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Craigmonie Woodland Association helps gives Drumnadrochit forest a new lease of life along with Forestry and Land Scotland

By John Davidson

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CWA members (from left) Neil MacInnes, Bill Smart, Peter Wilkes, Gordon Watson and Neil Barron working in the newly planted woodland.
CWA members (from left) Neil MacInnes, Bill Smart, Peter Wilkes, Gordon Watson and Neil Barron working in the newly planted woodland.

Volunteers with a community woodland have planted thousands of trees and improved paths – and now they are starting to enjoy the benefits.

Working with Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), the Drumnadrochit team have helped shape their local woodland and give it a new lease of life.

Mature conifers have been removed, a network of paths has been rebuilt to improve access and more than 2000 native trees have been planted by the Craigmonie Woodland Association (CWA).

Now the site is increasingly being enjoyed by visitors and locals.

Alan Bell of CWA said: “Many of our volunteers have worked at Craigmonie for many years and it is great to be able to have such an input into looking after this beautiful woodland.

“Planting native species will help to increase the diversity of the woodland, which in time will, we hope, be colonised by new wildlife.

“The newly upgraded, easier-access trails and new signage are also a great benefit and are proving to be a big hit with everyone but especially the local school and nursery, walkers and cyclists.

“We are all looking forward to watching the woodland grow and evolve in the years to come.”

CWA was formed in 1995 to maintain and improve trails in Craigmonie Woodland in a 'shared management arrangement' with Forestry and Land Scotland. It aims to manage a mixed woodland to enhance community and visitor use and to promote understanding of the flora and fauna of the woodland.

The group also works with Woodland Trust Scotland, which looks after the nearby Balmacaan Wood, which sits on the same footpath network.

The enthusiastic volunteers planted the new Craigmonie trees following all coronavirus guidelines during winter. Glenurquhart Primary school pupils also came out with their spades and planted an area, which helped them achieve a Woodland Trust Scotland Green Tree Award.

Sandra Reid of FLS said: “Many of the conifers on the western side of Craigmonie had reached maturity and grown to such a size that they were susceptible to windblow, so before that happened it was safer to fell them.

“This meant that for public safety we had to close all of the trails running through the woodland for the a long time before we could rebuild them.

“Removing the at-risk conifers has opened up a lot of great views that visitors can enjoy as they make their way around the rebuilt trails. The association volunteers have also planted 2200 native trees in the felled areas, which in time will change the shape and look of the woodland.”

Meeting on the first Saturday of every month, members of the association have over the years worked on ditching, path maintenance, providing bird and bat boxes, cutting back rhododendrons and setting up interpretation material.

Anyone interested in taking part should contact the chair, Alan Bell, on 01456 450227 or secretary/treasurer Sandra Bardwell 01456 450609.

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