Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum
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What is Gale?
Loch Gairloch and Baos Bheinn, Wester Ross by Gordon C. Harrison

Past Projects

  • Duck Pond and Picnic Area
  • Inverasdale Slipway
  • Community Computer and Office
  • Poolewe and Aultbea Public Toilets
  • Inverasdale Primary School
  • Training
  • Archaeological Events
  • Composting
  • Inverasdale Affordable Housing
  • Inverasdale Play Park and Wildlife Garden
  • Poolewe Village Hall
  • Wester Loch Ewe Tourist Guide
  • Naast -Gairloch Footpath
  • Youth Café
  • Loch Ewe Action Forum
  • Poolewe Market
  • Chapel of Sand of Udrigil
  • Laide Jetty

Duck Pond and Picnic Area

One of our first projects was to clean up and fence a pond in Inverasdale and create a path and seating area beside it. This certainly improved a previously unsightly area and provided an attractive seating area for picnics. Unfortunately the pond quickly became overgrown with rushes and now has problems with flooding. However, we plan to improve the area again but this time learn from our mistakes by ensuring a maintenance plan is put in place early on. In addition to improving the picnic area and pond we also intend to create a play area for the children in an unsightly hollow adjacent to the picnic area.

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Inverasdale Slipway

The original, 150 year old, stone jetty at Inverasdale had being showing signs of its age for some time, before local people decided to do something about it. A small track from the road was the only means of accessing the jetty and parking facilities were non-existent. Local people and visitors were very frustrated at being surrounded by such a beautiful Loch but unable to access it easily.

After much discussion and with great enthusiasm LEAF/GALE set about compiling a plan for building a new slipway in deeper waters, that would be wide enough to carry a car and trailer and enable the launch of small craft. A car park and access road were also desirable and it was felt that the original jetty should also be incorporated into the plans due to its historic interest.

A major issue during the project was the problem of who would take responsibility for owning the new improved facility. The old jetty was owned and therefore maintained by Highland Council and the local community felt they would like the Highland Council to take responsibility for the new facility. This added additional costs to the project, as the Highland Council required a much higher standard of road than local people felt they needed. After much discussion and debate it was agreed that these additional costs would be worth it and funding applications were submitted to a wide range of grant making bodies.

A total of £177,425 was raised for the project from the National Lottery Charities Board (£137,425), the PESCA Programme(£20,000), Highland Council (£10,000) and Ross and Cromarty Enterprise (£10,000).


Inverasdale Slipway


The whole process from start to finish was by no means smooth and without its hitches, taking well over three years to complete. However, we are delighted to see a lovely new facility now in place and being well used by local businesses and recreational boats, visitors to the area and the Ministry of Defence.

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Community Computer and Office

The SCVO com.com/holyrood project awarded LEAF/GALE an Internet ready computer for public use, in November 1999. This was  a useful addition to our office in Poolewe, which offered the public photocopy, fax, printing, word-processing, desktop publishing and Internet facilities. The office was used on a regular basis by a number of locals and the Internet was very popular among visitors to the area with a number of them even using it to check their share prices whilst on holiday! With the relocation of the GALE office to Gairloch the internet service was discontinued but copying, printing and faxing services are still available at the new office within the Gairloch Tourist Information Centre.

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Poolewe and Aultbea Public Toilets

The Highland Council public toilets in Poolewe and Aultbea are well used all year round by tourists and locals. Unfortunately, due to lack of funds, the Highland Council is no longer able to afford their adequate maintenance and was faced with the possibility of having to close them. For the past five years LEAF/GALE has taken responsibility for the maintenance of the toilets and the Council has told us that without our assistance the toilets in both villages would certainly be closed - at least over the winter months. We welcome this opportunity to keep such an essential facility in our villages and are also pleased to be supporting a part-time cleaning job in our area when employment is so scarce. GALE intends to continue this service to the community for as long as funding allows. Next time you use the toilets in Poolewe or Aultbea please remember the work of GALE.

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Inverasdale Primary School

Much of our time and energies during the later part of 1997 and early 1998 were devoted to the campaign to save Inverasdale Primary School, which the Highland Council had been threatening to close. At the time, the village school was the only communal facility at Inverasdale and it was felt that it played an essential part in keeping the community alive. It is difficult to attract young, economically active families, who are essential for the areas regeneration, to a village where there is no school.

In addition to providing children with an education, the school is a vital part of the social fabric of our community and is used for a wide range of purposes by numerous local organisations.

The closure of our primary school would turn the area into a place where the retired outnumber the families, where holiday homes outnumber permanent dwellings and where children are a rarity.

The support of our campaign, locally, nationally and internationally, was overwhelming and we continue to hear from other villages in similar situations. Inverasdale is just one of many rural primary schools that have been targeted throughout Scotland, and the outcry has been so loud, long and sustained that the Scottish Executive has now sent strong messages to local authorities to look at educational and social reasons for keeping small schools open, rather than closing them for short-lived, and often illusory savings.

