When is the project happening?
The project got official permission to start on 4 July 2014 and it will finish in September 2019.
Why are you building a field centre?
A new field centre is being built to the north of the existing visitor centre, on the site of an existing bungalow on RSPB land. This will have an education room, small laboratory, offices and 21 beds for volunteers, students and researchers. This accommodation is non-commercial and will not be in competition with any local businesses. Full planning permission was given in January 2013 by a unanimous decision of the Highland Council’s North Planning Committee. The architects are Colin Armstrong Associates in Inverness. The detailed design stage is now underway and building work will start in spring 2015. Work will include securing an independent water supply, with a bore hole now in place.
Many research projects are already taking place on the Forsinard Flows RSPB Reserve, which is emerging as a centre of knowledge of international importance for the understanding of peatland restoration techniques and how this work impacts on carbon storage and climate change. Universities and institutions from across the UK are carrying out research and monitoring at Forsinard. Facilities for researchers and also for the many volunteers who come to work on peatland management and restoration are currently very limited and the field centre will greatly improve efficiency and enable more good work to happen.
Can I volunteer?
Our volunteering opportunities are advertised on the volunteer page. There is also a volunteering programme at RSPB Forsinard Flows Reserve which enables people to stay at the reserve for two weeks and help with peatland management work and species monitoring. For more information see http://www.rspb.org.uk/volunteering/residential.aspx . If you are more local, there are also non-residential volunteering opportunities, for example helping in the visitor centre or in the reserve office. Please contact the reserve office on 01641 571225 if you would like to volunteer in this way.
As part of the Flow to the Future Project, new volunteer accommodation will be available in the new Field Centre. This will increase the number of volunteers that can be taken on. There will also be opportunities for groups to come and volunteer for a few days or more. The Project will also increase the amount of education work and the number of activities taking place across Caithness and Sutherland to raise awareness and understanding of the peatlands. There will therefore be new volunteer opportunities working with the Project’s Learning Officer and Community Engagement Officer. These will be both residential (once the field centre is built) and non-residential.
Can my community get involved?
The Project’s Community Engagement Officer wants to hear from communities across Caithness and Sutherland who would like to be involved in the project. We would like to carry out joint activities that celebrate the peatlands and encourage more people to understand and enjoy them. This might be on your doorstep or elsewhere in the area. Your ideas are important in ensuring that these activities suit you – we want to involve as many people as possible. The Highland Council’s Countryside Ranger Service will also be working to promote the peatlands during the project, so get in touch either with them or the project if you would like them to run some peatland activities in your patch.
What are the signs at Forsinard about?
The signs have been put up on private property by some of the neighbours in Forsinard as they are not happy with the proposals for the field centre and viewing tower.
We understand that they feel that the field centre should be within the Forsinard Hotel, a private property. The field centre is to be built on the site of an existing bungalow which is owned by RSPB. The decision to site the new building here followed consideration of two consultants’ reports which looked at a range of sites including existing buildings. Key issues were building costs, the opportunities provided by a new building to keep ongoing energy and maintenance costs low and to provide an appropriate layout, low landscape impact, substrate and land ownership. The selected site is also set back from the road, is at some distance from any of the neighbouring properties and cannot be seen from many of them.
We understand that there are also concerns that the new field centre will be taking water from the shared private water supply. This is not the case as a borehole will be providing water for the new building.