Newbattle Community Forest

Engaging people of all ages, particularly those in areas of deprivation, by offering learning and training environment within a 125 acre estate

Newbattle Community Forest

Grantee: Newbattle Abbey College

What the project set out to achieve

The innovative Newbattle Community Forest Project built upon Newbattle Abbey College’s role as Scotland’s first Forest College, offering a learning and training environment in their 125 acre estate. The project looked to engage people of all ages, particularly those in areas of deprivation, involving communities in Midlothian, East Lothian and South Edinburgh in engaging with greenspaces and in particular, the Newbattle heritage estate. This was to include Lord Ancrum’s Wood, on the east bank of the River South Esk, comprising 21 hectares of woodland.

NAC already offered a Rural Skills course and planned to extend this programme by developing the woodland as a site for education and community engagement. They aimed to integrate innovative outdoor learning and progressive woodland management and training opportunities, including a variety of short course for people of all ages, with options for national accreditation. The project aimed to offer:

  • A new Forest Awards at SCQF Levels 2-6 & 8
  • Specialist training courses in woodland management and environment awareness with accreditation options
  • Training in traditional woodland skills, including coppicing, walking stick making and building living furniture from willow

The project would also include the employment of two posts:

  • A full-time Woodland Ranger, who would build upon the work that Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) carried out by maintaining and enhancing the woodland to extend community access. The Ranger would divide their time between practical woodland management, engaging the target communities and helping to organise certificated and non-certificated courses based in the woodland area. The Ranger would identify opportunities to integrate the work of the college into the management of the woodland and identify and deliver wider educational objectives
  • A part-time Forest College Co-ordinator who would develop partnerships with local schools, community groups, volunteers and local businesses. These would include guided walks, open days and outdoor learning activities for families. The target audience were marginalised and vulnerable learners, especially from areas of multiple deprivation. The Co-ordinator would support the work of the Woodland Ranger.

Where the project idea came from

  • As a result of discussions involving FCS and Newbattle in response to the immediate need for the management of the woodland
  • As a result of discussions involving SNH/Midlothian Council, local primary and high schools, Esk Valley Trust and Newbattle Abbey Residents’ Association
  • As part of Newbattle Abbey College’s curriculum planning, involving SMT and teaching staff
  • In discussion with Midlothian Criminal Justice Team to extend existing Newbattle programmes for adult offenders

How the community helped develop the project

Newbattle’s extensive partnerships with schools, voluntary organisations and community groups led to the development of this project. Some of Newbattle Abbey College’s partners were keen to be involved in the development of the woodland to enhance learning opportunities for young people and adults and to improve health and wellbeing. Many partners saw the value of the accredited learning options as a means of enhancing employability and reducing inequalities in areas of deprivation.

The project involved local and national communities from the very start through a variety of means to increase participation in greenspaces, particularly Lord Ancrum’s Wood.

This included:

  • Community consultation events to gather public opinion on what our community engagement plan should involve
  • A free public events programme of training days and one-off activity sessions
  • A free Woodland Learning Programme co-designed with and delivered to local schools
  • Opportunities to enroll on accredited Forest & Outdoor Learning Award (FOLA) courses of different levels
  • The creation of multiple volunteering opportunities
  • A site use permissions system to enable external organisations to use Lord Ancrum’s Wood for outdoor education, including living heritage, the arts and environmental awareness

How the project fits into the bigger picture

The project encouraged individuals to value, use and enjoy their greenspaces, and helped them feel happier, healthier and better connected to their communities. The project helped contribute to resolving inequalities in health and opportunity, and for people to develop skills and have the confidence to seek and sustain jobs.

What the project contributed

The project enhanced Lord Ancrum’s Wood for people of all ages, to extend learning, volunteering and training opportunities for people in areas of deprivation and to extend community engagement in a well maintained woodland area. It contributed to developing a vibrant and inclusive community woodland, offering opportunities and training for all and enhancing our environment.

Two universities were involved with the project (Queen Margaret University and Edinburgh Napier). Seven schools offered official Woodland Learning Programme, including pilot sessions. An additional three schools were involved with the project in other capacities. An additional three schools including Dalkeith High, Beath High and Hazelhead Academy were involved with the project through the FOLAs. Two local authorities were involved with the project (Edinburgh Council and Midlothian Council).

Multiple community areas were also involved in the project including: Eskbank, Gorebridge, Mayfield, Edinburgh, Dalkeith, Bonnyrigg, Lasswade, Easthouses, Newtongrange, Gilmerton and Gracemount. These are areas where volunteers, partner organisations, event participants and FOLA students have come from.


A summary of the Forest and Outdoor Learning Awards (FOLA) offered as part of the GICEF Newbattle Community Forest project.


Laura Goble, Community Woodland Ranger at Newbattle Abbey College, talks about the value of this project to the local community. We are delighted that the Green Infrastructure Community Engagement Fund was able to help fund this amazing work.


NatureScot GI and ERDF logo


Last updated: