Focus Group Results
Working with an independent facilitator, we held 5 focus group sessions with residents drawn from the following groups:
- community volunteers,
- newcomers to Callander,
- people who grew up in Callander, left, and have now returned,
- parents of Primary School pupils and
- parents of high school pupils
All groups were asked questions around the same themes: Their lived experience as Callander residents, what future plans would make Callander a better place to live in, what role do our statutory authorities, local groups, public services and elected representatives have within the town, and, what is Callander’s sense of identity.
The comments below are an evenly balanced selection of opinions from the group sessions.
Our Natural Environment
Everyone we spoke to loved our wonderful natural environment.
- The National Park is responsible for any decisions that might affect the land around Callander.
- Forestry Land Scotland, the Woodland Trust and local landowners manage our forests.
Our focus groups said...
We have always loved hills and countryside and Callander has got that in spades.
I love being able to walk the dog from the house, I love the scenery and the environment. We are so lucky.
Whether you are sitting up in the heather or on a mountain or looking at a loch and just sitting up there, you can see miles in every direction.
I can see all the advantages of the lowland walking and the highland walking for enjoyment here.
I look out the window and go, wow, look at that ...it's hard to beat. So good for the soul.
(Callander) is a stunning place to live. It's extremely tranquil... when it's not completely full of tourists.
The thing that struck me most moving in, was the thin slivers of temperate rainforest that run alongside the rivers. That's just the most beautiful landscape I've seen in a long time.
It's the call of, the Hills, that made me come back here. The lochs, so many activities that you can be doing. I think that's certainly grown since I was a teenager all those years ago. Paddle boarding and open water swimming and climbing up Hills and throwing yourself down a mountainside on a bike. A huge amount of things to be doing outside, or taking it easy and just jumping on an electric bike and cycling up to Balquhidder.
Our Quality of Life
Everyone appreciated the services and facilities Callander offers.
- Stirling Council are responsible for infrastructure, education, and roads.
- The National Park are responsible for the environment and planning.
- Local groups and social enterprises are responsible for creating programmes and initiatives to support the community.
Our focus groups said...
I came back to Scotland for a more peaceful, slower pace of life.
(Callander is) on the edge of the wilderness, civilisation and the mountains.
I like the fact that you've got shops... that it's all walkable and then you've got the stunning background. I love it for that.
Callander's a complete town because it's got the nursery school, secondary school, doctors, dentists, got food shops, cafes, post office. It's got things to do. So that's why we moved. It has not failed to deliver any of those things.
It was about being able to manage my life better. Callander allows me to do that because, in terms of the resources it has for childcare and after school facilities and clubs and things, it's very good. It's excellent.
I think as soon as people are starting to have families, rural places like Callander are going to be really attractive, particularly if they have lots of outdoor family activities.
I see myself here for the foreseeable future just because there's so many different things and the town is still developing. It doesn't feel like it's a place that is stagnant.
Callander is famous for the number of different groups (over 60 at the moment) in the town.
- Each group or organisation creates their own programme and applies for their own funding, if required.
Our focus groups said...
I think when your child's a very young age, it's very easy to meet people. But once they become teenagers, less so because there's less going to groups,
The main group that has really helped (me) is Run Callander, this is a lovely social group, that meets up to do runs together, even if they meet just one day a week.
When you move here as a retiree you've not got a network around you. Access to all those organisations makes a huge difference in terms of being accepted and having something to do.
I think a lot of these groups are self-selecting because they'll be certain type of person will want to organise it and like always attracts like.
Someone pointed out recently in one of our groups - why's it got so many stroppy women in it? And the answer is because it's the stroppy ones who actually will go out and make something happen.
Well, to be honest, the children were young enough when we first came here that it wasn't an issue meeting people, but I have gone on to meet lots of people. Some of it's through groups and some of it's just neighbours. It's petty social
I've never felt the sense of isolation or exclusion or anything. I think there's always kind of some kind of connection happening somewhere.
I wonder, if you're not that interested in social media or technology, if you're new to the area, how are you finding out about these clubs and societies?
Thinking about impacts of COVID, you became very aware how reliant the success of this town is in people coming from outside.