As a result, we noticed a change in the tone of many Highland Councillors who were unhappy about the proposals. The first test of how strongly their feelings were came on 23 April 1998 when the Education Committee met to vote on which schools should close and which should remain open. The good news for us was that they voted to keep Inverasdale School open. 

The school roll continues to fluctuate as new families move into the area and older children move on to secondary school in Gairloch. Although the school has been saved from closure once there is always a feeling locally that it may well be threatened again if the roll falls. We are all still very keen to see new families move into the area and help support our school.

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Training

LEAF/GALE has always endeavoured to promote training and improve people`s employability. Over the last couple of years a range of courses has been hosted by LEAF/GALE with a more recent emphasis on training for the tourism industry. Recent courses have included Internet training seminars for local crofters, REHIS Elementary Food Hygiene for those involved in catering, Welcome Host and a beginner`s course on the use of Microsoft Word.

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Archaeological Events

Two days of events were held in the Laide area by LEAF/GALE and Aultbea Community Council, as part of the Highland Council Archaeology Week in October 2001. A number of local people and tourists attended the events, visiting sites of historic interest that are not usually widely publicised. Local historian Willie MacRobbie provided the group with a wealth of information and a very enjoyable couple of days. For information on the sites visited please see our archaeology page and click here to buy a copy of Willie MacRobbie's book on the township of Achgarve.

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Composting

The Longman landfill site in Inverness takes most of the waste generated in our area but is due to close in 2003. Urgent action is therefore needed to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill and we believe this is the responsibility of every individual living in or visiting our area. The cost of emptying bins and disposing of waste is much higher in remote rural areas than in urban areas due to the vast distances the waste needs to travel. This is also a major problem when it comes to recycling. For example, by the time a lorry has collected glass from bottle banks in our area and delivered them to where they will be recycled, it costs more in time and petrol than the glass is actually worth. In addition to this, it is negotiable whether this effort of recycling is more environmentally friendly than other methods of disposal due to the vast transportation distances concerned.

In order to help in a small way with this major problem LEAF/GALE has been working with Wester Loch Ewe Community Council and WHAM (Waste: Highland Action on Minimisation) to encourage local composting. So far we have distributed 45 compost bins locally and hope to divert at least 1,500kg of compostable waste from landfill each year as a result.

In addition to benefiting the environment and raising awareness of landfill problems the project enables local people to make their own compost for use in their gardens instead of having to purchase it.

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Inverasdale Affordable Housing

The lack of affordable housing in the Inverasdale area was highlighted at the time when Inverasdale Primary School was being threatened with closure. The community recognised that many young families were either moving out of the area or being prevented from moving into Inverasdale due to the lack of housing options available. Most reasonably sized houses that come up for sale are quickly bought as retirement/holiday homes and this has helped to increase house prices in the area beyond the budgets of local families and young couples. It was therefore felt that by creating more affordable housing in the area, it would lead to more families living within the catchment area of the primary school and contribute to securing the schools future.

In order to try and halt this detrimental trend, LEAF/GALE undertook to carry out a housing needs survey in order to quantify the number of people in the area living in poor housing conditions and provide evidence that the housing need in Inverasdale was not just a local notion, but a proven fact. Clear evidence of housing need was identified by the survey and it was agreed that action must be taken.

The next stage of the project was to identify a suitable site to build the houses on and to agree how the project would be managed and funded. The identification of a building site proved far more time consuming and difficult than anticipated and for some time the project was in danger of going no further. Eventually a site was identified at Firemore, Inverasdale and although not the most ideal site in the area it was the only one available.

The Albyn Housing Society agreed to take responsibility for building and managing the houses on behalf of the community. Taking into account the size of the site available it was agreed that four family homes should be built and on completion a Local Lettings Policy should be devised. Planning permission has recently been granted for these houses and work should begin on them in December 2001. Although this project has taken such a long time (well over three years to date) to get this far, we are all sure it will be worth every bit of the effort once the houses are complete.

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Inverasdale Play Park and Wildlife Garden

For some time now there have been numerous requests locally to provide some sort of recreation area for children in Inverasdale. In 1998 LEAF/GALE built a football pitch at the primary school and this has been well used both at lunch times, evenings and weekends.
A picnic area was also created by LEAF/GALE at Midtown, Inverasdale to provide for locals and visitors to the area. We are currently working on expanding and developing this area into a small play park and wildlife garden. This project is in its very early stages but the children at Inverasdale Primary School have already decided what play equipment they would like. The next stage will be to design the wildlife area and start the fundraising. This will be a much-needed improvement to an area that has been an eyesore for a number of years.

For some time now there have been numerous requests locally to provide some sort of recreation area for children in Inverasdale. In 1998 LEAF/GALE built a football pitch at the primary school and this has been well used both at lunch times, evenings and weekends.
A picnic area was also created by LEAF/GALE at Midtown, Inverasdale to provide for locals and visitors to the area. We are currently working on expanding and developing this area into a small play park and wildlife garden. This project is in its very early stages but the children at Inverasdale Primary School have already decided what play equipment they would like. The next stage will be to design the wildlife area and start the fundraising. This will be a much-needed improvement to an area that has been an eyesore for a number of years.

