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4th October 2016
A creative art adventure in the forest
A creative art adventure in the forest
Our autumn workshop programme is now well underway, and this Saturday (8th October) Ros McKenna will be leading a creative day of art in the woods. The aim is to create a unique work of land art inspired by the forest setting.

Ros, who lives in Colintraive, is an artist and arts educator. Her own work is rooted in the local landscape of Argyll. Secret Coast, the art and design business she runs with her husband, creates pictures, furniture and lighting, all using found objects. She says: ‘We spend lots of time roaming the beaches, hills and forests. We never come home empty handed, always laden with pebbles, sea-weathered driftwood and shells. These treasures inspire our work.’ Ros also enjoys helping others to be creative, particularly in outdoor settings. She worked for Glasgow Museums as an arts educator and has run a series of creative forest and beach art adventures for children and their parents locally.

The plan for the day is to enjoy the process of creating rather focusing on the finished product. It’s about experimenting, noticing, building confidence and finding new ways to capture the forest landscape. Ros wants to encourage participants to leave any worries behind, to try new things and, most of all, to have fun. Participants will be encouraged to work with different tools and things that they stumble upon in the woods that capture their imagination. ‘We’ll make marks with the things we find around us’, says Ros. ‘We might use mud, dip twigs and leaves in ink or use lichen and moss to scratch patterns in our work.’ The whole day will be spent outdoors, whatever the weather. ‘Rain doesn’t matter,’ Ros explains. ‘In fact it adds to the experience. How does water dripping from the forest canopy affect your work? Rain drops on charcoal might give you a surprising result!’

The day will start with some exercises working on a large scale using charcoal and pens. Participants will spend some time creating a ‘found map’ of an area by sitting and taking time to see, hear and feel what’s going on around them. ‘We might lie on the ground and listen to the sounds of the forest, touch and smell the earth, notice the way in which light comes through the trees, where the shadows fall on the forest floor,’ says Ros. ‘We’ll examine the small things close up, as well as taking in the bigger picture.’ For Ros, the advantage of being outdoors in a forest setting is that it’s less formal than a studio or classroom and there’s less pressure. ‘It helps you to let go of any nerviness about art and frees up your creativity’, she explains.

In the afternoon it’s time to start creating your very own piece of land art! Ros will introduce participants to the work of some of the best-known British land artists, including Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy. These artists create art in nature using natural materials such as soil, rock, logs, branches and leaves. The sculptures are created from the landscape and they stay there, evolve and then deteriorate over time. So don’t expect to be taking your art home with you! The idea is that your work will remain in the forest. What you create is up to you. Ros says there’s huge scope. You can work in 2D or you might create something that’s 3D by building up layers of texture using different natural materials and glue. There will be some beautiful autumn leaves to experiment with. You might even add something to the side of a tree or work with a stump, branch or stone that catches your eye.

Fancy giving it a go? The course is open to all levels. No experience is necessary! All you need to do is come with an open mind, be ready for a new experience and be prepared to get a bit dirty. And don’t forget your waterproofs if it’s raining!

If you’d like to take part in this free course, contact Mick Eyre on 01700 811 159 or for booking and further details. Spaces are limited and there is a booking fee of £5. Our funding allows us to offer these courses for free but we welcome donations.
21st September 2016
Words in the woods
Words in the woods
Foraging, green woodworking, trug-making, sheep handling – our autumn workshops have covered all sorts of topics. Next up award-winning writer Mandy Haggith will be hosting a poetry day which will encourage participants to be playful with words during a walk in the woods. It takes place on Saturday 1st October.

Mandy is based in Assynt, in the north-west Highlands. She writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction, most of which has a connection to nature. Trees feature a lot! Her published work includes two collections of poetry, Castings and letting light in, and two novels, The Last Bear, which won the Robin Jenkins Literary Award in 2009, and Bear Witness. She has also edited a beautiful anthology of poems about trees called Into The Forest. The chapters follow the species linked to the letters of the Gaelic tree alphabet (Did you know that every letter of the Gaelic alphabet has an associated tree or shrub?).

For years Mandy has collected bits and pieces of writing about our native trees from a wide variety of sources. It’s these treasured titbits – poems, folklore, sayings, spells and passages – that will form the basis of the workshop. The main focus will be on the rowan tree, one of Mandy’s favourites. ‘There’s so much fascinating folklore surrounding it, and the rowan has inspired some brilliant writing and poetry over the centuries,’ she told us.

The day will begin with a walk in the woods. Along the way Mandy will share some knowledge, poems and snippets of folklore about the rowan. ‘The woodland setting is the perfect place to listen to poetry about trees. There’s something about being in the presence of the tree. It makes you observe the detail and look more closely. A good poem can make you see the tree in a whole new light. Being outdoors, the sounds of the words mingle with the natural sounds around you.’

Then it’s time to use trees as an inspiration for writing. ‘Nature doesn’t judge us. Being outdoors is so different from sitting at a desk waiting for inspiration. There’s no pressure. You just jot down things that you happen to notice. It’s more playful and less formal. Through observation and listening to nature, your poetry can emerge.’ Mandy’s aware that the thought of writing poetry can be quite intimidating and she’s keen to emphasise that there will be no pressure to write at all! If you just want to come along for the walk and hear some beautiful words written about the rowan tree, that’s absolutely fine.

But if you do want to have a go, the first step will be writing a collective poem, where everyone contributes a few words and together shapes them into a poem. Then towards the end of the day, people can have a go at crafting their own piece, be it a poem or just a few words or thoughts.

Mandy will also be sharing her rowan jelly recipe!

If you’d like to take part in this free course, contact Mick Eyre on 01700 811 159 or for booking and further details. Spaces are limited and there is a booking fee of £5. Our funding allows us to offer these courses for free but we welcome donations.
13th September 2016
Sheep shape – sheep for beginners
Sheep shape – sheep for beginners
Our Autumn Workshop Programme is well underway. The trug-making and green woodworking courses were hugely successful. Next up it’s our fencing and sheep husbandry workshop, which takes place this Saturday (17th) in the forest. We talked to Fraser Brown, who will show people how to build livestock fencing, teach the basics of sheepdog handling and share some of his tips about day-to-day care of sheep.

Fraser farms at Shellfield Farm in Glendaruel, where his sheep graze on the salt marshes of Loch Riddon and the heather hill pastures that overlook it. In this workshop, Fraser plans to share the basics and give people a taster of sheep farming. He says if you dream of crofting or having a small holding, then this course will give you an insight into what’s involved.

The day will kick off with a session on fencing. Fraser plans to go through the basics of livestock fencing and then the group will get hands-on and build a sheep pen using timber from the forest.

Then it’s time to look at sheep-dog handling, which Fraser reckons is one of the most satisfying parts of his job. ‘Working with the collies is all about partnership. You build up this incredibly strong bond and understanding.’ Fraser plans to outline basic techniques for sheepdog handling. He’ll be looking at the age-old relationship between dog and sheep, how the dogs work with the sheep and how they round them up and keep them together. Then he’ll consider the handler’s relationship with the dog. ‘Collies want to please you and they want to bring the sheep to you,’ he says. ‘we’ll look at how handlers use their bodies and commands to harness that.’

Fraser will be bringing along some sheep and one of his sheepdogs, so after the theory you can have a go at running sheep into the pen that you built earlier!

Fraser’s final session on sheep husbandry will round off the day. He’ll take you through the basics of keeping sheep, including choosing breeds, type and size of land, managing your flock, keeping your sheep healthy and happy and learning about common diseases. Fraser has experience of both hill farming and pasture farming and can fill you in on the challenges of both.

Fraser is relatively new to farming. He made the move from London around five years ago to take over Shellfield Farm from his uncle. Since doing so he’s never looked back, saying it’s the best job in the world. He loves being his own boss, being outside all day and working with the dogs. In this workshop he hopes to share his passion for sheep farming and inspire others to give it a go.

