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.’’