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Welcome to the Scottish Community Land Network

This site is for people interested in the management and ownership of land-based assets by communities in Scotland. A Scottish Community Land Network, you might say... As you know the internet is a big 'place' with everything about anything so we brought you relevant news and events, and provide opportunities to share ideas with other people interested in this subject. There are almost 1000 members, and more than 800 articles in our archive.

 

Scottish Community Land Network will not be kept up-to-date after March 2012. However, a new site is being produced by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and details will be published on this site as soon as they are available.

The most recent articles are available on the home page - previous articles are in their relevant topic areas (browse the 'Topics' menu on the left).

At the end of the rainbow......

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There’s a legend that says you can find a crock of gold nestling at the end of a rainbow.  So when I saw the foot of a huge double rainbow settle slap bang in the middle of the Kingsburgh community woodland on the Isle of Skye, generic help I wondered if someone had cracked the answer to income generation from community assets.

 

Kingsburgh community woodland sits at the end of a rainbowSadly, it seems the crock of gold is as elusive as ever, but when I met Neal Stephenson, the retired local vet who now chairs the Kingsburgh Forest Trust, he seemed remarkably sanguine about a lack of glittering fortunes.  At the time, he was surrounded by a pack of bouncing dogs and accompanied by Joe Curran, the Trust’s secretary.  And despite horizontal rain battering the Trotternish peninsula, both Neal and Joe seemed remarkably cheery as they took us on a tour of the woodland.

The Kinsburgh Forest Trust owns and manages two plantations - one in Glenhinnisdal and one at Glenuachdarach with a combined area of 198 hectares.  The Trust was formed when Forest Enterprise appeared to be about to sell the two plantations to a private buyer.  Initiated by the Kingsburgh Common Grazings Committee, the Trust launched a campaign to acquire the plantations for the community and achieved a successful buy-out in 2003, with grant aid from the Scottish Land Fund and the Community Land Unit.

Since 2003, the Trust has had to figure out how best to use the wood for the benefit of the local community.  As Joe pointed out, “if it’d been really marketable timber with good access, it probably wouldn’t have been for sale in the first place.”  So a lot of their early activity has focused on getting a decent access road into the site, to allow timber to be taken out from the woodlands.    They’ve received funding from both the Big lottery fund and the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) towards the costs of the road as well as gearing up volunteers to undertake chain saw work.  When we visited, the track had made it through the first plantation and up as far as the base of the second plantation, which nestles against the world famous Trotternish ridge.

Kingsburgh community woodland with the Trotternish Ridge behindAnd it’s the ridge that means the access track and the woodland may be able something a little closer to a crock of gold for the local community.  Tourists coming to these parts aren’t usually looking for the bright city lights – they want to get out and about in the great outdoors.  So providing another route up onto the ridge (and off the ridge in bad weather), especially in an area frequented by sea eagles, could be a major tourist draw.

For now, the track stops at a patch of major windblow, which will need to be cleared before the track can be pushed on any further.  But as the trees are felled and removed, there’s potential for them to provide fuel for local residents, so the Trust also used some of their Big / SRDP funding to acquire a firewood processor last year.  Some of the timber will be sent for commercial processing, but the Trust hope to use their processor to provide split logs to customers in and around the peninsula.

Of course, like all community projects, the process of acquiring and now managing the woodland hasn’t been plain sailing.  The Trust has a forestry advisor who helps them with the day to day management of the site, but they’ve still had to struggle to find funding sources.  Like most folk, Neal didn’t have many positive things to say about the SRDP and we passed a pleasant half hour bemoaning options, priorities and the whole application process.  But they’ve managed to negotiate a way through the minefield, with a successful application that’s funded much of their current work.

But they also know they’ve still got plenty to do, especially on the marketing side – after all, tourists will only come if they know what’s there.  Managing woodland is a big job for a small community, and promoting it as a tourist resource will all take time.  Many of the Trust members have crofts to manage as well, so finding time to keep all their plates spinning is a tricky business.  But for now at least Joe, Neal and the bouncing dogs all seemed pretty happy with what they’ve achieved.  Maybe that pot of gold isn’t as mythical as we thought.

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