The Hebridean Community Garden, Galson Estate

Born in Bermuda, Christopher Smail is a highly qualified environment, sustainability and culture graduate, who is passionate about practising and sharing learning on the benefits of being better connected to our landscapes. The 32 year old, who has studied at both the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh, secured a place through HIE's graduate placement scheme in the Outer Hebrides. He's now living and working in the Galson Estate  - 56,000 acres of community owned land which is home to 22 villages and 2,000 people in NW Lewis.

What is your role, and how does that relate to the net zero journey?

I am the Community Gardening Project Coordinator and am running the Hebridean Community Garden. This is horticultural collaboration between Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsain (UOG) and the Clan Macquarrie Community Centre (CMCC). Since starting the post in January 2021 we've created two polycrubs, a sensory garden, a dry stone wall and raised beds.  The community is now using the polycrubs to grow their own vegetables and I'm also running community gardening events for various groups within the community.

How do you feel about the benefits of the work you're involved in?

The Hebridean Community Garden is a sustainable green project that promotes a low carbon lifestyle, through the principles of organic gardening. We grow a wide range of healthy produce – without the aid of pesticides or chemicals. Through the educational classes and workshops that we run in partnership with UOG’s Duthchas and Ploigh initiatives, we are able to instil the importance of growing native plants, creating biodiversity networks and planting trees to a wide range of individuals and families. UOG – as a community landowner – is engaged in many wonderful environmental projects. These include formulating an inclusive land management plan and overseeing the Loch Stiapabhat nature reserve.

It is vital that we all play our part in addressing climate change and the ecological crisis and there are so many ways that gardeners help with this – utilising more tree planting in our designs; creating ‘messy’ areas in our gardens (piles of rotten wood and leaving seed heads throughout the winter) to support local wildlife; resisting the lure of a perfect lawn by letting the grass grow wild and of course by growing our own fruit and vegetables at home.

What do you love about your island job? 

The Outer Hebrides is a part of the world known for its rich natural heritage – white sandy beaches, flowering machair and rocky coastlines. Being able to live and work in this environment has brought great joy and meaning to my life.

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