Between 11-16 March 2023 a group of 30 members of France Douglas made a tour of central Scotland organized by Sabrina Pedrono of France Douglas and Barry Gardiner of IEFC. The tour was arranged to honor the memory of David Douglas who collected Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) seeds at the beginning of the 19th Century in North America and brought them back to Scone Palace, where the first Douglas fir was grown in Europe.
The tour consisted of a mixture of field visits. lectures and social activities. These are outlined below in the form of a diary.
The visit was a big success, and many new contacts were made, and information exchanged. In addition, Richard Whittet from Forest Research will be visiting south-west France in October 2023 funded by the IEFC Network fund. Part of his visit will be to France Douglas members to discuss Douglas fir breeding.
France Douglas and IEFC would like to thank all the individuals and organisations who welcomed the group, and made the tour both possible and interesting.
Saturday 11 March
Flight from Paris to Edinburgh
Visit to Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Talk about the International Conifer Conservation programme by the director of the programme Dr. Hannah Wilson. This was followed by a tour of Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and the John Hope Building (Figure 1).
There is potential interest of the programme in having contacts in France in order to collect conifer seeds of different species to ensure as much genetic diversity as possible in their collection.
The afternoon was made perfect when the group went to the Ghillie Dhu pub to enjoy the historic victory of the French rugby team over England at Twikenham (Figure 2).
Sunday 12 March
Rugby match between Scotland-Ireland at Murrayfield Stadium as part of the 6 Nations Championship. Unfortunately, Scotland lost by 7 to 22.
Monday 13 march
A visit was made to Scone Palace Gardens, which was the first place in Europe where Douglas fir was grown (Figure 3). One of the trees grown from seed collected by David Douglas is still alive in the gardens (Figure 4). An introduction to the gardens was made by the head gardener, Brian Cuningham and this was followed by a talk about David Douglas by Syd House, the former forest conservator of the region. This was followed by a short tour of the gardens and then a visit to the Memorial to David Douglas, in the old cemetery in Scone village. A small ceremony was made at the memorial by placing flowers at its base (Figure 5).
The original proposal was to visit the James Jones sawmill at Kirremuir that specialises in large dimension timber including Douglas fir. Unfortunately, due to a COVID outbreak at the sawmill an alternative visit to Carpenter Oak, Kiirriemuir was arranged. The group was welcomed by Fergus Stewart who co-manages the facility. There was a discussion of a number of projects Carpenter Oak are working on including those using locally grown Douglas fir timber. A visit was then made to the fabrication area where the pieces of wood for these bespoke projects are prepared (Figure 6).
Tuesday 14 March
In the morning a visit was made to Craigvinean Forest near Dunkeld to visit a part of the forest with large conifer trees, including grand fir (Abies grandis), and to visit a Douglas fir trial of 33 provenances. Nick Gough welcomed the group to the forest and discussed the process of planning and managing the forest (Figure 7). Julian Clarke from Atholl Estate was also present and provided a private sector perspective to the discussion. This was followed by a visit to the provenance trials where Richard Whittet from Forest Research gave an overview of the Douglas fir breeding program in the UK, including a discussion of some of the problems arising from the small genetic variation in the breeding population.
A visit was made to Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Aberfoyle Forest, which is part of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The group was welcomed by John Hair who is the Planning Officer for the forest. A walk was taken through some of the large trees (Figure 8) close to the Lodge Visitor Centre and the group had a discussion on public access to the forest, which is very close to large population centres including the city of Glasgow (Figure 9). The forest welcomes more than 300,000 visitors per year.
James Pendlebury, Chief Executive of Forest Research gave a talk before dinner about the role of Forest Research (Figure 10). He then had discussions with members of the France Douglas group over dinner.
Wednesday 15 March
The group visited the HQ of Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and was welcomed by Trudy Hughes. The building was completed in May 2008 and is engineered in a two-storey ‘green’ Douglas Fir structural frame (Figure 11).
There was an end of tour visit to the Holyrood Distillery in Edinburgh.
A talk at the Apex Waterloo Hotel in Edinburgh on “Modern Scottish Architecture in Wood” was given by Peter Wilson, founder of the Massive Timber Academy. The talk discussed new buildings in Scotland that are making extensive use of wood.
Thursday 16 March
Return to Paris (Figure 12).