The primary aim of the Cashel Forest Trust's activities at Cashel is to demonstrate the restoration and regeneration of Scotland's native woods through sound forestry practice, for the benefit of the public.
To achieve the our aim, the following strategic objectives have been identified and are being pursued:
- Develop and maintain the native woodlands at Cashel on a sustainable basis;
- Encourage nature conservation, amenity and rural recreation;
- Use the woodland as a demonstration of good forestry practice;
- Create appropriate access, particularly for walkers;
- Make the woodland available for education and research;
- Involve the local community;
- Enhance the landscape;
- Re-create a 'near-natural' sequence of forest types, ranging from predominantly oakwood at the loch side through pine/birch wood to open sub-montaine scrub on the highest ground;
- Provide a woodland 'wildlife corridor' linking the Loch Lomond and Loch Ard catchments.
The 2017 scoping study identified the following essential deliverables to improve the facility:
- In order to make any progress at all, a full time post is required on site for a project manager. The project manager’s role would be both to advance the final development plan, but also to enthusiastically seek out and test new opportunities and ideas. Securing ongoing grant funding and income generation would be a key role.
- Grant funding is potentially available to support the project managers role, and this would be essential seed corn funding for the project.
- There are a number of limiting factors on site relating to infrastructure. These include lack of catering facilities, shower and toilet block facilities and accommodation for both visitors and new staff.
- With an enthusiastic project manager in place there are a number of very low cost measures that could be undertaken without any investment in infrastructure which would lead to a higher footfall and use of the site.
- New projects can be trailed before investment decisions are made, and most of the proposed developments are fully scalable.
- Utilise the good will and skills of other organisations. The Trust has created the base resource and others can add value to this and their own agendas, while at the same time advancing the core objectives of the Trust.
The following specific activities and specific projects which are under active consideration, as options are compatible with and advance the objectives of the Trust.
Feasibility - Development of activities
Activities that could be promoted which would get the accommodation used, the paths walked and the site talked about could include:
- School trips with a structure and scope for evolving which would encourage return visits and build long term relationships with schools;
- Greater involvement with adult education and further education;
- Vocational training;
- Increased use of the site by voluntary organisations;
- Art installations and events;
- Sporting events;
- Woodland management & Forestry meetings;
- Family days out and holidays.
Consideration needs to be given as to how these activities match with the Trusts objectives. The aspiration to have a high cost state of the art forestry centre at Cashel is a commendable long term vision. However a more pragmatic approach to getting the forestry message across to the widest possible audience would be to get people on site for a range of other activities and then to promote forestry’s positive message. This could be achieved by simple but high quality interpretive material, entertaining forestry orientated activities and a well thought out low maintenance forestry exhibition that would form the backdrop to activities in the visitor centre.
Feasibility - Specific projects
These specific projects could be taken as the starting point for a detailed feasibility study where the board agrees to take these forward.
- Prioritise securing funding for employment of a project manager.
- Seek funding via the Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland: Resilient Heritage Fund to fund the above post and the feasibility study.
- Camping for West Highland Way Walkers.
- Glamping/pods/tepees for family groups, Highland Way walkers and educational trips.
- Bunkhouse accommodation.
- Catering facilities.
Many of the above are linked issues with potential synergy between the opportunities. A consideration of these options would involve a consideration of the infrastructure required, however with a project manager in place many of these options could be trialled using low cost innovative approaches, and this approach may have more value in some respects than a more speculative feasibility study, it is also a more adaptive approach.
The above options need to be crafted in terms of the trusts objectives in relation to promoting forestry, education, skills and public benefit, so linked to these options would be an assessment of who would actually use these facilities and for what purpose. A consideration of this factor is essential in terms of demonstrating demand for the feasibility study, and a lot of this work has been undertaken by the Integrated Land Management Plan, and feedback from this scoping process has demonstrated potential demand for education, training and recreation.