Arran Community Land Initiative (ACLI) update December 2021
The Annual General Meeting took place in November and was well attended with 20 members and several interested observers coming along. The Chairperson and Treasurers’ Reports summarized the activities of the past two years and the focus for trustees over the next year. Both the Chairperson (Nick) and Treasurer (Jo) stressed the importance of individual people’s contribution to ACLI, whether as trustees or volunteers, and thanked them for all their efforts.
The main points were:
• Prior to the pandemic weekly ‘Gardening for all’ activities had taken place at ACLI, led by Darren of Green Futures Arran, with a group of volunteers who enjoyed both the social and practical aspects of gardening. The pandemic restrictions meant that this had to change and instead a small group worked hard to increase fruit and veg production for distribution to those across the island who needed it. The community garden expanded in 2020 from being a ‘demonstration allotment’ to a larger, more intensively productive area.
• As a result there is now an area which can produce a lot of fruit and veg, more than the volunteers probably need. Watering polytunnels, mowing, weeding, sowing, transplanting and planning what to grow is labour-intensive and while we can mothball raised beds if not needed, we prefer to make constructive use of the community garden.
• The volunteers most involved with the community garden have agreed to take the lead on planning, watering, weeding and organising the community garden. Trustees have asked that they submit a plan covering how they intend to manage the garden, and, given the number of volunteers and time involved, how much of the community garden it is realistic they can manage to start with.
* Funding was made available to support charities during covid. Trustees were able to pay contractors to strengthen the barn, fence more growing area, erect and repair a donated polytunnel, improve drainage and support increased production of fruit and veg.
* The pandemic meant that organised volunteer days and events became difficult, given restrictions placed upon us. As lockdown eased, we were fortunate that we could open up a bit with outdoor activities. In the future ACLI needs to do more to highlight opportunities for volunteering across the site.
•The carbon audit conducted by ACLI’s agricultural adviser shows we are already sequestering far more carbon than the 32 hectares produces. In global terms it is a small area but trustees want to maximise carbon absorption by trees, shrubs, hedges, grassland and soils.
•Over the past two years we have planted thousands of native deciduous trees on the slopes, primarily Oak and Aspen plus others including Bird Cherry, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Hazel, Goat Willow. We have another 500 to plant this winter. This will gradually create a wooded landscape on the slope and help absorb much more carbon, bind the slopes and reduce water run-off.
Keen to get involved?
On Saturday 11th December we will be planting trees from 10am onwards. Come and join us.
Alternatively come along any Thursday morning at 10am to take part in Community Gardening, tree planting or general land maintenance.
We would be pleased to see you!
•Britain has lost nearly half of its biodiversity since the last Ice age and especially since the industrial revolution. We are planning different habitats on the land to promote as much biodiversity as possible. These include woodland, scrubland, hedging and meadows. Environmental grants will be available in 2022 to support these aspirations and our agricultural adviser will help us apply for these grants.
•We also know that having large herbivores such as horses and cows improve biodiversity and the ecology around them. When and where it is possible to do so we would like to fence areas to support conservation grazing.
•We received a grant to put two wader scrapes into one of our fields. These provide an area for breeding wading birds such as snipe and water rail to nest and collect invertebrates for their chicks. We were also provided with a wildlife camera to position near the scrapes. Recording breeding numbers could make a good school project.
•We have 12 allotments on site and if there was interest could make more available. We can also offer half plots as it can be overwhelming to take on a whole plot. It is great to see the differing ways people use their plots and polytunnel.
•Many people walk or ride horses across the site. Walking is clearly a popular form of recreation and we want to extend tracks over time to allow better access to more areas, particularly as we develop different habitats. We are thrilled to receive a grant to build 700 metres of track from the Glenashdale exit to the track passing the on-site quarry. This should be built over the winter and form the backbone of other paths we can create/enhance in coming years.
* Trustees are keen to hear from anyone or any group about using the communal facilities or the site in general. We have a person who grows plants for dyeing material, another group has used the hub for willow weaving and we are in discussion with another group on creating an orienteering route across the site
•The past two years have made it difficult to organise structured educational activities. We managed to set-up several days of primary school activities in the autumn of 2020. Two trustees took turns driving the bus and another trustee with Darren from Green Futures led the activities.
•We think that the site offers much to further the aims of the Curriculum for Excellence, especially as we develop different habitats and children can learn about climate change, local food, biodiversity and gain practical rural skills. The environmental science teacher at the High School, Craig Barr, is keen to develop this and is now one of our trustees.
• Even with available one-off grants, our regular income is just about enough to cover insurance, tool replacement and occasional but necessary contractor costs. We need to keep fences in good repair if we are to retain our horse tenants. We can now claim basic agricultural support payments which give us increased income; however any future developments clearly require continued sources of funds.
In the future the aims of ACLI are to:
•Improve biodiversity and maximise carbon capture;
•Enhance educational links and improve access across the site for recreation;
•Further community involvement in using the site and work towards greater sustainability.