THE group behind the community takeover of a Helensburgh woodland have urged local residents to make the most of the space as “it now belongs to them”.

Helensburgh Community Woodlands Group (HCWG) officially took ownership of Castle Woods, at the west end of the town, in November having worked for more than a decade to secure the land.

As revealed in the Advertiser last September, HCWG was awarded £117,128 from the Scottish Land Fund (SLF) to buy the two-hectare site, although the group’s plans to purchase another patch of land near Cumberland Avenue fell through after the Scottish Government knocked back their bid.

Giving a presentation to Helensburgh Community Council, HCWG member David Robertson shared more details of the group’s plans, and encouraged people to get involved in the project.

READ MORE: Community group gets £117,000 grant to buy Helensburgh woodland

Mr Robertson said: “We are overjoyed that we’ve actually got this woodland after all these years of hardships, trials and tribulations.

“The SLF funding was fantastic. They didn’t need to give us as much as they did, but they appreciated we had community support. They also probably gave us it on the basis of how tenacious we’ve been over the years and how determined we are to get there.

“The alternative of simple housing development didn’t seem appropriate and they understood our argument and rightly supported it.

“We also got money from the WM Mann Foundation to the tune of £2,000, Mushroom Trust Award has given us £5,000 towards the transformation of our woodland in due course, and existing members also donated their own money which helped us make up the balance of funding.

READ MORE: Helensburgh group outlines vision to transform 'neglected' Castle Woods

“We’ve had over 100 members for in excess of five years and managing to sustain that has been a real, genuine challenge, certainly on the basis that we haven’t owned the woodland. All we’ve really been is a community woodland group in opposition.

“We’re trying to let the community understand these woods are now theirs, because we bought it on behalf of the community.”

A tree survey is already under way as part of the first phase of improvement works in the woodland, while problems over site drainage, invasive species and fly-tipping will also be addressed.

Phase two of the scheme involves the creation of an all-ability footpath through the woodland with educational opportunities for children, and an annual running cost of around £5,000 has been projected.

READ MORE: Landmark woodland buy-out bid is rejected by ministers

Mr Roberston said: “Some initial works are expensive, for example an all-ability footpath is £50 per linear metre, so that’s a lot of money, but if we can do it and do it right from day one then that’s going to minimise our longer-term commitments.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of community support for us already. That’s not to say we’re awash with funding; everyone is always looking for money. A small amount of money goes a long way and that in itself is a good lever for bringing in more funding.

“We want to create welcoming access points in the woodland so people know where we are and that they can use the area.

“It’s all about maintenance and providing and enhancing the local amenities so that it’s looking good and is something that people can be proud of.”

Community days are planned for April, Covid permitting, while the group needs to raise another £20,000 to help with the project.

To find out more information, or to volunteer, email or see

Read all the latest Helensburgh and Lomond headlines here