The Southern Uplands Partnership Membership

As I’m sure many of you are aware the current austerity measures are having a major impact on charitable organisations like the Southern Uplands Partnership. Core funding has completely dried up and to cover the costs of our core staff we now have to depend on donations and fees raised by managing projects. Without the former, we are not be able to generate the latter because project management fees only cover costs once a project is fully developed and funded. A lot of work has to be done to get to that point – and indeed this is perhaps our area of greatest expertise. Our track record shows the range of projects we have been able to establish over the last few years, between them bringing several millions pounds worth of investment to Southern Scotland.

We have recently carried out a fairly major review of our priorities, and have agreed the priority areas that the SUP should focus on are;

  • Rural Tourism
  • Community scale renewable energy
  • Community facilitation/capacity raising
  • Upland Habitat Enhancement
  • Financial sustainability of SUP

However to allow this work to continue we are asking our supporters to pay an annual subscription to the Partnership. The rates are set out in the SUP membership form (click here) and start from less than 50p a week for an individual. We are asking supporters to consider signing the gift aid declaration as this allows us to reclaim an additional amount from HMRC. We are also encouraging people to pay by standing order as this saves us administration costs.

As an added incentive, all those who set-up a standing order before the end of October will be entered into a draw and the lucky winner will be offered a free weekend in a Borders self-catering cottage which has been generously donated by a supporter.

All subscribers will continue to get our regular e-newsletters and will be invited to forthcoming events and meetings. All members are also invited to our AGM where they help elect Directors to the Board.

If you’d like to discuss any of the projects that SUP is involved with, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The Board of the Southern Uplands Partnership very much appreciates your support.

Yours sincerely

John Thomson

Scottish Rural Parliament comes to the South

The Southern Uplands Partnership has teamed up with colleagues from Scotland’s Rural Parliament to run four local discussion event which are offer an opportunity for the people of Southern Scotland to share ideas, debate issues and offer solutions to the challenges facing our rural communities.

The first event takes place in The Mill on the Fleet, Gatehouse of Fleet on September 22nd. The second is in New Cumnock Afton Football Club on the 23rd September. We’re in Moffat Town Hall on the 25th September, with a final one in Caddonfoot community hall near Galashiels on 29th September. All the events will run from 6 – 8.30pm.

John Thomson, Convenor of the Partnership said “This is a valuable opportunity for people in the region to find out more about the Scottish Rural Parliament and to contribute their opinions to the discussions that will take place at the very first Scottish Rural Parliament later this year. I urge you to attend the event if you can and help us to share the challenges and achievements experienced by our local communities.”

The very first Scottish Rural Parliament will be taking place later this year in Oban, Argyll & Bute.  The three day event, from 6th – 8th November, will bring together 400 decision-makers, organisations and people from rural communities across Scotland.

The Rural Parliament will produce a shared vision for rural Scotland with identified actions to be taken at community, regional, national and EU level, whilst celebrating the strengths and achievements of rural communities.

Unlike most Parliaments, a Rural Parliament is a bottom-up process of discussion and debate which anyone can participate in, rather than people being elected to represent other people’s views. Over the coming months there will be lots of chances to get involved. You can register for updates and find out more at:

To book your place at any of the local Rural Parliament events, please contact Ed Forrest (

Explore for a Day 
Central Borders FAM Trip

August 21st 2014

In August SUP led their third and final FAM Trip (familiarisation trip) of 2014 in the Scottish Borders. Despite the heavy showers almost 20 delegates joined us for a day out exploring the central Borders, making new contacts and learning about new places and experiences they could highlight to their customers and guests.

Seats on the bus booked out really early with 12 people who had been on previous FAM trips requested to go onto a reserve list. The reserves were asked if they would be interested in travelling behind the bus and be willing pay for their own lunches/refreshments if the coach remained full. Everyone was very happy to do this and so we had 3 cars lined up to take them around the route.

Guides and Venues

Abbotsford House- delegates had a whistle stop tour of Abbotsford House and Grounds with John Hawkins. As we had arranged a private tour we were taken though an area of the house not normally shown to the public. The group really enjoyed the tour and the general consensus was that most would return to explore further and recommend the site to visitors.

Scott’s View-Andrew Panter related a little of the natural history of native woodlands for the group when we stopped at Scott’s View. Many people commented on how informative they had found this – maybe this could be expanded in future trips?

Temple of Muses – Dryburgh Abbey Hotel provided a well presented al fresco morning stop – white linen/French waiter /fresh coffee/homemade shortbread just beside the temple on the banks of the Tweed before Erica Niven talked to the group about the history of the folly.

River Tweed/St Cuthbert’s Way Walk – Erica Niven introduced the group to some native plant species along the banks of the Tweed and related local folk law.  On reflection, this walk was too long and the path too narrow for a large group. Also, we had to take the delegates on a detour via St Boswells as some of the path had recently collapsed.

Smailholm Tower – Our planned picnic had to be moved inside the tower due to the heavy rain earlier in the day. However, this became an unexpected treat for delegates as they ate a delicious lunch made of Scottish Borders produce by the Juicy Meat Company in the former kitchen of the tower. During lunch Dr Chris Bowles gave a potted history of Smailholm to the delegates and Erica Niven told them a folk story. Many people commented on Chris and Erica’s knowledge and expertise having thoroughly enjoyed two very different presentations.

Kelso Abbey – Dr Chris Bowles led the group around the Abbey and gave a knowledgeable and engaging presentation on the site before tea/coffee was served by a waiter from Ednam House Hotel.

Fly Casting at Middle Pavilion – delegates were given a fly casting demonstration and a talk on the economic benefits of fishing for tourism businesses by Fishpal. This was followed by a one to one lesson with an instructor on two different fly casting techniques. Everyone really enjoyed this activity.

