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2 Mar 2021

From tree to table at Brodie Castle

Written by Jacky Brookes
Bird's eye view of Brodie Castle, with the long driveway leading to it. The castle is surrounded by woodland.
Key to our forestry work is increasing biodiversity, with a new mixed woodland in keeping with the historic landscape that once existed around Brodie Castle.

Brodie has long had a forestry background, with large areas of the estate planted as fast-growing commercial forestry in the 1960s. The current works are part of a 10-year plan approved by and with permission of Forestry Land Scotland. The plan involves removing some mature commercial forestry across the estate in areas where trees are becoming dangerous and where there’s a threat to public safety or damage to infrastructure.

The areas felled will be left to regenerate with native woodland rather than replanted as commercial forestry. This will increase biodiversity and provide a new linked mixed woodland habitat.

In other areas, where possible, we’re trying to manage trees instead of removing them, like the beautiful and iconic copper beech to the west of the castle. This ancient tree is not in the best of health, but we’re undertaking work to extend its life, as well as protect people around it so that it can be enjoyed for a few more years. We have roped it off and interpretation panels explain to visitors what we’re doing to protect the tree.

Over the past two years we’ve been undertaking forestry works around the car park, the adventure playground and the pond walk. This was carried out by external expert contractors under the on-site supervision of the head gardener, who is responsible for managing the estate grounds. As part of this project all the trees were safety-inspected. Unfortunately, some hardwood trees were found to have structural issues caused by fungal infections. Three large beech trees to the front of the castle were identified as being dangerous, and their proximity to public footpaths and the car park meant they had to be felled.

The commercial forestry wood has been sold for timber, woodchip and biomass, providing much-needed income to the Trust to invest back into the castle and estate. In the case of non-commercial trees, like the three beech trees at the front of the castle, we’ll sell some of the timber to local wood mills, but keep a proportion of it to use in different ways on the estate.

We’re recycling the timber wherever possible – part of this process is bringing these ancient trees ‘back to life’ on the estate. Currently being made from the beech tree wood is a large ‘top table’ for weddings, which will be sited in our stable building where we host many wedding receptions each year; it’ll also be used for events and meetings. The table is being made by a local external company and should be in place by autumn 2021.

Other smaller pieces of wood have been carved into amazing chainsaw sculptures by our first gardener, Jonathon Barton. We placed these sculptures around the shrubbery during 2020 and our visitors loved them! This year, the wood sculptures will be popping up all around the estate, including the pond area – watch this space and our social media pages!

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