Cantray Park

We do fun things for communities and business

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Cantray Park is the social enterprise arm of Cantraybridge College and, as such, the Social Enterprise Team works closely with the College students who, as part of their training, produce various products and crafts for sale.  As part of our work to raise the social enterprise profile of the quality products made by our young people, we asked one of the teams – The Cantraybridge Gardeners – to write a blog entry for us.  We’re hoping this is the first of many as the Gardeners raise their profile with our customers over the next year!  Here, in their own words, is their contribution to our blog page and we are delighted to host this entry on their behalf!


Cantraybridge Gardeners Blog

This will be our first Blog so here goes!

Gardening in Scotland does not come without its challenges and in the North of Scotland this is no exception. Each day brings new challenges2015-10-26 14.49.50 (1) along with a large possibility that every season will be experienced in one day. The plans you make for the week changes not just daily but sometimes hourly! Flexibility is a must at Cantraybridge.

Working in the gardens at Cantraybridge brings much enjoyment to the students. There is a wide variety to choose from whether it is working in the polytunnel, greenhouse, potting shed, raised beds or in the Shop garden. The College gardens require a lot of maintenance and up keep and much pride is shown by the effort the students put in to keep to the high standards.

008The work varies for the Gardeners and begins early in the year with sowing annuals and various perennials. Great enjoyment is gained by watching a tray of seedlings pop up and progress through to a flowering delight.

The perennials we grow are over wintered here and are sold through the shop, if they survive a Cantray winter tCB Gardeners 01 Dec 15 001hen they will survive almost anywhere and can honestly be sold as hardy!

The annuals are used to make decorative summer displays around the College grounds and for use in containers and baskets. The special ones are kept back and used for our entries into the Black Isle Flower Show and the Nairn Flower Show where we usually enjoy modest results!

As the season changes the work changes and moves from primping and preening the flower beds to digging out and replenishing the soil with the nutrients we have stolen throughout the year.

This is the stage we are currently at and its quite pleasant working in the polytunnel knowing that the plans are already forming in the back of our mind for next year’s bounty.


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It’s a volunteer’s life…


In our latest blog we share the views of one of our volunteers, Carol, who has volunteered with us since 2012 in a variety of roles. We are very lucky to have volunteers who are flexible in the roles they undertake with us, flexibility resulting from experience in a wide range of business, employment and voluntary sectors different to our own. In this blog Carol describes some of the activities she has helped us with, giving a great example of how a fun but productive day’s work can be at Cantray Park. In Carol’s own words:

“I first found out about Cantraybridge when the Company I worked for encouraged staff to volunteer with a charity. Whilst there are lots of well deserving charities I wanted to support a local one so contacted Cantraybridge and at that time they were looking for volunteers to paint a small animal shelter. We arrived one Saturday morning thinking what an easy day we were going to have, painting a small, animal shelter. It turned out the shelter was actually a huge shelter for small animals!! It was a lovely sunny weekend and it took us two days to paint it twice but we had such a warm welcome when we were there and Cantraybridge is such a calm relaxing place I wanted to do more.

After finishing work last year I still volunteered for events that Cantray Park run and now do a regular two days a week. Having regular volunteers means they can plan ahead as there is so much more happening now they have a Cafe open to the public and a market gardenwith poly tunnels in addition to all the existing things.

Getting the market garden ready involves lots of weeding, digging out beds for the potatoes and then re-laying the turf, I didn’t realise how much turf weighed, you definitely don’t need a gym membership!!!

All the seeds are coming on so we planted on the peppers and planted out cabbage. All the produce is to be used in the Cafe or will be sold direct to customers. Nothing is wasted as any surplus leaves can go to the rabbits and guinea pigs that the Cantraybridge students care for or to Nick next door who runs Scottish Exotic Animal Rescue.


One of the things that the Market garden is trying to show people is that you don’t need a huge garden or expensive containers to be able to grow things. Cantray Park recycles wherever possible so we got some big plastic containers cleaned them up and washed them out, these will then be filled with soil and planted up to show you how to grow veg/salad and a few flowers for extra colour. It is lovely to be able to see how the students work in the Horticulture Department growing plants to sell and how the Woodwork students design and make wooden products for sale.