I think because most of it is led by older people and retired people, you are missing that vibrancy of a music scene. You might go to Comrie, and they've got gigs on, and things like that. Much smaller communities for some reason can have, a more vibrancy about them... Callander has become too big to rely on word of mouth.
Being somebody that commutes ...I'm conscious of a lack of time to become aware of what groups are out there. Also are there organizations that need support? I'm sure there are people with different skills that would be willing to give up an hour here and there.
Opinion was divided around the friendliness of people in the town
- We are all responsible for the sense of community in the town.
Our focus groups said...
I feel more there's much better community spirit here than where we've lived previously for the last number of years.
There was that real caring nature that came out during COVID the community really looking out for each other
I know my neighbours. I feel reassured that if there's issues, I can get hold of people for help.
One of the nice things about Callander is you get to know people, certainly people in the shops and the cafes
The fractured town politics is actually starting to negatively impact the town in lots of ways.
I think there's a lot of kindness that goes on unseen there are a lot of people that cook meals for others know on a weekly basis daily basis or go visit people. There's a lot of that goes on well below the radar. It's not organised, it's just people being kind to each other.
I think there is a strong sense of community, but I think we have to be very careful. There are people with young families who are working (who) have very little head space or time to actually be (an active) part of the community.
It's embarrassing for the community itself. It's all over Facebook pages that tourists will be on and all sorts, it's embarrassing.
That puts me off because I don't want to plough through stuff like that. Not in the slightest.
I came on some of the Facebook pages to see about flooding issues. I've stopped looking at it now. One of the things that we need to get better at in Callander is to present Callander in a positive light.
Everybody's in a different place in their life and their busy-ness at different times. I think that you have these discussion forums, these awful Facebook groups that are for mudslinging. People just switch them off and they don't want to be involved in that because the moment that they have an opinion and the moment that they put something out there, they've got maybe a couple of hundred people that are like, well, that's not what we want.
I'm hoping that the majority of Callander will learn a lesson and actually say, that's not how we communicate, and that's not how we want to be, so that we can change this horrible thing that's happening at the moment.
Love them or loathe them, camper vans are increasingly popular across the UK
- Callander Community Council (CCC), Callander Community Development Trust (CCDT), Stirling Council and the National Park all have an interest in solving the camper van conundrum.
Our focus groups said...
There are now far more camper vans that coming to Callander and there aren't really the right facilities there. We don't seem to have the alternative of somewhere quite cheap where there's a toilet block for to empty wastewater. They empty it in the river.
Can I just say that they're looking at station road car park to make it available for caravans to stay overnight for touring and personally I think it's a positive idea
Aberfoyle's got a place where people can stay overnight in a touring caravan so we're missing a trick - sending people to Aberfoyle, or we're getting people illegally parking in the lower woods car park or elsewhere where they shouldn't be.
I think there's plenty of scope for welcoming people with quite quick, easy gains and I think while there might be some initial hostility, as long as you have proper waste disposal facilities, I see it as a total win, win.
Children and Young People - a parent's point of view
Provision of activities for children and young adults appears to change as they grow older.
- Stirling Council is responsible for the running of our schools and economic Development.
- The Leisure Centre provides facilities for young children.
- The National Park is responsible for planning decisions.
Our focus groups said...
I found it really difficult to find anything to do with children under the age of two. There's nothing for that age group. There's a lot of things advertised for slightly older children, but from a younger family point of view, I haven't really seen a lot to do here yet. It's just been a bit of a struggle.
The thing I really wanted to comment on was how there's loads of activities for families when your child's at primary school and then when they become teenagers, less. That might be partly because teenagers don't want to have organised activities
So the other thing is that when they were building ...the new housing next to McLaren (Leisure Centre), they talked to all the teenagers about what facilities they'd want, but I don't know if they delivered any of it.
My son says he's never leaving home, mind you he's only 10, so there's time. There's not really any job opportunities unless you are wanting to do retail or cafe work.
There's not any kind of nightlife for young people.
Drugs. I thought that might come up as a difficult area to talk about. Is there more that we could do as a community to try and protect those children who might be swayed that way.
We need to see more low-cost housing so that younger people who were born here can go away to university and come back to Callander and bring back skills.
