Back when the sky was still blue and the N76 partners were getting ready for a busy summer of activities, the N76 group and guests visited the “Wheels of Fleet” community cycling project in Gatehouse of Fleet. Huge thanks to Thornhill & District Community Transport for getting us there safely.
We were greeted by our host, Danny, and an impressive display of bikes. All bicycles available at Wheels of Fleet are second-hand, donated, and refurbished by their team of expert volunteers. Danny led us through the history of Wheels of Fleet, starting with his own idea to encourage cycling in a cycle-depleted community and leading to the formation of a local identity centred around cycling and community cohesion. After the presentation, the group explored the extensive warren of workshops and bikes, stopping to admire the herb garden along the way.
Wheels of Fleet projects include second-hand sales and hire, e-bikes, led rides and repairs, as well as the all-important bike wash station. During our tour, volunteers were busy fixing bikes and happy cyclists came in and out, pausing to say hello to Danny. Wheels of Fleet is run with affordability and inclusivity in mind, making it a welcoming community hub.
Alongside these projects, the weekly “bike bus” helps Gatehouse residents with the school run, getting children to school without cars and making the journey fun. Danny happily described the chatter and excited atmosphere that follows the bike bus as he and volunteers escort the young cyclists to school.
With appetites worked up for cycling and for lunch, the group crossed the road to Galloway Lodge to enjoy some great food and continue the conversation with Danny. Thanks to Galloway Lodge for fitting us all in!
As part of the N76 project, we are running learning and networking events throughout the year. Over the next few months, other in-person and online events will be announced based on specific aspects of low-carbon transport that interest the N76 partners. To keep up with the N76 project and sign up to our events, follow us on Facebook.
Exciting news for sustainable transport enthusiasts! Orkney’s Co Wheels Car Club has just received two brand-new electric vehicles (EVs). The new additions to the car club are two MG4s, a multiple award-winning electric car with a range of over 200 miles.
Community Energy Scotland (CES), in partnership with Co Wheels, is responsible for the yearly operation of one of the two MG4s and the other is the responsibility of Orkney-based EMEC (European Marine energy Centre).
The new car at the Kirkwall Pier replaces the previous vehicle supplied by the recently completed ReFLEX Orkney project. The project EV proved to be a popular choice for use by residents of the Northern Orkney Islands to access a car on Orkney Mainland without having to bring their own vehicles on the ferry. We are delighted to be able to continue the service and support residents with a brand new EV.
The Orkney Co Wheels Car Club includes three electric vehicles:
An MG4 at the Kirkwall pier
An MGZS at Sommerville Square, in Kirkwall
An MG4 at the ORIC building, in Stromness
The Car Club, operated by Co Wheels, a UK national social enterprise, is a membership-based service that allows members to rent vehicles for short periods of time, by the hour. Members reserve the MG4 through an easy online booking system, and then pick it up from a designated location. It’s a helpful and convenient option for people who do not want the expense and hassle of owning a personal vehicle, or for those who need access to a car for occasional use.
The Orkney Co Wheels Car Club is a positive step towards reducing our reliance on personal vehicles, encouraging the use of sustainable transport options. For the next year, CES is aiming to raise awareness of the Car Club so that it can benefit as many Orkney residents as possible and to establish a firm foundation for its future.
Smarter Choices Smarter Places awarded funding to CES to cover 50% of CES’ investment into the Car Club operation and communications. We are grateful for the opportunity this has given us to help make this local service possible.
Overall, the addition of new electric vehicles to the Orkney Co Wheels Car Club is a forward looking development for sustainable transport in the region. With convenient access to low-emission vehicles, residents and visitors alike can now travel around Orkney without relying on personal cars.
On a windy, rainy and downright Scottish November morning, the N76 in Motion group and guests set off on a learning visit to two community-driven transport projects in Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders.
Our first stop was in Beattock, where Ron from Beattock Station Action Group showed us the proposed sites for Beattock railway station and explained their long-standing and community-backed campaign for improved rail links with the central belt and elsewhere in Scotland. The campaign for a station at Beattock mirrors a similar issue in the N76 area, where community members are attempting to have the station at Thornhill reopened. Both Beattock and Thornhill are located on railway lines, but are more than 10 miles away from their closest stations. This makes it difficult for community members to travel further afield without relying on car ownership. Ron gave us some great insight into the work that has gone into the decade-long campaign for Beattock station and was happy to answer questions from our enthusiastic group. You can learn more about the campaign at Beattock Station Action Group | Keeping up to date with the plan to re-open Beattock Station.
