The Water Tower

The Water Tower
The Water Tower at Dusk

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Woodland Management and Donald Rodger

Well one of the most highly respected individuals in the tree world, the person who wrote The Hertiage Trees of Scotland, has been to review my woodland management plan at the water tower wood. This book is a must for tree lovers.

Woodland Management Plan for Water Tower Wood Dalkeith Midlothian

for and on behalf of

Mr and Mrs G Goldwyre
House RP9
Cemetery Road
EH22 3DL


Donald Rodger Associates 
Arboricultural Consultants

May 2011

Woodland Management Plan
Water Tower Wood, Dalkeith, Midlothian



This management plan relates to an area of woodland known as Water Tower Wood, located on the south bank of the River North Esk in the town of Dalkeith, Midlothian. It was commissioned by the owners, Mr and Mrs Goldwyre, with the purpose of ensuring its long-term and sustainable management. The report is based on site inspections carried out on 13 and 24 May 2011.

A management plan was previously prepared for the site by woodland consultant Donald McPhillimy in December 1999. This provides some useful background information regarding the site and this is not reproduced here. The management prescriptions, however, are largely superseded by this report.


4. The recommendations relate to the site as it exists at present, and to the current level and pattern of usage it currently enjoys. The degree of risk and hazard may alter if the site is developed or significantly changed, and as such will require regular re-inspection and re-appraisal.

5. The report relates to the area of woodland growing in the clients’ ownership. Trees outwith the survey area were not inspected. 

6. Whilst every effort has been made to detect defects within the individual trees inspected, no guarantee can be given as to the absolute safety or otherwise of any individual tree. Extreme climatic conditions can cause damage to even apparently healthy trees.


2.1 Site Characteristics

The entire site extends to approximately 0.5ha (1.23 acres). This is entirely wooded, with the exception of a small plot at the eastern end which accommodates a new bespoke dwelling (this area has historically been open ground). 

Access is off Cemetery Road, which forms the eastern boundary. The River North Esk defines the northern boundary with tennis courts and a former railway cutting (currently used as a public path) adjoining to the south. The topography is characterised by very steep and largely inaccessible north facing slopes down to the river, with more level ground to the south. The woodland forms the eastern extremity of a contiguous belt of mixed woodland which clothes the southern bank of the river, and partially encloses an area of public open space lying to the north of the river known as Ironmills Park. 

2.2 Woodland Description 

The woodland is of mixed species and age and is part of a long-standing landscape feature on the steeply sloping ground to the south of the river. Beech, sycamore, horse chestnut and ash predominate, with lesser amounts of sweet chestnut, silver birch, goat willow, oak, laburnum, elm, lime and
hornbeam scattered throughout. A well developed understorey of holly and occasional yew is present across parts of the site. The site therefore supports a broad range of tree species which tend to be primarily broadleaved in character and common to the area. The ground flora is well developed and
consists of a range of grasses and herbs, along with woody shrubs, such as elder. A few small localised clumps of Rhododendron and snowberry are present. Whilst these species are non-native, they do not seem to be spreading and small clumps can be tolerated. Natural regeneration of tree species is profuse where canopy conditions are more open. The woodland is of mixed age and of varied structure. Several scattered mature specimens of horse chestnut, beech, oak and sycamore are present and these form the dominant landscape trees. These are set within a younger matrix of varying age, from young trees to those approaching early maturity. The overall effect is to create a varied and dynamic woodland of mixed age structure and species composition, with a well-developed understorey. 

With the exception of the small area occupied by the house, canopy cover is largely complete across the site. Two small gaps are present where a wayleave has been created (by Scottish Power) under overhead power cables to the east of the site and where surface water run-off from the adjacent tennis courts has resulted in a localised area of soil erosion. Both of these aspects are outwith the direct control of the owners. Replanting carried out by the owners and natural regeneration is rapidly infilling these areas.

The woodland plays a valuable role in stabilising the steep river banks and providing valued shelter and seclusion to the new property. It is probably of ancient or semi-natural origin and the varied and diverse woodland structure provides an attractive wildlife habitat of good biodiversity value. 

2.3 Woodland Condition

The woodland is generally in good condition overall. It represents a vibrant and dynamic ecosystem which has been functioning successfully for manyyears with little obvious intervention by man. The good diversity of age class and species, coupled with a well-developed understorey and successful natural regeneration, is a desirable state and one which augers well for the future. The woodland has developed well in its own natural way. 

An inspection was carried out of all mature trees to identify problems or defects which may have safety implications. Two middle-aged sycamores were recorded on the southern edge adjacent to the railway path with serious basal decay and hollowing. It is recommended that these trees are felled for
safety reasons (they have been marked with a pink paint dot to aid identification). 

The recent construction of the house at the east end of the site has had minimal impact on the woodland as a whole. Of low-impact, ecologically-based design, this sits comfortably within the treed environment. The construction of internal woodland paths to permit access for future management has also been sensitively undertaken, using natural materials and construction methods which do not impact on the tree cover, or cause any soil disturbance or deterioration. 

The excess surface water run-off from the adjacent tennis court has resulted in a localised problem area. This has caused an area of soil erosion within a small gully, which has removed some of the ground vegetation and created a small gap in the canopy cover. Unless this drainage issue is remedied, this will always restrict levels of tree regeneration. Despite this, repeated planting efforts by the owners appears to be proving successful. 

