Ranger Report – A Broad Overview. Glenan AGM 19/05/2023

2022 was a tough year for staffing, and this presented a lot of challenges for community engagement, with a lack of funds it was inevitable that the ranger position would be terminated entirely in the Spring. I mitigated this by a reduction of hours to a day a week, and concentrated with board support on obtaining future funding. This has been followed by a period of unpaid leave beginning in January 2023.

Despite this, we managed to make the following advancements at the wood:

  • Katherine took over long term forest plan management report, seeking support from consultant Angus Bevan who undertook our PAWS report previously.
  • We also secured a volunteer deer manager in lieu of likely termination of ranger post. I am hoping to gain experience with him and increase skill base , as members will know I obtained the Level one DMQ in 2021.
  • Ian Dow and I oversaw local contractor who tackled Ponticum with a total hectarage of 37.6ha with an Average density of 26.5% at Glenan Wood between the 1st January and the 20th March. Crucially, we obtained geolocated images and baseline maps for further phases of ponticum removal in the wood.
  • Ring barking. Work continued on a day a week basis ring barking sitka trees.
  • I did get away on two trips outside of the area: A Path/Trail building course in Tioran community forest. This looked at assessing and grading trails using basic handtools. The emphasis on working safely with handtools reflects both the (zero) budget, and the skillset needed from local volunteer workforce; and not utilizing expensive and extractive economies to import aggregate and use heavy machinery unnecessarily in environmentally sensitive habitats.
  • CWA conference in Perthshire – Good to gain perspective and meet contacts old and new. Learned a great deal from other community woodlands, and some of the different forms of community land use.
  • I was involved in a study of social and economic benefit of community woods in Scotland; this resulted in a Case study document and a commissioned video; this will help with raising profile of the wood and our aspirations.
  • Local Outdoor Woodland Learning Group argyll chapter held a another summer programme with teens. Input from myself, craftsperson Mark Bamford; supported project lead Marylou Anderson and lunchtime guest speakers with specialist ecological expertise. Look forward to more of this nature . Noted was Andree Hawkes excellent Gaelic in the landscape event with a foraging theme the week before.
  • Apple day at school. Not a big apple year in terms of yield but locals brought in their apples & our pressing equipment was put through it’s paces. I definitely sense we have laid the ground for pressing to be a community event for future. This represents the social and economic yield that can be harnessed from nature with community cohesion and celebration at the heart of it. More of these sort of occasions!
  • Over the winter period, it became apparent to me that there wasn’t really a mandate from the community for activities and events within the wood, & since the initial consultation was undertaken prior to the woods purchase for the business plan it was time to gain a snapshot in time of community interest. Whist I would hope there will be many more visioning events to harvest ideas from community as well as consultations and surveys on the broad range of activity in future. This particular survey was very well responded. 144 local respondents set a very interesting mandate for a range of activities which can be used to form the basis of a programme that caters for all local demographics, from little ones to the elders amongst us; and of course all the people in between. There was also some really useful dissent in the comments which helps get a flavour of a fundamental care people have for the wood. Have a look for yourself on the FOGW website, it is really insightful.
  • We have also been working with behind the scenes to secure a 35 year biodiversity fund. This will aim to deal with ponticum to the point of complete eradication and involve training and education for local workforce in lever and mulch application. Watch this space.

Following consultation: I had a strong realisation of the necessity (and duty) for meaningful and informed consultation for change of use of the plantation woodland. I believe this part of the community woodland presents opportunity for sustainable enterprise for members of community, something sorely needed in a cost of living crisis; but we need both research and input from members to choose the right option(s) for the good of the community as well as the environment. We hope to present a number of options to community in future and i have petitioned the board to hold off on major plans for the plantation until we can meaningfully consult and achieve free and informed consent for any plans moving forward..

Following the consultation before Christmas, I honestly thought I would be winding down towards the end of the post.

However, I’m pleased to announce that our Community Fund bid was successful, despite a very competitive climate. A fixed term grant of three years has been secured; which will allow for a four day per week post. My start date is June 19th.

The aims of the grant over this period will focus on:

  1. Regeneration volunteering: Weekly party, likely focus is paths, orchard and ring -barking in first instance.
  2. Community Events. The trick will be to get range right and i’d like to stress the importance of sourcing input from/and to help facilitate local expertise as well supplementing with my own delivery of guided walks and such. I have a keen interest in youth focused events/clubs, but we need to account for the broad range of demographic and developing interests of local people who use the woodland.
  3. Introduction of a Working group model: We aim to overcome the bottleneck of an overburdened board by setting up and training a number of autonomous steering groups for key areas of FOGW’s remit, with accountability to the board. A board member will sit on each of the groups.

Going forward, i am hoping to partner with Volunteer Cowal South West to promote the idea that volunteers can work across multiple community woodlands/organisations. VCSW cut their teeth and proved their effectiveness for mobilisation during the covid 19 pandemic delivering prescriptions and distributing food to those that needed it.

I am also hoping to apply to TDDT for a much needed secure tool shed close to a meeting point at the wood for regeneration volunteers. I have identified a police approved one from the Asgard range which fits the bill perfectly.

The project start date was confirmed by the community fund in an email today,to be the 19th June 2023 and the ranger is looking forward to making a return to work on this date and to facilitate a full summer of activities.

To that end:

An temporary outdoor classroom space is being prepared with the purchase of new PVC canvas roof and commissioning of a secure door by a local woodworker. I am meeting this cost of around 1500 pounds from my own pocket; and donations are welcomed!

  • Currently on look out for local experts who have some kind of ‘Gist’ of an aspect of the natural world. My ope is to use my skillset to facilitate local people sharing their passion and specialist knowledge in an accessible and engaging way. Consider this a call out for participants, ecologists, dendrologists; any gists are welcomed!
  • Weekly event called ‘Brew and Blether’. A few hours for residents to bring a cup, share, tea and stories and find out what’s happening in the wood. This could involve special guests, but simple format will make for regular conversation about whats happening at Glenan.
  • Cowal walking festival 2023- Hope to offer some guided walks and nature connection activities.
  • Establishing the right day for working party through consultation. This will include identified need from Portavadie to engage workforce, form part of community and anticipate footfall to come from there.
  • As well as putting on events from identified need in consultation, very open to responding to requests or offers from community members. As long as we record participation for grant purposes, I am open to offers.

Once again, Thank you for attending,

Best Wishes,

Rhyddian Knight