The group refuelled at the famous Brodies of Moffat, where we were joined by Vicky from Annandale Community Transport Service. Good discussions were had with Vicky, as well as Selina from Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway and Stephen from Cairn Valley Community Transport, who joined us on the trip. It was a great experience to get everyone together and talk about something we are all invested in: Improving low-carbon transport options for the community. And after the long bus journey, the excellent food was particularly welcome.
Refreshed and energised, we set off into the hills past Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall, which was in full torrent. Our final destination was the old Ettrick primary school in the Scottish Borders, which is now the home of Ettrick & Yarrow Community Development Company. EYCDC is a development trust like the N76 partners, with a similar interest in low-carbon transport options. Key to this effort are the e-bikes, which locals and holidaymakers can rent for transport and recreation around Ettrick. EYCDC made sure to purchase e-bikes that can cope with the hilly local terrain and forest tracks, making them great all-rounders.
Other exciting projects include the electric car and charging point, used for business activities as well as for helping the local community. The development trusts were also eager to hear about the conversion of a farmstead into sustainable, affordable housing and business units, which are almost ready for their new occupants. And, perhaps more suited to visiting on a sunny day, EYCDC has developed a path encircling St Mary’s Loch – the organisation’s first major project, completed in 2015. To learn more about these and other projects, visit Projects (ettrickandyarrow.org.uk).
Our day concluded with a discussion on the many links between N76 partner projects and those of EYCDC, as well as some Q&A on their many projects. We enjoyed the cosy log burner for a little longer before climbing into the minibus and setting off home.
As part of the N76 project, we are running learning and networking events throughout the year including our visit to Beattock and EYCDC. Over the next few months, other events will be announced based on specific aspects of low-carbon transport that interest the N76 partners. These events are open to the public and there are a mixture of in-person and online formats. To keep up with the N76 project and sign up to our events, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
The N76 Energy in Motion project is a partnership with six development trusts based along and around the A76 trunk road in Dumfries & Galloway and East Ayrshire. The project was started in response to development trusts’ concerns about local barriers to travel and ways to reduce these barriers by improving low carbon transport (LCT) options. The development trusts have identified transport as a shared challenge for their communities and essential for achieving local development goals.
What does this project involve?
In the first year of the project, we identified LCT challenges and potential in the local area through public consultations. These consultations were used to create six in-depth transport plans and a summary report which highlight achievable solutions and future projects for individual development trusts and the overall N76 project area.
Now in our second year, we are using the above outcomes to support the N76 partners to develop individual and joint transport projects, with the aim of tackling some of the challenges and opportunities for transport in the N76 area that were identified in year 1.
Events are a key aspect of the N76 project and have included learning visits, workshops and networking sessions which are open to other relevant organisations and the public. In year 1, these included a visit to Beattock Station Action Group to hear about their campaign for a train station, and to Ettrick & Yarrow Development Company to see their LCT projects. We also held a workshop event during which attendees helped map active travel routes within the project area and shared ideas for improving walking, cycling and wheeling options for our communities.
In year 2, local interest in the mapping workshop led to two further events in Moniaive and New Cumnock, this time with a specific focus on active travel within each individual community. We have also organised learning visits to the Wheels of Fleet cycling project in Gatehouse of Fleet and Coalfield Community Transport in Cumnock, both of which are highly successful transport initiatives.
Community transport (CT) has been an important aspect of year 2 of the project, due to the need for support identified in the year 1 transport plans and the enthusiasm of local CT providers and N76 partners to work together on their shared challenges.
Who are we working with?
The N76 partners are comprised of six development trusts on and around the A76 in Dumfries and Galloway and East Ayrshire.
Moniaive Initiative, Glencairn Parish
Nith Valley Leaf Trust, Closeburn Parish
KPT Development Trust, Keir, Penpont and Tynron Parishes
Sanquhar Enterprise Company, Sanquhar Parish
Kirkconnel and Kelloholm Development Trust, Kirkconnel Parish
The N76 project began in 2022 and is made possible thanks to the support of Paths For All’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places (SCSP) Open Fund; Foundation Scotland’s Clyde Community Fund and Annandale and Nithsdale Community Benefit Company (ANCBC) Fund; and Dumfries & Galloway Council’s Regionwide Community Fund (RWCF).
