Happy Birthday, Kilfinan Community Forest!

The Kilfinan Community Forest Company is well known for the many developments they have progressed in their community woodland – including of course, woodland crofts, of which they previously created 3 and are on the cusp of creating a further 7. However, their interests span a whole range of activities including composting, allotments, sawmilling, renewable energy, affordable housing and much more. Astonishingly, all this has been achieved in their first 10 years, as they recently celebrated their 10th birthday. We are delighted to reproduce here as a guest blog post their press release marking that milestone. Meal do naidheachd, KCFC!

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Ten years ago today (Tuesday 31st March) our small remote community waited to hear if they had managed to raise enough money to buy a sitka spruce forest just behind the village of Tighnabruaich, from the Forestry Commission.  With the village experiencing a decline in population and services it was time to kickstart something new.

“We wanted woodland walks, jobs and products, woodland crofts, work for local people and families, and to regenerate the oakwoods” said Michaela Blair, founding member.

With just hours to go the target was reached.  The community had raised a massive £65,000 which was matchfunded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.  “We were absolutely delighted when the news came through” says David Blair, Director.  “Our steering group were fantastic and straightaway submitted a funding proposal to the Climate Challenge Fund, to install a road, the polytunnels and mains services, with funding for a Development Officer and a part-time administrator for the first 2 years.

Since then the community forest has gone from strength to strength.  An established sawmill provides logs, timber and offcuts.  A thriving allotment group have polytunnels with raised beds and a regular Producers Market.  There is a well signposted path network linking Tighnabruaich to Kilfinan through the woodland.  Other community ventures now include mental health programmes, forest schools, a holiday woodland club, green woodworking classes and a community composting facility. The forest is family friendly with ponds, dipping platform, a small playpark with camping area and a firepit nearby.

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Three new crofts are now registered with a further seven being proposed which are attracting new families and children to the village.

“The replanting of the forest is crucial to help the native woodland biodiversity and riparian habitats.  The forest is home to otters, pine martens, red deer and raptors and their home needs protected too.  A recent consultation was widely supported by the local community” says Mary Lou Anderson, who is coordinating the crofters.

From beginning at ground zero 10 years ago, the facilities achieved in Kilfinan Community Forest are truly amazing.  From healthy walks, growing food, playing in the woods to exploring the hills, the possibilities are endless.

Thank you to all our members for supporting Kilfinan Community Forest.  We will be planning a proper celebration later on in the summer when circumstances allow.

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