Annual Report 2014-2015

The Findhorn Hinterland Group
Annual Report 2014-2015

2014- 2015 has been another productive year for the community group with much happening on the land, with the people who have been involved and in terms of steps towards changing to a more appropriate organisational structure.
1. The Committee and Support Team. Committee members were Jonathan Caddy – Convener, Kajedo Wanderer – Vice Convener, Judith Berry- Secretary/ Findhorn Dunes Trust liaison, John Willoner- Treasurer, Sasha Angus- Findhorn Foundation (FF) liaison, Pat Carol – Findhorn and Kinloss Community Council liaison, Bruce Wallace- Duneland Ltd liaison, Marilyn Gamble- New Findhorn Association (NFA) liaison and Fay Blackburn as a Park resident. Adele Long stepped down as Membership Secretary and was replaced by Chris Preece who has proved equally efficient and effective in this role. Support workers include Sean Reed who continues to give advice on biodiversity issues, George Paul as Woodcutter Co-operative Co-ordinator, Will Russell as 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. Ariane Burgess has also continued her role as the coordinator of the Edible Woodland Garden (EWG) project and has reported monthly to the committee with regards to the progress of the project. Once again many thanks goes to the inspired contribution each of these individuals give to make the work of this group happen gracefully and to the benefit of many within the local community and beyond.
Discussions with the Findhorn and Kinloss Community Council resulted in a statement commending the work of the group and encouraging more local people to join as well as representatives from other village organisations to become part of the management committee. To date this has not had a great impact apart from Pat joining the committee but our wish and openness to having as broad a base as possible within the local community has been recognised. There are at present over 120 members of the group.
2. Working towards a new Legal Structure. The Committee has worked on an application and new constitution to become a charity in the form of a SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation) and this was submitted on the 6th March 2015. Charitable status may take some time to be confirmed after which there will be a closing of the FHG and the start of the Findhorn Hinterland Trust with Trustees being appointed and membership sought. Plans for funding Fiona Chalmers as a professional land consultant to do this work and to carry out public consultation etc fell through when the Findhorn Village Conservation Company happened to apply for the same grant in the same month; no award was granted to either organisation as there had not been consultation on land matters. Meetings with the FVCC followed but at the moment they are focused on buying the land around Findhorn and not on conservation issues. Public consultation and a mandate from the general public will still need to be sought before a new management plan can be drawn up for the new organisation.
3. Get2Grips with Grants and Grant Funding. This company, which deals specifically with grant funding, was used by the FHG this year. They put in lots of work and were able to secure £11,310 in total; £9760 from Awards for All, £1000 from the Hugh Fraser Foundation, £250 from the James T Howat Trust and £300 from the Roger Vere Foundation. The company received £1286 as their fee for this work and the grant money has all gone to fund the EWG project. It has been worth fundraising this way although it has not been quite as effortless as was originally expected.
4. Work on the Ground.
4.1 Ponies and Conservation Grazing. Two ponies continue to use the paddocks installed by the FHG with one work party dedicated this year to maintenance work to removing gorse to keep the electric fence working well. Horse manure for the EWG project was much appreciated.
4.2 Woodland Management. George Paul arranged four woodcutters work parties which dealt with windblown trees from a couple of gales, continued clearing fallen trees in the NE compartment of the woods as well as took on the clearing of the trees necessary for the repositioning of the proposed wildlife ponds. Derek Simpson also independently helped clear paths after the storm damage.
4.3 Bird Boxes. Our annual quota of bird boxes with special metal plates around the entrance holes was put up in July 2014. Unfortunately our Greater Spotted Woodpeckers seemed to like these and have proceeded to make their own fist sized holes elsewhere on the boxes including some of our bat boxes. More boxes will continue to be erected each year.
4.4 Lichen Bed Management. Sean Reed helped organise two well-attended work parties to clear the most important and nationally recognised lichen beds of invasive trees. This was done in consultation with the Findhorn Dunes Trust (FDT)and there was an informative article on the subject posted in the local press. On going discussions with the FDT, SNH, Heather Paul our local lichenologist and others continue as to how to best conserve this jewel that we have on our doorstep.
4.5 Froglife and Wildlife Ponds. Froglife still intends to install 10x8m and 8x6m clay lined ponds on the land managed by the FHG in May/June 2015 but the location has had to be changed after SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) carried out a detailed radioactivity survey on the previously identified site next to the wind turbines and found unacceptable radioactive contamination. The new site is on the southern edge of the woodland and this has been cleared by the volunteer chainsaw group ready for this work to begin. Brash has been placed around the site to give greater shelter and privacy. This should be a great asset to the area adding greatly to the biodiversity of this area of land.
4.6 Christmas Tree Social and Sales Event. Now a regular fixture involving mulled wine and mince pies around a fire with non-native Lodgepole Pines being selected and cut on site for festive trees; many thanks to the small team that supported this event happening.
4.7 Edible Woodland Garden Creation. Ariane Burgess has done an excellent job in developing and keeping this project on track. This small demonstration project has taken much time and energy this year to establish with the construction of terraces using the timber on site, the acquiring of material for soil building, fencing, the start of pond construction, gate building and finally some initial planting of the boundary hedge and main fruit trees on the site. Extra work parties happened every week in March to facilitate this with many people willing to contribute including a group of theology students from Finland who thoroughly enjoyed their experience. There is still work to be done on the irrigation system, further planting, the pond area etc but the bulk of the hard work for this long-term project has been completed.
4.8 Gorse Topper Purchase and Firebreak Clearance. A new topper for use with the small tractor was purchased and used to keep the firebreaks and paths clear of gorse on the land. It proved very effective and will be a vital tool to ensure efficient maintenance. A shed to keep it out of the weather still needs to be constructed.
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.

