Newsletter Autumn 07

Further funding as COTE gains recognition.

The Communities on the Edge Project, operating in three communities ‘on the edge’ of large private landowning estates in South Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders is set to benefit from continued investment from The Carnegie UK Trust. A pledge of £100,000 will keep three full time equivalent ‘community animators’ active in the three communities, helping and supporting local people to create positive change in their places.

‘A huge amount of work has gone in over the past year’, said John Gold, Project Coordinator. ‘As well as the obvious things which have been achieved, such as the fabulous producer’s market in Langholm, there’s a whole lot of relationship building which has taken place and this new investment will let us build on that. This is when it could get really exciting and I’m confident that in the near future we’ll be seeing big things happen in the communities we’re working with’

Current projects include a successful monthly produce market in Langholm, a local women’s group in Douglas who are currently developing plans to regenerate local play facilities and a growing group/ allotment project in Langholm. In Yetholm, discussions are taking place around how to effectively address the need for local sports facility provision and in Douglas there are exciting discussions taking place around how to regenerate a Brownfield site in the centre of the village.

‘It’s still early days with many of the projects. There’s often a perception that we’re here to do things for people, and that’s not the case at all. We’re here to help people to help themselves and to do that we need people! Local buy in is essential. If the passion for a project isn’t there, then ultimately it will fail. This is about working with people on their priorities- that’s where you find the passion essential to drive things forward’

The bigger, longer term aim of the project is to create sustainable rural businesses and jobs which are in harmony with local wishes and within environmental carrying capacities. Sustainability has to be built in form the start though, and that means taking a look at things through a long term lens. ‘Take the Women’s Group in Douglas. They want to apply for funding to install some new play equipment. It’s a worthwhile project, and the outcome will benefit the area hugely. But it won’t change the world. However, what we’re doing is about the process just as much as the product. The women we’re working with are new to this; it’s a huge undertaking for them. In the face of funding applications and having to deal with the local authority, it would be understandable if they gave up. That’s where we can help though. We can support them to tackle these issues head on. And in developing this project, they’ll be gaining the skills and knowledge, and most importantly the confidence to tackle something bigger next time! The kind of social enterprises which will give us the jobs and rural businesses we’re talking about need to be nurtured’

The COTE Project is part of a bigger UK-wide agenda. The Carnegie UK Trust has invested in it as part of their ‘Rural Action Research Programme’. Their recent ‘Charter for Rural Communities’ was met warmly by many in the rural community and this work will contribute to that ongoing work. ‘This is about influencing policy makers, demonstrating practically what can be achieved in partnership with landowning estates and learning from it all as we go. We have a unique story to tell about COTE, and to have that story heard on a national and worldwide stage is an incredible opportunity’. ‘The project isn’t revolutionary either’ stated John. ‘It’s firmly rooted in the traditional values of honesty, trust and openness. These are the things which I think are critical to the project’s success. We’ve quickly realised that it’s not just about what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it. Maintaining open and regular discussion with the wider community about any project which we’re involved in let’s people know that their opinions are valued and needed. That way, they’re far more likely to support the project’.

There have been failures along the way too. ‘It’s not all been a success story’ said Sarah Peters, Project Coordinator, ‘But so long as we learn from the mistakes and apply that learning to other projects, we’re hopeful that we can help local people to effectively address not only some of the issues which affect them today, but the ones which will affect them tomorrow too. ‘These are exciting times to be doing what we’re doing in our own places. Carnegie’s financial support will enable us not only to continue to do it, but to do it effectively’.

For further information about any of the projects outlined above, or the COTE project in general, please contact John Gold on 07747447719, or email

Muckle Toon market goes monthly

Exciting news from Annette Paterson Community Animator for the Communities on the Edge project in Langholm. Following a taster day in May with over 20 stalls of mixed food and craft local produce COTE facilitated a discussion meeting where a committee formed and “ The Muckle Toon Producers Market” was born. Markets are held the first Saturday of every month selling locally produced food and crafts.

