Doune Ponds are a local nature reserve situated in an old sand and gravel quarry a few hundred yards from the centre of the Perthshire village of Doune. Until 2014 the Ponds had been managed by Stirling Council through a management agreement with Moray Estates, who owned the land.
Towards the end of that agreement, because of budgetary constraints, the Council were unable to commit resources because they did not own the land. The Ponds became an inaccessible wilderness and the Council duly gave up the management agreement that had existed for some 20 years. Moray Estates then approached the local community who were interested in getting involved in managing the Ponds.
The original approach was made to the local Kilmadock Community Council, and out of this initial contact the Doune Community Woodland Group (DCWG) was created. The estate negotiated a management agreement with DCWG and in addition the Estate reserves one place on the DCWG committee.
This partnership approach has worked extremely well, not only in making sure that the on-going management of the Ponds meets the need of both the local community and the Estate, but it has also been a great way for the Estate to get to know the community.
Since the new management agreement with DCWG started the transformation has been remarkable. Whereas access had only been possible to those with both stout wellies and a machete, there is now a network of paths, accessible to folk of all abilities. There are both well-managed meadow and picnic areas alongside areas that have been left wild to encourage bio-diversity of all types. All the work has been done by local volunteers and no paid contractors have been engaged and this fact in itself has been pretty remarkable.
The Estate has taken a “hands-on” approach to its contribution, including staff time in undertaking chainsaw work, for example, together with helping to organise a number of the events that now take place, including annual Easter Egg Hunts and Fun Days that are attended by hundreds of people from throughout the local community. In the five years since the community has been involved in the management over £50k has been raised and partnerships with a number of organisations, such as Paths for All, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels and Froglife have been created.
Recognition for all the work that has been done at the Ponds has included
- Scotland’s Finest Woodlands Awards – Community Woodlands Awards – winner on 2017 and highly commended 2019.
- House of Commons Early Day Motion by Stephen Kerr MP – recognising the achievement of local volunteers in opening up Doune Ponds to users of all abilities.
- Scottish Land Commission – case study in Community Engagement to be produced in summer 2019. This followed an SLE “Walk and Talk” event held at the Ponds in March 2019.
- Various articles on the Stirling Observer that have highlighted various different tasks– chiefly the opening of various sections of accessible paths as well as the construction of a substantial footbridge, all through volunteer labour.