13 November 2009
Following the AGM in August, the existing directors stood down, and six new directors were appointed to the Board – chair Donald Buntain, vice chair Mark Steven, treasurer Keith Kennedy, secretary Janey Clarke, and members Neil Mckie and Adrian Clark. Original board member Chris Hamilton was re-appointed. Since the AGM we have held fortnightly meetings and investigated sources of funding and built up links with a number of organisations.
We have discovered that whereas public funding is available for carrying out projects and we would be eligible for this funding once we own the woods, it is very difficult to find public funding for capital purchase such as buying a wood, so we need to look for other ways to raise the money.
Appeal to Companies
One idea is to make an appeal to local companies working in the area around Evanton. As part of the appeal, we would like to present the companies with a booklet of local art work of the woods. Mark Steven gave a presentation about EWCC to Kiltearn Primary School Assembly, and asked the children for their help with creating art work for a booklet. The resulting art work would also be used to create a series of panels or other end product for the school.
We distributed a short survey to members, asking what they value about the woods and what they would not like to see happen in the woods. Although the numbers returned were quite low (about 25% of membership), the indication was that members wanted the woods to be managed according to good forestry practice for the benefit of the local community and wildlife, with some upgrading of paths; but no radical changes were desired.
Management of wood
Cameron Ross, who was the forester on Novar Estate for 18 years, very kindly spent an afternoon showing some of the directors around the woods and explaining some of the management issues. Since the 1950s, natural regeneration has been the principal means of restocking the woods. Once the young trees are ten to fifteen years old, they need to be thinned to enable the more useful species to flourish. Thinning is also required amongst some of the older stands of trees. This allows more light into the wood which encourages natural regeneration. Depending on the size of the trees, thinning can also generate income from timber sales. Management such as thinning does change the appearance of that part of wood, but over time, the overall result should be beneficial.
Contact with Novar Estate
Our chairman, Donald Buntain has made contact with the factor of Novar Estate, and expressed the intention of the new board to continue the search for funds to buy the woods. The woods are not on the open market and Novar continue to support the community’s efforts to purchase the woods.
We are looking at the possibility, once we own the woods, of involving young people in the management of the woods and helping them to receive training and to learn new skills in forestry work. Neil Mckie has been actively pursuing information about setting up a social enterprise project which could undertake this kind of work.
Discretionary Budget Award
We have been awarded £1900 by Highland Council/LEADER Community Project Development Scheme to fund a number of initiatives including a feasibility study for a youth training project, the production of art work to be used in our fund-raising efforts and for the school itself, plus guided walks and small events in and around the woods.
We have started to investigate the red squirrel population in the woods. Red squirrels are currently a biodiversity action plan species and, as a result, there is much being done to support and strengthen the red squirrel population in the Highlands by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Forestry Commission and the Highland Red Squirrel Group. We knew that there had been a red squirrel population in Evanton Wood and we are aware that the presence of red squirrels could strengthen our case for active management of the woods.
Juliet Robinson who works for the See Red Highland Partnership based at the Forestry Commission offices in Dingwall joined us in late October to go round the woods with a group of our members. We found some evidence of red squirrels having fed on larch cones on the ridge behind Assynt St, but also interesting was the anecdotal evidence of people who came on the outing. It seems that the red squirrel population in Evanton Wood was much more in evidence some ten to fifteen years ago, and that squirrels were sighted regularly, as often as two or three times a week but that, although there is evidence of squirrels feeding in the woods, no squirrels have actually been sighted in recent years to our knowledge. This anecdotal evidence of a drop in population seems to be the pattern for this part of the east coast. Juliet reported hearing of similar experiences in Tain and Dornoch. The reason for this apparent fall in population is unknown. If anyone does see a red squirrel in the woods, we would be grateful if they could let either us or Juliet know. The North Forum of the Scottish Wildlife Trust have their next meeting in Evanton and a walk is planned for the group in the woods.
We have set up a website to keep people up to date with developments – check out www.spanglefish.com/evantonwoodcommunitycompany
We are very grateful to the Cromarty Firth Ward Discretionary Budget for their support and the fact that this will enable us to pursue the various strands that we have identified and help us to move forward in our efforts to raise the money to buy the woods for the community. We look forward to involving our members in forthcoming activities.