The Dalbeattie Forest Community Partnership works in partnership with Forestry Commission Scotland and the local community to develop the forest for recreational use by the public.
Dalbeattie Forest occupies 1100 hectares of granite upland directly adjacent to the town of Dalbeattie. The primary purpose of the forest has always been to harvest timber on a commercial and sustainable basis.
However, the mission of the Partnership is threefold.
The Forestry Commission maintains over 100 miles of tracks in Dalbeattie Forest all open to the public. Occasionally, during harvesting operations, some sections may be closed off for safety reasons. In which case, visitors will be directed elsewhere by warning notices.
The principal points of entry for pedestrians and horse riders is at the Townwood where there is free parking and at the Richorn car park which caters mainly for mountain bikers. In addition there are entrances at Spycraig, Craigmath, Tinkers Loaning, Barnbarroch, Colvend, Newbarns and Woodend. Motorised vehicles are not allowed on the trails except with the special permission of the landowner.
Certain walks are colour-coded to indicate their level of difficulty. For example, the all-abilities White trail is suitable for wheelchair users. At the other end of the scale, the Brown trail involves a 6 mile hike between Dalbeattie and Colvend.
The Richorn car park is the starting point for the world famous 7Stanes mountain biking trails - these are also colour coded, varying from tracks to suit beginners, up to routes suitable only for experts. For example, the Red route is used by competitors in the annual Hard Rock Challenge biathlon race.
On the other hand, many trails are not signposted at all, so visitors should obtain an Ordnance Survey map to find their way around.
Visitors will encounter harmoniously-sited features along the walks designed to increase ones interest and enjoyment. These include a lochside viewing platform, granite sculptures, a totem pole, benches and picnic tables.
A programme of organised activity is published by the Forestry Commission at the beginning of each calendar year.
In the past this has included den building, a treasure hunt, butterfly walk, hallowen stories, a red squirrel walk, hike to the Moyle, and a mobility scooter safari. In addition, there are a host of other activities which reflect the interests of a multitude of users. Examples of these are orienteering, rock climbing, scouting, horse riding, dog walking, berry picking, bird watching, school field trips and visits by biology specialists.
As a result of these activities it is hoped that the public will develop an appreciation of this wonderful resource found on our doorstep. By encouraging participation, the Partnership believe we can create a sense of responsible ownership of the forest, especially by the younger generation.
The bulk of our forest is conifer plantation and subject to regular harvesting. However, there are substantial patches of native woodland, set aside by FCS as areas of biodiversity: for example, the Smithland/Barean Loch corridor in the south and Woodhouse Meadow towards the north. The forest therefore appears pleasantly mixed and varied as compared with the usual forestry plantation. These designated areas are carefully protected by FCS and are free from disturbance caused by commercial activity. In a recent survey by volunteers over 400 species were observed in the course of a day, some of which are rare and endangered.
There exists, therefore, the opportunity for Partnership members to engage in a variety of conservation projects that are designed to enhance the existing flora and fauna. Projects undertaken over the last 5 years include native tree planting, coppicing, pond excavation, meadow seed sowing, constructing habitat piles and moth, bat and butterfly identification. The range of activity is limited only by the imagination and industry of our volunteers and there is ample scope for new people with fresh ideas to become involved.
MEETINGS AND WORKING PARTIES
The group meets on the last Monday of the month in the offices of the Dalbeattie Initiative, 71 High Street, Dalbeattie. The meetings are open to all - so come along and join us and meet representatives from the Forestry Commission.
We also arrange working parties, usually on a Saturday from 10 am to 12 am.
George Wallace, Chairman
Tel. 01556 611677
Michelle McRobert, Dalbeattie Initiative
Tel. 01556 612518