After the First World War (1914-1918) Britain had severely depleted timber stocks. Wood had been used for the construction and maintenance of the Western Front – from supporting trenches to building roads and railways, from constructing barracks to erecting telephone poles and numberless other building projects. David Lloyd George said that Britain “had more nearly lost the war for want of timber than of anything else”, underscoring the significance of a secure timber supply.
The answer to the problem was the Forestry Commission. Founded in 1919 to deal with the chronic timber shortage the Commission set about acquiring land. During the Great Depression the Forestry Commission’s estate continued to grow so that it was just over 360,000 hectares by 1934. The low cost of land meant that by 1939 it had become the largest landowner in Britain. But the Second World War increased the pressure for more wood and by its end approximately a third of available timber had been cut down and used. Another push for managed plantations was necessary.
Some Forestry Commission planting in Rogart was an outlier of Dornoch Forest named Easter Rovie. It comprised three distinct woods: Rovie Block (451 acres), Davoch Block (211 acres) and the 107 acre Eiden Block. Planting started on Rovie Wood in 1957 and continued over the next seven years, progressing through the three woods until 1964. The blocks had wide access passages between them to reach the hill ground beyond.
Whilst they were being established local forests provided employment. Teenagers and women worked on cutting brackens around the young trees. Men were involved in erecting fencing, draining and planting. On occasion forestry could be hazardous and challenging occupation.
For some amazing images of local forestry workers see Forest Memories website.