RURAL economy secretary Fergus Ewing went down to the woods this week - and came away with assurances rather than surprises.

The Holyrood politician was given a guided tour of the community-acquired Eshiels Woodland.

The seven hectare forest, which was formerly managed by Forest Enterprise Scotland, was bought by Peebles Community Trust (PCT) under the Community Asset Transfer Scheme earlier this year.

Plans for the scenic woodland include enhancing the landscape, improving biodiversity and public access as well as developing a small-scale woodfuel supply to local businesses.

Trust members also want to develop education and training opportunities, and they intend to safeguard an important cycle route alongside the River Tweed.

Mr Ewing walked through the woodland on Wednesday with members of the PCT.

Following the visit he told us: "The case that PCT put forward for community ownership very clearly indicated a high level of focus and commitment within the community and a robust plan for the future management of the site.

“Sustainable productive management of the woodland will generate income for community benefit but over and above this, they will also use the site for a range of activities focussed on education, training, learning and outdoor activities.

“I wish them every success and hope that their experience will inspire other communities to consider taking a closer look at the opportunities for community asset transfer near them.

“Enhancing Scotland's system of land ownership and land use, balancing public and private interests while ensuring that our land contributes to a fairer and more just society, is a top priority for the Scottish Government."

The Eshiels Community Woodland sale, which was completed in January with funding from the Scottish Land Fund, is one of seven successfully completed asset transfers in the country.

And many more are in the pipeline.

Eshiels Community Woodland lies next to the Tweed, within a Site of Special Scientific Interest as well as a Special Area of Conservation.

It also has around one-kilometre of the Sustrans Tweed Valley Railway Path running through it.

Lawrie Hayworth, who is the chair of the PCT, believes a lot of community benefits can come from ownership of the woodland.

He said: "From the very early stages of this process, we have had a vision of a place that would become a focal point for our community.

“We aim to encourage local people and visitors of all ages, abilities and interests – to come along and get involved.

"This is an amazing opportunity to strengthen community cohesion and to promote sustainable living, learn new skills and develop new business connections.”