The Findhorn Hinterland Group

Annual Report 2013-2014


This year has been a productive and full one for the group despite turning out quite differently from what had been envisioned at the time of the last AGM.

1.       The Committee and Support Team.   Committee members were Jonathan Caddy – Convener, Duerten Lau – Vice Convener / NFA liaison, Judith Berry– Secretary/ Findhorn Dunes Trust liaison, John Willoner– Treasurer, Pete Salmon– Findhorn Foundation (FF) liaison, Eian Smith– Duneland Ltd liaison, Fay Blackburn as a Park resident and Kajedo Wanderer Forestry Advisor.  Yvonne Stuart stepped down as Membership Secretary as she left the area and was replaced by Adele Long who is doing a sterling job improving membership procedures and bringing fresh ideas for promoting the Group to attract new members. Sean Reed still gives advice on biodiversity issues but no longer attends committee meetings, Ian Purkis moved away back to Wales so is no longer on the committee and Kajedo released his role as Woodcutter Co-operative Coordinator and Forest Manager and these positions have been taken up by George Paul and Jonathan respectively. Also continuing to work on the committee’s behalf are Will Russell who is the Green Burial Coordinator, Jamie Bryson who works on the FHG website and Heather Paul who advises on lichens and continues to help put together an on-going photo record of the projects on the land.  A new support person this year has been Ariane Burgess who is the coordinator of the Edible Woodland Garden (EWG) project; she now reports regularly to the committee.   As before, the committee continues to meet once a month and once again the hard work of this group of people who volunteer their time and expertise to further the conservation and educational aspects of the organization and manage the land to the benefit of everyone in the local area and visitors alike, is highly valued and much appreciated. 

2.       Working towards a new Legal Structure.  The intention had been to carry on with the community group structure that the FHG started with and to develop a new management plan for this group.  However advice from Fiona Chalmers, a professional land manager, and Get2Grips with Grants, a company who we are now working with to help us gain grants for our various projects, strongly suggested that to secure the long term future for the land, ensure the larger amounts of money we deal with are not mishandled and to aid in getting maximum grant help, it would be desirable to change the structure to a charity.  We have been following this direction by engaging Fiona who has applied to the Heritage Lottery Start Up Fund to finance the change to a SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation) and this process will include public consultation in collaboration with the Findhorn Dunes Trust that would set the vision for the new organization and lead on to the new management plan that was talked about last year.  The other reason for this change is that it may be necessary to consult with more land owners as the ownership structure of the Findhorn Peninsula is changing: Findhorn Dunes Trust and Duneland Ltd as before but additionally the Findhorn Foundation and the new Findhorn Village Conservation Company which is in the process of buying out land from Novar Estates.  We expect to hear about the HLF grant by the end of April and the follow up work will take at least six months after that.

3.       Get2Grips with Grants and Grant Funding.  Jonathan took time early in the year to apply to Scottish Natural Heritage for grant funding for the management plan but this bid was eventually turned down.  After that the decision was made by the committee to use Get2Grips with Grants, a company dealing specifically with grant funding, to do the work of chasing grants for the FHG.  It is early days yet but this looks like it will be a useful way for the group to get grant funding without putting in excessive volunteer effort.  A fee of about 10% is paid to the company for their work but if it is fruitful it will be well worth this investment.  They operate a no grant, no fee policy.

4.       Work on the Ground.

4.1  Lyle’s Wood.  Clearance of gorse around the trees planted by Christopher Raymont over ten years ago was carried out.  This was inspired and encouraged by Elizabeth Marriot and her daughter Anna. Although the job has not been completed, about half of the area has been cleared reducing the fire hazard around the trees, allowing new trees to be planted in open areas, reducing gorse encroachment on the lichen bed in the valley and producing gorse mulch for the Edible Woodland Garden as a wood chipper was hired and the cleared material was chipped.

4.2  Ponies and Conservation Grazing.  Two ponies from the original four now remain on the land.  About a dozen fence posts had to be replaced in the paddock due to the speed of rotting in the air-rich, sandy soil.

4.3  Woodland Management.  Two organized woodcutter work parties were carried out working in the NE compartment of the woods and some cutters have spent extra days cross-cutting and stacking wood.  Delivery of firewood to the Park residents is no longer possible as there is limited wood now coming out of the forest.  It has been agreed with the Kinloss Army base that delivery of wood through the base would be possible and it is planned in the future to augment the wood supply to the Findhorn Foundation and the Woodcutters Co-operative in this way.

4.4  Fire Pit Area Agreement with Duneland.  The FHG Committee signed an agreement to take on the management of this area between the East and West Whins development so as to ensure the area is kept undeveloped and that its conservation and educational potential are maximised.   The group was seen as the best vehicle to implement these management objectives and some sensitive work on the ground should be carried out over the coming years.

4.5  Red Squirrels.  The last sighting of squirrels in the woods was the summer of 2013.  It is believed that cats have killed off the last remaining members of the population that inhabited the woodland but we remain hopeful that they may again re-inhabit the land.  No drey surveys were carried out this year.

4.6  Bird and Bat Boxes.  The committee agreed that there should be an annual budget set for making sure that there are new boxes put up every year.  Sean Reed has agreed to oversee this and the maintenance of existing boxes on behalf of the group.

