Southern Uplands Partnership - Completed Projects
The Southern Uplands Partnership was established as a Strategic Rural Partnership back in 1999. Since then it has continued to play a strategic role, but it has also been encouraged to deliver projects. This is partly because it is unique in being able to work across local authority boundaries and partly because funding for the strategic role is hard to find whereas project funding is relatively easy to secure. Project work has covered a wide range of issues over the last 14 years but some themes have come to the fore. The following will give a flavour of the sorts of projects the Partnership has developed.
Nature-based tourism. The Partnership commissioned an audit of nature-based attractions in the Borders back in 2003 and this was developed over subsequent years into an audit of the whole of South Scotland. Further work looked at how these sites could be clustered and in 2009 we were funded by SNH to try establishing a working cluster in the lower Nith estuary. This project subsequently grew into Wild Seasons (www.wildseasons.co.uk) which was awarded LEADER funding in 2012 and this project is still growing, now extending into the Borders, developing on-line capability and adding value to local festivals such as Wild Spring. Nature-based tourism has now been mainstreamed as part of National VisitScotland strategy and SUP is a lead partner in local tourism strategies.
Biosphere Development. Since 2006 the Partnership has been promoting the idea of a Biosphere Reserve in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire. Various projects developed the idea, garnered support and finally made the application to UNESCO in 2012. We delivered a 2 year “Building Opportunity in the Biosphere” project funded by LEADER and local partners from 2011 to 2013. Designation was confirmed by UNESCO in 2013 and since then a further three year project has been developed and this now employs three project officers to take the Biosphere to the next stage (see www.gallowayandsouthernayrshirebiosphere.org.uk )
Ettrick and Yarrow Valley Regeneration Project. In 2011the Partnership was asked to take the lead in a project intended to help the people of these two valleys consider a number of issues they faced and to develop a plan. Three years on, and the result has been the development of a vision document and an action plan and the establishment of a community development company with its own project officer to take the plan forward.
Capacity for Change (C4C) was a community development project developed by LEADER in D&G. They contracted SUP to help complete the project, working with 6 communities to deliver agreed action plans. The project was completed on budget.
Black Grouse and Upland Habitat Development. For a number of years we have been working with others to increase awareness of the importance of upland habitats and especially the black grouse population of the Southern Uplands. Significant survey work has been carried out and land managers have been advised on what actions are required to improve habitats making use of the SRDP. The Southern Uplands are now recognised as a priority area for black grouse.
Dumfries & Galloway Environmental Resource Centre. We took over the hosting of the D&GERC when Solway Heritage was no longer able to do it. The Centre provides access to biological information for Dumfries and Galloway and an expert interpretation of that data. It also runs events aimed at promoting understanding of natural heritage and collecting species information. Efforts are currently being made to extend the services the Centre can provide.
Communities on the Edge (COTE)
We worked with three communities (Langholm, Douglas and Yetholm) and three rural estate businesses (Buccleuch, Douglas & Angus and Roxburghe Estates respectively) to identify opportunities for new rural enterprises and to encourage development of these. Project completed January 2009 with a successful conference for land owners at Floors Castle with the publication of an Animators handbook. Langholm Producers Market was one significant and lasting result of this project.
Red Squirrels in South Scotland. The Partnership managed RSSS for almost 10 years before handing it over to Scottish Wildlife Trust. The project worked to maintain red squirrel refuge woodlands where viable populations of reds can persist in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway by employing project officers to work with foresters, agencies and the public. The project was extended for some time into South and East Ayrshire. The project employed up to 5 staff.
National Parks. The Partnership has been keen to raise awareness of the potential benefits of National Park status for parts of the Southern Uplands. We are also keen to improve the benefits for Scottish communities that live on the edge of the Northumberland National Park and we carried out the Cheviot Hills Access Audit to highlight the links that exist across the border.
South Scotland Countryside Trails. Southern Scotland has a significant horse population and a rich tradition of horsemanship. However, there are few obvious opportunities for visitors to explore the Southern Uplands on horseback. This project was awarded European and Lottery funding to develop a network of 350kms trails suitable for riders. The network is now there for businesses to take advantage of.
Farm Diversification In 2008 we developed a toolkit designed to help farming families within or close to National Scenic Areas IN D&G diversify into non-agricultural businesses based on high quality landscape and natural heritage. The toolkit is available on the SUP website.
New Rural Apprenticeships. This was a joint project with a number of partners from the Borders and South Lanarkshire to assess the provision for rural skills training in the light of forthcoming changes to rural development support and CAP reform.
Local procurement of Food. This started out as an investigation into whether more local food could be used in school meals but it grew into a study into the wider issues around local meat production and the need for a strategy to ensure local processing of meat remained viable. The proposed cooperatively owned Dalbeattie abattoir project grew from this study.
The Southern Upland Way is a major resource for South Scotland and yet it received far less attention than other long-distance routes. The Partnership has lobbied partners to review the way the route is managed and marketed. A major survey of users was commissioned in 2004 and this showed that those experiencing the route rated it highly. We worked with local artists on the Waymerks project and we unsuccessfully tried to raise funds for a land-art project. A Development Officer post was created but this was short-lived and the route is now being affected by wind farms.
Mountain Hares are a relatively little known species in south Scotland and in 2005 we commissioned a study into the current status of the species in the S Uplands.
The Southern Uplands from Coast to Coast was a booklet produced in 2005 to promote what made the Southern Uplands unique. It was mailed out to every school and library in the region and made available through Tourist Information Centres. Much of the information it contained is still available on the website.
Woodfuel and renewables. In 2004 we worked with Reforesting Scotland to promote the potential of biomass through a very successful trip to Kielder Village heating scheme. We also helped run a series of community events aimed at promoting small scale renewable energy technologies.
Bracken management. Bracken is a major problem for land managers and we worked to promote best management practice through a series of seminars, meetings and subsequently the production ofa Best Practice Guide which was sent out to every farm business in South Scotland.
Green labelling. In 2002 we commissioned a study into the feasibility of a green-labelling scheme for products coming from the Uplands. The resulting report is on the website.
A series of events has been held over the years aimed at increasing awareness of issues such as: CAP Reform; Local Food; Environmental Education; Integrated Rural Development; the lessons of the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease; Opportunities for Equestrian Tourism;