If you’d like to take part in this free course, contact Mick Eyre on 01700 811 159 or for booking and further details. Spaces are limited and there is a booking fee of £5. Our funding allows us to offer these courses for free but we welcome donations.
29th August 2016
Foraging and trug making - learn new skills in the forest
Foraging and trug making - learn new skills in the forest
Have you seen our Autumn Workshop Programme? It’s packed with great courses, from sheepdog handling to foraging for food, green woodworking to willow weaving. What’s more, all the workshops will be delivered by talented local people who are keen to share their skills. We talked to Michal Pasiecznik, who will be sharing his love of foraging, and Don McInnes, who will be teaching people how to make a traditional trug basket.

You can see the full list of workshops on our events diary.

Michal Pasiecznik
Michal Pasiecznik is Head Chef at Botanica in Tighnabruaich. Anyone who knows Michal or has eaten in his restaurant, will be aware of his passion for foraging and wild food. He’s often spotted scouting the woodlands, fields and shoreline of Argyll’s Secret Coast for mushrooms, herbs, flowers and other edible delights.

In his one-day workshop, Michal will introduce participants to autumn foraging. He’ll be sharing some of his favourite (and until now, secret!) foraging locations, showing you what to look for and how to pick, as well as discussing how to forage responsibly. At this time of year, you’ll be looking for fungi, including ceps, chanterelles, hedgehog mushrooms and boletes, as well as berries including brambles and rowan berries.

Then it’s back to the bushcraft area at Kilfinan Community Forest to cook a foragers’ feast on an open fire. Michal is planning to create a communal woodland stew with the foraged mushrooms and late autumn vegetables from the allotment. He says nothing beats the smell of freshly picked mushrooms being cooked in the great outdoors.

Michal grew up in Poland, where there’s a long tradition of foraging and where foraging knowledge is passed down through the generations. Michal first foraged at the age of five, when his grandpa sent him out to the forest with a basket and told him to bring back what he found. He came back with a huge basket of mushrooms, only about five of which were edible. His grandpa took one of the big flat mushrooms, grilled it on top of the wood stove, sprinkled it with salt and served it with a slice of freshly baked sourdough bread. Michal says he’s still chasing that flavour; it’s the inspiration behind his cooking. When he came to the UK he couldn’t believe his luck: people didn’t forage and there was wild food to be found in abundance.

For Michal foraging isn’t just about the food; it’s about a natural way of life. The act of foraging is as satisfying as the results. ‘In Poland, mushroom picking is seen as a day out. To walk in the forest with friends and family, find edible treats, chat and enjoying the fresh air and outdoors together is a wonderful experience. It’s good for the soul.’ Foraging is Michal’s favourite pastime and he can’t imagine life without it. That’s why he’s taking this course. He’s looking forward to sharing his passion and knowledge with others so they can experience the joy of foraging too.

‘Forage for food, light a fire and cook in the open air with Michal Pasiecznik’ is on Monday 19th & Tuesday 20th September. It’s a one-day course, but you can sign up for both days if you like.

Don McInnes
Over the course of his two-day workshop, Don will be teaching the traditional craft of trug making. These baskets have been used for centuries, and are great for collecting fruit, vegetables and flowers. They’re designed so you can hold the handle of the basket in the crook of your elbow leaving both hands free to pick produce. Don spent most of his life in Sussex, where there’s a long tradition of trug making. Made well, they can last for hundreds of years and families pass their trugs on from generation to generation.

Trugs aren’t easy to make, but they’re well worth the effort. And with the workshop limited to ten participants, Don says he’ll be able to guide everyone through the process, with lots of one-on-one support. The trugs will be made from fairly green (unseasoned) oak harvested for the forest. The key skill that will be taught on the course is the art of steam bending and shaping wood. You’ll also be taught how to nail the bent wood together properly with solid brass pins and copper tacks. You don’t need to have any woodworking skills to take part in this course, just an interest in woodland crafts and a desire to spend time working together in a woodland setting. At the end of the course, participants will have their very own trug to take away.

Don’s background is in fine woodworking and cabinet making. He’s being doing it since his late twenties and has built up years of experience. Since moving to Tighnabruaich he’s discovered a love of green woodworking as well, largely through his involvement with Kilfinan Community Forest. This type of woodwork is normally carried out in a woodland setting, where the green wood is felled, split and crafted in situ. It lends itself to a more free-form, organic approach and the results can have quite a rustic feel.

For Don, green woodworking is as much to do with the setting as the skills. ‘It’s about being outdoors, in beautiful woodland crafting objects from the trees that grow around you’, he says. Trug making sits within the woodland crafts camp.

Don has been involved with Kilfinan Community Forest for around five years and has taught woodworking skills to young people on the Youth Skills Development Programme, as well as wood carving on last year’s ‘Woodworking Essentials’ weekend.

‘Make a traditional trug basket with Don McInnes’ is on 3rd and 4th September. You might also be interested in the ‘Learn to use green woodworking techniques to make a table from local wood with Mark Bamford’ course on 10th and 11th September.

Contact Mick Eyre on 01700 811 159 or for booking and further details. Spaces are limited and local people will be given preference. Early booking is essential and there is a booking fee of £5. Many thanks to Argyll & Bute Council’s Third Sector Fund and Forestry Commission Scotland Community Fund for supporting these workshops.
17th August 2016
Summer Youth Skills Programme success
Summer Youth Skills Programme success
This year's Youth Skills Development Programme finished on 10th August after six weeks of hard work and effort from the five participants.

The course combined experience of hands-on work with learning new skills and, at the same time, let the young people gain recognised qualifications that will help them access further education, training or employment.

Some of the physically toughest days involved path surveying and construction, rhododendron removal, building wooden structures and clearing brash. The young people rose to the challenge and could feel justly proud looking back at the difference they had made to the forest.

On other days, the group were introduced to more skilled tasks, such as learning how to make a dovetail joint or using green woodworking techniques to make beautiful furniture from local wood. The more artistic group members got to show off their skills and attention to detail while making a large-scale map of the forest and creating a landscape design for the new events space.

Moving on from school to further education or employment can be difficult for young people and there is increasing competition for college places and good entry-level jobs with prospects for advancement. The Youth Skills Development Programme sought to give our participants help in negotiating this transition by devoting two days to CVs and interview skills. They also did a session on marketing and communications, which is something employers are always interested in. We're continually looking for new ways to help local young people get on like this.

It wasn't all hard work though, and the young people performed well as a group – helping each other out and getting all the tasks done with laughter and good humour. We are also lucky at KCFC that we have so many local people with skills and expertise who were able to contribute to the course and make it a great learning experience.

Mick Eyre, who coordinated the programme, said: 'At the end of it all the young people have come away with a better sense of work in the environmental sectors and new skills that could make the difference as they move on to work or college. It was a pleasure working with them all and I know they will go on to do well. We're all grateful for the help we received from Di Wilson who devoted weeks of her time to helping the course run as smoothly as possible. Thanks Di!'
27th July 2016
We're branching out
We're branching out
Here at KCFC we firmly believe that natural green spaces help to boost people’s wellbeing and self esteem. So it’s great to be part of Branching Out, an innovative project that helps people experiencing mental health problems by working with them in a woodland setting.

Branching Out is a Forestry Commission Scotland, NHS Highland and Community Woodlands Association initiative that’s now being delivered across Argyll & Bute by Argyll and the Isles Coast and Countryside Trust working in partnership with environmental, third sector and community organisations. Participants using mental health services are referred to the programme and each group meets for five hours per week over the course of 12 weeks.

We’ve just finished running Cowal’s first Branching Out group up here in the forest led by Sara Maclean, Branching Out Coordinator, Mark Bamford, a KCFC Director and Branching Out Leader and John King Branching Out Leader.

Our group developed a site in the woodland near the gorge, first clearing brash from the area and then making benches and tables, a fire pit and a shelter. This was their base-camp for the duration of the programme. Mark describes how the days were structured. ‘We would start the day by getting the fire going and making a brew in the Kelly kettle. Each day we would work together on a different woodland or bushcraft activity, from whittling spoons out of wood to making wooden stools to creating woodland sculptures. We’d always stop for lunch together around the fire pit. On some days, guest trainers would join us to work on a different activity, such as woodland art and pond dipping. Mental health professionals were involved in delivering on the day too.’

