AN IMPORTANT milestone will be reached later this month in efforts to improve landslip mitigation measures on a key trunk route through Argyll.

Preparatory steps to get the hillside above the Rest and Be Thankful on the A83 ready for woodland creation will begin during December.

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), which is working in partnership with Transport Scotland, is to start erecting deer fences that will protect the saplings of a range of tree species that are to be planted in to help maximise slope stability. Planting is intended to start around September 2021.

The new woodland will take time to establish but from the moment of planting the tree roots will begin to bind the slope – an effect that will cumulatively increase year on year.

READ MORE: Five years before work starts on new A83 route as council expresses 'deep concern'

James Hand, FLS operations forester, said: “The deer fence is a crucial first stage because protecting the saplings and other vegetation from deer and other mammal grazing is crucial to ensuring rapid establishment of the new woodland.

“The mix of species selected for the woodland will help it withstand events associated with predicted climate change, particularly those associated with sudden heavy rain fall incidents.

“The trees will complement the ‘hard’ engineering that has been done at the site to help stabilize the slope and protect the road infrastructure. Working in tandem, both approaches will help to mitigate the challenges presented by this notoriously unstable slope.”

The bulk of the fencing work will take place in spring and summer next year.

George Fiddes, Transport Scotland’s special projects manager, said: “Commencement of these vital deer fencing works marks an important milestone in the hillside planting strategy.

“We look forward to continuing to work with FLS on this key project which forms part of the Scottish Government’s wider landslide mitigation works at the A83 Rest and Be Thankful.”

READ MORE: Temporary barrier to improve protection on A83 diversion route

Last week Cabinet Secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity, Michael Matheson, announced that a new barrier is to be built along a section of the Old Military Road diversion route to provide temporary relief to drivers travelling on the landslip-plagued road.

The 175m long, 6m high “bund” will be constructed in time for Christmas.

As well as protecting the trees, the new deer fence will have ecological benefits across a wider area by reducing grazing pressure and will help develop a network of native woodland at a landscape scale.

Careful consideration has to be given to selecting the trees and shrubs that would best be able to cope with the extreme conditions on such an exposed site.

Mr Hand added: “Anything planted at this site should not only be able to provide the rooting structures that will help slope stabilisation but should also be resilient enough to survive in this environment.

“Sourcing Scottish plants from local areas, as close as possible to the site, means we’re benefitting from the plant species that are adapted for the current local environment and that are most likely to be resilient to a changing climate into the future.”

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