THE clean-up of storm damage in forests throughout southern Scotland is “likely to continue for months”, according to Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), who have appealed to members of the public to “use their common sense” when visiting local woodlands.

FLS – which manages forests and land overseen by the Scottish Government with an aim to supporting economically sustainable forestry and environmental conservation – has issued guidance to anyone wishing to take advantage of Scotland’s national forests and parks.

In the aftermath of several back-to-back storms across the country, some access routes to forested land in Scotland continue to be closed for safety reasons, although many are now open and are ready to welcome the return of visitors.

FLS South Region Manager John Dougan commented: “Our teams and contractors are working hard to deal with the significant levels of storm damage in the forests we manage. It’s going to take months in some places to clear it all up, but we are beginning to open up more recreational access.

"We know people want to get back into the forest and we are keen to welcome them back, so we are trying to balance that desire, whilst ensuring we do our best to keep people safe.”

FLS is asking all visitors to Scotland’s forests to always obey signage, stay away from work areas, turn back from any path or trail which is blocked, not to walk around, climb over or duck under any felled trees, and to avoid going into any forest where weather conditions may be bad, as more storms have been forecast, causing trees which have previously been made unstable to blow over without warning.

Dougan added: “Most of our walking trails are now at least partially open for visitors but there may still be some debris in places so we would ask visitors to take extra care, and you might not be able to fully utilise all of the trail.

“Some of our mountain bike trails are open but, due to the inherently higher speeds and risks of the sport, others will remain closed until such time as we have cleared all fallen trees and debris and also make any necessary trail repairs. We continue to work on this, and more trails will open up as we get that clearance and repair work done.

“We would advise everyone to keep checking the website for the latest information before leaving home and that when they do arrive at a forest to follow some simple rules to keep themselves safe."