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Making plans

During November 2007 our preparations for planting in the spring of 2008 commenced. This is a complicated task of constructing mounds amongst the existing brash and stumps ready for the phase one planting which should be completed by April 2008. The whole operation will be repeated in late Autumn 2008 and Spring 2009 which will see the whole of the woodland replanted. Soon after this we will see those brown and unsightly areas green up and flourish. Meanwhile on the forest floor the brash and stumps will gradually rot away providing nutrients for the growing trees.

During and after the replanting operation other species may be added, but in small quantities, some to delight the eye, others as a very obvious food source for our avian friends. Each compartment in the woodland will have a mix of species (see Phase One Replanting Species and Quantities). At some point in the future it will be possible to walk through areas of mature mixed varieties or small clumps of one species, say oak, which will survive and thrive in drier conditions. Other areas may have denser survival rates and the overall result should be a pleasant walk with a wide variety of trees and wild flowers to take in on the way. This will improve and enrich our already healthy biodiversity.

New walking routes have already been proposed and some are marked but not yet completed. By May 2008 we plan to have the two lochans linked by a meandering trail through the trees and at least one more major route established which at some point will meet up with the existing main trail. Whether these new trails will be constructed to the same standard as our original main trail will depend on many factors. Availability of funds will play a big role in any final decision. A mixture of dressed surfaces and easily well marked routes through the trees on drier higher ground will probably be the final result and eventually a short all ability path will be made close to the main entrance.

Waterfall cascade

The existing main trail takes about half an hour to complete at a steady amble and is just over 1 mile long. Linking future trails together could give walks of well over one hour at a brisk pace for those who like a challenge. For those who like a steady stroll and take in everything on the way, a day could be spent quite easily. One more surprise for the future will be the opening up of the waterfall cascade which will require considerable work and we can see this being available to visitors by May 2009.

At architects appraisal stage are our plans for a Woodland Visitor Centre which will provide us with offices, display space, work rooms and accommodation. The idea will be to attract visitors on holiday to the wood and, using information within the Woodland Centre, make the most of what is available in this part of Wester Ross. We will also welcome groups coming for specific activities such as bird watching, walking or painting and photography group holidays. This should provide us with a reasonable income and ensure our sustainability. Training in woodland crafts and skills could also be staged and demonstrations arranged. Hopefully the Centre will become the focal point for local attractions.

Kerry MacLennan, one of our members, is already breeding Highland Ponies and she enthusiastically looks forward to working the ponies in the wood. This would be done more to exercise the animals doing work they enjoy and it would be a great joy to witness. Her farrier still carries out the craft of hot shoeing and Kerry hopes to conduct demonstrations of hot shoeing beginning 2008.

The building will not be obtrusive, blending naturally within its environment its not aimed to be an architects advertisement. It will be practical and quite unassuming from the outside, but will have a big wow factor on entrance. To do this we are going to use timber and stone and the low lying position to the right of the main entrance will reduce its visual impact as you enter the woodland. Contouring along the line of the existing larch it will consist of three similar buildings in shape but reducing in size as they extend away from the car park. The inverted grass roof systems will assist on the illusion of the building melting into its surroundings, but the orientation and best use of glass will provide the optimum use of natural light and splendid panoramic views from the inside. The first building will be biggest and tallest of the three and the only one you will ever notice unless you stay in the accommodation which will be slightly smaller and second in line. The third will be our manager's accommodation, as by this stage we will need a manager.

Volunteers

At present all work is carried out by the volunteers, which consists of our Directors, a handfull of other interested parties and the occasional visit by volunteer Thistle Camp workers for which we owe the National Trust for Scotland a great debt for allowing this to take place. We have no wage bills to pay and as a Company Limited by Guarantee without share capital we have no shareholders dividends to pay out. All money we receive is spent on improving the woodland for you all to enjoy. However as the planting is completed and on going management of Laide Wood becomes more complicated and labour intensive, we do see the need for a manager and would hope to be in a position to appoint one within three years.

Once we have finished all of the above we will have completed the aims of the Phoenix Initiative 2005. We will have established the foundation on which we hope this well used and pleasurable outdoor experience will continue to develop and flourish.

The woodland already offers a rich source of flora and fauna, and this will develop as the years pass by. In 100 years time when the mighty oaks we plant are mature and majestic. the woodland will then be at its best, offering pleasure to young and old, a breathing space full of beautiful things to see and hopefully people will take the time to sit and enjoy what nature provides.

A task like this is a challenge which requires a brave and optimistic look forward, the best days lie long beyond the lives of those planting the seeds of today. To us, who have the privilege of being in at the start, the fact we won't be there at the finish doesn't matter.

Two old proverbs seem most appropriate here:

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

Greek Proverb

We have not inherited this land from our ancestors; rather we have borrowed it from our children.

Kenyan Proverb

The latter is most appropriate because it is our children who will take up this challenge.

Phase One Re-Planting Species and Quantities

First phase replanting trees
  • Alnus glutinosa (Common Alder), 20-40cms, 3460
  • Betula pubescens (Downey Birch), 20-40cms, 2550
  • Corylus avellana (Hazel), 20-40cms, 970
  • Fraxinus excelsior (Ash), 20-40cms 650
  • Pinus sylvestris (Scots Pine), 20-40cms, 3120
  • Prunus padeus (Cherry), 20-40cms, 150
  • Populus tremula (Aspen), 20-40cms, 1910
  • Quercus petraea (Sessile Oak), 20-40cms, 1610
  • Salix alba (White Willow), 20-40cms, 1100
  • Salix caprea (Goat Willow), 20-40cms, 290
  • Salix cinerea (Grey Willow), 20-40cms, 140
  • Salix fragilis (Crack Willow), 20-40cms, 1530
  • Salix viminalis (Common Osier), 40-60cms, 3300
  • Sorbus aucuparia (Mountain Ash), 20-40cms, 320