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New vistas
John Mercer | Monday, 16th May, 2022

Last summer a group at Chisholme met in the old spruce plantation at Fat Hill, along with Ben Young, the former estate manager and woodland expert.

The intention was to reach an agreement on the next best step; whether and when the trees be clear felled, and to consider future plans for replanting. The land when originally bought back into the Chisholme estate was the last link in a necklace of woodland, a circumference of shelter and beauty. All the other parcels have been felled and replanted over the last 40+ years through volunteer labour. Fat Hill is the last acreage planted specifically as a cash crop.

Ben explained that it was originally ancient woodland, and that designation remains. To stand on the land and consider its future was a concentrating of focus. An acknowledgement of history and purpose, and a gratitude for the past and what is to come. The trees need to be cut at once, to maintain their value. A new view will be opened up across the Borthwickwater, and the land itself will respond to the light. As at Meadburn, dormant seeds of plants and trees will come to life.

Within this mood a decision was quickly reached to proceed with the felling, and as with all other areas at Chisholme, to replant with the usual mix of hardwoods.

Who could predict that only months later Storm Arwen would cause untold damage to woodlands all over the Borders region, and at Chisholme. The tracks into Fat Hill were covered over by fallen trees with no trace of them left. The kitchen area at the FNI course site was destroyed, the damage so great it was impossible to enter. Behind Larchwood it was the same story, with upturned roots lining the track to Parkhill, and their tops by the lake. The bulk of the destruction was to conifers, but old hardwoods, some as old as the house itself, came down in tragic numbers, too. A further storm in January felled more of the trees weakened and lacking shelter.

This sudden glut in local timber has affected the price, but the original decision to cut Fat Hill has been kept, along with the imperative to clear the additional areas of damage. In the first week of May, contractors with a tree harvester moved onto the estate and began cutting. The mood was of acceptance of the need to follow these new developments.

The machine worked fast and within days the FNI area close by the house and the hillside above was cleared. Those who witnessed this gasped in surprise, for the apparent destruction revealed a view no one had seen or imagined. The Monument to Man is now clearly visible from the House, and, importantly, the reverse. It sees us. What this signifies may be only in the realm of conjecture; God knows best. But it is a wonderful sight. Full of freshness and delight. To be pondered and contemplated.

Meanwhile the machine moves on relentlessly. Yesterday and today it worked behind Larchwood and along the near-side of the lake. The new light is a marvel, and the Whitrigg pasture is visible through the few remaining hardwoods spared the feller’s saw blades. Tomorrow it will move to Fat Hill to undertake the original intention.

The new is revealed every day.

All are welcome to visit Chisholme at this time, and please browse the calendar for events online as well as in person. https://www.chisholme.org/whats-on/upcoming-courses.html

Photo by John Mercer

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