Sunday, May 29, 2022
NewsEnvironmentRestored ancient woodland linked to Robert Burns and royalty opens to the...

Restored ancient woodland linked to Robert Burns and royalty opens to the public

AN ANCIENT woodland which once welcomed royalty and Scotland’s National Bard but has lain overgrown and underused for decades has reopened to the public.

A community launch event, held on Sunday, marked a culmination of the efforts of local residents to rescue and preserve Loch Wood, near Lesmahagow in South Lanarkshire, following a £240,000 community buyout last year.

The 65-acre woodland – the equivalent of 49 football pitches – had since medieval times been the location of the ancestral home of the prominent Weir family but the house no longer exists.

A campaign by residents of nearby Blackwood, Kirkmuirhill and Boghead and the Blackwood Estate Community Association (BECA) secured the future of the wood after receiving funding from a number of sources including South Lanarkshire Council and the Scottish Land Fund.

Loch Wood reopened on Sunday following efforts to rescue and preserve the woodland.

Loch Wood is featured as a case study in the MyLand.Scot campaign, an online resource run by the Scottish Land Commission to highlight the many benefits land can bring to communities across Scotland.

Since the community buyout the historic woodland has undergone extensive maintenance, repair and health and safety improvements, officially opening on Sunday March 20th, where locals were invited to BYOB – Bring Your Own Boots.

In addition to hosting educational sessions for local schools and providing a safe haven for protected species such as tawny owls, otters and kingfishers, local walkers will soon be able to enjoy a reinstated Victorian path network and it is hoped the estate will be established as a centre of biodiversity.

Vicki Connick, Treasurer of BECA and a resident of the estate since 1989, said: “The aim is to provide a safe place where local residents can come and learn about the outdoors as well as enjoy the beauty of the country we live in.

“Funding we received from Banks Renewables and others has enabled us to complete essential health and safety work making it safe for those who want to visit.

“We’ve added fencing, worked on the original Victorian path network and are adding new crossings to the burn allowing for more adventuring, and another space for outdoor learning on the far bank.

“The feedback we’ve received is amazing.

“A lot of the teachers have said that they’ve noticed how much the kids enjoy getting muddy as it’s probably something they’re not allowed to be most of the time.

“They’re in and splashing around in the river in their wellies and climbing up in the trees, which nowadays is something most probably aren’t used to, so it’s really good to hear.”

The opening ceremony included free refreshments, a children’s treasure hunt in the outdoor learning areas, falconry exhibition, tours and a wildlife book signing by Stevie Reilly, a frequent visitor who has lived in the area all his life.

The woodland provides a safe haven for protected species such as tawny owls and otters.

Stevie, his brother and one of their friends compiled the book on Blackwood Estate wildlife when he was aged just 11 and it has now been published decades later with the support of BECA.

BECA is a charity founded in 2019 by a group of eight Blackwood residents who wanted to improve and conserve the natural environment and land around them.

The trustees, all volunteers, believe that by working together they can all achieve genuine, positive and local change.

The Scottish Land Commission works to create a Scotland where everybody can benefit from the ownership and use of the nation’s land and buildings.

Launched in 2021, MyLand.Scot is an educational initiative designed to increase the Scottish public’s participation in land reform through a series of case studies, information pages and a brand new podcast, The Lay of the Land.

Related Stories