The Knoydart Forest Trust was incorporated on 5 March 1999 as the successor to the Knoydart Forestry Project, a community group which initiated the Knoydart 20 Year Woodland Management Plan (the Woodland Plan). The aims of the Woodland Plan include the encouragement of public access, awareness and appreciation, the enhancement of native woodland and the restructuring or diversification of non-native species, the creation of a sustainable, locally useful resource (timber for fencing, construction and fuel) and the promotion of local employment and community involvement, all with consideration for the long term health of the peninsula’s ecosystem.
The Trust is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Membership is open to any person or organisation, but only members who are permanently resident on Knoydart are entitled to vote at meetings. The Annual General Meeting has the power to fix a subscription (at present nil). There are currently 59 members whose liability is limited to their guarantee of £1 each.
The Trust is governed by a board of directors who are responsible for policy decision making and guiding the direction of the Trust. The directors are elected by the members and they are:
Jim Brown (Chair)
The policy, plans and aspirations of the board are implemented by the employees:
Knoydart Forest Trust Manager – Lorna Schofield
Forester – Grant Holroyd
Assistant forester – Ian Dow
Under the Memorandum of Association, the Trust’s objects are to “conserve, regenerate and promote the restoration of native woodlands and other woodlands in the geographical region of Knoydart as an important part of Scotland’s natural environment for the benefit of the public”.
RELATIONSHIP TO KNOYDART FOUNDATION
The Trust’s aims and aspirations are closely aligned with those of the Knoydart Foundation. In 1999, the Trust signed an agreement with the Knoydart Foundation to implement the Woodland Plan, with community involvement. The Trust is given first option to carry out any forestry work on the Knoydart Estate and may retain the proceeds of any timber sales from the estate for use in the implementation of the Woodland Plan. It is also authorised by the Knoydart Foundation to seek and obtain grants from funding bodies in connection with its responsibilities under the agreement.
The Ongoing work of the Trust is guided by various plans which are compiled through community consultation, networking with other woodland initiatives and research. The plans include:
Woodland Management Plan
A revised Woodland Management plan was produced in 2006. This covers all the general woodland management and establishment not covered in the Long Term Forest Plan. The main activities are:
– Native woodland planting and regeneration
– Rhododendron eradication
– Guiserein and Folach plantation management
Deer fence at Garsley (native woodland planting scheme)
Long Term Forest Plan
This covers the conversion of the conifer plantation over a 20 year period into a woodland with mixed species and ages which will be good for nature conservation, recreation and will produce quality timber. The restructuring is necessary due to the age of the trees and the onset of significant windblow.
Recreation Management Plan
This plan deals with the potential for recreation in our woods including improving public access to the woods, pathworks, mountain bike tracks, art installations, kids’ areas, quiet areas, guided walks and events..
Access and Regeneration Project
This is the fourth financial year of our Access and Regeneration Project which is part funded by the Big Lottery. The project encompasses most of the Trusts activities outlined in the above plans in and around Inverie Woods until November 2011. The other sources of funds are from timber sales and contract work, Forestry Commission Scotland and other grants. The project is particularly aimed at increasing community benefit from the woodland. The key outcomes are public access, improved landscape and bio-diversity, increased use of local timber and increased capacity to undertake contract work, timber utilisation and visitor services.
CURRENT PROJECTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Rhododendron ponticum eradication
Inverie Woods were being choked with Rhododendron ponticum preventing wild flower growth and native species regeneration. The Trust has a policy of total eradication of this species.
Clearance of Rhododendron ponticum was completed throughout the Forest Plan areas in 2009. This was the culmination of over 10 yeas of sustained effort. The final clearance was carried out with the help of over 60 volunteers from British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, John Muir Trust, Caledonian Woodland Group and the local community all participating in the “Mega Rhodie Bash” to celebrate 10 years of Community ownership and stewardship.
The ongoing maintenance and removal of regrowth will ensure that the woods are Rhodie free.
Forest management tracks were constructed as part of the first phase of felling to allow ongoing management and to provide access for future felling phases.
Two mountain bike tracks have also been built the ‘fun loop’ and the ‘Skyline Trail’. The trust is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of these tracks.
