Finding The Site
Informal conversations between friends and neighbours identified a few potential sites. most proved not quite right. Discussions even included just offering anyone who was interested in a tree for their own gardens. and making the Orchard a network of trees around the village. However by narrowing down the features of a preferred site we found it in plain view!
Around Easter 2021 the Seafield and Strathspey Estate were approached as it was thought locally that they owned the land however it transpired that the site had been sold to The Highland Council (THC) in 1970.
A few months passed and THC confirmed their ownership and the next steps were explored.
The Community Empowerment Act (2015) was key legislation which enables communities to take on assets such as buildings and land by way of a Community Asset Transfer.
Community Development Companies such as Carr-Bridge Ahead (CBA) are viewed favourably as they have limited liability and charitable status. However the Trustees are also volunteers and this was new territory for them too..
A few people undertook to do a 'Due Diligence' exercise before approaching CBA with a proposal.
As the site was largely undisturbed for decades a biodiverse ecosystem was well established. Ewan Archer confirmed there were no badger sets on the site however Roe Deer and other mammals do use the area and this will be a consideration in planning the orchard.
There is a well established area of Meadowsweet which is attractive to pollinators and birds. Wildflowers will be an important feature of the Orchard to ensure that our trees are well served by pollinators and as this is about food growing and climate consciousness, surveying for already established plants, conservation and enhancement will be a factor as the project develops.
There is a large 'ditch' which appears as a drain on the map. The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency were approached and they confirmed that as it does not appear on a 1:50000 map they would not be concerned by the creation of limited accesses over the ditch as long as we did not culvert large sections.
2 piles of soil- one from a previous clearing of the ditch to allow better drainage of the playpark and football field and another which is the excavation for the Fire Station. These will be distributed to allow optimal use and access on the site.
A Manhole was found during site visits which was identified as one access to the main sewer for the village. A site visit by Scottish Water established that planting is fine but advice is to leave a 5m margin on either side, and a map of the line of the sewer towards the pumping station on Carr Rd was acquired. THC also confirmed that soil analysis showed no evidence of any contamination .
It is thought there are pipes coming in from the Bowling Club and School but these are Highland Council Assets and will be investigate further when designing an access.
There is a large deciduous tree which is attractive and again a good habitat that is important to retain.
There are 6 larches and 3 conifers at the NE corner and some of the trees on the embankment have been felled and left on site with another 2 covered by the undergrowth
As the land will be for growing the planning department have no interest in agricultural land. However Planning permission will be required to create a safe access from the Car Park. As there are 2 established access bridges, this should be straightforward. There will be no additional lighting or noise issues beyond what already exists and as this is below the line of sight of the properties on Carr Rd there are no anticipated issues.