The first Muckle Toon Producers Market, held in Langholm last Saturday, 1st September was a tremendous success, with more than twenty stallholders in attendance, and a café area serving tea and scones. The Market was formally declared open and the tartan ribbon cut by this year’s Cornet, Andrew Johnston. There were over 500 visitors from all corners of the region, and further afield, including Cumbria, Yorkshire, and Newcastle. There was even a group of exchange students from France who had been visiting Langholm, who bought produce from various stalls and had an impromptu picnic on the lawn, also buying local produce to take home as gifts.

Feedback from visitors to the market was extremely positive, emphasising how suitable the location was, and how good it was to see the sheer variety of stalls: meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, honey, vegetables, bread, baking, beer, soup, wool and crafts. Folk were very pleasantly surprised at the wide range of quality food and crafts made in the local area. The fresh ingredients for a hearty meal of seasonal local produce, plus something special to wash it down with, could have been bought at the Muckle Toon Market for a price within an ordinary household budget.

Not only did the market attract visitors, but it brought increased business to the town as a whole, with one local hotel reporting a considerable increase in lunchtime trade.

The market will now be held regularly, on the first Saturday of every month, and we look forward to seeing you there.

The Market Organisers would like to thank Andrew Johnston for getting the Market off to a fine start; Mr A. Scott of Scotts of Langholm for his kind donation, which will help with the overheads incurred in running the market; and the Scott Hay Gallery for allowing us to hold the market in such a lovely setting, which many people commented was ideal for this type of event.

For further information, please contact Sharon Graham (013873 80457)

Rise recorded in lekking numbers.

The Southern Uplands Partnership has been working to address the decline in black grouse for several years. This current project, staffed by Tom Adamson, started two years ago and finishes at the end of September 2007. Funding for this work has come from SNH, RSPB, Scottish Borders Council, Leader+ and the Biodiversity Action Grant Scheme. For Toms report on progress.

During the project the population of black grouse has been monitored each year in the spring when the males take part is a display called lekking where males congregate at the ‘lek’ and display.

Over the two years the number of lekking males has seen a rise within the project area of 13 males. This increase has largely been on associated with landholdings where gamekeepers work to provide red grouse shooting. By providing the perfect conditions for red grouse through predator control, heather burning and wet habitats for chick-rearing, there has been a small increase the survival rate of black grouse.

Within this project area the importance of gamekeeping has increased over the two years. In 2006, 66% of the black grouse recorded within the project area was found on keepered ground, this increased to 77% in 2007. The population on keepered ground over this period increased by 38% whereas the population on un-keepered ground decreased by 17%. This illustrates clearly that the work carried out by keepers is important if black grouse are to thrive. Two landholdings out of the fourteen with black grouse present within the project area stand out as well-managed grouse moors; these two alone hold 48% of the local black grouse population.

Closure of the main agri-environment schemes (Rural Stewardship and Forestry Grant Schemes) has resulted in many of the management plans that have been produced not being implemented. These plans are now awaiting the new funding schemes which should start in 2008. Much ideal habitat has however been created through organisations such as Borders Forest Trust. The future for black grouse with Ettrick and Yarrow is dependant on continued habitat enhancement and the efforts of gamekeepers. Work is now going into the development of a much larger upland project that will seek to benefit a wide range of species and habitats in the future. It is likely that black grouse will be a major part of this larger project and will almost certainly be used as an indicator species of well managed uplands.

Squirrel Pox update and Red Squirrel Week events

Early May this year saw Scotland’s first outbreak of Squirrelpox in red squirrels. Since then 3 more sick squirrels have been found in the Lockerbie area and were later confirmed to be suffering from the fatal disease. To find out more about this virus and its impact on the red squirrel population in the south of Scotland and events you can attend during Red Squirrel Week.

Squirrelpox virus is carried by grey squirrels who do not suffer any ill effects of doing so. If a red squirrel contracts the virus it becomes lethargic and develops scabby, pussy lesions around the eyes, feet, mouth and genitalia and will die of secondary infections at about 15 days. Once the virus is in red squirrels they are highly infectious so it is important to remove diseased red squirrels from the population in order to reduce the spread of disease. To this end we are also asking members of the public not to feed squirrels where red and grey squirrels are present as this could facilitate the spread of disease. Any sick or dead red squirrels should be reported to the Red Squirrel Conservation Officer for your region and sent off for post mortem if appropriate. We are always looking for sightings of red and grey squirrels so do get in touch if you see any. As always traps, training and blood kits can be provided to anyone who wishes to help control grey squirrels.

