WITH JUST one week to go before nominations close for 2017's Scotland's Finest Woods Awards, last year's cream of the crop have been recalling their victories and urging would-be entrants to take part.

Neil Mackenzie, winner of the 2016 New Native Woodlands award for Garradh Beathe Wood on the south side of Loch Ness, said: "What was once a bare field with boring old grasses is now a rich, diverse, woodland full of wildlife, plants and insects.

"We planted about 3000 trees in total – mainly birch and alder, but also hazel, rowan and oak. It was hard work at times, but overall it was a really enjoyable and rewarding experience. We started planting in 1999 and we are now doing some thinning and using the logs as firewood. There is real lasting amenity value and it’s provided great shelter – we are 600 metres up and it’s very windy here.

"Anyone with a bit of green could do it relatively easily and I’d encourage them to do so. We used the prize money for a pond liner, which has encouraged frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies.”

North Highland district manager for Forest Enterprise Scotland, Tim Cockerill, said that everyone involved in Sibster Forest, Caithness, had been “blown away” to win the Dulverton Flagon, an occasional award made at the judges’ discretion (awarded only three times in the last seven years).

"It’s surprising how many people have heard about the award, even community groups from further afield," said Mr Cockerill. "It has helped with the kudos and we are getting lots of visitors; people coming up the A9, catching the ferry at Scrabster or coming from Wick or Caithness. It’s made a big difference."

Executive director of Scotland's Finest Woods, Angela Douglas, said: “It is great to hear about the pleasure last year’s victors took from winning the awards and the benefits they have derived. We look forward to another top quality year in 2017 – but we urge everyone to hurry to get their entries in as March will fly by!”

Entries close on March 21. Full details, including criteria and entry forms, are available at http://www.sfwa.co.uk/awards-2017/