Update from our Community Forest Project Officer: We need your views!

Mark Chambers, our Community Forest Officer has recently written to the community, so for those of you not on our mailing list, or just keeping an eye on how CGDT are going here’s what he says:

Hello,

My name is Mark and I have recently been appointed as the Community Forest Development Officer for the Stronafian Forest. I have immediately found this community to be very welcoming and proud of its heritage. The people I have met have been really friendly to my wife (Gill) and I. We feel extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity to live amongst all of you, here in Colintraive and Glendaruel.

We have a grown-up family who live in Newcastle, and hope to visit often. My eldest daughter is currently at University, my other daughter works in a famous department store in Newcastle and my son is currently working for a charity in Bangladesh.

Firstly, for my sins, I am a Newcastle United supporter. I have a varied work history prior to my position here, including working as a soldier (Light Infantry and Royal Engineers), working as a prison officer (mainly long-term young offenders) and running several businesses, as well as community work, youth work management and ecology. I studied Countryside Management at Newcastle University and Community and Youth Work at Durham University. My hobbies used to include rugby, boxing and hunting with hawks, but now I prefer being stung as a beekeeper, wildlife as a whole, cycling and the occasional drink.

The population of Glendaruel and Colintraive is much dispersed and that is the main reason that I haven’t as yet been able to meet all of you. I grasped the opportunity to work with this community with both hands. I firmly believe that by working together we can make a difference to the future of this community, especially for the children and young people. I see my position as one which supports your ideas and relays this to the Development Trust. Some of you will have taken part in surveys in the past regarding the forest. These surveys were important to get us up and running. Now your participation is vital in this, the 2nd stage of the forest development, (stage 1 was the successful purchase).

As you are aware, there are similar community forests to ours and we are lucky enough to be able to emulate their best practice. We are unique in the fact that we now own a huge forest and that we will be leasing out the commercial timber production. The community will have access to all of the forest, apart from occasions when timber is being processed.

Previous community surveys show that you had some ideas of how we could use the forest. I have met with various groups and I am aware that other ideas have been suggested. This is a list of ideas that you had suggested (this list was taken from the Stronafian Forest Business Plan, available on CGDT website under publications):

  • Several picnic sites connected by forest walks
  • A forest style children’s playground
  • A stocked fishing lake
  • Strategically placed hides for bird/animal watching
  • Bridleway for pony trekking and a ménage
  • A nursery for native plants and trees
  • Conservation of chambered cairn
  • Forest burials
  • Forest crofts
  • Local food production
  • Energy production (bio mass/hydro/wind/solar)
  • Saw mill, providing wood, bark chippings etc
  • Sustainable housing
  • Quad biking
  • Archery
  • Stalking and clay pigeon shooting
  • Astronomy centre
  • Tennis courts

Your suggestions were made some time ago and, perhaps, you may have forgotten, not participated or changed your mind since then. Developing and maintaining services in the forest will come at a financial cost. Some costs cannot be transferred to users such as cyclists or walkers. The community will benefit through tourist participation in the Community Forest and this benefit will sustain employment and help to retain young people in the area, which in turn will retain and improve vital services such as the school, health care and bus services.

Community support will help to secure funding, which enables the Development Trust to commission a feasibility study into using our natural resources to deliver a reliable financial income to maintain services such as cycle paths and picnic areas. Finances would also be necessary to develop additional ideas. Renewable energy projects such as Community Hydro and/or Community Wind could provide this income. After an initial feasibility study of renewable energy sources, we would then be able to consult with you again with more information. We would seek guidance from Community Energy Scotland (CES) and I have provided 2 Case studies of community renewables for you to look at.

 

Woodland crofts are a relatively new concept, and in the near future community members will be invited to actively participate in helping to set the criteria and the subsequent selection of potential crofters for these woodland crofts. These woodland crofts are amazing opportunities for those with a love of forest management and sustainable living and can offer housing and business opportunities. You can find more information on this website, www.woodlandcrofts.org.

We have the advantage of being able to obtain wood from the commercial forest tenant and process this into wood-fuel that can be made available to the community and possibly to supply a wider market.

The following questions will help the Trust to gain an understanding of your forest use and what you see as important areas/items to be developed in the Community Forest. I will be available to discuss any of these areas with you, either in person, by telephone or by email. Thanks for your time and please take time to complete the very brief 3-minute questionnaire. Your ideas and input will help to formulate the Development Trust’s Master Plan.

  • To take part in the survey click here

We have a planned celebration day on July 13th which will include some family activities, food and in the evening we are holding a Ceilidh. The day and evening’s activities will be free. There will be a raffle and any money raised will go to the Kilmodan primary school. Bar profits will be shared between the Colglen shinty club and Kilmodan School. More information will be displayed and any raffle prizes will be gratefully received on the day or night of the 13th or to the office in the Colintraive hall.

 

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