> Paths to Education
Paths to Education
Paths to Education
Situated between the small village of Fenwick and the town of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, Craufurdland Estate, owned by the Houison Craufurd family for nearly 800 years, has been largely a very private place until recent times.
The opening up of the core of the estate, specifically the mixed woodlands that surround the drives up to the castle, began in earnest in 2008. Recognising a growing demand for mountain bike access, Alex and Simon Houison Craufurd worked with a representative from a local Cycling Club to identify areas and existing routes through the woods which might be developed into mountain bike trails.
With the initial design of routes complete, there were then a series of ‘work-days’ organised by the estate and the club, during which the routes were cleared, marked and where necessary bridges put in place. With a squad of up to 30 willing and fit volunteers, the routes were quickly developed and after only a few weekends work the initial routes were usable by the cycling club. These consisted of 7km of twisting winding trails through the Craufurdland woodland. Car parking was provided by the estate at their existing Fly-fishing Lochan, free of charge.
After the initial year of use, the project was victim of its own success and further ‘work-days’ were required. Over the next two years, using donated recycled stone, the trails were significantly improved with hard surface laid to secure long term use of the trails, and then extended to a total of nearly 10km of trails. The project is once again approaching a crossroads (pardon the pun) and the estate are now looking to seek funding to further improve the sustainability of the trails.
As a direct result of the trails development, the estate was approached by East Ayrshire Woodlands, a local partnership initiative supporting communities and landowners to expand and enhance native and amenity woodlands in Ayrshire. After discussions of possible projects, a forest school-area development was identified. Again using the parking at the fishery, the group developed an interpretation trail in a public area, as an educational resource to demonstrate, in the form of 3d installations, traditional woodland crafts. A separate clearing was to be created, where local groups could visit to take part in bushcraft and other activities as part of a woodland school programme, developing into a forest school site. This work was completed with, among others, pupils from Kilmarnock Academy, and the forest school is used by Fenwick Primary School.
These works then led to a group of young people from Kilmarnock College E=MC2 programme for disaffected school leavers to approach the estate to provide outdoor activity opportunities on one afternoon per week. The group of approximately 30 chose either fly-fishing, mountain biking and path building. The result of the 10 week program for the path building group was the renovation and creation of walking trails, including the building of three large timber bridges made from estate sawn and milled timber. This project was finalised by a two weeks of work by a similar group, supported by the Princes Trust.
These projects all continue to be used by the wider community. The estate, amongst other community projects, is looking to develop a 2km general use footpath to the village of Fenwick, identified by the village as part of the Community Action Plan.