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DOUNE PONDS – MANAGING THE LAND IN PARTNERSHIP: Moray Estates and Doune Community Woodland Group

A former gravel and sand quarry, Doune Ponds is a 40-acre Local Nature Reserve owned by Moray Estates and managed in partnership with Doune Community Woodland Group (DCWG) since 2014.

Moray Estates initially approached the community through the Kilmadock Community Council (CC) to explore local involvement, and after positive response DCWG was set up.

Approach

Doune Ponds is actively managed by DCWG, Kilmadock CC, and Moray Estates. A ten-year Management Agreement (2014-2024) is in place between Moray Estates and DCWG, with a focus on restoration, access and conservation.

A nine-member Management Group was created to hold overall responsibility: Moray Estates hold a permanent place along with two CC representatives. Monthly meetings have resulted in an effective partnership between landowner and community, sharing liability, investment, skills and ideas and working towards their 10-year plan.

Achievements and Benefits

The active management of Doune Ponds has seen an area of neglected land regenerated into an accessible, well-used community greenspace: 1,400 metres of new footpath, steps, footbridges, bird hides and picnic benches have been installed and many existing paths refurbished. A haven for wildlife and biodiversity, the reserve is home to ducks, swans, roe deer, red squirrels, pike and perch, as well as being an important site for fungi.

Active involvement has given the community a strong sense of ownership. Used daily by walkers and regularly by groups including the school, Doune Ponds is a valued public amenity: it won the Small Community Woodland Award in 2017 and was Highly Commended in 2019 at the Scottish Finest Woods Awards.

A key benefit of land-owners and communities working side-by-side is the opportunity it allows both to get to know each other, building a relationship based on open, regular communication. Moray Estates recognises that this has led to further partnership working with the Doune community and is committed to community engagement on future development plans for the estate.

Volunteers are the lynchpin of the partnership’s success. DCWG currently has 45 members who have volunteered 7,000 hours to date. The majority are retirees who take pride in developing a site that has value for the wider community and environment. Wednesdays have become ‘site day’ where volunteers gather, share the workload and enjoy the company – a valuable social benefit in itself. Lady Moray often joins them for a cup of tea and chat.

Moray Estates invests financially and through in-kind support from staff, while DCWG has accessed grants, community benefit funding from a local windfarm, community donations, and in-kind plant hire and materials. Combined with volunteer hours, this has transformed the site in a very short time. The shared liability for Doune Ponds is valued by both Moray Estates and DCWG.

What’s Next

Happy with the relationship and way of working, Moray Estates and DCWG believe that this model would benefit landowners, communities and the sustainable management of small woodlands across Scotland. Having identified few challenges, the Management Group is focusing on volunteer succession, proactively planning and recruiting for this. There is a long-term commitment to continue managing Doune Ponds in partnership, maintaining it as a productive, valued community asset.

Find Out More

Rory McLeod
Doune Estate Manager
Moray Estates
Email: rory.mcleod@morayestates.co.uk

Tony Farrant
Chair
Doune Community Woodland Group
Email: tony.doune@gmail.com