At the time of the focus groups, CCC was in the process of rebuilding itself after the resignation of 5 members. CCDT has now taken over from the National Park to deliver the outstanding projects in the Callander Landscape Partnership
- Callander Community Council (CCC) works within the procedures and rules set by the Stirling Council Scheme of Establishment.
- Callander Community Development Trust (CCDT) is a limited liability company and a registered charity.
- Both bodies provide funding for events, organisations and initiatives that benefit the community.
- CCDT funds the visitor information Centre and oversees the Callander Landscape Partnership. It also acts as an umbrella for smaller, unincorporated, community groups.
- The BLV is our community newspaper.
Our focus groups said...
There're all these groups - I've no idea what their remits are. It would help Callander if it's a bit more integrated or a bit more organised.
I think there's some really good groups working on biodiversity, in the town. Love the Callander Landscape project and the types of initiatives that it's managed to build together working in partnership.
I think personally, Callander's quite fractured. There's too many groups seem to be doing opposing things.
There doesn't seem to be a real drive and focus. It would be lovely to see a bonfire night or, our community organized, scarecrow event or whatever.
You cannot rely on the Ben Ledi View to get important information over to the community. The one thing the community council doesn't do very well is communicating to the community.
I think we need something along the lines of a central community page that is properly managed, I know that Callander Community Council does have one, but they don't use it very well and they don't communicate through it very well.
Some of the best examples were probably the Winterfest and the Summerfest events that (Callander Community Development Trust) ran. That give a focus to a whole lot of different things happening within the community. There was a lot of innovation within both of those festivals. I think it's fair to say.
When I first moved to Callander, I didn't even know where the community council met. I don't know when they met, I didn't even know they existed. Turned out they only met just along the road from where I live, but it took quite a long while to get that information.
I just think we could do a lot better and it's nobody's fault. There's a lot of groups that work very hard on trying to be forward-looking. I think that there's some elders in the town that have a wealth of knowledge that we perhaps need to tackle respectfully but encourage new ways of thinking and new ways of tackling that innovation. It's just finding the balance without losing the expertise.
I've seen some examples of innovation when I listen to the community council meetings, but I think it probably lacking compared to some other villages, I think Callander is probably lacking focus.
The CCC associate ideas. That was interesting. I thought I would be willing to do that because it, obviously you can probably, temper the amount of time you have to give to them. I don't think has been that well-advertised because, I saw it, I thought, yeah, that would be quite good. I have no idea how to go about it.
Green Play Space in Callander
People felt that provision of green play space in Callander was poor. The Camp Place play park will be upgraded next year.
- Stirling council owns and is responsible for the maintenance of all the land discussed in this section.
- The National Park has a remit to protect our green spaces.
Our focus groups said...
I'm concerned about loss of green space, longer term, I'm concerned about the primary school field, what's going to happen to that when they move the primary school (it is a) very valuable resource.
There's actually a lack of space to play with your kids, and if you took away that park (the primary school playing field), where would you go to kick a ball about? There are no other nice spaces just to go and throw a Frisbee or kick a ball.
That green space next to the primary school is a fantastic facility. I think that once the primary school goes it needs to retain its current function. It doesn't flood too badly, but if they put up decent, play park back there and it would be nice and central and easily accessible, easily found.
The primary school playing field is a great place. We definitely need to hold on to places like that. Otherwise it is just cafes, the main drag through the town and tiny little bits here and there both sides of the main road.
Play parks .... we have dreadful ones.
Both parks are fairly rubbish, really that's the bottom line and I've got kids, so, I'm taking them to the parks regularly, but I think they're both fairly rubbish. The one by the river (Meadows play park) floods for the best part of the year and is quite limited, there's nothing really there.
If you look at that place (the Meadows) during the summer, it's heaving, and it still lacks facilities and that's a wasted opportunity.
All of these people, who've got kids, and there's not much there for them. I understand the issue with flooding and water, but I'm sure though, there are solutions that make that more practical.
I didn't even know there was another play park on the other end of the town (Camp Place).
Being the dad of two little kids, I would drive a considerable way, to get good park facilities. I have done, I drive from Callander to Doune to use the far, far better park that they've got. I think if they built decent facilities, it would improve tourism as well.
There is scope in some areas of the town to actually say right - let's just take a few steps back and make that into nicely grassy area where people can play and play football play frisbee throw the dog in the river whatever.
