Your Land In Your Hand.

Everyone’s doing it.

Buying land for their community. Land projects are springing up everywhere, especially on islands. Particularly Scottish islands, or so it seems. It appears to stem from, among other things, the need to take responsibility for the land around us, the need to take things into our own hands, often due to mismanagement and neglect by landowners in the past, and indeed by some of the mere 432 landowners who still own more than half the private land in Scotland. Scotland is behind the rest of Europe in it’s attempts to modernise and throw off the archaic laws still hampering the final demise of feudalism.

From the large, all island projects like Eigg, to smaller community garden areas on the mainland, places like Fairley, near Largs in Ayrshire, community land is no longer an idea held only by those with an interest in land reform. They are joined by a frankly, dissatisfied lot, with big dreams.

Many people have watched the dreaded creep of supermarket supremacy as it boils it’s way like lava down the high street, eating every little local shop in it’s path, and locking land up for god knows how long to rock solid retail. Others despair at the scarcity of proper healthy fruit and vegetables. The ‘Food is Free’ movement yells at us to realise there was a day when buying vegetables from a shop was a mark of wealth, or laziness.

Now, food products, take away, and processed conveinience foods are demonised by the very system that encouraged us to consume them in the first place, ‘Low fat’ and ‘Diet’ foods now being marketed at us instead. But, cultivating food and coming together in groups with a mutual goal brings health benefits beyond the consumption of the produce itself. I mean digging, of course. I mean vitamin D. I mean smiling, having fun, and a sense of satisfaction at the end of a busy day working in the sun with friends. It has been found that gardening and proper nutrition helps many illnessess, especially the now endemic and difficult to treat mental health issues.

Land owned by communities usually has a leisure element, people can get together and bike, hike, picnic, climb and walk in safety and fresh air. Children learn naturally, without technology, about the planet. Hands on. In real time. In real life.

Discovering what developers and landowners are about to do on your doorstep can become a constant and pointless task. Complaining about development sucks the joy out of communities. How much more fruitful to get together and buy a piece of land to set aside, secure in the knowledge that while a Tesco Express may pop up somewhere nearby, your children will at least know what proper food looks like.

Crowdfunding Launch

With the assistance of Highlands & Islands Enterprises, we are delighted to let you know that we have now launched our crowdfunding campaign.

The aim of the project is to raise funds for initial works on the land; establishing a community garden, improving access to the site and providing basic visitor facilities.

From the generous support of a range of Arran businesses, we have assembled a wide range of offers and ‘thank yous’ for those wishing to make a donation.

Click here for more details, videos and how to make your donation of support.

2015 New Year Update

ACLI was recently awarded £181,500 funding from the Scottish Land Fund to buy the land and kick-start the project. The purchase went through on 18th December 2014 and now the hard work begins!

The trustees are very keen to drive the project forward immediately and on 3rd January 2015 they organised a volunteer day on the land so that locals could get to know the area and clear brambles away from access points into the fields. It was great to witness the enthusiasm and support of many on a beautiful sunny day in the fields!

The group will shortly be appointing a part-time project manager, for which there is one year’s worth of funding from the Scottish Land Fund, to help implement plans for the land. Funding and planning applications will be submitted shortly for multi-use paths through the land so that people can walk, bike or ride through it. There is much planting work to be done with the development of an orchard and community gardens/allotments and improvements of hedges.

The group is, with the help of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, launching a crowdfunding campaign towards the end of January 2015, as further funds are vital for the long-term success of the project. There will be a range of goodies on offer to those who give small or large financial donations. These range from original ACLI designed T-shirts, tree-planting pledges including the rare Arran Whitebeam tree, through to adventure activites and hotel stays.

We’ve Joined Community Land Scotland

We’re pleased to let everyone know that we’ve joined Community Land Scotland, a leading group of community land owners across the Highlands & Islands.

Community Land Scotland was established in 2010 as a response to the need for a collective voice for community landowners in Scotland. It is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status.

The current membership includes Scottish community landowners – owning and managing approx. 500,000 acres between them – and aspiring community landowners of varying shapes and sizes throughout Scotland.

The group represents these existing and aspiring community landowners to reflect their views in promoting changes to legislation to empower communities, while acting as a point of contact for any communities in Scotland who wish to find out more about community land ownership.

You can read the most recent news, including a mention of our joining in the Community Land Scotland Winter Newsletter.

Successful Purchase of Farmland for Arran Community Projects

It is with huge excitement that the trustees on the board of the Arran Community Land Initiative are able to confirm that the acquisition of 80 acres of farmland above Whiting Bay has now been concluded by means of a grant from the Scottish Land Fund. It is thanks to overwhelming support from Arran residents, schools, groups, charities and businesses that this project attracted government funding when it submitted its application in March as well as the persistence of the trustees who worked with lottery administrators and solicitors throughout the autumn to follow through with the sale.

Ambitious plans are being developed to bring the 80 acre area of land back into use which will be of benefit to both residents and visitors to the island. These provisionally include establishing multi-use paths, a community garden area, grazing lets, and creating an area near the top of the site dedicated to mountain biking technical skills. There are also plans to roll out outdoor learning opportunities for schoolchildren and landbased skills courses for students and adult learners.

Throughout, the project will endeavour to find a balance between access and protection of the land’s biovidersity. Currently, volunteer Malcolm Whitmore is carrying out a year-long wildlife survey. In early autumn 2014 he noted a rich variety of flora, birdlife and native trees which included hazel groves and birds we tend not to see as often such as goldcrest and mistle thrush. The project is already attracting interest from education providers because of its multi-stranded ambitions. Starting from scratch on land which hasn’t been farmed for a number of years means that there will be a myriad of subject matter to study even to postgraduate level.

Treasurer Juliette Walsh says, “Being able to walk across the land without getting lost is of course the first priority! We hope to start up a working volunteer party very soon which will meet on a regular basis to help uncover old access points and enable young and old to get to know the land better and call it their own. You can join for just £10 annual subscription fee and you will be kept informed of the project’s progress and ways in which you can contribute. We welcome any help with any of the group’s tasks – from sending out emails, designing and putting up posters to helping to dismantle some of the decaying caravans on the land or helping cut back gorse or ferns during volunteer work party days. There are many ways in which to help ACLI, make new friends and have fun and feel fitter! Just get in touch.’’