A CHARITY bringing new life to a once forgotten Moray loch has netted £10,000.

The Friends of Blairs Loch are working to revitalise the “secret gem” of a former trout fishery, found on the Altyre Estate around three miles to the south of Forres.

Volunteers are striving to create a community fishing spot along with an education centre, bird hide and footpath network.

The £10,000 grant came from the Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation, which awards funds from the business couple’s private estate.

It will be used to transform a dilapidated boat house into a field study facility as part of a £31,000 phase.

Blairs Loch trustee Brian Higgs said the award had taken the group to within £5000 of reaching its target. He said: “We have had wonderful support from a number of individuals, but gaining the confidence of an organisation with the reputation of the Gordon & Ena Baxter Foundation is an important step for us.

“A lot of the key funding agencies work on ‘co-funding’ principles. This grant will help us unlock further support from others.”

The project is one of a number to benefit in the latest funding round of the Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation, with £88,500 being distributed across the north.

That includes £50,000 for the Atlantic Salmon Trust’s three-year Missing Salmon research project, which aims to pinpoint where young fish are dying using a tagging scheme in the Moray Firth and on the Rivers Spey, Deveron, Findhorn, Ness, Conon, Oykel and Shin. It is hoped that findings from the £2.5 million initiative, which got underway in April, will enable policy makers to reverse the downward trend in salmon populations.

Gordon Baxter, who along with his wife Ena took the Moray-based Baxters food empire on to the world stage, was a keen angler – particularly on the Spey. He was also a staunch supporter of initiatives to encourage youth fishing.

Elsewhere in Moray, Forres Cycling Club will benefit from new industrial grade carpeting in its Cumming Street clubhouse thanks to a £1500 award. The premises are used for regular training, meetings and as race headquarters. The new carpeting will refresh the interior, while significantly increasing the insulation of the premises.

In neighbouring Highland, £25,000 was awarded to WASPS (Workshops and Artists Studio Provision Scotland), who are forming a creative academy in Inverness, while the Boat of Garten Community Company received £2000 towards the enhancement of a community woodland at Milton Loch.

Foundation manager Kay Jackson said trustees were delighted by the quality and diversity of projects. She said: “We look forward to watching their progress as they continue to make a difference in their respective communities.”

The Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation has distributed more than £1 million to good causes across the north of Scotland since 2013. There are five funding rounds every year and you can visit www.gebfoundation.com for further information.


Photo courtesy of Northern Scot