Kirkton Woodland and Heritage Group- background information

Organisational Summary;

Kirkton Woodland and Heritage Group (KWHG) was formed in 2009 in order to revitalise the community to ensure its long term economic, social, cultural and environmental sustainability.

KWHG aims to ;

  • Manage community land and associated assets for the benefit of the community and the public in general
  • To advance the education of the community about environment, culture and history
  • To advance the arts, heritage, culture and science

This is being done through;

  • Developing, promoting and encouraging good environmental practices
  • Promoting the environment, biodiversity, social and cultural benefits of the area to the community
  • Promoting enterprise, skills and development
  • Raising awareness of the natural environment through education, events and information
  • Safeguarding the history, culture and heritage of the area for generations to come

Legal Status;

KWHG is a company limited by guarantee with Charitable Status. KWHG is compliant with the regulations set out in the Land Reform Act as a “community body” and thus could apply to register a community interest in any land in the immediate area and also meets the requirements set out in the National Forest land Scheme for applicant organisations

Board of Directors;

The KWHG Board currently comprises of 7 Directors elected from the membership which currently stands at 119. The KWHG Annual General meeting is scheduled to take place on 28th February

Demographics and Community Profile;

The “community” encompasses the settlements of Lochcarron, Strathcarron and Kishorn in Wester Ross, an area of some 320km2. The recent community ballot, (Feb 2011) carried out as a requirement of their application to the National Forest Land Scheme revealed the level of adult population to be 755, adding to this, there are 48 children attending secondary education, 41 in primary school and 23 under the age of five years. 41% of the population is aged over 60 years

The area is characterised by an ageing, elderly population with falling school rolls. Due to limited employment opportunities in the area there is little prospect of retaining youngsters and consequently low numbers of people of employable age. The area is also popular with people coming to retire and there is a high number of second homes. This has contributed to a diminishing resident working population and consequently put considerable pressure on the viability of local businesses has resulted in the deterioration of local services

KWHG Activities and Current Projects for early delivery;

Other than the proposed acquisition of the 93ha Kirkton Woodland from Forestry Commission,Scotland, their main focus at the moment relates to their ownership of the Smithy and surrounds.

The Smithy Cultural Development;

The Smithy is in an excellent location close outside the entrance to Lochcarron village and has an adjacent car park and surrounding land. In addition there is an operating workshop leased by a craft worker. KWHG is currently progressing a four phased development plan to bring the Smithy and surrounds back into economic use;

Phase One – Refurbishment of the water damaged office and storage area,

instal heating, a community kitchen and WC. This phase is now complete. 

  • Phase Two – Establish a community treehouse in the Smithy grounds. This will provide a venue (24 persons) for small events, workshops and for nature based studies. This phase is scheduled for completion by 6th April
  • Phase Three – the erection of 2 x 96m2 heritage craft workshop for rental by local heritage, environmentally based businesses. Funding has been confirmed for the build costs but a shortfall currently exists for landscaping and signage. Work is scheduled to begin in March 2012 with completion by June 2012
  • Phase Four – Refurbishment of the Smithy (barn) to accommodate a field centre offering visitor information centre Estimate post 2014 when funding allows

Woodland Acquisition;

Kirkton Woodland, lying immediately to the north west of the village of Lochcarron, is a coniferous woodland extending to some 92.6ha, of which approximately 88ha is planted. It is located on an open south easterly aspect mainly on moderate or gentle slopes and is of a uniform age having been planted in 1974. The woodland consists of mainly lodgepole pine but also with some larch andsitkaspruce. Small amounts of mixed broadleaves also exist within the crop although it is mainly restricted to the edges of the river along the eastern canopy. The underlying geology is granulitic schist with acid gneiss to the north. A raised beach forms the surface deposits to the east of the wood, while moraine deposits are found to the west. Soils are generally acidic, and in some places, thin.

