Eleven businesses, community partnerships and individuals from across rural Scotland have triumphed at the national Helping it Happen awards,Including Duncan McConchie of Laggan, near gatehouse of Fleet, recognising their outstanding work supporting the economy, jobs and education, wildlife and the environment.
Winners include Arbikie Highland Estate who scooped the Innovation in Farming Award following the opening of their distillery nearly a decade ago and their pioneering ‘field to bottle’ model of growing, harvesting and distilling everything on-site; Leys Estate who won the Rural Business Award after providing land and buildings for a diverse range of over 150 independent local businesses, community organisations and charitable organisations; and Balbirnie Home Farms, who won the Iver Salvesen Award for Combatting Climate Change thanks to their work with AHDB over the last three years as its Strategic Cereal Farm in Scotland and an approach that has prioritised plant and soil nutrition to save money and reliance on chemical inputs.
Also recognised was Henry Graham, who won the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Rural Scotland. Henry has been involved in land management all his life – a farmer himself, he was also an advisor to the Scottish Agricultural College before becoming a senior figure in agricultural banking and then holding non-executive positions with SRUC, Forestry & Land Scotland and Lantra as Chairman for Scotland. The Rural Rising Star Award went to Claire Taylor, a specialist in communications within agriculture, food and the rural environment, and a Nuffield Scholar.
Now in its seventh year, the Helping It Happen Awards have become firmly established in recognising the role of estates, rural businesses and community groups who are helping rural Scotland thrive. The awards are organised by rural business organisation, Scottish Land & Estates, and sponsored by NatureScot.
A full list of the winners across the 11 award categories is shown below. There were also an additional two commendations made by the judging panel.
Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said:
“Huge congratulations go to our Helping It Happen awards winners who exemplify everything that is great about rural Scotland. The independent judging panel took their time to deliberate over the awards after some hugely impressive shortlists were drawn up. All the winners and nominees make a considerable contribution to Scotland’s rural communities, economies and environment, often spending their own time and resources to be able to do so.
“The Helping It Happen awards are designed to publicly recognise these often unsung heroes in rural Scotland and it enables us to share positive real-life examples of action on climate change, education about the outdoors and work on promoting affordable rural housing. Their help and influence is vital in sustaining flourishing rural communities and motivating and encouraging others to follow their lead.”
Claudia Rowse, NatureScot’s Deputy Director of the Green Economy, said: “We love supporting the Helping it Happen Awards; each year they remind us to celebrate the hard work being done across the country that boosts the rural economy and protects the environment. In this year’s winners we have seen projects encouraging young people to connect with nature, inventive paths to farming success and different ways to keep our native species safe. Congratulations to all the inspiring nominees and winners!”
The winners were announced during a gala awards ceremony held in Edinburgh on Thursday evening (5 October).
The 2023 winners are as follows. Full case studies can be accessed by clicking on the hyperlinks.
The Award for Outstanding Contribution to Rural Scotland
Henry Graham – Henry has been involved in land management all his life. A farmer himself, he was also an advisor to the Scottish Agricultural College before becoming a senior figure in agricultural banking and then holding non-executive positions with SRUC, Forestry & Land Scotland and Lantra as Chairman for Scotland.
The Conservation Award sponsored by Anderson Strathern
East Neuk Corn Bunting Project – The Corn Bunting is one of the rarest birds in Scotland and one of its last strongholds is East Neuk where there is a remnant population of about 200.
The Education Award sponsored by SRUC
The Cairngorms National Park Junior Ranger Project – The Cairngorms National Park Junior Ranger Project is a fun and exciting way for young people aged 11-18 to learn about the outdoors.
The Enhancing Our Environment through Land Management Award sponsored by NatureScot
Scottish Invasive Species Initiative – The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative is an exciting and ambitious partnership project providing an innovative, community-based, strategic approach to the management of invasive non-native species at a landscape scale along the rivers of northern Scotland.
The Innovation in Farming Award sponsored by Douglas Home & Co
Arbikie Highland Estate – Owners of Arbikie, the Stirlings, have been farming for over 400 years, and since the three brothers who currently run it, Iain, David and John, added the distillery to their operation nearly a decade ago, they have made it their ambition to develop a ‘field to bottle’ model of growing, harvesting and distilling everything on-site.
The Iver Salvesen Award for Combatting Climate Change sponsored by Murray Beith Murray
Balbirnie Home Farms – Balbirnie Home Farms has been working with AHDB over the last three years as its Strategic Cereal Farm in Scotland, and an approach that has prioritised plant and soil nutrition to save money and reliance on chemical inputs has the potential to reduce variable costs across different crops, around £200 per hectare.
The Rural Business Award sponsored by Shepherd + Wedderburn
Leys Estate – Leys Estate is the historical home of the Burnett of Leys family and has been within the ownership of the family since 1323. As well as traditional rural activities, Leys Estate provides land and buildings for a diverse range of over 150 independent local businesses, community organisations and charitable organisations in addition to operating a number of Group businesses.
The Rural Property Award sponsored by Bidwells
Active Kids Adventure Park – From small beginnings, Active Kids Adventure Park has grown to become a destination venue for families. It provides educational play for children up the age of 12 years and now includes a full restaurant and kitchen providing home cooked meals for all to enjoy.
The Rural Rising Star Award
Claire Taylor – Claire Taylor is a specialist in communications within agriculture, food and the rural environment, and a Nuffield Scholar. She grew up on a farm on the West coast of Scotland, going on to study politics and International Relations at Edinburgh University.
The Tourism & Visitor Management Award sponsored by GLM
Duncan McConchie, Laggan – Duncan is Chief Executive of Laggan, a rural destination of excellence with tourism, hospitality and sustainability at its core. He is a board member of South of Scotland Enterprise and Chairman of the Scottish Wedding Industry Alliance.
The Working with Communities Award sponsored by Hampden & Co
Communities Housing Trust – Communities Housing Trust engage with local communities throughout Scotland with particular reference to the Highlands to promote, support and develop affordable housing plans and the wider benefit these bring to the local communities.
Two commendations were also awarded by the independent judging panel:
Highland Cinema – Located in Cameron Square in the heart of Fort William’s High Street, the Highland Cinema replaced a dilapidated 1980s building on the site of the old town hall. The town had been without a cinema for 15 years. The client had a vision to improve the social life and the environment of the town through a new development. Over two years, the designs were developed, the existing building was demolished, and a bespoke cinema building and cafe bar were constructed.
Pick-ups For Peace – A charity set up to send vital aid to Ukraine to support them during their conflict with Russia. The charity sends used 4×4 vehicles loaded with useful items such as medical equipment, generators, clothing, food, hand tools, spare tyres, motor oil etc. donated by the rural farming community directly to where they are needed in Ukraine.