'Dunning Community Trust' - It's formation and the purchase of Kincladie Woods

by Elspeth Pentland, Chairman 2004/08

When the Group "Dunning Paths for All" were identifying the core paths on maps in the Village Hall in March 2005, there was general talk about four woods up for sale around Dunning. One of which was Kincladie Wood - known to locals as My Lady’s Wood or Mi Lady’s Wood.

Reflecting on :-

Kincladie Wood - To the west it has a Roman Dyke running at an angle through it, a site recorded by Historic Scotland as an Ancient Monument. Records also show that witches were killed and burnt in the wood in 1663 but we do not know the location.

Up to about 1960 travellers camped - mostly at the east end at certain times of year. They came with their small horses and carts and put up happed, weathered, oval abodes. They came into the village playing their bagpipes to tempt you out to buy their handmade clothes pegs and sharpen your knives on a stone grinder (foot driven). When they abandoned the wood - only the remains of where the fire had been could be seen. If any tinker died when in the wood, they would be buried there with no markings. In the 60’s and 70’s they arrived with old lorries, vans and caravans. When they visited the village they were always fighting amongst themselves and eventually headed back to the wood with their beer bottles. Unfortunately they left their litter behind again and again so measures were taken to discourage them entering the wood.

Also in the 50’s motorbike scrambles used the west end leaping over and down the Roman Dyke (what would Historic Scotland make of that today) then into and along the bog with frogs jumping everywhere. Villagers all went out to spectate, usually coming home splattered with mud. I can remember Hugh Shannon of Methven getting his wooden leg twisted round the wrong way when he came in contact with a tree - his motor bike, he and his artificial leg having to be put in the same direction - much to the amusement of spectators. His motorbikes "Shannon Specials" were made of scrap from the Royal Naval Stores at Almondbank.

During the war and just after, we were always out at the wood with our ‘CAIRTS’ collecting twigs for kindling and if you found large fallen timber, it was a bonus. Also my parents filled hessian bags with leaf mould for the garden in the spring.

The bog was always a grand place to catch tadpoles with cupped hands and put them in your jelly jars. Then eventually returning them slowly counting each others to see who had caught the most.

There was also a great source of blaeberries on the banks round the marsh, which we picked (getting blue fingers) for home consumption.

The main use for the wood by the villagers and friends is for walking through and round - very peaceful - so different at each end and the back and front (next to the road) with the heart in the middle. The trees are all so different with a carpet of wild flowers. The birds, squirrels (used to be red ones), the occasional deer - the quietness. Even although we have seen changes in the amount of road traffic, the wood is still used constantly.

Anyway out of my reflections: -

Conversations were heard and several people thought we ought to find out more about the sale of Kincladie Wood. There are now grants to help communities through the Scottish Land Fund to buy ground and keep it as an amenity - not having it changed or even possible private development.

Particulars were received and a bit more talk. It was noted that if the community bought it, they would require a committee or company to put in a bid. Notices were put up in the village and more people became interested in proceeding and we called them ‘The Steering Committee’. The Steering Committee was headed in the direction of a Solicitor in Inverness, who had already dealt with a similar situation, was contacted and things began to move fast as the Constitution and Articles of Association had to fit the criteria for :

a) A bid to the Scottish Land Fund

b) A recognition by the Scottish Executive

The second (b) became a problem due to officials and solicitors not agreeing. The Agents selling the wood informed us it would be quite some time before a closing date would be announced so we struggled on in the hope of stopping the sale under the Government’s new legislation, ‘The right to buy’ but almost immediately the selling agents decided to put a closing date on - ten days away and we knew we were scuppered.

At this point the Steering Committee unanimously agreed that it was still worth setting up the Company ‘Dunning Community Trust’ just in case anything else happened in the Parish, then we would be prepared for it.

A certain person whom we all know - dug his heels in and insisted that we have an independent valuation of the wood and put in an Offer. He agreed he would financially cover with a loan for two years; an agreed bid. So we went ahead with the Limited Guarantee Company, the valuation by Bidwells (42,000) and the offers (a) in a combined offer with others for all the four woods and (b) an offer by Dunning Community Trust on our own of 45,000.

Still trying to come to some agreement with the Scottish Office, the Steering Committee did a door to door campaign to find out who was in favour and 300+ signatures were received in 3 days so we then went ahead with a Public Meeting, which included speakers Nuala MacKay, Scottish Land Fund and Wendy Reid, Scottish Development Trusts Association, Scotland. The Public Meeting gave the ‘green light’ to keep going - two days later we received the news that our own Offer had been accepted.

Since then we have signed up 90 members and at an Inaugural Meeting wound up the Steering Committee - elected the eight Directors who have now had their first meeting.

Our main purpose now and for the future is to make sure Dunning Community Trust will always be there for everyone in the Parish or if other local projects come along we are ready. We are hopeful that the majority of residents will become Members, or Junior Members or those further afield - Associated Members. (The form enclosed gives you this opportunity.)

We will keep you updated on the future of the wood - we are going forward to the Scottish Land Fund and are also in negotiation with Forestry Enterprise. We have had talks with the Forestry Commission Education, who are proposing to have a Forest School in the wood in conjunction with both Dunning School and possibly two secondary schools. Access Officers and Paths for All feel the paths could be improved but we need to know what everyone in the area would like to see develop and you will all get this opportunity to inform us when you attend Our Teddy Bears Picnic for young and old (both bears and participants) on Saturday 16th July at 2.00 pm.

Now we are appealing to everyone for donations to help us pay for the wood and a subscribers book/list will be with the Membership Secretary, Dunning Community Trust, The Old Schoolhouse, Newton of Pitcairns, Dunning, PH2 0SL

We will also be having events and moneymaking projects but to everyone please get involved. We need the whole district and those people further away to keep our wonderful salient community mindful for the future generations. This is a unique opportunity to keep Dunning vigorous and flourishing.