A COMMUNITY group’s bid to buy two sections of woodland has received a near-£300,000 cash boost.

The Gifford Community Land Company has been exploring the possibility of buying Speedy Wood – to the south of the village’s Station Road and west of Tweeddale Avenue – and Fawn Wood, to the west of Station Road.

Now, the group has received a timely boost, after being awarded £291,520 from the Scottish Land Fund.

John Wrinn, chairman of the Gifford Community Land Company, was thrilled with the award, which was announced last week.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted; the whole team are proud and pleased that we have managed to be successful in the grant application.

“It is not everything, though, and there is still work to be done.”

That includes negotiations with the landowner over the price, with the group still looking to raise further funds.

Mr Wrinn added: “What happens now is we have still got to complete negotiations with the vendor, which we are doing as we speak.

“We have got to top up the rest of the funds to make sure we can meet the purchase cost and part of the grant was to employ a part-time project manager, who will work with us for three years.”

If all goes smoothly, the group hopes to have a deal wrapped up by the end of March next year.

The group has already agreed a business case for the woods, with exciting plans for the area.

Mr Wrinn told the Courier: “First of all, we have got to make it safe.

“We have got to improve access for all and we are working with Yester Primary School to provide educational opportunities and visits and we are already in discussion with East Lothian Council Rangers in that regard.”

Maintenance and management of the woodlands will also be covered, with Mr Wrinn hoping the group would leave a “legacy for the future”.

Announcing the funding, John Watt, Scottish Land Fund Committee, said: “One of the many strengths of the Scottish Land Fund is its ability to help provide solutions to both immediate and long term community needs.”

The group was also congratulated by the county’s MSP, Iain Gray.

He said: “I welcome this substantial award for the Gifford Community Land Company.

“Obviously, it gives a huge boost to the group’s objective of purchasing the community woodland adjacent to the village, including Fawn Wood and Speedy Wood.

“The volunteer-led group has come a long way in a short space of time and I wish them well with completing the purchase and developing the woods as a resource for the whole community.”