David Carr: The hidden history of #OurLand

CommonSpace columnist David Carr reports on a wee bit of a walk in the woods on a Sunday afternoon with some community activism thrown in

IT'S amazing how activists' minds work.

It's Sunday and four of them are checking their Facebook. As you do. There's an ongoing group discussion on what to do as part of the 'Our Land' campaign .

"Something should be done about the old Braidbar quarry," activist Laura Stevens posts on a local organising page.

"What? I've never heard of that."

As is so often the case, it's not even certain who owns the land, and there are arguments over who should take responsibility for filling it in.

Activist Graeme Arnott does some googling. Yup, there's an old quarry in Giffnock, previously a source of sandstone for tenements. There have been attempts to build on the land over years, but they've all fallen through.

As is so often the case, it's not even certain who owns the land, and there are arguments over who should take responsibility for filling it in.

He has an idea.

"Why don't we go there?"

"Aye!"

"When's good?"

"How about right now?"

So off go the intrepid activists, up some steps, along a dishevelled athletics track, up a wee hill, through some trees and brambles. There! A fence with a keep out sign with a huge tract of land behind it. This is what wasted resources look like.

So off they go, three Common Weal activists in search of a massive hole in the ground, which you wouldn't have thought would be hard to find. Except - here's the point - this potentially usable asset is not on any maps and is so well hidden away that few know where it is.

So Donna Nicholson Arnott comes up with a brilliant idea: ask folk. And this is where community activism comes in, because that's when you have a wee blether and the topic of land use comes up.

They don't know in the Subway. The polis station hasn't heard of it, so obviously Braidbar Quarry is where to get rid of a body. But both are interested in the campaign. The woman from the sheltered housing scheme has a vague idea it is thataway.

Pic2

Gold is struck at the Maccabi Centre where a very helpful woman tells us she has been discussing the quarry and the failure of development schemes only recently.

So off go the intrepid activists, up some steps, along a dishevelled athletics track, up a wee hill, through some trees and brambles. There! A fence with a keep out sign with a huge tract of land behind it. This is what wasted resources look like.

"What could be done with this land?" the activists discuss. Housing - maybe. Or a biodivesity garden! There are several interesting plant species around the fence. Or - housing which incorporates biodiverse, green spaces? Whatever - some use other than simply being fenced off and neglected.

It's astounding what land is hidden away, unknown, unused.

#OurLand picture taken, off they go.

The polite thing to do next is tell those who were first asked for directions where the wasteland is. The polis have been busy googling the history of the quarry. Maybe they'll be talking to colleagues about land use during the tea break?

Plus - now they know where the bodies are buried.

If they're not there, maybe they're in the abandoned military base somewhere between Overlee and Castlemilk. It's astounding what land is hidden away, unknown, unused.

Pictures courtesy of David Carr and Common Weal Moray (main image)