Thursday, 6 December 2012

The First Falkirk Wildlife Festival


Below is a straight copy of a letter sent to me by the Organisers of the  1st ever "Falkirk Wildlife Festival. They want to have as many people involved as is possible, and are inviting interested parties to a Conference about the Festival which will guide it's progress and development. If you wish to attend please contact them on to keep track of numbers.

It is hoped that with the support & enthusiasm of the Falkirk Community that the event will be a successful and regular event in the Falkirk Area.

Conference to organise a Falkirk Wildlife Festival

Dear friends and associates,

We are inviting you to attend a conference at Grangemouth Town Hall on Saturday 15 December 9:30 – 12:30 (agenda attached).

The idea behind a wildlife festival is that it would be like the Edinburgh Fringe, but instead of shows, it would be various events around an environmental theme all-going on in a concentrated 2-week period.  (E.g. talks, guided walks, street fairs etc)

The overall aim is to increase awareness of the environment in Falkirk.  The hope is that through common marketing and promotion, a ‘buzz’ would be created and far more people would attend than for any individual event.  The more people attending the festival the greater likelihood of attracting new members for your group and for local groups to help each other.

We have been testing this idea with various groups and have had positive feedback.  However, it can only happen if there are sufficient groups or individuals prepared to organise an event(s) and sufficient numbers of people to organise the funding and arrange for the publicity for the festival itself.  The purpose of the conference is to work out what has to happen to make a festival happen and are people up for it.

If you would like to attend, please confirm by Sunday 9th December 2012 by e-mailing your name(s) and group  If you know of other people who might like to attend, please feel free to forward this invitation onto them.  If you already have events planned for 2013 it would be helpful to bring details along with you to the conference.

If you cannot attend but would like to be kept informed, also use the above e-mail contact.  You can also be kept informed of developments from our facebook page

We look forward to meeting you on Saturday 15th December.

Dan Jackman, Sandra Burt, Sonia McLay and Les Wallace


Falkirk Wildlife Festival – What Has to Happen to Make it Happen

Saturday 15th December 2012 at Grangemouth Town Hall

09:30 – 10:00            Registration, including tea and coffee

10:00 – 10:15            Introduction and purpose of the conference

10:15 – 10:45            1st Workshop session
                                    What should be the date for the festival?

10:45 – 11:00            Coffee break

11:00 – 11:30            2nd Workshop session
                                    How should the festival be organised?

11:30 – 11:40            Presentation – Les Wallace, Westquarter Wildlife Group

11:40 – 12:00            3rd Workshop session
                                    Event ideas

12:00 – 12:30            Summing Up and Actions

Falkirk Environment Trust will blog ongoing reports on the progress of the event. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Funding available from CSGN

The Central Scotland Green Space Network have launched their new award scheme in the Central Scotland Area. Below is a direct copy of their website which was linked to an email that I received today

"Strategic greenspace improvement projects in Central Scotland can now benefit from a share of an additional £270,000 following an extension to the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) Development Fund.
The CSGN is Europe’s largest greenspace initiative which seeks to transform Central Scotland into a place where the environment adds value to the economy and where people’s lives are enriched by its quality.
Organisations in the central belt seeking to deliver strategic projects which promote healthier lifestyles and enhance the local environment within the CSGN geographic area can apply for a share of the funding available to new projects.
Successful applications will join around 20 existing projects already sharing over £600,000 previously allocated by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Government in the previous round of the CSGN Development Fund.
Relevant projects include those which encourage regeneration and enterprise and help to join up the network, particularly in areas of multiple deprivation or where there are concentrations of vacant and derelict land.
This year organisations can bid for up to two years of funding, enabling them to plan for the longer term, thereby increasing their environmental impact. In this fourth year of the Fund, the focus is on larger scale projects and so applicants must apply for a minimum contribution of £25,000 in Year 1 (2013/2014). Overall, projects can receive up to 50% of the total project costs, with the balance made up of both in kind contributions and match funding.
Keith Geddes, Chair of the CSGN Partnership Board, said: “This significant extension to our Development Fund will ensure we continue to make a vital contribution to projects working towards improving the central belt.
“We are encouraging organisations in Central Scotland to apply for funding in order to help us deliver the CSGN on the ground to improve the landscape of the area and create a better environment. We have seen some fantastic projects supported through the Fund, projects that have made a real and lasting benefit to people, communities, businesses and the environment across Central Scotland.”
Over the past three years, the CSGN Development Fund has supported over 100 projects with almost £3.5 million. In addition, around 20 existing projects will continue to enjoy support totalling a further £1.1 million from the Fund in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
The range of previous projects has been extremely diverse and has included a social enterprise in North Lanarkshire which has promoted beekeeping and community growing, a programme of woodland creation and green network enhancements in Edinburgh, and a project in Glasgow which is transforming an area of vacant and derelict land into thriving community market gardens and orchards.
Funding applications must be submitted to Forestry Commission Scotland by Friday 25 January 2013. For more details on the CSGN Development Fund and the application form, please visit
The CSGN stretches from Ayrshire, Inverclyde and Dunbartonshire in the west to Fife and the Lothians in the east. It encompasses 19 local authorities across 10,000 sq km and has the potential to benefit 3.5million people, equating to 70 per cent of Scotland’s population.
FCS and SNH are lead partners for the CSGN and the CSGN Development Fund is also supported by £450,000 over 3 years from the Scottish Government’s Community Growing budget.


