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 Culag Community Woodland Trust Chairperson's & Project Officer's Reports 2016, Scottish Borders

Culag Community Woodland Trust Chairperson's & Project Officer's Reports 2016

Urras Coille Choimhearsnachd Chulaig

Chairperson’s report 2016
Another year of growth in the woods – and at Little Assynt Estate there are areas that the new trees have come away such that they really look wooded. It is an ever increasing delight to walk in them at all times of the year. Just as Culag Woods is welcoming in all weathers, so some of the walks at Little Assynt are becoming sheltering. There have been damaging gales and we continue to be troubled by damaging deer, but the trees are winning overall – with help from friends (Jimmy, Mel, Charlie and Julian have tidied up after the gales and Don O’Driscoll has kept the deer numbers down inside the fence at Little Assynt – efforts much appreciated). Deer have been on the agenda often this year: firstly, what to do about the herd now resident in Culag Woods (and the ticks they carry) – a problem not yet resolved; secondly, our legal obligation to cull at Little Assynt – we’ve signed an agreement and meeting our targets does not seem to be a problem (literally!).
While the cull is sorted, CALL (Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape) is not. A lot of time and energy has had to be put in to a revised version of our Big Lottery bid as the match funding has proven very hard to secure (with government grants very much reduced and EU funds slow to come on stream). We’ve already benefited by salaries being paid to those preparing the bid, but the start date for the actual projects has been pushed back, leaving a gap and uncertainty about when jobs might begin and which jobs are going ahead. Hopefully we’ll be back on track in September.
Other than that, things keep ticking over. We remain solvent though poor (thanks to Ian for watching every penny). We have been modestly successful in fundraising at various events (Summer Ceilidh, Games Day, Christmas Fair, Craft Fair catering, Easter Egg Hunt, White Shore BBQ & Camp) and the sponsorship of benches and shelters has gone well. Of course we’d love to have an income stream but its source has eluded us so far (though Culag Woods is now an official, paid-for film location!).
What keeps CCWT going is all the volunteer help we get (and Fiona who organises well beyond the call of duty). There are the regulars - to those named above we must add Ken Fairchild for replacing the twigloo and giving our Troll a home, Ken Maclennan and his friend who have given the Woodmiser the TLC it much needed, and all those who turned up for Woody Group (seeing to paths, ditches, and other maintainance jobs). Group help has come from JMT volunteers, Ullapool High School, George Watson’s College, and Rabbie’s Tours – good work!
Finally, our thanks - to the Directors and Office Bearers for keeping us going, often with a laugh; our Members for all their support; and everyone who has enjoyed these places, cared about them and shared their delight. In fact, let’s get this AGM over with and go to the woods!
Anna Mackay

Project Officer’s Report – Fiona Saywell
This has been a very varied year in my work for CCWT. It has been particularly challenging in terms of finding funding with several grants applied to but with unsuccessful results. (This has also affected the start time of the CALLP projects – see below). Due to the continuing financial climate funds can be several times over subscribed to, in one particular case 10 times over! So it remains difficult to attract funding for projects from the more traditional sources. However through increasing the number of events attended and hosted, donations continue to be an important part of the income enabling work to continue.

Schools & Pre School Outdoor Learning Continued with assisting the Pre School on their outdoor learning sessions. New art has appeared in the woods (thanks to Jimmy for helping to install it). The Chinese dragon on the School Path has been entered onto the “It’s our World” website, a website showcasing outdoor art from all around the UK. The bridge at the western end of the Higgledy Piggledy Path has become a Troll bridge, thank you to Ken Fairchild for all his help with this. A tree planting session was also undertaken near the Tepee Play area attended by David Slator, Community Council Chair.

Public Events The 20th Anniversary Celebration Ceilidh held in August last year was a great success with around 150 attendees. Another ceilidh is planned for 30th July. We also continued with stalls at the Christmas Craft Fair, Assynt Games and also running the refreshment stall at craft fairs during the year. Attending these events is great for raising the profile of CCWT and also brings in a small increase in memberships and donations. The third Wild Wood event was held at the White Shore in May.

CALLP It was hoped that the Stage 2 application to Heritage Lottery Fund would have been approved in March this year however due to the slow progress of securing match funding, it was decided to postpone the presentation to the HLF meeting until their June meeting. CALLP’s HLF Grants Officer is currently preparing a report which she will present to HLF’s Scotland Committee on 14th June. One of the key components of this will be a report on the progress with match funding which is now looking much healthier with just under £1 million of match funding secured for the scheme’s five years of delivery. This puts all the projects at about 50% towards the total needed over five years and well over the total required for year one. If there is a successful decision at the June meeting it is anticipated that the projects may start on 1st September.

Maintenance project (Little Assynt): With the removal of the path maintenance option from SRDP, funding for looking after the path network has been difficult to raise. The paths at Little Assynt have been in place for 5 years plus and are in need of major maintenance work to ensure they survive. We applied to Brown Forbes Memorial Fund who have been great supporters of CCWT’s work in the past and they confirmed £4250. An additional £1500 has recently been confirmed from Paths for All. This means that we will be able to undertake the work this summer.

Mountain Bike Track Project development: The idea of a short mountain bike skills area/track has been raised at several CCWT meetings. We are currently in the very early stages of project planning, starting with a questionnaire consultation at an Assynt Youth group meeting. Chris Goodman and I met with Andy Taylor (formerly Culag Enterprises) for an informal survey of the proposed area, to the north of the Main Car Park track. Andy has experience of constructing MTB tracks and thinks that the proposed site has enough space and appropriate terrain for a small track. Assynt Estates who own that area have granted permission. Further public consultation is required and then if a positive response is received, the next job will be seeking out funding for the project. A robust fundraising plan for the future maintenance and insurance of the track would need to be in place if the MTB track project goes ahead. Assynt Leisure are keen to partner CCWT in this project to help deliver the training element.

Culag Community Woodland Trust Chairperson's & Project Officer's Reports 2016, Scotland