The Blackford Trust - Investing in Talent in Scotland and China

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Please note The Blackford Trust is now closed - this page is retained for purely historic interest

John Muir Trust

Our support

We provided funding during 2009 and 2010 towards the John Muir Trust's programme to support a number of partner organisations across Scotland, all of whom specialise in helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, in the creation and delivery of its John Muir Award programme. Our support assisted over 250 young people each year to undertake the Award through these organisations, as well as building capacity for its future delivery (see bottom of page for update on 2009 and 2010 results).

We have also donated to the John Muir Trust a collection of around 3,000 photographs taken by Dr Gordon Thompson during his many hillwalking trips around Scotland. These include shots of mountains, forests, islands, wildlife, rock formations and standing stones. These are now being indexed. An article about this collection can be found here, in the online version of the John Muir Trust Journal for spring 2010 - it is on page 27. We are grateful to the John Muir Trust for taking on this collection and developing it for public use.

Background to our partner (see also here and here)

The John Muir Trust is one of Scotland’s leading guardians of wild land and wildlife. As a prominent membership organisation they carry out their charitable role through the ownership of land, the promotion of education and volunteer conservation activities, and campaigning to protect wild land. The Trust was founded in 1983 to safeguard the future of wild lands against development and to promote awareness and recognition of the value of such places.

Photos courtesy of John Muir Trust


Scottish-born John Muir inspired their name and ethos, as the first person to call for action to be taken to protect wild land, and an instrumental figure in the modern conservation movement.

The John Muir Trust educates people about the value of wild places through the John Muir Award, which was started in 1997 to offer people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to learn about wild places. Through the four challenges of discover, explore, conserve and share and three progressive levels of involvement, it has so far helped over 50,000 people gain an appreciation of such places.

Many of the existing participants in the Award are already from backgrounds of social exclusion, and the John Muir Trust wishes to increase these numbers. Such groups are frequently excluded from outdoor activities ; the Award is a useful and proven tool that addresses this gap in provision. The organisations supported by this specific programme are all focused on people from such backgrounds.

Outcomes and lessons

2009 activity

The John Muir Trust reported in November 2009 that the partner organisations supported by our funding were Backchat Youth Club ; the Tullochan Trust, West Dunbartonshire ; Callander Youth Project, Stirlingshire ; Raleigh International (Scotland) ; the Green Team, Edinburgh and Lothians ; Venture Scotland ; Wester Hailes Youth Agency, Edinburgh ; and Shelter Scotland, Glasgow.

In the first nine months of 2009, these eight organisations and the John Muir Trust have recorded the following achievements :

  • 264 John Muir Awards were achieved by young people, against the target of 175

  • 36 of these Awards have gone beyond the Introductory level

  • 23 partnership leaders have taken part in specialised training events

In addition, John Muir Trust has carried out 14 detailed face-to-face meetings with the organisations, and developed several new case studies from their successful projects.

Those taking part have all found the training and award activity to be both rewarding and great fun. A 17-year-old who went on an expedition with the Callander Youth Project said, “I learned to work with the team, discussing and making decisions...great day cycling, going up the hills and speeding down...lunch was great but I got bitten by midgies !” In Glasgow, a 13-year-old who took part in activities with Shelter Scotland and the Countryside Ranger Service explained, “we went to the forest park of the park and looked at plants and leaves, we learned about nettles, and we also had picnics every day too !”

Meanwhile, a Green Team Award leader said, “this weekend has given me the skills and confidence I need to engage the young people – I now feel prepared and excited to get involved in the Award on projects and in my own time”. And a support worker attending Shelter Scotland events in Glasgow reported, “I found the John Muir Award a very rewarding experience, as it not only allowed a platform to explore and learn about wild places and wild life, but also allowed the children to explore their own definitions of home and their local environments”, adding, “the open brief meant we could tailor the Award to the children's individual needs and abilities which maximised focus and potential”.

The John Muir Trust, the eight organisations and all the young people and leaders who took part are congratulated for their excellent achievements.

In November 2009, we also decided to make a separate award towards the winter 2009-2010 activities of the Dark Sky Scotland programme of astronomy events, which is run by the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre, in conjunction with the John Muir Trust. For more details, see this page.

2010 activity

The John Muir Trust reported in December 2010 that the partner organisations supported by our funding were Backchat Youth Club ; the Tullochan Trust, West Dunbartonshire ; Callander Youth Project, Stirlingshire ; Raleigh International (Scotland) ; the Green Team, Edinburgh & Lothians ; Venture Scotland ; Wester Hailes Youth Agency, Edinburgh ; and Perth and Kinross Youth Service.

This year, these eight organisations and the John Muir Trust have reported the following achievements :

  • 296 John Muir Awards were achieved by the young people, against the target of 175

  • 30 partnership leaders have taken part in specialised training

  • John Muir Awards are being integrated into new projects by several partner organisations.

Once more, those taking part have found the training and award activity beneficial and enjoyable. As one young person put it, “I think the John Muir Award helps you to express yourself better and gets you thinking”, and while another said after a trip, “the air actually feels clean, it's great to get a chance to get away from all the noise and hassle back home I wish I could stay here forever !”

Photos by Sara Rasmussen, courtesy of John Muir Trust

Meanwhile, one Award leader reported, “despite it being a potentially challenging group of kids it was fantastic to see the progress each of the participants made over the course of the programme...”. And another explained, “it is not always easy to find a suitable activity to engage young people in environmental issues”, adding, “the John Muir Discovery Award provides just the right amount of involvement that encourages the young people to open their eyes and minds to the wonders of nature”.

The John Muir Trust, the eight organisations and all the young people and leaders who took part are once again commended for these very worthwhile achievements.

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This page was last updated on 18 July 2016.




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