     This fund will in many cases be a ood match for ongoing Landfill Community Funds, so if you have a project idea get in touch with CSGN , and also talk to your nearest LCF Distributive Agent. If you dont know who this is, call Falkirk Environment Trust and I will do my best to find this information for you

Best of luck!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Identifying Invasive Species - American Mink

Hi all,

My name is Fiona and I’m the volunteer Arthur mentioned a few blog posts ago.  I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here and in the interest of sharing we decided it would be a nice idea to let you all know a little about what I’ve been doing.

My focus over the last little while has been on Neovison vison A.K.A the American Mink.  Many of you will recognise these as the cute little weasel-like creature that roams our waterways but how many of you realise how severe a threat they are to our wildlife??

American mink are, as the name suggests, native to North America and in their natural habitat live in harmony with the local creatures; they have both prey and predators.  The mink were introduced to Britain during the 20th Century as a farming stock for the clothing industry.  Escapes and intentional releases by animal rights activists led to the mink quickly becoming feral and establishing a presence in our countryside.  Due to lack of predation and an ample food supply, the mink has flourished here.  Mink will wantonly kill more prey than is necessary for them to survive which has led to declining numbers in many of our native birds and mammals, most notably the water vole. 

The UK water vole population has declined rapidly from pre-1960 levels of around 8 million to around 354,000 (other source: 750,000) in 1998 and in the past decade the numbers of water vole have declined by a further estimated 90%. This decline is due to both habitat loss and mink predation.  Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (the WildCRU) reported in 2008 that keeping water vole and mink populations apart is vital if efforts to reintroduce water voles, one of Britain’s most endangered mammals, are to be successful.

Ian Mitchell and Norman Ratcliffe in 2007 presented data on the impact of American Mink on puffin populations on 605 islands on the coastline of the UK.  Their data showed that there are significantly fewer breeding pairs on islands that are currently inhabited by the invasive mammals.  Their work extrapolated that if all the islands were colonised by mink then the number of breeding pairs would drop from 428,000 to 19,000.  Conversely, if all islands were free from invasive mammals, the breeding pairs would increase to 1.75 million.  

Closer to home, the effect of mink predation on sea birds in Western Scotland was observed by Clive Craik from the Scottish Association for Marine Science, on the island of Eilean Inshaig.  This rich colony was first known to have been attacked in 1987, when the mink, a female with young in a den on the island, was caught. Severe mink predation did not recur until 1992 when the 311 pairs of black-headed gulls, 85 pairs of common gulls and smaller numbers of other species all raised no young. Whole-island breeding failure caused by mink occurred again in 1993 and 1994. In 1995-1998 few or no birds attempted to breed. The island colony had become virtually extinct after repeated mink predation, mainly of eggs and young. Mink control at this site began in 1996. A few dozen pairs of black-headed and common gulls returned to breed successfully in 1999. During 2000-2007 the numbers and productivity of most species on the island had recovered almost to pre-1987 levels. 

These examples show not only the devastating effect mink predation has on our wildlife but also how effective mink eradication projects can be.  The mink is considered such a threat to UK native species that as per the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 it is illegal to release or to allow escape captive American mink into the wild.  Several large scale mink eradication projects are in place in the Scottish Islands and Northern Scotland, which have had great success in the protection of endangered native species.

