There is real progress in this ambitious project. We heard in early October that we were successful in gaining Stage 1 funding from the Scottish Land Fund to appoint and fund a consultant to prepare a business plan. The consultant we have chosen is Duncan Bryden Associates, based in Tomatin, with business partner Graeme Scott who will be looking at the financial viability of our proposed plans.
The Trustees have met twice already with the consultants and several walks round the wood have given them a good feel for the various ideas put forward by the community. We hope to have the business plan (including the forest management plan) completed by early December.
The second ideas-gathering opportunity at the Sports Day in August was extremely useful in adding to the ideas already put forward by the public in June and we have come up with provisional priorities for the first five years to include in the business plan. Engaging with you all in the community is hugely important. If you were unable to make either of these dates, please do not hesitate to let us have your thought on how the wood should be developed for both nature and people. Clearing and re-instating lost paths is a priority for the business plan as is improving the hard surfaced track to improve access for all. The trees need a good deal of thinning in places and removal of dead trees without disturbing crucial wildlife habitats. We haven’t proposed substantial clear-felling and hope to avoid it as much as possible. Hopefully the timber can be a resource for the community to provide some income for the ongoing work.
From among the popular priorities suggested for the woodland we have initially suggested a wooden, off- grid, multi purpose building with an outdoor classroom, play area, composting toilet and storage area, the Forest School, the Gruffalo Trail and a picnic area with tables. We know how much the wood is used by dog walkers and we are still contemplating the pros and cons of dog waste bins.
As we move towards the Community Asset Transfer application (to demonstrate we are well enough organised to buy and manage the wood) followed by the application to purchase the wood through a Stage 2 grant from the Scottish Land Fund, we need to focus on what funds we, as a community, can raise to complement the Stage 2 funding we are hoping to get. The Scottish Land Fund only provides an average of 80% of the needed capital funding for successful applications. We need to demonstrate the commitment and support of the community in a tangible way as well as seeking
funding for the balance elsewhere from Trusts etc. Any funding ideas, offers of fundraising help, or donations at this crucial stage will be a very valuable contribution. The purchase of the wood is for the benefit of the community so it does need the whole community to engage wherever possible.
We’ll keep you posted and there will be further opportunity for consultation and feedback from you.
Shiona Baird
Chair of Dronley Community Woodland

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