Feedback was very positive with over 70% of attendees requesting contact details of other delegates so they can continue to network and promote their businesses to each other.

Planning for a Greener Scotland

Monday 3rd November
Lochside House Hotel, New Cumnock

Scotland’s natural environment is one of its finest assets. At present the way that information about key species and habitats is incorporated into the decision-making process varies greatly across the country. This conference led by Dumfries and Galloway Environmental Resource Centre (DGERC) will explore the issues relating to collating, sharing and using information about the natural environment in decision-making, and highlight examples of best-practice.

For more information, please contact Mark Pollitt at DGERC 01387 760274 or

Community Projects

The South of Scotland is lucky enough to have some great individuals who are really pushing a wide range of different projects that benefit are communities, here we highlight two projects taking place in the region.

Castle Loch Community Buy Out

In 2013 Castle Loch, the surrounding woodlands and Lochfield Cottage came up for sale and the residents of Lochmaben and the surrounding Royal Four Towns rallied together under the banner of Castle Loch Lochmaben Community Trust to secure the funds to purchase this wonderful resource.

Covering 107 ha (275 acres) the Loch has a catalogue of special environmental designations for its birdlife, with some 200 species having been recorded on and around the Loch, including pink-footed geese, goosanders, willow tits and occasional sightings of osprey. Otters are loch residents and red squirrel forage around in the loch side woods. Thirteen species of dragonfly can be seen darting around the reeds of the loch fringes.

In January 2014 all the hard work came to fruition with the Trust securing the Loch for the town and the next phase could begin. Darren Flint, the part-time Project Officer, joined the Trust late February as the Project Officer, with a background spanning the RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, tourism development and volunteering at various nature reserves. His role is to help Castle Loch thrive as fantastic habitat for wildlife and a place all the community and its visitors to enjoy and be part of.

There are three main areas of focus over these early months. Firstly, to extend the existing footpath around the eastern side of the loch, creating a 4.5 km circular walk, secondly, to recruit many hands to come and volunteer at the site, and thirdly, to increase awareness of the history, uses and environmental importance of the loch through new interpretation materials, the power of social media and website; plus to run a series of public events.

Castle LochAs a rule of thumb there is a monthly weekend group on the 1st Saturday and a monthly weekday group on the 3rd Thursday. These usually meet at Lochfield Cottage, by the car park on the A709, and run between 10am – 1pm. The Trust is always on the lookout for special skills, be that storytelling, painting, holders of chainsaw certificates, joinery, gardening…

From ghost walks at the castle to children’s activities at the Forest School, there is a whole program of things happening around the loch. Some of these are put on by the Trust, while others are run by other groups that love the site.

Lochfield Cottage:
Presently this is the office of the Castle Loch Lochmaben Community Trust. Longer term they are drawing up a list of requirements to feed in to a feasibility study on its future use. Watch this space, one day it might be a ‘window on the loch’ visitor centre, a place to study aquatic science, somewhere to have a cup of tea or possibly sit, paint and while away a few hours.

Keeping in Touch:
Twitter: @castle_loch
Address: Lochfield Cottage, Priestdykes, Lochmaben, DG11 1LP

Lowther Hills Ski Club gets a new lease of life

Did you know that in the 1950’s the Lowther Hills were shortlisted as one of the locations for Scotland’s first ski centre?

It didn’t happen then but during the intervening years there was significant skiing and even an early ski tow and in 1986, Lowther Hills Ski Club was formed. The club hails from Scotland’s two highest villages, Wanlockheadand Leadhills, which boast some of Scotland’s oldest Curling and Skiing heritage. They are a volunteer-based, family-friendly club which promotes Winter sports and operates ski tows in the Lowther Hills in the South of Scotland.

In 2013 the Lowther Hills Ski Club elected a new Committee with experience in ski centre operations and a strong commitment to provide access to Winter sports for the wider public on a more regular basis.

A unique opportunity arose when the Pennines-based Harwood Ski Club closed and offered the chance to acquire their equipment and relocate it to Lowther Hill. With the help of funding from Clyde Valley Wind Farm they purchased the equipment and are in the process of securing the necessary permissions to install it on Lowther Hill.

The clubs new facilities are planned to include: a clubhouse, a 600 metre-long ski tow for intermediate skiers, and a beginners’ area with two 100 metre-long ski tows. The new equipment will allow the club to provide skiing for its members for around 20 days per season, whenever weather conditions are favourable and volunteers available, mainly during weekends and school holidays. It’s hoped the new facilities will be ready by December 2014 and will be the first step in developing new tourism opportunities in the region.

For more information

Local Energy Challenge Fund

Scottish Government have launched a new fund with £20 million  called the Local Energy Challenge to  coincide with the launch of the Community Energy Policy Statement which sets out the Scottish Government’s record of support for community energy and new ambition for holistic local energy solutions.

They are looking for large-scale local low carbon demonstrator projects which show a local energy economy approach linking local energy generation to local energy use. This could include projects looking to develop innovative distribution and storage solutions, and with an overall aim to create more local value and benefit

Expressions of interest are invited by 10th October from organisations such as a community group, registered charity, community benefit society, community interest company, local authority, registered social landlord, academic institution, third sector, or a commercial organisation.

There are 2 phases and applicants cannot apply to phase 2 until phase 1 is complete. Phase 1 is a £30k grant fund and Phase 2 is for grants up to £6million.

Expressions of interest to Phase 1 can be made by a single organisation or via a consortium/ partnership with a project lead organisation that receives funds and signs up to the grant conditions.

For contact details, expressions of interest  and further information please see

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