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Summer 2007 Newsletter

Barbara Kelly honored.
SUPs President, Barbara Kelly, has been recognised in the Queen's birthday honours. Barbara has been made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her public service in Scotland.

Dame Barbara is known for her huge energy and commitment to Scotland, and the Southern Uplands in particular, and she fits a huge amount in to her very busy life. In addition to being a partner in a farming enterprise in Dumfriesshire she is, amongst other things, Convenor of the Millenium Forest of Scotland Trust, Convenor of the Crichton Foundation and Chair of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival. Barbara was the moving force behind the establishment of the Southern Uplands Partnership and we are all delighted that the work she does has been recognized in this way.


News from across the border - Cheviot Hills Heritage Project, Transboundary Park and Cheviot Challenge Riding Routes
In recent years, Northumberland National Park Authority (NNPA), in partnership with Scottish Borders Council and Berwick-upon-Tweed Borough Council, have been progressing an initiative that aims to establish a cross-border management framework to oversee coordination and cooperation of issues of mutual interest in the Cheviot Hills. As far back as 1991 the former Countryside Commissions for England and Scotland, together with Borders Regional Council and Northumberland County Council, agreed that a joint management framework was needed for the Cheviots as, in landscape terms, they are one unit requiring management as a whole. On the English side, the hills are an internationally recognised protected landscape but on the Scottish side merely an Area of Great Landscape Value with no special protection or resources.

To progress the initiative NNPA employed an officer, Iain Hedley, to scope the potential for cooperation, which included extensive consultations, public meetings in Wooler and Town Yeholm, and an independently facilitated meeting at Cornhill-on-Tweed. A Steering Group has been established, comprising councillors from either side of the border, local authority officers and representatives of Southern Uplands Partnership (SUP), Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England.

The next step will be to commission more detailed work that will provide the basis for a major long term initiative that will attract substantial external funding. It is hoped that this initiative will be rewarded with a Europarc Federation Transboundary Park…Following Nature’s Design award which recognises cooperation across administrative boundaries which deliver sympathetic management of protected landscapes.

In the meantime, a two year project that will encourage local people to take part in identifying and mapping the heritage assets of the hills, has gained financial support from the individual partners and from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is hoped that a Heritage Atlas of the Cheviots, linking sites with access, will be produced that will promote local heritage from a local perspective. In support of this work, SUP with support from SNH, recently commissioned an Access Audit of the Scottish side of the hills.

The Cheviot Challenge Riding Routes (CCRR) project was initiated by the British Horse Society (BHS) representative for Northumberland, Mrs Susan Rogers. Northumberland National Park Authority were initially approached for assistance with improvements to the route infrastructure but this partnership has expanded to include not only route improvements but also help with route surveys, the costs of a study trip to Ireland, and promotional materials.

The project has identified routes which can be promoted to riders wishing to bring their own horses for a riding holiday to explore sustainable, mapped, self-guided routes. The CCRRs link the principle valleys of the north Northumberland National Park – the Coquet, Breamish, Harthope, College, and the Bowmont Valley in Scotland with ‘there and back’ routes between identified accommodation providers who have facilities for both horse and rider, and experience of catering for riders ‘on the trail’. There are also circular routes where possible, allowing for variations in the riding time each day, and for rest days to be planned, using the same accommodation for a few days at a time.

Extensive work has been undertaken to ensure that these routes are as easy to use and sustainable as possible, with maps and route description prepared for each rider in advance of their visit.
At present these documents are in a relatively basic format, but we are hoping to develop them into PDF documents for download.

Although still in its early days, there has been an encouraging level of interest in the CCRRs, with a number of people having visited to ride them last year, and a number more already booked for this year. Due to the challenging nature of these routes, much of the interest has been from endurance riders and the hunting community.

Iain Hedley
4th July 2007


South West Scotland Biosphere – input to the consultation now.
Did you know that part of south west Scotland has been recognised as a globally important habitat by UNESCO since the 1970’s? It is a close kept secret that the National Nature Reserves of Cairnsmore of Fleet and Silver Flowe along with the Merrick Kells are currently designated as a Biosphere Reserve in recognition of their international conservation importance. This is the habitat equivalent of World Heritage Site. It is one of only 482 such areas throughout the world.