Western Isles Energy in Motion (WIEiM) ran from July 2020 to August 2021 which aimed to raise awareness of sustainable transport opportunities for community organisations in the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides) of Scotland. Community Energy Scotland (CES) provided advice and support services for a variety of community organisations working in the Islands. The project arose following growing interest across Western Isles communities about reducing local transport costs and associated emissions and a growing awareness of support such as funding and advice for community-led sustainable transport projects. The project was funded by Paths for All, The Robertson Trust, The Pebble Trust and Western Isles Development Trust
WIEiM followed on from Uist Energy in Motion, a more localised project delivered in 2019, and focussed delivered in two main ways; firstly, gathering and sharing information about local transport, needs and capacities alongside educating community groups on sustainable transport modes, and secondly, helping community groups to secure funding and develop projects.
In order to inform these activity streams we began by conducting a Baseline Survey with community organisations on their experiences of sustainable transport. Whilst helping to gather information on individual project ideas and targets the survey revealed trends across the Outer Hebrides. Despite having a good general awareness of most sustainable transport modes, respondents had less awareness of purchase and running costs of different modes, funding opportunities and community case studies. These findings were used to inform the development of webinars and workshops and helped to target these resources to the areas of most value to community organisations across the Outer Hebrides.
WIEiM delivered a series of webinars about sustainable transport opportunities, such as e-bikes, electric vehicles and active travel pathways. These workshops took a more detailed look at various aspects or modes of sustainable transport, covering the benefits, considerations, case studies, costs and funding sources for options such as e-bikes, electric vehicles, active travel infrastructure, community transport and mobility hubs. The webinars were well attended at the time and have also served as a useful resource for subsequent inquires as they contain many useful links and pieces of information relevant for community groups.
During this period one to one support was also available for any organisation with sustainable transport interests. The nature of this support varied with organisations levels of experience and interest, sometimes being just an introductory chat and discussion of local transport needs and the various options which might work in a local area, other times groups were provided with specific technical advice or given assistance with funding applications. This service continued throughout the year and connected with groups from Barra, Uist, Harris and Lewis, helping 10 community organisations to succeed in funding applications and bringing over £250,000 of investment in sustainable transport projects to the Outer Hebrides.
Prior to WIEiM there was only 1 e-bike project operating across the Islands; following the success of the project there are now 5 community groups who have launched, or are launching, their own e-bike sharing schemes all of whom received support through WIEiM. Additionally, projects involving an e-cargo bike, community transport and EV charging have all received support from WIEiM and been launched in the last year.
WIEiM was also an important learning experience for CES in working on sustainable transport and helped build contacts with other organisations working on community sustainable transport. Communities across Scotland are increasingly interested in, and active on, local transport projects and we feel it’s important CES can evolve to support such projects. We have transferred many learnings from WIEiM into our Network 76 project in the South West of Scotland which takes a similar approach but builds around an established partnership of 6 community development trusts. Find out more about the project here. We’re excited to continue supporting communities with sustainable transport ideas and projects!
Are you interested in hands-on community development that focuses on sustainable transport solutions? If so, we have a full time vacancy providing an exciting opportunity for a role helping to decarbonise communities in South West Scotland.
We are looking to recruit an N76 Project Officer to work on sustainable transport solutions in Dumfries & Galloway and East Ayrshire. Network 76 in Motion (N76) is a project developed together by six communities on and around the A76 with support from Community Energy Scotland.
There is some flexibility with the work location for this post.
Earlier this month, the six partners that make up the N76 project, alongside three members of Community Energy Scotland staff – Matthew Logan, Benny Talbot and myself, congregated in person for the first time to officially set the wheels in motion (pun intended!). The project supports communities throughout the Nith Valley region to develop low carbon community transport initiatives. The Keir, Penpont & Tynron Development Trust (KPTDT) dutifully offered to host the day’s proceedings at their Three Villages Café in Penpont. The remaining parties descended upon the village from various points along the Nith Valley, including Sanquhar, Kirkconnell & Kelloholm, New Cumnock, Closeburn and Moniave.
