Renfrewshire Council

An office with a view

Park co-ordinator Fiona Carswell loves where she works and welcomes future investment plans for Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park.

Fiona Carswell at Castle Semple Boasting a lochside view and set within 265 square kilometres of wonderful wildlife and Scottish scenery, Fiona Carswell may be in with a shout of having the best office of any Renfrewshire Council employee.

That's because Fiona is the park co-ordinator for Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, based at Castle Semple Visitor Centre in Lochwinnoch.

"It's a fantastic place to work. I love the view, I love being in the countryside," says Fiona.

"The full park spans three local authorities and where I'm based at Castle Semple, we've got lochside and woodland walks, the visitor centre, cafe and outdoor activities, including accessible water sports. 

"You can come by train, by bike or by bus. It's really easy to get to, a great trip out to stretch the legs, have an ice cream or just enjoy the view."

Fiona has worked here for more than 20 years, and has vivid memories of day one.

She adds: "I started during the Foot-and-Mouth outbreak in 2001. Coming into Castle Semple, you had to walk over plastic matting and there were colleagues whose job it was to ensure the countryside was closed!

"I was new in the door, as the development and marketing officer, but found myself the most senior person in the building. I had an access officer and other officials all asking me questions.

"Back then there was just one park authority, and my role was about looking at the tourism offering. That involved developing the café and retail opportunities, promoting the outdoor activities, and growing the audience. We also developed the website and started using social media."

Thanks to the work of Fiona and her colleagues, the park now attracts around one million visitors each year,  and there have been many special moments including sightings of Clyde Muirshiel-born Osprey in Barbados; hosting 3000 competitors for an international mountain marathon; sailing all the way up the River Clyde to the Commonwealth Games with young people with additional support needs; and welcoming Anne, The Princess Royal, when Castle Semple was designated as a Royal Yachting Association Sailability Centre of Excellence in 2012

Each local authority is now responsible for the area of Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park in its geographic region and Fiona, who works in our Environment, Housing and Infrastructure service - has partnered colleagues from the Economic Development team on a new blueprint for investment, which has just been published.

This collaboration has captured the views of more than 700 people, identifying improvements in the short-term and longer-term opportunities for investment.

Fiona adds: "We're aiming to remain a popular green and accessible destination for many years to come.

"We've managed for a long time with what we've got. The facilities are getting tired so the opportunity to reinvest, to refurbish and refresh them is fantastic.

"It'll be great to have improved facilities so everyone can enjoy the open spaces, great views and all the health and wellbeing benefits the park brings."

Published on Thursday 28 September