The Councils of Dumfries and Galloway, South Ayrshire and East Ayrshire, together with Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland are keen to canvas views on the future of the Biosphere in South West Scotland. The southern Uplands Partnership and East Ayrshire Woodlands have been asked to collect views on the future of the Galloway-Ayrshire Biosphere and they are now inviting people to find out more. Presentations and information will be available at meetings and events throughout the area over the next 6 weeks.

Every 10 years biosphere designation is reviewed. Under the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme, biosphere criteria were broadened to recognise that the long-term conservation of natural places, including such iconic landscapes as Yellowstone National Park, Mount Kenya and Uluru, requires a change in the way that we use the environment. UNESCO is looking to see communities, businesses and agencies working together to explore how local people can benefit from protecting the things that we value such as traditional skills, crafts, knowledge and culture as well as landscape and tranquillity. The aim is to keep people living and working in rural areas and nurture the local economy at the same time as protecting its biodiversity.

To maintain the south west’s status as a ‘special place for people and nature’ requires a much larger area to be designated. It must include the towns and villages around the conservation area and must be supported by these communities. The biosphere area might encompass Dalmellington, Maybole, Girvan, Newton Stewart, Gatehouse and New Galloway but no fixed boundary has been proposed. Application to UNESCO is entirely voluntary and the process will only be taken forward if people and organisations indicate that they see potential benefit from it.

In some parts of the world Biosphere status is being used to promote and market the area and its produce, encourage development of tourism opportunities and co-operation between traditional craft workers.

Further information is available through widely distributed leaflets and on the internet at www.sup.org.uk/biosphere. The partners are appealing for as many people and organisations as possible to send in response forms. Interested groups or individuals are also encouraged to contact Andrew Ward (Dumfries & Galloway) on 01671 820654 or Mark Davies (Ayrshire) on 01290 426973.


From the Cervenne to Creetown
Steven Lecyer, SUPs French placement student reports on live in the Cervennes Biosphere Reserve ….
SUP is pleased to welcome Steven Lecuyer from the Cervennes Biosphere to Scotland for a nine week work placement based in Creetown with Andrew Ward of Creetown Initiative. Steven is visiting a number of rural development projects and inputting to the Biosphere consultation which Andrew is organising in Galloway.

Although the Cévennes Biosphere Reserve stretches over a vast territory (more than 300,000 hectares and 153 communities) and has a general overall policy, the actions of the biosphere reserve are carried out on a smaller scale, in each of the different small valleys of the area. The inhabitants participate in the setting up of projects for their valley, by taking part in public meetings which take place in each valley. Then they carry out concrete actions which are in harmony with the natural surroundings. The protection and improvement of the natural and cultural heritage is thus not only the work of specialists, but everyone is, or can be, involved locally.

I live in the Galeizon Valley, in the south of the Cévennes and I’m going to describe the actions which take place there, which are representative of what happens throughout the Biosphere Reserve.

In the Galeizon Valley, the local communities (there are five villages in the valley) have, for several years, been involved in various actions concerning the management of the river; control of floods, educating the public about litter on the banks of the river, protection of the natural habitat. A river technician was recruited a few years ago. He works with the population and carries out actions with the primary schools. Recently for example, we had an environment day, where we worked together to pull out some invasive plants (Japanese knot weed, and ambrosia). These plants are dangerous for health (ambrosia can cause allergies) and bad for the river. They take over the natural habitat, which is willow and alder, which are the main diet of the beavers.

With Natura 2000, scientists have recently carried out an inventory of the flora and fauna of the valley. There are four families of beavers living in the river and also an otter. There are also fresh water shrimps. The local population is now aware of the rich biodiversity of the river and wants to help to protect it.

