The Forest Plan Revisited

Pine Tree at Duart CastleIt’s not widely known and comes as a disturbing surprise that in the current forest plan for Langamull there is no concession to broadleaf planting. I think most people, as I did thought that it was the modern practice to plant a mix of species and a small percentage being native woodland. So I was horrified that all that was planned was more of the same, a monoculture of Sitka Spruce, another 50 years of condemned plantation with the end result of clear fell.

We as the community need to wake up and realise that we can have a say in the future of our community owned forests. We have choices. On the plan for West Ardhu there is a very small insignificant area targeted for a few broadleaf trees and there are larger areas to be left for natural regeneration which in real terms means to do nothing but in reality will just be repopulated with naturally seeded Spruce. Mull Native Woodlands Group felt that both forests need to encourage and give a better woodland experience to both the community and visitor and would benefit from some amenity planting. It was was thought that it was vital to get a good balance between non commercial and commercial forestry. Recently, taking a walk through the newly community owned forest at Tiroran on their open day, it was demonstrated how much enjoyment the experience is when moving through dense dark plantation to the pleasing open mix of native woodland. The increase in bird song and light lifts the mood.

Mull Native Woodlands Group formed a sub committee to look at the existing forest plans, walk over the ground with the aim of drawing up a new plan for a forest for future generations to enjoy, a not so profit driven plan that recognises the importance of our environment not just for people but also for wildlife. At first just paths and water courses were looked at with a view to plant with mixed woodland species but then realised that we should go for a more solid approach to give the impression of a larger woodland and would offer the greatest positive impact for biodiversity.

Looking at maps and satellite images is one thing but when you are there that’s when you can truly visualise what’s possible. At Langamull it became obvious that the small glen between the haul route and the old track, down to Kildavie could be all broadleaf. There are remaining small pockets of native woodland and it would be good to replicate and restore this area back to how it once was. From the new track because of its elevation, you would be able to view over this new habitat of birch, Rowen, and Hazel, and on some of the naturally terraced areas Oaks and Elms can be planted. The important historical village of Kildavie would then be seen in context with a view familiar to the people that once lived there. More planting could start beyond towards the sea and around the site proposed for woodland burials. On the existing plan this is all destined to be Sitka.

Native woodland species have also been identified as wood fuel and could be planted in other areas with good access and be grown as a commercial mono crop, some that can be coppiced in less than ten years. The remaining forest which would be the majority would be Sitka plantation. A similar plan for West Ardhu with planting between the new track and the ancient drovers road, also the path following the hydro to the waterfall linking up remaining native woodland.

I am glad to report that this work was presented to the board of the woodland company NWMCW. Who had said were open to ideas and have agreed to our proposals. We need to have more meetings with them, have strong arguments for changes and offer alternatives to wood fuel. At the moment because of restrictions on movement of contaminated felled species and rotting piles of Sitka , wood is being imported in for chopped and split wood fuel sales.

We are positive that we can achieve a community owned woodland enjoyed by the community which might encourage woodland related crafts and businesses and support our woodland crofters.