Time for a new policy in Gala woodlands

Jason Curran, chairman of the Friends of Gala Policies group
Jason Curran, chairman of the Friends of Gala Policies group

A group set up to help look after a community woodland on the outskirts of Galashiels is hoping to regenerate the town by making it a nicer place to visit.

The woodland, once part of the grounds of the estate of the Laird of Gala, was purchased by Selkirk County Council in 1974 for housing. New Gala House, within the grounds, was bought separately, in order for flats to be built.

Sewage is contaminating the stream which runs through the policies and eventually into the Mill Lade, and then the Gala Water.

Sewage is contaminating the stream which runs through the policies and eventually into the Mill Lade, and then the Gala Water.

However, there were issues with both plans and they fell through, the grand house being demolished in 1987.

Then, in 1990, Scottish Borders Council wanted to base its sporting facilities to the site, paid for by the executive housing it wanted to blanket the site with.

However, a group of people calling themselves the Friends of Gala Policies were up in arms and successfully campaigned to have the area redesignated as a community woodland.

One of these people – Jason Curran – now sits as chairman of that relaunched group, and he says he wants to work with SBC and other organisations such as Energise Galashiels and the Galashiels Community Council to make the site safer and more pleasant to visit.

Some of the broken Victorian fencing the group is planning to remove

Some of the broken Victorian fencing the group is planning to remove

He said: “We are in talks with several bodies, and suggestions we have for improving the site include annual checks of the former New Gala House site for landslips, action to end raw sewage entering the stream, laying new gravel on the path network, and removal of the broken Victorian railings that are dotted around the site.”

He said the duck pond, which the stream runs through, is now completely devoid of wildlife, as raw sewage from neighbouring Balmoral Avenue runs into the system, before it joins the Mill Lade and eventually the Gala Water and the Tweed further downstream.

Mr Curran, a nurse at the Borders General Hospital, who has moved back to the area after working in London and Edinburgh, said: “

The woods – for years a magnet for dog walkers and naturalists – do seem to be falling into disrepair, despite the fact that it forms part of the Southern Upland Way.

Jason told us that his group are being proactive as well as making suggestions for improvements.

He himself went round the path last weekend on a clean-up operation.

He said: “I filled nine rubbish bags with litter – we are asking if anyone is using the woods to please take their rubbish home.”

If anyone would like to help the group in its attempts to clean up the site for future visitors, they are asked to contact Mr Curran by email on j.sloanesw10@gmail.com