Woodland use and industrialisation
Wood was a vital source of fuel during the rise of Scottish industries in the 18th century, particularly for the iron industry.
Early records shows estates sold timber from their pinewoods for construction. However, it was not until industrialisation that there was a rise in the demand for other wood. Oak was prized for making charcoal, used to fuel blast furnaces which smelted iron.
Charcoal making drives off the water contained in wood. Burning charcoal produces far higher temperatures than burning wood, essential for smelting metal.
To provide this timber for charcoal making, people managed the woodlands using a technique called coppicing. This involved cutting the tree down to ground level and allowing new shoots to grow. The woodland was managed on rotation. When the new growth was big enough, it would be cut again. A well managed coppice woodland provided a renewable fuel source – a perfect example of sustainability.
An earth wall, known as a boundary dyke, often surrounded a coppiced forest to keep livestock out. Today you can find traces of these and earth platforms used for charcoal burning in the forest. You may also see strange shaped trees that are the results of past coppicing.