Castle Woods is a semi-natural deciduous woodland of some 5.3 acres linking the designated and well-used local nature reserve of Duchess Woods to the heart of West Helensburgh at West King Street. Beech, birch and sycamore dominate the tree cover, although there is extensive ash regeneration along with a magnificent oak tree at the centre of the wood, which said to be around 150 year old. Ecologically, the woods form an important natural extension of Duchess Woods.
The northern part of Castle Woods is designated as a Local Nature Conservation Site in its own right. The whole of Castle Woods is protected by a Tree Preservation Order and designated as an Open Space Protection Area. It has also been identified as a Key Environmental Feature by Helensburgh Community Council.
Castle Woods has been badly neglected and poorly managed for many years. Until 2004, it was owned by the Ministry of Defence, but was then sold to Osborne Interiors, a firm of local builders. In 2006, this company submitted an outline planning application to replace Castle Woods by a housing estate of some 72 dwellings, claiming that the woodland had limited ecological value. This claim has since been rebutted by the McPhillemy Report (4.2MB PDF) commissioned by Argyll and Bute Council in 2012.
In 2015, HCWG commissioned Donald McPhillemy to provide an updated report on the current and likely future condition of Castle Woods. According to Mr McPhillemy, at least 10 years of neglect was evident in invasive species, blocked drains, trees leaning over neighbouring properties and low-level anti-social behaviour. He concluded that locally responsive community management was essential to reverse this decline in fortunes.
HCWG has objected strongly to Osbornes’ planning application. Our campaign to ‘Save Castle Woods’ has generated over 300 additional objections. You can download our objection here (42KB PDF) and register your own comments on the planning application here.
Our ambition is to acquire Castle Woods, undertake extensive remedial and enhancement works, and manage it thereafter for the benefit of local people and the local environment. To show how this could be achieved, we produced our own Castle Woods Draft Management Plan (1.5MB PDF) in November 2012. A community consultation exercise revealed strong local support for our proposals. We are now in the process of applying for the necessary funding to purchase the woods and implement the management plan.
With the redevelopment of Jutland Court underway to the west of Castle Woods, we decided in 2018 to update the draft management plan, taking account, where appropriate, of comments received during the earlier consultation and making the best use of the chance we now have to connect the redeveloped housing directly into the woods. You can download the Castle Woods Updated Management Plan here.
Look at our photogallery.