Lesmahagow is a rural village of around 3,500 people in South Lanarkshire. Local residents face high unemployment rates, low income levels and reduced life expectancy.
In collaboration with the Wise Group and Forestry Commission Scotland, the Lesmahagow Development Trust sought to address the problems of rural disadvantage by improving the environment around Lesmahagow and providing employment and training opportunities for local residents.
The project partners worked closely to identify appropriate environmental improvements that could be implemented in the Lesmahagow area. The physical works undertaken were concerned with woodland habitat enhancement and environmental improvements, and included brashing, high pruning, line of sight clearance and tree planting.
The project was implemented with the help of 20 local participants who each received a wage for the course of their involvement in the project. Each Participant also met weekly with a Wise Group Employment Consultant to identify their employment aspirations and to help them progress into sustainable employment, utilising their newly acquired skills.
20 unemployed people from Lesmahagow and neighbouring communities were recruited onto a 26 week long contract of paid employment.
Participants were provided with vocational training and 20 achieved formal qualifications including site safety, manual handling and brushwood chipper operation.
Participants have also benefited from personal development, including enhancement of their inter-personal skills.
Physical outputs included 440m of footpath creation, 2.6ha of woodland thinning, removal of 100m of boundary fencing and 300 fruit trees planted. 150m³ of stacked firewood was also made available for local residents to use.
Improved Employability: Through training, obtaining qualifications and a team of supportive transition workers, local young people have improved thier chances of obtaining employment.
Better Access: Lesmahagow residents and visitors to the area can benefit from nearly 750 metres of new or improved woodland paths.
Improved Physical and Mental Health: Participants have noted better physical and mental well-being since being in the project. Several have made supportive friendships and report increased self-confidence.
Boost to the Local Economy: Local retailers and other businesses have benefited from the increased spending power of the waged participants.
"It's massively important that woodlands and greenspace are made accessible to the community. The CSGN funding has enabled the Paths to Progress project to happen and we hope it is just the first step to creating a range of new, sustainable green assets for the people of Lesmahagow and beyond."
Liz Montgomery, Trustee, Lesmahagow Development Trust.
"The Paths for Progress project has been excellent because it has enhanced the countryside around the village and at the same time it has provided waged work experience and training for local people."
Jeff Frew, Lesmahagow Community Council
Paths to Progress has successfully provided training opportunities to several young people, enabling them to pursue employment. It also delivered a range of environmental improvement works to make the countryside more accessible, safer and more attractive for the people of Lesmahagow.
The new footpaths built by Paths to Progress provide a physical link from the village to a Forestry Commission Scotland owned site earmarked for the creation of a community orchard and allotment.