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Community Woodland and Sculpture Trail
How It Started by Mike Clark
25 November 2002

"Castlehill Community Woodland and Sculpture Trail was first conceived in 1995, initially as a result of brain-storming over a beer.

Work underway on the supporting plinth for one of the sculptures.

Picnic tables are made from recycled waste material, which seemed appropriate for an ex-landfill site.

The concept was carried forward in the grey light of dawn. It was an idea which seemed to be destined to be thwarted at every turn by bureaucracy, and it took over a year for all the obstacles to be overcome.

Some of the picnic tables were constructed from local flagstone, the shaped tops supplied by A & D Sutherland, Spittal Quarry.

The main protagonists striving for this goal – few of whom are still in these roles today – were George Campbell, Thurdistoft, landowner; Paul Garfield, Castletown Community Council; Ranald MacAslan, Castletown Primary School; Eann Sinclair and Kevin Budge, CASE; Willie Beattie, the Forestry Authority; and Mike Clark of Aspen Landscaping, project design and management.

All that remained of the old quarry face, but........

....... it was cleaned up and used as a backdrop for the engraved work of David McKay of Lybster.

Hindsight is a great thing, and the level of use by both the local community and visitors justifies the confidence and foresight of those behind the project.

And the sceptics who objected on the grounds that trees would not grow in such a location, will be more than welcome now to wander through the young woodland and find themselves totally enclosed by trees which have performed remarkably well.

All the sculptures are in flagstone, by artists either local or with Caithness connections, except for the wooden chainsaw carvings by the picnic tables. These are done in Douglas Fir by Pete Bowsher, an ex Forestry Commission employee, who has since gone on to sell his work in a wider market for vast sums of money. And rightly so. The local community, and CASE, should by now realise what a bargain we got!

Last year, the young alder trees produced their first cones. The alder is the only native broadleaved tree to produce cones, like conifers. I collected some seed, and now have some substantial one-year-old trees which are the first descendants of Castlehill Community Woodland.

In these days when technology seems to over-ride everything, that’s what I call real progress, and a symbol of a sustainable future."