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The Impact of Storm Arwen and How We Recover

Jan 11, 2022

Planning for the Future

One month on, Jeremy Thompson, Managing Director of Forest Direct Ltd explores the real impact of Storm Arwen and how the forestry sector can recover.

Figures just released suggest that the Storm Arwen has caused over 4,000 ha of damage to existing woodland. To put that in context 4,000 ha is roughly the equivalent of eight million trees.

Each year Scotland creates around 11,000 hectares of new woodland – approximately 22 million new trees. Added to that, around 40 million trees are planted every year to simply restock areas of woodland that are harvested. So in order for us to end 2022 in the same position we should have been in, the forestry industry will need to plant 70 million trees this year alone. That is on top of the necessary felling and safety works required before much of the planting can begin.

In just over a month since Storm Arwen, we have completed the initial assessment of storm damage on over 86 properties. We have found that damage ranges from a few edge trees and individual trees to swathes of windblown trees which has, in many cases, rendered the shelterbelts or woodlands unviable. The result being that the whole woodland will need to be programmed for removal.

The first priority has been public safety, property and reconnecting power and phone supplies. While power and phone lines are now repaired, leaning trees, particularly over public roads, remains an issue due to the lack of qualified tree surgeons available to carry out the work. This is pushing urgent work back to mid-January.

The second priority is to clear windblown trees off fence lines and stone dykes for our clients. This is dangerous work with trees often leaning and resulting in considerable tension in the tree. Use of excavators with shears or harvesters is safer than chainsaws and winches in these situations.
Our assessment is that the main bulk of the windblow can be left until the Spring/Summer when the ground is drier, there is more daylight and demand from the timber market traditionally picks up from Easter. However, this will depend on site access over fields, timing of crop harvests and the owner’s objectives.

Initially, we expect that timber prices will fall, particularly for pine sawlogs and chipwood. This is due to the majority of windblow in the eastern areas causing an oversupply of these products. However, we will be monitoring timber prices and will recommend the best time to undertake your harvesting. We will always try to sell the timber before harvesting work starts.

It is important to remember that, except in an emergency, clearing windblown trees requires a felling permission. Our first fast track felling permission application was approved in two days, but we would advise allowing four to six weeks for approval.

We can help you with this!

A felling permission application raises a number of important questions such as:
Do we need to take down standing trees next to the windblown trees which could blow over later?
Has the integrity of the woodland or shelterbelt been compromised to the extent that it should be cleared entirely or taken back to a windfirm edge?
What species of tree are going to be used for replanting?

The damage from Storm Arwen is an opportunity to reassess the role of woodlands on your farm or estate. Is the objective purely livestock shelter or income from timber sales or cover for game?

Farm woodlands should be an integral part of the land and crop management on the farm. Below are some questions that you might ask yourself when assessing your woodlands:

Which woodlands are the most important for the farm? Is this for livestock or property shelter? Is this for amenity or landscaping? Is this for future income or game cover? What species should we replant with? The same as before or is there a better alternative to suit your objectives? Are there additional areas that could be planted now to improve the effectiveness of the woodland shape to perform its role, be that shelter, timber income, sporting, or landscape enhancement? In certain circumstances, the woodland can be relocated entirely.

We recognise that many farm woodlands are required for more than one objective and, here at Forest Direct, we have the experience and expertise to design a woodland that can satisfy all the objectives and requirements.

For further information please contact Jeremy on 07967 111805 or through our contact us page.