Community steps in to save Eshiels woodland

Eshiels woodland, Peebles.
Eshiels woodland, Peebles.

A funding boost of almost £50,000 has helped put in place a community takeover of a rare piece of woodland.

Peebles Community Trust is buying part of Eshiels Wood in Peebles, thanks to a community asset transfer buyout.

Eshiels woodland near Peebles.

Eshiels woodland near Peebles.

The group has received £48,765 to purchase 17 acres of the woodland, which lies to the east of the Tweedvale town.

There were previously concerns that the woodland would be snapped up by developers, leading to a reduction in community access and pathways, and the potential felling of a rare type of tree housed there.

Instead a conifer plantation, the only one in Scotland,to include currant shoot borer moth, will live on under community ownership.

Laurie Hayworth, chairman of Peebles Community Trust, said: “The woodland is popular with walkers, picnickers and cyclists, and there were fears that it could be sold to a commercial concern and clear-felled.

“Recent legislation has made it easier for communities to buy assets owned by public bodies and the group intends to enhance the environment while demonstrating innovative woodland management techniques.”

The trust intends to enhance the landscape and biodiversity at Eshiels Wood, improve public access and safeguard a cycle route, which runs alongside the River Tweed.

It will also reintroduce coppicing, a traditional method of woodland management, to ensure a variety of different light levels in the seven-hectare woodland and allow improved plant diversity.

Forestry Enterprise Scotland chief executive Trefor Owen welcomesthe takeover.

“The community asset transfers evaluation panel welcomed Peebles Community Trust’s intention for sustainable productive management of the woodland as a resource for wood fuel and income generation for community benefit, as well as a range activities focussed on education, training, learning and potential outdoor activities,” he said.

The woodland is one of seven projects benefiting from a £770,255 cash handout from the Scottish land fund for the purchase of land and building assets.

Jane Rosegrant, of the Border Forest Trust, added: “The site’s proximity to Peebles and position on the Tweed Valley Railway path and banks of the River Tweed, means it is already much visited by local people, walkers and cyclists.

“This welcome public use will not be lessened by the plans of the Eshiels group.

“In fact, their plans to introduce coppicing there and the overall aim to make it a more productive and more biologically diverse woodland should increase visitor interest as well as benefitting biodiversity.”

Minister, Cabinet Secretary for Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said: “I would like to extend my congratulations to the successful projects.

“This funding award will allow them to act on ambitious plans to give potentially under-utilised buildings and land a better use, to the current and future benefit of their local communities.”

The Community Asset Transfer Scheme (CATS) was launched in January 2017 to enable communities under to purchase, lease or use National Forest Estate land if this can be shown to provides local benefits.

Forest Enterprise Scotland development manager Rebecca Carr said: “Since CATS was launched we have engaged with over 50 communities across Scotland regarding purchase or lease of sites on the National Forest Estate, and have received a further six Asset Transfer Requests, four of which we have now been approved.”