The wayleave for the overhead power line to the east of the site has historically been maintained by Scottish Power. This has largely involved the indiscriminate cutting of encroaching woody growth. The overall effect of this work has been to create a rather unsightly scar in the woodland canopy.
Tree regeneration, coupled with replanting by the current owners is, however, rapidly becoming established in this area.  

Several wood piles have been created in the wood, on the advice of the previous management plan. This is beneficial in providing wildlife habitat. 

2.4 Tree Planting

Significant tree planting has been undertaken by the current owners in recent years. This has focussed on gaps in the canopy at the erosion site and under the power lines, as well as in the immediate vicinity of the new house and associated woodland garden area. A wide range of native tree species have been established, including hawthorn, gean, bird cherry, ash, alder, birch, rowan, oak, holly and blackthorn. These are generally developing well and are appropriate to the site and setting. Most display fairly rapid growth rates and will close canopy over the next 5 year period. Planting of a range of native woodland plants is taking place on the open area of ground immediately to the west of the new house.

2.5 Summary

The woodland, as a single entity, is currently in satisfactory health and condition. It forms an attractive landscape feature of ecological and wildlife value. It benefits from a good and varied species composition, with native species well-represented. Sycamore, however, is becoming predominant in places and may need to be controlled. Age structure is also good and varied, with a range of age class from young sapling to mature tree. The steep topography severely limits access on the northern edge of the site adjacent to the river, however the creation of a naturalistic path has permitted access into some of these areas.

The recent construction of the new house and associated paths has been sensitively and sympathetically undertaken, and has not had any adverse impacts on the woodland as a whole. Potential problem areas are present at the tennis court run-off and the power line wayleave. While outwith their direct control, these are being addressed by the current owners to mitigate the effect on the landscape. Recent tree planting undertaken by the current owners is appropriate and is establishing well, and will rapidly restore full canopy cover.  


Aim: To manage the woodland on a sound and sustainable basis, principally for landscape and wildlife. 


" Manage the woodland in a sensitive and sustainable manner to retain
canopy cover at all times; 

" Minimise risk to public safety;

" Promote and encourage diversity in terms of species composition and
age structure; 

" Promote and encourage the regeneration process to ensure long-term
continuity of tree cover;

" Promote the predominance of tree and shrub species indigenous to the

" Maintain and enhance the woodland as an attractive feature in the
wider landscape;

" Maintain and enhance the nature conservation and biodiversity value
of the woodland.


4.1  Long Term Strategy

As noted previously, the woodland as a whole is in satisfactory condition and is developing well under its own auspices to form an attractive and dynamic ecosystem. This approach should continue and as a such a low intervention, or ‘light touch’ management policy is advocated. The following management strategy is therefore recommended. 

" Retain woodland and canopy cover with the adoption of a low intervention, sustainable management policy, thereby minimising disruption to the landscape and ecology. Allow the existing woodland to develop naturally;

" Retain and manage the mature tree population for as long as it is safe to do so. Mature trees will only be removed or made safe if and when they are deemed potentially hazardous. This will be assessed as part of an annual arboricultural inspection. Where feasible, rather than fell these to ground level, surgery works could remove the upper portion of the crown to retain a large standing stump for wildlife habitat;

" Utilise and promote natural regeneration as the principle means of providing succession and continuity of canopy cover. Continue to carry out replanting using a rang of native tree and shrub species, where desirable; 

" Promote a wider range of tree and shrub species native to the area to enhance biodiversity and wildlife value. Control potentially invasive tree species, such as sycamore, by selective removal;

" Resolve issues of surface water run-off from tennis courts. Continue efforts to replant this area to restore full canopy cover;

" Maintain vegetation under overhead power cables by instigating a regime of regular cutting back and pruning to maintain an appropriate clearance. This is preferable to the rather brutal and indiscriminate wayleave practices carried out by Scottish Power and will have less impact on the landscape; 

" Enhance wildlife value and biodiversity by retaining standing and fallen deadwood, where this is safe to do. The creation of habitat piles of timber and branch-wood is beneficial and this practice should be continued;

" Instal bird, owl and bat boxes at appropriate locations.

4.2 Short Term Proposals

Little management input is required over the next five year period. The following is recommended.

" Fell two decayed and potentially dangerous sycamore trees adjacent to railway cutting path (as marked on site);

" Resolve surface water run-off from tennis courts;

" Continue to maintain new planting and replace failed trees as necessary;

" Cut back and maintain vegetation under power line wayleave; 

" Carry out annual tree safety inspection.

So all is well in the wood.

I'm really pleased with the area under the power line this year as it has regenerated so well. Hopefully this area will never have to be cut again by Scottish Power, certainly I will be able to manage it to prevent that need, but what about the next generation of owners of this wood? they just need to read the plan and this blog to realise the history and maintain the growth in order that nothing becomes so tall that there has to be a way-leave cut.
Even although I own this ground, some years ago now Scottish Power sought permission for their way-leave cut from the council who amazingly said "Oh yes, go ahead" - somehow not remembering that they sold the ground! I came back from work that night and couldn't believe my eyes. Gerry got them back to at least attempt to tidy up the felled wood but it has been an uphill struggle to clear this ground. After the power line was moved there was even more dead wood to clear. But all comes good in the end.

Compare these photos to those posted last year of the same area.

From the top down...........

From the bottom up...............

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