Twenty years ago today KFT came into being, born out of the vision, enthusiasm and hard work of a group of residents at a time when the ownership of 17,000 acres of Knoydart Estate was uncertain and the fragility of the land and community was sorely felt. Three days later the community successfully also became the custodians of the Estate.
The last 20 years have seen stability, resilience and diversity return to the woodlands and the community.
Here's a snapshot of those 20 years of KFT in 20 pictures...
Looking forward to the next 20!
by Ian Dow
KFT Forester & fungi lover
If a tree falls or blow over in the woods there is a decision to be made on how best to deal with it - do we extract the timber for milling and firewood or leave it where it is to provide ecological benefits? Here's the story of how we decided to deal with a Sycamore that blew over in the Policy Woods in 2016.
At the time we were aware that the tree had already been colonised by a variety of Pleurotus ostreatus (Oyster mushroom). So we decided to log and stack the crown so that the branch wood could remain in the woodlands to create an easily accessible wild harvest of Oyster mushrooms, a common edible mushroom, at ground level (often, and in the case of this tree, Oyster brackets are found out of reach high up in the tree). We then winched the main stem (of considerable girth, seen in the background of image) and rootplate back up to the vertical with the objective of creating standing deadwood habitat.
The story of this Sycamore tree offers a small window into the potential that foresters have to guide and manipulate their timber resource in non traditional ways that can benefit woodland ecology, increase biodiversity, accelerate soil creation and encourage people out to enjoy and make use of their woodland resource.
SAFETY NOTE: There are a few closely related species that can be hard to distinguish from oysters. So it's helpful to bring someone knowledgeable when searching for them in the woods.
by Angela Williams
one of Wood Knoydart's first stool makers
At home the mention of doing a stool making course led to some raised eye brows - and with good reason. Whilst my home may show a love of wooden objects, my ability to actually make anything probably ranks alongside my DIY skills. Non-existent. However, my lack of ability probably says more about a lack of confidence and opportunity than anything else. So, when I had the opportunity to go on a Wood Knoydart stool making workshop, it was time to put lack of confidence to one side.
The day was wonderful. It should probably be classed as therapy as much as woodwork. In fact, I could happily have spent the whole day on the saw-horse and not worried about making a stool; I found the motion totally mesmerising. That said, I was really proud as my little 3-legged stool became a reality and all the different processes came into place. I even managed not to create a first aid incident with the specialist knives.
What more can you ask for. Good company, learn new skills -and finish the day with the rare satisfaction of having made something that you can cherish and use. To be fair, I think my cats are doing the cherishing. It's now their new resting place - and great for claw sharpening!
So, thank you Lorna, Kristy and Johann. Thank you for sharing your skills. Can I come again and make a different one?
With a few exceptions it is probably fair to say that nobody thinks that fences are beautiful and they are definitely not cheap. So why do we put up fences?
The reason is that we want to increase the amount of woodland cover on Knoydart and here’s why:
To make this happen due to the density of deer on the ground and the lack of tree seed source we have to put up temporary fencing and plant trees. When the woodland is resilient enough the fences can be removed dependent on the deer density levels.
The relationship between trees and deer is dynamic – in the long term the increase in woodland cover make a better habitat for deer but only if a balance being achieved between the impact of deer on the land and how resilience of the woodland. Deer management in Scotland is under review with the negative impacts of inappropriate deer numbers being recognised. The West Knoydart Deer Management Group is working with neighbouring landowners to balance multiple land management objectives with the Scottish Government policy of “public interest” in relation to deer management.
Timescale in forestry terms is very different to that of us humans. Much of the benefit of the woodland creation and regeneration happening now will not be seen until outwith, at least some of, our lifetimes.
KFT look forward to a day when woodland regeneration and creation can happen without temporary fencing, however that day is not here yet. We believe that the long term benefits achieved by creating more woodland far outweigh the short term disadvantages of temporary fencing. We work hard to carefully design new woodlands to minimise the impact of fences on the landscape and access. By improving visitor and local information we think that rather than being put off by temporary fencing that visitors, and hopefully the majority of the community, will value and support the reasons for them being there and the long term benefits that they will bring.
