Public consultation meeting. 10th Sept 2014

A successful meeting was held by KWHG in the Lochcarron Community small hall on Wednesday the 10th of September 2014. The meeting was well attended by some new faces as well as those who have supported our projects from the start. Thanks to all those who took the time to come along. The meeting was first addressed by KWHG director, Vicky Stonebridge who summarised the background of the work done so far, who KWHG is, what they do and why. Then Forest Consultant Malcolm Morrison talked about the Kirkton Forest and it’s managment plan. The main purpose of the meeting was to let people know what is happening and to get ideas and input into the development plan. As a community anchor organisation it is part of our remit to consult the community at every stage, and also important to communicate information.

For anyone who couldn’t attend the meeting, the speakers notes are reproduced here. After the speakers, the people attending, enjoyed the usual tea & cake and had a session coming up with ideas for what they want to see happen in Kirkton wood. It was also suggested that we provide links and photos of projects and features that other community woods have done, to provide inspiration.  All these ideas will go towards the forest development plan along with the previous community input from public meetings and the community ballot that was held in 2011.
kirkton wood - aerial
The following are abbreviated Speaker notes of Vicky Stonebridge ( KWHG director ) . Vicky welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked them for coming;

“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.

WHO are we?
It is managed by a Board of Directors;
7 Directors elected from the membership
has currently 3 Employees , Kristine MacKenzie- local development officer, Fergus Hendry research assistant, & Malcolm Morrison -forestry consultant .
There are  3 office bearers, Mary-treasurer, Fiona-membership, Helen minutes.
Many Volunteers.
Current Membership 155

Legal Status;
KWHG is a company limited by guarantee with Charitable Status. KWHG complies 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 .

Demographics and Community Profile;
The “community” encompasses the settlements of Lochcarron, Strathcarron and
Kishorn in Wester Ross, an area of some 320km2.
43.1 % of the population is aged over 60 years- oldest in scotland, clearly not sustainable.
755 adults
48 secondary school
39 primary school
25 under 5’s
previously the area demonstrated need for housing, business premises, business opportunities, long term employment, training and economic opportunities.

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
 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
 Safeguarding the history, culture and heritage of the area for generations to come.

some of KWHG Activities;
 Running the Smithy Community Hub to generate revenue, and as a base for
other activities. Now has 3 businesses, 2 offices to let, 1 kitchen/office
/meeting area, treehouse, picnic area & walk .
there is currently ongoing research into the future of Smithy community hub, to make the best use of assets and improve the site.
 Country Day, family day, Open day events – raising awareness of the local
environment, rural skills etc .
 Running monthly Market Day -produce and crafts .
 Regular environmentally based workshops & training courses in rural skills,
art, craft, cultural and Heritage skills.
 regular volunteer days to maintain the Smithy Community Hub.
running the iGallery & visitor centre to signpost visitors to other features in the local area and prolong their stay ( increase economy ).
 and run maintain & rent out the Treehouse.
 Research into local Heritage. more recently Paul Swans  WW1 research project.
 Produce information leaflets and booklets .
 run website, & social media sites to keep public informed, up to date & regular An Carranach updates & public meetings .
 KWHG Board line manage the local Development Officer to progress its own projects as well as other community projects associated with other groups.

Woodland Acquisition;
Kirkton Woodland, woodland extending to some 92.6ha,

on 24th June 2010, the directors appointed consultant Munro Gauld to create a woodland management plan.

KWHG need to encourage the ongoing support and involvement of the local
community. This is part of the remit for funding criteria.

Public meetings were held in October 2010 in the lochcarron main hall;
November 2010 small hall ;
February 2011  in the church hall.
There was a community ballot, carried out Feb 2011 as a requirement of the application to the National Forest Land Scheme to all the adult population of 755 . 437 ballots were returned by the deadline of 2nd March.
85.1% YES in favour of buyout ( 372)
14.4% NO (63 )
2 spoilt, 3 forged, 8 late.

KWHG submitted an application to purchase Kirkton Wood, through the National Forest Land Scheme in 2011 and their application was successful. There has been an awful lot of work behind the scenes, negotiations around access to kirkton woodland and meetings to get to this point. We are very grateful for all the help and support from organisations like HIE, HISEZ and CWA.

