Cassiltoun Housing Association together with Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Housing Association, Forestry Commission Scotland and Jeely Piece Playzone have won the Horticulture Week Custodian Award for Best Amenity Woodland / Forest Initiative.
The woods of Castlemilk Park in Glasgow were once part of the landscape of the now demolished Castlemilk House. They are in one of Scotland's most deprived regions and had become a no-go area, but over the past six years they have been transformed into a much-loved community asset.
In 2010, Cassiltoun Housing Association formed the Castlemilk Park Steering Group. A feasibility study was carried out and one of the recommendations was to employ a community woodland officer, who started in May 2011.
In 2012 Cassiltoun secured funding to start an employability project. Over five years more than 100 unemployed people have participated in an eight-week programme, with around 80 per cent gaining qualifications while carrying out much of the park maintenance and woodland management. Some 40 per cent moved into jobs shortly after completing the project.
The woods are also used to address physical and mental health challenges for local people, around 13 per cent of whom are being prescribed drugs for anxiety, depression or psychosis. Working with Forestry Commission Scotland, the housing association delivers Branching Out, an innovative programme for adults who use mental health services. It also holds evening walks, tea in the park and photography sessions.
In five years, more than 17,500 people have enjoyed more than 800 free events. The woods have been transformed and the community now has a sense of ownership and pride in the park.
Commenting on winning the prize with their partners, Charlie Millar, CEO of Cassiltoun said:
"Winning this national award is a fantastic recognition of the hard work of the Partnership, our funders and supporters and importantly the volunteers and local community who have worked tirelessly over the past 6 years to transform Castlemilk Woodlands. It is now an asset for the local community and used widely by local people and visitors to the area from across the city.
"We still have work to do to complete our vision, and will continue to seek new funding and new opportunities to continue with the woodlands ongoing development."