Red squirrel week is 30th September to 8th October. Richard will be giving a slide show and talk on red squirrels at Paxton House, Berwickshire on the 4th October to mark Red Squirrel Week. Please contact Richard for further details.

There are no activities planned in D&G because Ann-Marie is leaving the project at the end of Phase III (September 30th). Ann-Marie is off to New Zealand indefinitely! Contact details for her replacement will remain the same.

To celebrate National Red Squirrel Week the Ayrshire Red Squirrel Group will be holding a guided walk in the magnificent setting of Craigengillan Estate near Dalmellington on Saturday October 6th. Places are limited and booking is essential. For further details or to book, please call Shona Munro on 01292 520929 or see

For information or to report sightings in Dumfries and Galloway please contact: 

Red Squirrels in South Scotland, Carlow House, Locharbriggs, Dumfries, DG1 1QS.
Telephone 01387 711804 or mobile 07733 121837.
E-mail: Website:

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


Galloway gets Slow Food Group

There are plenty of people passionate about food in Dumfries & Galloway, which is why Graeme Hume ex Co-ordinator of Savour the Flavours organised an open meeting in Kirkcudbright to look at interest in starting a Galloway Slow Food group. What does slow food mean? Honest food, locally produced, simply prepared and passionately consumed.

The inaugural meeting of Galloway Slow Food took on the 11th September at Kirkpatrick’s Restaurant in Kirkcudbright, and organised by Graeme Hume, formerly the co-ordinator of Savour the Flavours.

The key question discussed by the 29 people attending was ‘What is Slow Food?’. The Slow Food movement was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life and is now a world network committed to changing the way food is currently produced and consumed.

The people who attended were all passionate about food, and were able to sample some tasty treats, enjoying canapés from local foods and talking about what Slow Food means to the people of Dumfries & Galloway. Graeme gave a short presentation outlining what Slow Food groups do in other regions of Scotland and this stimulated discussion.

Graeme was delighted with the high numbers of people keen to take part in a Slow Food group. He said: “With the increasing awareness of the origins of food and growth in producers markets in the region it was felt that the time was right to establish a Slow Food Convivium in Galloway.

“A number of suggestions were put forward for how this could work and these included campaigning to educate about the benefits of consuming good, fair and clean food or a dining club meeting at selected restaurants to enjoy local and regional food. Other ideas were a web site database for the public and trade to source local foods to connect producers and consumers and assist with the distribution problems that so many encounter in Dumfries & Galloway and a group trip in 2008 to Turin – the home of Slow Food.

“The passion and interest in food was very reassuring. Many opportunities were highlighted, one being visits to producers – to help people engage with and understand traditional production and manufacturing methods. While one member, Ben Weatherall, was so passionate about the movement that he had just organised a Slow Food ‘picnic’ roasting 5 year old mutton and lamb.”

The lively discussion concluded that a further meeting will be held in about 6 weeks at a different restaurant. Anyone interested in hosting the event please contact Graeme Hume on 01557 814648 or email


International centre of excellence on climate change launched in Dumfries

The Crichton Carbon Centre is a new development in international efforts to tackle climate change. The centre will offer both short training courses and an MSc in Carbon Management.

Combining academic excellence with hands-on experience, the expert team at the new Crichton Carbon Centre in Dumfries is working to find sustainable solutions to global warming, as well as to communicate advances in energy efficiency and alternative energy sources to businesses and the wider public.

With support from several inspirational advisors, including local rural development advocate, Dame Barbara Kelly of the Crichton Foundation, founders Dr Mary-Ann Smyth and Gillian and Vimal Khosla secured long-term funding and academic support for the Carbon Centre in less than 3 months. Local resident and former SUP Director Dr Mary-Ann Smyth began driving forward ideas for the Carbon Centre in early 2007, in response to the growing global agenda on climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gases. As a Director of RSK Group, one of the UK’s top environmental consulting firms and the main business sponsor for the Carbon Centre, she was in the key position to combine business insight with academic rigour, and was keen to address the need for experts in energy efficiency.

