COUNCILLOR Lorna Douglas shares her thoughts on the closure of Helensburgh's Duchess Wood, in this week's councillor column.


As the chair of the Duchess Wood Local Nature Reserve Committee, I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised – and a bit perplexed at first – as to Argyll and Bute Council’s decision last month to close Duchess Wood to the general public due to safety issues.

I have had no end of humorous comments in the last few weeks, such as “It’s like saying don’t go on to the beach as you might get your feet wet!” and my favourite, “Wood closure due to dangerous trees and militant squirrels.”

However, on a more serious note, the question “How can you close a wood?” keeps popping up, although maybe the real issue is “why were the woods closed?”.

READ MORE: Duchess Wood Friends group in angry blast at council over closure

Duchess Wood’s status as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) means that a management agreement is in place for the wood to be maintained by, in this case, the council.

As the management agreement is due to end next summer, it was agreed that an independent site survey of the wood – which was known to all partners in the committee – was to be undertaken.

This in turn led to the recommendation for the wood to be closed with immediate effect due to safety issues surrounding dangerous trees.

As the council, the body currently responsible for the management of the wood, has the ultimate liability for the site, the decision was taken by them to close the wood.

Many of the ‘dangerous trees’ need to be made safe, either by felling or crown reduction work, and this requires specialist aerial work to be carried out.

The knock on effect of the site survey and the work to be undertaken is complex, especially as this is a local nature reserve.

READ MORE: Argyll and Bute Council closes Helensburgh's Duchess Wood over 'safety concerns'

Before work can commence the impact on wildlife needs to be considered and assessed. For example, a bat survey is currently being carried out to make sure that any work which is carried out in the wood does not have a negative impact on these amazing protected species.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and maybe information could have been better relayed to all concerned as to why the wood needed to be closed, along with better communication on the multi layered impact that the closure, and the work, will have on all visitors and inhabitants of the these much-loved woods.

However, I very much hope that the woods will be opened in full or in part, as soon as practicable, for us all to enjoy as safely as possibly.