Friends of the Pentlands

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CASE STUDY 4

Friends of the Pentlands – Helping to look after the ‘Hills of Home’!

Working with others to conserve, protect and enhance

 

Name of Access Authority: West Lothian, Midlothian, City of Edinburgh,

                                              South Lanarkshire, Borders           

Name of group: Friends of the Pentlands Society     

Location: Pentland Hills  

Project: Delivery of Annual Action Plan

Key points: Working to an agreed Action Plan

                        Liasion with other interested people and organisations

                        Don’t attempt to ‘do everything!’

 

About the Friends of the Pentlands

The first meeting of the Friends of the Pentlands was held in March 2003. This meeting was a bringing together of ‘like-minded’ people who wanted to do something positive to safeguard the future of the Pentland Hills.

The initiative stemmed from two specific objectives in the Pentland Hills Regional Park Integrated Management Strategy and ensured an ongoing and productive relationship between the Friends and Regional Park Authority. However, the Friends, as an independent group, operate over the whole of the Pentland Hills not just the northern area covered by the Regional Park.

Finding resources

The group therefore seeks to act as a catalyst to promote the conservation, protection and enhancement of the Pentland Hills and surrounding countryside with particular emphasis on a number of topics including recreational quality and public access.

People

As the Society has been established for several years it has built up a significant membership and hopes to recruit its 400th member by the end of 2012. Membership is drawn from a wide range of individuals and organisations with some form of interest in the Pentland Hills.

An Executive Council oversees the work of the society and formally reports progress at an AGM. Representatives of the Society work closely with representatives of other organisations on joint projects. For example, the Balerno Ramblers recently joined forces with The Friends on path work days and a new path link has been created in partnership with Midlothian Council Rangers.

A group of Team Leaders organise the logistics of actual work days and events. These leaders might come from the Society’s membership and in this way more people are involved with a specific role and workload is spread. There are usually about 30 members who regularly attend workdays with a reporting system back to the Executive.

A newsletter is also published for the membership three times each year. The Society therefore has a good communication system for everyone involved.

Money

The Society aims to meet its administrative running costs from income from membership fees including Gift Aid. Minor projects are generally funded through a mixture of donations, internal fundraising initiatives such as social evenings and minor grants.

Funding for major projects is funded by grants with the Society’s contribution being met by placing a value on ‘in-kind’ managerial and/or labour time.

In this way projects and other activities are ‘self-financing’.

Tools and materials

The Society has an ongoing annual programme of inspection of structures such as stiles, bridges and boardwalks which they have installed or facilitated installation. These inspections are to ensure the structures remain serviceable and, where necessary, to make provision for their repair, improvement or removal.

The group also has a dedicated ‘Quartermaster’ who looks after tools to ensure that repairs are carried out and tools and other materials are replaced as required. The Quartermaster also organises training.

Training

Several members of Friends of the Pentlands have attended three basic training courses on path related topics during 2010 and 2011. The group have also worked with PFA hosting accessibility training days. Their main remit is to help improve the path infrastructure and carry out routine maintenance of the paths across the Pentland Hills. They are looking for funding for equipment, and are also looking to liaise with the local mountain biking groups who are also carry out maintenance of the trails in the area. They have asked PFA to help them survey paths following the training course, and to guide them through further training and funding options.

First Aid courses are organised for members of work teams with a well-established Risk Assessment process in place. Insurance cover is provided through The Conservation Volunteers. See www.tcv.org.uk.

The Society has also produced their own Volunteer Handbook to provide information on volunteering opportunities and relative responsibilities of the Society and individual volunteer.

Time

In 2011 the Society recorded some 6000 hours of voluntary effort into achieving its objectives including 38 work days of path maintenance and installation of a new biodiversity trail.

The Society’s continuing, short, medium and long-term objectives are set out in an Action Plan which is revised every year. These sit under the plan’s Strategic Principles and help the group decide which projects it should put time into.

For example, in the 2012 Action Plan a short-term objective was:

‘to make improvements to the drainage of the path to Bavelaw bird hide.’

Also from the 2012 Action Plan is the ‘Continuing Objective’ of:

‘Maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with those organisations which share the Society’s aspirations such as Scottish Natural Heritage, Paths for All and the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society.

Plans for the Future

The Society has applied to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) to change its legal status to a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO). This has required them, amongst other things, to propose a revised Constitution for the new entity which, as a corporate body, will generally provide a high degree of protection against personal liability for the trustees.

The Society’s website is to be revamped to ensure it continues to look fresh and not ‘tired’. The website is seen as a key communication tool to tell the history of the organisation and also to keep members and other interested parties up to date with current issues and future events. See www.pentlandfriends.plus.com for details.

The Society’s long-term objectives relate to improvements that will need substantial grant funding and partnership with other organisations. One objective that is particularly appropriate to the Adopt A Path approach is the possibility of establishing a Path Ranger survey service for the area outwith the boundaries of the Regional Park. This would give monitoring coverage for the entire Pentland Hills and complement the work already been done in the Regional Park. However, whilst the Friends can support others in this work they are unable to take on formal ‘adoption’ responsibilities similar to a Roads Authority.

The Friends will also be continuing with their ‘countryside furniture inspections’ particularly in the southern half of the Pentlands.

 

Lessons Learned

From an early stage in the Friends development it was recognised that the Society could not ‘do everything’ themselves.

1.         Establishing and maintaining good relations with landowners, agencies  and other voluntary groups is time very well spent.

2.         Volunteers come with different knowledge and understanding about  paths in terms of acceptable/unacceptable condition and what might  realistically be required to bring path up to standard.

3.         Volunteers also have varying levels of physical ability but with a wide variety of jobs everyone can make a valuable contribution to achieving the Society’s objectives.

4.         Working to an agreed annual Action Plan gives structure to the Society’s activities and saves time in the long run.

5.         The Pentland Hills need ‘Friends’!

 

© 2014 Paths for All - Registered Scottish Charity No: SC025535, Company Limited by Guarantee No: 168554 inc. 19 Sept 1996 at Companies House, Edinburgh