Mapping Torrance

Our world tour of East Dunbartonshire continues on schedule with a visit to the Torrance Caldwell Halls where we were assisted and supported by the Caldwell Hall Champions Cathy and Rona.  The Caldwell halls are a charitable organisation run by the local community that aims to promote a sense of community connectedness.

However, despite torrential rain, 5 people attended and helped us create an asset map of the Torrance area. Although the event had relatively low numbers it provided an opportunity for participants to learn what assets they have at their disposal and how they feel about their local community.

One of the key features described by local people (similar to Twechar) was their access to green and open space – particularly the River Kelvin and the Forth and Clyde canal walkways “this has enabled a lot of community groups to become established such as the Ramblers association, fishing and cycle clubs which all enjoy the natural assets available”.

Many people recounted stories of how they used to play with their friends beside the disused Tower Bridge “it was the best swing ever!” indicating how much these elements of the local landscape means to people, but also highlighting features of the landscape that have the potential to be developed and used differently.

We heard how a lot of new “assets” have recently been developed to improve the local area including:

  • Book exchange (“increase local knowledge and history”)
  • Bardowie Loch (“lots of chances to get wet!”)
  • Greenspace group (“Improving the environment for the kids to use to get them out and about”)
  • Local Historian (“it encourages an interest in local history and a sense of achievement of the past”)
  • Balmore Church (“good church support”)
  • Torrance Community Centre (“keeps up the community spirit”)
  • Local pubs (“people come to talk about different things and just get together”)

We had a great opportunity to talk at great depth with Cathie and Rona who know the area like the back of their hands! We were able to hear about what Torrance is like now, but more importantly, we were also able to hear about their future vision of how Torrance could be, and how it its currently a great asset to those who live there.

Some quotes from the day:
“Great place but could be better if we had improved transport”
”lots of walks and open spaces”
“The local pub grub is great”

It was really interesting to hear how people began to think a little bit differently about the different assets that were described. For example, many people hadn’t originally seen some of the local businesses as an asset, but were then able to consider the different contributions that each of them made to the feel of the area. Most importantly, people began to think of Torrence itself as an asset – which was lovely to hear!

Mapping Twechar

On 20th July, Twechar Healthy Living and Enterprise Centre hosted our most recent asset mapping workshop. We were fortunate to talk with 9 local people (age range from 4- 70  years old) to find out what assets they have at their disposal and how they feel about their local community.

It was clear from the beginning of the day, that although Twechar is a very small area, there is a whole lot of community spirit! When we walked through the doors of the centre we were struck by how many notices and signs that were available that highlighted lots of community assets and resources.

One of the key features described by local people, was their access to green space – particularly the forest. Many people recounted stories of how they used to play with their friends outside “we used to just let our imaginations run riot!” indicating how much this element of the local landscape means to people.

Similarly, every person that we talked to mentioned the close-knit community spirit, and that networks between people were particularly strong. Some highlighted that there was increasing demand for housing in Twechar, thought to be due to the attraction of the community spirit. There was also a sense that as the community had already achieved so much together, there was a belief (and hope) that there is always a way to get things done which was quite surprising, and very inspiring to hear.

We also heard about a number of initiatives driven by local people, that have helped bring services to the community, rather than the community having to go to them. For example, the Healthy Living Centre now hosts a weekly doctors surgery which has helped the doctors get to know the community better and has increased access for people.

As well as this, other assets included:

  • Fruit delivery service (“delivery straight to your door”)
  • walks from Castlehill (“lovely walks – if you’re fit!”)
  • swing parks (“for the kids to use to get them out and about”)
  • Dr Twechar DVD (“it shows the history of the area”)
  • community gym
  • Twechar Beach Party (“keeps up the community spirit”)
  • Twechar Parish Group (“people come to talk about different things, get tea and home-baking”)

My colleague, Marta Riberio from IRISS, was on hand on the day to add markers to the map electronically as we were talking. This saved a lot of time, and helped us categorise the assets as we went along.

We were also really fortunate on the day to meet Sandra Sutton – a true community champion – who has lived and worked in Twechar over the years to ensure that the community makes the decisions about its future, and who takes a truly asset-based approach to her work. Sandra and her team imparted a wealth of knowledge about the history of the area, as well as some of the plans for their future, which left the team feeling really inspired.

Thanks to Sandra and co for your hospitality – it was lovely to meet you all, and it was great to hear all your stories!

Some quotes from the day:

“its handy for me – everything is on my doorstep”

“with me being disabled, everyone looks after me”

“its a wee tote gym, but it does the job”

Mapping Bearsden and Milngavie

Regular blog readers will know that over the coming months, there are a number of events happening across East Dunbartonshire designed to engage residents in a conversation about living in their local communities and finding out what assets are the most useful.

The first of these events was focused on mapping Bearsden and Milngavie.

Drop-in session

Our first drop-in session was held in Allander Leisure Centre on Saturday 23rd June. We talked with over 60 people (ages ranged from 3 years old right up to those in their 70s).

We asked people what was good about living in their local community, and what local assets they’d want to promote on a digital map. We retrieved a varied response, some of the assets are listed below.

