Glengarry Community Woodlands is a community-led organisation originally formed in 2015 to purchase 80 acres of former Forestry Commission woodland near Invergarry on behalf of the local community of around 380 residents.
Having secured the woodland for the community, this grassroots organisation now manages it for the benefit of local people. With funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, a development officer has been employed to develop and deliver a community engagement programme. This includes outdoor education opportunities for the village school children, conservation volunteering, a weekly health walk, seasonal events and wildlife interest walks.
Towards the core running costs of the woodland hub to support the community engagement project. This award supports the development officer’s role by helping to fund the running costs of the woodland hub (based in the former forestry depot building), including electricity and phone costs, and office equipment such as a computer and printer. Following the initial award in year one, continuation funding for a further two years has been approved.
What’s happened so far with this project?
Many people didn’t realise just what the community woodland could do for them until our community engagement programme was launched. Activities to date have included a school holiday forest school club, education programmes with the local primary school, a regular conservation volunteer group, a programme of ranger-led wildlife interest walks, green woodworking courses and several community-wide events such as Halloween in the woods and a family Easter celebration. Now there is a definite momentum behind the project, and people are keen to see it carry on and succeed. Benefits to the community have been huge and varied – from health benefits due to people being more active, to improved community cohesion as a result of having a place or activity where people can meet and take part in something.
And what's still to come?
The project is now well into its second year and we are continuing to deliver the community engagement programme to maintain support from the community, but also to continue providing the great opportunities for local people to use the woodland in so many different ways. The development officer is focusing on establishing a social enterprise, as we have recognised the importance of generating our own revenue if our project is to be sustainable.
What tips would you give to other organisations seeking funding for this kind of work?
Always speak to a funding officer if you can, and think hard about how well the project you want to fund fits The Robertson Trust’s criteria. Take care with your costings and consider where match funding might be an option, especially if you are struggling to meet many of the criteria.
What difference does this funding award make to the work you do?
The funding from The Robertson Trust, though modest, has made a huge difference to our organisation and the community. It has meant we’ve had the time that we need to focus on delivering the work, instead having restricted hours or spending more time fundraising. The funding has also allowed the development officer to work on new projects, such as completing the community woodland’s Forest Plan, and looking into funding for developing a woodland-based social enterprise selling firewood.
In order to successfully apply for funding under our Giving Strategy 2016-19, applicants must demonstrate how their work will contribute to one or more of the themes within the Trust's three new funding strands.
This application was eligible as a result of its fit with the following theme:
Funding Strand: Strengthening Communities Theme 3: Empowering Communities
“The community project has been well received locally and has fostered a strong sense of community in this rural area, where there is relatively little opportunity for the community to come together. Local fundraising is particularly challenging for the charity due to the very small population of circa 300. Due to the progress made and the evidence of local use, we were happy to recommend continuation funding at the same level.”
Lesley Macdonald, Head of Giving