Here's a quick update on what we've been up to since our last entry:
300,000 TREES - we've been doing some sums and worked out that since 1999 KFT has planted over 300,000 trees. This goes a long way in helping achieve the shared vision of linking up the woodland habitat on the peninsula from Loch Nevis to Loch Hourn. And we will be planting more next Spring in a new woodland at The White Gate (above Sawmill Wood).
WOODFUEL - the woodfuel shed is well and truly up and running - 2015/16 has been a record firewood sales year with 170m3 sold to customers in Knoydart and Mallaig. We converted our firewood processor to run on electricity from our community hydro electric supply making our firewood even more carbon friendly!
PHASE 2 FELLING - as part of the restructuring of Inverie Woods the second harvesting operation took place in 2015. This work is essential to remove unstable blocks of conifer monoculture and to clear significant windblow and in this instance to protect our community electricity powerline.. 3,500 tons of timber was exported by boat and we kept 1,000 tons to meet local woodfuel and timber needs.. The area will be replanted in 2016/17 with a mix of tree species.
FOREST PLAN REVIEW - We are in the process of reviewing our Woodland Management and Forest Plan and have hosted a number of community events throughout the year - guest speakers, walks & talks, workshops, scoping meeting - and issued a questionnaire to make sure that the views and thoughts of the community are reflected in the renewed plans. Alot of interesting and exciting ideas have come out of this and we look forward to finalising the plans for the next 20 years by November. and then implementing them.
If you do Facebook - please have a look here. Sometimes we forget to post up all that we are doing. Sometimes we just don't have time !!! We've been launching Wood Knoydart, organising volunteer tree planting, finishing off the wood fuel shed , .............................
Grant Holroyd, our Head Forester has been away on a study trip to Romania recently . There are some great photos from that tour on our FB page. Have a look - stunning places he visited.
There has been a lot going on with us all here at KFT recently. After a training visit from The Big Tree Society we have begun to prototype and make a series of new products from our woodland timber supply. We are going to start small - small products but with big aspiration !
Johann, Steve, Lorna have been working away on products that are unusual and unique. We launched them for the Craft Fair at Easter and have been designing and making a few new ones since. See them in The Knoydart Foundation Community Shop and Knoydart Pottery and Tearoom.
This is the making experience of your lifetime !! Last week in October !!!
For complete beginners or for those that have maybe done some woodwork this is a fantastic way to learn about your timber, techniques and traditions of green wood working.
We have teamed up again with The Big Tree Society to offer an extra special, one-off, once in a lifetime course for 2014
Based for four days and working in the most beautiful part of Scotland, this is an amazing opportunity to experience all the elements of resources and making in the wilds.
This adventure into making would suit the hardy folks amongst you. If
you know the West Coast of Scotland you will know what we're talking about. However if you have never been to Knoydart well this is your chance to really experience and immerse yourself in the special nature of the place. The weather will be great in October, the midges will be gone by then, the scenery will be stunning, sunsets will be unforgettable and the trees will be looking great. More Info and Booking Form here Only Six Places Available October 27,28,29,30
Neil Sutherland Architects were employed to prepare a Design and Feasibility Study. This study sets out a vision for a complex of buildings and working area that will allow the Trust to consolidate existing activities and increase our capacity to utilise the local timber.
The proposals include a workshop, drying and storage shed for firewood and sawn wood and outdoor working area. There is also the potential to design and build a prototype house, designed to utilise locally produced timber.
The Centre for Timber Engineering at Napier University is interested in assisting with the project as a demonstration of sustainable and affordable use of local timber, particularly Sitka Spruce. It is hoped that this will be a stepping stone towards supplying greater quantities of local timber into the local construction market.
Once established the Forest Workshop will enable the Trust to convert local timber into value added products such as quality firewood, timber cladding and dried, planed and moulded flooring.
Stage 1 of the forest workshop is underway with the construction of the woodfuel storage shed. The shed is being built by Wood Knoydart CIC (KFT's trading subsidiary) and will be ready to be filled with firewood by the end of December 2013. Thanks to HIE and SRDP for funding this much needed facility.
The Trust provide weekly guided walks for visitors within the woods around Inverie.
The Trust produced new leaflets and signage to encourage people to explore the woods and to explain the work of the Trust.