That our native species are at risk is clear, the only question is what we can do about it.  I have been looking into the feasibility of a mink control project in the Falkirk area and would welcome any input you feel you could offer.

If you want to know more about this or if you have any project ideas you want to discuss, please get in touch.

Further Reading

Tackling the Problem of invasive alien mammals on seabird colonies - Strategic approaches and practical experience -

Scottish Mink Initiative -

State of Britain’s Mammals 2011 -

Friday, 28 September 2012

How to develop a project - Getting support

Here at FET we believe that any Community can make a difference, and can take on the challenge of performing actions that can benefit it’s natural, social and built environments. However we don’t believe this to be an easy or straight forward undertaking, especially if it's a group’s first project outing.

Often Community groups or individuals get in touch with us, and they invariably have great ideas for projects. Some, admittedly are greater ideas than others, but all deserve to be heard. This is the point – that communities deserve to be heard, and their aspirations acted upon when these are appropriate and do-able. There is assistance available from both FET and other agencies such as Falkirk Council, but the expectation is that the local group will be or at least become, able to pursue these matters autonomously. Most in fact do manage this, although rarely on the first project that they attempt.

I’ve been with FET for a while, and have assisted a number of projects to get off the ground. Over the time in this job, I’ve noticed patterns in both application types and the groups who make the applications. In many cases they have the same difficulties. There are lots of areas to consider, so for this post we'll stick to the idea of gaining support within the community itself. This is an incredibly powerful thing to do, as when several dozen or hundred people show a united front, the world tends to sit up and take notice!

Problem – You feel alone in thinking this problem is in fact a community problem – In many communities today isolation is a problem, and indeed stops positive community action from coming about. Maybe you have only discussed the issue with one or two people, maybe even with no-one.

Solution – Find out what the community thinks – Talk to others, and if they agree that your perceived issue is theirs too, try putting together a working party who will develop the idea. Keep the working party relatively small and be sure that you all agree on what the problem is and it's general solution before you go any further.

Dont - Keep it to yourself.

Problem - Don’t know where to start getting support – Perhaps the problem is something that the community feel that the Council or some other agency should have taken care of and possibly have felt this way for many years. It could be a dilapidated play park, community hall or a piece of waste ground that attracts anti-social behaviour. The Community want something done but don’t know how to go about it.

Solution – Approach your local Councillor, as a working group sending representatives, and explain clearly and calmly what it is that you want. Call the Falkirk Environment Trust and ask about grants for your desired outcome, and what actions you need to take. Find out who owns the piece of waste ground and approach them, not with a demand, but asking for permission to do something positive with the land yourselves. Just this simple communicative act can achieve amazing results.

Dont - Simply keep shouting at the council. It usually doesnt work. Dont try to make land owners bend to your wishes - They can be very stubborn!

Problem - You know what the problem is, but you know there are complcated issues associated with it. - Not every problem faced by modern communities is simple - most arent.

Solution - Study the situation, know your subject matter, do your homework. If you are still uncertain then find out if the council has expert staff, or if there are big charities out there that can give you free advice. Often there will be someone in your community who has made a study of the subject in hand - ask around locally. You may be pleasantly suprised!

Dont - Go to meetings with big holes in your knowledge of the subject or it's history.

Do - Become as much of an expert as you can, and gather other local experts around you.

Problem – You don’t know if the community will back your ideas –  The worst thing you can do is to try to roll out a project with out consulting everyone that will be affected by it. One persons renovated play park is another’s congregation point for scary teenagers. If you dont explore stakeholder opinions early, expect stiff reisitance to your plans later on.

Solution - Try running a public meeting. Book a space in the local community centre, library or church hall. Run an advertisement in the local paper, put up fliers or run a leaflet drop. Clearly state the thing that you want to discuss at the meeting and that you are looking for opinions on the matter. When the meeting occurs, get the opinions of all who turn up on the problem as they perceive it and their idea of a solution. You will be amazed at the diversity of ideas and skills embedded in your community. And remember the scary teenagers? Be sure to invite them and to ask their opinion. If they have been treated like adults and shown some respect, they will almost certainly come to think of the project as their own and treat IT with respect. In fact be sure to ask every sector of your community to attend. Remember – if they attend and get their say, but the mandate goes against them, then democratic process has been served, and the majority get their way. If they don’t attend a well publicised public meeting then they have had their chance at a having a say.