Other key players in the establishment of the Centre were dotcom entrepreneurs Gillian and Vimal Khosla, whose considerable business expertise aided in both the shaping of the Centre, and the designing of its role as a social enterprise combining R&D with training, teaching and outreach.

Backed by UK-wide business and unviersities, the Carbon Centre provides short training courses on all aspects of carbon management for organisations keen to reduce their carbon footprint. It also offers a range of postgraduate courses in carbon management, including the MSc in Carbon Management from Glasgow University (due to start October 2007), and research and development opportunities in energy efficiency, low carbon building, and renewables.

The first short course will be Sustainable Construction and Low Carbon Buildings (6th and 7th of November 2007 (provisional)) covering legislation, guidelines and trends; siting, such as possibilities for solar gain; construction materials; low energy design and renewables.

For information please visit or e-mail to register your interest.


Interest in small scale renewables continues to grow
1,500 people interested in alternative energy sources for heating and power descended on the Auchincruive College campus near Ayr for the second renewable energy fair organised by the Energy Agency.

Visitors to the Fair, the most recent of a series held across the South of Scotland highlighting small scale renewables, received information and advice from the 26 standholders representing manufacturers and installers of heat pump systems, wood-fired heating and solar water heating systems, wind and hydro turbines, wood fuel suppliers and a process to enable vehicles to run reliably on used cooking oil. They also listened to talks by ten of the companies represented and some watched the film about climate change, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.

Interest in small scale renewables continues to grow

1,500 people interested in alternative energy sources for heating and power descended on the Auchincruive College campus near Ayr for the second renewable energy fair organised by the Energy Agency.

Visitors to the Fair, the most recent of a series held across the South of Scotland highlighting small scale renewables, received information and advice from the 26 standholders representing manufacturers and installers of heat pump systems, wood-fired heating and solar water heating systems, wind and hydro turbines, wood fuel suppliers and a process to enable vehicles to run reliably on used cooking oil. They also listened to talks by ten of the companies represented and some watched the film about climate change, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.

The Provost of Ayr, Winifred Sloan, after taking in one of the talks and touring the stands, said “This really is an eye-opener. The equipment you can now get to help reduce your energy costs and your carbon footprint is clearly very well developed and accessible. The companies here today aren’t from hundreds of miles away but almost all Scottish and many have agents in Ayrshire.”

Liz Marquis, Director of the Energy Agency, said “When the Scottish Executive launched its Renewables Initiative in 2002 there were seven companies offering services in Scotland. Today that number has risen to over eighty plus a large number of sub-contractors working with them. It is a spectacular increase which was much needed and it is now easy to get alternative quotes for solar, heatpump or wood pellet systems, for example.”

The event also marked the launch of a new local enterprise, Scottish Woodfuels Group, a co-operative of mostly Ayrshire-based businesses all with an interest in supplying wood, in the form of chips, logs or pellets to any customers, from secondary schools down to individual households. Simon Craufurd, one of the founder members said “The purpose of Scottish Woodfuels is to give confidence to any potential customer, be they a Local Authority, a business or a householder, that if they invest in an environment-friendly wood-fired heating system, the quality and reliability of their local fuel supply will be backed by the whole Scottish Woodfuels network with its quality assurance and supply back up systems.”

Ayr MSP John Scott and a number of Councillors joined those keeping the standholders talking and the Farm Shop also did a roaring trade. Joe Fergusson, Renewables Development Officer with the Energy Agency, said “The 30% grants offered by the Scottish Executive for installing renewable energy systems along with the installer accreditation scheme have been successful in boosting the market. Hundreds of householders in South West Scotland have taken advantage. With the oil price having just reached a new high, we expect this to continue.”

Nick Sparks from Scottish Agricultural College was delighted with the increased interest in the Green Technology courses offered at the Ayr campus.

Read some more of our articles

More News