Ringbarking Resolutions

By Rhyddian Knight, Forest Ranger

After Hogmanay, I took it upon myself to climb Cnoc na Cille to get an overview of the season ahead. It was one of the blue sky frosty days at the start of the year. I met three red deer on the ascent but was otherwise unaccompanied for the rest of the day. Beings Glenan’s highest point; you can see the three valleys that largely comprise our local community rainforest.

I climbed the Boar’s Back to get an overview of the conifers encroaching on or regenerating in Glenan Wood.

The birches, swelling with their purple red hue and the rust brown bracken below, was broken by jagged conifers; their crowns forced and irregular through the canopy. Descending the hill that day, I took with me some resolve to attend to ring-barking while the frost is hoary and the bracken is down.

Ring-barking, is the complete removal of the bark from around the entire circumference of either a trunk of a tree. It results in the death of the area above the ring over time. The entire tree will die, if it cannot regrow from above to bridge the wound. Foresters use the practice of ringbarking to thin forests. Animals such as rodents will ringbark trees by feeding on outer bark, often during winter under snow. Ring barking conifers also provides standing dead wood, an important habitat for wildlife

Our PAWS report advises: ‘All conifers should ultimately be removed from these woods, as they will compete with the native trees for light and root space, and continue to colonise more ground through the establishment of seedlings. Priority should be given to the removal of conifers which threaten to directly shade mature native trees, and to the eradication of Western hemlock. This species is an aggressive coloniser, and several mature specimens are present. Small trees and saplings should be cut at ground level, and the brash piled around any nearby native tree regeneration to provide some level of protection from browsing. The mature conifers present are remote from any access tracks, and are probably best controlled by ring-barking. This will not only be the cheapest option, but will provide a valuable standing deadwood habitat’.

The exception of course is that we will avoid cutting the hemlock where the rhododendron is prolific as I am informed that the hemlock is suppressing the rate of the rhododendron spreading.

I hope to climb the hill again in January 2022 and see the conifers standing dead in the valleys.

They say: ‘Man Plans, God Laughs’ and, for the previous fortnight to posting, I been summoned away from this task to further the Orchard project. This time has been spent crosscutting and moving some of the bigger timbers in preparation for the fencing contractors.

Looking forward, should days be too dreich for roaming, I will be using the draining spade to continue digging out some of the culverts and drainage ditches that have not seen any attention for a few years.

We are offering remotely supported lone volunteering at the moment, with an emphasis on safety. If you would like to discuss progressing any of these tasks please contact me at: rhyddian@glenanwood.org.uk