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Forest volunteers are beavering away at Dunnet

By David G Scott

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GROUPS of volunteers have been beavering away to keep on top of matters at a popular Caithness woodland.

Dunnet Forestry Trust (DFT) realised that its local volunteers, despite lockdown restrictions, could use their allotted exercise periods to continue with essential work such as litter-picking, drain-clearing and a bit of path maintenance.

DFT treasurer Shona Scatchard said: "At the beginning of lockdown, the forest fell quiet – no chainsaws, no chipping, just nothing.

"Then, through ConFor [Confederation of Forest Industries], we heard that forestry was an essential activity and, as we supply wood fuel, we could resume some more work but with strict guidelines in place for everyone's safety.

"And we certainly had some urgent work to do, such as tree planting."

Log cabin in Dunnet Forest. Picture: DGS
Log cabin in Dunnet Forest. Picture: DGS

Local people who are now able to access Dunnet Forest as part of their daily exercise may notice some "strange constructions" that have appeared to the north of the main avenue.

"This had been clear felled, as part of out forest plan, some time ago and has been undergoing replanting," Shona explained.

However, the enemies of small trees are deer, which find them delicious. Even with tall guards around them they still manage to nibble away.

Young trees are especially tasty for deer.Picture: DGS
Young trees are especially tasty for deer.Picture: DGS

The trust is trialling a new way of protecting the young trees. High and dense walls of closely woven brash, left over from felling, now encircle some of them.

"In other forests this has proved a successful way of protecting the trees, also giving them shelter from the wind and, of course, it's 100 per cent plastic free," Shona said.

Other changes include new bike racks at both entrances so people can cycle to the forest, safely lock up their bikes and then walk. Not all cyclists want to use the woodland bike trail, Shona added.

Another noticeable change is that the totem poles are gone.

The creative works within Dunnet Forest help make it a popular attraction. Picture: DGS
The creative works within Dunnet Forest help make it a popular attraction. Picture: DGS

Shona said that one had fallen down and the others had rotten bases and had to be removed for safety reasons.

"So now we have new ones under construction. There is one, complete with wings, just up from the woodshed. The others will be decorated by local schoolchildren before installation.

"We had hoped this would take place during the October half-term but it will probably have to wait till next year now."

DFT has also taken delivery of a small wood mill to cut planks.It is still being trialled but could help extend the range of products for sale.

Trust volunteers received Highland Council permission to deliver wood to shielding households not able to come and collect.

"Of course we've been much quieter than usual, so much so that a robin decided to nest in the pile of wood splits," Shona said.

From this Saturday (June 6) sales of logs will resume.

A marshal will be at the gate to take order details and then direct cars forward to be served one at a time. Customers will stay in their cars at all times while volunteers load their orders.

Then they can drop their payment in a box as they leave or have the option to pay using PayPal through the forest's email address info@dunnetforest.org

Shona added: "Our application to buy the forest through the Scottish Land Fund is progressing well and we hope to have news of it very soon."

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