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May 30, 2012

At the 11th hour

When five acres of ancient woodland near Innerleithen were put on the market by the local landowner, the local community trust became concerned that this prized amenity would fall into neglect if it became the property of an absentee owner.  Their sterling efforts to rally local support at the eleventh hour for a community bid to purchase the land looked to be falling short of the offer price. That was until an anonymous benefactor stepped in.


AN historic urban woodland has been saved for the town of Innerleithen by two mystery benefactors.

As a result, ownership of the picturesque five-acre Pirn Wood has this week been handed to the Innerleithen Community Trust (ICT) which will now embark on a programme of improvements.

The woodland was recently put on the market with a freehold asking price of £12,000 by the descendants of the famous land-owning Horsburgh (alternatively spelled Horsbrugh) family whose connections with the upper Tweed Valley date back to the 13th century.

“We had to act fast because the last thing we wanted was some absentee landlord taking over a prized amenity area and neglecting it,” said trust chairman Ross McGinn.

“And this week, we had the terrific news that our bid has been successful. This was all down to the help and generosity of a local couple who do not wish to be named, but to whom we all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

The wood, which sits on eastern banks of the Leithen Water on the northern edge of the town and is accessed on foot from the landmark Cuddy Brig, is steeped in history and, back in 1980, a late Bronze Age socketed axe was discovered there by an English visitor.

The selling agents noted that mature oak, beech and ash trees dominate the woodland, along with expansive overgrown crowns and “some very impressive girths”.

“Scattered throughout this are smatterings of elm, hazel, holly and Scots pines, plus a vigorous under-storey of regenerating hardwoods … bluebells, crocuses and daffodils promise delightful spring colour.”

Mr McGinn enthused: “It really is every bit as beautiful as the promotional material suggests, but much of it is overgrown and the footpaths do need some serious improvement work, so we are on the lookout for all the help we can get, preferably from people with some experience of woodland management.

“This will encourage more people to use the wood and access the wider footpath network to the Iron Age Pirn Hill Fort and cairns from where there are stunning views of the Tweed Valley.

“The wood is already popular with walkers of all ages and abilities and has a picnic area with seating adjacent to the Cuddy Brig.

“The trust’s mission is to clear some of the overgrowth and improve the pathways to encourage even more community and visitor use of this natural asset, right in the heart of Innerleithen.”

The ICT, which will take over maintenance responsibility of the wood from the community council, was founded in 2004 to boost the tourism, business and heritage potential of the town.

The trust has already produced a local business directory, publishes a bi-monthly “what’s on” newsletter and organises the popular Sunday event when the town’s Christmas lights are switched on.

“The acquisition and improvement of Pirn Wood fits perfectly with our aims as a trust,” said Mr McGinn, who would welcome any offers of expert assistance. Contact him on 01896 830853 or email