Fully caffeinated and comfortably in from the cold, we began with a novel activity I’ve come to call “Virtue Signals”. Aware of its use mainly as a pejorative and keen to reclaim the term for good, the aim of the activity was for each participant to introduce their communities by a virtuous characteristic and to accompany said virtue with a hand gesture or “signal”. Resilience, eclecticism, stoicism and creativity were among those mentioned; all of which would inform the discussions to be had later in the day.
With introductions out of the way, we sought to further engage our bodies and minds and set about constructing a “People Map”. Imagining the café floor as a map of mainland Scotland (not to scale), participants were tasked with positioning themselves in relation to one another to reflect where they had travelled from to attend the event. We then arranged ourselves in order of shortest to longest journey in terms of both distance and time. This exercise gave us a sense of the geographic scale of the project as well as the disparity between modes of transit and overall journey time.
Feeling suitably energised, we next set aside some time for reflecting on three simple questions – How did we get here? Where are we going? How do we get there? These questions were made deliberately open to try and evoke answers both literal and figurative. Respondents were urged to reflect on not only the modes of transport we used to be there, but also the motivations that lead each of us to join the project; not just the journeys that we make on a regular basis, but the direction that we foresee the project going in; and not simply the forms of future mobility we’d like to see, but the necessary steps we would need to take to achieve those outcomes.
Having plunged the depths of our collective imaginations, we then took some time to review some of the baseline research I had conducted within the first few weeks since assuming my role as project officer. This process allowed me to identify what I perceived as the common desires and interests shared among the partnership, and how that might inform the direction of the project. With that we announced a comfort break, but left the various charts and figures on full display to be mulled over during our down time.
Re-caffeinated and fully digested of all data, we then got down to brass tacks – namely identifying and prioritising the themes that we intend to explore over the course of our event series. This was an arduous process that saw us initially divide into two groups before coalescing to find consensus within the chaos. Without too much compromise, we eventually found a natural order that best represented the interests of all involved parties. Satisfied with the outcome of our consensus building, we drew a close to our morning session and declared a break for lunch – a hearty root vegetable stew with homemade cornbread lovingly prepared by our generous hosts. Yum!
Following lunch, Maureen Halkertt, chair of the KPTDT, provided us with an overview of the proposed active travel path that, when completed, will eventually join the village of Penpont with neighbouring Thornhill. Presently, Thornhill is only accessible by narrow country road and is plagued by fast-moving cars and heavy agricultural vehicles; the likes of which makes it unpleasant and, in some cases, too hazardous to navigate by active means. A segregated path of appropriate construction would mean that children as young as 12 could walk or wheel to secondary school unsupervised and with relative ease.
Another of KPT’s board members, Sue King Smith, told us about her involvement in the development of a micro-hydro generation site for the village. Initial feasibility studies suggested that a micro-hydro would not be viable; however, local knowledge prevailed and, contrary to official records, the direction of flow further upstream of the Marr burn meant that there was sufficient fall to generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 30 homes. The site also houses a modest sensory garden consisting of aromatic herbs and even some connectivity for a potential electric vehicle charging site.
Next, KPT development officer Senga Greenwood spoke about her experience of procuring a fleet of eight electric bikes and one electric cargo bike for use by both community members and visitors alike. Given the disparate nature of KPT’s remit, finding a way in which communal assets can be shared equitably throughout the community was no easy task; however, with the express consent of all three villages, Senga arrived at a solution in which a single point of distribution would be situated in Penpont, which happens to be the largest and most central of the three villages.
Due to launch over the Easter period, the e-bike scheme will be freely accessible to all local residents for the first six months. It is hoped that beyond this initial period, the program will generate enough revenue to achieve financial stability and be fiscally self-sustaining within its first year of operation. The program will also provide local employment opportunities in the form of custodial and maintenance roles, who will themselves receive support and training to become certified in e-bike servicing and repairs.
Finally, we ventured to the other side of the village to inspect a new community growing space. Once the tennis court of a nearby estate, the site had been disused for a number of decades and become overgrown before it was generously offered up by the local laird for use by the community. The modest 3/4 of an acre site sits nestled on the banks of the Scaur water. Plans exist to erect raised beds and polytunnels to facilitate skills sharing and knowledge exchange with a view of building a resilient local community with the necessary resources to make healthier, more cost effective choices with regards to food, whilst also providing a safe and inviting space in which to congregate.
