Applecross Larch

Applecross Larch

In September 2013, the Forestry Commission issued a Statutory Plant Health Notice on larch growing at Applecross, due to the presence of a notifiable plant disease, Phytopthera ramorum. This disease is spread as fungal spores from needles and is highly contagious on larch species in the right environment – mild, humid areas with a secondary host such as rhododendron. The notice required trees within a 250m radius of the infection area to be felled before the next season’s needle flush, implying end of March 2014.

With limited timescales for the consideration of alternative transport & marketing options, the Applecross Trustees very quickly came to the conclusion that the movement of diseased timber out of the Applecross peninsula was not the correct thing to do, given the risk of wider spread of the disease. Also, the local demand for both quality timber and fuel wood suggested a more sustainable strategy for using the wood than exporting it to more distant markets. From the start of operations, the aim was therefore to cut for community use, and process the quality timber as a secondary operation, to size specifications obtained by a local ordering system.

Approximately 750 tonnes of larch timber was felled and extracted to roadside locations for processing and transport. Of this, around 250 tonnes has been converted to many sizes of planks, batons, posts, beams and rails for local use, and from which the outer slabs of each log provide quality firewood. Sawdust has also been an inevitable by-product, which has been available for use within the 5-mile radius allowed under statutory controls on movement of infected residue and fuel wood products. Processor licences were obtained by two larger users in the area – Torridon Hotel, and a boatbuilder in Lochcarron, who have taken delivery of 170 tonnes of round timber. A stock of timber remains for future use and, being European larch, this will season over time without loss of quality.

The opportunity was taken to supply all timber products at below market cost and subsidised by the Trust for local use.