Answering some Frequently Asked Questions – General

  • We are freelancers, this is our livelihood, and we are not in a position to undertake unfunded work. We have no public or central funding. Our project fees have to cover operational costs as well as our time and expenses.
  • Please see our Services page for the services we do provide, which include dendrochronology, archaeological wood analysis, historic timberwork studies, Historic Woodland studies, wooded landscape studies and so on. We do not provide radiocarbon dating, only the SUERC lab at Glasgow Uni provides radiocarbon dating in Scotland, though we can help to prepare, identify and submit wood or charcoal for radiocarbon dating.¬†
  • We are always happy to provide quotations for work where there is a reasonable chance of it being funded including as part of larger tenders or bids for projects.
  • While we cannot take on unfunded work, we will help with a little initial advice by email where we can. We may not be able to respond straight away though.
  • We do like to hear about prospective projects, and about threatened historic timberwork and other woodland heritage at risk, which often seems to be slipping through the safety net of heritage protocols. We are campaigning about this to get better protection for our woodland heritage and better support for our specialist discipline in Scotland.
  • We love working with community groups and in partnership with other projects. Community projects, landscape partnerships, grant-aided building repairs, development-led projects and the like are in a much stronger position to obtain funding for our specialist work than we can ourselves. It is good to build in costs for our services at the outset where possible and include them from the start in grant applications or project costings. Please ask for our help on this.
  • Unfortunately there are no known funding sources for private owners wishing to dendro-date their property in Scotland.

Answering some FAQs about Dendrochronology in Scotland

  • Dendrochronology works best with related groups of samples, not just one sample. Ideally a minimum of 8 samples per phase of a building or archaeological site is recommended, to improve dating potential. Sometimes we need more.
  • In Scotland most dendro-dating is undertaken on either oak or pine; occasionally other species can work – please ask. Unless, the material is oak (which can be identified by eye from a cross-section), it may be necessary to undertake microscopic anatomical wood species identification as a first step, which also incurs costs.
  • Significant time and expertise is involved in undertaking dendrochronology, not just in the technical processes but in understanding the regional or national historic context.
  • A dendrochronological project usually involves two stages: (1) Assessment visit by the dendrochronologist; (2) Sampling visit, samples preparation, measurement, analysis and reporting.
  • A Stage 1 assessment normally involves a site visit followed by a costed assessment report. Stage 1 costs usually run well into 3 figures. Sometimes we can undertake an initial assessment based on emailed photographs of exposed cross-sections of timbers (ie with ring patterns visible – and a scale ideally) which may indicate species and dating potential.
  • A Stage 1 assessment will only recommend onward Stage 2 work where there are good dating prospects.
  • A Stage 2 project requires considerable time and expertise, often requiring a 2 person team for sampling, and will usually cost somewhere well into 4 figures.
  • Dendrochronology is much much more precise than radiocarbon dating, but not cheaper than a single radiocarbon date. For the best type of material, we can often provide a felling date to a specific year, sometimes to a season – and we can also provide a provenance for the timber and information on the character of the parent wood.
  • We can record and report on woodworking evidence on historic timbers too. This becomes more meaningful in combination with date and source information, as technologies evolved differently by region and country of origin.
  • The precision of dendro-dating is a significant advantage, especially in historic periods to tie into documented events in specific years, where calibrated radiocarbon date ranges can be very long and imprecise.
  • Dendrochronology can often tease out closely-spaced phases of development, usually impossible with radiocarbon; this precision in dating phasing can be useful in both prehistoric and historic structures.
  • Dendro-provenancing, undertaken as an intrinsic part of the dating process, can usually identify the country or region of origin of timber, sometimes even to a specific woodland (see blog on St Giles). This can be very useful, not just for timber trade information but, for example, in ship wrecks one could tell when and where a vessel was built. It may have become a wreck far from home.
  • Dendrochronology is very often successful, but dating is not guaranteed, and the same costs are involved whether or not the material dates. If samples do not date immediately we will keep the data in our database, and run them against new reference data regularly, and update the client accordingly.
  • Unfortunately there are no known funding sources for private owners wishing to dendro-date their property in Scotland.
  • Examples of recent Dendrochronicle dendrochronology projects include: St Giles oak bell tower in Edinburgh (see blog, timber felled in 1453 and 1459 in Darnaway Forest) and a number of other oak structures from SE Scotland, including Abbey Strand at Holyrood,¬† Fast Castle timbers in NMS and Bunkle community excavations; Stirling Castle – Kings Old Buildings for HES Cultural Resources Team; Twenty native pine structures in the Highlands, from Castle Menzies through to small cruck frames like Badden Cottage, Kincraig, and so on -as part of NERC funded SCOT2K project. More examples may be found in our papers on the Publications page.

