(This summary is abstracted from the March 2023 application for grant - the full application is downloadable here)

Local, community and rural organisations

The Upper Almond area is characterised by a highly dispersed and remote rural population. Only ten households sit within the catchment, but no public roads. The nearby community hall (Amulree) has a further 169 residential properties within a 10km radius. Four other community halls lie in rural areas beyond the edges of the catchment, but nearer than any main settlements. The nearest settlements of Dunkeld-Birnam (18 miles), Aberfeldy (19 miles), Kenmore (19 miles) and Crieff (13 miles) have their own halls and community centres. 

There is no specific association or administrative grouping which describes the headwaters catchment or its riparian area. Below the headwaters and until the river Almond reaches its confluence with the river Tay, the watercourse flows across the boundaries of several community councils.

As a result, the project team have had to interpret what a local community is in this context and we have decided that four specific geographies will form the focus of our community work.

These are:

  • The hyper-local, i.e. the Upper Almond catchment out to and including Amulree
  • Constituent organisations and individuals within the two component community council areas, including
    • Birnam and Dunkeld
    • East Strathearn
  • Organisations and individuals along the Lower Almond, i.e. downstream of our project area


In developing community engagement, the project team have engaged at initial levels with each of the following. 

  • Amulree Hall committee, as a hyper-local focus of activity. This is an active committee, currently developing the hall and the surrounds. We have met face to face and had email correspondence. They are very interested in their role as potential beneficiaries, and are the only hyper-local community organisation.

  • The upper River Almond is the boundary between the Community Councils of East-Strathearn and of Birnam-Dunkeld both of which are active. But Almond Headwaters is over 10 miles from the core populations of these CCs. Neither CC has yet responded as an organisation, but their constituents will be invited to participate in our community engagement. Development trusts/associations/third sector-groups are based in the settlements in these CCs, including the Climate Cafes, a community initiative of locals in Perthshire and beyond. Since before we considered Riverwoods we have met face to face with Climate Cafe in Birnam-Dunkeld in connection with Perthshire Nature Connections partnership, and we continue email correspondence regarding their role as potential agents for change and as Riverwoods participants.


The lower catchment communities which belong to Methven CC have not yet been engaged, until action was agreed for the headwaters; at which point we will target a corridor-zone downstream extending 1km inland each side of the river, rather than the whole Methven community council area.

The following groups also provide general community context across rural areas, and beyond. PKCT already has working relations with the below:

  • The Perth & Kinross Community-led Local Development (CLLD) programme for rural support continues, following on from the EU-SRDP-LEADER programme as-was. CLLD is therefore an established rural development actor, responsible for strategic elements of what was previously SRDP (approx £5million Perth & Kinross budget for 2014-2020). Local staff remain in post to deliver a Perth & Kinross CLLD programme. They have particular traction with the micro/small rural-enterprise community, whose engagement is often undervalued

  • Perth & Kinross Council’s:
    • Greenspace Ranger Service, whose interests include the core paths network which traverses our area. They are active in delivering countryside access and recreation management


  • Citizen science/volunteering, which provides a cross-over between community engagement and project delivery. Tayside Biodiversity Recorders is locally active, as are volunteer groups from numerous eNGOs.

Delivering community engagement

Working within the four geographies outlined above, the Upper Almond Riverwoods project will deliver community engagement by addressing two topics in parallel:

  1. Local community agency
  2. Cultural and community-based ecosystem services

These are each discussed below. However, it is important to note the project team’s intention for a dedicated programme of community engagement work to be delivered through a collaboration between PKCT, ‘Nicki Souter Associates’ (NSA) and ‘The Centre for Mountain Studies’, which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). Further details for both organisations are provided in Section 8 (Key Stakeholders) below.



Local community agency

How will communities have the agency to impact this Riverwoods project? We believe that this requires communities to recognise their stake in landscape restoration and to engage with the landowners and the buyer groups. For the Upper Almond Riverwoods project, we will investigate how to best develop local agency.

In other areas, community engagement in landscape recovery manifests in the acquisition and ownership of land by community groups. For example, the Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership in Highland Perthshire includes a community-owned estate at Dun Coillich. Several other Perthshire Nature Connections Partners also have experience in community engagement with land-management. This includes each of the Perthshire members of the Northwoods Rewilding Network, and the local properties of NTS, JMT, SWT and Woodland Trust. Like all rural land-managers, these properties employ staff and contractors who live in the local area.

Landscape recovery within this Riverwoods project will, however, be on privately owned land, within the Upper Almond catchment. These estates’ businesses at present support local livelihoods for their own workers, and for various contractors and suppliers. Our project will therefore have to map out and elucidate the community’s stake in these livelihoods, and in the wider community well-being attached to landscape recovery on these estates.

Livelihoods and well-being thus bring a rural development context to this aspect of our project, which we believe is both essential and best delivered through community engagement.


Cultural and community ecosystem services and measures

What measures could be use; to assure deliverable cultural and community services and benefits flow from the Upper Almond Riverwoods project? The answer to this question will require communities to agree, both internally and with the estates and the buyers on the outputs that will be deliver the community’s stake in this project.

Currently the Upper Almond catchment delivers cultural and community services which have value to both residents and visitors, who enjoy them in terms of health and well-being. These are also valued in economic terms as:

  • Property-based enterprises which sell shooting (deer or grouse), fishing or holiday accommodation
  • Off-site businesses who sell goods and services to visitors who travel-in

There are specific focal points for general access within the area. Munros, footpaths and picnic sites are a few obvious examples. But it can be difficult just to multiply or intensify the benefits from these features in any landscape. For example, simply adding value through greater visitor-numbers always risks exceeding the carrying capacity for ecosystems, local communities and infrastructure.

Ben Chonzie is a Munro and the Upper Almond glen is on the route of the Rob Roy Way and the St Columba Way (both relatively unknown, and which both link to the wider network of adopted core-paths), as well as the Sma’ Glen picnic site, immediately downstream of Newton Bridge, which is probably the main road-side stopping point (limited and informal) on the A822 Dunkeld-to-Crieff road.

The identification of suitable cultural and community benefits ultimately needs to be informed by project co-design with communities themselves. However, two examples that might provide value as cultural ecosystem services are:

  1. Local businesses within the hospitality sector could focus resources on the immediate backdrop of the visited landscape
  2. Nature recovery could be made a bigger part of community identity, by linking it to the ESG objectives of local businesses, who want to create volunteering opportunities for their staff, or through promoting these activities to locals for their own recreation and well-being.

Examples of the latter would include locals:

  • Partaking in citizen science and volunteering activities, helping the project’s restoration efforts directly 
  • Attending events on the estate, which explore land management practices and their rationale
  • Identifying with the landscape and ecology through art, storytelling, historical events and more
  • Organising cultural and community events within the project area, such as a sponsored run following the route of migrating salmon up the Almond and into the Dunan glen.

To deliver these opportunities for local people will require our project team to leverage the capacity and expertise of other organisations working in the area, including the Tayside and Central Scotland Moorland Group, Scottish Land and Estates, Tayside Biodiversity Recorders, Buglife Scotland and other local nature, culture and historical groups. Education, learning and CPD outputs will all be considered in the scoping of our community engagement work.


Relevant policy, guidance and research:

Approaches to, expectations of and standards for community engagement in nature restoration are constantly developing. The project team considered the references below to be important context, and we will closely follow the development of new biodiversity metrics that include ‘community well-being’ scores as part of their baselining work.