Dont - Ignore this

Do - Overkill this.

Problem – Don’t know where to turn for funding – The point is that gaining funding is one specific step in the linear development of a project. Don’t worry about it too much in the early stages of gathering support. A good project will attract funding when the time comes, so make sure that yours is a good project!

Solution – When the time does come to attract suitable funding partners, you’re going to need to have  developed a decent plan, with costings, permissions, possibly planning consent etc. Just remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that the most important first steps are to gather support and get people form the community on board.

Dont - Try to run before you can walk. There are many things to cover before you start applications and bids for funding. No harm in checking out whats around though!

In Conclusion
Best practice for a group that wants to make some environmental change is always going to be a difficult area to quantify. Every community is different, with varying agendas and skills. Be assured that there are people within the Council, in various charities and other organisations that can and will assist you in all aspects of project development and management.

However I can say that there are a few simple rules to getting Community improvement works off the ground. To recap;

            If you’ve had an idea that could help your community or environs, chances are it’s a good one, and many others may think in a similar way. Trust yourself.

            Gather other local people around the problem/solution, start talking about it, form a working party.

            As a group, contact and talk to people that can help and even champion your aspiration.

            Get the opinion of the local people, and take those opinions into account, through running a public meeting.

Thats it for now - If you have any questions or you want to develop a community project, please get in touch with us here at Falkirk Environment Trust .

Friday, 17 August 2012

Invasive Species - Know the enemy Part 1

I had the opportunity to go along and speak to the Bo’ness Community Council last week on the topic of Invasive Species and community projects to eradicate, or at least control their spread. Whilst I’m sure I bored them to tears with my diatribe, what came out was that lot of people need to be able to recognise these alien invaders. I will start with two species of Invasive plant , Japanese Knotweed and Himalyan Balsam

So rather than do yet another rant and rave about invasive species, here is a pictorial guide as to what the most common non natives look like, with a few basic facts about the species

With reference to getting previously unknown stands of Japanese knotweed, Himalyan Balsam and other invasive non-native species logged by the council please follow the link below.

This takes you to the Falkirk Council Ranger Service page. Look to the right hand side of the page, under “Forms” and click on the link “Report sightings of Invasive Species". Your report will assist the council to map the various species shown in this entry. Alternatively leave your siting here as a comment against this post.

Japanese Knotweed

Above - a close up of the distinctive JKW leaf

The Facts – Japanese Knotweed or JKW is a fast growing non-native from Japan, originally introduced to the UK by Victorian plant collectors (As so many of these were). It produces copious shoots and root systems and reproduces vegetatively, ie any part or fragment of the plant can produce a new plant, which quickly grows into an ever expanding stand. The stands of upright shoots are clustered so tightly that nothing else can grow in it’s midst, except for trees that were there before the infestation. As nothing eats it areas where it is present are effectively dead to wildlife.

Spread – the most common initial incursions are caused by flytipping of the cut plants. It famously spreads down water courses and infest the banks. The Stand spreads laterally from the centre by invading new teritory each year with it's roots and sending up new shoots. The plant can colinise up to three metres a year in any direction that the roots can grow into.

The photograph above shows new stems growing more thinly around the edges of the main stand - Next year this will be densly poulated with stems and the process will repeat yet further into the woodland.

Looking into the stand of JKW from it's edge (above) you can see that no light penetrates to allow other plants to germinate or photosynthesize. Indigenous plant life is there for kicked out of any area where it has gained a foothold

Treatment – Whilst JKW can be dug out it is a major job – the roots go down 3 metres and extend the same from the edge of the stand. Any soil contaminated must, under law be landfilled in special waste cells or buried 5+ meters deep, either way being prohibitively expensive. It can be effectively treated with herbicides, but garden strength sprays will not finally kill the plants roots and can make it difficult to treat properly I in future years. DO NOT attempt to pull out the stems or dig out the roots, as this will simply spread the infestation more quickly.

Inside the stand, it's dark, crowded and virtually nothing else grow due to a lack of light, nutrients and water. The above picture was taken on a bright, sunny day in August.

