LCDC is delighted to announce that a funding package has been granted by LEADER Highland to start developing Kirkton Woodland. 50 % was awarded to match funds from Awards for All, the Postcode Trust and Lochcarron Community Fund and LCDC.
Building on the successful community acquisition of Kirkton Woodland in 2015 and subsequent development of a new Access and Recreation Plan for the woods in early 2016, Lochcarron Community Development Company will be taking forward a range of initiatives aimed at fostering new connections between the woods, the local population and the area’s visitors. A two-year project will deliver pond creation, construction of a new all-abilities trail, wildlife/quiet zone design & tree planting, old drove track restoration, a cleared village heritage interpretation project and provision of new locally-designed Viewpoint ‘furniture’ & signboards. Aspects of each work programme will encourage primary school engagement as well as working with community volunteers, local arts, mental health and disability organisations in the area.
Within the wider community forest, groundworks/landscaping contract will reinstate watercourse and surface drains in the wake of recent tree harvesting disruption to allow future access development to be carried out by volunteer and contracted labour force.
Contracted survey and design work will result in costed plans for a wider network of forest trails linking the local village to long distance hill paths, riverside picnic areas and vantage points as well as developing circular ‘constitutional/jogging/dog walking’ loops.
Feasibility studies will also be produced analysing viability, scale and definition of a number of eco-tourism & business opportunities within the woods:- a memorial/green burial zone, a campsite & off-grid eco-pod venture, pony trekking & mountain biking provision, woodland crofts and a horticultural/growing zone.
this project will directly address the following:-
- Improved access for residents and visitors to cultural, natural and heritage assets.
- Increased community ownership/control of assets and services/activities.
- People feel better supported to undertake volunteering opportunities.
- Improved management/conservation/sustainability of cultural, natural and heritage assets
- People have better access to local services and activities.
- Improvements in the visitor experience.
- Increased employment opportunities locally through new business start-ups and existing business diversification/development.
The short-term objectives of the project (trail & pond building, cultural heritage & wildlife area, school and volunteer programmes) are an initial step in a longer-term programme of new recreational, eco-tourism and social enterprise development within the woodland by forest owners, Lochcarron Community Development Company. Delivery methods will engage & utilise local volunteers/associations, schools and vulnerable adults to strengthen sense of local control (i.e. empowerment) & social cohesion that ownership of the forest originally set out to engender.
For local residents, this work provides new opportunities for formal and informal recreation in the area whilst fostering a greater appreciation and understanding of local heritage and the natural environment. For visitors – increasingly encouraged to ‘keep driving” and appreciate the unspoilt scenic beauty of Wester Ross through the car/coach window (e.g. North Coast 500, Wester Ross Coastal Trail) – the establishment of new and significant opportunities to stay a while and enjoy the Lochcarron area at a more intimate and leisurely pace are vital to securing local economic benefit for this remote community.
- Construction of a 580m all-abilities loop trail with new pond, wildlife/quiet zone & amenity planting;
- Design, create & install new interpretation amongst the ruins of an old cleared village site;
- Design, construct & install new Viewpoint furniture & signage/artwork;
- Undertake a programme of old drove track conservation & renovation;
- Engage (on short term contract) sessional ‘animateurs’ & seasonal conservation volunteer group leaders to ensure aspects of each work programme engages with – and directly involves – different groups within the community;
- Undertake a formative, landscape-scale groundworks contract to reinstate watercourses & drains in the wake of recent harvesting disruption – to facilitate easier/safe public access & access development;
- Engage a part-time forest access & enterprise development officer to:-
- co-ordinate, supervise and administer all aspects of access project work;
- survey, design, cost and prepare a future funding plan for a wider network of forest trails;
- undertake feasibility studies to consider viability, scale & definition of new business & eco-tourism ventures within the woods –specifically ① green burial zone; ② campsite & off-grid eco-pod area; bespoke pony trekking & mountain biking facility provision; woodland crofts and/or a community horticultural zone.