Biosphere Community Celebration at Ochiltree rounds off GSAB’s 10th anniversary events
The Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere has officially concluded its 10th anniversary celebrations with a special event to launch two new walks designed and created in partnership with residents of Ochiltree, East Ayrshire’s first ‘Biosphere Community’.
More than eighty people turned out to collect the newly published route leaflets and test the Heritage and Lugar Water trails, accompanied by walk leaders from the Ayrshire Rivers Trust, South West Scotland Environmental Information Centre, and the GSA Biosphere team. The group headed out in fine weather from Ochiltree Community Hub, following the river to the Barony A-Frame at Auchinleck – with wildlife-spotting and a bit of spontaneous foraging for blackberries en route – before taking a coach back to the Hub for sandwiches, scones, and musical entertainment provided by The Cumnock Tryst.
Southwest Scotland’s UNESCO-designated region covers parts of East and South Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway, and was re-certified with an expanded boundary at the beginning of July. Now covering almost 9,800km², the GSA Biosphere is recognised globally for cultural identity, environmental value, and distinctive landscapes which include a swathe of former mining country stretching from Cumnock south to Dalmellington and beyond. Ochiltree was awarded Biosphere Community status in 2022, reflecting residents’ commitment to sustainable living and making the village a great place for all ages to live, work and play.
Work on the new walks has been underway for several months to improve accessibility through the restoration of old footpaths and nature-friendly landscaping on stretches that had become overgrown. The route leaflets were a collaborative design with photographs and heritage information supplied by members of the community. Places of interest include the 18th century Dumfries House, and the Boswells’ Auchinleck Estate, owned by the family since 1504. Wildlife enthusiasts exploring the Lugar Water route have a good chance of seeing dippers, dragonflies, or one of several species of birds of prey.
The Ochiltree event was funded by the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership (CCLP), which is leading a variety of heritage, nature and volunteer projects aimed at reinvigorating life in this historic industrial region. CCLP works with the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere on public outreach, learning, and community-focused activities which range from Sense of Place workshops to bioblitzes and green health.
Commenting on the Ochiltree event, the GSA Biosphere’s Community & Education lead, Jenna Cains, said, “This was a fantastic gathering which could not have happened without the knowledge and passion of local people. The whole day’s programme really embodies what the Biosphere is all about as an organisation, which is creating connections between individuals and groups that would not otherwise meet, and sharing conversation, experiences, and the joy of our great outdoors.”
The River Lugar and Heritage Walks at Ochiltree are available at Ochiltree Community Hub or as free digital downloads from the ‘Resources’ section of our website: Maps, Routes and Itineraries Archives – Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere (gsabiosphere.org.uk)