What was clear from talking to people, was that they really appreciated having lots of open green space in Milngavie and Bearsden. There is a host of evidence which reports the significance of access to green space for health and wellbeing (Ellaway et al 2001, Sooman & Mcintyre 1995), many people discussed how this was the most valued community asset, but that potentially more could be done with the green space to open it up to be used by more people.

Similarly, people were not shy in coming forward to identify local residents who they thought of as being the heart and soul of the community and who helped to foster a unique community spirit.

Following the mindapples philosophy, we also asked people what different things they do every day to promote their own well-being. This is in response to lots of recent evidence that suggests that as many as 50% of our mental health issues are preventable (Department of Health, 2009) with much of our mental health and well-being being down to our individual choices and actions.

This proved to be a difficult task for some people – many hadn’t ever taken the time to think about their own well-being. With some helpful prompting from the team, however, people were able to think more broadly about the types of things that they do generally (perhaps not every day!) to keep themselves well. These varied from doing a good deed, taking exercise, investing time in relationships, taking time to appreciate things and trying new experiences.

Many people (particularly families) commented that it had been useful to take the time to think about their well-being and we think that this is vitally important and as such we will be repeating this exercise through the rest of the drop-in sessions. So, why not come along to the next session and share your personal wisdom?!


We also held a community workshop at the Enterprise Centre in Milngavie.This gave us the opportunity to work in a more structured way with a smaller number of individuals. Over a three hour period, we talked in-depth about the local area and were amazed by the wealth of contributions with such a small number of people. Thanks to those of you who came along!

A brief overview of asset contributions from the workshop included:

All of the assets identified will be added to the community map over the next few weeks. In the meantime, please remember that you can text COMMUNITY to 60777 followed by your favourite local asset to ensure it is added to the map (all texts will be charged at your standard network rate).

We found that Bearsden and Milngavie has a wealth of community groups and voluntary organisations with significant experience of community engagement. We also found, however, that there is potential for improvement in partnership working between public and community agencies. We heard that local people are concerned about the sustainability of current initiatives and believe that long-term solutions can only be achieved through greater community leadership and a focus on volunteering.

We also learned a lot about the history of the local area, and changes that have happened over time. Although the proposed community hubs were considered to a positive asset, there were some concerns voiced about the locations of these and lack of parking facilities to enable access to a wider reach of people.

Interestingly, when we asked participants how they thought local residents might engage with the digital map, they were clear that in certain groups there is a lot of apathy around trying out new places/activities. This was particularly so for older people. The participants thought that in some instances, it would be crucial to provide support, a ‘buddy’ along with sufficient transport to get people to even think about using some of the assets that had been mapped.

The project team were using these sessions as ‘tester’ events so that we could learn what works best and what doesn’t. We would have liked to get the views of more people in the area, and it is likely that we’ll arrange a future session at one of the local groups that were identified. Also, we didn’t get the chance to categorise the identified assets in the time allocated in the session, which is something we will incorporate into future events.

Participant quotes from the day:

“I’d just like to say how nice this group has been, you’ve made me feel very at home and I’ve enjoyed being part of it”

“I didn’t really realise how many organisations there are in the area”

“[the best asset] is our community spirit”


Department of Health (2009) Flourishing People, Connected Communities: Available from:

Ellaway A, Anderson A and Kearns A (2001) Perceptions of place and health in socially
contrasting neighbourhoods, Urban Studies, 38 (12) 2299-2316

Sooman A and McIntyre S (1995) Health and perceptions of the local environment in socially contrasting neighbourhoods in Glasgow, Health and Place, 1(1) 15-26

Workshop 1: 18th July

Monday’s asset mapping session brought together people using services and practitioners, to collect and collate local knowledge in and around Kirkintilloch, on the subject of well-being and positive mental health. We were really keen to ensure that the workshop brought together a range of people on an equal footing so that they could share and learn from one another.

We had a great turnout with 7 people who use services and 8 practitioners from services such as health improvement, peer support, occupational therapy, social work, the Richmond Fellowship, Ceartas (Advocacy), Connections and Carer’s Link coming along.

What we did

The session lasted for 4 hours (with lunch). We split into 2 groups and thought about the little things that we all do everyday that help to keep us well.

The types of activities that people identified included:

