SUP Newsletter Summer 2010

We are delighted to announce that Dr Joan Mitchell has agreed to take over from Sir Michael Strang Steel as Partnership Convenor. Joan has been involved with the Partnership for several years and has a wealth of experience of rural development in Dumfries & Galloway.

We are also pleased that Ann Fraser (SRPBA) and Mike Fraser (RSPB – no relation) joined the Board at the recent AGM. Ann is the power behind the “Borders Festival of the Horse” and is also a farmer as well as being active in access and tourism. Mike is a writer and naturalist as well as being the RSPB Conservation Officer for the Lothians and Borders.

John Sellers has been appointed as Project Officer for the Partnership. John has been working on the Nith Estuary nature-based tourism project since November and will now be doing both jobs.

Nith Estuary Nature Based Tourism

John Sellers

Project Officer, John Sellers, has continued to promote the project to the businesses of the Nith Estuary National Scenic Area through face to face meetings and attendance at various business and community meetings.

Meetings have been had with individual members of an emerging ‘Industry Working Group’ from which a format and ‘agenda of activity’ has been developed.  The first formal meeting of the group will take place during early September 2010 with joint marketing seen as a priority for the winter season.

A visitor monitoring programme is being developed by the Scottish Agricultural College in consultation with the Project Officer.  A set of initial meetings has been planned for late August during which an outline approach will be described and views sought from the industry.  Final development will then take place with aim of beginning ‘on the ground’ works, including training of local businesses, during the autumn of 2010.  It is intended that what will be developed is an approach that will be replicable in other areas.

Various ‘Learning Journeys’ are being planned in an attempt to reveal to local businesses both the potential of the area, possible approaches to its development and to develop strong links to other areas already taking advantage of their natural resource.  A series of evening events, through which local ‘experts’ will seek to make the tourism industry of the Nith Estuary National Scenic Area more aware of the natural offer in the area, is planned to begin in September.  A trip to the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is programmed to take place in mid-September.  A potential Finnish partner organisation with much experience and success in developing and promoting nature tourism has recently come forward and it is hoped to present an application for LEADER support for an exchange visit to take place later this year to the LEADER Local Action Group October.

The Solway: A World Class Destination for Nature Tourism?

It is widely recognised that the Solway Firth and its surrounding forests, dunes, mires mudflats and beaches can offer a nature based experience that has few peers; however, it is clear that it doesn’t take full economic advantage of its position.  This is not because the area is not creditable in worldwide company, rather that is suffers from a lack of cohesion regarding its packaging and its presentation and from a historical lack of investment in key areas of the visitor experience.  The reasons for this are many; however, through an on-going increase in partnership and cross-border working it is believed that the potential now exists for the challenges to be faced and meaningful responses to be made.

Impetus for a change to this long standing situation is also growing from an increasing number of quarters, including:

  • The debate and activity surrounding the developing Marine Conservation Bills.
  • The Crown Estate’s recently released list of potential renewable energy sites.
  • Increased pressure on the area’s biodiversity from forestry interests.
  • Increased worldwide interest in the concept of ‘nature tourism’ and the ensuing increase in the number of ‘competitor’ regions.

Whilst various organisations across the Solway are working to capture the potential that locations and sites in the wider area have, there is no one organisation that is looking to drive a ‘Solway wide’ approach to capturing its economic potentials offered by a coordinated approach to nature tourism, though many from ‘both sides of the water’ have expressed genuine interest and commitment to the concept.

With its growing experience via the Nith Estuary project (see above), the SUP is central to the development of a project that will coordinate the establishment and promotion of the wider Solway area as a world class destination for nature based tourism and will pilot practical approaches to taking advantage of the resource.  Such approaches will be based on sound understandings of both the needs and demands of the natural resource, its owners, managers and exponents as well as those of the private sector investors that will be needed to provide the ancillary facilities, such as accommodation and catering, that will be required to attract an increased number of visitors.

For more information please contact Project Officer John Sellers on 077177 67936.

Saints and Sinners

Janet Butterworth of the Whithorn Trust (see ) and John Sellers of the SUP recently held an informal meeting a John’s request after he’d heard of the Trust’s interest and work regarding the proposed ‘Saints and Sinners’ long distance path.

Janet explained that it is intended that the Saints & Sinners route is looking to rely on ‘organic growth’, rather than being an imposed construct and that it is hoped that a  series of working groups along its length will define its route and develop the associated ‘stories’ and factual background within an overall framework.

It is obvious that the route has a number of links to other planned and existing routes including the Ayrshire Pilgrim’s Trail (being developed and promoted by Mr James Brown, see and ) and the Cuthbert Way and it was thought that, in order to capture the obvious potentials offered, that a ‘conference day’ would be useful.  Its aim would be to crystallise and promote the overall Saints & Sinners concept and to ensure that a robust information exchange process is established within the Saints &Sinners project and between it and other routes.  The development of common ideals, standards and approaches could be discussed and agreed on as could the idea of seeking definition as a European Cultural Route for it and its linked trails.