4.7  Froglife and Wildlife Ponds.  It took Froglife longer to secure funding for their part of this project and this has delayed the installing of the ponds up in the area near the wind turbines.  We are expecting a visit over the summer and the ponds to be installed in the autumn.  We have committed to finding match funding of £2300 towards this project.

4.8 Wildlife Training Events.  A number of members attended a one-day Bumblebee Conservation Society event held at Culloden to gain more insight into these fascinating creatures that inhabit out land.  Others attended another one-day event on Edible Woodland Gardens organized and sponsored by the Community Woodland Association at Em Magenta’s forest outside Ullapool.  This was very useful in making connections with others interested in this aspect of working with the land and for gaining inspiration for our own project that as this stage is in its infancy.

4.8  Christmas Tree Social and Sales Event.  This is becoming a regular December fixture enjoyed by young and old with mulled wine and mince pies around a fire with non-native Lodgepole Pines being selected and cut on site for festive trees.  Many thanks go to the regular team as well as Jon Golding and Will Russell who gave extra support.

4.9  Other Land Management Activities.  Monthly work parties continue to be well attended and the usual essential tasks have been carried out in addition to those mentioned already including path clearance, track maintenance and young tree maintenance.  A further 420 trees, donated by the Woodland Trust, have been planted.  

5.       Educational Activities on the land

5.1  Kinloss Primary School.   Once again P6 were involved in woodland Forest School activities delivered by Wild Things in the autumn term and cycled to the site from the school.

5.2  Children and Youth in Community Playhouse and Woodland Camps.  This group, comprising of three to six year olds and based at the Park, has again been using the woods as part of their programme.

5.3  Wild Things!  This local educational charity has been using the shelter area to train their youth volunteers in the Forest School work that they do.

5.4  Duke of Edinburgh Groups.  The woodland shelter area continues to be used by groups of young people who are undertaking expeditions or training.

5.5  Edible Woodland Garden.  The group has supported Ariane Burgess to design and take on the implementation of this project. Funding has been applied for, the land has been cleared, terracing of the land using logs from the cleared material is well under way and some hedging around the garden has been planted.  The Drumduan Upper School based at the Park has been working on this project along with other work on the land led by George Paul.

5.6  Walks and Talks.  Ariane Burgess delivered a talk about the Edible Woodland Garden, Jonathan Caddy one on the work of the Findhorn Hinterland Group, Will Russell a talk about the Green Burial Site and Green Burials and Heather George delivered a talk about lichens on the land.    Steve Hull also did a walk and talk on bumblebees.  Ariane is in the process of having Get2Grips with Grants apply for grant funding to extend the educational programme of the group.

5.7  Woodland Xylophone Building Workshop.  This three day workshop was held by Elemental Community Arts as part of the Giants in the Forest programme set up by Creative Scotland and resulted in local people getting involved in a creative and practical project and at the end of it, the donation of the giant wooden xylophone which is located by the woodland shelter in Wilkies Wood.

5.8  Moravian Orienteers Event.  Collaboration and good publicity came out of a well-attended orienteering event on the land with Heather’s lichen display used to raise awareness and some good articles in the press about the land and its value as a special habitat.

5.9   Moth Trapping and Survey.  Gordon Hunter, a moth expert from the West Coast, visited early in the year and set up various light traps on the land to sample moths on the dunes, in the woodland and around the shelter.  He was open to getting others involved in this although only one or two members took him up on this.  He took photos of many species collected and his records were submitted to the Morayshire County Moth Recorder; they included some uncommon species from the dunes. 

6.       Green Burial Activities.   Will Russell has worked really hard on behalf of the group to secure pre-sales of lairs this year.  He has sold twenty-three single lairs (£12,569), four double lairs (£3542 so far and a further £600 to come in monthly payments) and received an additional seven maintenance fees (£2366) giving a total income for this financial year of £19,273.  Will receives 10% of this as his commission.  The Moray Council lair and burial fees having been increased by 20%, boosted sales; as the group maintain the same fees as these, the Green Burial sub-group decided that special offers would apply for a limited period before the fees were increased.  One burial of bones took place this year.  Maintenance of the site using various machines to cut back gorse was undertaken and a bench made from recycled whisky barrels was donated and now is positioned on site.

7.       Land Sale to the Findhorn Foundation.  This was initially delayed due to the Foundation not wanting to take on the liability of buying potentially contaminated land, which meant that the sale boundary could not be determined until investigation of the land had taken place.  SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) and the Moray Council (TMC) undertook major investigations of both radioactive material and ordnance.  A number of flares were found by TMC but no other ordnance or chemical weapons were found and SEPA mapped radioactivity which is concentrated in an old WW2 dump site to the north of the wind turbines.  Some hot spots were located but we were informed that as long as there is no excavation of the material there is no harm to the public from walking over the land.  The FHG took on a coordinating role during these investigations to make sure Scottish Natural Heritage, the Findhorn Dunes Trust, Duneland Ltd and the Findhorn Foundation were kept informed, the special nature of the land was clearly known about and that the investigations involved minimum damage to the area.    The whole process helped to raise public awareness about the value of the area as there was national publicity and coverage of the work.   The sale boundary was set after this investigation and the present delay is due to the slow legal process.  We continue to hear that the sale is immanent. 


Jonathan Caddy

Convener Findhorn Hinterland Group


21st April 2014

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Findhorn Hinterland Trust, Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) SC045806
228 Pineridge, Findhorn, Forres, Moray IV36 3TB