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Home Facilitator Team – Highlands & Islands SYLVAE Project Update

The Highland Facilitator Teams Sylvae Highlands’ project was conducted at various sites scattered across the Highlands, in order to take advantage of the diverse environmental habitats of our location. This included work in woodland, scrub, maintained and untended wild areas and the seashore.

We also conducted various public awareness days as well as giving talks about our activities to other groups and organisations. The type of activities carried out included the development of plans for the establishment of a new woodland area in association with the Scottish Forestry Commission and the Woodland Trust, the establishment of necessary woodland skills and a greater understanding of the importance of a balanced biodiversity. We also carried out activities aimed at the preservation and protection of our identified woodland area.

Our theme was to engage youngsters in environmental undertakings by providing actual hands on experience in order to develop good citizenship and environmental awareness. The duration of our project is expected to be 12 – 18 months. The number of participants will vary depending on the activity being undertaken in light of the varying difficulties of individual team members.

However, the kick-off team consisted of 4 teenagers aged from 15 to 17 years old, some of whom suffer from long-term illness and disability. They were responsible for ensuring that other members of our team were included when and as often as possible in all of our undertakings. The team as a whole will then be responsible for cascading the knowledge to the general public via awareness days, which have the potential; to bring us into contact with thousands of individuals if our pilot schemes were to be repeated.

Activities were developed for implementation in incremental stages throughout a twelve month period with the first stage running until the end of September 2013, and although the funding received had to be spent prior to this time, we were lucky enough to be able to anticipate certain items which will be invaluable in ensuring the completion of the project overall. Essentially our project falls into three key activity areas within the bounds of the project as a whole; these are…..

New Woodland Area

The development of a new woodland area has proved to be a time consuming undertaking whereby, through sample working, we have ascertained that we will need to acquire a diverse range of skills whilst also developing communication methods which incorporate new terms and concepts we will have to adopt.

This is an ongoing process which will require regular review, adaptation and implementation across the whole project. To date we have:

  • Resourced over 400 whips of various species associated with Hedge Row planting
  • Undertaken a number of workshops and awareness days designed to raise knowledge of the importance of woodland conservation
  • Assisted a local charity to undertake research into Aspen Trees and the importance they play in supporting endangered and rare species of invertebrates here in the highlands.
  • Entered into negotiation with a number of other local charities and groups….regarding projects whereby woodland planting and/or conservation will play a key part. One such project is our work at St Joseph’s Primary School in Inverness where we are helping them to create an environmental garden

Planted all trees received from the woodland trust individually due to the loss of our identified site

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Members of HFT making plant pots from newspaper for use in initial re -planting of Woodland Trust sourced saplings.

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Environmental Maintenance Action

It is essential for the development of this project that we concentrate on environmental maintenance as this underpins the longevity of many of the activities planned.

This is an ongoing process, which will require regular review, adaptation and implementation across the whole project. To date we have;

  • Carried out numerous spot surveys on invertebrates, tree species, flora and fauna of our given sites, consulted with members of the public on our activities and assisted other groups and individuals to carry out their own assessments.

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  • Participated in depth discussion, planning and now implementation regarding the changing of a rundown local community frontage into an innovative environmental garden and timeline. It is hoped that we will engage an urban community into engaging in environmental conservation and intergenerational support.
  • We had located an ideal area in which to plant our saplings but due to a number of unforeseen circumstances this is no longer possible as part of phase one of the Sylvae Project.  However, additional sites have now been identified and it is hoped that the saplings will form part of a new wooded area in a few months.
  • The delay in planting did mean that every sapling had to be removed individually and replanted…. with over 400 to cater for it required the ingenuity of everyone involved to find, manufacture, borrow and buy that many suitable homes.
  • Due to the work the team did in association with Health & Happiness we intend to include study of the specific Biodiversity of a Hedgerow as part of phase two of the projects environmental maintenance activity

Awareness/Communication

It is essential for the success of this project that public knowledge be raised regarding an array of issues connected to woodland growth, conservation, development and preservation.

It is also important that the information being imparted is none biased, informative and most importantly true. To this end it was felt that planning a number of awareness days in phase one to identify the specific resources required to reach as many individuals as possible was a worthwhile activity and the ensuing information gleaned has enabled us to not only buy a printer to help get our message across but resource the following forthcoming events…all of which will highlight “wood” as its common thread.

Have a Green Christmas

Third Sector Information Luncheon

Community Project

Music from recycled wood Workshops

Numerous conferences and events

We have already held workshops at St Joseph Primary School and the Cameron Youth Centre in Inverness, whilst we are also in the process of hiring a local hall to hopefully engage an intergenerational cross section of the public in woodland arts and crafts workshops leading up to Christmas.

Conclusion

Given the array of activities we are engaged in it is not as yet clear when the cohesiveness of the project will become clear; however, phase two is specifically designed to bring all aspects of the Sylvae Project together.

It is hoped that the following activities and undertakings will take place between now and January 2014.

Completion of Environmental Garden at St Joseph’s Primary School

Conduct, compare and contrast surveys on tress in the various localities in our project

Continue to care for and protect the saplings we have awaiting planting

Commence phase one and two of the Hilton Community Centre Project

Have undertaken numerous awareness days, workshops and activities in order to cascade the knowledge being learned by HFT young people

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