In an attempt to connect the theme of community growing with transport, I proposed another new activity – this one called simply “food miles”. I had brought with me a selection of five vegetables that I’d purchased from my local supermarket, all of which could potentially be grown in Scotland given the right conditions and seasonality, and tasked participants with guessing the country of origin of each item. Spring onions? Egypt. Garlic? Spain. Spinach? Italy. Squash? South Africa! Even the act of driving to the shops is perhaps made redundant given the ability to grow fresh produce within a walking distance of your own home; and while ¾ of an acre might not feed an entire village, community growing spaces are instrumental in bridging existing skills gaps and reconnecting people with the simple act of growing.
On that note we trundled back to the Three Villages Café for some final reflections before bidding farewell and parting ways. Until next time!
Liam Templeton, N76 EiM Project Officer @CES
At Community Energy Scotland we value our team’s and communities’ opinions. Blogs are a chance for us, our members and guests to share personal opinions and expertise, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Community Energy Scotland as an organisation. Please note opinions may change and Community Energy Scotland does not offer any endorsements.
The outer isles communities of Hoy and Eday now have their own electric vehicles to provide low-carbon community transport services.
The vehicles replace those already being used by both communities in their on-demand transport services. Community Energy Scotland are proud to have been able to support the residents of Hoy and Eday in securing and delivering the new transport as part of the ReFLEX Orkney project. More information on the project is available on our website here and on the ReFLEX website.
Each community has received two Nissan eNV-200 electric vehicles: one seven seater capacity and the other is a five seater plus wheelchair access. The vehicles have been in use since last summer and been particularly valuable during the coronavirus outbreak.
The vehicles have been put to use alongside the existing community bus, which was running a scheduled service between Longhope and the ferry terminal at Lyness before the pandemic. Since the vehicles were delivered last March they have supported various community activities during lockdown. The vehicles have provided another transport option for those with particular health care needs or with limited mobility as part of the Development Trust’s dial-a-bus service. This has included the delivery of prescriptions and essential supplies to islanders including, but not limited to, those who have been shielding for the duration of the outbreak.
Deborah Jaques, Chair of The Island of Hoy Development Trust
A similar story exists in Eday, where the vehicles have been used by directors and volunteers from the Eday Partnership since June. Services have included food box deliveries, hot meals, parcels, shopping, prescriptions and even school work.
Eday Partnership reaches out to the whole of the island’s community, responding to the needs and interests of local residents. The vehicles allow us to continue playing an active role in supporting and strengthening the local community, while enabling improved mobility, responsiveness and flexibility in delivering these services. Since August, we have been using the vehicles to provide the school bus run, picking up the island’s children. More recently, as part of our wellbeing project, we have been using the vehicles for transporting our residents around the island and this is something that we are looking to make into a regular service. Mobility is a big issue on Eday and now that we have a vehicle that is wheelchair accessible, this really has the potential to improve the lives of our residents.
Mellissa Thomson from The Eday Partnership
Mellisa also added: “At Eday Partnership, we are always looking to how we can best serve the community that we represent, and these vehicles go a great way to help us achieve the aims and objectives of our Development Trust.”
Community group collaboration with Community Energy Scotland as part the ReFLEX Orkney project demonstrates one of the ways that innovative, low-carbon technology can be made available to the public. Now that Hoy and Eday own their own electric vehicles, all local residents can now access low-carbon transport.
The communities were already taking initiative to improve transport and mobility in their communities by working with CES and being part of the ReFLEX project when the pandemic hit. It was really fortunate timing (and thanks to a lot of quick hard work!) to get the first vehicles in before the first lockdown and these last months have really shown what we can do for ourselves as communities with local action and ownership of solutions.
Mark Hull, CES Head of Innovation
Work is underway, led by CES via the ReFLEX project, on both islands to install electric vehicle charge points. Once these are up and running they will be managed by the Hoy Development Trust and the Eday Partnership.
Similar work is also taking place on Shapinsay, where CES is assisting the Shapinsay Development Trust to add to their existing community transport network with a 5 seater Nissan eNV-200 with wheelchair access and upgrade to a smart charger. The Trust operates an on-demand, donation based transport service for Shapinsay residents and community groups.