Himalyan Balsam

The Facts - Another asian invasive this time coming from the foothills of the Himalya mountains in India. An annual plant, it produces flashy pink and purple flowers that compete with native wildflowers for pollination, and then give way to large explosive seedheads. Once dry the seed head will burst open at the slightest touch and eject seeds up to 7 metres away. As each plant can distribute up to 800 seeds that remain viable for 2 years, the plant is classified as highly invasive. It is often mistaken for JKW because it has tall fast growing upright shoots clutered in fairly dense stands. Whilst other plants can survive  in balsm stands initially, over years the HB competes strongly for pollination, water and nutrients with indigenous plants. This process weakens the ecology of any hbitat Himalyan Balsam appears in by decreasing it’s biodiversity. Less indigenous seeds from Scottish wild plants means fewer seed eating bird, mammal and in following years fewer of the wild plants themselves.

Himalyan Balsam at Hall Glen

Treatment – As an annual plant HB has a shallow root system, relying entirely on the spread of viable seeds each year for the continuation of it’s species. Thus the plant can simply be pulled up at any point before it sets seed. The plant can also be eradicated by spraying.

Close up of the flowering heads and seed pods

Competition for pollinators from Balsam affects british wild plants. Populations of many  pollinating species are also in decline due to habitat destruction and agricultual chemical usage

Thanks for reading this blog entry. If you spot either of the above species featured here, please use the link above to get them logged and mapped by the Falkirk Council Ranger Service. Alternatively leave a comment against this post stating which species you have seen and where, giving  an OS grid reference, or a good description of its location.

To mount your own campaign against invasive species contact Falkirk Environment Trust about biodiversity grants. You must be part of a Falkirk Area based, constituted community group or charity, and have a bank account in the name of that group.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to subscribe please click on the "Follow by email" button. Alternatively, send your email address to, and I'll place you on our distribution list and post you a link whenever we post something new.

Friday, 22 June 2012

River Avon Heritage Trail

Of all the places to go in Central Scotland, if you are interested in wild spaces then the River Avon Heritage Trail is definitely for you. FET Fielded and application from Central Scotland Forest Trust for the development of the path system in 2004 for the June Board meeting. The FET Board quickly voted in favour of an award. Funding was matched by SNH, Falkirk Council, SFGS and a generous private sponsorship.

A previous project, finished and opened in 2002, which involved a huge set of wooden steps leading up to the canal towpath, linking the then fledgling heritage trail to the much longer and establised Forth and Clyde / Union canal towpath.

The Trail (at the time of the 2004 project completion) began/ended further downstream at  Linlithgow Bridge, and ran mostly parrallel to the river up to the canal viaduct as described above. At this point the trail enters Muiravonside Country Park, which is where this photo blog picks up. The trail continues on up river to the village of Avonbridge. It is envisioned that future sections will run all the way up to Slamannan.


. You can pick up the Heritage Trail at the western side of the visitors centre / tea room by following the stone steps down onto a large lawned area. Here you will see the sign posting shown above

Along the Valley
The path runs along the Avons Valley Wall, dropping in altitude relative to the river itself. If you look to the left you will see a stand of Japanese knotweed that needs to be dealt with - Applications please!

The River

The path drops to river level, and runs parallel to it for a a fair distance. This is the easiest place to access the river itself for wildlife, photography etc. The river is a known haunt for species such as kingfishers and otters.

Rosebay Willow herb meadow
As you exit the muiravonside park at its western extremity, you enter a river plateau covered in meadow grasses and Rosebay Willow Herb - perhaps another project to enhance the biodiversity of this area would be possible?

The Gate

At the farend of the meadow area is a gate thatbounds the newly planted  forest, which is really rather large. My understanding is that the land belongs to a local farmer

Himalyan Balsam

The area is not without it's share of invasive species, with Japanese knotweed, Himalyan Balsam and American Mink all known to be present. FET has been working with Falkirk Council and TCV Scotland to eradicate Rhododendron Ponticum from the country park for several years. We look forward to continuing this effort with the newly formed Falkirk Community Trust, and other partners in the field of invasives.

View of the traill ooking East

Once through the gate the path climbs again, skirting the edge of the avon Gorge - A SSSI and ancient woodland site. The trail passes through a very large area of recently planted forest, the land being owned by an ecologically minded local farmer. The phot doesnt do justice to the scale of the planting project, which must run to tens of thousands of new native broad leaf and coniferous saplings.

Into the Gorge

The path now enters the gorge itself, via a very steep set of stone steps. Thank goodness for the handrail, as it's a bit scary!

