LIKE PREHISTORIC giants chewing insatiably through a Jurassic jungle, the fearsome machines on display at last week's inaugural Forestry Expo in the hills above Elvanfoot were an awe-inspiring sight that seized and held the attention of the 3000 or so people who came to watch them at work.

But there was nothing remotely ancient about the technology on display, as the 'big four' forestry equipment manufacturers – Tigercat, John Deere, Ponsse and Komatsu – rolled out displays of cutting edge performance that were frankly jaw-dropping for anyone who has not previously seen these machines at work. An estimated £40 million pounds worth of harvesting and forwarding equipment was put through its paces over two days, harvesting around 6000m3 – around 250 lorry loads.

Having often laboured with chainsaw and axe to fill a woodshed, my calculation is that bringing down a medium-sized spruce, de-branching it and then cutting it into manageable chunks is the work of a whole morning, so long as it falls where intended, so to watch the same task performed in 30 seconds was truly a wondrous sight.

A modern forestry harvester is a 'single-grip' machine, based on tracks and often articulated for the best weight distribution once its big hydraulic arm has hold of a tree. The operator, from an elevated cab, can grip the tree, cut it from its base with a hydraulically-powered chainsaw, rotate it to the horizontal, run it through stripping knives via rollers within the gripper, then with the same rollers and saw divide it into lengths, dropped neatly into piles which can then be scooped up by equally sure-footed forwarders and taken out of the working area. The principle, established in Scandinavia, is 'no boots on the forest floor' – all the manpower here is in skilled machinery operation, minimising the risks inherent in putting unprotected people amongst such weighty work.

While the Forestry Expo's demonstration area, divided into four huge plots to allow each manufacturer to show off their machines and preferred processes, was undoubtedly the centre piece of the event, augmented as it was by comfortable and welcoming hospitality areas for each marque, back down the hill on the fields of Little Clyde, a lively trade stand section was packed with a broad range of machines to suit every scale of work, alongside a whole lot of expertise and enterprise riding the wave of enthusiasm for Scottish forestry.

Organised by Rural Projects, with the support of Forestry Journal magazine, the event was hailed as a great success, with every expectation that it is set to become a regular feature of the Scottish rural business calendar.

Organiser Martin Dare commented: “We are delighted with the support received for Forestry Expo. Pulling the event together was a real team effort on behalf of my Rural Projects staff, the Forestry Journal team and our sponsors and hosts.

“It was brilliant to see everything come together and I am grateful to the forestry community of Scotland and further afield, including international visitors, who turned out to support the event. Our aim is to grow on the success of Forestry Expo 2019 and to repeat the event in future years.”

Tradestand holders reported a steady stream of visitors, with rain on the Thursday afternoon only dampening spirits a little. The sun came out on Friday and the car parks were soon almost at capacity.

Confor communications manager Stef Kaiser praised the event: “It was great for Confor to be part of Forestry Expo in Scotland. These are really exciting times for the industry and events like Forestry Expo are a good way to attract more people to our sector. That could be farmers looking to plant productive woodlands or young people looking for employment. Forestry Expo helps to demonstrate that modern forestry is supported by investment and underpinned by innovation.”

David Haggart, Teagle's area sales manager for Scotland, commented: "We’re mostly an agricultural supplier. Forestry is a different client base, but I’ve met quite a few clients today who have our machines that we would not normally see at agricultural shows. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with them today and meet other potential customers.”

Owner of Apex Fluid Power, Peter Brown, said: “It’s a fantastic base and our first time meeting a lot of these customers. We see people that we can’t get to see any other time. We’ve met people who've travelled from the Isle of Mull, from South Wales, from all over the place, all gathering here today on one site, all wanting to talk.”

Jock Mckie, from John Deere, one of the event sponsors, summed up: "All in all, the Expo was a great success and a tremendous opportunity to catch up with customers and industry partners. Much credit must go to Rural Projects for the hugely professional delivery of the Expo and we can only look forward to the next one!"