See there's a giant empty car park whereas there's a completely underutilised park in the Meadows. It just has so little facilities there. I just feel that maybe some parking can be taken out of Meadows and put back into Station Road
Opinion was split over the benefits of tourism in Callander.
- Stirling Council is responsible for economic development, roads (excluding A84), traffic management, bin provision and collection, and parking.
- The National Park is responsible for tourist management.
- Local volunteers run litter picking groups.
Our focus groups said...
I think because Callander is a place that makes you feel at home there can be a resentment when too many people appear all at once and don't respect it.
People come and spoil things that we really like. It feels like the town is too oriented towards visitors and not so much for residents.
We know the tourists are essential for the businesses. There's a tendency in the initiatives that have been undertaken to make it more of a tourist town and the feedback from others is that we need our own quiet areas that aren't advertised to the world.
It's not that we don't want tourists, it's how we manage them. How we manage the facilities for them and how we explain that to local people and how we include local people, I think we don't do that very well.
Look around you, everything is geared towards the tourists
People come to the honeypot spots such as Bracklinn Falls and if the car park's full they just park in the laybys, the passing places. When they go home, they just leave all their rubbish behind.
Nobody can understand why somebody comes to a place because they think it's beautiful but by the time they leave, it looks like the inside of a dustbin. It's then left with locals to either do it or to the local council, which we pay for, to clear up other people's mess.
It's not numbers per se, it's the way that people treat it.
Can we not take the initiative and actually have a strategic view of it so that we try and manage the tourists rather than be reactionary all the time?
Callander is a tourist town. It's the gateway to the Highlands. If you lose the tourist part of the town, the town dies.
I'd hate to think any place is reliant on tourism because it's fickle.
Callander needs to look at welcoming tourists, getting tourists to come and stay, or it will become a place where people come to retire.
Tourist management groups need to have status and authority to negotiate
We need doers, not talkers.
In 1967 the tourist trade was from Easter to after the Glasgow weekend in September. You then felt you had Callander back to yourself until the following Easter and over the years that's changed. It never seems to go away, certainly over weekends.
I'd watched the program and BBC Two last night. They took you to two villages where that almost 70% of the accommodation in that village were Airbnb or second homes. The impact it had on the people that actually grew up there, they feel quite devastated. I'd like to think that we have influence so it doesn't happen in Callander
I love it when I see Callander buzzing. When I see it really heartens me. I hope that they're spending money in the shops, the local, eateries and hotels.
Stirling Council and National Park policies
- Stirling Council are responsible to infrastructure, education, economic development, roads (ex A84), and parking.
- The National Park are responsible for the environment, planning decisions and tourist management
Our focus groups said...
I really don't love Stirling Council and not in a political way. I just mean that they're slow to do anything. Any decisions never seem to be made... wringing it out until they're all blue in the face...
You've got the Invertrossachs road, which is meant to be walking and cycling friendly with passing places. It's been left as a 30mph area.
This flood wall being allowed to get to the stage with no community engagement is one example of the fact that the ball is being dropped.
You've got to bear in mind that the high school cannot be the entrance to the entire (School) campus. They have to be able to control who enters their areas.
What I don't really understand is the big empty car park.... I just don't understand because it sits empty while everyone tries to jam into sideroads.
There doesn't seem to be a policy about new properties being built to meet eco standards. All sorts of different things like safety, security, rain collection, waste collection the lot. It just doesn't seem to be that controlled here.
If you read the development plan for here, the wording is there but it doesn't actually hold the developer to achieve anything. All the words are there just in the wrong order! All woolly words like you should take into consideration, the best green systems on the market the moment. They don't actually set any targets.
The second point is the flooding issue... a wall wouldn't do any good - you should be looking at bunds so I'm glad to see that will actually seem to be examining the bund issue again. In Milton Keynes - they've got big balancing lakes with the flood water running from the estates and into these lakes. And they have bunds around them because some of the old houses are all actually lower within the land.
There's not a lot of joined up thinking between the National Park, Stirling Council Forestry Commission
I lived in the east end of Callander for a long time. And I think if there was that kind of network (of footpaths) over to the campus at McLaren High School, that would really give parents peace of mind that their children would be safe cycling to school. And it will de-clog the Main Street of the school drop offs and things like that.