There is a project going on at the moment in which 14 unemployed people have been hired by the inter- council community for the upkeep of the forest. From the wood extracted, they make wood chips to sell locally for heating. It’s a successful project and creates employment and helps look after the forest.

We have also tried to protect the agricultural activity still present. Luckily, in my village, we still have a shepherd who has 450 sheep. In the summer he takes the sheep up to the Mont Lozère (1600 metres), where it remains cooler and there are green pastures for the sheep. My parents sometimes accompany him on the transhumance. When he is in the valley, he needs pasture land for his sheep and the local council has helped him to reach agreement with land owners for this. He helps to maintain the banks of the river and areas where there are fire risks.

There are also several herds of goats in the valley and the farmers make goat’s cheese which is called ‘pélardon des Cévennes’. They also see to the upkeep of the chestnut groves, which are symbolic of the Cévennes, making chestnut jam and flour to sell at the local markets.

Everyone realises the importance of maintaining agricultural activity in the area and in the recently updated planning documents the agricultural land has been safeguarded from housing.

In our valley there is also a heritage centre which presents the natural and cultural heritage, a bit like in Creetown. In particular, it presents the prehistoric engraved tombstones and rocks, the silk industry, which flourished in the 18th century and the mining industry which was important in the 19th and 20th centuries.

We are also trying to maintain the public services (post office, primary schools etc) in the valley and encourage new families with children to come and live here.

At the moment there is concertation in the valley to develop Agenda 21, the action plan of sustainable development for the 21st century. There have been several meetings with the public to develop a new programme of actions for the next ten years.

Living in a biosphere reserve is very stimulating because we try, on a local level, to carry out sustainable development with concrete actions. We try locally to link our goals and actions to the global needs of the planet.

I think that the region of Dumfries and Galloway is also very interesting. The landscapes are very varied and beautiful. You are lucky to have the hills and the sea together and not too much concrete around.

In fact the problems are similar to the Cévennes: the need to maintain village life, to create jobs so that young people can stay here. Finding a way of ensuring sustainable development of the region from the natural richness, local culture and beautiful landscapes is quite a challenge. I am very happy to take part in this movement by carrying out my work placement here.

LECUYER Steven


New format for Communities on the Edge report
Communities on the Edge (COTE) has produced a 6 month DVD Report. The footage lasts about 15 minutes and gives a good overall picture of COTE as well as outlining some of the projects which have spun off to date. A limited number of copies are available, if you would like to have one please contact John Gold at Communities on the Edge, Douglas and Angus Estates Office, Newmains Home Farm, Douglas.
Email
johngold@sup.org.uk
Tel. 07747447719


SQUIRRELPOX REACHES SCOTLAND!
The first case of Squirrelpox virus has been confirmed in a red squirrel near Lockerbie in Dumfries and Galloway. Squirrelpox virus is a disease carried by grey squirrels which causes them no ill effects. However, if a red squirrel contracts the virus it will die within 2 weeks.

More than 60% of grey squirrels in England and Wales are carrying antibodies (they are known to be ‘seropositive’). The first seropositive grey squirrel in Scotland was recorded in the Scottish Borders, in May 2005, confirming the movement of grey squirrels north from England.

Two years later, 90 seropositive grey squirrels have been controlled in south Scotland, 62 of those in Dumfries and Galloway and 28 in the Scottish Borders.

Grey squirrels are known to be migrating steadily north across the border into Scotland along identified routes. In Dumfries and Galloway, they are travelling along the Esk valley through Langholm and possibly along the River Annan and Water of Milk towards Lockerbie. In the Scottish Borders they are travelling along the Liddel valley through Newcastleton and around the edges of Craik forest. As yet, little is known about grey squirrel incursion into the southeast of the Borders and along the River Tweed. Members of the public, land owners and land workers throughout south Scotland are being asked to report both red and grey squirrel sightings. The Red Squirrels in South Scotland project operates a trap loan scheme for anyone wishing to assist with grey squirrel control.

