Bennan Hill, Balbeg Estate
Unique ID: 104000000026483
Status: Validated / Active
Project Developer: Davidson & Robertson
Project Location: Ayrshire, Scotland
Previous Land Use: Permanent Pasture
New woodland area: Gross area 57 ha Net area: 52 ha Open ground: 5 ha
Species Mix: Mixed Productive Woodland: Sitka Spruce 43%, Douglas Fir 23%, Scots Pine 16%, Norway Spruce 8%, Birch 3% other broadleaves 7%
Woodland Management: Thin year 15-20 then clearfell (Sitka Spruce and Norway Spruce at year 40, Douglas Fir & Scots Pine at year 70, Minimum intervention of Broadleaves.
Estimated Sequestration: Total 12,863 tCO2e over 55 years, of which 10,290 tCO2e is for sale, 2,573 tCO2e will go to the WCC Buffer.
Start Date: Planting completed January 2019.
The woodland is situated within Balbeg Estate, which lies in an area of outstanding natural beauty surrounded by unspoilt countryside. The Estate hosts a pioneering country holiday business with ecotourism at the heart of its ethos, attracting over 1,000 guests to the local area each year. The 7 large holiday properties are supplied by an integrated biomass heating system along with a hydroelectric scheme generating power for a further 22 houses. Timber produced on the Estate is chipped and in turn used to generate renewable power for the holiday cottage business and as such Balbeg Estate is proud to be part of the Green Energy Business Network and the Energy Savings Trust. The new woodland at Bennan Hill provides the perfect addition to the green energy and sustainability objectives at Balbeg Estate.
The site falls within Ayrshire and Arran Forestry & Woodland Strategy, CSGN Forestry & Woodland Strategy Area, Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere and the Carrick Hills and Valleys Landscape Zone. This planting contributed to CC2 objective by helping increase the overall woodland cover. Furthermore, the site sits on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park known as the Dark Sky Park for the dramatic skies and the woodland is in walking distance of the conservation village of Straiton.
The main objective for planting the site was to create an accessible woodland with a commercial element to allow increased access to the hillside and exploit the views which would have been inaccessible due to livestock on what was poor agricultural grazing land. The woodland enables the public to walk from Straiton village to the top of the hill without passing through any livestock fields. Furthermore, the woodland will add significant diversity to the area and through ongoing management provide a diversified income stream.
View across the site at Bennan Hill: 2020. Image: Davidson & Robertson
Bennan Hill is nestled within the heart of South Ayrshire. The new plantation is more than just woodland creation. This project has provided a mosaic ecosystem that will not only sequester carbon but provide a variety of ecosystem services that play a vital part in improving biodiversity, along with water and air quality. In addition, this woodland specifically provides the creation of increased leisure opportunities, local community engagement and an opportunity to attract tourism into a secret part of South Ayrshire. Bennan Hill woodland within Balbeg Estate will provide connectivity to surrounding habitats which in turn will provide a network of footpaths to allow the local community and tourists to enjoy the rugged landscape South Ayrshire has to offer.
The beauty of this plantation is that while providing natural capital benefits it will also provide a commercial timber supply to the UK market in turn contributing to the rural economy. Carbon investors will be supporting the regeneration of poor agricultural grazing land into a diverse, multi-beneficial ecosystem that will create income to allow reinvestment to support further expansion of the public access network. The project is well situated for utility companies across the South of Scotland wishing to address their unavoidable emissions. The carbon from this project is available for sale.
Yound Birch at Bennan Hill: 2020. Image: Davidson & Robertson
Emma Kerr, Project Developer, Davidson & Robertson, said
“The Woodland Carbon Code makes planting woodland a more attractive proposition for many forward-thinking farmers and landowners, adding extra income and aiding climate change ambitions. Climate change mitigation, ecosystem services and carbon sequestration are all at the forefront of UK Government objectives and the value that natural capital can provide for public good is the direction of travel for rural land management. Afforestation provides the perfect answer to these objectives however the Woodland Carbon Code adds a level of certified accreditation to the sequestration of carbon by growing trees. The Woodland Carbon Code standard provides security and confidence to investors wishing to off-set emissions and invest in green projects by demonstrating quantifiable carbon capture over the lifetime of a woodland project. Furthermore, carbon finance encourages good silvicultural management of new woodlands to ensure they thrive to capture the maximum amount of carbon and enables reinvestment into rural areas which was not previously available.”
The site was planted with a diverse mix of conifer species to compliment the topography of the hill land with native broadleaves aesthetically planted along the fringes. The whole site was surrounded by a deer fence to ensure the plantation could have the best possible establishment; meanwhile pedestrian gates strategically placed to maintain access. Open spaces were left within the plantation to protect archaeological features. Seven turf banks and a sheep ree were identified on an archaeological survey. Furthermore, the site was once home to a 17th century ancient monument. To avoid negative impact of these features the top of the hill was left open and not planted. The open spaces in addition will provide habitat corridors for wildlife and provide an access network throughout the plantation.
The woodland will be silviculturally managed throughout its lifetime via thinning of the conifer species to encourage growth of the best stem forms. This will allow light into the woodland to provide a healthy woodland ecosystem from the forest floor to the trees, which therefore will provide habitat for a variety of flora and fauna. Thinning will provide an interim, forecastable income which can be used to reinvest into the woodland.
Planting areas at Bennan Hill: 2020. Image: Davidson & Robertson
Scores (out of 5) for the wider benefits provided by Bennan Hill. Scores calculated using the WCC Wider Benefits Tool.
- Wider landscape: South Ayrshire is a hidden gem with rugged, afforested, mountainous landscape to offer. Bennan Hill woodland will provide an additional attraction to the local tourism near Straiton and Balbeg Estate. The woodland has been planted in a way to compliment the archaeological features and encourage the local community to explore the hill land.
- Wildlife: The woodland connects adjacent woodlands creating wildlife corridors and will be silviculturally managed throughout its lifetime via thinning which will allow light into the woodland to provide a healthy woodland ecosystem from the forest floor to the trees, which therefore will provide habitat for a variety of flora and fauna. The open areas provide habitat corridors for non-woodland species.
- Water: The site is identified as a Potentially Vulnerable Area by Scottish Environment Protection Agency for flooding and creating new woodland on the site will help regulate surface runoff into watercourses.
- Community: Balbeg Estate works closely with the local community and plans to use Bennan Hill for woodland recreation, education, and leisure purposes. The Estate wishes to partner with the Scouts, Cadets and Duke of Edinburgh to encourage young people to utilise, explore and develop knowledge of a woodland environment. The woodland enables the public to walk from Straiton village to the top of the hill without passing through any livestock fields.
- Economy: The woodland will add significant diversity to the area and through ongoing management provide a diversified income stream. The Estate hosts a pioneering country holiday business with ecotourism at the heart of its ethos, attracting over 1,000 guests to the local area each year. The 7 large holiday properties are supplied by an integrated biomass heating system along with a hydroelectric scheme generating power for a further 22 houses. Timber produced on the Estate is chipped and in turn used to generate renewable power for the holiday cottage business and as such Balbeg Estate is proud to be part of the Green Energy Business Network and the Energy Savings Trust.
Close up of planting at Bennan Hill, 2020. Image: Davidson & Robertson