The Beechbrae Team

Ally Graham Beechbrae

Ally Graham

Ally is our Project Manager and is passionate about health and wellbeing. She loves plants, woodlands and learning about the native heritage that is around us every day.

She has undertaken significant training in woodland management and orchard care. Ally is a trained Action Learning Set Facilitator through the Action Learning Centre and is in training to be a Forest Bathing Leader. She is a trained Branching Out Ranger with Scottish Forestry, is a qualified beekeeper and a fully qualified ground based chainsaw operator (small, medium- large & windblown trees). She completed a B.A., an MSc from Edinburgh University and later a MSc Gastronomy at Queen Margaret University- check out what that looks like here.

She enjoys sunshine and all things warm, being encircled by green, and is passionate about hands on & practical learning and education. She is a dreamer and works hard to see those dreams realized. Ally enjoys photography, foraging, home brewing and eating well with friends. She is also a huge fan of Mary Oliver, Brené Brown and Karine Polwart.


Sammy Saunders

Sammy joined the team as our Community Worker in May 2016. She had been volunteering with Beechbrae since September 2015 and has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Community Development at the University of Glasgow.

Sammy has enjoyed getting to know the village of Blackridge and its residents over the past year and has been working with the local primary school with a food waste reduction project and lots of fun woodland and pond activities.

Previously Sammy managed an intergenerational project for a local community organisation that encouraged different generations to work together and share knowledge as well as actively participate in growing, cooking and eating various produce. She also was a key volunteer in a Grass Roots project that involved working with a community to design and create a Japanese Zen Garden in the village of Armadale.

Sammy has been trained in cycle maintenance, bikeability (formally known as cycling proficiency), as well as a Cycle Ride Leader. She is also a Health Walk Leader for Paths for All and has completed the John Muir Award deliverance training, which she is currently using to design a project for a youth group she voluntary runs in a local village.

Sammy’s passion lies with encouraging people to get out doors and in touch with nature, through creative environmental art, bushcraft and cooking on an outdoor fire pit.

Outside work Sammy enjoys walking her dogs, voluntary running a local youth group and camping. She is a big foody fan having previously been a catering manager and loves innovative ways of creating new recipes for the camp fire.


Beechbrae Board

Mark Smillie

Mark is the Head of Partner Support & Finance at Central Scotland Green Network Trust (CSGNT, a charity) since March 2014.  Prior to that date he was the Head of Development at the Central Scotland Forest Trust (CSFT), the predecessor body to the CSGNT which he joined in 1993.  CSGNT was created to provide capacity to help realise the Vision for the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN).

As Head of Partner Support & Finance, Mark has overall responsibility for finance and the Finance Team.  He oversees the work of the Partner Support Team in the development and fundraising of all project works to help deliver the CSGN, circa £1.5m per annum, along with a wide range of partner support functions including the management and operation of an annual grant open to organisations of circa £500k per annum.

Mark has experience working with projects such as the Greenlink project, which created 7km of walk and cycle ways through derelict and socially disadvantaged communities.  In addition to the above, his team oversee the management and maintenance of the John Muir Way (JMW).

Mark is a Director of Falkirk Environment Trust, the Environmental Key Fund and been elected to chair the Scottish Landfill Credit Forum.  Since joining the charity sector Mark has focused on the management and administration of charitable bodies to deliver a wide range of environmental and social outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged communities. His personal interests include walking, cycling, computing, working on old cars and engaging in North Lanarkshire Council’s volunteer programme.


Tom Kirby

Tom has a background in education, youthwork, and horticulture and has spent the last few years successfully engaging people of all walks of life in growing food in their local communities.  He’s particularly interested in the role that food (growing, cooking and eating) can play in providing a focal point for communities.

He’s currently working to support Granton Community Gardeners, (North Edinburgh) a group he helped found in 2010. They are a group of local residents who work together to grow food on neglected land, and host shared meals and community events. In their area there is lots of land (in small parcels that local authority mostly sees as a maintenance burden), lots of people (it’s a fairly high density housing scheme), lots of need for better food supply (eg. 3 heavily used foodbanks), and a good amount of local support. So they’re living in the middle of this puzzle, and running experiments with the interesting opportunities and complexities it presents! Tom brings a range of skills and experiences to Beechbrae and is particularly helpful with community engagement and food growing.