Spring – May 2014, submitted application to Scottish Land Fund for funding
this was based on acquisition costs of woodland & bellmouth access.
legal fees & forest officer.
total £149500 applied for.

We will hear shortly after  23rd September about whether our funding bid was successful. Plan B is to reapply in the next funding round in November. ”

Vicky then handed the meeting over to Malcolm Morrison. These are his speaker notes;

“My name is Malcolm Morrison, I’m a self-employed forestry consultant working with the Kirkton Woodland & Heritage Group on the Kirkton Wood Project.

I’ve worked in forestry in the Highlands for the past 30 odd years, primarily with the Forestry Commission but latterly with the SAC working with private woodland owners, and I’m now self-employed.

To date, I’ve been working with the KWHG in their bid to the Scottish Land Fund for funding towards the purchase of Kirkton Wood from the FC and I’m now starting to pull together management proposals for the woodland should the funding bid be successful. These management proposals will be in the form of a written management plan which should hopefully have the support of the Community and stakeholders.

I would stress that at this stage there are no firm proposals for the woodland, only ideas for what could happen, ideas which came from the Community Consultation process which took place back in 2010 / 11. I know that was 4 years ago but I suspect the aspirations of the community that were expressed then are probably still valid today. That’s partly why we are here tonight.

I would also say that should the funding bid be successful, this meeting will be the first of several opportunities for the local community to put forward ideas that will shape the future of the woodland.

The Woodland Itself

As many of you will probably know, Kirkton Wood was planted by the Forestry Commission in the mid 1970’s. It is around 92ha or c220 acres in size and was planted mostly with commercial conifer trees, though there are some areas of native hardwood trees which have established themselves within the wood, particularly on the north-eastern boundary.

The main species of tree present is Lodgepole Pine which was extensively planted in Scotland during the 1970’s and 80’s, but there are also areas of Scots pine, Sitka spruce and Larch. Some areas were left unplanted, particularly the two knolls on the western boundary and under the powerline which bisects the woodland about 2/3rds of the way up the hill.

There is currently no access into the woodland for vehicles though this is being addressed by the KWHG at the moment. Neither is there much opportunity for pedestrian or any other access at this time due to the nature of the woodland.

As happens with many conifer plantations in the Highlands, the trees grow to a certain age and size and then become very prone to blowing over due to various factors such as soils, exposure, drainage, location, altitude. This point is referred to as the trees ‘terminal height’and as you will have seen, there are several areas within the Kirkton Wood which are now at that stage.

As a rough estimate, around 15% of the trees have now blown over. Unfortunately once the process of windblow starts, it tends to continue so this will need to be taken into account when drawing up proposals for the woodland.

Management Plans

When management plans are pulled together for a woodland, there’s a wide variety of factors which need to be considered:

– Size of the woodland / age of the trees / location / timber markets / public roads

– Tree felling: what trees are to be cut and when

– Restocking: what the felled areas are to be replanted with – commercial conifers, native broadleaves, a mixture of both?

– Open Space: do more open areas need to be created within the woodland

– Protection of the young trees; fencing / individual tree protectors

– Deer Management: how to deal with the deer that currently use the wood

– Landscape: how the woodland fits into its surroundings now / during the harvesting phase / once it has been replanted

– Access: how to get the timber out of the wood and to the markets

– Recreation & public access: can this be improved & what facilities should be provided

– Community Considerations: what the local community which to see happen

– Conservation / Designated Sites / wildlife management

– Archaeology

– Plant Health issues: chalara in ash, RBNB (Dothistroma) in pine

Woodland Management Plans can vary considerably when all the above factors are taken into consideration and principally when the objectives of the owners and the local community are added in.

It’s worth stating that any work on the ground at Kirkton Wood is likely to kick off with tree felling once a Management Plan and vehicular access are in place. The extent and location of tree felling is yet to be determined.

Just about all tree felling is required to be licenced by the Forestry Commission, therefore once a management plan which details the tree felling proposals is produced it will need to be submitted to the Forestry Commission for their formal approval. Part of their approval will relate to the proposals for restocking the felled areas. This replanting can comprise all commercial conifers again, all native hardwoods or a combination of these.

