An large area of forest three times the size of Inverness has been surveyed as part of a project to restore ancient woodland in the north of Scotland.

The Woodland Trust Scotland’s Ancient Woodland Restoration project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Forestry Trust and the MacRobert Trust.

Since 2013 two specialist project officers have surveyed 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) of plantations on ancient woodland (PAWS) sites in the north of Scotland, and nearly 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) are now in a process of restoration.

Peter Lowe from the Woodland Trust Scotland said: “Ancient woodland restoration is one of the Trust’s top priorities. It’s a long-term process that can take decades to achieve because our approach involves gradual and selective change to the existing woodland over several years.

It’s particularly important to ensure that these woods are in a process of restoration now because so many plantations on ancient woodland sites are coming to maturity and we need to agree their future management before they are felled.

There has been a lot of interest from landowners who are interested in ensuring that these sites are well managed, both on ecological grounds and also because it is an important part of certification for sustainable forestry.

One group working with the Trust is Cawdor Forestry Ltd, which manages woodland on Logie, Altyre, Dochfour and Cawdor Estates. 2,000 hectares of plantations on ancient woodland sites across these estates are being surveyed for potential restoration.

Steve Conolly, managing director of Cawdor Forestry Ltd said: “Restoring ancient woodland where there is the potential to do so and it is compatible with other objectives is an important part of achieving forest certification. Certification demonstrates sustainable management and helps to ensure that estates can continue to market timber effectively.

We’re pleased to be working with the Woodland Trust Scotland to benefit from their expertise and advice on restoration.

Through its Ancient Woodland Restoration project the Woodland Trust Scotland is working with RDI Associates Ltd to engage woodland owners in two priority areas in the north of Scotland, the Great Glen and Three Firths, and the Cairngorms and Hinterland.

1,600 hectares of plantation on ancient woodland sites in each area will be in a process of restoration by the end of a four year project, which has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Forestry Trust and the MacRobert Trust.

Landowners can access impartial support and guidance to enable them to sustainably manage and restore plantations on ancient woodland sites.

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