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Storm Arwen in Scotland

Author:  Struan Dalgleish
  11/03/2022
Last Updated:  11/03/2022

Struan Dalgleish

Severe winter storms are nothing new. However, Storm Arwen was particularly damaging to trees across large parts of northern Britain.

The powerful extratropical cyclone developed from a deep low-pressure system and was given a rarely used Met Office Red Warning for dangerous weather as it made landfall in the north-east of Scotland on Friday 26 November.

The storm tracked south during Friday and Saturday 27th with wind speeds of 80 to 90mph impacting much of the country, causing extensive damage to hundreds of thousands of trees within an estimated 4000 hectares of woodland in Scotland.

Granny pine felled by Storm Arwen © Struan Dalgleish

Granny pine felled by Storm Arwen.

Mature beech trees at Ellon © Struan Dalgleish

Mature beech trees at Ellon.

Split granny pine © Struan Dalgleish

Split granny pine.

A splintered base at Drum Castle © Struan Dalgleish

A splintered base at Drum Castle.

The disruption caused by the storm has been well documented, and arborists made the headlines as they worked tirelessly round the clock for several days to clear roads and railways to allow tens of thousands of properties to be reconnected to electricity supply and communications networks. Water supplies were also disrupted due to electrical outages. In Scotland one fatality due to a falling tree was reported.

This scale of storm damage to trees in the north-east of Scotland in particular has not been seen for nearly 70 years. Following the clear up from that gale, which occurred on 31 January 1953, large-scale tree planting was carried out to replace the loss. Much of this, now mature coniferous plantation, was badly affected by the impact of Arwen. With the likelihood of increasing frequency of severe storms due to climate change, the design and management of woodland will be required to adapt to the challenges faced.

The clear up from Arwen will continue for many months. The public has been urged to stay away from dangerous trees and reminded that clearing windblown trees can be extremely hazardous. Such work should therefore only be undertaken by trained and experienced professionals.

When dealing with storm-damaged trees, Tree Preservation Orders and Felling Permissions still apply. Where, however, trees pose an imminent threat to safety or property or fallen trees block roads etc., exemptions may apply. If, due to the risk, work must be carried out immediately then photographic proof and a record of decisions and actions should be retained as evidence.

Further guidance on Felling Permissions (Scotland) is available on the Scottish Branch page of the Association’s website – www.trees.org.uk/Branches/Scotland.

The photographs on this page were taken in north-east Scotland in the aftermath of Storm Arwen.


This article was taken from Issue 196 Spring 2022 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.