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Connecting the Next Generation: Reflections from the Cairngorms Connect Cohort

This summer, a group of local young people gathered at Badaguish Outdoor Centre. This residential event was part of ‘Cohort’, a new project designed to connect a small group of motivated individuals, facilitate a deeper understanding of landscape-scale ecological restoration, and provide the opportunity to be part of the next generation working towards Cairngorms Connect’s 200-year vision. 

In this blog, three members of the Cohort, Nell, Ben, and Kyle, reflect on their time at the residential and the aims of the Cohort moving forwards.

"On the surface of it Conservation can seem like an accessible topic; protect a natural area and it thrives, right? For young people in Scotland though we’ve found that we can feel pretty removed from what’s really happening, how it’s happening, and sometimes what should be happening.

At the beginning of August ten young people (18–25) came together for a series of workshops in the wild and conservations on conservation, held in the rich bowl of Glenmore and facilitated by Cairngorms Connect. On the first evening, sharing supper and our stories around a long table, I could hear that the room held diverse experiences and views on conservation, all held together by an interest and enthusiasm in the Cairngorm landscape.

IMG_9558The group took part in a reflective writing session with Artists in Residence, Amanda Thomson and Elizabeth Reeder at our accommodation in Badaguish Outdoor Centre.

As the light faded and conversations fragmented into smaller groups, each was the validation that there are definitely young people with an active interest in protecting landscapes and the environment. If I felt like I was here to learn and hear some new perspectives, the group around me were the people to start with. Experience and knowledge ranged from studying topics related to conservation to working in outdoor education and forestry, to being part of youth and activist groups striving for better environmental (and climate) monitoring, management, and policy. The Cairngorms are the perfect place to explore and unite any of these topics.

 

IMG_9541Tree Nursery Assistant Lynn gave the group a tour of the different saplings growing in the nursery and their journey from seed to being planted out across the partnership.

Over the three days we participated in workshops and activities offering an insight into each of the components of work which Cairngorms Connect are involved in, and to each of us some were new, some familiar, and some surprising. Many of us weren’t aware of the amount of monitoring, surveying, and data collection which Cairngorms Connect undertake, which is of course crucial to assessing by the impact of their work. Each part of the practical conservation work was shown to us in a holistic way such as following alpine willows from the tree nursery to the Loch A’an basin, or following deer from a vegetation impact survey, talking about and understanding stalking, a larder demonstration, and then eating the venison. While there was a general appreciation of the value of each element, the air still hummed with questions and curiosity, driving an energy between each of us.

 

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Some of the group spent time at Loch A'an imagining what the landscape could look like in 200 years. This sketch used heather and other plants to create the colours. Photo and drawing by Katie.

 

Now, fulfilled with some insight, fuelled with the connections of a brilliant group, and lit with our own inspirations, our next step is to see what we will make of the Cairngorms Connect Cohort. For each of us there are already impressions which have grown and developed some of our perspectives and work, and these we all look forward to sharing soon. For the group, we are grateful that the team at Cairngorms Connect will continue to facilitate our meeting, as we come together again on zoom for a strategy meeting this month." – Nell 

 

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Ellie and other team members introduced the Cohort to the range of work our Science and Monitoring team do. 

"I believe that young people who share the vision of and are part of the ecological restoration story, have an enormous part to play in long-term projects such as Cairngorms Connect. And I believe that outdoor education has a major role in that involvement." – Ben

 

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Spotting Downy Willow saplings as the group walked into the Loch A'an basin. 

"I visualise a landscape where forests are diverse and plentiful, stretching from east to west, north to south. As a forester by trade I have taken a particular interest in work such as restoration of montane scrub with species like Downy Willow at Loch A’an and also their support in allowing natural regeneration to expand the forests. What I would like to see going forward from this partnership would be to continue to have a focus on the local population. Projects like the venison project they are undertaking through offering a local, sustainable and affordable source of produce is a positive step. Hopefully more projects with local communities can continue in years to come and if as a group we can contribute to this in some way that will be tremendous." – Kyle

 

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The Cairngorms Connect Cohort pose with their statement of intent on the final morning of the residential.

 

Together the group came up with a statement of intent to guide their next steps and the work they will go on to do as part of the next generation working towards Cairngorms Connect's 200-year vision:

Promoting connections with the Cairngorms Connect landscape through creating space, skills, knowledge, and community for young people to find their own inspiration and place within this landscape.

 We'll continue to share updates from the Cohort in our newsletter and on social media.

This work is made possible by funding from the Endangered Landscapes Programme.

 

 

 

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