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Major cultural and natural heritage project completed in Callander

Significant progress has been made to restore and celebrate Callander’s heritage thanks to a major community-led project.

The Callander’s Landscape project ran from 2018 to 2023 and delivered a wide range of outputs and benefits for the Callander area. From creating new paths, to recording and uncovering the areas heritage to Dark Skies events and the prominent new path signage and interpretation panels.

Local people and visitors of all ages were encouraged and supported to appreciate the rich history and natural heritage of the area.

The project’s core funding was provided by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with significant match funding and support from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority along with a number of private, third sector and public sector organisations.

Funding of over £1.5million was used across five years to deliver 20 different projects and key achievements include:

  • Work to the paths network, physically linking the town to the surrounding countryside including improving existing paths, creating new paths.
  • Signage to reveal and interpret the landscape.
  • A digital storymap available on the community and National Park Authority websites, providing interactive maps and information about the nature, language, archaeology and dark skies qualities of the area.
  • Nature restoration works to improve river and woodland habitats as well as key species such as Black Grouse and Red Squirrels.
  • Delivery of seven Modern Apprenticeships focussed on rural skills and hospitality.
  • People from a wide range of backgrounds took part in volunteering and training opportunities, including work on nature conservation and archaeology.

With the National Park Authority in the process of developing the next five-year plan for the Park – the National Park Partnership Plan – Callander’s Landscape is the kind of project they hope to see replicated by collaborations between communities, landowners, businesses and public organisations that tackle opportunities to restore nature and our heritage whilst bringing benefits for communities and visitors alike.

Director of Place at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, Stuart Mearns, said:

“We were proud to be the lead public body supporting the community led partnership that oversaw the delivery of a broad range of projects.  It was great to see the local interest as seen by the team of volunteers along with other projects the Park led on, in collaboration with Stirling Council and Forestry and Land Scotland to improve access to the Callander Crags pathway and to Bracklinn Falls.

“The Callander’s Landscape Partnership wouldn’t have been possible without the collaborative efforts from people and organisations across the area who all had the common goal of improving the landscape in Callander.”

Partners who contributed to the Callander’s Landscape project included Callander Community Development Trust and Callander Youth Project, Forestry and Land Scotland, Forth Rivers Trust, Stirling Council and NatureScot.

The aims of the project covered four themes:

  • Engage: celebrate the landscape’s connections to people, helping to bring Callander’s landscape to life for both residents and visitors
  • Explore: improve the path networks and recreational opportunities and encourage people to explore
  • Research: archaeologically or historically focussed projects which recorded and managed Callander’s cultural and built heritage to help better understand and interpret the area’s past
  • Restore: physical conservation and land-based projects such as habitat restoration and larger capital projects to help restore the local environment.

Callander’s Landscape also delivered legacy benefits for community organisations – growing memberships, gaining skills and taking new initiatives forward.

Prior to Callander’s Landscape involvement, the Callander Heritage Society was a small group of volunteers limited by funds. However, the Partnership has helped it to grow to support activities in the area such as excavations involving more than 150 volunteers.

The scheme has also allowed the society to assist with archaeological projects, conduct oral history research, digitise their heritage archive and host Gaelic language sessions. Their digital platform has grown to over 2,000 followers on Facebook, showing how engaged the community has been over the past five years. This also includes a Storymap which gathers the knowledge gained from the Project all in one place.

Patricia Kent from Callander Youth Project, commented:

“A highlight from the project was the training of seven Modern Apprentices, one of whom secured full-time employment with the Forth Rivers Trust thanks to his experience. We also found that 97% of volunteers trained through the Engage Programme believed it was beneficial for their health and wellbeing and 89% felt like they had significantly contributed to the area’s heritage.”

Volunteers on the Explore programme made improvements to the Callander Crags pathway and Bracklinn Falls, improving access for people with mobility issues and families with buggies or wheelchairs. Similar improvements, such as the Restore Programme’s success in clearing non-invasive species and woodland, have improved the quality of life in Callander by contributing to nature restoration and by improving access for residents and visitors.

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