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24 Aug 2022

Heart of Scotland Partnership marks fifth birthday with path opening

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A ground-breaking partnership aiming to create a wildwood at the beating heart of Scotland celebrated its fifth anniversary in Highland Perthshire.

The Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership connects six areas of land to create a woodland corridor stretching across more than 3,000 hectares from the eastern flank of Schiehallion to Loch Tummel.

The birthday was marked by the official opening of the 1.5km easy access Foss Loop path which links three Partner properties; the John Muir Trust's East Schiehallion, Dùn Coillich owned by the Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust, and Forestry and Land Scotland’s Foss Forest. It offers visitors the opportunity to see the Partnership in action and learn about how it is managing the land.

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The Foss Loop was officially opened by John Swinney MSP and Mark Ruskell MSP with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Guests then walked the path and toasted the Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership’s fifth birthday, while hearing local poet Jon Plunkett perform his poem - The Attraction of Mountains 1774.

FossLoop 16419Mark Ruskell MSP said: "I was delighted to open the new Foss Loop path and celebrate the work of the Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership. The path is a real gem that will enable thousands of people of all ages and abilities to share in the magic of Schiehallion and its dramatic setting. Restoration of the environment should go hand in hand with enhancing our enjoyment and access, this project is an exemplar of how to do it."

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Landowning partners are Forestry and Land Scotland’s Foss and Kynachan Forests; Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust’s Dùn Coillich Estate; John Muir Trust’s East Schiehallion Estate; Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Keltneyburn Reserve; Kynachan Estate and Garth Wood. Woodland Trust Scotland has no land in the partnership but is on board to give advice. Grenich and National Trust for Scotland Ben Lawers are also affiliate landowner partners.

The Partnership has a shared vision for a restored, vibrant landscape that provides opportunities for wildlife to thrive, for local employment and enterprise, and for people to enjoy, access and learn.

“The Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership is an example of successful collaboration between community, charity and government organisations to help restore woodland for biodiversity, people and the climate,” said Liz Auty, East Schiehallion Manager for the John Muir Trust.

Volunteer sharing has enabled a huge amount of work to happen, including clearing path drainage ditches, removing bracken around young trees, repairing fencing and carrying out tree surveys. Local volunteers generously give their time to a range of Partnership projects, through ad-hoc volunteer sharing and monthly Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership work parties.

Sharing quad bikes, loaning people counters and re-using tree guards are just a handful of practical examples of Partnership working.

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Sara Rasmussen of the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “Being part of the Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership enables organisations to share experiences, lessons and expertise with each other to achieve a common goal. Recognising that professional training and development is key to the success of the Partnership. HOSFP representatives went on an exchange visit to Norway to look at woodland regeneration and explore attitudes to land use and deer management. Closer to home, frequent visits to partner sites provide opportunities to think collaboratively and on a landscape-scale.”

The Partnership has created a collaborative framework for the John Muir Trust and Forestry and Land Scotland to work together to manage the visitors at the Braes of Foss car park. This has been vital for relieving the pressure on local communities and improving visitor experiences.

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The Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust has secured funding to conduct educational school field trips on partner land, helping to connect young people with the nature on their doorstep. It also runs a rural skills training course, which, thanks to Partnership involvement, gives trainees opportunities to learn about land management across partner sites.

Photographs by Marion McKinnon

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