When I was asked to cover the Environmental Project of the year for RBS Finding Scotland’s Real Heroes Awards I was delighted. Any project that supports our environment is of great interest to me. Scottish island mum tries very hard to tread lightly on this planet that we all call home.
I felt that the three nominees were all worthy winners but one project did stand out. It was run by two gentlemen who didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. Sandy Adams and Robert Brown took it upon themselves to reclaim old industrial land and build a woodland path that absolutely everyone could enjoy. Reclaiming industrial land is always a partnership between human intervention and Mother Nature. Interviewing both men at the ceremony I could see that they understand this. As well as building the path with very little machinery they also invited the local community to bring plants to plant at the side of the path. Mother Nature welcomed this new growth and did her bit to encourage self seeding, germination and new plants.
This was not to be a path for just able bodied beings. Sandy and Robert were committed to building a path that less able bodied people could use and that is to their considerable credit. With a very limited budget Saltburn Woodland Path began to take shape.
During my interview the gentlemen had quite a lot to say about the importance of volunteers. They defined them as people who step forward and say ‘here I am, what can I do to help?’ In doing that these volunteers become essential to the success of any project. This approach is preferable to people being persuaded into helping. A willing volunteer is worth his/her weight in gold. Although there were meetings to attend and discussions to have Sandy and Robert just wanted to roll their sleeves up and get on with it. Too many environmental projects get clogged up with eternal meetings but these chaps cut through this and just got on with it.
I asked them what the reward was for them and on this point they were very clear. Seeing people using the woodland pathway and enjoying themselves was reward enough for them. Since being nominated for this award more and more people have discovered the pathway and that is just how it should be. I spoke to Robert in recent days to see how life was after winning the award. He still insisted that neither he nor Sandy think they deserve this kind of recognition but we all know better! They have been featured in their local newspaper and more and more people have discovered the walk. Robert remarked that there have even been local people who have only discovered the walk since the programme went out on STV. Of the evening itself when they received the award they both have the fondest of memories and that, I feel, is important.
The Saltburn Woodland Pathway is a triumph for the environment as much of the industrial metal waste is now buried under the path as Mother Nature continues her quest to reclaim. The gents told me of the return of wildlife especially flying insects such as bees and butterflies. On the VT I spotted borage which we all know to be one of Scottish island mum’s favourite plants. This will self seed for evermore and the bees will be forever grateful.
It was a joy to meet Sandy and Robert. I want to take my children to meet these unassuming gents that have achieved so much. I want my children to walk along the path to truly understand what an enormous effort this project must have been.
Two ‘old school gentlemen’ who had a very bright idea indeed and made that idea a reality. Sharing the planet with people like that is what touches my heart the deepest. I have locked both of them and their project away in my heart and will carry them around forever. Real life true heroes.