Mark says he saw participants’ confidence grow over time and says this is where the initiative has the biggest impact. ‘You cannot underestimate how important self esteem is,’ he says. ‘People picked up some new skills, but the real change – and the change that will help them in life – is in how they feel about themselves.’

He continues: ‘Many people with depression and other mental health issues struggle with going outside, with leaving the house. And the more they’re isolated the harder it becomes to communicate. Through Branching Out we create a safe space where people can work together. Participants realise that they can meet people, form relationships, try new things and that they enjoy being part of a group. The guys that were part of this group were pretty much strangers before. Over the weeks they began to look forward to seeing each other and they started to open up and talk together about their issues. They’ll stay in touch now. Imagine the support they can give each other.’

At the end of the 12 weeks, all the group members had achieved a John Muir Discovery Award. Some are keen to continue volunteering at the forest and others are getting involved in other environmental and outdoors projects locally. We’ll be running another group later on in the year, led by Mark. He’s looking forward to it. ‘The focus in recent years has been on talk therapy and chemical therapy for people with mental health issues. We’ve somehow lost sight of the range of different ways in which healing can take place. Just spending time in the outdoors, working with your hands, cooking a meal and being part of a group has an enormous impact and I feel privileged to be part of it.’

Sara says that Kilfinan Community Forest provided the perfect venue for the programme. ‘It’s a fantastic spot with tranquility, views, walks and wildlife and accommodating and friendly staff and volunteers. In turn the participants have enhanced the woodland with their presence. It was great to work with local NHS colleagues and other organisations, especially Interloch Community Transport who provided a supportive door-to-door service for our participants. Oh, and the food, it just tastes so much better cooked on a camp fire and eaten out-of-doors!’

If you’re up in Kilfinan Community Forest make sure you check out the woodland space/bushcraft area created by the Branching Out group. It’s a great place for a picnic and there’s some fantastic woodland art on show.
21st June 2016
The apprentices!
The apprentices!
We’re delighted to welcome Nathan Mobeck and Gavin Martin to the team! The local lads are our new Sustainable Construction Apprentices. They’ll be trained in all aspects of construction, including the latest energy-saving and low-carbon building techniques. They’ll also be helping us to build our low-carbon classroom which will be a prototype for five new affordable self-build homes due to be built in the community forest. Here’s what Gavin and Nathan have to say about their new jobs.

Nathan Mobeck (16), from Kames
I took part in KCFC’s youth skills development project and really enjoyed it. I liked being outdoors and learning new skills, particularly working with wood. Last month, I spent a few weeks volunteering up at the forest. I worked with Andy in the saw mill and helped him to build the wooden planters that are being use for growing flowers in the village. Rob mentioned the apprenticeships, which sounded great, and he encouraged me to apply. The thing that attracted me the most was the idea of building an entire house, from scratch. I can’t wait to see the it finished. It will be an amazing achievement; something I can be really proud of. The process will give me the chance to build a whole set of skills. I’m most interested in joinery, but we’ll be learning all the building skills. Environmentally friendly construction is the way everything’s going. Getting trained up in all the latest low-carbon techniques should set us up well for the future.

Gavin Martin (20), from Kames
My step dad’s involved in the allotment group in the forest. He told me about the apprenticeships I immediately thought this sounds like a great opportunity. Interesting stuff like this rarely comes up in Tighnabruaich! I want to stay and work in the area, but it’s tough to find a way to make a living here. I’ve tried my hand at a few different things, but until now haven’t found something that I really want to do. I love the fact that with this job we get to be outside, that we’re learning new things and that we’re kept busy all the time. There are so many different things to get on with. I also really like the idea of building an entire house. That’s something to be proud of. And what’s really exciting is that we’ll be building the house almost entirely with wood from the forest. But one of the best bits of this job has to be the location. The views down the Kyles are amazing! Those houses are going to have the best views in the village. We’ll also be going to college as part of the apprenticeship, which will help us the get the skills we need. I want to focus on joinery as well. I like working with wood and joiners are always in demand.
29th March 2016
A walk in the woods
A walk in the woods
What could be better than a walk in the woods? It’s a great way to exercise, get closer to nature and spot the local wildlife. We’ve been busy developing the walking trails in the forest recently and have plans to expand them over the coming months. So whether you fancy a short stroll and a picnic or a longer ramble with the dog, you’ll find a good choice of routes up at the forest now. Take a woodland wander, look out for red squirrels and enjoy the most amazing elevated views of the Kyles of Bute!

The Heritage Trail
For a short stroll that takes in some of the heritage and wildlife highlights of the forest, follow the circular route which starts by the car park and winds up through to the ‘Victorian Waterfall’. We’ve improved the paths here over the last few weeks, sorting out the areas that had been disturbed by the installation of the hydro pipe and adding extra drainage and walkways. Next month you’ll see colour-coded way-markers along this route.

The first part of the walk is a glorious ramble through native woodland alongside the Allt Mor burn. The gorge is a magical world of ferns and moss. Riparian woodland – woodland that’s found next to fresh water – is a rich habitat for all sorts of plants, animals and insects. Look out for wood sorrel, wild garlic, hart’s tongue fern, haircap moss, frogs and dragonflies. You’ll also pass the newly installed hydro-electric scheme.

At the Victorian Falls you get a fabulous view down the Allt Mor burn with its tumbling waterfalls and deep pools. The Victorian Falls looks natural, but was in fact man-made in the 19th century. The burn was diverted from its natural route to create small reservoir, and this diversion also created the waterfall. Just beyond this are the remains of Tighnabruaich’s first reservoir. It’s not easily accessed at the moment, but we’re planning to develop a path that will take in this important heritage.

When you’ve finished enjoying the views of the falls, carry on up the path until you reach two nature ponds, which we built as part of the Scottish Dragon Finder Project to increase biodiversity by improving habitats. Volunteers planted up these ponds and are carrying out monitoring amphibian and reptile populations on site.

To complete your circular route, follow the path past the nature pond on your left (which has the viewing platform) and meander back down through the woods via the forest shelter area. We’re currently developing the forest shelter area and will be seeding it with grass in the coming weeks. It will soon be a fabulous spot for a picnic and wild camping.

When you’re walking this route, keep a lookout for local primary school pupils’ forest inspired artwork, as well as bird and squirrel boxes nestled high up in the trees! It can be muddy underfoot, so walking boots are advised.

The Kilfinan Way
If you’d like to extend your walk, then you can now follow the Kilfinan Way to Tighnabruaich’s second reservoir. At the end of the 19th century the original reservoir was abandoned and a larger one built to the north west of the village. This second reservoir was used right up the the 1970s. It’s a really beautiful spot and home to lots of birdlife.

To get there, simply follow the logging road past the wood mill. Much of the woodland as been felled here. As you enter a forested area, the road turns into a track and you are now on the Kilfinan Way! This ancient drovers’ road connected Otter Ferry, Kilfinan and Tighnabruaich. It’s just a section of it that we have re-opened, but we would love to re-open the full route in the future. The track ends at the reservoir. When you’ve explored the area, head back the same way. In this direction you’ll be treated to stunning views down the Kyles of Bute.

To celebrate our burgeoning collection of walking trails, this year we’ll be taking part in CowalFest for the first time. We’ll be leading a walk to the reservoir with the opportunity for the more adventurous to head up Barr Liath. We hear that the views from the top of the hill are incredible!

You’re more than welcome to bring dogs up to Kilfinan Community Forest. Just keep them under control and make sure they don’t go into the nature ponds! And if you fancy helping us improve our walking routes, then we’d love to hear from you. There’s all sorts of opportunities, from path building to sign making. Contact Sara on 01700 811159.
15th February 2016
Build an awesome den in the forest
Build an awesome den in the forest
What could be more fun than building your very own den in the woods? It’s surely what forests were made for!