I think there's a lot of work that could be done (about footpaths). It would benefit the town just to have a little more in the way of circular routes that you could add into your walk. It could really enhance it the town cause.
The highway infrastructure should have included improved footpaths and a bridge. People living on east of Callander (should) get across to the leisure centre and the high school. To me that should have been written into the framework of that area being developed.
You have school run time. In the summer there was traffic, stationary, out to Camp Place area. It just seems like the road system cannot handle the volume of traffic that's coming through. Right on top of that you're expecting probably two thirds of school pupils walk along that road to school, whether primary or high school. And I think something should have been done when the housing estate ( at Lagrannoch) was built rather than leave it for 20 years to deal with it.
I've read about this Charrette it would hold for me to be absolutely honest. I think it it's amazing a lot of time and energy and money had been spent on that documentation. I think if you're 10 years on and that hasn't been done, I don't be defeatist about this, but I kind of wonder what teeth really does this sort of bottom up approach actually end up with.
People felt let down by the bus service to and from Callander
- Stirling Council is responsible for managing and funding busses.
- As a community we have the ability, working with other nearby villages, to create a community transport network.
Our focus groups said...
I'm really sad that there's not better public transport connections, but again, if the demand's not there, I suppose you can't really blame them the council, can you? It definitely limits the population's ability to use facilities in Stirling and to socialize. More importantly, for kids to go to college courses or even commute. It definitely isolates the town.
Callander can be a place that is a long way away from anywhere else. If you, can't get a bus out from Stirling beyond eight o'clock at night, if you're 14, 15, 16, that sounds very much like first place you want to get out of.
Local transport to and from Stirling- I think that's a huge block for young people staying Callander because it's desperately awful if you want to work In Stirling
We did talk about having a Trundler bus ...running a service that locals could use as well, from one end of Callander to the other. That would be a good way to serve both purposes get some of the cars off the road.
It was an ideal upbringing for him until he got to about 14 and then we started to see how enclosed he felt. The transport links started to become quite restrictive. Despite all of the wonderful activities that are available here, none of them appeal to him. I'd say that was the point where I started kind of hitting obstacles with lack of facilities and the transport links.
Firstly, having two teenage daughters. They needed to be driven around . They do meet up with friends In Doune, by bus. But for the most part they're quite isolated from friends In Aberfoyle. There's just no public transport at all
I know that there's young people in Callander that are commuting to Stirling University, I think there's even one boy who's commuting to Strathclyde University, and still living at home and think you have to own a car basically, even to get to the train station
My son tends to hang out via computer more than anything else. I think because his friends are quite dispersed because that's the thing of being in the Trossachs - your friends are a long way away and he hasn't tended to want to travel by bus to see them.
McLaren Leisure Centre
People really appreciated the services the leisure centre offers the community.
- The leisure centre is a social enterprise and employs local people. It is run by a board of local volunteers.
Our focus groups said...
The other reason we really like Callander's because of the McLaren Leisure Centre, and so in the dark nights, you've got somewhere where you can go and that's been particularly important for my son as well. I think having that McLaren Leisure Centre has been a really, really important community resource that we highly value.
Mclaren's outstanding. A lot of the facilities that were previously available, have been reduced during COVID and hopefully it'll be up to the same standard. You don't have to leave Callander to go to gymnastics, football, rugby, swimming, all those things are on our doorstep, which is great.
It's the childcare that McLaren leisure offers from a family, obviously setting aside the surroundings and the ability to walk cycle wherever you want to do, kayak, whatever, it is the childcare that's offered and the range of activities that are offered. I think McLaren leisure is a big tick.
McLaren leisure is a fantastic resource up there. There's loads of different kids, clubs and activities and things here.
The impact of Brexit and the economic impacts of COVID have taken their toll on some businesses. Staff shortages and skills gaps have also forced businesses to curtail their opening hours. The loss of retail businesses was relatively low in Callander, with only 2 Main Street stores closing between 2020-21. At January 14th 2022 there are 5 empty premises in the Main Street area and 2 premises considered to be derelict.
- National Park is responsible for managing the conservation area and planning decisions in the main street.
- BEAR Scotland is responsible for the A84.
