CFK, a community cycle group and sub group of KCDC was set up in 2013 with the overall aim of reducing barriers to cycling. CFK organised several successful events and training opportunities, but quickly recognised the physical infrastructure within the town was one of the main barriers to getting people on their bikes.
We commissioned a feasibility study, funded by Sustrans, that led to potential infra structure projects being identified. We have subsequently taken 4 projects forwards.
The feasibility study identified that the gardens were underutilised valuable green space at the heart of the town, with considerable opportunity to improve active travel links from the Railway station and Schools to the centre of the town, as well as improving the space itself. Although the gardens boasted attractive flower displays in summer, they were otherwise uninviting and under used.
We made a successful application to Sustrans Places for Everyone funding and an application to the Highland Council Town Centre transition fund, further match funding came from the Cairngorms National Park Authority.
A volunteer sub group of KCDC was created to help develop this community led project. Following extensive community consultation, basic designs were developed and planning permission approved. Early engaged with our community was in a several different ways, but most effective was open consultation sessions held in the Park, over several days at different times. A community notice board was placed at the front of the site and there were regular updates on the KCDC website and in the local paper.
The procurement was through the Scottish public procurement process. This was an onerous task for a volunteer community group without a professional officer.
We awarded the contract McGowan Construction. The first Covid lockdown had an indirect impact on the timings of construction. The construction company started work 6 weeks later than initially planned. Work commenced in October 2020, leaving no growing season for landscape (grass) repair and the risk of winter weather interrupting progress. The original timeline for completion by November 2020, this slipped to March 2021. From January to late February it was not possible to make any progress due to hard frost and snow on the ground.
Since the gardens have re-opened the feedback has been extremely positive. The new entrance to the school is very popular with children and parents alike and has improved safety as well as the number of active travel journeys to and from school. There has been a significant increased use of the gardens, particularly by younger family groups taking advantage of the paths to use scooters, roller skates and bicycles. When the weather is fair the new extensive seating is exceptionally well used. The project set out to establish an open and inviting space including fully accessible event space .The town now hosts regular events in the gardens involving a number of community groups working together. We are very proud at what has been achieved.
Supporting Statement• The transformation of uninviting gardens to a well designed enhanced green dwelling place and active travel hub.
• The creation of safe space for the young to enjoy cycling, walking and playing .
• An active travel hub, with quality paths linking the station, school , Route 7 and the Speyside Way.
• Increased numbers of children walking and cycling to school due to a new entrance opposite the Primary School.
• Increased use of this space including the monthly Farmers Market, in summer. Now a focal point for town festivities, with considerable increased use on an informal basis
• The project was subject to an extensive Equality Impact Assessment during the consultation and design phases. The space is accessible to, and frequented by, people using wheelchairs and disabled people, as well as parents with buggies, who benefit from additional path width and a reduced gradient.
• The community has taken ownership of the gardens , taking responsibility to plant summer bedding plants , trees, shrubs and bulbs , a Town Christmas tree and install new picnic benches and interpretation plaques.
• The creation of a secure cycle shelter close to the High street and a cycle maintenance facility.
• More people now engage with the enhanced setting of our War Memorial and an Indian War memorial has recently been added.
• Solar lighting on the main path extends the hours of use
• Finally we have developed improved capacity and skills to continue community led initiatives, with community groups working efficiently together. We are currently working with the Highland Council on a further Sustrans project to develop the area between the gardens and the station.
“The development of the Gynack Gardens has been a fantastic improvement to the town of Kingussie. It has been great seeing the gardens used more regularly by community groups, locals and visitors and the gardens are the main focal point of the town. KHS use the gardens for a variety of curricular areas including art, biology, rural skills and photography and our senior pupils enjoy eating their lunch there. I feel it has been an extremely ‘forward thinking’ project that has allowed people of all ages to access the gardens from infants riding their bikes to the elderly enjoying a seat and admiring the beautiful plants. It is heart warming to see a vibrant area in any small town and the Gynack Gardens project has certainly added something special to Kingussie”.
Kingussie High School
“My family and I live locally, and have been very grateful for the upgrade to the Gardens. Before the gardens project my children and I spent most evenings in different rooms of the house, each on our own screens and devices. Since the Gardens opened we potter down in the evening with their bikes or scooters and sit in the gardens”.
Kerry Dallas ( resident)
"This transformative project truly considers both place and movement in the design, as informed by the needs of local residents, opening the rural town centre to new wellbeing and cultural opportunities otherwise not possible, and serving as inspiration for other community organisations, locally and further afield, to lead on development projects."
Bo Mansell, Senior Grant Advisor, Sustrans Scotland