Restructuring the Ancient Treescape at Chatelherault
Don't miss your chance to find out more about the 25 year long plans tomorrow night, when Malcolm Muir, Countryside and Greenspace Manager for South Lanarkshire Council, will deliver a talk at New Lanark on the subject.
Formerly a royal hunting park for the ancient Kings of Strathclyde, the Hamilton Family were granted the lands of ‘Cadzow’ around 1320. Chatelherault was built in the 1740s as a hunting lodge for the Dukes, at the end of a long tree lined avenue which led from Hamilton Palace. It reflected the formal symmetry of the great, designed landscape surrounding Hamilton Palace to the front, while the back of the building offered magnificent views over the Avon gorge which was, at that point, covered in native broadleaved woodland. The Dukes built paths, bridges and maintained viewpoints which are still in use today, although in varying states of repair.
Throughout these long centuries, the ancient broadleaved woodlands had been carefully managed for timber, charcoal and game. They had seen little change until the 1950s when a high proportion of the woodland was cleared and replaced with fast growing commercial conifers, mainly from Europe and America. These non-native trees have had a negative impact on native wildlife, blocking light and lessening the habitats supported by native broadleaved woodlands. They have also grown much taller than the native trees, blocking breath-taking views across the River Avon. Ancient woodlands are now protected against felling and work across Scotland is now underway to restore Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) – of which Chatelherault Country Park is one.
The remaining ancient woodland, one of the richest and most diverse habitats in Britain, supports thousands of species of animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms. They are of national importance, forming part of Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve (NNR) and specific parts within it having being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and European Special Area for Conservation (SAC).
The Long Term Forest Plan lays out a 25 year schedule for conifer removal by felling, using modern harvesting machinery. The removal will take part in sections to minimise disruption to users of the park. Existing paths will be improved and a new path will be created through Meikle Glen to communities to the south and west of Hamilton, to allow for vehicle access. These paths will improve access across the park and offer a more varied range of circular walks, having a positive benefit on visitors and communities close to the park.
Although the felling will have an impact on the aesthetics of the area, the area’s fertile soils contain a rich seed bank that which means that natural tree regeneration is very rapid. Laverock Hill near Barncluith was felled in 2005 and by 2009, had already greened over and was covered with young, predominantly birch trees. By spring 2011, the whole area was covered with young woodland and was alive with birdsong. Over the next ten years, the regenerated birch will be thinned and spaced out to provide room for slower growing tree species, such as ash and oak.
Money raised by the sale of the conifer timber will go towards further improvements in the park such as path, bridge and access improvements, restoration of some of the neglected historic structures in the wider park, as well as the potential restoration of the White Bridge.
The plans are being led by South Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture Ltd who are working with the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership, Forestry Commission Scotland, Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Central Scotland Green Network Trust, Eammon Wall & Co and Land Use Consultants, to ensure that the project is developed in accordance with the best available advice and guidance, following best practice as set out in the UK Forestry Standard.