That’s all changed now, though, and the woodland has been restored and officially re-opened – thanks to a £240,000 community buyout in early 2021.
A community launch event, held on March 20, marked a culmination of the efforts of local residents to rescue and preserve Loch Wood in Blackwood, following a £240,000 community buyout last year.
The 65-acre woodland – the equivalent of 49 football pitches – had since medieval times been the location of the ancestral home of the prominent Weir family but the house no longer exists.
A campaign by residents of nearby Blackwood, Kirkmuirhill and Boghead and the Blackwood Estate Community Association (BECA) secured the future of the wood after receiving funding from a number of sources, including South Lanarkshire Council and the Scottish Land Fund.
Loch Wood is featured as a case study in the MyLand.Scot campaign, an online resource run by the Scottish Land Commission to highlight the many benefits land can bring to communities across Scotland.
Since the community buyout the historic woodland has undergone extensive maintenance, repair and health and safety improvements, officially opening on March 20 when locals were invited to BYOB – Bring Your Own Boots!
In addition to hosting educational sessions for local schools and providing a safe haven for protected species such as tawny owls, otters and kingfishers, local walkers will soon be able to enjoy a reinstated Victorian path network and it is hoped the estate will be established as a centre of biodiversity.
Vicki Connick, BECA treasurer and a resident of the estate since 1989, said: “The aim is to provide a safe place where local residents can come and learn about the outdoors as well as enjoy the beauty of the country we live in.
“Funding we received from Banks Renewables and others has enabled us to complete essential health and safety work making it safe for visitors.
“We’ve added fencing, worked on the original Victorian path network and are adding new crossings to the burn allowing for more adventuring, and another space for outdoor learning on the far bank.
“The feedback we’ve received is amazing. A lot of the teachers have said that they’ve noticed how much the kids enjoy getting muddy as it’s probably something they’re not allowed to be most of the time. They’re in and splashing around in the river in their wellies and climbing up in the trees.”
The opening ceremony included a children’s treasure hunt, falconry exhibition, tours and a wildlife book signing by Stevie Reilly, a frequent visitor. Stevie, his brother and one of their friends compiled the book on Blackwood Estate wildlife when he was aged just 11 and it has now been published, with the support of BECA.