Saving Scotland Red Squirrels: Developing Community Action ran from 2017 – 2022. One of the aims of this phase of the project was to set up and equip a network of volunteer groups in South Scotland capable of independently taking forward red squirrel conservation in the region. As such, in April 2022, 13 of the Red Squirrel Networks in South Scotland became independent, retaining use of the SSRS Community Hub and other resources. We catch up with Bill Ferguson from the Hawick, Selkirk and Denholm network to hear how they have been getting on.
Since becoming an independent group in April 2022, HSD Red Squirrel Network has been led by our 5 dedicated committee members: the Chair, Treasurer, Secretary, Admin Support, and Fundraiser, all of whom have worked tirelessly to promote red squirrel conservation efforts in our area. As part of the South of Scotland Red Squirrel Forum we also meet bi-annually with all the other Border groups to keep each other informed of what is going on in the Borders and beyond and how we can help each other develop.
- To protect, identify and strengthen red squirrel populations in our area.
- Encourage the expansion of current red squirrel populations in our area.
- Support neighbouring red squirrel groups to establish themselves where possible.
- Promote better understanding and support for red squirrels in the Borders generally by delivering presentations and through attendance at local events etc.
Obtaining funding was one of the first areas we needed to focus on, so a brochure was produced asking people to support the group by becoming group members for a fee of £5 per annum. Membership currently stands at 42 members (with over 200 followers on Facebook) and our members and followers are updated on our activities regularly either online or via social media. Additional funding has been obtained via substantial grants from the local council and via a windfarm grant scheme. The grants and membership fees have been used for the purchasing of further equipment and additional group running costs.
Our aims are also being achieved through our successful attendance at many local events such as the late Queen Elizabeth’s jubilee celebration held on Denholm Green, where our giant mascots, Hazel Spartacus McNutt (the name having been chosen by children from the local primary school) and Amber, were loved by all. We have also taken part in various Christmas events and have delivered presentations about our work at local village halls and community centres.
Attending such events not only provides us with the opportunity to attract new members/social media follows and fundraise for the group, but it also provides us with the opportunity to interact with and inform other attendees about the wider work of Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels. Attending such events requires a fair bit of time of effort and we welcome any help from members (new or old) in assistance with set up and manning of the stall.
Firstly, subject to approval at the next AGM, it has been proposed that the group change its identity and name. This is to consider areas not included in our original PARC where the residents feel unrepresented. Secondly, we hope to be part of a new cross border project with the Red Squirrel Groups in Northumberland and Cumbria, subject to funding.
Finally, and very happily, through local surveys red squirrels have been recorded in areas where they were previously unknown within our region. We shall continue to work to raise awareness and carry out red squirrel conservation activities to protect and encourage expansion of this special native species to Scotland’s Borders.
Hawick, Selkirk and Denholm Red Squirrel Network
If you live in South Scotland, and are interested in volunteering with your local red squirrel network, you can find out more about how to get involved here.