We’re holding a Den Building Day in the forest this Saturday. The great thing about den building is that everyone can join in and have a role. Even the smallest children can collect kindling, gather leaves and add decorations. With that in mind, we’ll be showing the littlest ones how to build a mini-den for their teddy bears. Then groups of friends and family can get to work building their very own dens. We can’t wait to see the results!

Den building isn’t just fun, it’s educational too. It teaches kids all sorts of essential skills, from problem solving to creativity. There’s something about building a den that really appeals to children. It fires their imagination. They have to be resourceful and use what they can find in the forest. They see the potential in everything that’s around them and start to notice things.

More than anything it’s a team activity, and teaches about planning, listening and working together. It pays to step back as an adult and let the kids take charge. You’ll be amazed by the results! It’s also a lovely way for children to connect with nature, from scavenging the building materials among the forest floor, to sheltering from the elements within the finished structure. Plus, it’s likely that some wild creatures will move into the den too! The dens make habitats for all sorts of beasties, from mice to insects.

Where to build you den
A clearing near the edge of the forest is ideal. You’ll be looking for a nice flat, grassy spot avoiding slopes and dips. On Saturday, we’ll be building our dens in the woodland up near the sawmill, around the area where the Teddy Bears’ Picnic was held. There’s lots of space up here and good materials to hand, including willow and hazel.

What materials to use
Essentially, all a den needs is a frame and a cover. We’ll be making our dens entirely from natural materials that we find in the woods. To get started, it’s best to look for a handy natural structure that you can work around. A fallen tree or even a tree with a low branch can be used to build your frame. Bendy wood, such as birch, is ideal because it can be weaved, arched to create benders or joined at the top to make tipi-style structures. Moss, pine brash, ferns, leaves and grass can all be stuffed into nooks and crannies to make your den more sung. And for the extra cosy factor, you can line the floor of your den with moss too.

What will the den look like?
There are a number of different types of structures that you can build, and by building mini-dens for the teddy bears we can try these out. A lean-to, sloping from the entrance towards the ground, is probably the easiest. A tipi, where your branches join at a central point, is anther option. With plenty of big bendy branches available, a bender is also possible. It pays to keep your den small, as it will be warmer. This is especially important if you plan to sleep out in it! There are all sorts of other ways to customise your den, from creating a pine-cone path to your front door to decorating your entrance with berries.

Once the dens are built, we hope that everyone will continue to use them. Head up to the forest and have an adventure…take a picnic, make bows and arrows, go on a bear hunt. And if it starts to rain, you can huddle in your very own den.

The Den Building Day takes place this Saturday (20th February) from 10am to 4pm. Everyone is welcome. We’ll provide tea, coffee and drinks but bring a packed lunch as den-building can be hungry work! And don’t forget to dress for the weather. If you can, bring along some old rope or string for lashing things together. For more information, contact Sara on 01700 811059 or
12th January 2016
Hunting for berries and seeds
Hunting for berries and seeds
We’re really enjoying being part of the Kew Gardens National Seed Bank project. We’ve been out in all weathers collecting tree seeds from the forest. It’s a great way to explore the woods and help establish a vital national tree seed collection that will help researchers understand our native trees, their seeds and their conservation needs.

Timing is important when planning seed collection. The aim is to collect mature seed at the point of natural dispersal as this will maximize their longevity in storage. You need to plan in advance, but those plans can be confounded as seed abundance and dispersal timing varies both from year-to-year. In the recent mild weather, seeds may ripen earlier than expected.

Just before Christmas we did a BIG Holly Berry Hunt. With the help of pupils from Tighnabruaich Primary School and our band of nature volunteers, we collected over 2,000 native holly berries from the woods. We had to get the timing right. We needed the berries to be ‘viable’ - juicy and ripe - but we also needed to get to them before the birds! We collected from five trees that we had identified as having berries that were pretty easy to access. As a festive thank you, we gave each helper a sprig of holly to take home.

The holly berries were carefully packed and sent by courier to the seed bank where staff there removed the seeds by crushing the berries and getting rid of the pulp. Some of the seeds are then planted while the rest are stored in dry ice for the future.

Di Wilson, who joined in the Holly Berry Hunt, said: ‘Ever wanted to be Indiana Jones, a serious professor or an intrepid explorer? Well that’s what it felt like collecting seeds in the forest for this prestigious Kew Gardens project. It was a cold but dry day when we collected holly berries. We chatted, we surveyed, found the holly trees and collected and parceled up the berries. I would encourage anyone to join the hunt when the next berries are ripe. The tea afterwards tastes great too!’

Next up we’ll be collecting seeds from the native alder. We’ve identified two trees in our forest that we’ll need to keep an eye on over the next few months. We’re looking for little cones that should ripen any time from now until the end of February. They grow quite high up though, so we’ll need to get some professional tree climbers in to help us collect them safely!

We’re looking forward to collecting wild raspberries and honeysuckle in the summer time and come autumn we’ll be collecting elderberries and birch seeds.

If you’d like to find out more about the project or fancy getting involved, we’d love to hear from you. Contact Sara on 01700 811159 or at
27th November 2015
The outdoor classroom
The outdoor classroom
We are big believers in outdoor education. We think that forests are great places for children (and adults!) to learn about all sorts of things. It’s an environment that encourages curiosity and exploration, and helps to build self-esteem and confidence.

Pupils at Tighnabruaich Primary School enjoy Forest School once a week and we do everything we can to support this. The school leases two official Forest School sites from us, as well as having the run of the rest of the forest.

Before community ownership of the forest, these sites, which are right next to the school, were impenetrable. One of the first things we did was to clear the area of Rhododendrons to create an open, native woodland. We also built a path from the back road to the school that continues up to the forest. This gave the pupils easy walking access to the woods and to the village.

We then helped the school create a forest shelter. The pupils came up with the design (a curved-leaf shape) and we built it using wood from the Forest School site. The kids witnessed the whole process, from cutting to milling to building.

Fiona Hamilton, the school’s Head Teacher, said: ‘Forest School has been running for five years and the pupils love it. They’re really beginning to feel a sense of ownership of the forest. Hopefully it’s a connection that we can grow and nurture as the kids get older.’

The primary school has been involved in a number of other projects in the forest. For example, planting a tree nursery, taking part in art projects and coming along to the hydro scheme switch-on. KCFC also supported the school to organise and run an event during British Science Week 2015 that was attended by three other Cowal primary schools and members of the public around the theme of food and growing. In addition, the school has two raised beds in the community allotment area where they grow vegetables with support from the Kyles Allotment Group.

The Froglife Project will offer new learning opportunities. The children will be able to help us create hibernacula (safe places for amphibians and reptiles to overwinter) from wood and pond spoil and to monitor the amphibian and reptile populations in the spring.

The forest’s heritage, too, will be great for the kids to get to grips with. We’ve just published a teaching resource pack ’The History of Our Forest - Learning About Our Heritage’. It provides tools and ideas to help primary school children learn about and engage with the heritage that’s right here on their doorstep.

It’s not just primary school children that we work with in the forest. Our Youth Skills Development, which provides paid summer work and experience for 16 to 18 year olds, has been running for three years now. Eight young people from Dunoon Grammar School took part in this summer’s project, gaining new skills to add to their CVs and learning about everything from tree identification to first aid, path design, woodworking, hands-on civil engineering, risk assessment and health and safety.

In the New Year, we’re planning to run a Forest Youth Club on Friday evenings. This is an exciting development, as there are no clubs like this catering to teenagers locally. We’ll be doing activities like bush craft, star gazing and night walks with them.

Next year, as part of British Science Week (11th to 20th March 2016), S4 science pupils from Dunoon Grammar School, and Tighnabruaich will be taking part in our Hydro Schools Open Day. More information to follow on this.

