City Eco-Bothy for the community

City Eco-Bothy for the community

By Col Stocker

A community strengthened through building a new Eco-Bothy, compost toilet and Outdoor Play Area build project at Bridgend Farmhouse in Edinburgh.

In the south-east of Edinburgh there's a special new bothy that's been built and looks set to provide so much for the community.

A community owned and run hub and Development Trust in South-East Edinburgh, Bridgend Farmhouse approached the Alpkit Foundation back in 2021 for support towards a Compost toilet, Eco-Bothy and Outdoor Play Area build project. Despite various delays to the project such as Covid-19 restrictions, rise in materials costs and planning, they were able to keep momentum going and deliver the project at the end of 2022.

The benefits of having an accessible space available to the community are priceless.

The Alpkit Foundation was delighted to contribute £200 towards the cost of building the compost toilet, but the real value has been seen in people coming together. We are really excited to see how the bothy develops, particularly as Will Golding from Bridgend Farmhouse has been letting us know how things went and what this facility will bring to the local community.

It’s a shining example of the strength brought by the community spirit, having a successful monthly steering group of volunteers working together to democratically design the eco-bothy, compost toilet and play-area and co-ordinate the project. It really helped ensure they made collective decisions and delegated tasks.

Even back to the initial design phase, 70 local children and young people, and around 30 adults, were involved in the design of the outdoor play area, through an interactive play-based consultation weekend with local schools and youth groups, and then various open online meetings to refine the design. From this, local volunteer and parents/carers of young people who will use the space were then involved in the build and installation of this.

Will explains briefly what the project was about.

“This project was to support volunteers to learn to build a fully accessible compost toilet, eco-Bothy and accompanying outdoor play area, for community events and activities like outdoor education and youth work. Volunteer trainees would look to gain practical construction skills and certificates, whilst creating a unique long-lasting community facility made of natural materials and sustainable techniques.”

Being a part of the Bothy building team has been a great experience, unmatched to any other volunteering work I've done before. It is amazing to see something being created from scratch, especially if you participate in the process and when it's for a good cause. I wish there were more projects like this available for the communities.

They also collaborated with Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA) on the project, where they helped in the initial stages enabling the project and connecting up with ecological architects and green-builders. The result has been a highly successful project which has impacted widely across the whole community, not just from learned skills but also by the creation of a very special Outdoor Education facility that will provide a long-lasting unique community facility.

“Over the course of the project we have delivered sustainable construction training to over 100 trainee volunteers with a 'core' group of around 50 over the years, which has been carried out over 200 training days. Training covered foundation laying; timber-frame raising and joinery; lime rendering; clay rendering; green-roof building; sheeps wool insulation; recycled paper floor insulation; plaster-boarding; flooring; play area construction; cladding; and landscaping."

"There have been wide ranging benefits, to the trainee participants, as well as for the organisation and local community. 40 volunteers specifically received training in traditional and sustainable construction skills, of which 24 volunteers attained their REHIS formal qualification in health and safety on a construction site and at least two went on to achieve their CSCS card. Two volunteers have gone on to get jobs in sustainable architecture and one volunteer who was homeless during their volunteering went on to get a job as a construction worker/technician for the railways.”

Volunteering on the Bothy at Bridgend Farmhouse has taught me many new skills such as basic carpentry and straw bale construction, these new skills have helped my confidence soar.

The vision of this project was duly recognised as it was awarded the Voluntary Arts Scotland Creative Lives Epic Award in 2020 for Scotland and was commended in the UK wide diversity award because of the wide range of volunteers from different ethnic, class, cultural and age backgrounds, as well as a majority of females which was unusual for a construction project, that participated and learnt throughout.

“What’s particularly exciting is that it has also sparked interest and enthusiasm for volunteer involvement in other build project developments at Bridgend Farmhouse like our Mindfulness garden project in the old stables, and the Bike Barn creation via renovation of one of the old barns. This will be hugely valuable resource for the wider community for many years, and additionally, will serve a demonstration of sustainable construction techniques that all users can learn from.”

I can't wait to be able to use this with our Very Important People (VIP) Club for under 5s with additional support needs, and our Forest For All group. We're blessed to be able to have the chance to design and develop this space for these children, and to have their input in some of the decisions. It will be such a unique space for us to use all the time.

It really is wonderful to have been a little part of something so special, designed and built by community members and that will benefit hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people in the community over the years ahead.

“It has increased the number of volunteers at Bridgend Farmhouse, strengthened community spirit and personal connections, as well as having developed much stronger and long-lasting partnerships with the youth organisations. It brings to life a whole new space and facility at Bridgend Farmhouse, giving the organisation even more options for future use for services, activities and use by other local groups, and therefore contributes to the on-going sustainability of the organisation, and this community owned land.
Our next steps are to support a wide range of groups to start using and benefitting from these facilities. We also hope to run further sustainable build training sessions in the future to continue maintain and improve these facilities.”

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