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What’s Happening

(To see more about an item, click its link in the list in the next column)

  • We are overjoyed that a newly established local charity has bought Holmehill, expressly for the benefit of the community.
  • We’ve been campaigning for 13 years.
  • The official report on Stirling Council’s draft Local Development Plan has been released.   It gives complete support to the preservation of the Hill as green space.
  • Our recent open Board Meeting was held on 6th June 2018 in the Cathedral Halls.   We publish the agendas and minutes of meetings here.
  • Chris Spray continues his monthly wildlife blogs.

These blog postings cover recent activities and news.   All the material is copyright Holmehill Community Buyout.   If you would like to reproduce anything in other publications, you should ask us for permission first.   For full information on our aims and history, click here to visit our website.

Our Meetings

We publish the agendas and minutes of our meetings on our website: click here to see the latest documents.

Click here to see the dates of forthcoming meetings.

Tipis on the Hill

Consultation in Tents

The Carman Family Foundation held a public consultation on the 23rd of September. Tipi tents had been erected on the old house site, each tipi dealing with a different aspect of the Hill’s development, such as provision for wildlife, establishing a garden, training opportunities and so on. Between 250 and 300 people came and gave their opinions.

Each tipi had a facilitator, and ideas were written on large cards put out on the ground, where later visitors could see and comment. The balance of option seemed to favour tiding and maintainance, but leaving the wildness of the hill intact, at least in part.

The trust had done very well in clearing obstacles after the gales on the previous Wednesday, when Dunblane lost several trees, including at least 4 big ones on the hill.

Image: © David Prescott.

Storm Ali

The Hill Takes a Hit

Storm Ali did considerable damage to some of Holmehill’s trees. The one in our picture overlooks the Heliemanns, and others were brought down at the top of the Perth Road path. A beech overlooking Holmehill Court has lost a big upper branch, a beech on the big area roughly above the Braeport lodges wss leaning at 45 degrees, and a hazel right at the entrance to the old house area, which has been leaning recently, finally came over.

Elsewhere in Dunblane trees were down in the Braeport and Old Churches House. Perth road was blocked for a while.

Fortunately, the Carman Family Foundation took rapid action and cleared the access paths through the Hill and to the old house site.

Image: © David Prescott.

August Consultation Event

A Packed Meeting

On the 27th of August, a public consultation meeting was held in Scottish Churches House to announce the purchase of the Hill by The Carman Family Foundation Trust, and to discuss the future. The meeting was facilitated by members of Holmehill Ltd (the registered name for Holmehill Community Buyout) but was independent of HCB, which will be leaving the way clear for the new owners.

The meeting was packed! Estimates of the attendance varied from 120 to 140 people, many of whom were standing. The meeting was recorded on video by Phil Tebbutt, who has kindly made it available through YouTube. It can be seen here.

Image: Holmehill Community Buyout.

Wildlife Blog Jul 2018

Sunday July 29th 2018

Autumn on the hill is always a quiet time for birds and, not surprisingly this was a very low count both in terms of indvidual species recorded in the hour (a mere 15) and numbers (no single species got into double figures, not even the woodpigeons!). The Rooks have all left the colony and will be out in the fields looking for leatherjackets (daddy long-legs, crane flies or tipulidae larvae to be ‘proper’), but with the hard ground this will be difficult for them and indeed Autumn is the prime time for mortality in Rook populations when crane flies are hard to come by. The Jackdaws are also largely away by now, with only 6 seen. Also completely absent, or more likely quietly feeding out of sight and undergoing their wing moult, were any remaining summer migrants – no Chiffchaffs or Blackcaps recorded – though overhead there were still some Swifts to be seen, though they too will be leaving in the first week of August.

So the highlight was undoubtedly not a bird, but our resident Roe deer and in particular the twin fawns with their mother lying up in the brambles in the Braeport meadow area. The fawns can only be a couple of weeks old at a guess – all spots, floppy ears and large eyes (sic!) – and staying very close to their mother. I watched them for a while and tried to leave them undisturbed, though the doe had seen me straight away. Rabbits also seemed to be present in greater numbers than on most visits, but otherwise it was a quiet and largely green vista – the purple of the Rosebay Willowherb providing at least a splash of muted colour, as also the occasional yellow of Meadow Vetchling. A few late Raspberry berries provided a welcome addition to my breakfast as I passed by!

