An ambitious Highland village is branching out into forestry thanks to a huge windfall.
Tomatin residents have won a £356,934 Scottish Land Fund grant that allows them to take over a woodland oasis on their doorstep and transform it into a tourist attraction to boost the local economy.
The community will own 55 acres (22 hectares) of ancient woodland on the edge of the village.
Maureen McDonald-Cooke of Strathdearn Community Developments, which applied for the grant, said: “Personally, I’m very excited. But for the community, I’m over the moon.
“This has been a treasured woodland for many years for residents and visitors to use. So, we’re absolutely delighted to secure it and maintain it in perpetuity.
“We want to have the children, we want to have all of the residents, involved as much as possible to take some ownership and make sure what they want for their community happens.”
The plan is to ensure Hazelbank Woods’ sustainability while sensitively promoting it as a tourist attraction.
Its recreational purpose will be retained including its educational use for the local primary school.
The new owners are promising “a light touch”.
Duncan Bryden, another director of Strathdearn Community Developments, said: “There’ll be a bit of change. I think people like the consistency and that’s partly why we’ve bought the wood.
“The trees are a beautiful place to walk in. But, like all woodlands, it needs a bit of management so there’ll be some removal of trees but in a very measured way.
“We’ll tidy up some of the paths a bit but we’ll not go overboard with over-development because people really like it as natural as possible.”
The award for Tomatin, which has already transformed outdated facilities with a new community centre and village shop, is among 11 across Scotland.
The fund is coordinated by the Scottish Government, the national lottery community fund and development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
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