Back at the end of 2011 a few people with a passion for the Lomond Hills got together around a table at Falkland Palace for a discussion.
Their shared ideas raised the possibility of forming a group to unite those with the common interest of bringing people back into contact with the hills, and within six months an application for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund had been drawn up and was successful.
This led to the formation of the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership (LLLP) in 2013, sparking three years of diverse and exciting eco projects and volunteering opportunities covering the area from Lochore Meadows Country Park to the Lomond Hills Regional Park and the surrounding areas.
With its three year funding programme due to finish at the end of December, the organisation will hold a special day of celebration on Saturday (September 24) at the Falkland House Stables from 10am to 4pm.
This will include demonstrations of crafts and heritage skills; an exhibition with some of the archaeological finds uncovered from digs carried out in the Lomond Hills; talks on what the LLLP has achieved over its three years and the chance to try some hands-on activities.
The aims of the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership (LLLP) are:
○ To reconnect people to the hills and explore what is on their doorstep.
○ To discover the lost heritage of the hills through archaeological exploration and other projects.
○ To celebrate and appreciate the many good things that come from the hills including the scenery, health and fresh air benefits as well as social interaction.
The programme has delivered projects worth over £3 million and, when complete 50 projects will have been delivered across six key themes – rural skills, living heritage, historic landscape, exploring the hills, wild places and the welcome theme.
It has engaged with many community groups, schools and individuals, 456 participants and volunteers have enjoyed 560 events over three years, 25km of paths have been upgraded or created.
More than 800 primary and secondary school pupils have participated in events led by the Living Lomonds Community Engagement Team. While in 2014 working in conjunction with Fife Council, every primary age child in Fife received a ‘Passport to the Hills’, which encouraged young people to explore Fife’s amazing countryside. This will become an app as part of the project’s digital legacy, encouraging families to re-connect people with the living legacy of the Lomond and Benarty Hills, a key aim of the project.
The Rural Skills project has trained six apprentices, of whom five are now in employment and more than 30 individuals have participated in rural skills academies gaining valuable skills.
Ed Heather Hays, programme manager for the partnership, said he had enjoyed working with a diverse range of people.
He said: “We have helped to improve people’s access to the landscape through habitat management and restoration works.
‘‘We have also helped to change people’s perceptions, in the way they look at the landscape and the way they engage with it, and that will last for a long time to come.”
Audrey Peebles, project officer, added: “My special moment with the LLLP hasn’t happened yet.
‘‘We have had many special times, but these have not finished.
‘‘I am working on producing a digital legacy, and if I can share what all the people I have met through this partnership over the time it has been going have shared with me, then that will be a hugely special moment for me. I am confident that will happen.”
Caroline Collie, community participation and training manager, said: “I have worked with 12 young people with life challenges to give them different experiences and offer support to work in rural environments.
“We planted 1000 trees and did landscape work and that was a really special thing for me and the students.
“Last year we delivered 508 picnics for youngsters in the communities of Benarty and Falkland, where they had the chance to build dens, track wild animals and forage in the forest. Many had never done before. It inspired them to get back into the environment.”
Richard Smith, biodiversity and natural heritage team leader with Fife Council, said: “We have really made a connection with people who thought they knew what the landscape was.
‘‘We have shown them they are part of a long landscape that doesn’t just include coal mining, but a much longer history going back to the Bronze and Iron Ages. “Through the Lochore Castle project we have secured money to stop it falling down and preserve it for future generations.”