Volunteering in the Cafe puts temptation in your way with all the lovely food and baking that is made and sold on the premises, orders for the chocolate cake were coming in before it was even iced!!! Every day we cut salad leaves grown in the poly tunnel to be used in the Cafe, everything is fresh and very, very local! All the eggs come from the hens that Cantraybridge have alongside the Aviary Department. Serving in the Cafe means we can talk to the customers about everything that Cantraybridge does and stands for, we can discuss the projects that Cantray Park runs and the customers can enjoy good, fresh food in relaxed surroundings and then tell all their friends.

Thursday 7th May 2015 was the Official opening of the Café and there were approximately 50 people attending the opening and staying for lunch, they had all contributed in some way to the existing Cantraybridge and now how it is moving forward with the cafe and market garden. It was a hectic but rewarding day and great to see everyone work together – volunteers, students and staff – to make it a successful day. Everything is made fresh in the cafe kitchen, sandwiches garnished with salad leaves fresh from the market garden, sausage rolls, quiche, scones, cakes and tray bakes. The students did an amazing job helping with making sandwiches and icing cakes and then serving everything to the guests, helping clear the tables and taking everything back to the kitchen for washing up – a mammoth task – but again staff, students and volunteers worked well together. A hard day’s work but hugely rewarding!

Talking of rewarding, a peaceful walk around the site after work led me to some orphan lambs – the students are currently hand-rearing them and they are lovely to watch.


As for my next challenge, well, that will be learning to use the new coffee machine………”

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Volunteers – part of our lifeblood…

What does volunteering mean for you? Perhaps it’s helpng to run or even lead a local community group such as the WRI or the Scouts. Maybe you play a part in the team that runs your village hall or you bake for events that are held in that hall. It could be that you volunteer not through a desire to help a particular organsation or group of people, but instead to play an active part in a passion that drives you in your spare time, such as organising cycle rides or races.

All of these are different faces of one big smorgasbord of volunteering that is, at it’s core, all about community. In the Hghlands we are very aware of our local communities, probably because for a very long time it was essential for communities here to be self-sufficient and mutually supportive just to survive.

Survival for many individuals these days isn’t perhaps such a challenge as it once was, but survival of our communities is as important as ever. And community is a big part of Cantray Park’s focus over the coming year or so as we launch our new cafe and introduce our “Nature’s Pantry” Climate Challenge Fund project.

Opening a cafe, opening a substantal part of our site to visitors, introducing Nature’s Pantry tours, introducing a food delivery service and developing a climate challenge demonstration and interpretation trail all place substantal demands on our facilities, facilities that our students and those who support them maintain very, very well indeed. Of course, with 19 acres of land, miles of fence and several wooden buildings to maintain (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg) we are always happy to welcome volunteers!

We have a number of talented, hard-working individual volunteers now working with us at Cantray Park on a regular basis, all helpng to involve our loal community in what we are doing here. Importantly, we also have a volunteering relationship with Lifescan (Scotland) who have put in place a substantial commitment for 2015/16. For the last few days we have benefited from the input of almost 40 volunteers from Lifescan, just the first of a whole series of volunteering visits over the coming year from a team of up to 400 potential volunteers.

Corporate social responsiblity is a term widely used to describe the activities a business might undertake to promote positive social and environmental change. For us, Lifescan’s involvement on our site, with our students, as a team helping us develop our social enterprise is simpler than that and yet much more. It’s a vital demonstration of how we can develop and sustain our immediate community. Our volunteers are engaged with our plans, they’re engaged with our students and our students are engaged with our volunteers. For our students, providing that window on the type of community that many young people take for granted is priceless, it helps us to help our young people plan for their future. In return, being able to play a part in supporting Lifescan’s development of it’s own teams is just one example of how we try to add value for all our volunteers.

In short, volunteers, whether individual or corporate, are part of our lifeblood.