The Findhorn Hinterland Group Annual Report 2012-2013


The Findhorn Hinterland Group

Annual Report 2012-2013


This year has been a year of consolidation and re-envisioning for the Findhorn Hinterland Group as a new committee took on the task of running the group and effectively managing the land. 


1.  The Committee.  Committee members have been Duerten Lau- Convener /New Findhorn Association (NFA) liaison, Jonathan Caddy -Vice-Convener, Judith Berry- Secretary/ Findhorn Dunes Trust liaison, John Willoner- Treasurer/Community Council liaison, Pete Finch- Findhorn Foundation (FF) liaison, Eian Smith- Duneland Ltd liaison, Sean Reed- Biodiversity Consultant, Fay Blackburn-Shelter Co-ordinator, Fabien Barouch- Title Holder Association (THA) liaison, Ian Purkis-Woodsman and Land Manager and Kajedo Wanderer Forest Manager/Woodcutter Co-operative co-ordinator.  Ken Mills continued to nominally be on the committee in his role as ex-professional forester but was not able to attend many meetings due to failing health.  He died later in the year and was appropriately buried in the Green Burial area in the woods surrounded by the land that he helped care for over the last few years.  His wealth of knowledge, positive energy and his practical contributions were highly valued and his presence has been much missed. Fabian stepped down towards the end of the year and Pete Finch has done so just before this AGM to be replaced by Pete Salmon as FF liaison person; the time and effort that both these members have put in has been much appreciated.  Also working on the committee’s behalf have been Will Russell who is the Green Burial Co-ordinator, Jamie Bryson who has been keeping the FHG website up to date and Yvonne Stuart who kindly took on the role of Membership Secretary this year and has been communicating with the membership through email. Subgroups still meet around Green Burial issues, Woodcutter issues, biodiversity issues and other topics as needed.  The committee continues to meet once a month and 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.  Preparation for New Joint Management Plan.  There has been a need to prepare for writing the next five-year Joint Management Plan as the 2008-2013 plan finishes this year.  The review process has emphasized the effectiveness of the group over a four year period in bringing about practically all objectives set in the previous plan and the importance of having a clear management document that all (funders, members, the committee, land owners, other interested bodies) can jointly work with and to.  Consultation within the committee, with the group’s membership, land owners and others is a key part of this process and has already started with the formation of different groups focusing on the different aspects of the organizations work – biodiversity, education, communication, green burials etc.  It is proposed to apply for SNH funding to take on a temporary, part-time project officer to help write this plan and spearhead the new projects that will be generated from it.  There will be a greater emphasis on working with the various landowners that have land on the peninsula to further the objectives of the group rather than concentrating on the land at present owned by Duneland Ltd and this will be reflected in the new plan.


3.  Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP).  Central to and guiding the new Joint Management Plan will be the draft BAP that Sean Reed prepared for the group in December 2012.  The previous management plan allowed certain ways of providing an income from the land through the pony field project, setting up the Green Burial project and the woodcutting and firewood supply project.  Although there has been an awareness of the importance of the biodiversity of the area, the day-to-day work has concentrated more on getting these income streams up and running rather than what is best management for maintaining and increasing the biodiversity of the land.  This new emphasis has been reflected in some of the work that has already been carried out this year such as items 4.1, 4.2, 4.3 and 4.4 in the next section.


4.  Work on the Ground.

            4.1 Lichen Management on Dune Heath Area.  Time and energy has been put in to devising a way of ensuring that the lower plants and in particular the nationally important lichens on the Findhorn peninsula are valued and preserved.  Heather Paul has become our local expert and with Sean Reed they have recommended the removal of gorse and pine trees from the most lichen diverse area owned by the Findhorn Dunes Trust.  With the Trust’s consent two well-attended work parties have made a significant start on this conservation work that will need to be carried out for many more years to come.  Another work party helped to successfully relocate important lichen species from the West Whins development site at the back of the Universal Hall- an activity highly commended by Dr Coppins of the British Lichen Society.

            4.2 Squirrel Survey/ Squirrel Management/ Forest Management.  To locate nests and see where squirrels are at present living in the Wilkie Woods, Sean and Ian carried out a red squirrel drey survey and found a surprising 32 dreys in the thirty acres of woodland.  Actual numbers of squirrels in the woods are low and it was realized that their would need to be a change in the woodland management if we were to give the squirrels an optimum chance of breeding and remaining part of the woodland ecology.  This is a significant change as much time has been put into creating an efficient firewood supply chain to deal with large amounts of blown timber that needed to be cleared from the land which in previous years has meant obtaining funding for training up ten people on chainsaws, buying chainsaw equipment, training people in basic first aid, buying good quality wood splitters and this year obtaining a much more reliable tipping trailer for the tractor to ensure smooth delivery of wood.   There is now a realization that most of the fallen timber removal has been done and that we can no longer supply fuel wood to local people from this source and are considering buying in timber to meet this need rather than over felling the present woods.  Felling will be done on a stricter rotational cycle and will now be confined to the non-breeding times between October and January.  This will have a long-term effect on FHG income from this source.

            4.3 Bird Boxes and Bat Boxes.  Ian Purkis constructed good quality bird and bat boxes that have now been mounted on trees in the Wilkie Woods and the use of these will be monitored.

            4.4 Remote Camera Surveying.  Sean Reed has set up his remote camera equipment on the land and successfully caught on film the presence of both pine martin and fox in various locations.    

