Innovative Thinkers

The early planters and collectors laid the foundations for forest management today. The Adams of Blair Adam, in Fife and Kinross, developed the idea of planting ‘woods of succession’ in the 1830s - a concept which still lies at the heart of contemporary approaches to commercial forest design and zoning.

Sir John Stirling Maxwell, the great philanthropist and founder member of the National Trust for Scotland, undertook ground-breaking experimental planting in the 1890s, testing out the possibilities of different species on moorland ground around Loch Ossian.  

Trees had given way to farming in the Scottish landscape over the centuries, and cheap timber imports undermined the domestic market. By 1900 only 5% of Scotland’s land area was wooded. The First World War created an urgent need for fuel, as well as timber for a range of military uses - barracks, rifle buts, tent poles, ships’ decks among others.  

This urgent need for a domestic timber supply ultimately led to the founding of the Forestry Commission in 1919, to undertake the country’s greatest ever afforestation programme. Stirling Maxwell played a key role, and his earlier experiments proved very influential. Today some 18% of Scotland’s land area is wooded.  

A number of other landowners gifted land to the new body. Among them, Harry Younger, of brewing fame, offered his 10,000 acre Benmore and Kilmun estate in Argyllshire for use as a national demonstration forest and botanical garden for education in forestry. The site continued to be used for training purposes until 1965 and now forms part of the National Tree Collections of Scotland.