A Forest for the Future
Aigas was once famous for its old growth native pine woods. Many of the finest trees were felled for two world wars after which the land was planted up by the Forestry Commission for a commercial crop principally of Scots Pine with some exotics such as Japanese Larch, and Norway and Sitka spruce. These trees were close planted to encourage rapid growth. As a consequence very little light or energy reaches the forest floor. Much of the forest is dark and impenetrable, and the ground is a sterile mat of acidic needle litter. This prevents anything other than moss and fungus growing, and biodiversity is extremely low.
But it need not be like this.
First and foremost the community could carefully restructure the pinewoods to allow light and wildlife in. This means sensitively thinning the woods so that the remaining trees can spread sideways; it means creating large and small clearings where native hardwoods such as birch, rowan, aspen and sessile oak can seed and flourish. The last surviving old Caledonian Pines can be given space so that they can seed.
Where there is wet land the conifers can be removed in favour of willows and alders, drains can be dammed and ponds dug for frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies and damselflies.
South facing meadow slopes and banks on mineral soils can be cleared to allow gorse and broom to seed and fix nitrogen in the soil, to encourage wild flowers and provide cover for ground-feeding birds and other wildlife.
There is a small population of red squirrels in the Aigas woods. These need to have habitat carefully created for them, with feeding stations and hazel plantings to keep them healthy while the new-style woods mature. Other wildlife projects could include: a nestbox trail; interpretation boards; a deer hide; artificial badger setts; pine marten boxes; bat boxes; brash piles for nesting wrens; and a couple of osprey platforms near the river.
An extensive network of paths can to be cut so that people can access the restructured woods for recreation and the enjoyment of nature. And crucially none of this precludes continued production of some commercial timber and other carefully controlled activities and skills development projects so that the forest can pay its way.
There is a bright future out there and the Aigas woods could be ringing with birdsong and bright with wildflowers once again. In just one generation the woods could be totally transformed.
Help us acheive all this and more - make a donation!
We have identified a number of actions which we believe reflect the desires of the community as well as the reality of owning a forest. Our ability to deliver all of them will depend on the success of our fundraising and the economic climate at the time.
Actions related to the delivery of Social Benefit
- increase and improve access to recreational opportunities in the forest
- open up footpaths from Kilmorack Hall at one end of the community through the forest to Aigas Field Centre at the other end
- provide information on the natural and cultural heritage of the area
- design and construct challenging all-ability tracks and activities
- establish an outdoor venue and accompanying programme of artistic and cultural events
Actions related to the delivery of Economic Benefits
- manage and harvest the timber to produce working capital for re-investment
- add value to our timber before sale by drying and chipping for fuel
- develop high-end eco-accommodation to complement existing tourism businesses in the area
- investigate renewable energy opportunities in keeping with our community ethos
Actions related to the delivery of Environmental Benefits
- seek over time to encourage native regeneration of the forest whilst maintaining it as a working asset
- actively manage the forest to restore biodiversity and protect existing species
- work with Teanassie Primary School, Aigas Field Centre and other organisations to support wide-ranging environmental education for all age groups
- provide hides and open up viewing points to allow locals and visitors to enjoy the wildlife and scenery of our forest
Make a donation to Aigas Community Forest securely on-line at Virgin Money Giving.