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A stunning transformation of the popular woodland surrounding Forth Valley Royal Hospital has made it a perfect place to boost healthy lifestyles.
The revitalised woodland and its new facilities were officially opened today (30th Sept) by Environment & Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse.
During the opening, Mr Wheelhouse toured the woodland using the new path network and unveiled an impressive newly-built timber pier, which gives scenic views over a peaceful loch. He also met children from Larbert Primary school who were trying their hand at willow weaving.
The transformation of the greenspace is the result of a partnership project aiming to encourage more people from the hospital and community to visit the woodland.
Opening the new and improved Larbert Woods, Mr Wheelhouse said:
“Woodlands can be a perfect place to get some exercise and simply recharge the batteries.
“The new facilities found in Larbert Woods are a fantastic new asset and help create a welcoming environment. The improved greenspace, new walks and viewpoint will help stimulate the senses and boost active lifestyles, providing a natural healing environment.
“Patients can also find a peaceful place to get gentle exercise and relaxation to aid recovery from operations or illness. In essence, Larbert Woods can act as our natural health service.”
Forestry Commission Scotland and NHS Forth Valley are driving forward the project with support from Central Scotland Forest Trust and Falkirk Council.
The upgrading of the woodland has been carried out over the past three years and has included the appointment of a community ranger, tree planting, upgrading of existing paths, cycling tracks and the protection of wildlife. The new timber framed pier was made from wood donated by local firm James Jones & Sons Ltd.
It is well documented that having attractive and accessible greenspace close by can provide health benefits. In a recent survey by Forestry Commission Scotland, over 80 per cent of those asked said their physical and mental well being had improved by visiting woodlands.
Tom Steele, NHS Forth Valley’s Director of Strategic Projects & Facilities said:
“We recognised early on the importance of providing accessible greenspace for our staff, patients and visitors and this ‘green oasis’ is already benefiting patients. It is linked very much with the aspiration of NHS Forth Valley to improve health and well being and safeguards the management of the site in perpetuity.”
Gordon Harper, Forest Commission Scotland’s local ranger at Larbert:
“The woodlands are vital to the community as it is the only recreational greenspace in the Larbert area.
“Many dog walkers, walking groups and a few horse riders use the woods regularly for exercise. The local primary schools, nurseries and community groups are also regular users and we’ve had patients from the hospital using the greenspace as part of outdoor recovery programmes.
“We want to build on this and encourage more people to come and enjoy the woodlands as they are a fantastic place to go to boost healthier lifestyles.”
Mike Ewart, Sustainable Development Officer at Central Scotland Forest Trust, said:
“The Forth Valley Royal Hospital woodland project has transformed the area into a positive feature for the community to enjoy. Its location adjacent to the hospital means the site will continue to provide patients, visitors and staff with a valuable and accessible recreational green space that can be further enhanced for many years to come.
“As a partner, we were responsible for managing and delivering the majority of the access improvements on the ground. The landmark project has succeeded in bringing the site back into positive and sustainable management for the benefit of the environment and the local community.”
Councillor Adrian Mahoney, Falkirk Council’s spokesman for culture, leisure and tourism, said: “The local areas of Larbert and Stenhousemuir have seen a lot of new housing development over the last 10 years. The area around the new hospital is now a great green space resource for residents, as well as patients and visitors to enjoy. All the partners involved in this project should be congratulated on their efforts.”
Joint Managing Director Ian Pirie of James Jones and Sons Ltd said:
“James Jones and Sons Ltd were delighted to be able to support Forestry Commission Scotland on this project, and supply the main timber sections for the new viewing platform at the hospital. Using Scottish Douglas Fir that was cut in our Kirriemuir saw mill and kiln-dried at our Aboyne mill, it is very pleasing to continue our association with timber in the Larbert area, close to where the James Jones family started selling timber over 170 years ago”.
Notes to news editors
1. The Larbert House estate dates from the late l8th and early l9th centuries and has been in public ownership since the l920’s when it was acquired and developed for a national mental health hospital, the Royal Scottish National Hospital. This closed in 2002.
2. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland.
3. For news, events and recreation information log on to
www.facebook.com/enjoyscotlandsforests For Twitter: www.twitter.com/fcscotlandnews
4. Tha FCS ag obair mar bhuidheann-stiùiridh coilltearachd Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìonadh, a' cumail smachd air agus a' leudachadh nan coilltean gus buannachdan a thoirt dha coimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidh agus, ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh gnàth-shìde. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
5. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0131 314 6508 0r 07771 730 509 or Julie Wilson, NHS Forth Valley on 01786 457243.