Memorial Food Forest to Go-Ahead

12th June 2024

The Food Forest will be named in memory of Emiel (Aemilius Justin Matthias van Well) who died from protracted illness during January 2022 aged 26. During his life, Emiel was passionate about nature, healthy food and wellbeing.

Back in 2020, Richard Clarke, the Managing Director of the Sheffield area business Highland Carbon, met with one of his clients, Adrian Van Well, the owner of the spectacular Talladh a Bheithe Estate in the Scottish Highlands.  Adrian is a Dutchman and a descendent of the founder of the SPAR convenience shop chain.  

At the time, Highland Carbon was taking on the estate as a client to represent the sale of carbon units from its Woodland Carbon Code project. During early conversations, Adrian expressed to Richard his aspiration to establish a community Food Forest on the shore of Loch Rannoch.  Adrian would provide the use of the land for free for the benefit of the community.  The project would offer educational and wellbeing outcomes for the community and beyond.  Richard kept the aspiration in mind and set-out to volunteer his time in order to make Adrian’s vision a reality.

During 2021, Tabitha Jayne, the Director of Earthself, invited Richard to give a talk as part of a virtual seminar happening in parallel with COP26 in Glasgow.  During a poignant follow-up meeting with Tabitha, Richard learned of her commitment to undertake nature restoration projects as a way for people living with complex needs, depression or anxiety to find healing.  That aspiration resonated for Richard and he invited Tabi to develop the opportunity for the Food Forest project on the shore of Loch Rannoch.

During early 2022, Richard met with Euan Bowditch, professor of forestry at the University of the Highlands and Islands to offer the Food Forest project as a field station for teaching and learning about food resilience in a changing climate.  Euan agreed that UHI could assist with the design of the project and that there was potential for a field station provided funding could be secured.

Fast forward to today.  Here is the good news.  The project is taking place!  The Estate has cleared 1.3 hectares of land of weeds in readiness for tree planting which will take place during autumn 2024.  Other partners have been recruited to the project by Earthself including the University of Sterling and Scottish Women’s Autistic Network (SWAN).  The project is being supported by the Climate Engage Fund.

Highland Carbon is raising funds in support of Emiel’s Memorial Food Forest in the spectacular Scottish Highlands.   Contributions of all levels are welcome.  For more information on supporting the project, contact: richard@highlandcarbon.com

Adrian van Well, Emiel’s father said: “After 35 years of estate ownership, I wanted to honour my son Emiel, who loved Talladh-a-Bheithe for its sound of silence, beautiful nature and wilderness, by creating the first community food forest in Scotland. As the landowner, I’m lucky to have found a great team to make this project a reality.”

Dr Euan Bowditch, a researcher of forestry and social ecology who is leading the project for UHI Inverness, said: “Food forests, forest gardens or dynamic agroforestry systems are not new but are rarely established, especially at a scale that would be meaningful to a community. There is a deep heritage connected to these mixed systems that entwines with local knowledge and practice which I believe has been lost in the UK. We hope with the help of others we can play a part in bringing back this practice and supporting greater investment in mixed land systems and paying homage to Emiel’s memory by creating this legacy.”

Tabitha Jayne, Founding Director of Earthself, said: “As a Community Interest Company we exist to benefit Earth itself and its human and more-than-human inhabitants. Stewarding the creation of Emiel’s Forest and integrating it into our business model is an amazing way for us to demonstrate this and show our clients that we lead by example when it comes to creating net zero and nature positive earth-connected businesses.”

According to Richard Clarke, Managing Director of Highland Carbon, “Highland Carbon is far more than a Carbon Brokerage.  We support the wider aspirations of our land clients.  Our other activities include supporting a free-range cattle project on the Rothiemurchus Estate in Aviemore.  The cattle mimic the hoof action of Eurasian bison to open ground that enhances the diversity of flora.  Highland Carbon also contributes to an Edible Forest Garden on the Traquair Estate in Innerleithen.  Finally, we are recruiting support for hedge laying, wildflower meadows and statement trees for the Broadmeadow Estate in the Scottish Borders.”

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