We’ve had pre-school kids and toddlers up here having fun too. The Teddy Bear’s Picnic in September was a huge success, and we hope to organize more events like this in the spring. We’re thinking an Easter egg hunt may be in order!

We’re always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to expand our forest education offering. We know that there’s a good spread of land-based skills and art skills in the community and we would love to draw on these. If you have any thoughts on how you might help, please get in touch.
22nd October 2015
Autumn in the forest
Autumn in the forest
Autumn is a lovely time to explore the forest. The leaves are a blaze of gold, red and orange, the bracken is dying back and there’s plenty of wonderful wildlife of see.

Many of the forest animals are active as they prepare for their hibernation. The red squirrels are out and about gathering food for the winter ahead. And with fewer leaves on the trees, the squirrels are much easier to spot.

The bats are busy too, building up their fat reserves before beginning their winter hibernation in November or December. If you walk in the forest at dusk you’ll see them swooping around, hunting for insects. We left a number of trees near the sawmill unfelled as bats have made their homes here.

Some of the other forest dwellers are more elusive. Pine martens certainly live here in the forest, but it’s rare to catch sight of them. They tend to be mostly nocturnal, and are naturally shy animals. However, you can have a lot of fun looking for evidence of their presence. We came across a pine marten track recently. Like the badger, stoat, otter and mink, the pine marten has five toes – as you can see in the photo. Autumn is a season to look for them as there’s fresh mud following rain. Alternatively, wait until it snows!

Other evidence to look for is their poo (scat). Pine marten poo looks a lot like fox poo, but doesn’t smell as pungent. It’s dark and heart shaped or slightly curled. Pine martens are partial to brambles (and we have plenty of those in the forest!), so at this time of the year their poo is purple and much easier to spot.

This is also the red deer rutting season and the stags are bellowing in the hills to attract mates and let other stags know they mean business. It’s an amazingly atmospheric sound. The rutting season takes place from mid September to the beginning of November when stags compete for access to the hinds – the female red deer – by engaging in elaborate displays of dominance.

If you’re very lucky you might see an adder soaking up the last rays of sunshine before hibernating until spring. The adder is Britain’s only poisonous snake but will very rarely attack. They usually disappear into the bushes and undergrowth at speed if they feel the vibrations of someone approaching.

As for birdlife, the forest viewpoint is a great place to see geese as they arrive from their summer breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle. Watch them as the fly in over the Kyles of Bute in their V-formation.

If you would like to help wildlife flourish in the forest, why not join the Nature Group? This team of volunteers does everything from building wildlife ponds to collecting tree seeds. Contact Sara Mclean on 01700 811159 or at You might also want to take a look at Sara’s new Nature Blog.
17th September 2015
10 reasons why our new hydro scheme is GREAT news
10 reasons why our new hydro scheme is GREAT news
Our newly-installed hydro-electric scheme will be officially opened on 25th September. Implementing the scheme has been a long process, but it represents a huge step forward both for KCFC and for community land management in general. Here are ten reasons why it’s such fantastic news.

1. The scheme will deliver reliable income to KCFC for a minimum of twenty years, as the electricity generated will be sold to the National Grid under the Government’s feed-in-tariff scheme. This gives us financial security, enabling us to plan ahead and build a sustainable future.

2. Because the hydro scheme is community owned, all the income generated will be ploughed back into the charity to benefit the community. It will create more jobs, more training opportunities and more recreational facilities within the forest.

3. This is a pioneering project. It’s the first community-owned micro-hydro scheme in Argyll & Bute and one of just a few such schemes in Scotland. Our hope is that it will inspire other communities.

4. We worked co-operatively with a specialist team of contractors, Co-hydro Ltd, to install the scheme. Because we have invested in training and machinery in recent years, we were able to use in-house skills (e.g. to manage permissions) and resources to keep the cost of installation down. It’s an approach that other community groups could replicate.

5. Our climate, with an abundance of water and frequent rainfall, is ideally suited to a hydro-electric scheme. What’s more, hydro generates more electricity in winter when demand is at its highest.

6. Of all the renewables, hydro provides the cleanest energy. A hydro-electric scheme isn’t resource hungry at the installation stage and once built it produces no direct waste and generates a lot of power.

7. Because it’s small scale and ‘run of the river’ we’ve been able to install the hydro-electric scheme in the Allt Mor with very little environmental impact. We haven’t had to build a dam, which can be environmentally damaging, or create any water diversion.

8. The hydro-scheme has minimal visual impact, as all the pipes are underground, and it doesn’t generate any noise.

9. The installation of the pipeline resulted in us reinstating a section of the Kilfinan Way. We needed to create access to the weir just below the reservoir, so it made sense to re-open this ancient right of way. You can now easily walk to the reservoir.

10. It’s a fantastic educational resource. Participants on this summer’s ‘Youth Skills Development Project’ closely followed the installation of the hydro scheme and it will be an integral part of future programmes.

That's 10 great reasons to celebrate! Why not come and join us at the official switch-on event on 25th September from 2-4pm?
5th August 2015
Young people get to work in the woods
Young people get to work in the woods
Water, water everywhere. Oh, and quite a bit of mud too. It’s been a pretty wet summer and the participants on this year’s youth skills development project, which ran from 13th July – 7th August, were out in all weathers digging, measuring, chopping, creating, designing, building and learning. Eight young people aged 16 to 18 took part in the project this year, notching up a whole load of new skills for their CVs.

The group took part in training and hands-on activities, gaining experience in everything from tree identification to first aid to risk assessment and health and safety. Improving recreation in the forest was a key aim. The group helped to map the forest heritage walk, identifying key archaeological features such as the curling pond and the reservoir, and placed two official geocaches in the forest.

One of the most popular activities was a two-day path-building course with Paths for All, which focussed on the design, maintenance and building of paths. The group learned about working with wood from the forest through a number of activities, including building a forest shelter and a two-day woodworking essentials course. They also did conservation work, like draining and landscaping a wildlife pond, protecting oak saplings with sheep’s wool and litter picking. And last but not least the young people built two scarecrows – Woody and Inky - for the Secret Coast Scarecrow trail. The only criteria was that they had to be built from natural materials.
The group agreed that they’d all learned loads and that the skills and experience they’d gained would definitely help them in their future careers. They also said it had been a lot of fun! Five of the participants took part in last year’s course and the others want to take part next year.

Here Andrew, Danielle, Scott and Ian tell us what they enjoyed most about this year’s project.

Tree spotting by Andrew MacVicar
One day John King came into the forest to give us a talk about all the different trees. We went on a walk around the forest and as we walked about john showed us all the different trees that live in the forest and we learned how to tell the difference between the trees as they had very different leaves and bark. We learned about all the different species in the forest, such as oak, ash, downy birch, holly, elder, elm and many more. We also had a list of all the trees that we needed to collect seeds from [for the Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank], but we didn’t collect the seeds when we were walking around.

Wood working course by Danielle Burks
The wood working course over the weekend was very enjoyable. I really enjoyed the green wood working, when Mark came in and taught us how to make a bowsaw. This was really interesting as we watched it progress from a log to a working saw. I also found it really interesting when we were constructing the forest sculpture as the design was quite intricate. We were also given a course on how to build a log store and traditional wood carving. The whole weekend was very fulfilling and I would definitely like to do it again.

Pond work by Scott Macdonald
The pond work we did was over two days and I feel that within this time we accomplished a lot. The work we did involved draining trapped water away from next to the pond. We also moved dry dirt onto the soft muck around the pond. We spent time clearing the dirt away from the bigger rocks as it is part of the sightseeing. I enjoyed doing this and made sure I got involved with everything. My least favourite part of this was digging a ditch for the water to drain.

The wood mill by Ian MacDonald
I enjoyed working in the wood mill because I got to see how the whole process works and I had a chance to use the wood mizer, which is used to cut all the wood to size. I also helped Andy with transporting wood and arranging orders.
7th July 2015
Blazing a trail with volunteers
Blazing a trail with volunteers
We’ve got great news. Sara Mclean has joined the team as Forest Access Coordinator. She’ll be working with volunteers to carry out a host of exciting activities here at the forest. Many of you will know Sara, as she worked for KCFC as Carbon Savings Project Officer from 2010-12. Since then she’s been working as the Greener ColGlen Project Development Officer for the Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust.

