A fine day for a trip to Sleat,www.facebook.com/SleatCommunityTrust so Dougal thought any way. He had decided he wanted to go and see a community run forest and to see if we could learn any lessons from this operation. So it was on the bike and Dougal alongside where we headed to the Inn to pick up a lift from Judith. A quick stop on the other side of the Hill
and another at the Waterside
before arriving on time at Armadale where we were well looked after by Angus, Calum and Chris at the Sleat Community Trust. A lovely quiet day better for fishing but I can always do that again and visiting Sleat as a group does not come around too often. There were twelve of us from here and I think they were slightly surprised by the numbers. We were given a background history of the Trust and the purchase of the forest by Angus, a lot of which I have learned over the years but still interesting to pick up on the dedication over a long period of time of a group who see the potential of a vision and can do something about it. Problems such as de minimus were shared. We are about to go into a period that will restrict us applying for grant aid as Sleat are just coming out of theirs. They have to wait until next year to install their broadband because of these fairly ridiculous rules that are supposed to apply to competition. Where is the competition? Chris then gave a fascinating insight on the actual workings and future plans of the forest while not hiding the problems from us. Lots of facts and figures with the main thrust of the project showing that money can be made from trees, wood fuel and create an amenity and all at the same time. Very impressive is the long-term forestry plan that stretches up to two generations ahead where replanting is already taking place and there is no anticipated gap in supply through out the period. They have secured supply and are seeing demand rise which is over coming the chicken and egg situation where you cannot encourage people to convert to wood burning with out them knowing if they can find the wood to burn. The replanting has both amenity and wood fuel in mind.
After lunch it was out on to the Tormore Forest to see the practicalities of managing a community forest. This was Dougal’s part of the day. We first saw the chipped wood, at least the tarpaulin covering the chips,
a fairly rudimentary process which is being improved with the building of a new shed. Not a project without its hassles.
Far more expensive than first predicted and the eighteen feet dig for the foundations did not help. The end result, storing the chips inside and leasing another part to a local wood fuel supplier, will be worth the effort.While up there the big sky catches the eye. You do not need to go to Montana to see it, just come to the west.
We had an over view of the felling
and on the way back down met one of the six lorries that are allowed out each day through Ardvasar.
They come through with deflated tyres to spread the load to ease the pressure on the road surface. From here we headed down to visit The College, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, to see their wood chip boiler and hopper
which takes around a thousand tons of wood chip a year and when it is running properly operates at around half the cost of their gas boiler. Yet again the sky is wonderful.
And at the end of the visit it was down to the kitchen and round the back where we were shown Big Hannah, the college composter,
and very impressive it was with lots of ideas of the whole trip coming back to Applecross. The tonnage of food converted to compost was extremely impressive and if 50 odd tonnes can be kept in Applecross and turned to compost then a scheme well worth looking at. Implementing them will take a lot of patience and many obstacles will be in the way. As Sleat were buying their forest they had to deal with how to get the wood out, disease, wind blow and poor growth but they are doing it. Spoke to one of the group this morning and it was quite exiting looking back on the day. She was inspired as well as realising the patience involved in getting the projects of the ground, as Angus said, six years is probably the average time, and there is no guarantee as their attempts at putting up a turbine showed.
From Sleat the day’s journey took me to Broadford and to see the Old Dear, always strikes me that she looks more child like than old women. I have mentioned this circle before and it comes to mind that once she looked over me and now, looking so small in her chair I look over her. I hasten to add that is all I do and not very often but safe in the knowledge that she so well looked after and loved by the staff of An Arcasaid. I will never know if she knew I had visited her or what her thoughts were. Helen leaned over and told her I was there but no reaction. All okay as one has to accept situations beyond your control or comprehension.
And next, although I have passed it on numerous occasions, I called in to Lower Breakish to visit Ruaraidh and Tanya. Would have liked to see it during the day but there is only so many hours of daylight and it had been a packed day.Meandered through soup and sandwich, three hours of chat about life and politics and met Sean, the kayaker, from Achmore. Interconnected world as they are tree planters who have been down on the Tormore replanting some of the broad leaves on last year’s clear felled area. Interesting that, if planting so soon after a clear fell, the saplings have to be treated with cypermetherin to prevent the weevil attacking the young trees. By clear felling the weevil that was living in the tops of the felled pine, nests and lays eggs in the stumps and there is a huge upsurge in the next couple of years and they love the bark of the saplings. There would have to be a gap of five years to wait for this cycle to die back. And some people think forestry is sticking a few trees in the ground and walking away to come back in forty years to harvest the crop. So after a long and varied day it was home, calling into the Inn for a couple of scoops of ice cream to round of a well spent day.