5. Educational and Other Activities
5.1 Kinloss Primary School. Once again P6 were involved in Forest School activities delivered by Wild Things! in the autumn term and cycled to the site from the school. This year they also returned in the spring to complete aspects of the John Muir Conservation Award with some pupils involved in Small Blue butterfly conservation by planting areas on the south side of the woods with a particular vetch which is their only food. Other pupils were actively involved in lichen conservation by the removal of small conifers on Findhorn Dunes Trust land.
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. There were also others from the Naturally Active programme of 7 to 11 year olds that used the woods for a number of their sessions
5.3 Wild Things! This local charity involved in environmental education has been using the woodland shelter area for many different educational purposes this year and has expressed appreciation at having this excellent outdoor resource on their doorstep. Programmes have included Adult Bush Craft courses, Woodland Activity Leader Training, team building with their Whale and Dolphin Conservation Group and Youth Start Volunteers Training.
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 Walks and Talks. This year there was discussion about whether to ambitiously extend this educational aspect of the group’s work but the committee felt that this would be more appropriate to put in place once the new organisation has been set up. For this reason very few formal walks and talks took place.
5.6 Apiary Creation and Beekeeping Training. The committee agreed to the creation of a small apiary, initially with two hives, to be located next to the Edible Woodland Garden. These, along with some protection and basic equipment and the expertise of John Willoner and Jonathan Caddy, will be used to help tutor a small group of interested FHG members in the art of beekeeping. This new set up will provide on-going educational opportunities.
5.7 Wedding and Other Celebrations The open space around the green burial area was used for a number of celebrations including a large wedding in the spring of 2014 for over a hundred guests and a small hand fasting ceremony. The setting was much appreciated by those attending and their donations greatly appreciated by the FHG.
5.8 Community Woodland Association Annual Conference Connections with other community groups doing similar work around Scotland was maintained by the FHG Convener attending this event held this year from the 22nd to the 24th of August in Dunbar. The FHG gave a presentation at the event on the community controlled green burial aspect of its work as it now has more experience than others in this area and has been asked to advise on other similar projects starting elsewhere in Scotland.

6. Green Burial Activities. The Green Burial sub-committee met a couple of times this year to discuss important details such as the use of shrouds, whether to increase advertising and the setting of new fees. Will Russell, our Green Burial Co-ordinator, had two burials to organise, sold a further two full lairs and arranged for another to be purchased over eighteen months. Income was much more modest compared to last year’s pre-selling before prices were raised; £3,628 compared to £18,787. He was also involved in helping arrange the planting of four new trees in the dedicated memorial tree area that included the burial of an urn and, in two other cases, the spreading of ashes. A fourth planting was carried out by Pupak Haghighi to celebrate the starting of a major initiative inspired by the charity Trees for Life to work on restoring native forest to the Middle East region and called Trees for Hope.
7. Land Sale to the Findhorn Foundation (FF). This finally took place this year after three years delay. The FHG offered to help organise a celebration and gathering with representatives of the FF and general public that took place on the 9th of December. A boundary walk in heavy rain and mulled wine at the shelter followed for those that stayed the course. There is a verbal agreement that the terms of management of this land will be the same as those that are in place with Duneland Ltd ie That the community group has the right to use the assets of the land, excluding the wind turbines, to benefit the local community in return for taking on the management of the land. A written agreement will be put in place as soon as the new charity, the Findhorn Hinterland Trust, has been formed.

Jonathan Caddy
Convener Findhorn Hinterland Group

29th April 2015

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