Charlie Hanks

Charlie has been involved in food growing, making and activism in Scotland since 2015. He is a baker in north Edinburgh at the new Granton Garden Bakery, a social enterprise focused on improving community health through real bread. He is also working with Taybank Growers Cooperative growing wheat and building community engagement, particularly with schools, on local food production and ecological farming, and is an active member of Scotland the Bread community benefit society. Charlie is also co-director of The Real Junk Food Project Edinburgh and completing his MSc in Gastronomy at Queen Margaret University, bringing experience of building communities around food and of the complexities of food systems and behaviour change.

Originally from Yorkshire, Charlie has a MA(Hons) in Modern European Languages from the University of Edinburgh and continues to work sporadically as a freelance translator and editor.


Susi Waugh

Susi works in economic policy within the Scottish Government and is aware of the importance of governance, good management, and has experience of coordinating strategic level meetings. She believes it is important for communities to have access to the outdoors and to have the opportunity to learn skills that can help them to widen their experiences, through facilities and activities that may not otherwise be available to them. She sees Beechbrae as an important way to do this.

She is a volunteer Leader with Girlguiding Scotland where she works with girls and young women helping them to learn new skills, participate in activities to challenge themselves and to have experiences to help them grow and develop. In addition she is a trainer for adult volunteers in Guiding, on topics including how they can provide a Safe Space for members. It is important to her to continue to offer young people this kind of experience through as wide a range of means as possible.

Susi is a resident of Blackridge and has a keen interest in the outdoors, gardening and sustainable living. She is currently undertaking a certificate course in Herbology at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh with a view, over coming years, to become an accredited Medicinal Herbalist.


David Pelly

David originally studied Economics at the University of Aberdeen before moving  into Forestry Conservation with the CSGNT in 2013. He then went on to study an MSc in Forest Management whilst working for a forestry broker in Edinburgh.

For a few years he then progressed into investment forestry before taking up forest management. He now works for SylvaCulture Ltd and thrives in delivering an alternative, sustainable forest management programme that specialises in continuous cover forestry.

David spent four years volunteering with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) before taking up a crew placement with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) with whom he served for two years. He joined the board of Beechbrae in the summer of 2019 and is very excited to bring his experience of forestry to his passion for social and environmental enterprises. In his spare time David enjoys mountain biking, surfing and reading.


Joe Myles

For almost twenty years Joe worked in insurance and risk management. Joe managed risk and purchased the insurance for a number of international operations including Hays Recruitment, Plan International and KPMG.

In 2017 Joe moved home to Scotland and started his first social enterprise – Greater Good Consulting – as a way of passing his experience on to the third sector who, so often, aren’t able to leverage the insurance and risk market the way that big business can. In 2019 Joe set up Greater Good Wood in Blackridge, West Lothian. This is a social enterprise which builds and sells unique gifts and furniture from recycled and reclaimed wood as a way to fund the work of Greater Good Consulting.

Joe is a resident of Blackridge and is passionate about charity, social enterprise and ethical business practices in Scotland. He is a firm believer that ‘business is more than just the bottom line’.


Laura Worku

Laura has worked for the Scottish Government for the last 13 years and is currently working on implementing Community Wealth Building, a more inclusive approach to economic development. Prior to moving to work on economic development, she spent 4 years as Social Enterprise Policy Manager where she was involved in developing Scotland’s ten year Social Enterprise Strategy in coproduction with the social enterprise sector, strengthening the social enterprise ecosystem, and sharing Scotland’s good practice in policy support for social enterprise internationally.

This role has left Laura with a passion to see social enterprises thrive and play a key role in Scotland’s communities and economy. Laura brings a deep knowledge of the social enterprise support ecosystem, how to align with key policy developments and strategy, and experience as a grant maker. Laura has experience of collaboration and coproduction, and brings creativity and problem-solving skills to the table.

Laura is originally from the Wirral but has lived in Scotland for more than 20 years. She has a background in Geography (BSc from University of Edinburgh) and a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from Heriot Watt University. She is a board member of CEIS Ayrshire, a social enterprise which focuses on employability and supporting communities in Ayrshire.

In her spare time Laura is a weaver, knitter and crocheter, and enjoys creating and occasionally selling her makes. She loves walking, reading, visiting Argyll and the Highlands and spending time with her family and cat. She’s an aspiring food grower and is inspired by the principles of permaculture to consider how more food growing can happen in her local community and hopes to develop a community orchard in the near future.