Chair’s Report – Winter/Spring 2024

There have been times of strong winds, snow and ice on the land but now comes the start of some milder and longer days and a hint of warmer weather – spring full of the magic of bird song and new life is beginning to percolate through the air and our minds.

It seems an age since we were celebrating another Christmas tree event involving our traditional  social gathering up at the Woodland Shelter where so many come to collect or go out and cut their Lodgepole Pine Christmas trees from the land.  So many non-native trees are out there growing on the rare Dune Heath habitat but we realise we may not be able to carry on for the next few years offering this as it gets harder and harder to find trees worthy of taking home.  We will keep you posted about this and intend to have a social time even though there may not be trees available next winter.  

Another event that is starting to become a tradition and that also took place a long time ago was the Hub being used by the community as Santa’s Grotto in the woods.  It was a great event for kids and adults alike that helped brighten up the darkest time of the year. Thank you Laura Passeti and team for organising this.

Winter is also usually our busiest time for our green burial team’s involvement in interments on our green burial site in Wilkies Wood.  In actual fact it has been less busy this year although there was the well attended procession and burial of community member Dee Sunshine in November and more recently the burial of George Ripley.  George was one of the well known characters of the Park Ecovillage Findhorn who gave much to the place making the impossible possible over the almost fifty years of his time here including being the main architect involved in the building of the much loved and admired Universal Hall which started in the mid 1970’s.  He had a fine send off at the grave side and then a celebration of his life in the Hall led by Juanna Legard as a non denominational celebrant and part of the FHT burial team.

On Saturday 10th of February we had the last of four special work parties which included being hosts for asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East presently living in Elgin.  This was a fantastic success bringing together these guests with many from our local community and with this work force of sometimes up to fifty people carrying out some transformative work on the land north of Wilkies Wood bringing back rare Dune Heath habitat which had been threatened by invasive Lodgepole Pines and gorse.  This was a team effort with some funding to help with transport coming from the new local charity Moray Supports Migrants and Refugees, the Findhorn Foundation providing their bus to get the people here, the Action Earth Fund helping provide a small grant  for new gloves and tools and so many offering their time, energy and goodwill.

Plans are still afoot to get involved in our biggest work on the land yet under the banner of our Dune Restoration Project.  Sean Reed our local professional Ecologist has written a more comprehensive update in this quarter’s newsletter.  I am sure he will be mentioning all the twists and turns involved in getting this off the ground, our excellent contacts with similar projects with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Butterfly Conservation.  Including our visit to the RSPB Old Bar project back in November, the productive meetings with Findhorn Dunes Trust trustees and the Park Ecovillage Findhorn Sunshine Room Presentations which has just happened. 

How we deliver the work and how we go about it might have changed but all seems to be on track thanks to Sean’s meticulous planning with a smaller pilot project to be delivered next winter and subsequent work to be carried out over the next three to five years.  A huge thanks to all that contributed to the Go Fund Me appeal that ran over Christmas, which brought in important seed money for the project of over £2000.

EXCITING NEWS!  We have been successful in qualifying for the BigGive Green Match Funding appeal and they have found a champion to help us match fund up to £5000 any money given during the fundraising week from 18th to 25th April..  This means that if we are able to raise £5000 during that week we will have £10,000 which will pay for the whole pilot project this winter. The link to the appeal can be found here.

There will be further information presented about the Dunes Restoration project when Sean, Alan Watson Featherstone, Heather Paul and I give a short project introduction on Sunday 17th March from 2-3pm in the Sunshine Room.  We will also be showing When the Bough Breaks film at 7.30pm on Saturday 16th March in the Hall.  The film itself is a FHT fundraising event and is fascinating in that it presents the urgent case for rewilding with Alan’s work in Glen Affric prominently featured.  Please come along, bring your friends and in this way help support the great work we do.

Smaller but important happenings have also been taking place such as new member woodworker Steven coming most Fridays from his home in Muir of Ord to help a small team with woodworking projects.  At present an older FHT member has commissioned a couple of benches with backs to be located in prominent places on the high dune ridge firebreak above the Duneland Duneridge development to help old and young get out and enjoy walking and the fantastic local environment that we live next to.  We have been using through and through cut timber that came from storm Arwen a couple of years ago and enjoying the art of working creatively with the freeform shapes of these pieces of tree.  With Steven’s help we hope to offer a weekend workshop later in the year on bench making as part of our FHT educational offerings which are being planned right now and will include Ranger Roy offering several Sharing Nature with Children days, Kajedo our Land Manager offering a week long retreat and hopefully at least one day Sacred Ways of Nature workshop, possibly John Willoner, Martin Harker and I putting on a Beekeeping Weekend Workshop and Alan and Heather a day event on FHT Hinterland Biodiversity.  Do consider joining one of these events and letting your friends know about them so they might learn from and enjoy them too.

Other happenings of note include the much appreciated contribution of Louna Kornobis, our long term volunteer who has been with us from September and leaves at the end of February having been the first person to set up home in our Shepherds Hut on the land.  Her smiling face, open mind and helping hands will be much missed as she takes off to walk and explore Scotland a little more before returning to her native Switzerland to start studying for a university degree.  She takes with her new thoughts and skills which will no doubt help shape her future life and leaves the land here a little more cared for and nurtured in many little ways.  Blessings and thank you Louna!

A new initiative within the Park Ecovillage community has been to design and put on a Community Orientation Programme over a number of Saturday’s to introduce new community members to some of the background and practices of this settlement.  Included is the opportunity to take part in practical work projects together and as such they came and gave a couple of hours clearing brash in a new glade Kajedo has been opening up on the south eastern side of Wilkies Wood.  A lot of fun and good work was done by all and hopefully we will have more events like this in the future where people get to know and understand more about the land by being out there and interacting with it. A FHT camping retreat week ‘From the Edges’ is being developed and will be launched this summer to give participants deeper nature connection as well as connection to the larger Park Ecovillage Community – watch this space. 

I am sure I could mention quite a few other things going on or planned but I think that is enough for now.  From what I have just written you will see that the trust goes from strength to strength and continues to buzz with land and community based activity.  I will leave you by mentioning to look out for the May Day Celebrations on the 1st of May which will be happening before the next newsletter.

Blessings and enjoy the spring which will be with us fully soon,

Jonathan Caddy

FHT Chair 

February 13th 2024 

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