An appeal has been launched to conserve a “beautiful and extraordinary space” in Inverness city centre
Volunteers have established a charity to conserve and improve the natural habitat of Aultnaskiach Dell, which is 4.6 acres of woodland stretching from Drummond Road towards the River Ness on Island Bank Road.
They also aim to promote volunteer involvement in management of the Dell – creating opportunities for all ages to learn new skills and exercise in an outdoor environment.
But £20,000 is needed for the conservation work, so a public appeal has been mounted.
The charity has eight trustees and 55 members. It has secured a three-year lease of the woodland from the owners, John and Aithne Barron, of Culduthel Gardens, who have offered to gift the woodland to the local community.
The charity will consider taking ownership of the woodland if successful in attracting sufficient funds and support from the community to sustain the long term management of the area.
The Barrons bought the woodland more than 40 years ago to prevent the woodland, much of which dates from 200 years ago when Aultnaskiach House was built, from premature clear felling.
Mrs Barron, now in her 80s, is delighted the community charity is so willing to manage the woodland and has raised £1,000 herself through lunches and a sponsored walk.
The charity trustees have already raised funds from member donations and fund-raising efforts as well as the sale of firewood. The charity has also attracted funding from the Inverness Common Good Fund, the Forestry Commission, Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Scottish Water, who have a network of sewers running across the burn, also have an active interest in the future management of the Dell. Lochardil and Drummond Community Council is fully behind the project.
The funding has helped the charity undertake a tree survey, draw up a 10-year management plan and make considerable progress in removing dead and diseased trees, opening up the canopy to let in light and encourage healthy growth, planting new trees, tackling invasive vegetation and protecting and encouraging wildlife .
Trust chairman Gina O’Brien described the Dell as a “beautiful and extraordinary space to find in the middle of a city”.
She said: “In launching our public appeal, we want to create a fund that will help us conserve this special place for many generations to come.
“We consider that at least £20,000 will have to be raised before ownership can be considered.”
Anyone wishing to become a member of the Aultnaskiach Dell SCIO or make a donation to the appeal is invited to contact secretary, Ann Clark, at 11 Drummond Road, Inverness IV2 4NA