When it launched back in February 2001 the Lottery funded Scottish Land Fund heralded a change in the pattern of community land ownership in Scotland. Now eleven years on a new Scottish Land Fund is set to launch, this time funded by the Scottish Government and delivered in partnership by the Big Lottery Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
As the launch of the new fund draws close we decided to catch up with one of the original Scottish Land Fund projects, The Gordon Community Woodland Association, to see what difference community ownership has made to this rural area.
In 2002 The Gordon Community Woodland Association successfully raised funding, including a £69,971 Scottish Land Fund award to buy the 200 acre Kircal Woodland in the Scottish Borders. Over the last ten years they have transformed the woodland using local industry and local labour to include a bridge providing easy access from the village; car parks; all ability paths, a pond area, picnic area, a cabin and interpretation maps for guided walks.
Margaret Fairgrieve, Committee member, Gordon Community Woodland Association, says; “At the time of the purchase we were, and to this day, still are the biggest community woodland south of the Highland line. In the last ten years we have added walkways to allow safe and easy access to the woodland and we have now built a cabin – which is an outdoor education centre for local children. It’s also used by adults of all ages to help them get healthy and active and we have a strong committee who are heavily involved and plan various things throughout the year, trying to involve as many local people as possible.
“If we hadn’t been able to purchase the land with the help of the Scottish Land Fund we would not have been able to take ownership of this valuable community asset. It really has made a big impact on our whole community and the people who live there.”
“I am now teaching my own grandchildren to respect this valuable natural resource as they are part of the future generations who will manage, look after it and respect it.”
The Gordon Community Woodland Association was one of 188 groups across Scotland to receive funding from the original Scottish Land Fund set up by BIG’s predecessor organisation the New Opportunities Fund. Of these projects 78 involved the acquisition of land from whole islands to small village greens.
The new Scottish Land Fund is set to launch in the coming week aimed at helping rural communities to become more resilient and sustainable through the ownership and management of land and land assets. Come back to our Scotland Blog on Friday 29 June when more information will be available.