Halfway down

At the Bottom

When you finally do reach the bottom you find yourself in a completely different habitat - Whereas above was the brightly lit grass land / baby forest, you are now in an ancient riparian woodland - cool, dark and moist.

An unexpected wetland

About halfway along this section the canopy opens out and you are crossing yet another habitat - this time amarshy wetland bursting with plant, insect and bird life

A glimpse of the Carriber Bridge

At the end of this section the trail crosses over to the West Lothian side at the Carriber Bridge, a beautiful arching structure that was custom built, and all it's components moved in manually - What a job!

The Bridge
Unfortunately at this point I ran out of both time and jurisdiction, and had to turn back the way I came. The heritage trail continues over the bridge on up the Avon Gorge, crossing back over further up stream and finishing at Avon Bridge.

A Calm Pool

But before I did I came across this strtch of calm water about a 100 meters below the bridge, which I thought was worth including here.

Over all the trail is truly worth the effort, although it isnt great for less able walkersdue to the steep steps and it's general length of the path.

For Further information about the River Avon Heritage Trail click this link Which takes you to the Long Distance Walkers Association pages

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


A BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying that attempts to record all the living species within a designated area over a set time period, usually 24 hours. Teams of volunteer scientists, students, teachers, and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible.  The emphasis is on recording the total number of species, not naming every creature that has been found.  A BioBlitz gives adults, kids, and teens the opportunity to join biologists in the field and participate in bona fide biological research. It's a fun and exciting way to learn about the diversity of local habitats and to better understand how to protect them. 

While species identification is the backbone of any event, the focus of the BioBlitz can differ depending on the priorities of the leading group. 

National Geographic is helping conduct a BioBlitz in a different national park each year during the decade leading up to the U.S. National Park Service Centennial in 2016.  BioBlitz 2012 is being held in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.   This is a huge event with thousands of volunteers mapping extensive national parkland.  The 2011 BioBlitz in Saguaro National Park added over 400 species to the park’s known species list, and at least 1 species of bryophyte was found that is potentially new to science.

Other BioBlitzes in the past have been linked to conservation projects through such activities as shore or land clean-ups.  A species can’t be protected if no-one knows it’s there. Linking the BioBlitz explicitly to conservation is an ideal way to make it clear to participants how their findings can contribute to local and national conservation efforts. Once participants have identified and listed the species, they can determine a way to apply these findings to local conservation or clean-up initiatives.  A baseline species list has been created and can also be used to judge the biological success of any environmental endeavours.  Further to that a BioBlitz can also help to identify the presence of invasive species in your area and allow for early intervention.  Details of UK non-native species can be found on at

Many community led events opt for a shorter BioBlitz that introduces the local community to their native species and to the idea that biodiversity is important in their area.  The shorter time of a few hours might not provide such a full picture but is still very useful as a species mapping tool and has the advantage of being more accessible to younger members of the community and is more likely to hold their interest.  Groups can involve environmental and educational activities around the blitz which will heighten the experience.  This Canadian website offers some suggestions for activities on the day 

There are BioBlitz’s happening all over the UK this year.  The Cultural Olympiad has made biodiversity one of the focuses of the Olympic year.  Inspired by the conservation work on the Olympic Park, Meet the Species is encouraging people to get involved in wildlife surveying events across the UK, to find out more about the natural world on their doorstep.  The findings will be used to help protect and conserve wildlife in the future, just as the survey work on the Olympic Park has informed experts on the best way to design, build and manage the Park with people and wildlife in mind.  As such they have 2012 species which they would like to identify through accredited BioBlitz’s or meet the species events.  A full list of UK events is available at
The registered events happening in Scotland are here -

To help with the identification of species there is a new website called iSpot.  Once registered with the site people can upload photographs and either add an identification or leave as unidentified.  Other users are then able/encouraged to view your submission and agree or disagree with your identification.  Eventually this will enable better mapping of species across the UK

Each UK BioBlitz will help form a clearer picture of the number and spread of species within the UK.  This will provide a guideline for native species conservation and a framework for dealing with invasive species.  Getting the local community involved in the BioBlitz provides educational opportunities and raises awareness of local habitats.  It also has the benefit of increasing outside activity among the local community by encouraging exploration of local areas.

