Summer 2018

Summer 2018 has been ACLI’s most productive yet! With volunteer days held every Thursday, successful open days, and school groups visiting to help out during term time, the community gardens have been bustling with life. Below are photos which highlight the success of this summer!

Visiting Groups

Groups from Arran High School and Whiting Bay Primary School have enjoyed learning and helping out in the community gardens, despite the often unpredictable weather that Scottish summers bring.

Thanks to Whiting Bay Primary School P6/P7s who have planted 70 native trees and looked after the veg patches as part of their John Muir award!

We had a fabulous day with 140 pupils from Arran High School and teachers with loads of teacher-led activities to get stuck into!

A tea party was held in the Community Hub, for Contact the Elderly!

Open Days 

Our open day on the 5th of May involved informative talks with visiting Apple expert, John Hancox, camp fire cooking and herb box making!

The open day on 28th July was busy with members of the community getting involved in activities such as ‘dig your own’ potatoes, camp fire cooking, den building, an Arran Bee Group hive demo, as well as relaxing strolls around the garden, allotments and orchards!

Arran Farmers’ Show

ACLI’s stall at the Arran Farmers’ Show attracted lots of attention from both visitors and locals. Luckily the rain stayed off until the afternoon, so the show was busy – a great opportunity for people to learn about the project.

Spot Cleo, one of our Trustee’s dogs, manning the stall!

Volunteer Days and Garden Produce

Below are some photos of our weekly volunteer days, and some of the bountiful produce harvested from the community allotments and poly tunnels this summer. Veg has been available throughout the summer for purchase at the hub building. We would like to say a massive thank you to all of our dedicated volunteers, allotment holders and trustees, and last but definitely not least – our modern apprentice Kieran, and two gardeners, Matt and Darren. Here’s to many more years of community involvement and local food cultivation!

For further information, photos, and updates on events and volunteer days please visit our facebook page:



Our Plans for 2015 – 19

disabled solar-powered compost toilet installed on the land in Dec 2016 interior view ->


Arran Whitebeam thriving in their first summer on the land 2016

range of volunteer tools bought with grant funding

Trustees Review November 2016

2015-6 was a very busy year for ACLI with the successful submission of plans for a community garden, allotments, polytunnels and hub. Grants, secured by Rachel Sedman, ACLI Funding Officer, came in and gave the project further momentum. 4 part-time sessional workers were appointed in April to take responsibility for delivering teaching elements of the project and Pippa’s contract as Project Manager was renewed for a further year thanks to funding from the Climage Challenge Fund and the Robertson Trust. Additional funding from Community Food & Health Scotland, the Postcode Local Trust and D’Oyly Carte, meant that establishing these plans could become a reality. It’s hard to believe how much has been achieved in the space of one year: the community garden, 12 allotments, a bee-keeping area, an orchard, a whitebeam tree area, the opening up and use of the quarry, paths and tracks made and repaired, taps installed, two polytunnels plus a hub building  – our thanks goes to all those who have volunteered on the land especially Andy McNamara for bringing up school groups from the Arran Outdoor Education Centre to plant the orchard and protect the trees with deer-proof cages. The session workers, Jenny and Andy MacDonald, Ceilidh Keyworth and Matt Searles have been working hard to deliver a staggering range of workshops: making your own natural beauty products, green woodworking, composting through to using pallets, successful veg. growing and kids activities. There is now a regular kids club on the first Saturday of the month and a group from Arran High School visit each week with Matt Searles for outdoor learning. Unfortunately there were not enough takers for the advertised UHI horticultural course to take place this year on the land but we hope that with further marketing by Argyll College and more evidence of infrastructure such as the polytunnels and a warm indoor meeting place,  this will start to happen in 2017.

Plans for Future Periods

We invited local experts to carry out baseline surveys of all flora and fauna over the last year and there are now plans to develop part of the upper site with a walkers’ path and bird hide overlooking the ‘wilderness’ reedy area. This area will be left as undisturbed as possible to encourage wildlife and it is hoped that wildlife walks could be provided. Two large fields will be mown for hay with a view to creating income from much-needed hay for local pony-owners. Pippa now sends out a monthly newsletter and there are plans to continue hosting visiting school groups particularly those that are interested in conservation work and the John Muir Award. There are plans for further tree-planting with deer-proof enclosures. The lower fields are now rented out with 6 pony lets in total. There is no further space for pony lets. Perhaps thoughts need to now turn to further income streams as the project strives to become more self-sufficient. Data will be collected on carbon-savings (results of composting and food growing) and submitted to the Climate Challenge Fund. Pippa’s role up to March 2017 is now to manage the sessional workers timetable and to submit claims and reports to the Climate Challenge Fund. It is hoped that with further successful funding bids she will continue in her part-time role as Project Manager through to 2018 and oversee the improvements of the site’s infrastructure as well as being the main contact for visiting groups.  Trustees continue to meet twice monthly and welcome any input from ACLI members. They endeavour to support Pippa and take on some additional tasks of grant form-filling, accounts, publicity and planning.



Following a successful ‘Strategy Day’ for the Trustees in September 2015 and last month’s AGM (2015), we are pleased to present some key objectives relating to longer terms plans for the land, as discussed amongst the membership.