Those living in the Lockerbie area are being asked not to feed red squirrels as this will draw the 2 species of squirrel together and may facilitate the spread of the disease. Any sick or dead red squirrels should be reported to the red Squirrel Officer for your region

Grey squirrels were first introduced to England in 1876 when they were released into the grounds of large estates as an exotic curiosity. 1892 saw the introduction of grey squirrels into the Central Belt of Scotland with releases in Edinburgh and Glasgow. They soon spread throughout Great Britain.

Prior to the arrival of grey squirrels, the red squirrel was widespread across the UK, now it can mainly be found in Scotland and north England. Scotland is home to around 75% of the surviving UK population. Squirrelpox virus was first confirmed in East Anglia in the early 1980s and has moved steadily northwards with the spread of grey squirrels. The mode of transmission of the virus is currently being researched by the Moredun International Research Institute and the Royal (Dick) Vet School, University of Edinburgh. The virus is the main cause of decline in red squirrel numbers although competition for habitat and food resources is also a major factor.

For information or to report sightings in Dumfries and Galloway please contact:
Ann-Marie MacMaster, Red Squirrel Conservation Officer for Dumfries and Galloway at:
Red Squirrels in South Scotland, Carlow House, Locharbriggs, Dumfries, DG1 1QS.
Telephone01387 711804 or mobile 07733 121837.
E-mail: ann-marie@red-squirrels.org.uk Website: www.red-squirrels.org.uk

For information or to report sightings in the Scottish Borders please contact
Richard Wales, Red Squirrel Conservation Officer for the Scottish Borders at:
Red Squirrels in South Scotland, Studio 2, Lindean Mill, Selkirk. TD1 3PE
Telephone 01750 23446 or mobile 07733 121838


Spring counts reveal more lekking males
The Black Grouse – Biodiversity on the Edge project is progressing well with management plans being completed for 13 key landholdings and habitat improvement work being carried out in key locations. This has included heather burning and fence marking funded by SNN and Leader+ for which the project is very grateful.

The 2007 spring counts of black grouse on lek sites (the birds’ displaying arenas) conducted by project officer Thomas Adamson have been competed and reveal an overall increase of lekking males over last year of 12%.

The importance of predator control is apparent from the following observations.
Back in 2006, 55% of the black grouse counted were on keepered ground, the remaining 45% being counted on un-keepered ground. The numbers on keepered ground increased to 68% in 2007 with the remaining 32 % on un-keepered ground. Between 2006 and 2007 keepered landholdings had a promising increase in male birds of 40%. Sadly un-keepered landholdings suffered a decrease of 18%.

The project will continue to promote habitat management and legal predator control and await the opening of the new agricultural schemes in the hope that these will allow appropriate prescriptions to be implemented to benefit black grouse into the future.

Thomas Adamson
Black Grouse Conservation Officer
Southern Uplands Partnership
Studio 2
Lindean Mill
Galashiels
TD1 3PE
Office: 01750 725157
Mobile: 07917892648
e-mail: tom@sup.org.uk


Renewable Energy Comes to Gatehouse of Fleet
The community of Gatehouse of Fleet has joined the renewable energy revolution and will soon be enjoying the benefits of wind power. After four years of hard work by members of the Gatehouse Development Initiative, Barbara Kelly officially opened their new wind turbine. Sited at the nearby Cream o’ Galloway Visitor Centre, the electricity generated will be bought by Cream o’ Galloway and used for the manufacture of ice cream. This will give the community group a stable long-term income to use on a variety of projects, all of which will enhance the area for the benefit of the locals and the wider community in the longer term.

David Steel, Chairman of the Gatehouse Development Initiative (GDI), said after the opening ceremony: “The Gatehouse Development Initiative looks for innovative ways to help improve the quality of life and the environment in and around Gatehouse. This scheme will do both. Over the next 30 years the turbine will give the GDI much needed funds to provide leverage in attracting other grants for our projects on a long-term basis, and so the benefit to our community will be far more than just the value of the electricity generated. I’m sure that in future years projects like this will become more commonplace, but for now we’re delighted to be one of the first pioneering this innovative partnership approach to renewables development.”

