Important archaeological find preserved thanks to slow motion tree felling

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A pre-historic archaeological find in the Scottish Highlands has been secured for future investigation – thanks to some inventive ‘slow-mo’ tree felling.

The find – a late prehistoric galleried dun – was discovered at a site in Strath Glass, near Cannich, during checks carried out by Forestry Commission Scotland staff of a forest block of mature Douglas fir that was due to be felled.

The dun - part of an Iron Age building tradition common throughout the Highlands and islands of Scotland – would have served as a homestead defending their occupants - and their grain and livestock – but also demonstrating land ownership.

Commission Archaeologist, Matt Ritchie, said:

“This is really a find of national significance and it was important that we preserved the site and prevented it being damaged while felling operations were being carried out.

“It was quite a delicate task because the dun is about 21m in diameter overall and we had to clear 23 fully mature trees from it.”

Working with specialist contractor, Highland Tree Care, the Commission’s team rigged up a rope cradle that effectively acted as a brake, catching the trees and lowering them slowly to the ground for processing.

Matt added:

“It was a quick and successful operation. I’m really pleased that we managed to get those trees out of there with out causing any damage to the site. 

“There are no plans to excavate or restore the site, but we will recommend the site to Historic Scotland for scheduling. It is relatively undisturbed and there are likely going to be significant buried archaeological deposits throughout.

“A very interesting and important site!”

Unknown and unrecognized when the site was planted in the 1950s, the dun is defined by a defensive outwork enclosing the dun and a massive dry-stone wall, with internal and external courses visible at several stretches. Depressions in the wall also mark the positions of galleries.

The Commission will now focus on keeping the immediate area around the site clear of trees and scrub vegetation.

Notes to Editors
1) Forestry Commission Scotland serves as the Scottish Government’s forestry directorate and manages the 660,000 hectare national forest estate.  Climate change is the biggest threat facing the planet and Scottish forestry is playing its part in helping tackle climate change. With trees naturally locking up carbon, they have a significant role in reducing the affects of climate change. The use of wood as a fuel will also help reduce harmful greenhouse emissions and the Commission is working hard to promote woodfuel developments across the country. Forestry Commission Scotland is continuing to protect, manage and expand Scotland’s forests and woodlands in a way which helps in the fight against climate change.

2) The work was carried out by Forestry Commission Scotland with assistance from Cameron Hall-Gardiner from Highland Tree Care.

3) The soft-felling technique involves stringing a rope cradle between two shackles on slings attached to two spar trees. A counter balance log is then attached at one end of the ‘arrester rope’ to slow the felled tree(s) safely; the other end is wrapped around the trunk of a nearby tree and ‘locked off’. The felled tree is lowered by gradually readjusting the wrapped loose end of the rope and processed at a good working height: where possible, long saw logs were left for later pick-up by Harvester, while in other cases the tree was cut into small pieces and removed by hand.

1) Tha FCS ag obair mar bhuidheann-stiùiridh coilltearachd Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus a’ riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìonadh, a' cumail smachd air agus a' leudachadh nan coilltean gus buannachdan a thoirt dha coimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidh agus, ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh gnàth-shìde.

2) Airson agallamhan anns a’ Ghàidhlig, cuiribh fios gu Oifigear Leasachaidh Gàidhlig a’ Choimisean, Louise Nicilleathain air 01463 725 038