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One Year on and Growing Strong

Published Friday, 13th December 2013 in Study at SRUC news

West Lothian-based project Rural Connect is celebrating the end of a very successful first year having connected with 2,500 people in the area.

The two-year project began back in October 2012 with the aim of reconnecting people with their local rural environment under the themes Discover Share Connect.

Based at SRUC’s Oatridge Campus the team have been beavering away over the past year organising activities and events on rural topics such as farming and food, countryside and nature, local heritage and growing your own. They have worked with communities, landowners, schools, groups and other organisations to inspire local people to go out and explore the local rural area, and their many events have attracted people of all ages and backgrounds. Their website - www.ruralconnectwestlothian.co.uk - has become a central portal for all things rural in West Lothian and is the key place to go for information, events and ideas for activities.

West Lothian Councillor Tom Conn is an enthusiastic supporter of the project. He said: “Rural Connect has not only worked with West Lothian Council but several other stakeholders in promoting the benefits of local residents becoming re-engaged with the local rural environment, in terms of health, wellbeing, and understanding their local area.

“Through the I Love Rural West Lothian campaign, the project has inspired local residents while promoting West Lothian to a wider audience, and the promotion of the project through communication channels such as their website, social media and local press has encouraged local residents to learn about the area and connect people to the rural environment.”

‘I Love Rural West Lothian’ is Rural Connect’s central campaign and it kicked off with a community- based short film which so far has gathered over 1,100 views. The campaign has also been a recurring theme at large scale events such as the Farm Open Day which drew crowds of 1,500 and the Allotment Open Day, both held at SRUC Oatridge Campus. Over the summer the Wonderful Wild Wednesday summer roadshow took the best of rural West Lothian to different towns and villages in the county and engaged with over 600 families.

Working with many other organisations within the county has given a high impact first year of the project, and many more events and activities are planned for the remaining eleven months before the project funding ends in September 2014. Popular events such as the Farm and Allotment Open Days and Wonderful Wild Wednesdays will run again with even more activities and fun squeezed in, and the new Bee project will buzz into town!

Following the success of this year’s ‘Sunflower Challenge’ the team expects there to be again over 50 schools taking part in the 2014 challenge, learning from their trials and successes last year. There will also be another three school education packs launched next year, all aimed at making it easy to bring the farm, rural skills and heritage into the classroom.

Project Coordinator, Eric Burton, believes Rural Connect has been very successful, informing local communities in an engaging fashion. He says: “The team have helped people learn about their rural environment and we are so pleased that many local and national agencies are working with us in achieving this. We hope to repeat this success next year and hopefully our new ventures will stimulate more interest and embedded Rural Connect into West Lothian.”

To keep up-to-date with the project, and to see what events and activities are happening you can sign up to the fortnightly newsletter by emailing the word ‘subscribe’ to rural.connect@sruc.ac.uk. The project also has a very active Facebook page and Twitter feed. For more information, or photographs of the events mentioned, please contact Jemma Black at jemma.black@sruc.ac.uk.

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