The turbine, made by Atlantic Orient Canada, stands 25 metres high and will generate 50kW in a 27mph wind, and was chosen to match the particular needs of the site. .

Wilma Finlay of Cream o’ Galloway, said “The turbine is the perfect size to suit the energy needs of the factory while minimising impact on the outstanding local environment, which is of course central to everything we do at Cream o’ Galloway. “We’re delighted to work in partnership with GDI on this exciting project, which reduces our carbon footprint and, through the funds generated, will provide an asset base to enable a range of community projects to attract match funding. We’ve already had many positive comments about the turbine from our visitors at Cream o’ Galloway, so we’re confident it will have the added benefit of enhancing the experience our visitors have by letting people get up close to a turbine and learn about why renewable energy is so important.”

The initiative has been made possible by funding from the Scottish Executive’s Scottish Community & Householder Renewables Initiative (SCHRI) and Leader+ Dumfries & Galloway.

Local SCHRI development officer, Joe Fergusson, said: “This project is particularly interesting because of its structure. Rather than simply saving the community group’s energy costs, as is typically the case, it will provide income for other purposes. We hope the turbine should produce around 65,000kWh each year, worth around £7,000 after maintenance costs, and reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions by about 840 tonnes over its 30 year design life. Also, this is the first turbine of this size to be funded by the SCHRI so its performance, to be carefully monitored by Cream o’ Galloway, will be of great interest to other community groups.”

Barbara Kelly, after declaring the turbine active, said: “Having been here for the opening of the Visitor Centre many years ago it gives me great pleasure to see its continuing development. This partnership with the local community is an excellent example to other rural businesses and one which Leader+ was pleased to support.”

This project is being part-financed by the European Community Dumfries & Galloway 2000-2006 LEADER+ Programme and the Scottish Community & Householder Renewables Initiative


Call for Experts from Carbon Neutral Biggar
It has been suggested that it would be really helpful for the Carbon Neutral Biggar project to establish a data base of expertise.

John Riley says “We have been astonished and delighted at the number of experts who have come forward to offer help and advice but we have not yet listed them all for future reference.”

If you are happy for Biggar Carbon Neutral to contact you for help occasionally, please email John with your contact details and just two lines which explain your product or area of expertise / assistance.

Please note, the list will not be made freely available, it will only be used by people within the working groups, which at present is only about 15 people.

John Riley

17 Moss Side Crescent
Biggar
ML12 6GE
Tel: 01899 229429
Email: john@saocc.org.uk
Websites: www.saocc.org.uk
www.carbon-neutral-biggar.com
www.biggarsambaband.com


CatStrand on course to open in September
The development of The Old School, New Galloway is nearly complete. The building – to be called The CatStrand after the small stream that runs underneath it – is on course to open in September 2007. The project is running both to time and to budget.

This major community regeneration project has attracted a wide range of partnership funding to achieve its £1m capital budget, with nearly 20% having come from the private sector. A further application has been made to the Big Lottery Fund for 5-year revenue funding from September.

The CatStrand, once completed, will promote activities that help to address some of the challenges posed by 21st Century life including access to technology, health and wellbeing, life-long learning and the environment, through workshops, classes, exhibition, film and performance. It will also offer neutral space to hire for meetings, training sessions and conferences.

Partnership agreements have already been established with Castle Douglas IT Centre, the RSAMD, Dalry and Castle Douglas Schools of Ambition and the NHS. Further partnerships with other regional and national organisations are planned and a close working relationship with the Glenkens Business Association is in place.

GCAT has been nominated and short-listed for a number of Awards in 2007 by Leader + and Arts and Business.

For more information on GCAT visit www.glenkens-arts.com and www.glenkens.net

The GCAT office has provided a base for SUP Project Officer Flora McDowall for the past four years, it has been a great place to work and sharing an office with the GCAT team will be missed! We look forward to reporting on the opening of the CatStrand and the exciting events planned for this new centre in the Glenkens. Visit www.catstrand.com.

 

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