Wider discussion expanded the general notion of the ‘Cradle of Christianity’ as a driver of economic development with Lindisfarne being cited as one approach that has a definite impact and the desire to see spirituality remain as an important element of any such experience.

There was a recognition that the farming community need to be fully engaged as the worry and real threat of litigation from people accessing land is growing and that there is a need for robust quality assurance within any ‘trail’ project including ancillary provision, e.g. accommodation and catering.

It was noted that the Saints and Sinners trail, and any associated trails/initiatives, might usefully be introduced to the emerging Destination Dumfries & Galloway organisation (see ) at an appropriate point.

John is now working to see if there is interest in a conference day, in establishing links to other organisations and (potential) partners and in discussing the merit of a central coordination role.  For more information contact him on 077177 67936.

New SUP Project Officer

In addition to his time spent on the Nith Estaury Nature Tourism project John Sellers has recently been asked to use his ‘spare’ days as the Project Officer for the Southern Uplands Partnership.  He has just taken an office at the WRDC Business Centre on Queen Street in Newton Stewart and is busy sorting phone lines, desks and the like, whilst trying to pick up and run with various projects.

His mobile phone number is 077177 67936 and I know he’d welcome a call if you have community, environmental or economic project ideas that we might help you with, or just call in for a brew and a chat at our new western ‘outpost’!

SW Scotland Biosphere

Progress with the Biosphere is speeding-up. There will be a meeting between key local partners and Roseanna Cunningham on September 16th at which it hoped the green light will be given for progressing to an application to UNESCO for redesignation. As much evidence of support for the Bioshere is needed as we can muster – so please, if you have not already done so, could you write a letter of support to:

Nigel Wallace
Ayrshire Joint Planning Unit
15, Links Road,
Ayrshire KA9 1QG

The text of a suitable letter is given below.

“Dear Mr Wallace

Proposed Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere 
We would like to express our support for the proposed application for Biosphere status. We believe that this will raise the profile of this part of Scotland and this will bring economic benefits through increased visitors and new opportunities to market local products and services. We hope that a successful application to UNESCO will be made as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

Please insert name and address of business or group.”

Borders Walking Festival

This years Walking Festival is almost upon us and numbers are up on last year which is encouraging. Visit for details.

The feasibility study commissioned for the potential site for an Eco-office in Canonbie showed that the site was not a viable one. However we now have good evidence of demand in that area and we are continuing to explore opportunities with partners.

2010 Scottish Borders Black Grouse Survey
This year’s Borders survey was broadened to include areas which had not been covered in previous years. We had the services of five volunteers and a contract surveyor to help our Uplands Habitat Enhancement Officer. A total of 132 personnel days were spent out on the hill counting a total of 230 males and 28 female Black Grouse. Encouragingly the biggest lek had 25 males although there were large numbers of single bird leks throughout the survey area. Obviously there is still much to do but as more habitat work comes into fruition through SRDP funding, numbers of the birds will hopefully start to increase.  Chris is now concentrating on advising land owners and their agents on how to improve upland habitats for wildlife like the black grouse. Contact him on 01750 725157 or

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrels in South Scotland
It has been all change in this project recently. Richard Wales has gone off to Kenya to help conserve Grevy’s Zebras. Alison Graham (who was covering for Stephanie’s maternity leave) has now joined RSPB. Stephanie is now back with us on a part-time basis and Karen Ramoo will start work as the SWT Conservation Officer based at Lindean Mill in September. Work continues to concentrate on controlling the spread of the squirrel pox and getting key land-holdings into the SRDP. Visit for further news.

Lochar Mosses

In conjunction with various other organisations, Forestry Commission Scotland are currently reviewing the future management of land in their ownership at Lochar Mosses in the Nith Estuary.  The views of local communities and neighbouring land managers are obviously vital in deciding how best to go forward. On behalf of SNH and FCS we recently commissioned an initial consultation to see what the main issues of concern would be. This will be followed by a more detailed socio-economic study later this year.  If restoration becomes a reality it would form one of the largest lowland raised mire complexes in the UK and a significant carbon sink for S Scotland.

Speak Up for Rural Scotland – what should the priorities be?

Should renewables be the top priority for rural Scotland? Or maybe it should be affordable housing? Or would you like to see better transport links? Six consultation questions have been added to the Speak Up for Rural Scotland consultation on the Rural Network website. Speak Up for Rural Scotland includes 37 proposed Step Changes from the Rural Development Council covering a whole range of rural issues from ferry fares to land management. The Scottish Government wants to know what Step Changes you would give priority to. You can have your say by adding your comments on the Speak Up for Rural Scotland consultation.

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