Community Group takes ownership of Dunnet Forest

25 February 2021

A local trust in Caithness will be taking forward ambitious ideas for Dunnet Forest, after becoming owners of the popular woodland on 25 February.

The Dunnet Forestry Trust took ownership of the 105 hectare forest following completion of a community asset transfer agreement with NatureScot.

The trust can now start working on a number of exciting projects, all suggested by local people, including a new children’s play area, a larger car park and more volunteering opportunities.

Dunnet Forest – a popular recreational area with sheltered forest footpaths – had been managed by the community trust under a lease from NatureScot (previously Scottish Natural Heritage) for the past 18 years. The trust manages the forest for public recreation, restoring natural habitats and selling firewood. The area is part of the Dunnet Links Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Eileen Stuart, NatureScot’s Director of People and Nature, said:

“I am delighted to see Dunnet Forestry Trust take ownership of this forest from NatureScot.  This will allow the trust to build upon the excellent work they have done over nearly the past two decades and enable them to take forward a number of exciting ideas in the future. 

“We have enjoyed working with the trust and watching them grow in confidence towards this day.  We know the future of the forest is in good hands and look forward to watching the forest develop further and the public benefits it brings.”

Andrew Wands, Chair of Dunnet Forestry Trust, said:

“We are very pleased to have completed the transfer of ownership of Dunnet Forest after what has been a long and quite complex process. It was in early 2018 that the Board of the Trust decided to explore community ownership and our members endorsed this proposal at their 2019 AGM. In December of that year more than 1,000 people in the local community expressed their support through an on-line survey, a ‘Drop-In Day’ at Dunnet and by signing a statement of support.

“Community ownership would not have been possible without the support of many organisations and individuals. NatureScot, our landlord for the past 18 years, was constructive and positive throughout the negotiations. The Scottish Land Fund awarded a financial grant which made the purchase feasible and appointed an advisor to guide us through the process of transferring ownership. The Community Woodlands Association assisted in the creation of a business plan, and many individuals played a part in this buyout. We are particularly grateful for generous local donations which helped make community ownership possible.

“Our task now is to implement the projects which were put forward by local people during the community consultation; projects ranging from an enlarged car park to a children’s play area. We also intend to expand opportunities for volunteering.

“Dunnet Community Forest, as it will now be called, looks forward to the future with confidence. Once Covid restrictions are lifted there will be a ceremonial opening, at which we expect to see as many of the local community, the ultimate beneficiaries, as possible.”