A RESIDENT of a Peeblesshire village has raised concerns over a cull of roe deer at a nearby woodland.

Sustainable West Linton and District (SWLD) was formed in 2019 and, shortly afterwards, was gifted a 50-year lease on Roamers Wood – a tract of land beyond The Loan and the Catwalk.

More than 5,500 trees have been planted, with an emphasis on providing nuts and fruit for the local community and wildlife.

But West Linton resident Doug Veitch, a member of the village’s community council, claimed there had been outrage over a cull of native deer.

Mr Veitch said: “I spoke to John Birchmore, the chairman of SWLD, and he said it was always the intention to cull the numbers of deer because trees are being destroyed.”

He added: “The trees haven’t been planted in a way to make them deer safe and there is no deer fence.”

On Monday evening, Mr Veitch asked West Linton Community Council members if they were aware of a deer cull taking place. All at the meeting said they were unaware.

Mr Birchmore said: “We have made no secret that there is deer control taking place while the newly planted trees get a foothold.

“The great majority of the users of Roamers Wood are fully aware that we are controlling the deer numbers through a culling programme.”

Mr Birchmore said that the land, previously used for grazing sheep, has been leased from a local landowner to establish a native woodland and encourage wildlife.

He said: “We have installed guards on as many trees as possible, but this is only part of the solution and deer management is almost always part of establishing a woodland.”

Mr Birchmore added that deer fencing would cost around £30,000 and would counter the objective of making Roamers easy to access.

“In the whole area, not just Roamers Wood, there is excessive environmental degradation taking place due to a high number of deer,” said Mr Birchmore.

“The deer population in Scotland is increasing because there is no natural control, which ultimately leads to welfare issues for deer competing for limited food.

“We are trying to establish an orchard, but some trees have been totally stripped of their bark by the deer.”

He added: “There are strict regulations, set by the Scottish Government, about which deer you can cull and when, in terms of the seasons.

“The meat is taken away, sold to a butcher and enters the food chain.”

Mr Veitch said: “The Catwalk has always been meadow, Roamers Wood has never been forest before and there’s always been a little group of roe deer, between five and eight in number.

“They have always lived in the meadow grazing and it was a pleasurable thing for people to see.”

Mr Birchmore said that Roamers Wood was already being enjoyed by the local community for walking, exercise, outdoor arts and activities for youth groups, as well as being used by the school for outdoor lessons.