Volunteering has always been at the heart of KCFC and Sara’s keen to get even more people involved. She believes that there’s a volunteer role for everyone, young or old, fit or not-so-fit, skilled or unskilled.

‘It’s not all path-building and brush-cutting,’ says Sara. ‘Volunteers can help in loads of other ways, from developing educational resource packs to supporting our marketing efforts to sharing their knowledge about the heritage of the forest.’

Sara sees volunteering as a two-way relationship. ‘Volunteers have to get something from the experience, whether that’s new skills or the chance to spend time outdoors,’ she explains. ‘When you get it right, volunteers can achieve incredible things.’

She cites the Kyles Allotment Group as a great example. ‘Just look at what this group of volunteers has achieved in a few years - they grow all sort of fruit and veg, there's a waiting list to join and they organise the Producers’ Markets in the village. It’s totally inspiring!’

One project that’s currently being developed with the help of a great team of volunteers is our ‘Heritage Walk’. Last summer a team of archaeologists and volunteers carried out a survey of the forest, identifying features including a curling pond, reservoirs and an ancient drovers’ route. We now want to create a looped walk through the forest that takes in all these features. Last week volunteers began to map the route.

‘We want to get as many people as possible involved in the design and creation of this walk,’ says Sara. ‘We want to hear people’s stories about the curling pond and the reservoir and we’d love people to help us develop our interpretation. We also need lots of hands-on path building support!’

She continues: ‘As a first step we are offering FREE training provided by Paths For All on 15th & 16th July. The training will include surveying, designing and building community paths as well as path maintenance and will give you all the skills you need to help us build this wonderful walk through our woods.’

Sara reckons the Froglife Project will appeal to people with an interest in biodiversity and wildlife. ‘We plan to install three new ponds in partnership with the Scottish Dragon Finder Project to improve habitats,’ she says. ‘We’ll be organising volunteer days to create hibernacula (safe places for amphibians and reptiles to overwinter) from wood and pond spoil.

‘When the ponds are complete, we’ll need volunteers to monitor the amphibian and reptile populations. This autumn, we’ll also need volunteers to help us collect native tree seeds to send to the Kew Gardens National Seed Bank, which aims to establish a national tree seed collection for long-term conservation.

If you love getting outdoors and being active, then there are plenty of opportunities to get stuck in, as Sara explains. ‘We plan to create two wild camping sites in the forest and we need volunteers to help us clear the undergrowth and brush in these areas. We’re also planning to set up a geocaching trail in the forest. And there's our FREE Essential Woodworking Workshop on 1st and 2nd August. This will give you the skills to help us build a forest shelter and help out with other projects in the forest.’

This year’s Youth Skills Development Project starts on 13th July and Sara’s looking forward to working with the eight young people over the next four weeks on everything from path-building to creating a forest shelter. She says: ‘This project is a brilliant way for young people to gain experience, notch up valuable land-based skills and give their CVs a boost. We’re holding an Forest Open Day in the Forest on Saturday 8th August to mark the end of the course and to celebrate the young people’s achievements.’

Sara will be on hand at the Open Day to chat about volunteering and to inspire more people to get involved. ‘The next year is an exciting one for volunteering at the forest. As well as all these initiatives, we’ll be working towards gaining our John Muir Awards Discovery Challenge, a nationally recognised scheme that encourages people to connect, enjoy and care for wild places.’

So come along, support our young volunteers and find out how you can make a difference. See you there!

Photo: Sara with a team of volunteers mapping the route for the new Heritage Walk.
1st June 2015
It's a wood revival
It's a wood revival
Our sawmill opened in February 2015 and since then more and more local DIYers have been coming to us, to buy timber for their projects. Local people have built garden sheds, benches, raised beds and more. This is just what we love to see! We can make bespoke items to order, but it really gladdens our heart when we see people create their own masterpieces using wood from the community forest. Why pay someone to make something for you when it’s so much more satisfying to do it yourself? What’s more, making simple structures and items with wood isn’t that hard. With a bit of training to learn some basic skills, we know that anyone can do it.

One local farmer recently built a hen house and a work bench out of milled timber from the forest. He says: ‘It’s great to be able to source wood from the local forest to make important farm improvements, and it’s really useful that the timber can be cut to specific sizes. For the hen house, the design and technical aspects were carefully worked out, and three of us were able to build the structure in three days. The work that went into the initial design definitely helped us create a really solid structure, and I was grateful to KCFC for their assistance with this.’

Our timber production enterprise has also attracted a number of local skilled woodworkers, who now regularly visit the forest to buy timber and share ideas. They’ve started working together on projects and have been keen to help out and share their skills with others. For example, four local young people on last summer’s Youth Skills Project worked alongside local woodworker, Don McInnes, to create wooden benches and signs for a squirrel trail and benches, which still exist in the lower part of the forest. Don also did a sign-making demonstration at last year’s Forest Open Day and he’ll be doing this same again this year.

It’s fantastic to see this revival of interest in woodworking and to see so much creativity and collaboration in the forest. In fact it inspired us to put together plans for an ‘essential woodworking’ workshop, which will be held in the forest on 1st and 2nd August. It’s free and anyone can sign up (£5 booking fee), though places are limited to 40. It’s aimed at people who fancy developing woodworking skills, but have little or no experience and will be very hands-on and interactive.

The two-day course will be split into four half-day sessions, and each participant will get the opportunity to partake in each session. The first will focus on green woodworking in the natural environment and traditional methods using limited tools. The second will involve a practical sawmill demonstration and will demystify the process of building a structure out of timber. The third will be a lesson in wood carving. And in the final session, participants will work together to create a lasting forest sculpture.

The sessions will be delivered by talented woodworkers, who are all specialists in their respective areas. The young people on this summer’s Youth Skills Programme will also take part, the aim being that by the end of the weekend they will have learnt sufficient skills to create a forest shelter for outdoor learning.

We’re very excited about this workshop. Our long-term aim is to become a centre for training and skills development and this course is a really positive step towards this. On top of that, it’s just so great to be encouraging a culture of self-reliance and to be able to show people how they can make useful, beautiful things themselves out of the trees from their forest. We feel like we’re seeing, and supporting, a revival of wood culture in the area.

So if you fancy building your dream shed, carving your own sign or just spending some time in the forest learning some new skills, then sign up for our ‘Essential Woodworking’ workshop. Call Nikki on 01700 811159 or email to secure your place before 15th July. You might want to pop along to our ‘Fun in the Forest’ event on Saturday 6th June, where there will be taster sessions on woodworking and carving. Why not give it a go and see if it’s for you?
4th May 2015
Spring in the forest
Spring in the forest
Spring has arrived in the forest. The woods are full of life, with leaf burst and carpets of bluebells, chattering squirrels and trilling wood warbler. Before the bracken and undergrowth grow high, there’s no better time of the year to explore our wonderful woods and discover all the wildlife that lives here. While you’re out and about, look out for the BBC Springwatch ‘five signs of spring’ - the seven-spot ladybird, oak leafing, hawthorn flowering, orange-tip butterfly and the swallow returning from Africa – and record your first sightings at

There are a couple of small walks that will take you through areas of native oak woodland where much of this spring wildlife is to be found. The oaks and other native trees attract a variety of insects which in turn attract birds such as nuthatches, flycatchers, wood warblers and woodpeckers. It’s also a perfect habitat for native woodland flowers.

The Victorian Falls Walk just next to the office and car park is a good place to start. It’s here that you’ll find orange-tip butterflies, which feed on the bluebells’ nectar and enjoy sunny woodland glades. They should be emerging from their chrysalises any day now. Look out for the oak-leaf burst. This happens around mid-May and is a sure sign that spring has well and truly arrived. The oak tree buds crack open and the young green leaves burst forth. The flowers follow about a week later. Look down and you’ll see wood anemones, wood violets, wood sorrel, primroses and wood celandine. They create a mosaic of beautiful colours and patterns on the forest floor. See if you can find wild garlic near the burn. It gives off an incredibly pungent smell and it’s bursting into bloom with white flowers.

