IT is an ancient woodland which has become one of Scotland's best-loved wildernesses, familiar to generations of people seeking solace from the breakneck pace of modern life.

The trees and woodlands of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park have been welcoming campers and daytrippers from Glasgow and beyond for decades, boosting the health and wellbeing of those who venture into their leafy glades.

And now the future of the national park has been laid out with a new strategy which lays out how it will be protected an enhanced in the coming decades.

Plans have been unveiled to dramatically boost the number of trees while also safeguarding the biodiversity of the animals and plants which shelter within the park's boundaries.


Trees are central to the strategy

Work will also be undertaken to support the rural economy, and help those who make a living from the land within in its environs.

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launching the strategy, Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon said: “The woodlands of the National Park are some of our most important natural assets. They have a vital role to play in supporting our national response to the global climate emergency while also contributing to a thriving rural economy.

“Trees and woodlands are also integral to delivering social and economic benefits to the area including employment, community involvement in woodland management, and the simple enjoyment of local residents and visitors to the National Park.

“We need to protect and enhance this precious resource for future generations and this strategy sets out the approach to do just that.”

  Currently, almost a third of the national park is covered by woodland, a quarter of which is made up of trees considered native to Scotland.

Much of this is of global importance for nature, including rare temperate rainforests and the most southerly remnants of the ancient Caledonian pine forests which once blanketed the land.

One of the key aims of the strategy is to increase native woodland cover in the national park as part of a target to increase the level of woodland creation from 3,000 hectares per year to 5,000.


The park boasts stunning scenery

The plan also sets out how to better manage existing woodlands and enhance the connections between nature and the economy.

Simon Jones, Director of Conservation and Visitor Operations at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said: “Our trees and woodlands provide such a huge range of benefits not just locally but for the whole of Scotland.

“Looking after our existing trees and creating new, well planned woodland will help capture more carbon and could support natural flood management.

"It will also increase the biodiversity of our rare Atlantic rainforests and other habitats and protect species such as black grouse and red squirrels.

“That’s why it’s so important that we have a clear plan that provides a guide for everyone who has a role to play in managing, protecting and creating woodland.£

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To boost the amount of tree planting within the park, grants are being made available to encourage land owners to grow new native and diverse conifer woods.

The tree planting grant scheme offers small-scale funding to businesses, organisations, individuals and community or voluntary groups to plant individual trees or small areas of woodland in the park.

To launch the strategy, Ms Gougeon met with farm owners Nicola Hornsby and Crispin Hoult of Achray Farm, Brig o’ Turk, and heard fihow the National Park Authority and Scottish Forestry works with land owners and managers on projects to support integrating woodland with other uses.


Health and wellbeing will also be key

The couple received grant funding from the National Park Authority to plant native trees and hedges containing to help reduce flooding and protect vegetation and livestock on the farm.

Mrs Hoult said: “We hope the trees we’ve planted with the National Park grant funding will help stabilise the riverbank, contribute to a reduced risk of flooding in the area and provide a natural windbreak for our young fruit trees.

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"They will also help make the farm more attractive to wildlife as well as visitors who travel down the Three Lochs Forest Drive or who pass through the farm on the Great Trossachs Path.”

Cameron Maxwell, Scottish Forestry Conservator for Perth and Argyll Conservancy, said: “We’re delighted to have worked closely with the National Park to produce this new strategy which provides valuable guidance for agents and owners."