Conservation charity the Woodland Trust have launched a £1.6million fundraising appeal to buy a mountain above Loch Torridon in the northwest highlands. Ben Shieldaig is up for sale, and if successful in their bid the Trust hopes to manage its spectacular native woodland within a wider mix of wild habitats that run from sea to summit. The plan is likely to include a new footpath on the hill too.
"This is a rare opportunity for us to bring a whole mountain under our care" said Woodland Trust Scotland Director Carol Evans.
"It already supports a magnificent area of ancient Caledonian pinewood and a temperate rainforest of native birchwood. Perhaps even more exciting is the potential to manage these within a mosaic of their natural neighbours. Our aim is to see native woodland, montane scrub and open moorland habitats meshing naturally with each other from sea to sky. That would encapsulate all that a restored landscape can be, not just in Torridon but across the Highlands."
The 534m-high Ben Shieldaig covers around 4000 acres, set in the dramatic Torridon landscape within the Wester Ross National Scenic Area.
The area's birch woodland, confined to the moisture-laden strip of land between the mountain and the sea, is part of a unique and internationally important habitat shaped by the mild climate and clean air.
The mountain is also home to a significant remnant of ancient Caledonian pinewood – special not only because it has occupied this spot since just after the last ice age, but because it lies at the very limit of the Scots pine's northern European distribution. This is one of the most westerly remnants of native pine in Europe; one of the closest to sea level; and quite possibly one which is genetically unique to the north-west of Scotland, say the Trust.
The Woodland Trust plans to protect and expand the existing native woodland at Ben Shieldaig through a combination of natural regeneration, new native planting and effective deer management. It's thought the site could see a tripling of woodland cover on the mountain.
A couple of quality local jobs will also be created by the project, it's promised.
Carol Evans continued:
"We aim to manage the site for wildlife and people and encourage recreational access – perhaps building a small car park and creating a path to a viewpoint for visitors to enjoy. We will consult with local people about our plans once we secure ownership. Before anything can happen though, we need to raise the money to fund the purchase."
- Details of the appeal can be found on the Woodland Trust website