Huts and forest crofts planned for Highland Clearances village

Huts and forest crofts could be built at a village emptied by the Highland Clearances in a bid to put people back into the landscape.

The land at Rosal in Strathnaver, Sutherland, where the outlines of some of the longhouses can still be seen. Spodzone/CC
The land at Rosal in Strathnaver, Sutherland, where the outlines of some of the longhouses can still be seen. Spodzone/CC

The Scotsman reported on Tuesday how a community is in talks to buy the forest at Rosal in Strathnaver which contains the remnants of a village cleared of tenants between 1814 and 1818 to make way for a large-scale sheep farm.

Eighteen longhouses once stood on the land, along with several barns and outhouses, the remains of some which can still be seen.

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Now, a bid is being launched to buy the site from Forestry and Land Scotland by the community with repopulation of the area one aspiration for the site.

The land at Rosal in Strathnaver, Sutherland, where the outlines of some of the longhouses can still be seen. PIC:

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Tim Curtis, of the North Sutherland Community Forest Trust, one of the groups behind the bid, said that hutting and forest crofts were two ideas being considered as a result of feedback so far.

He said: “There is a desire among the community to see that sort of thing happening.

"I think people see the forests as not being used by local people.

"Forest crofts is an idea that has been developed since the early 2000s. You might use them to grow berries, to grow withies for making baskets.

"You are talking about using them for very traditional skills. Hutting, which is very strongly supported by Forestry and Land Scotland, is something else that people would like to see .”

Strathnaver Museum at Bettyhill, which charts the Clearances, is also involved in the bid amid hopes to take its work into Rosal.

Mr Curtis said the 160-hectare forestry site was of low commercial viability with hopes it would become more of a “park” for people to enjoy.

This would complement the museum’s work at the village site, he added.

Local people are being asked their views on what they would like to see from the land as part of the process towards lodging a formal Community Asset Transfer.

A valuation is now being carried out at the wood, which is now on the Forestry and Land Scotland disposal list.

The Scottish Government blocked the sale of Rosal village to the community in 2012 given the historical importance of the site.

Lord Tanway, of the neighbouring Tanway Estate, bought up a larger section of Rosal Forest several years ago but the area purchased did not include the village given his view it should be in community ownership, it is understood.

Events at Rosal in the early 19th Century were documented by lifelong resident Donald Macleod, who was evicted in 1814, who wrote of “the comfort and happiness of all destroyed”.

By 1870, all suitable land had been turned over to sheep grazing as the Countess of Sutherland sought higher profit from her land amid high demand for meat and wool.

Earlier, Magnus Davidson, of the Environmental Research Institute at the University of Highlands and Islands, said repopulating the Rosal area was “symbolic”.

"The depopulation started with the Clearances and it is nice to be able to say ‘this is where we are going’ in the recovery from that.

“It’s an issue that resonates with Scottish people, particularly those in the Highlands and Islands where it is an issue that is deeply felt.”

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