  • having contact with groups of friends and a support network
  • cycling in good weather (including keeping yourself organised for this and getting everything packed)
  • dog walking (for someone to talk to, who doesn’t answer back)
  • walking by the canal and expanding your routes
  • setting up breakfast dishes the night before – so that the day is easy to step into
  • going to the gym (helps with energy levels)
  • running (with people) – good for you, but you might feel the benefit more afterwards
  • having some music playing to gradually get you into the swing of things in the morning (a soundtrack to your activity levels)
  • having a local, regular place to go to meet people who are going through similar experiences
  • gardening and looking at flowers – can be really therapeutic to take some time to yourself (in the summer).
We shared this with each other and thought about any similarities and differences.
We were able to pick out different themes from the range of activities people talked about. These were:
  • social – having contact with others
  • physical – keeping busy by doing things
  • senses – thinking outside of yourself and being aware of how things look, sound, smell etc.
Mapping community assets
We all then looked at a range of different objects, photographs and leaflets that represented current service provision locally.
We identified the assets in the community that could be useful to encourage positive mental well-being. Some of these included:
  • Seagull Trust barges (and the canal) – feels like you’re in another world!
  • Church – good place to meet people and have some space to think
  • Citizens advice – very professional service
  • Ceartas – lots of positivity around this service
  • Charity shops – places where its easy to talk to others, great for volunteering
  • Food co-op – highly visible, good produce and good place to see volunteering in action
  • Ghilloni’s – much love and admiration for this place
  • Kirkintilloch Health and Care Centre – good that it is all under one roof, but some things about it could be better.
We also thought about those that were not so positive.
  • transport – really difficult to get around east Dunbartonshire which makes it hard to get groups together. Dial-a-bus is also difficult to organise
  • out-of-hours services were not viewed favourably
  • planning meetings – it can be really difficult to get your voice heard, even though people do make an effort to make you feel welcome.
  • costs of services
  • there are not many day activities available – something that gives your day structure would be good
As a group, we shared our experiences of some of these services.
This helped us get a picture of what living in the local community is like for people and gave everyone an opportunity to discuss the assets that could be used more, and those that might need some improvements to be used more often.
We then considered how the personal things that we do every day to keep well could be supported by the assets we had identified in the community. This was quite difficult to do in the time available and due to the fact that people were very keen to talk more about their current experiences. This is something that we will focus more on in the next workshop.
The afternoon session focused on developing ideas for the sorts of things that might help support positive mental health and well-being within the local area.
We focused on the following issues:
Meaningful engagement (planning meetings)
  • it may be necessary to have a pre-meeting to prepare
  • feedback the whole way through the process is vital
  • it should be open, honest and be true engagement
  • advertise meetings well, so that people know what to expect
  • ensure there are lots of ways for people to gather views i.e. through the post, online, in person, social media etc.
  • get rid of the jargon
  • use advocates to assist this process as much as possible.
More activities for older people
  • is over 60 the right bracket any more?
  • need to ensure people know how to access services
  • bus passes should continue
  • need to think about what is happening locally for older people (and how this links into national policies)
Central venue for meeting people
  • a central venue that people can access
  • gives people things to do, as well as developing skills and meeting others
  • a useful way to help people move on to other things
  • a community venue would be good
  • could charge a minimum amount to cover costs
Feedback for family carers
  • to have a meeting once a month to go over any problems which may arise (at the moment there is only one way to make enquiries, and it is often unavailable)
  • meetings could be advertised in local shops or libraries
  • a newsletter would be really good.
Support for those returning to work
One of the groups focused on this topic as a key issue throughout the workshop session.
  • very important to have continuity throughout the process – the same mentor and the same method of communication
  • softening of the environment so that you can take part in different types of conversations
  • one-to-one emotional support once a week is important
  • something to keep you occupied so that you are not worrying before an appointment
  • literature currently focused on absence, misconduct and discipline rather than health and well-being. It is important to ensure that the tone and language used in the paperwork is softened (as well as reducing the volume of correspondence!)
  • a back-to-work mentor is particularly useful for follow-up meetings and conversations.
What people thought of the workshop
At the end of the session, we handed out some evaluation forms to ask people what they thought of the workshop, and also to ask what we could do better next time.
Some of the things people found good about the session included: they felt safe and able to share, it was a relaxed atmosphere, they had been really inspired, it was good to get a chance to learn new tools for engagement, it was a good way to meet and share with other people and it was a good way to talk about some of the really good people and services, and to applaud them for the good work that they do.
Some of the things that people did not think were so good about this session included: people would have liked to have more time for introductions (so they knew more about who was in the room), it could be difficult to raise an issue about a service when those providing the service were in the room, there were not enough breaks and that using the word ‘improvement’ implies that there is something wrong with what is currently being offered.
So, for the next session, we will make sure that there is an opportunity for people to feedback sensitive views in an anonymous way and will make more time for people to talk to one another and find out who everyone is (as well as move around a bit more!). We will also focus more on how the identified assets can be used to plug any gaps in service provision, rather than focusing on the services specifically.
The next session will build on what we learned on Monday and we’ll think in greater detail about how we can encourage people to use the assets that we’ve identified in the community better.
Some of my thoughts from the first workshop…
Many wider issues around service provision and engagement came to the fore at the first workshop, with people taking the opportunity to voice what has been concerning them most. What was really good about that, was having the chance to talk these through and to come up with some potential ideas that may resolve the issues. One of the aims of the project is to flatten any knowledge hierarchies so that the views and ideas that are expressed are considered as equally valuable. The ideas that we came up with will provide really useful recommendations for consideration.
Having so much knowledge and experience in the room; be it experiential, service related or process related means that there are boundless opportunities to share and learn from one another. In itself, this is a huge asset, but it also brings with it some challenges around managing different perspectives and expectations about what can be done to promote well-being and positive mental health within the confines of this project.
What is possible in the project, is to work together on how we can better use the positive assets identified and to consider how these can be shared with others who may not be involved in the project directly, so that they can use them too.
All comments welcome!