Scotland’s Game Generation

In the final Blog on this year’s #HelpingItHappenAwards2018 – the awards that recognise rural success and the work being done in our countryside – we take a look at some of the brilliant work being done in the field of education and community support. One thing is for sure, long after we’re all gone – Scotland’s countryside will remain, and the nominees in these categories are trailblazers for their work in helping to educate our countryside custodians of the future as well as to support and encourage community engagement today …

We’ve highlighted some incredible work this year that supports youngsters in Scotland’s Year of Young People – from the school visits run by the Royal Highland Educational Trust to the support given by LANTRA and others in helping young folk find work in all areas agri-related. In Coldstream in the Borders is a project for schools that is helping to connect children to where their food comes from … taking them outdoors to explore, experience and enjoy the countryside. Field to Fork – based at the Hirsel – is funded by Douglas & Angus Estates. Visits for school classes, nurseries, youth groups as well as adult groups are split into two categories – Food and Farming and In the Wild.

  • During a Food and Farming visit, children are taught the importance of farming and the environment in which the food is produced. They explore, in a hands-on way, the crops grown at Hirsel, learn about how they’re grown and discover how they become the food we eat. They get to cook a healthy recipe, the result of which they will either taste or take away with them at the end day to share at home. Each recipe uses products of crops grown on the estate as well as seasonal vegetables.
  • On an In the Wild day, children are taken into the grounds and woods to explore the outdoors and its biodiversity, developing an awareness of the changes the seasons bring. Whether it’s hunting for mini-beasts, gathering natural material for a piece of wild art, noticing the characteristics of different trees or building a home for a tiny animal, the children’s experience is unique and memorable.

In the last year, they’ve hosted over 100 visits and welcomed around 2,500 children. Many schools have now embedded visits within their educational programmes and return year on year: they have studied themes such as Healthy Eating, Food from Scotland, Plants and Food & Farming in World Wars.

Another educational programme has been developed on the 600 acre Aigas estate, west of Inverness. For more than 40 years, they have offered fully inclusive, small-group learning holidays and study courses as well as school education programmes. The key goal is to teach visitors and children about the incredible wildlife, habitats and landscapes of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. In the last year, their Naturedays programme has seen around 5,000 children take part – visiting the estate from across Scotland to learn about the work the estate does in preserving wildlife. All the programmes have strong ties with the Curriculum for Excellence. The lessons allow the children and young people to get involved, explore, interact and connect with the natural landscape around them: the benefits are priceless.

One of the biggest projects Aigas have undertake is the preservation of the Scottish Wildcat – to bring it back from extinction. Since 2011 the Aigas Field Centre has been contributing to the national programme, partnering with Scottish Wildcat Action and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. Aigas have a breeding programme with the aim of working together to ensure the wildcat captive population grows, before they will be released into the wild once the environment is deemed safe enough.

Back in the borders, a project – now in its sixth year – has engaged with more than 1,200 children from over 60 school to help educate young people on food and farming. The Border Union Agricultural Society established the Schools Countryside Day in 2013. This year their programme of activities and demonstrations covered a wide range of rural topics – from veterinary work, auctioneering, conservation, honey production, butchery, sheep shearing, spinning and weaving. Not only does the initiative give every local child an invaluable taste of the countryside, but it brings together a huge range of people involved in the Borders instilling a real sense of community and pride. Inspiring children, parents and teachers alike, Ronald Wilson, secretary of the Border Union Agricultural Society describes the day as “a wonderful educational experience for all of these children, and the noise and bustle of activity was a backdrop to a huge number of activities, all centred around showing them the wonderful environment in which they live”.

Another programme that focuses on our food – one of Scotland’s greatest assets – is Game for Giving. Set up by both the Angus Glens and Grampian Moorland Groups, the project works with local butchers and chefs to create oven-ready meals using fresh Game and ingredients that are then donated to local charities in communities from Aberdeen to Dundee. It began in 2016 in the countdown to Christmas – to help those less fortunate around the festive season – but due to its success more charities got in touch and the organisers decided to run the project throughout the season.

They supply to homeless charities such as Cyrenians and Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE) as well as working with a number of voluntary charities in small local towns, such as Home Start and Voluntary Action Angus. In the last year, the project has helped to feed more than 600 vulnerable families. In 2018 the programme has expanded further: Game from the Glens evenings have been run – inviting members of the public, local butchers, hoteliers, farm shops and politicians who are interested in trying learning more about the game produced in the Glens.

Over the hills from Angus and into Royal Deeside – and to the Mar Estate. They are investing in a series of community projects – some large and some small, but all adding to the sustainability of the estate, Braemar and the wider community. They have invested to triple the size of the village shop – vital when so many retailers are moving ever-more online and closing bricks and mortar outlets. They have recruited and now employ a young gamekeeper – also supporting her with a flock of ewes and land for them.

Recent construction of the Braemar Highland Games Centre is hoped to spread the influx of tourists and the economic benefit from the iconic Games throughout the year – drawing more visitors to the village and encouraging them to stay for longer with more attractions on offer. Proposals for the Braemar Highland Games Centre include a cafe, gallery and exhibition centre showcasing over 200 years of history. The spot is set to become a major tourist attraction with car, coach and caravan parking and will also be available for corporate and social events.

The estate is supporting this ambitious project that has also received backing from the neighbouring Invercauld House tenant and Fife Arms Hotel owners, Ivan and Manuela Wirth, together with with financial help and building advice from HRH The Duke of Rothesay’s Dumfries House Trust. The Wirths’ substantial investment in rebuilding the Fife Arms Hotel – and restoring it to its former glory last seen in the late 19th century – is integral to the sustainability of the village: the range of attractions confirm Braemar as a global destination, rather than the Highland rural settlement as described in a local authority consultation document!

Ecological sustainability is also recognised as a major priority by Mar Estate: the local community approached the estate to rebuild the Mar Lodge hydro scheme. The Corriemulzie Hydro Scheme is now up and generating electricity – funded by Braemar Community Limited – raising a staggering £800,000 through crowd funding from local investors. It not only generates rent for the Mar Estate and a return for the investors but also funds projects of community benefit. Over the life of the project it is estimated that £500,000 will be channelled into the sustainability of the village.

Our final stop takes us to Ullapool and a brilliant idea involving an interactive educational experience as part of a history project with local primary schools. The initiative – supported by Leckmelm Estate – involved the recreation of a World War One trench system. The trenches were machine dug in a field donated by Leckmelm Estate before features such as wooden boards, steps and sandbags were added. The build project took just under a fortnight with man hours provided by Ullapool High School teacher, Jemma Middleton, Carl Burns and a local volunteer, Jack Maclean. Heritage Lottery and Historic Environment Scotland provided support funding.

P7 pupils from Ullapool, Lochinver, Achultibuie, Badcaul and Scoraig primaries in Wester Ross have all taken part. Jemma says: “The students found it very frustrating that they couldn’t just run around and hide behind things which gave them a real understanding of what the men faced and were shocked by this.” She added: “We are also holding a re-creation of the Christmas Day truce football match which will see the local men’s team take on the children’s team played in no man’s land.Veterans charity Outpost has been working with the schools’ project, called The Men of Lochbroom Through the Eyes of the Children of Lochbroom.

One hundred years on from the end of the Great War, this unique, collaborative project has been seen as a huge success: the battlefield is to be made available to other schools and twenty bookings have been made already from schools as far afield as Glasgow.

 

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