The community purchase of the much loved Evanton wood, an integral part of the village, is to become a reality. It is 6 years since Novar Estate first approached the community with regard to selling this 65 hectare mixed wood. Perseverance has now paid off and major funding has allowed the project to proceed.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was identified as a potential source of funding, in the light of the heritage importance of Evanton Wood. The HLF were impressed by the involvement of the community in a series of community, school events and volunteer activities in the wood, also by the evidence of support for purchase through surveys and letters of support from many groups and individuals.
HLF has agreed to put up to £321,000 towards the project, of which up to over £200,000 towards the purchase itself (asking price £300,000), the rest for the 5 year plan. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) then approved £67,000 towards the purchase price.
Kiltearn Community Council has made a major commitment from its several windfarm funds; other funding has come in from Highland Council, EBScotland/Landfill Tax, the Robertson Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, the Cooperative Big Community Vote and two locally based firms Technip and Isleburn/Global. Further donations of around £2k have come in from the community and local firms in recent years.
The sale of the wood is now expected to go through at the end of July.
Meanwhile the Board has selected an Education and Outreach Coordinator who will help take the project forward. A recent Open Meeting demonstrated that some 25 people are keen to be involved practically in the management and development of their wood. There is to be a wide range of initiatives and opportunities including improving access and paths, providing seating, better sign-posting, interpretation panels and leaflets, education pack, educational events , improving the biodiversity, pond development, planting native trees and shrubs, volunteer work days, skills and other training, recording and surveying, plus a range of community events i.e. something for everyone.
Adrian Clark, Evanton Wood Community Company Chair said: "This is a just reward for the hard work and commitment by many people over a lengthy period. It is a good day for the local community that we have managed to safeguard the future of this wonderful wood and can now provide a wide range of opportunities as a result. We thank our funders for this opportunity."
Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: "This is a great project as it shows how local heritage can be a catalyst for lots of different activities. It will provide learning opportunities for local schools, training opportunities for volunteers and opportunities for everyone to explore and enjoy the natural heritage on their doorstep. The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to give Evanton Wood Community Company its support in making this fascinating and beautiful wood accessible to many more people."
Further information is available on the Evanton Wood website.