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Poolewe Village Hall

The current hall was built in 1964 to serve the communities of Wester Loch Ewe. Although the building was still in fairly good condition it is too small and basic to meet the modern needs of today`s larger community. The current building is used almost every night of the week during the winter months for local clubs and organisations. In the summer, sales of work and a local market use the hall regularly, along with summer clubs for school children and evening entertainments for locals and the many tourists who visit our area.
With such a wide range of uses and the number of local people who benefit from the facility it can truly be thought of as the centre of our community. With this in mind the local people decided they needed something better than the current hall and have now drawn up some grand ideas for a new hall.
Although this has been a long running project with many frustrations and disappointments along the way there was light at the end of the tunnel. We successfully raised £373,000 toward the renovation costs thanks to the numerous donations we received from locals, visitors and a range of charitable trusts and organisations. Building work started in May 2001 and was completed by the end of that year. The Hall is now in frequent use for many community events including Poolewe Market.

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Wester Loch Ewe Tourist Guide

Phil Staton of Staton's of Poolewe worked very hard on the design of a colour brochure of the Wester Loch Ewe area. The guide gives useful information on local amenities, walks and accommodation in Wester Loch Ewe and we hope it will encourage even more people to visit our lovely area. Copies are available from most local shops and the Gairloch Tourist Office.

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Naast-Gairloch Footpath

This is a lovely walk over open moorland, connecting Naast to Gairloch. LEAF/GALE signposted and way marked the path a few years ago thanks to a grant from Scottish Natural Heritage and we continue to take responsibility for the maintenance of these signs.

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Youth Cafe

In September 2000 LEAF/GALE carried out a survey among the pupils of Gairloch High School to assess the demand for a youth facility in the area. The results of the survey were very informative and showed an overwhelming demand for such a facility to be established.
A small steering group was then formed by LEAF/GALE to take the project forward and consists of a wide range of interested individuals and representatives of relevant community groups and clubs. Our aim is to identify suitable premises where young people can meet in a secure environment on a regular basis.

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Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum

Although often overlooked as a project, the actual running of Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum is essential to the success of the local action and decision-making we encourage. The projects we have carried out would have been far more difficult to achieve without the project management work carried out by the Forum.
GALE is managed by a Board of volunteer directors and seeks to employ people within the local community on a freelance basis to help with specific projects. In addition to this a General Manager, a Project Manager and a Tourist Office Manager are all employed throughout the year, and one seasonal part-time post has been created in the Tourist Office.
We try to keep our running costs to a minimum and work as efficiently as possible so that local fundraising efforts can be spent on specific projects. Since funding of the organisation ceased the financial security of GALE has become essential to the success of the projects we carry out.
We are continually looking for ways to generate income to remain self-financing so that we are not reliant on grants from other bodies. If you have any suggestions that would help resolve this situation or you feel you are able to make a contribution to our work please contact the GALE Office within the Gairloch Tourist Office.

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Poolewe Market

Throughout the summer of 2000 with the help of a grant from Forward Scotland, a weekly market was held in Poolewe Village Hall selling local craft products and locally grown/produced fresh produce. The aim of the market was to promote the sale and production of local products and was also an opportunity for local groups to carry out fundraising. Although when the market was first suggested and the idea was met with great enthusiasm it took everyone by surprise to see how popular it actually was. As a result a special market was held at Christmas and Easter and requests have been made by locals and visitors to make it an annual event.
Whilst Poolewe Village Hall was being refurbished the Market was held fortnightly in Aultbea Village Hall. This too proved successful and new stallholders were making enquiries on a regular basis. Some of those attending in the first year have continued to support the event whilst others have generated enough business and publicity for their products that they no longer have time to attend. In addition to this GALE has received a number of telephone enquires from visitors who wish to make further purchases from specific stalls via mail order and a couple of stallholders received enquiries from shop owners in the central belt.
The market is now completely self-financing bringing employment and revenue into the area whilst supporting the local village halls. It is now managed by the Project Manager who aims to further develop the Market and promote local products.

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Chapel of Sand of Udrigil

The Chapel of Sand of Udrigil or Laide Chapel, stands in an old churchyard overlooking Gruinard Bay in the village of Laide. Although it is traditionally said to have been erected by St Columba or one of his followers, the character of the building suggests it was built in late medieval times (more info). Sadly the chapel has been neglected over the years and was in danger of falling into the sea. GALE was keen to see work carried out on the ruin in order to prevent further damage, make it safe for the public to visit and save it for future generations to enjoy.
A small committee was been formed in conjunction with Gairloch Heritage Society in order to co-ordinate the project and GALE agreed to sit on this committee to help and advise in the work. Early indications suggested that the project could cost in the region of £30,000 and the local community worked hard to raise this sum before it was too late. The Chapel is now safe to visit.

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Laide Jetty

Due to the poor state of Laide Jetty, a users association was formed to carry out repairs and improvements to the facility. LEAF/GALE was involved in advising this group and agreed to manage the project and help secure funding.
This project has now been completed.

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