The age of the woodland is hard to precisely determine, with conflicting reports about its longevity. On the one hand there is no specific historic reference to Balloch Wood before the 19th century and descriptions by travellers through Galloway in the 17th century often suggest that the area was barren and treeless.
On the other hand, the Blaue Atlas of Scotland of 1654, based on surveys undertaken by Pont at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, depicts tree symbols surrounding the small settlement of ‘Ferry toun’ (the old name for Creetown).
Yet further surveys, maps and first hand reports suggest that by the mid 18th century this area was almost certainly wooded.
After the Jacobite rising of 1745 the Roy Map was put together to identify new locations for military roads. The area south of Ferrytown of Cree - on the lower slopes of the surrounding hills, and adjacent to an unnamed burn (the Balloch Burn) - is shown as woodland before opening out higher up the slopes into unenclosed cultivation and open moorland.
By 1763 the military road known locally as the Corse of Slakes (plain of the extensive moorland) was built east of Creetown, following the line of the Balloch Burn. This road still exists and cuts through the top and bottom parts of Balloch Wood at the location of the wildlife ponds.
Later in the 18th century there is a range of evidence suggesting this area was wooded. The Old Statistical Account of 1794 notes this stretch of coastline as ‘a pleasant stage in Scotland, the whole being diversified with woods, gentlemen’s seats, and beautiful inclosures, hills rising on the one hand, the bay on the other’.
Heron wrote during his journey through the West of Scotland in the 1790s that ‘along the skirts of the hills on the east side of the Cree and Wigton Bay, there is much natural wood’ and that hills are ‘fringed, in many places, with underwood; hazels, furze, and rising oaks and birches’. The Ainslie map 1797 corroborates this showing woodlands on the lower coastal slopes south of Creetown and spanning both sides of an unnamed burn (the Balloch Burn) south of the Old Military Road.
By the middle of the 19th century the New Statistical Account for Scotland says that ‘there are considerable forests of natural wood in this parish, especially upon the banks of Kirkdale and Cassencarie.
These forests extend for several miles, and are principally composed of oak and ash, and are cut down at the end of every twenty five or thirty years.’ Hazel and thorn were the two other principal species used at this time for coppice. The first edition OS map of 1850 clearly shows trees along the banks of the Balloch Burn and more extensive woodland north of the ford and in the area of woodland north west of where the wildlife ponds are now.
Additional uses for timber in the late 19th century included making railway sleepers and wagons. A significant amount of planting was carried out in the early 1900s in Balloch Wood and timber was further used during wartime for shipbuilding and making pitprops and gunpowder.
However, the woodlands were principally used for amenity and game rearing prior to their purchase from the Cassencarie Estate by the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1958. Since this time the woods have been managed by the Forestry Commission on behalf of the Scottish nation.