Answering some FAQs about Historic Woodland Assessments and Surveys

  • There are so many different types of old woodland in Scotland, all with fascinating and often complex histories; they include medieval parks and hunting forests, wood pastures, industrial coppices, designed landscapes, old plantations, hedges and orchards.
  • Our old Scottish woods and trees have their own unique and often locally distinct histories and are not the same as English or other countries’ woods. Specific understanding of the Scottish context is required.
  • A single wood will have evolved and changed over time, and may have had ‘bare ground’ episodes; many seemingly semi-natural Scottish woods have regenerated or have even been planted over old farms or other earlier land-uses. The woods often protect the land surface and can have amazing archaeology preserved within them.
  • We have developed our own methodologies and approach for the complex work of deciphering old wooded landscapes in Scotland.
  • These operate at two levels: (1) Historic Woodland Assessment – HWA; (2) Historic Woodland Survey – HWS. Approach (2) is far more intensive and in-depth than (1), and often an HWA is the first stage before any HWS.
  • It can be possible to incorporate some community participation in a HWA or HWS project; such as a related traditional woodworking demonstration, a woodland heritage workshop and/or a guided walk.
  • In Historic¬† Woodland Assessment, we undertake some prior research, assisted by any relevant information from the client, then a short fieldwork phase of a few days to get a reasonable handle on field evidence (of trees, species, form, situation, other bio-cultural and ecological information and the archaeology) – which is synthesised with other strands of readily available information such as historic mapping and documentary evidence, to produce an HWA report. The report will include project specific mapping of key woodland features. The HWA report may have onward recommendations for full HWS where appropriate.
  • If Lidar coverage is available then we absolutely recommend using it at either HWA or HWS. If there is national Lidar data for the study area, there may be some data processing costs to obtain meaningful Lidar mapping.
  • In Historic Woodland Survey, we use a far more intensive approach, spending more time in the field and in researching other lines of evidence, such as archival material. We may also recommend inclusion of some targeted tree ageing dendrochronological work to provide a tight chronological framework for the evolution of the wood and of the archaeology within it.
  • As you can see, HWA and HWS involve much time, expertise and usually there are fieldwork expenses. We may deploy a team of 2 or 3 of us on such a project, addressing different aspects, and working together in the field and in synthesising the evidence and reporting it.
  • You should expect a cost of an HWA to run well into 4 figures, while an HWS will be either in upper 4 figures or into 5 figures, depending on character, size, complexity and location of the study site.
  • If you are considering incorporating such a study into your project or programme please ask for our advice on scope and costs at an early stage.
  • Previous Dendrochronicle HWA and HWS projects include; Loch Katrineside wood pastures and coppices for FCS (now FLS) and LL&TNP; Balgownie Wood, West Fife (for FCS); Callendar Wood, Falkirk for FCS; Falkland Park for Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership/Falkland Centre for Stewardship; Killearn Wood for Killearn Community Futures Trust; Leny Wood for Callander Landscape Project; Barhill Wood for Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership/Can You Dig It programme; Caerlaverock Castle Wood HWA for HES; Doune Castle landscape HWA for HES; and Kilchurn Castle landscape HWA for HES.

FAQS for other woodland heritage services

Please enquire with us about other aspects of our services. See the Services page for more information on what they are. See Contact page for how to get in touch.