Saturday, 9 November 2013

Nature in Assynt - a plan and a vision

There were two interesting public meetings in Assynt this week. The first was a scoping meeting for Assynt Foundation's new forest plan. At last things are moving forward to enhance and expand the woods on our 44,000-acre community-owned estate.

The expansion will probably not be by very much, as there is so little land that is suitable for planting, plus unfortunately there is a strong lobby to protect the red deer, which will greatly reduce the amount of land that can be set aside behind fences for natural regeneration. Personally, I'd like to see a large zero-tolerance zone for deer and see what natural regeneration would result, but it's not up to me. The good news is that there will be ongoing effort, with resources and backing by the Forestry Commission, to enhance our existing woods by planting some of the missing species and to encourage expansion by natural regeneration, with fences and some planting. Around Glencanisp Lodge the horrible wind-blown mess is being cleared and will be replanted, with plans to grow a bigger area of lovely woodland there. The forests will at least go in the right direction (i.e. grow up and out) over the next twenty years, so that is encouraging. If you want to see the draft plan and comment, contact Adam Pellant at Assynt Foundation.

The Foundation is hosting a woodland weekend, at which there will no doubt be much discussion of the future potential for the woods in Assynt and elsewhere in the Highlands. It will be the last weekend of November ( 29 Nov-1 Dec). I'll be contributing some tree poetry, naturally, but there'll be all sorts of other stuff too - from practical wood skills to walks and talks.

The other public meeting was a slide and video show by 2020 Vision. The village hall was pretty full, and we were shown loads of lovely images, but I was left wondering (and in conversations I know many others were too) what the point of the evening was - there was no discussion and no obvious outcome or next steps. The project aims 'to engage and enthuse a massive audience by using innovative visual media to convey the value of restoring our most important but often fragmented natural habitats - to show that healthy ecosystems are not just for wildlife, but are something fundamental to us all.' I can't help thinking if Lochinver was representative, that they are merely entertaining those who already care, many of whom are already busily engaged in things like woodland restoration. It looks like a big budget project, but it seems to be missing an opportunity to inspire new, different or collective action for nature.

My gut instinct is that I want to love the 2020 Vision project, and I've been subscribing to their emails and looking forward to seeing their results, so I was sorry to come away disappointed by their show. I'd be interested to know if anyone out there has a more positive take on the project.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mandy, re: the 2020 Vision project. Having been aware of the project, and the huge (fundraising) effort to host it here, we hurried back from a trip South to support the presentation in the Coigach Community Hall.
    We also came away perplexed. Beautiful images. But a disjointed presentation, both practically and in its message. It is difficult to know who is leading the project, and I wonder if it suffering from a lack of clear leadership. I agree that they are aspiring to influence a new generation, so that 'everyone cares', but the ‘congregation’ in the Coigach Hall were largely the Converted. I did ask a question about where they have taken the roadshow and who has seen it; due to budgetary/capacity limitations it hasn’t been to many places, and they acknowledge that it hasn’t reached a new audience. Hey ho.
    Nice to glimpse you at the Lesley Riddoch talk the other day; really interesting stuff. We're much hoping to make it to your Gaelic Tree Alphabet Day this Friday - see you there. X