MOVES are under way to transfer ownership of a "magical" woodland to the local community.
Acquiring the land has been a long-held ambition of the Aultnaskiach Dell charity which was established to maintain the popular four-acre facility, known locally as The Glen.
It is a haven for wildlife including red squirrels, owls and pine marten.
The volunteer force is thrilled at the prospect of taking over as official guardian of the woodland from owner Aithne Barron (84), who saved it from the axe more than 40 years ago.
She and her husband John (90) bought the land to protect it from wholesale felling and are now planning to give it to the community. A few legal hoops still need to be jumped through, but locals are thrilled at the gesture. The charity’s chairwoman, Gina O’Brien, said: "I’m really excited at the thought of the dell going into community ownership.
"We’ve got some way to go but the intention is there from the trustees and we’re unanimous."
Mrs Barron, of nearby Culduthel Gardens, is delighted at the prospect of the community owning the land.
"It’s a wonderful, magical place," she said. "When we had dogs we used to walk them through there every day.
"It was going to be sold to a wood cutter and clear felled. Of course, it would have been just a jungle if that had happened.
"Someone contacted us in a great panic about it so we decided to buy it, to save it from being cut down.
"More recently, a neighbour asked if we had ever thought of giving it to the community. Of course we had, for years."
The site is a glorious swathe of mature, broadleaved trees between Drummond Road and Island Bank Road and the woodland is believed to be a similar age to nearby 200-year-old Aultnaskiach House.
In recent years the charity has cared for the amenity, raising the necessary funds for tree surgery, training and equipment.
It has had some support from the Inverness Common Good Fund, Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Forestry Commission.
It has hosted a series of volunteer events to control invasive vegetation, to plant trees and to gather wood fuel for sale.
The dell is often used by local primary school pupils, Millburn Academy biology students and the School of Forestry.
The charity has acknowledged challenges ahead as the woodland is overstocked, preventing natural regeneration.
The wood is of variable quality and invasive species such as rhododendrons and ivy pose a threat if not controlled.