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Walkers told to ‘use common sense’ and stay out Countesswells Woods during storm clear-up

Uncleared areas of forest are a danger to people walking through Countesswells woods and are causing delays in work being carried out. Supplied by Aberdeenshire Council.
Uncleared areas of forest are a danger to people walking through Countesswells woods and are causing delays in work being carried out. Supplied by Aberdeenshire Council.

Work to clear Countesswells Woods, which were battered by Storm Arwen, is being delayed by walkers ignoring the closure signs.

Walkers are being urged to use their “common sense” and stay away from Countesswells Woods, where heavy machinery is working to make the area safe.

Scores of trees were knocked down in the strong woods of Arwen in November, with the recent storms also causing further damage.

Harvesting and clear-up operations began late last month, and signs are in place advising that the paths are closed.

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) has issued a plea for the public to stay away, warning that every time a person is spotted, work has to stop for safety purposes.

Workers having to ask people to leave can delay the day’s work by up to an hour each time. Supplied by Forestry and Land Scotland.

Storm damage to forests

Paul Munro, media manager at FLS, said that every small delay adds to the timescale of the large clear-up project.

“If you have people wandering into a site that’s closed or where there’s work meant to be going on, we will have to basically stop the work,” he said.

“We then have to get some of our guys to go after the person and explain to them why they shouldn’t be there and ask them to leave.”

He explained that if people have wandered in further to the forest where work has not yet been carried out, one of those working has to try and find them. Until the person is found and leaves, the work has to come to a halt. This can take 45 minutes to an hour.

Mr Munro warned that people may not be aware of the risks involved in their walk, with trees that look safe and stable still posing a danger as they can roll or collapse with the “slightest touch”.

With many of the paths still blocked by fallen trees, if someone does get hurt it will be harder for emergency services to reach them.

David Leven, FLS’s east region manager, said: “It is important that people exercise some common sense and minimise the risk for everyone.

“Failing to follow the advice will only disrupt the clear-up operations and mean that it will take even longer before we see a return to full access to Aberdeenshire’s forests.”

Some of the damage caused to Aberdeenshire forests by Storm Arwen in December 2021. Supplied by Forestry and Land Scotland.

Forestry teams working ‘flat out’

The recent storms have caused significant damage to Forestry and Land Scotland’s sites, with around a third of trees the organisation would usually fell in a year knocked down by the wind in just a few days.

Mr Leven added: “Our teams and contractors are working flat out to deal with the horrendous levels of storm damage in the forests we manage.

“It’s going to take months in some places to clear it all up and there will continue to be a high level of risk, which is why some of our forests will remain closed.”

“So having people going out for a wee stroll and causing us to put a halt to things, it’s not a huge halt, it’s not a major delay but every little bit adds up.”

In some areas in the south of Scotland, “amateur lumberjacks” have been using their own chainsaws to remove fallen trees in forests, which FLS is strong advising against.

Walkers are being encouraged to obey signage, stay away from work areas and not climb over felled trees.

Pensioner claims Aberdeen council ‘aren’t interested’ in clearing up Storm Arwen tree damage

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