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John Muir Awards achieved through Galloway Glens summer programme

The Galloway Glens Scheme has sought to respond creatively to the Covid-19 challenges of this year.

As part of this, an online version of the John Muir Awards Scheme was launched this summer to encourage and acknowledge time spent exploring and engaging with the amazing natural environment in Galloway.

This week sees a report being published, which gives an overview of the activity programme that ran through the summer of 2020. The scheme resulted in 24 John Muir Awards being achieved by young people or families in Galloway.

To meet the criteria for a John Muir ‘Discovery’ Award, participants (either a family or an individual) are required to complete 24 hours of activities that encompass the four challenge areas: to Discover, Explore, Conserve and Share wild places.

The report published this week (available here: Final-Report.pdf) gives a full overview of the programme, how it operated, and lessons learned. It is made available to share lessons learned in operating the scheme, for any other groups interested in replicating the activity.

Key findings are:

  • 24 participants achieved the Award
  • 44 adults, young people and children actively engaged in discovering, exploring, conserving, and sharing their experiences of local landscape and wildlife over the summer – primarily in the Galloway Glens Scheme area
  • The Galloway Glens Scheme has achieved John Muir Award Provider status for 2020 / 2021
  • A new, open Facebook group will be established for sharing local outdoor ideas, activities, and information for families with a focus on the Galloway Glens area
  • A series of video resources on the land and wildlife in the Galloway Glens area has been created
  • A bank of ideas, activities and resources created by the participants is available as a resource for future projects

The project was undertaken through the Galloway Glens Scheme, overseen by the Scheme’s Education & Community Engagement officer, Helen Keron.

Reviewing the report, Helen said: “After the success of our Go Wild project in summer 2019, we were very disappointed not to be able to do the same this year. However, this online programme allowed us to support families and young people to interact more meaningfully with nature in a different way. Although we would have loved to have been able to meet our participants face to face, the feedback from all of them was clear that this level of support, and in particular the structure of the John Muir award, allowed them to look at their local environment in a whole new way. We will definitely look to build on this approach in 2021.”

Mary Smith, Outdoor Education specialist, led on design and delivery of the programme.

Mary added: “The input by those who took part in the Awards process this summer was fantastic. It was really inspiring to see the variety of ways that people – particularly the younger participants – used the Awards as a focus for exploring, documenting and reflecting on our local wild places, from the bottom of a garden to remote lochs and shorelines, and the care demonstrated by everyone in the conservation element of the awards.”

Dawn Spernagel, who took part in the programme and completed the award with her four children, said: “We have always spent a lot of time outside as a family but the Galloway Glens online John Muir award has definitely inspired us to get out more and properly ‘see’ what we have perhaps just taken for granted. By showing our friends our wild spaces, we have realised how properly lucky we are.”

Jenny Holmes, John Muir Award Scotland Project Officer, added: “You have a wonderful basis for an Award. It is open and flexible, which is ideal for an online group working in their own chosen wild places and I loved that there is such a high level of support.”

The Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme is a suite of projects happening across the catchments of the rivers Ken and Dee from 2018 to 2023. £2.7million of core funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will be matched by a variety of partners to bring over £5million of investment into the area over the five years.

The area stretches from the uplands behind Carsphairn in the north, through the Glenkens, past Loch Ken, through Castle Douglas and out to the sea at Kirkcudbright. Thirty-five headline projects plus more Small Grants projects all aim to connect people with their cultural, natural and built heritage, and to support sustainable modern rural communities.

The Scheme is supported by a range of organisations, particularly Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Environment Team and the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere.

For more information about the scheme, visit www.gallowayglens.org.