Warning to festive walkers in wake of storm Arwen

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it – at least no one will get hurt...

A felled tree on Doune Estate.
A felled tree on Doune Estate.

But in the wake of recent Storm Arwen, Scotland’s landowners have issued a warning to walkers and others taking access over the Christmas break to take extra care as clean-up operations are still underway in many parts of the country.

Although the full damage caused by the late-November storm is still being assessed, it has been estimated that more than eight million trees were damaged – accounting for the loss of between one and 1.5 million cubic metres of timber on woodland and forestry across Scotland.

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And with more people expecting to be out walking on estates over the festive period, land managers have urged those visiting to take care and follow signage and guidance when out and about around woodland areas where fallen trees might be blocking paths, with many of them in an unstable condition.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Frosty festive walks are a lovely way to spend time over Christmas and New Year and estates are expecting more people to be accessing land as they get outdoors and burn off some calories.”

She said that there has been a significant increase in walkers during the early stages of the pandemic and this was expected once again over the coming weeks – but she added: “The severe impact of Storm Arwen is still being felt across rural Scotland and, in many places, it will be months before estates can fully address the issues of trees that have fallen.

“Whilst there will be some local knowledge of where damage has occurred, it is especially important for all walkers – especially those travelling from further afield – to follow signage that should have been erected and take care not to access locations which may have been closed off.”

The Borders and East Lothian into Galloway and Aberdeenshire, through Angus and into Perthshire, were amongst the worst hit areas.

Doune Estate near Stirling was one example where there had been extensive tree damage, including at areas close to the award-winning local nature reserve, Doune Ponds.

Estate manager Rory McLeod, said that around 60 hectares (150 acres) came down across the estate as well as numerous individual trees along field margins, properties, roads and well-used paths: “The damage to woodland and commercial forestry on the estate will take considerable time to rectify. After initially assessing the damage and planning how to move forward, we’re then relying on our skilled staff, and contractors who are in demand across the country, to deal with fallen trees against a backdrop of winter weather.

“We have had to target our resources to deal with certain areas first, including the local nature reserve where the footfall is greatest, but it is important that walkers take notice of the guidance that is in place to protect their safety and ensure they enjoy their visit without incident,” said McLeod.

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