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£8 million public appeal launched by Woodland Trust Scotland to buy 4500-acre Wester Ross estate

By Mike Merritt

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Couldoran Estate, Wester Ross, Scotland
Couldoran Estate, Wester Ross, Scotland

The trust plans to manage Couldoran Estate for people and wildlife over the coming decades.

Only a few trees cling on in crags and ravines on the largely bare estate, but the charity hopes to revive the land and create a “squirrel superhighway”, allowing a range of species to move freely between woods across the wider area. Near Lochcarron, the estate neighbours the trust’s existing site at Ben Shieldaig and the two will be managed jointly.

Woodland Trust Scotland director, Alastair Seaman, said: “Couldoran is in relatively poor condition. Once restoration is under way, we hope many of the iconic species we have at Ben Shieldaig will flood back in.

“Securing Couldoran will double the area under our management at Shieldaig, increasing potential to bring back more of the native woods that once featured across the wider landscape.”

An initial survey has revealed more than 1000 acres of new native woodland of Scots pine, aspen, downy birch, rowan, willow and alder could be created, with the rest remaining open ground.

The trust also intends to establish montane scrub species such as dwarf birch and dwarf willow that grow at high altitude to provide a fringe to the natural treeline.

Restoring the woodland at Couldoran will help connect important nearby sites, creating a “nature highway” along Glen Shieldaig, linking the Shieldaig Pinewood and Rassal Ashwood sites, both Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

A range of species from lichens and mosses to butterflies and red squirrels will then be able to move more freely.

Mr Seaman said: “Next door at Shieldaig we see birds such as golden eagle, peregrine, red throated diver, greenshank and golden plover. Pine martens, water voles, badgers, red squirrels and mountain hares have also been spotted.

“If we can improve canopy cover at Couldoran we expect to find many of these species moving in as their range and habitat improves and expands.”

He added that they wanted to create and restore native montane woodland, and also improve access.

“Only one informal track exists. We want to upgrade this and improve public access into an area with spectacular views, but which currently attracts few walkers.

“Continuing our approach at Ben Shieldaig, the Trust will consult with local people and neighbouring landowners on our plans and provide opportunities for people to have their say and get involved.”

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