Kids will love our Squirrel Trail, which was created by a team of young people during last summer’s youth skills development project. The red squirrels which live in the forest are out and about at this time of year, feeding and getting their nests or ‘dreys’ ready high up in the trees. The best way to spot them is to scan the forest floor; a sure sign of their presence is chewed pinecones or split hazelnut shells.

Another good place to spot the signs of spring is the oak woodland near the primary school. We cleared the rhododendrons from here last year and it’s already paying off. Rhododendrons look pretty in flower, but they cause huge damage to our native woodlands by preventing light from reaching the woodland floor and crowding out all the other species. With sunlight now penetrating, we’re beginning to see the native woodland flowers return, including a carpet of bluebells.

The flowers in turn attract insect life, like the big bees that you’ll see buzzing around this month. These are the queen bees and they’re feeding like mad on the wild flowers. By June they’ll be in their hives laying eggs. Watch out for the big black beetles. They’re the ‘dung eaters’ of the forest and do a great job eating up deer and other animal poo!

If you’re feeling adventurous, you could head up to the reservoir. Follow the harvesting road to the top and then pick up the Kilfinan Way. It’s tough-going as the path is overgrown, boggy and indistinct. However, if you persevere your efforts will be amply rewarded! It’s a lovely spot for a picnic and home to many birds. Swallows and swifts fly low over the water at this time of year, buzzards circle above and you might hear the drumming of woodpeckers and the call of the cuckoo. If you don’t make it, never fear! We’re currently working with a number of partner organisations to reinstate a section of the Kilfinan Way; hopefully in the future we will once again be able to connect the settlements of Otter Ferry, Kilfinan and Kames by foot.

Top five things to do in the forest in May:
• Take a picnic to the forest viewpoint and watch the gannets diving in the Kyles of Bute below. From 11pm onwards it’s a fantastic place to observe bats flying.
• Follow the Victorian Falls Forest Walk and look out for orange-tip butterflies. It’s only the males that sport orange tips; females have small black tips.
• Walk up to the Victorian reservoir to see if the swallows have arrived. They’ll be flying low over the water catching insects.
• Walk through the woods near the primary school and see the bluebells and oak-leaf burst.
• Listen to the trill of the wood warblers, or go for an early morning walk in the woods and hear the dawn chorus.
17th December 2014
In conclusion to a great crowd fund!
In conclusion to a great crowd fund!
In conclusion to our ‘Sponsor a Sapling’ crowd funding campaign, we would like to thank all our supporters, contributors and partners (namely Hot Tap Media and social media gurus, Lindsay Wrapson and Danielle Burks) for helping us raise £1,710! This is a fantastic achievement and will help hugely towards establishing our tree nursery and eventually regenerating the Kilfinan Community Forest native woodland, for the purpose of renewed public amenity, access and recreation. As a community group and registered charity, fundraising is part of the job; however this is our first crowd funding drive, and what fun it’s been! Hot Tap Media have been great to work with, demonstrating a sound and consistent understanding of our key aims and values, and for anyone looking to crowd fund to raise money for a particular project, they are the team to help you do it! Our social media team have also been instrumental in raising our profile, having established useful connections with other groups and communicating our message to our core target audience and further afield. So, for everyone who has contributed to this fantastic campaign, THANK YOU! We will be sending out certificates electronically in time for Christmas, with exciting perks (picnics, forest tours, woodworking courses, tree dedication and hand drawn cards) to be delivered from early next year.

1st December 2014
Christmas meets Cyber Monday
Christmas meets Cyber Monday
It’s finally beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and the countdown has begun. Are you as excited as we are?

If you haven’t already heard, we’re trying to raise money to reforest an area of native woodland which was badly damaged in last winter’s storms. Guess what - you can help us to do this AND buy a Christmas pressie for the tree-lovers in your life!

How about making someone’s Christmas super special and personal by dedicating a tree to them? For £75 you can have a sapling planted in the native woodland, to include an engraved plaque, mounted onto hardwood and sited by their sapling. In time for Christmas, your loved one will receive a certificate of tree dedication with a special message from YOU! Alternatively, has your loved one ever expressed a desire to learn the art of wood working? We’re running a special Cyber Monday deal TODAY ONLY, where, for £100 you can buy ‘two for one’ on a woodland workshop, which will take place next Spring. From green wood working to furniture making, this practical course will teach you everything you need to know. Sound good? Take advantage of this offer today only!

On the subject of Cyber Monday, we have some further offers… why not exploit these and put the finishing touches to Christmas. If you’re still stuck in the Black Friday – Cyber Monday haze, we have a special LIMITED deal that is available for today only. So how about it – 3 for the price of 1 on our Saplings (you can even name them!) for just £20 if you’re not wanting to break the bank this Christmas! Don’t miss out on our special Cyber Monday deals that will end TONIGHT; go to our sponsorship page for more info.

We will be at the Kames Festive Market this Saturday, 6th December, 10am-1pm at Kames Village Hall; this will be a brilliant opportunity for you to buy someone something really special this Christmas as well as getting into the Festive Spirit! We hope to see you there!
10th March 2014
The Hydro Blog
Willie McAllan (KCFC Director & Treasurer) updates on progress to establish our own micro-hydro scheme.

Renewables Timeline

2005 - renewable energy identified by community consultation as a key objective of the Kilfinan community.

2007 - the Kilfinan Community Forest Company (KCFC) was established as a registered Scottish Charity to buy part of Acharossan forest from Forestry Commission Scotland.

2008 – The purchase of the forest is agreed and the Acharossan Feasibility Study identifies renewable energy as a potential source of income which could be used to fund forest development and employment.

2010 – 127 hectares of Acharossan Forest is purchased on behalf of the community (amid much celebration!). Renewable energy planning begins in earnest.

2011 – Carbon saving schemes and awareness raising are put in place

2012 – Wind and hydro power investigated. Feasibility studies into wind and hydro were undertaken. The hydro study showed viability of a micro-hydro (66kw) scheme on the Allt Mor burn with an estimated annual income of £52,000. However, estimated costs are in excess of £400,000 mainly due to need for access road and the management of planning and environmental permissions.

2013 – Wind energy data showed that a turbine would have marginal viability at the present location of the meteorological mast. A new road is constructed from the KCFC office base to the Kilfinan Way easing access for hydro installation. The KCFC directors take on the task of securing the planning and environmental permissions.

Present position (February 2014)

Permissions: We have now achieved the required environmental and planning permissions and received preliminary accreditation from Ofgem; SEPA have issued the abstraction licence; the export agreement has been granted by the District Network Operator (SSE); and the planning application to Argyll & Bute Council has been granted subject to a satisfactory archaeological survey of the pipeline route.

Archaeological survey: This will be conducted by Argyll Archaeology in May/June 2014. Local people will be able to participate in the survey either as field volunteers or as researchers. Archaeological training in feature recognition will be provided.

Capacity has been revised upwards to 75kw and annual income of £62,000

Construction costs have been pared down to £160,000 because KCFC has done much of the pre-construction work in-house.

Pipeline: the pipeline will follow the route of the Allt Mor and be buried so there will be minimal visual impact

Noise: a noise impact survey has confirmed that it will be virtually silent in use.

Contractors: we are in negotiation with potential contractors

Finance: the final hurdle is to finance the scheme. Discussion is taking place with potential lenders who support social enterprises. We anticipate needing at least 50% of the hydro income to service the loan.

Future: If everything goes smoothly construction and installation will take place over the summer and we will be generating clean, renewable electricity by Autumn 2014.