- Stirling Council own Ancaster Square, St Kessogs and car parks and is responsible for economic development and all other public roads.
- Callander Youth Project runs catering training courses for young people.
Our focus groups said...
It's great for cafes in the daytime, it's great for lunches and things. But the minute you're in the winter evenings and you're trying to celebrate something, I'm surprised what it lacks. But I just think from a financial point of view, if I've got money to give, I would prefer to dine out in Callander of an evening with a group of friends
We look out on Main Street and we just watched tourists who don't know what's open and what's not, go door to door looking in, you know, is it open for breakfast is an open for lunch
I've seen crowds of people queuing for breakfasts, on the Main Street. Deli Ecosse is the only cafe that opens at half past eight. And I do wonder if Callander met the challenge because I saw lots of bored people trying to get breakfast first thing in the morning and you just wondered if they are going to be coming back here.
I was talking to the guy that was running the bakery a couple of weeks ago, and he was bemoaning the lack of qualified staff. He couldn't get bakers, he couldn't get chefs, you couldn't get staff to work in the shops and that he was struggling for all kinds of people.
If you want to rely on tourism, then you need the facilities to allow people to go away and really learn high quality skills for a place with seasoned, decent restaurants that people will come back to time and time again, including us that live here.
I'm sure everyone knows a fantastic coffee shop or restaurant that we would happily drive miles just be there. I think Callander lacks that
Having lived on the continent for many a year - Farmers markets Christmas markets. It's using that space (Ancaster Square) on either side of the road. So (when) people drive through, they see that there's activity going on. Studies have been done - draw a circle in the sand and go and stand in it you'll find that people will start to join you.
- Stirling Council are responsible for economic development.
- The National Park is responsible for new residential development in the town. Community groups organise community activities.
- We are all responsible for the sense of community.
Our focus groups said...
How many working people should be living in Callander and how many jobs are there in Callander for those people, so it doesn't become a dormitory town?
When you get lots of new young people (moving in) that should actually make it more dynamic but if, from 9:00 to 5:00 every day, they work somewhere else, that will actually undermine the sense of community.
I think the nature of work has changed and that will impact on the nature of your residents.
There are so many different organisations available for all sorts of interests and age groups and it ought to feel like community to a lot of people. But like everywhere else, there will always be a hard core that refused to join in anything, refused to make an effort and sit on the sideline saying nobody ever talks to me, it's not a good community.
I came from (a place) which grew very rapidly from quite a small place to a huge place with a large number of new estates. And it lost that sense of community because it grew so quickly and things like the local marches day that we had, just disappeared
I grew up on Craigard Road and used to play at the Willoughby centre that had been brought to the ground by the time I came back. There were discos and stuff like that.
A lot of people used to work (and live) in Callander and I think now a lot of people commute away from (the town). When I went to the high school, 1968, the vast majority of the teachers stayed in Callander and now it's the exact opposite. That's changed dramatically over time.
Thinking back to the sixties and seventies, I was a teenager then. I knew a lot more people then than I do now.
I think it's probably changed since the pandemic, but before that, there was a real lack of like people visiting compared to when I was younger. I used to do Highland dancing in the square and there would be crowds of people to see it. I saw it not that long ago and there was like hardly anyone there watching it. It felt almost sad. it was a shame because I just always felt like Callander was absolutely heaving when I was younger.
I think that we have to be much more positive about what we have in Callander, what we've achieved over the past the 50 years. A lot has happened in Callander. A lot of positive things have happened to change Callander. That doesn't mean there's still not a lot more to do.
One focus group discussed the idea of welcoming newcomers into the community. Community groups such as CCC or CCDT could consider this idea.
Our focus group said...
There must be some way of getting people involved, and encouraging welcoming behaviour. It's not for 19-year-olds, but a cheese and wine evening, something that you can do to get them to come into your local community. There must be some way to reach those people that are the community's future.
I've had a couple of really lovely neighbours, putting cards through the door and it's so nice. Maybe something like that from the community. Even just an information pack. I have grown up here and I know the majority of what Callander has to offer, but there are little things that you have to hunt out for yourself. Children's activities and stuff that. Even if it was just a little pamphlet through the door saying, welcome to Callander, here's where you can find everything you need to know. I would have appreciated that.