Woodland Trust launches £1.6m bid to buy mountain with remnant woodlands

Woodland Trust Scotland has launched a £1.6m appeal to buy Ben Shieldaig, a mountain in the north west Highlands, which it says would enable it to manage its "two spectacular woodlands within a mosaic of wild habitats from sea to sky".

Image: Steve Carter
Image: Steve Carter

Woodland Trust Scotland director Carol Evans said: "This is a rare opportunity for us to bring a whole mountain under our care. It already supports a magnificent area of ancient Caledonian pinewood and a temperate rainforest of native birchwood.

"Perhaps even more exciting is the potential to manage these within a mosaic of their natural neighbours. Our aim is to see native woodland, montane scrub and open moorland habitats meshing naturally with each other from sea to sky, encapsulating all that a restored landscape can be."

The trust describes the remnant of birch woodland as "Scotland’s rainforest, lush with mosses and liverworts, internationally important for oceanic bryophytes". 

The "significant" area of ancient Caledonian pinewood meanwhile "is one of the most westerly remnants of native pine in Europe, and quite possibly genetically unique to the north-west of Scotland", it adds.

The existing woods are described as in good health and are notable for a lack of non-native invasive species such as Rhodedendron ponticum. Both lie within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Covering around 1,600 hectares in the rugged Torridon landscape above the village of Shieldaig, the site rises from near-sea level to the 534m summit of Ben Shieldaig - technically, a hill.

It has been put on the market by its private landowner via property agent Savills.

The Woodland Trust said if successful, it will manage the land to encourage natural regeneration in and around the woods, and that this, combined with planting and deer management, could see a tripling of woodland cover on the mountain.

It plans to employ a site manager and project manager, which it describes as "quality jobs contributing to the local economy", adding that achieving its vision for the site "is going to take at least 20 years".

Evans added: "We aim to manage the site for wildlife and people and encourage recreational access – perhaps building a small car park and creating a path to a viewpoint for visitors to enjoy.

"We will consult with local people about our plans once we secure ownership. Before anything can happen though, we need to raise the money to fund the purchase."

It has launched an appeal to raise the sum on its website.

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