KWHG submitted an application to purchase through the National Forest Land Scheme in 2011 and their application was successful. A valuation of £90k was placed on the woodland and the community have until April 2013 to raise the necessary funds to purchase. A good financial case can be made for the community management of Kirkton Woodland as in the short term KWHG should be able to generate enough income from the standing timber to finance the restructuring of the woodland. Financing the acquisition of the woodland could include income generated by the sale of house plots and woodland crofts located within the woodland. KWHG should be able to generate sufficient revenue income to supplement land management and other grants to cover ongoing forest management and project development expenditure. To ensure organisational sustainability, KWHG need to encourage the ongoing support and involvement of the local community. This will ensure that through community ownership and management of Kirkton Woodland, KWHG will be able to provide a wide range of social, environmental and economic benefits to the community and wider public.

Woodland Management;

The woodland crop assessment indicated that the crop was poor and the whole site is wet and unstable. These combined factors indicate that the best option for the site would be consideration of immediate felling. This approach would allow the site to be cleared and then established with a mixture of commercial conifers and broadleaves which would maximise the community interaction with the woodland through creation of a local woodland resource with paths, picnic sites and local amenities.

Other Development Opportunities within the woodland;

  • Housing – rental opportunities via a housing association
  • House Plots – an area within the woodland falls within the boundary of the settlement housing zone as per the 2007 Highland Council Lochcarron Development Brief
  • Woodland Crofts- potential exists for the creation of woodland crofts
  • Micro Business – Firewood, a source of revenue could be derived from the establishment of a local firewood business. Potential also exists to create a biomass (wood chip) business It is recommended that KWHG establish a small scale firewood business

Project Development;

Once in community ownership, it is intended that KWHG manage the woodland to provide a broad range of public benefits to both the local community as well as to the wider public providing social, economic and environmental outputs. It is anticipated that KWHG will be able to create a sustainable forest resource that will meet the needs of the local and wider community. In the short term, this will entail harvesting of mature timber, as well as the creation of required forest infrastructure (internal and external roads and stacking areas etc).

Restocking; 

It is proposed that Kirkton Woodland is restocked with a mixture of 50% conifers, 30% broadleaves and 20% open space. The exact detail and design of the replanting would need to be agreed in consultation with the community and other stakeholders as part of the woodland management plan

Forest Infrastructure:

The infrastructure includes the creation of roads, drainage and fencing

Recreation and Conservation;

There is potential to create recreational access into the forest for locals and tourists through providing access for walkers, mountain bikers etc. interpretation and signage. It is expected that, public pathways will link to viewpoints and picnic sites. Restructuring the forest will greatly increase its biodiversity, this will be achieved through diversification of tree species and by specific land management operations such as the management of riparian zones along watercourses and provision of bird and bat boxes

 Note; The full Kirkton Woodland Business Development Plan is available on the Forestry Commission website

Other KWHG Activities;

  • Annual Country Day event – raising awareness of the local environment
  • Running monthly Producers Day Market – local produce (food and crafts)
  • Regular environmentally based workshops
  • KWHG Board line manage the local Development Officer to progress its own projects as well as other community projects associated with other groups

Note: Income generated from the above will assist with fundraising towards the woodland acquisition

Project Resources (KWHG)

A range of staffing resources will be required to realise the aims of both KWHG projects;

Currently in existence; Local Development Officer

(HIE) Community Account Management Scheme (Phase Two)

The community of Lochcarron has been selected as an area where enhanced support under a new approach called Fas aig an Oir (Growth at the Edge) can achieve innovative and sustainable community development. This approach is being developed byHighlandsand Islands Enterprise (HIE) and is designed to support remote and disadvantaged communities. HIE and LEADER have co-funded the services of a local Development Officer, Kristine MacKenzie who will work with the anchor organisation KWHG. One of the service requirements is to produce a “Growth Plan” for the area which takes into account the community’s vision for the next 5 years, and uses this vision to establish priorities for development. The main focus at the moment is on the KWHG acquisition of Kirkton Woodland from Forestry Commission,Scotlandand the creation of the Smithy Cultural Centre on the KWHG owned site at Strathcarron. Both projects aim to create employment and aid business development.

Further “staffing” requirements:  

Community Forester (August 2012)

The services of a Community Forestry Officer will be required to assist the Lochcarron Development Officer and KWHG Board to manage the forest for profitable timber production, conservation and recreation, to plan and co-ordinate the woodland management and infrastructure development of the woodland and to identify potential funders and develop successful funding packages for identified development options. We would anticipate funding for this post to come from various sources of public and private funding.

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