Forestry in the College Valley
Of the 12,300 acres which form the College Valley Estate, some 2,100 acres comprise a mixture of coniferous and native broadleaved trees.
After the estate was purchased in 1953 the Directors at the time carried out a ten year forestation plan almost entirely of coniferous trees which were located in large blocks from Elsdonburn and Hethpool right up to the remote south east end of the estate.
Today, much of it would have been considered insensitive planting in landscape terms, but at the time it was accepted by both the Government and foresters as a proper and sensible land use in upland areas. From the early 1970's to the late 1990's trees were selectively felled under a thinning regime but with increasing costs, proper extraction roads could not be created and working the remoter woodlands proved very difficult and expensive. Over this period, although respectable returns could be made, enormous damage was done to the estate road infrastructure and any profits were used up in repairs.
In 1989 a landscape and conservation report was commissioned which proposed the "softening" of some of the prominent hard hedges of coniferous woodlands and the planting of native broadleaves at various locations. This was followed in 2006 by a comprehensive Integrated Land Use Review which proposed large scale felling followed by replanting of native broadleaved trees to enhance the landscape, help with conservation measures and improve wildlife habitats. The scheme was implemented in late 2006 and the original 1,660 acres of coniferous plantations now compare with 2,120 acres of which over half comprises broadleaves, open ground or heather areas.
Our policy now is not to clear fell and replant the commercial woodland areas but to carry out "continuous forestry cover" where mature plantations are selectively felled, leaving an open stand of mature trees to produce a natural seed source and the regeneration of young trees.