Nander Roberton speaks
RSFS eyes future despite lockdown

RSFS eyes future despite lockdown

Faced with having to cancel its busy programme of field visits, training workshops and an annual study tour, the Royal Scottish Forestry Society has been working on other projects which help support its mission as the leading practical forestry society in Scotland.

Speaking to Scottish Farmer, President Nander Robertson said:

“We are rightly proud of our Society’s heritage; it is what the Society and its members do now that ensures its continuing value to future generations. We aim to preserve the best of the past, support ongoing delivery of education, provide access to practical experience and promote the enjoyment of forests and woodland management.”

Our past

First published more than 160 years ago as the Transactions of the Scottish Arboricultral Society, our journal Scottish Forestry has over the years described many practical innovations through a mix of peer-reviewed articles, reports on practical forestry visits, discursive essays, lay articles and Society news.

In 1884 we co-hosted an International Forestry Exhibition in Edinburgh, attended by more than 500,000 visitors; our first ‘Study Day’. The title Royal was conferred by Queen Victoria in 1887 following a visit to Balmoral for the Society’s first ever Annual Study Tour. Annual Study Tours have taken place near continuously since, except in years of war. Of course, the Annual Study Tour 2020 has had to be posponed due to the Coronavirus lockdown.

In 1996, the RSFS decided to create a native working Scottish forest located within the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and Cashel a 1200 ha (3000 acre) hill farm was acquired with a Millenium grant. The property rises from shore level to 580 metres. Between 1997 and 2005 around 300ha of native broadleaves and Scots pine were established together with a path network to encourage public access and enjoyment. This burgeoning forest now hosts many other activities, and mirroring the dynamics of growing woodland, Cashel Forest Trust is looking at developing the site further.

The present

In the past three years, we have established the Monitor Woods Scheme to create a record of the husbandry and silviculture of exemplar forests and woodlands. Data sets are being accumulated in our newly developed toolkit, ‘Canopy’, which is now available online, with an ambition of accumulating 100 years of data for future generations to study and research about planting regimes, species, husbandry techniques, etc. This project began with financial support from Forestry Commission Scotland and continues with Scottish Forestry, the agency, who are associate members.

Work is afoot to establish an Education Fund to provide bursaries to student foresters. We have also recognised the particular challenges faced by those changing careers to become foresters and are working with the education bodies to support that group.

Our renowned 52-page journal Scottish Forestry, which goes from strength to strength, continues to be published during the Covid-19 crisis. It contains a mix of news, peer-reviewed scientific papers and interesting articles.

In 2020 we will be republishing one of the most influential forestry books of the 20th Century. ‘Tall Trees and Small Woods’ originally written by Dr W E S (Bill) Mutch OBE FRSE FICFor, a former editor of Scottish Forestry, and extensively updated by the Society during 2019. We aim to present all forestry students in Scotland with a copy in Autumn 2020.

Our future

The Society is actively considering developments relevant to the next generation: Currently we are exploring how we:
* Digitise our educational resources to support on-line learning for young people and schools at all levels;
* Digitise our journal Scottish Forestry to provide keyword access to our entire journal archive now and in the future;
* Capture Study Days, the Annual Study Tour, and to run Digital Study Days to be able to engage with the global audience the Society has always had;
* Leverage Monitor Woods content to help shape future husbandry techniques around the world;
* Increase the reach and scale of our Education Fund and establish an Innovation Fund;
* Promote in the sector the use of digitisation and artificial intelligence that has emerged in other husbandry-based sectors in recent times.

The next 166 years promise to be as exciting and full of change as the past 166 years. We pride ourselves in being accessible to all who love our forests, woods and trees. Help us to reach out to the future.

Editor’s notes:

Royal Scottish Forestry Society (RSFS) is the forestry education and conservation charity (SC002058) and owns Cashel Forest Trust (registered charity SC024112).

The RSFS was founded in 1854 and continues to deliver forestry education through several channels
* Around 20 Regional Study Days each year;
* Annual 3-day Study Tour;
* Scottish Forestry, our publication;
* Sponsorship of educational prizes and bursaries;
* Monitor Woods Scheme
* Cashel Forest Trust owns Cashel Farm on East Loch Lomondside which operates a Visitor Centre, and Native Woodland management site.

For further information about RSFS, please visit, Monitor Woods and Cashel, please visit

© 2022 Royal Scottish Forestry Society