Outdoors and Nature: workshop summary

Thanks to the 12 local folk who came along for a fascinating discussion about the great outdoors on Tuesday night.  New friends were made, and we got to some great potential actions to feed into the Community Action Plan! 

What did ‘Outdoor Connections’ mean to those who came to the discussion?  Overall, suggestions included:

  • The outdoors is what this community has - it creates jobs, and it’s good for mental health and wellbeing.  Need a variety of options to encourage folk to enjoy it.
  • Wildlife is under greater pressure and won’t protect itself - action is needed.
  • Good land management is important - ideally more rewilding, but important to remember that estates and FLS own the land and it has to work for them too.
  • Important to balance outdoor access / activities with protecting nature and rural character.
  • Need to remember there are negative effects of access to countryside, eg associated with some forms of wild camping.
  • Access to nature can be informal (low key) and formal.
  • Improvements can be used to encourage people to visit certain areas and conserve other more sensitive habitats.
  • Heritage needs more attention.

No decisions were made about solutions to these things - it's too early in the process for that.  But, having looked through the Ideas Bank and what came out of the first Community Assembly, the group reached arrived at a set of realistic potential actions. 

In no particular order...

Paths and access to water
  • Definitively map the many local paths that exist, and use that to determine which ones should be prioritised for improvement, signposting and maintenance.
  • (Re)print path plans and guides.
  • Install shelters, accessible routes, viewpoints and information.
  • Work with landowners to make improvements.
  • Establish a paths group(s) to take these things forward and liaise with events organisers like the Loch Ness Marathon.
  • Improve access to Loch Ness (slipway) and Loch Mhor (canoeing etc).

Wild camping
  • Manage it better rather than try to ban it.
  • Designated areas.
  • Education.
  • Bins.

Community woodland
  • Opportunity to nurture wildlife, organise activities, create employment - on the community’s terms!
  • Start small or aim big?  Various potential locations.
  • Viability can be an issue, especially for running costs and maintenance.

The need to balance recreation, productive use of land and nature was discussed at length - and the need to balance and respect landowners’ needs as well as community aspirations.  Collaboration is essential.

A number of ideas meriting further discussion were suggested at the end of the meeting, including:

  • Attractions like a dry ski slope, scenic routes project, mountain biking and skiing on windfarm access tracks, windfarm interpretation and shelters for dark sky watching.
  • Sheltered outdoor space for education like Farr Woods outdoor classroom.
  • Composting toilets.
  • Community turbine to generate income.

Some of the suggestions discussed in the meeting are already starting to happen, as we heard during the workshop.  Others are new ideas. There may be gaps or things to change, but they all merit further investigation at the Community Assembly before writing a first draft of the Community Action Plan.

You can see a recording of the whole discussion in this video.

We’ll be sharing a summary of what was discussed at the forthcoming Community Assembly on 27th May.  That's your opportunity to see and review the ideas coming out of the five workshops as a whole and fill the gaps.  Don’t forget to book your virtual seat here!

No need to set up new Access Group, one already exists, so disappointing that people taking part not aware of this. Contact Candy Cameron

Add Comment