The fundraising appeal to secure the future of a spectacular Highland pine forest has been boosted by a £750,000 award from players of People's Postcode Lottery - part of £2.3 Million raised to nurture trees and woods across Great Britain.
The windfall takes the Loch Arkaig Appeal halfway to the £4.5 Million needed to buy and restore the ancient woodland near Spean Bridge.
Loch Arkaig pine forest is being sold by Forest Enterprise Scotland under the National Forest Land Scheme, which gives community organisations the chance to buy land where this will provide increased public value. Woodland Trust Scotland is partnering with Arkaig Community Forest - a small group of local residents who share ambitious plans for the 2,500 acre site.
Steeped in history and teeming with iconic wildlife, this is one of the largest remaining single fragments of ancient Caledonian pinewood in Scotland. The opportunity to buy woodland of international importance on this scale is extremely rare.
Gary Servant of Arkaig Community Forest said, "We give heartfelt thanks to all People's Postcode Lottery players across the country for this magnificent contribution. This money will help us secure the ecological regeneration of our forest and the economic regeneration of our community. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it is fantastic to have this support."
The Loch Arkaig funding is part of a £2.3 Million package which will see cash from players of People's Postcode Lottery backing the work of The Woodland Trust throughout Scotland, England and Wales. The money is supporting free tree packs for schools and community groups, Green Tree Schools Awards, the Tree of the Year competition, and further programmes still to be announced.
Clar Govier, Head of Charities at People's Postcode Lottery, said, "Our players like to support initiatives for a better future, so nurturing trees and woodlands as an investment for the next generation is perfect. We are delighted to be able to support the work of the Woodland Trust across Great Britain, and to back the exciting partnership of conservationists and community at Loch Arkaig."
Woodland Trust Chief Executive Beccy Speight said, "This is a fantastic funding commitment from players of People's Postcode Lottery. Wherever players are in Britain, they will be supporting tree planting and protection of woods in their own area – while helping secure and restore this venerable old forest at Loch Arkaig. From the tree at the end of the city street to the mighty pines of Arkaig, they are nurturing Britain's woods and wildlife for everyone to enjoy."
The partnership between Woodland Trust Scotland and Arkaig Community Forest has the dual aim of restoring the forest and stimulating sustainable economic activity around it. The pinewoods have been degraded by historic felling, and planting with non-native conifers, which will be slowly removed over the next twenty years. It is hoped the local economy can benefit from wildlife tourism. There is potential for various businesses using products from the forest, including a woodworker who has plans to make bespoke furniture from fallen ancient timber.
During WWII the Loch Arkaig pinewoods were a training ground for commandos. The hillside caught fire during live firing exercises and blackened pine trees are still visible.
The Loch Arkaig Appeal is now halfway to its £4.5M target. Visit The Woodland Trust website to help the fund reach its goal.