots. Mark runs a mobile sawmilling and general forestry business and will use the woodlot both to support his business and provide for his own personal woodfuel needs. Under the terms of their licences Steffi and Mark will be responsible for managing their woodlots according to management plans agreed with Speddoch Estate owner.