            4.5 Other Land Management Activities. The monthly work parties have been well attended this year allowing tree planting, path clearance, track maintenance, ragwort removal and young tree maintenance activities to happen on the land.  Additional work parties including several during the Findhorn Community Birthday week and young people from the Duke of Edinburgh scheme have helped with this work.  An additional 420 young trees donated by the Woodland Trust have been planted and the ten year old new woodlands to the west of Wilkie’s Wood have started to have some of the surrounding gorse removed to help protect these trees from fire.

            4.6  Firebreaks.  The FHG committee instigated having the Moray Council gorse shredder come in to have the existing firebreaks on the land widened and made more effective as well as creating one or two more breaks.  Although this work was part funded by the Findhorn Wind Park that is required to keep the area around the turbines gorse free to prevent fire damage, the lion’s share of the cost was funded through the FHG’s capital funds.

            4.7  Construction.  Ian Purkis and James Chitty constructed an excellent and robust worktable with built-in seating from forest logs and this is now situated near the old fire pit for school parties to use.  The funds for this came from the previous years Forestry for People Grant through the Forestry Commission.

            4.8  Ponies and Conservation Grazing.  From October last year, the number of ponies used for conservation grazing purposes and an income for the FHG, was reduced from four to three.   The conservation regime has become a bit tighter with clearer times on when grazing is beneficial and when the land is left to allow plants to flower.  


5.  Educational Activities on the Land.

            5.1 Kinloss Primary School.  P6 from this local school continue to use the woodland for Forest School activities over a ten-week period in the autumn that is delivered by Wild Things!  They get here using the Kinloss/ Findhorn cycle path and gain much from this great outdoor experience on their doorstep.

            5.2  James Sherriff and Forest School Activities.  James delivered these very successfully for younger children during the school holidays last summer and autumn.  He is now taking a break from this work as he starts his own family with his partner in Germany.

            5.3  Children and Youth in Community Playhouse and Woodland Camps.   This group based at The Park and catering for three to six year olds has been using the woods as part of their programme; they have been so successful that they have already booked again for this coming summer and autumn.  They have expressed much appreciation for being able to use the local environment for broadening the experience of the very young people attending.

            5.4  Belong Camp.  This four-day camp experience was centred on Wilkie’s Wood and the woodland shelter and took place last May.  It was arranged by Children of the Earth (Scotland) and was designed to help teenager and young adult participants to connect more with themselves and the land.

            5.5  Ecovillage Design Education.  This longer Findhorn Foundation programme has used the shelter area over the last few years for a day’s workshop on practical housing and shelter design by having students create models of different examples of structures.  This year this took place in November.

            5.6  Duke of Edinburgh Groups.  Gavin Morgan, D of E Co-ordinator for the Moray Council, has been enthusiastic about offering the opportunities offered by Wilkie’s Woods and shelter to teenagers taking their various awards.  Several gatherings have taken place including a camp over weekend and some volunteering work managing the young woods.

            5.7  Walks and Talks.  There have been fewer organized walks and talks on the land this year but of note was a Bees, Birds and Butterfly Walk in July led by Steve Hull and a short Lichen Walk and Talk led by Heather George as part of one of the lichen conservation work parties.

            5.8  Playback Theatre Performance.  The woodland shelter was used as a venue for an arts performance put on by this local theatre company and funded through part of last year’s Forestry Commission grant.   


6.  Green Burial Activities.  This past year there have been three green burials at the Wilkie’s Wood site (including Ken Mills already mentioned), two additional lair reservations and five reservations are pending.  Jonathan Caddy took on chairing the Green Burial sub-group which has met twice this past year and is about to meet again later this week.  Will Russell continues to do a sterling job as Green Burial Co-ordinator and is paid a fee for this important work that ensures that these events run smoothly.  John Willoner and Derek Simpson are being trained up as understudies for the co-ordinator’s role.  Ian Purkis milled new boards for the graveside from trees in the forest and these have proved to a welcome addition.


7.  Land Sale to the Findhorn Foundation.  Notification of the potential sale of most of the land owned by Duneland Ltd was given at the last AGM however for various reasons this land sale has still not gone through.  It is very likely that it will but the current stumbling block has been an area of contaminated land near the old RAF bomb dump which the Foundation wish to exclude from any purchase as they do not want any possibility of being liable for environmental clean up fees.  As the terms of the Joint Management Agreement with Duneland Ltd would be the same as for any new owner, the actual owner of the land should not make any significant difference to the way the FHG operates.   Further investigation by SEPA and the Moray Council are to be carried out in this coming financial year.   


8.  Future Directions and Funding.

Details of future directions will be developed through the new management plan but an outline of some of the projects that are on the horizon are given below:

            7.1 Funding for temporary project officer to be sought. (SNH)

            7.2 New Management Document to be produced.

            7.3 Wildlife Ponds to be constructed in conjunction with the national charity Froglife.

            7.4 Mapping of the area for lichen management, woodland extension and land management to be carried out.

            7.5 Edible Woodland Garden project in conjunction with CWA to be started.

            7.6 Lichen management programme to be developed.

            7.7 Setting up a more structured programme of wildlife talks and workshops.

            7.8 Firepit project in the Magic Triangle area.

            7.9 Filing of FHG information.

            7.10 Further development of the educational uses of the land.

            7.11 Strengthening FHG membership and the committee.   



Jonathan Caddy

Vice-Convener Findhorn Hinterland Group


16th April 2013.

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