– Commercial conifers will provide a potential income stream in the future

– Native broadleaves for biodiversity and habitat improvement, & firewood

– More open space can be built in for footpaths, cycle routes, viewpoints, etc.

It is evident from the community consultation process which was carried out in 2010 / 11, that there was strong support for the community buying and managing Kirkton Wood. This consultation highlighted that there were a wide range of potential development opportunities and uses that the woodland area could be put to. Examples are……

– Economic Activities; timber products / industrial units / craft workshops / tourism /sawmill

– Renewable Energy; firewood / woodchips / wind turbines

– Environmental benefits; improved biodiversity / native woodland / nest & bat boxes

– Food Production; creation of allotments & building polytunnels

– Housing; woodland crofts / affordable housing

– Recreation; footpaths / bike trails / picnic sites / viewpoints / orienteering course

– Education; nature studies / a resource for the school

– Establish a tree nursery; grow you own trees for the replanting of the wood;

– A campsite

– Places for peace and quiet

– Local and youth employment – which is a theme which could run through all of the above opportunities.

All of these opportunities should still be available if the woodland comes into community ownership.

I know it’s been a while since the initial community consultation exercise so one of the things we were hoping to do tonight was to get you views or update your views on how the woodland should be managed, what facilities you would wish to see in the woodland, possibly locations for footpaths / cycle ways, viewpoints, etc

There are three maps of the woodland on the tables plus pens & post-its. We want to get your ideas so if you could put them down on paper, either on the post-its or directly onto the maps of what you would like to see in the woodland and ideas of where these could be located.

Also, any views you have on the areas of the woodland to be felled –
all of it,
none of it,
some of it –
would be useful along with ideas of what you would like to see the felled areas replanted with in due course.

Also, just out of interest, there’s an aerial photograph of the woodland which was taken in 2009 which clearly shows the areas of blown trees. We’re currently trying to get a more recent aerial photo as there’s no doubt there has been more windblow over the past 5 years. ”

The community members then contributed their thoughts and ideas in an informal session by writing on flip charts and post it notes, referring to the maps & Ariel photograph of the meeting.
pix (4)
The following are some of the suggestions with links to existing projects or further information, the links are just a taste of what could be done and further research on any one topic will show that there are many different approaches or possibilties;

Affordable housing.
Affordable house plots.
eg Makar housing

Woodland crofts

woodland allotments;


Forest gardening

community orchard

community food growing

community compost area

woodland herd grazing
grazing animals project

horse herd project

bee keeping

poly tunnels

firewood business

Art Trail

Sculpture trail

nature art

artists residencies

woodland festival

chainsaw carvings

cycle ways
woodland cycling
mountain biking

eg Culbin forest walks
fully accessible paths


viewing tower

treetop walk

bouldering or climbing facility

zip wire

skate/ bike area

charcoal making

green wood buildings

green wood working area & pole lathes


eco tourism
wildlife tourism

heritage walks

children’s activities



woodland weddings

green burials

forest school

woodland learning

tree nursery

micro business

woodland & environmental interpretation


quad bikes

pony trekking

picnic sites

outdoors theatre

Walking theatre

sensory trail

Health and wellbeing projects 

any more ideas, information and input is more than welcome. You can comment here or contact us via

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2 Responses to Public consultation meeting. 10th Sept 2014

  1. Angela Goodman says:

    We were unable to attend the meeting, but it looks very promising.
    A couple of thoughts on the suggestions:

    Events such as with The walking theatre company are really good, and make the most of the environment.

    Wolf trax is the mountain biking example given. This is large scale, but there are also fantastic skills trails which are smaller MB trail loops in an area of woodland offering different challenges (different descent surfaces, berms, jumps, logs etc): see Anagasach woodland, Grantown on Spey, or the Skills loops at Nevis range near the base station. These are more usable by families with a variety of speeds, energy and skill levels in a group.


  2. balnacra says:

    Thanks for that information, more to look into. I certainly envisage something suitable for the size of the woodland and community with different skills loops, perhaps information linking into existing routes in the area and events around cycling & mountain biking.

    keep the ideas and feedback coming!

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