Aultnaskiach Dell Community Woodland
Community ownership of Aultnaskiach Dell started off in an unusual way. The former owners wanted to safeguard the future of the woods and save it from potential development, so they asked if locals were interested in organising a community buyout and a steering group was formed to evaluate the feasibility of this.
What they did
The group was cautious about their capacity and initially managed the woods under a lease agreement, gaining a few years’ experience to assess the sustainability of managing it prior to actually acquiring it. With an underground sewage network under the Dell, the presence of Dutch Elm disease among the trees, and steep slopes on either side of the burn, there were numerous elements to take into account before fully committing to the takeover. After experiencing successful grant funding applications to fund initial maintenance work, and undertaking a few projects and fundraising, the community group acquired the woodland in 2018.
Volunteers have learnt new skills such as using a chainsaw or path maintenance. They have added an educational objective to their constitution, and are now working with local schools on various projects, and forged partnerships with photographers and artists based in the WASP Inverness Art studio. The group’s main income is from the membership, the sale of wood for fuel, and a multitude of grants – from the National Lottery, the Forestry Commission Community Grant Fund, the Climate Change Fund, and the Scotmid Community Grant scheme, to highlight a few. Although they have a variety of trustees and around 60 members, they are actively seeking new membership to ensure the longevity of the project.