Westquarter Wildlife Group are running a Meet the Species Event on 19th May 10am-2pm at the Westquarter Community Project beside Westquarter Primary School.  There will also be a bat walk in the evening for which places need to be booked.  All are welcome to the day event but to book your place for the bat walk please contact Les Wallace at

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

How the funder thinks....

Have you ever made an application for funding, and been rejected? Wondered what on earth the funder wanted you to say or do to get the money?

Firstly let me explain what a “Funder” actually is: It’s effectively a hive mind – an entity consisting of several individual volunteers who make a decision based on a pre-existing set of rules known as “The Constitution”. In FET’s case our constitutional documents are called “Articles and Memorandum of Association”, as we are registered with Companies house as a Company Limited by Guarantee. It is not, generally, the officer employed by the Trust (or whatever). That person carries out the will of the hive mind, and pursues it's decisions in the real world. All application for our main grants scheme are carried back to the Board of Directors.

So how can a community group access this group mind, and convince it that their project shines brighter than the others presented at the same meeting. After all, in these straightened times there is less money flowing in the coffers of grant making bodies, as with most other institutions in the UK. You can read the rule book and provide a good application, but sometimes that’s not enough. What I would like to attempt here is to give the FET Blog readership some insight into what the funder wants, how they (generally) think and hopefully give you an edge when project application time comes around for your group.

It does really start with the constitutional documents of your target funder. If they are a government agency, they will have a code of practice upon which their decision making is led. So point one is to do some homework on the Funders that you wish to approach. Constitutional documents tend to be a bit long winded and legally phrased, so if you are going ask for said documents, look for the “Objects” section. This is where the organisation states their reason for existence, and what they want to achieve. Most organisations that have enough money or are connected enough to make grants will be registered charities.

Collect all of the standard “who & what we can fund” “past projects” and other introductory material, but also take the time to have a look at the objects of the organisation. Gain an understanding of the types of projects that particular funder likes and dislikes. If you dont see many Church roof repairs in their past projects then chances are they dont spend money on church rooves. The point is that each Funding entity has it's own personality, it's preferences and it's dislikes. As the Board of Directors changes over the years so too will this personality, but probably not by very much. Remember the Constitutional Objects? That will always remain as the core and guiding document.

There is always the chance that you have got the wrong end of the stick about what sort of thing the organisation wishes to fund. The real problem of course comes when your project only tenuously matches up against their criteria. For example if a sports club with a private membership approaches the Landfill Community Fund wanting a new clubhouse roof, but does not wish to allow general public access to the site once the project is completed, then they are not compliant under the LCF access rules and won’t get funded.

Therefore pay close attention to what the funder is asking you to do, and what proofs and assurances you need to provide. If you cant get hold of something that your funder wants, then communicate this with them. Lots of groups are disappointed because the left something out that they didn’t consider important, but which was in fact a critical component of their application.

Any good funding body will have an officer who is there to assist you with information and advice. Listen to what they have to say, and do as they ask you to do. Nothing annoys a funding officer more than giving good advice about something they have detailed and intimate knowledge of, and then being ignored! Poor communication with the officer is the cause of many funding failures, and it's a lot more common than you would think.

Speaking of application failures, in my experience most that fail do so for one of the following reasons;

The project is not well planned and gaps in things like "who will manage the work?”are  apparent.

The application is unclear as to what the final outcomes will be, or is incomplete in some other way.

The costings are unclear or are obviously wrong

The application does not fit the criteria of the funder in some critical way

The applicant has not attempted to gain enough additional funding from other sources, leading the funder to feel over exposed to risk

The applicant has not followed through on essential preparative work, such as a community
consultation, gaining permissions, doing surveys or seeking letters of support from stakeholders.

A successful application must seek to address the funders needs – remember all funders have a source that they need to satisfy, and will have to answer to this source at audit. Ion our case this is HMRC, but it could be a corporation or bank, local, national or central government direct, a wealthy benefactor or a trust set up by a family.

Funders have the opposite agenda to most other groups or businesses – our success is measured by how much money can be moved out the door. Not as easy as it might first appear, as every grant made must be properly formulated, be fully compliant and be both transparent and auditable. The auditability of any given project is always on the funders mind, and should therefore be on the applicants mind as well.

So remember – most funders want to help, but you must provide them with the means to help you through good application and preparation. In every case, good communication throughout the application process is essential. In every case, be sure that your project matches the fund requirements.

Thats all for now - Please feel free to ask any questions, which will be answered in the comments section below this post.