We will update this blog as new information / changes become known. In the meantime please give us a ring if you have any questions or drop us an email.
27th February 2013
Proving our worth as a community forest
Nikki Woolf, who’s just joined us at KCF, gives her initial thoughts on why a community forest should engage with its local public at all stages of development…

The way I see it, the purpose of a community forest is in the title – a place for the local community to go; somewhere that provides recreational facilities, not only to attract local residents but also visitors to the area. If you look at community forests across the country, each has its own facilities and amenities, each with its own management structure and different income streams. The ultimate community forest would surely be one with a ‘go ape’ style adventure park, kids’ playground, an endless supply of dry, seasoned firewood, nature trails, cafés, garden centres, and so on.

However we all need to start somewhere and, in my opinion, while future gazing is important, so is practical thinking and making the best use of the natural resources you have. It would be great to be able to create something out of nothing, but appropriate funding is also crucial. However this is only part of the challenge. In my opinion it’s the community that decides if the project is worthwhile, so winning public confidence is surely just as important. What we as a community forest need to remember is it’s you - our local community - who will be using our facilities and buying our forest products; ultimately you will determine the viability of the forest and the overall success of the project.

We also need to remember that the only way to win public confidence is to keep you, our community, consulted at all stages of the project. This means holding public meetings, inviting you up to volunteer, seeking your views, and engaging you in what you’re doing. Here at KCF we actively seek community feedback on our plans, because we realise there’s no point in going ahead with something if we don’t have local backing. It is your forest, after all. That’s why we’re delighted with the local interest and active involvement we’ve received following our recent plans to create a recreational and learning centre within the forest. The 50 plus volunteer hours that have gone into clearing the circular pathway running from the car park to Victorian Falls are testament to the positivity surrounding the project.

Our ultimate aim is to create a real community resource, where people of all ages and from all parts of the community, as well as visitors, can exercise, relax, learn and celebrate, such as running educational woodland workshops with local primary school children. As part of this we will be developing new trails, creating more pedestrian access points into the forest, erecting squirrel and bird boxes, providing new picnic areas, creating new information and display boards, installing a bicycle rack, and improving public car parking facilities. We will be holding an official open day in June this year, where we’ll be showcasing our new recreational area and demonstrating useful woodland skills. We hope to have a good turnout - more details coming soon!
29th March 2012
Planting for the future
Planting for the future
The 17th March was a gloriously warm and sunny day and KCF was delighted to welcome volunteers of all ages who had come to help plant 800 pus baby trees as part of the Woodland Trust’s Jubilee Woods Project.

After a quick motivational pep talk from Sara Maclean and a cuppa to fortify them, our willing volunteers headed off to all four corners of the site to start planting.

Amidst much light hearted banter the planting went on for a couple of hours before folk started to feel a bit peckish and downed tools to avail themselves of a soup and sandwich lunch. We may ask our volunteers to work hard but in return we make sure they have a delcious and filling lunch and that day was no exception - with Spicy Bean Broth or Leek and Potato soup on offer, plus yummy filled rolls followed by tea and biccies, the teams were soon re-fueled and set off for round two of the planting. By the end of the afternoon a phenomonal amount of wee trees had been planted or potted up, and everyone was feeling tired but satisfied.

Many, many thanks to all who helped out on the day and a big ’Thank You’ to the SSE renewable Team who travelled far and worked very hard - you’re a bunch of stars! Hop on over to the gallery to see more pics of the event.
More Details >
16th March 2012
Cook vs Compost!
Cook vs Compost!
Saturday 3rd March saw the wonderful Composting and Food Waste event at KCF. An amazing day of cookery demos and a second, fascinating composting workshop.

It all kicked off at 11am in the polytunnel with Alison Sykora of the Real Food Consultancy showing us how to make the most of our left overs from the fridge and how a bit of imagination could turn bits and bobs into a meal for for a king or queen. There were amazing smells, lots of tasting and even the sun came out to play!

After a quick, nutritious and delicious soup ’n’ sandwich lunch, Ron Gilchrist expert composter and vermiculturist from Greenway Consulting continued the day with a workshop on worms and using our kitchen scraps to create the most nutritious soil for growing our own food.

So after tackling the problem of kitchen waste with a two fold approach - cook or compost - there was still time for a lively Q and A session and even pudding! There are more lovely images of this great event over at the photo gallery. Roll on the BIG Community Tree Planting Event on March 17th!!
More Details >
23rd February 2012
All roads lead to...
All roads lead to...!! This picture may look like a lot of old mud - it is, in fact, people, the new school path, cutting it’s way through the woods behind the school, creating a new and ’forest-y’ way’ for local kids to get to school. Funded by the Climate Challenge Fund, work on the path has been progressing rapidly, so rapidly that it doesn’t even look like this anymore!

Watch out for further updates over the next few days with more pics and more news on how the new path is progressing!
19th January 2012
Bit of a Blustery One!
Bit of a Blustery One!
Whew - the New Year certainly got off to a dramatic start. Trees down, roofs blown off, electricity and phone lines kaput! There was a fair bit of windblow damage in the community forest so there will be a bit of clearing up to do - however, the amazing Polytunnel withstood a gale force batttering and none of the portacabins blew away - so not too bad in the grand scheme of things.

Anyhow, Happy New Year to you all - look out for some exciting events coming in the spring and lots of updates about your amazing Community Forest.
21st December 2011
Xmas is coming!
Xmas is coming!
Having weathered the storms and the snow in the past few weeks, we find ourselves winding down for Xmas on site. Mince pies abound plentifully washed down with copious mugs of tea to keep us all warm.

The team will be taking a break over the Xmas period to recharge their batteries and come back fighting fit and bouncing with energy in the New Year. There are lots of exciting events planned for the first three months of 2012 so pop back regularly and keep updated about all our goings-on!

Merry Xmas and a Happy Hogmanay - and heres to a cracking 2012!
28th November 2011
Festive Fun was had by all!
Festive Fun was had by all!
Our last market of 2012 was held on 26th November and a festive time was had by vendors and customers alike. With a fine selection of crafts and amazing food and produce, shoppers were spoilt for choice. And those in need of taking some time out from shopping could relax and take in the festive atmosphere with a cup of tea and a slice of delicious home baked cake. The refreshments at this market were ably handled by the Kyles Allotment Group who also manned two tables crammed with produce and preserves and gardenalia!

Watch out for more market dates from April 2012 onwards - shopping locally is a great way to support local small businesses and producers as well as a great way to cut your carbon footprint. And you get an interesting and delicious array of food and produce - much more fun than the supermarket!
22nd November 2011
Smart Kids!
Smart Kids!
After our recent visit to the school to talk about Car Sharing and ways to help the planet stay healthy, we now have a big bundle of excellent posters reflecting the kids views about how cool it is to car share.

All the fantastic artwork will be on display at the Xmas Market on 26th November at Kames Recreational Hll, 10am to 1pm - pop along to admire the work of the talented youngsters from Tinny Primary and find out more about the Cowal Car Share website, Fuel Efficient Driving Lessons, allotments and whats going on up in the forest!
11th November 2011
Youngsters Go Green!
Youngsters Go Green!
Another trip to the school - this time to talk to the kids about the schools carbon footprint and the new KCFC car sharing initiative (see link below!). Our erstwhile and magnificent Carbon Savings Project Office, Sara Maclean, spent an inspirational morning with the kids and asked them to help us spread the green message locally by designing an image or a slogan or even a poem about what car sharing might mean to them, the community or even the planet.

We cant wait to see wht they come up with!
More Details >
1st November 2011
This Halloween KCF invited the pupils at Tinny Primary school to take part in a Pumpkin Carving Competition, which was judged by local artists and KAG stalwart, Grace Donnelly.

The school reported that much fun was had in carving all sorts of spooky, gruesome, inventive and artistic designs on to the pumpkins. All pupils that took part received a special certificate of merit and the wiiners got a well deserved book token!

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The Kilfinan Community Forest Company
Registered Office: Kilfinan Community Forest, Tighnabruaich, Argyll PA21 2BD, Scotland | Company No: 333208 | Charity No: SCO38908
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