Community reaps rewilding benefits

3 toddlers on stepping stones made from tree trunks in woods
Lisa Paton

Spearheaded by the Mull and Iona Community Trust, ambitious plans are underway to transform Ardura's dark conifer plantations into a vibrant community woodland, that will benefit nature, climate and local communities.

Back in 2019, after 3 years community consultation which proved wide ranging support for the project, Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT) bought Ardura Forest from Forest Enterprise Scotland with a grant from Scottish Land Fund. An enthusiastic steering group guides and supports the work, which includes practical tasks in the forest and contributing to update meetings.

Community ownership of the forest presents MICT with massive opportunities to improve biodiversity, strengthen their financial position and, in line with the trust’s ethos, deliver tangible community benefits too.

After the purchase, MICT auctioned off the standing timber from the non-native plantations covering most of the site, with surplus funds to be invested on the island. The first project to be considered for funding was the expansion of Tobermory’s Nonhebel Business Park, built to address the lack of storage and small business premises in North Mull. Opened in March 2020, it is already fully occupied. Future plans for money from the timber sale will support development of more affordable housing.

Meanwhile, the forest itself – now known as Ardura Community Forest – is thriving, and felled areas are being replanted with native trees to expand the existing fragments of ancient woodland.

The changing space has led to increased use by the local community. There’s an outdoor toddler group and older kids from the nearby primary school are also regular visitors and have begun planting trees as part of the Green Tree Schools Award run by the Woodland Trust. There are plans to get older students into the forest too, as well as adults involved with Mull Safe and Sound, a local support group for those feeling socially isolated or vulnerable. Ardura already hosts regular “forest bathing” sessions, with movement and mindfulness in the woods used to boost health and wellbeing. Another project has seen the old road running through the forest – part of the historic Iona to St Andrews Pilgrim’s Way – carefully restored, creating a popular multi-use woodland track.

Ardura is part of the Northwoods Rewilding Network, which brings together an expanding group of land managers, all committed to restoring nature across Scotland. Northwoods also seeks to showcase the positive actions of those involved.

If you're feeling inspired by the story of Ardura, read more