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The Douglas Fir

In the late 19th Century the Guisachan Estate in Glen Affric came into the possession of recently ennobled former merchant banker Lord Tweedmouth, an archetypical Victorian 'improver'.

One of his last major additions to the estate came in 1905 with the first large scale plantings of the newly fashionable Douglas Fir in Scotland. Some 44ha were planted up, and now, nearly a century later, there are around 145 mature trees in every hectare of what is known as the Plodda Falls stand.

'These are big trees, ' says Forestry Commission Fort Augustus forest manager Malcolm Wield. 'Some of them are close to 60m high. Tweedmouth chose the site very carefully, and the trees have flourished.'

Since taking over the estate in 1937 the Forestry Commission has maintained the stand as a continuous cover amenity planting.

This has to be maintained and regeneration encouraged in a five year cycle - which means felling a limited number of trees to let in the light and encourage the growth of seedlings. Scottish timber merchants anticipate these occasions eagerly, Wield says.

'We always look for some special end uses during thinning operations. Since we started 30 years ago we've supplied masts for many marine heritage projects - including Captain Scott's ship the Discovery in Dundee harbour - and 25m tall electricity transmission poles for Sweden and Ireland.'

From Plodda Falls the logs went to a sawmill in Kirriemuir, Angus, belonging to James Jones, another wood. for good. sponsor. Sales director Ian Pirie says that the trees to be felled for the SOC project were specially selected by both the Forestry Commission's forester and the sawmill manager. 'They were looking for consistent quality, with straight, clean stems, ' he reports.

'Although we have a lot of experience with Douglas Fir, this was exceptionally good.'

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