The Trust has developed and maintains a network of informal paths in the woods around Inverie and in the native woodland to the west of Inverie which has increased public access and enjoyment of the native woodland.
Felling and Restocking
The first big phase of felling was completed in April 2007. The next phase will be due in 2011/12. About 20ha of Sitka spruce was felled with around 7,500 tonnes of timber exported to sawmills in Ireland. This area has now been restocked. The Trust is working closely with the Knoydart Foundation to manage the deer within the fence around Inverie. The benefits of this are now showing as reduced browsing damage to seedlings has been recorded by the vegetation monitoring.
As part of the Access and Regeneration Project, the Trust provided weekly guided walks for visitors within the woods around Inverie. The walks were led by the Knoydart Foundation Rangers on behalf of the Trust. The Trust produced new leaflets and signage to encourage people to explore the woods and to explain the work of the Trust. It is hoped that the Trust will lead these walks next year.
Annual vegetation monitoring to study the effect of browsing on woodland habitats and to inform grazing management within woodland regeneration areas is undertaken in partnership with Knoydart Foundation.
Woodland Management and Regeneration
General activities include:
– Maintenance at Sandaig Burn, Garsley and Abhainn Bheag native woodland.
– Selective felling in Inverie woods.
– Fence inspection and maintenance at Inverie, Garsley, Croulin, Cnoc Gorm and Sandaig Burn Native Woodland establishment areas.
Timber and Seed Sales
The Trust promotes the use of local timber. A small amount of local timber is milled with a mobile sawmill and is sold locally for building. In 2003 local spruce was milled and used to build an A-frame for accommodation for workers.
Timber previously salvaged from clearance works on the Arisaig road upgrade has been milled for future local projects. To add value to timber the Trust is developing the use of its planer and drying facilities.
Scots Pine Trees grown from seed previously collected at Barrisdale were planted within the native woodland establishment areas.
To promote the use of wood as a local and renewable energy resource the Trust is developing its firewood operations. A firewood processor was hired last year to stockpile split firewood for local sale with the total processed being about 135 m3, equivalent to 134 fresh tonnes. A further firewood operation is planned in October 2010.
Contracting and Consultancy
The Trust carries out some small scale contract work both to develop native woodland on neighbouring land and to increase the Trust’s capacity to generate funds.
The activities include:
– Maintenance of Native Woodland Regeneration at Braomisaig, including stocking survey, strimming and fence maintenance.
– Roads maintenance for Highland Council.
– Path works at long Beach for Knoydart Foundation.
– Management of 3 native woodland establishment areas at Kilchoan.
– Line Clearance for Knoydart Renewables.
Tree planting, Inverguserain
In 2009/10 training was organised and delivered for the local community, Community Woodland Association members and the KFT team in the following:
– Hand scribe log building.
– Woodland deer management, with participants from the Deer and Forestry Commissions.
Further training will be undertaken to develop the skills of the Trust’s workforce and where relevant, members of the community or other community woodland groups.
Hand-scribed log building. Photo J Changes.
The Trust hosts events for members of the community and wider public. In 2009 the Trust facilitated the creation of a totem pole to mark the 10 year anniversary of community buy out and 10 years of KFT.
Activities to promote community and public use and enjoyment of the woods are currently being developed.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
The main activities for the coming year are new native woodland establishment, and development of the woodfuel supply including the capacity to produce and sell split and dried wood. Draft plans have been drawn up for the next phase of native woodland establishment.
Neil Sutherland Architects were employed to prepare a Design and Feasibility Study. This study sets out a vision for a complex of buildings and working area that will allow the Trust to consolidate existing activities and increase our capacity to utilise the local timber.
The proposals include a workshop, drying and storage shed for firewood and sawn wood and outdoor working area. There is also the potential to design and build a prototype house, designed to utilise locally produced timber.
The Centre for Timber Engineering at Napier University is interested in assisting with the project as a demonstration of sustainable and affordable use of local timber, particularly Sitka Spruce. It is hoped that this will be a stepping stone towards supplying greater quantities of local timber into the local construction market.
Once established the ‘Forest Workshop’ will enable the Trust to convert local timber into value added products such as timber cladding and dried, planed and moulded flooring.