Castlebank Park & Horticultural Centre

Castlebank Park was the hunting ground for Lanark Castle up until 1760 when it was developed into a residential area and formal gardens. The council obtained the land in the 1950’s but from the 1960’s onwards the park area and gardens slowly fell into disrepair. I was keen to see the changes that had occurred since I had lived in the area over 28 years ago as by then the park was unused and unsafe.

The Lanark Community Development Trust have supported an inspired and transformational change. In 2002 the community got over 2000 signatures and then the hard work began. They decided to create a Horticultural Centre within the park to become the base for volunteers to bring the gardens back to life and to also create a centre for local skills development and training.

From 2010 Lanark Community Development Trust working in partnership with Lanark in Bloom have given the park a new lease of life and created a beautiful green space for Lanark.

In the 1st phase of development which began in 2014 the only tennis court ‘dump’ was transformed into a highly productive Horticulture Centre growing area. This became a base for the volunteers to allow the transformation of their gardens to begin. Today they have different groups visiting, working and learning and can cater for upwards of 35 children at a time. The team then went on to recreate the Wallace Rose Garden and wanted to develop the old Curling Pond into a ‘Japanese Water Garden’ but they were refused permission by the Council so they have developed a ‘Bog Garden’. There were some storm felled trees in the middle of the gardens and instead of removing them they have been turned into a magical ‘Fairy Dell’ with the aid of a very talented chainsaw wood carver.

Phase 2 saw the creation of the Horticultural Centre Hub from the ruined Sawmill building. This lovely airy space is used for a wide variety of activities, meetings and workshops. This was where we all gathered for a cuppa and a chat with the Trust’s Development Manger, Melissa, the Education Manager, Stuart, and the chair of the Development Trust, Sylvia. With the energy and commitment of these 3 people the park is going from strength to strength as they offer a wide variety of workshops, talks walks amongst other things.

In June 2018 Prince Charles visited the gardens and was so impressed that he donated some money to help in the development of a Labyrinth for the sundial lawn.

Last year the park gained accreditation to run the ‘RHS level 2 Principles of Horticulture’ theory course and the course will start this September. Throughout the year they run courses for all ages and stages and abilities and are beginning to get awards including being shortlisted for the Scottish Rural Action Innovators Award.

I wish them all the very best for the future as they continue to restore and develop this wonderful asset.

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Island Revival

The Islands Revival Declaration

We affirm that there is credible evidence of ‘green shoots’ of population turnaround in the Scottish islands, which as yet does not show up in official statistics.
 This is illustrated by a number of examples of population growth in islands, such as those cited in the Islands Revival blog (
 It is also indicated by a more positive discourse on population change in island communities.
 It is supported by the changing perceptions of younger, economically active people, especially out-migrant islanders, who increasingly consider their birthplace as a place to return to, and at an earlier stage in their lives. Connectivity (especially social media) is playing an important role in popularising this attitude.
 This is associated with an increasing appreciation, particularly by younger people (whether they have stayed, returned or settled), of the cultural wealth, environmental assets, well-being, and community-related benefits of island life.
 However, it is important to acknowledge that the demographic aspirations of island communities are not necessarily ‘growth’, but rather sustainability, renewal, or restored viability, without risk to social, cultural and environmental assets.

We believe there are multiple factors driving and facilitating positive population trends in some island areas.
 These include intangible assets, such as:
o Local control of territorial assets (land and marine), accompanied by good governance, and strong community leadership.
o Increasing awareness of and confidence in what communities can achieve through cooperation among residents and groups.
o Increasing interest, among many young people, in exploring enterprising ways of living.
o Concern about climate change and other sustainability issues.
o The use of media in promoting role models and success stories.
 Positive trends are also supported by:
o Investment in connectivity (digital and physical), technology and renewables.
o Investment in social infrastructure (e.g. housing, education, health services, childcare and social care).
o A focus on ‘good’ (e.g. pay, conditions, diverse opportunities, job security) and meaningful employment.
o The presence of diverse micro and small enterprises.
o Involvement of the younger generation in policy decisions/education as a driver of attitude change.
 The above seem to be, collectively, delivering a gradual but clear shift in the consensus about the balance between the advantages and disadvantages of living on islands versus those of living in or near a city.

We believe that creating sustainable populations can be facilitated by a policy framework that is:
• Founded on community ownership of the development process.
• Framed as a place-based approach which is holistic, integrated and coherent.
• Informed and shaped by local communities in ways that are meaningfully inclusive.
• Delivered in genuine partnership between sectors at all administrative levels, and civil society.
• Enabling of communities that may have limited capacity to engage meaningfully.

The declaration reflects the views and experiences of those who attended the Islands Revival Workshop at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye, 29th and 30th August 2019.

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