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.
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.
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!)
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.
19th Februrary 2015
We were delighted to receive a windfall cheque from Isle of Arran Distillers in our fundraising efforts for the project. The award-winning whisky producer pledged £2,000 to our crowdfunding campaign in a bid to give something back to the island that produces their famous Arran Malt.
Following successful funding from the Scottish Land Fund to buy 80 acres of disused farmland in December 2014, we’re now using crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to raise £6,000 to transform the site. We plan to create a range of community projects including nature walks, camping pods and mountain bike trails as well as community gardens. The land will also be used for delivering a variety of education courses including qualifications in land-based skills such as horticulture and as a space for outdoor learning for Arran schoolchildren and visiting groups.
The donation from Isle of Isle of Arran Distillers puts us well on track to meet our target and start putting our plans into action. Arran Community Land Initiative Treasurer, Juliette Walsh said:
‘This generous donation from Isle of Arran Distillers means that we are getting nearer to our crowdfunding target of £6,000 so the first year of the project is looking more secure. The money will go towards creating a community garden, access points and basic visitor facilities. If the total is achieved we can complete these elements and progress to launching landbased skills qualifications in the autumn.’
Isle of Arran Distillers, one of the few remaining independent whisky distilleries in Scotland, is one of the island’s most popular tourist destinations. They hope that their involvement will inspire other businesses on the island to follow suit. James MacTagggart, Production Director said:
‘As a former Director and Chairman of the Islay Development Company whose aims were very similar to this Arran initiative I am delighted that Isle of Arran Distillers have decided to support this project. From my experience it is difficult to raise the initial funding for these projects, but it is certainly more difficult to maintain the funding stream on an ongoing basis and I hope this £2,000 kick starts the second phase and encourages other businesses to give their support.’
Isle of Arran Distillers is amongst a number of local businesses supporting the campaign. Altachorvie Hotel in Whiting Bay held a charity music night in November, successfully raising £350 for the campaign. A number of other businesses have also offered a diverse range of goods and services for free or at cost for the group to use as ‘perks’ for contributors to the campaign. These include the donation of a couple’s two-night stay at The Douglas Hotel in Brodick, places on activity courses donated by Arran Outdoor Education Centre, stunning art photo prints by local photographer Andrew Surridge, Forest School family day sessions run by local Forest School Leaders, a bushcraft day out with local expert Mark Bunyan, printed ACLI tee shirts by Arran Graphics and tree pledges, whereby local tree enthusiast and expert Henry Murdo has offered to plant the critically endangered Arran whitebeam trees on the land in return for contributions to the campaign. The Arran Community Land Initiative team are also donating their own time and skills to run nature walks and guided mountain bike runs.
Chairperson Nikki Harris is thrilled and thankful to have the support of local businesses. ‘It feels like everyone is really pulling together to make this happen’.
The crowdfunding campaign is part of a pilot initiative by Highlands and Islands Enterprise who have contracted Scottish company Hot Tap Media Ltd to offer consultation and support to between three and four community groups in the region.
We have until 23rd March to raise the funds, and urge members of the public to get involved and offer their support by contributing to the campaign.
In the photo are, from left to right: Ben Tattersfield, Gordon Bloy, James MacTaggart (Production Director), Juliette Walsh (ACLI Trustee), Brodie Pearcey (ACLI Trustee), Graham Ormand, Nikki Harris (ACLI Trustee)
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.