Click here to see the bird report for July 2018.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Karelj:   “Fruit on a wild raspberry”.   Public domain.

Wildlife Blog Jun 2018

Sunday June 17th 2018

After all the recent glorious weather, this was a cool, indeed damp morning following overnight rain, but with no wind at all, so there were lots of midges around!   Perhaps not surprisingly therefore there was a group of swifts scything their way through the air low down and hunting over the open areas.   The impact of the recent gales though was very evident, the ground being littered with small (and not so small) twigs and leaves of Sycamores, Limes and the ocassional Oak, along with a spattering of beech nuts under the avenue of Beech trees.   The overall feel of the hill now is ‘green’ – with the tree canopy now closing in and birds difficult to see in among the leaves where many of them are now actively hunting for caterpillars and other insects.   Other than the odd splash of white from emerging bramble and elder flowers, and the now slightly faded Pignut, only the Meadow buttercups provided any real colour, though careful loking at ground level also revealed the delicate blue flowers of Speedwell.   Careful looking at the grasses, nettles and brambles also revealed many caterpillars, such as those of Red Admiral, and in the Braeport meadow numerous brightly coloured banded snails, most probably brown-lipped snails, one of the most colourful and variable snails in the UK. Their shells vary in colour across yellow, brown and pinkish, with a series of horizontal bands across each shell.

A buck Roe deer barked a warning as I approached, but most of the noise this time round was coming from families of newly-fledged Jackdaws up in the trees above.   I counted well over a hundred in total, so they must have had an excellent breeding season.   Other familes of young birds were also out and about, chasing their parents for food through the foliage, including Blue, Great and Coal tits, and a family of Nuthatches.

Click here to see the bird report for June 2018.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Mad Max:   “The brown-lipped snail (Cepaea nemoralis)”.   CC BY-SA 3.0.

Charity Buys The Hill

A new owner for the hill

David Prescott, Chair of Holmehill Group, writes:

Over the last 13 years, we have sought to secure this lovely green space for public access and have successfully opposed several planning applications to build over Holmehill. We are overjoyed that a newly established local charity has bought Holmehill, expressly for the benefit of the community. This is an exciting new phase for Holmehill and for all of Dunblane, and we look forward to working with the new owners, who have committed themselves to involving the community in the future of Holmehill. They plan to start consulting on their plans in the next few months.

Image: Holmehill Community Buyout.

A New Owner

A new owner for the hill

David Prescott, Chair of Holmehill Group, writes:

Holmehill Community Buyout is delighted to be able to welcome the new owner of Holmehill to the next Holmehill Group meeting in the Cathedral Halls at 7.30pm on Thursday 7th June. The new owner will introduce themselves and explain the reasons why they have bought Holmehill. This is a new and very positive phase in the Holmehill story, so I hope that a good number of members will be able come to the meeting to hear first-hand what the future offers.

Image: Holmehill Community Buyout.

Wildlife Blog May 2018

Wednesday May 23rd 2018

This was a cool morning, at least at 6:15am when I ventured out, but with no wind and dry conditions it was still a pleasant start to the day. At that hour, not surprisingly I had the hill to myself, though a buck Roe deer watched me as I walked along the road. The deer was feeding on the leaves of a small Oak tree, creating a ‘browse line’ at the height it could reach. Tree leaves are all young, translucent and tender at this time of year, so maybe it was more attractive than mouthfulls of old grass. Around it, the white flowers of Pignut are just emerging, especially on the slope facing the Perth road, whilst elsewhere the Bluebells are looking great. One clump was a very distinct bright pink! A much paler pink was shown by several Cuckoo flowers, whilst one or two Primroses linger on, as do a few clumps Wood garlic, and there were several spikes of Red Campion now to be seen. A clump of Solomon’s seal with its dangling white flowers is presumably a ‘garden escape’, one of several escapes, such as Rhododendron that colonise the hill, whereas a splash of yellow from a Broom or Whin bush could either be wild or an escape.

