Drone footage captures a dramatic and previously hidden Chatelherault panorama
Extent of multi-phase project revealed
Drone footage of Chatelherault Country Park, Lanarkshire, has been released, capturing the extent of a multi-phase plantation conifer removal project in one of Scotland’s oldest and greatest designed landscapes.
Drone Scotland captured the footage as a further 800 tonnes of non-native American Western Hemlocks were removed from the area around the Visitor Centre, originally the Hunting Lodge of Hamilton Palace, designed by William Adam in 1745. The removal of the commercial plantation was a national conservation priority and a key objective of South Lanarkshire Council’s long term management plans for the restoration of Chatelherault Country Park.
The stunning filming has revealed a dramatic and historic panorama over the Avon Gorge, Duke’s Bridge and towards Cadzow Castle. The Hunting Lodge was originally built as an ‘eyecatcher’ to terminate the views from Hamilton Palace and would have provided a stunning vantage point to overlook the Hamilton High Parks. This breath-taking vista has been obscured for decades by the growth of a block planted non-native commercial conifer crop.
Formerly one of Scotland's grandest designed landscapes, Chatelherault contains remnants of scenically beautiful parkland, ancient trees and fine architecture. The removal of these trees will bring about huge improvements to the biodiversity of this nationally significant ancient woodland as these dense and dark plantations supported little wildlife. Funds generated from the sale of the harvested timber will go towards an ambitious plan to improve the paths and infrastructure of the Country Park including repair of the White Bridge.
The footage allows viewers to see the specialist forestry harvesters at work; on the steep slopes and challenging terrain of the Avon Gorge. It took just eight days to remove the trees, preserving the historic landscape for the 600,000 visitors that visit annually and for generations to come. Watch how quickly the ergonomic and powerful harvesters worked, using chainsaws mounted on the end of flexible crane arms to cut down the tree from the base and chop it in to smaller lengths. The harvesters worked around the five giant redwoods that were planted in the late 19th century to frame the magnificent views from Chatelherault.
The drone footage also shows striking views of the White Bridge that is due to be repaired through funds generated from the sale of the timber. Closed for safety reasons since 2010, the White Bridge will restore a very popular 4.5 km circular walk as an alternative to the 8 km circuit using the Green Bridge, to the south of the Country Park.
This final phase of the project was supported by South Lanarkshire Council and Heritage Lottery Fund and LEADER supported Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership (CAVLP). It follows the removal of 18 hectares of plantation conifers between the Cadzow Oaks and White Bridge in November 2016, and 15 hectares of conifers at Laverock Hill in 2005.
The programme is part of a nation-wide initiative to protect and restore ancient, native woodland sites, where the semi-natural woodland has been replaced with a non-native plantation. Chatelherault had been one of the largest of these Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) in Scotland, but over half of the damaged area is now being restored to native tree cover. No further conifer felling will take place until the young, native woodland is well established, which takes about ten years on the rich and productive ancient woodland soils.
Malcolm Muir, Countryside and Greenspace Manager at South Lanarkshire Council explains, “The felled area will be allowed to regenerate naturally from the ancient woodland soils that are rich in nutrients, fungi and other micro-organisms which will help the trees grow. Biodiversity will increase as native broad-leaved trees regenerate. First to appear will be birch, willow, ash, and rowan, followed by ash, elm and oak, along with more recent arrivals in Scotland like sycamore and beech. As the trees becomes established, bluebells and other woodland flowers will start to colonise the young woodland and wildlife will return to the area. Within five or so years, the young woodland will be alive with birds such as willow warblers in the spring, feeding on the returning insect populations.
Donna Marshall, CAVLP Programme Manager says, “This impressive footage of restored panoramic views to the ravine of the River Avon with the ruins of Cadzow Castle beyond is fantastic to watch. The Chatelherault designed landscape is one of contrasts and drama and the removal of the plantation crop now allows the landscape to be experienced from it’s original intended vantage point.”
She continues, “The views around the Avon Gorge has been noted in historical accounts as far back as the 16th century and we are delighted to have been involved in a project to restore the historic vista; the predominant reason the 5th Duke of Hamilton would have chosen the site for building the Hunting Lodge during the Georgian era. We are delighted with the footage that Bjorn Aaen of Drone Scotland captured as part of the project."
Plan your visit to Chatelherault Country Park at http://www.slleisureandculture.co.uk.