These are of course a ‘work in progress’ are will evolve over time with input from the community at large as well as the Members and Trustees. They should be considered rough targets rather than objectives ‘set in stone’.

However, if  you follow the link below you will be able see our principal hoped-for outcomes  over the coming years, broken down by the areas of Income Generation; Educational, Training & Volunteering; and Environmental and Health Benefits.

Five Year Outcomes – Dec 2015


Orchard Update

We have won the Wee Apple Award for our orchard. The award was presented to us in Holyrood on 1st Dec. 2016.









Thank you to all the schools and the staff at Arran Outdoor Education Centre for tree-planting!








We are pleased to let you know that the Orchard Windfalls Fund to purchase 30 apple trees has been confirmed! These will be planted up in the autumn with the help of local schoolchildren. We are hoping that locals will donate other fruiting shrubs such as blackcurrant bushes which can also be planted up this autumn or in the spring next year. We need to erect deer fencing along the north boundary of this field area and have set up a textgiving fundraiser for this –  just text ACLI20 £3  to 70070 to help us protect the orchard.

ACLI Tee Shirts

Jan. 2017 – these T-shirts are now SOLD OUT! (new designs may follow soon depending on demand…)

Here is a photo taken today (22/5/15) of our wonderful new ACLI T-shirt in Azure Blue, great for the summer! Sizes from child 12-13 years, adult S,M,L,XL. £12.50 inc. postage. It is being modelled by some of our fabulous Board and newly-appointed employees (left to right), Juliette Walsh (treasurer), Pippa Downing (Land Manager), Rachel Sedman (Funding Officer), Nikki Harris (chair) and Ishbel Gordon (secretary). Keith Robertson our vice-chair ran off to a festival before the photo was taken (true!)

ACLI - Tshirt pics May 15 003ACLI - Tshirt pics May 15 007Woollen Woods b15 008Woollen Woods b15 007

Our Campaign to help the critically endangered Arran Whitebeam Tree

One of our conservation projects includes helping to save the Arran Whitebeam tree which is critically endangered. We have so far planted up 20 of them in a fenced area (to keep the deer from eating them!).  Here’s local expert Henry Murdo talking about the Arran Whitebeam.

Since 1869 when they were first mentioned in journals, the three species of whitebeam tree growing on the Isle of Arran have entranced naturalists and tree lovers. This is because Arran, and specifically the north end of Arran, is the only place in the world where they are found growing naturally. They are a hybrid of the rock whitebeam, and the oft sung of rowan tree, and have pretty leaves with a soft white underside, which show the mix quite clearly. Lovely white blossoms are produced after the snow melts, and red-orange berries come before winter. They are considered close to extinction by the World Wildlife Fund and although they have been studied and protected sporadically by various environmental organisations, including the Nature Conservancy Council who ran a reserve around them in Glen Diomhan from 1973-1991, (sadly it no longer has reserve status), there are far fewer left than in the 1950s.  Deer prefer nibbling them to almost any other native tree and sheep have been known to die for them: the trees that are left mainly live precariously between 100 and 300 feet up on craggy steep-sided rocks and visitors to the island are generally unaware of them.  Apart from deer and enthusiastic chain-saw wielders, both of which the island has in roaming herds, other threats to sorbus arranensis and her sisters the catacol whitebeam, (sorbus pseudomeinichii) and the delightfully named bastard whitebeam or cut leaved whitebeam, (sorbus pseudofennica) include habitat loss, overgrazing by sheep and the inevitable severe weather event, which could still wipe out the entire wild population.

This would be a shame, as the species seems to be incredibly old –  isolated here since the last glaciation period 11,500 years ago. Seedlings are clones of the parent tree, producing asexually, reducing genetic variation which makes them vulnerable to changes in the environment. There are, however, quite a few whitebeams in what you could call ‘captivity’. In fact, the sorbus arranensis is a bit of a must- have in some Arran gardens. They are useful for schools when teaching about the mechanics of evolutionary diversity in trees.  Their rarity has given them value in other respects with them being used as an interesting and thought-provoking  international gift. Four years ago, in twin ceremonies at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens, and in Knoxsville Tennessee, saplings were exchanged and planted by ‘Trees 4 Two Nations’. Arran got the beautiful rock chestnut oak, and Knoxsville got the lovely whitebeam, to symbolise shared ‘deep historical and cultural roots’ and the continued friendship between the two nations.

Henry Murdo of Corriegills on Arran runs his own tree-propagating nursery in his garden and knows all there is to know about these trees having busily collected and propagated seed and tended the saplings for years, in hopes of helping to stabilise and raise the population of these beautiful tenacious survivors on Arran. He explains that they they are extremely hard to propagate from seed and he has been experimenting to find its ideal germination conditions. Some of his trees go to enclosures on the Brodick Castle Estate on Arran but he is keen to see more planting in a variety of locations and explained to ACLI trustees that these trees are equally suited to lower land not just the craggy rocks in remote burns. Arran Community Land Initiative hopes to plant and protect several on their land lying above the coastal village of Whiting Bay.