Birdwise, other than the cacophany emanating from the Rookery, the main noises were coming from numerous singing Wrens. And at last I heard a Chiffchaff this year, two to be accurate both singing at the same time. Two Blackcaps were producing a much more melodious song, and the scratchy sound of a single Whitethroat completed three Summer migrant warblers. By comparison the Blackbirds have gone quiet, as have the Stock doves, though both were present. A solitary Long-tailed tit and a Coal tit were both far too busy feeding than having time to stop and sing, and there seemed to be far more Rabbits around this time than before.

Click here to see the bird report for May 2018.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Conopodium majus; public domain.

Wildlife Blog Apr 2018

Saturday April 28th 2018

I thought I would get out early and avoid the threatened rain, but it was actually dry throughout and a very still morning.   With the leaves on the trees just beginning to come out, it was also the last time I would be able to get a good count of the rookery; the final total being 70 nests (up from 54 last month).   The majority are in the colony above Ramoyle, but a second group of 20 nests are in the south west corner above Holmehill Annexe.   Most nests now have sitting birds, but there were still some Rooks flying in with sticks to build new nests.   The Jackdaws, by comparison seem all well set in ther various holes in the trees nearby.

A male Great spotted Woodpecker was very vocal all morning, drumming on a series of different dead branches, producing a range of different notes, and seemingly unconcerned by my presence watching just below.   A pair of Roe deer were also not too concerned as I approached them in the Braeport meadow, the buck still with his antlers in velvet.   What was missing from the hill though was any Chiffchaffs, the first time I have not recorded singing birds in April.   It seems many of our returning Summer migrants are late this year, but Chiffchaffs have been around elsewhere for a while now, so their absence was a surprise.   It may be that their previously favoured area, the small trees and bushes where the old house once stood, which was flattened a couple of years back is now not so attractive, but hopefully they will re-appear in next month’s survey.   And neither could I find any of the Hawfinches that stayed on the hill over winter, so they have probably moved on.   At least I did find one returned Summer migrant, a male Blackcap singing from the undergrowth near the northern path entry.

Daffodills are still very much out, as are some clumps of Primroses, and I found a few yellow Celandines beneath the trees.   A single clump of Ramsons or Wood Garlic was not yet in flower, and neither is much else, though the emerging pale, translucent leaves of young Elm and Beech trees are very attractive at this time of year.

Click here to see the bird report for April 2018.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Ron Knight: A male Eurasian Blackcap.   License CC BY 2.0.

Wildlife Blog Mar 2018

Saturday March 24th 2018

A beautiful, clear and relatively warm sunny morning, with no wind – ideal for hearing and seeing whatever is on the hill, with the possibility of even an early Spring migrant Chiffchaff.   However, although there were indeed lots of birds singing and many others starting nest building, there was no sound of a Chiffchaff and, actually there was still a small flock of 7 Redwings here from earlier in the winter, feeding in the leaf litter below the trees.

The Rooks are well in to breeding and I counted 41 nests in the main area above Ramoyle (up from 8 last month) and another 13 in the south west corner above Holmehill Annexe.   A pair of Carrion Crows are building a nest high up above the main path and there are numerous pairs of Jackdaws investigating nesting holes, and several pairs of Stock Doves.   A large branch of one of the Beech trees came crashing down about 3 weeks ago, breaking off from the main trunk at a point where there used to be a large hole, used at least for roosting by Tawny Owls in the past.   Rotten branches elsewhere were providing perfect sounding boards for a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers; the pitch of their drumming being markedly different from the different branches.   Equally vocal were several Nuthatches and a male Pheasant.

It was a good moring for a variety of finches, though surprisingly Goldfinches, the second most common on the hill, were absent.   Along with several singing Chaffinches and a couple of ‘wheezing’ Greenfinches, I located one male Bullfinch calling from a Birch tree and then found a large male Hawfinch, with possibly a couple of others nearby, feeding in another Birch behind it, so it’s good to know they are still around, at least for the moment.

The Daffodils that were about to burst into flower at the end of February have clearly been held back by the cold weather, and the ‘beast from the east’ is no doubt responsible for there still being very few flowers at all.   By comparison, there are several banks of Snowdrops and I did find one group of Primroses, though not yet in flower.   A buck Roe deer with its antlers still in velvet was consorting with two does out in the Braeport meadow and I watched them for some time as the buck seemed to be nibbling the doe’s ears!

Click here to see the bird report for March 2018.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Andreas Trepke: Redwing.   Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 2.5