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Nature at a distance

We’ve been working from home this week and for much of the Cumbernauld Living Landscape team this has been quite a culture shock. We’re used to engaging with the local community, meeting people, leading groups to make contact with nature, and inspiring young people to discuss what matters to them when it comes to greenspaces. Unfortunately, our work with schools, Wild Ways Well groups and Nature Ninja volunteering groups are now cancelled until further notice to keep our volunteers, local community and staff members safe.   How can we carry out these activities at a distance? Over the next few weeks we’ll be starting to work a bit differently, and we’ll be showing people what they can do to connect with nature at home through social media.   More time at home has its benefits. In my garden, I’ve been starting to prepare the ground for wildflowers. In the years before I had a garden, I would sow cornflower seeds and ox-eye daisies in flower pots – window boxes work just as well! After I get my rake and shovel,

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Biodiversity and climate change

Climate change and biodiversity are inextricably linked to each other. Sadly, the link is not a good one. For humans, climate change means stronger and more frequent extreme weather events, rising sea levels and increased risk from “vector-borne” diseases such as Zika virus and malaria. For nature the greatest issue, ultimately, is extinction. We are already seeing species being forced out of their natural ranges; year-on-year orange-tip butterflies and tree bumblebees range further north due to a warming climate. These two examples are just the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg. Species that already struggle with habitat loss or degradation are now also competing for food with those that can range outwith their normal territories. Many species are being affected as their lifecycles are changing, with many animals emerging outside the timing of their only food source. Those that can’t travel outwith their normal ranges are dying, as they cannot adapt quick enough. Around the world we are seeing extinction on a scale that has never been seen before. We can change that and give nature a hand. We can

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Get back to nature in 2020

Taking our volunteers out at New Year always resonates strongly with me— I first started volunteering at New Year. So woooooOOooooOOOo, I want to take you back 8 years to 2012. I was completing my zoology dissertation. It was very boring! I felt like most of the time I had been cooped up inside doing calculations, tallying up surveys, reading screeds upon screeds of papers and typing up draft after draft to try and get my point across. My fieldwork the previous summer seemed long ago, itself so enjoyable— getting out into nature, experiencing all it could throw at me. As preposterous as it sounds, I felt locked out from nature. I came across a leaflet asking for volunteers to rewild a community space. I did not give it much thought at first until it dawned that, to paraphrase an old John Muir quote “I needed to get back into nature”. I gave it a chance! I was anxious meeting the volunteers at first; there must be something wrong with them if they wanted to go out in atrocious winter

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Natural New Year

No one could fail to notice the waning of the light as the winter begins to bite and the days get ever shorter. It’s little wonder that winter is associated with depression – and that midwinter, when the sun begins to climb higher into the sky again each day became a time of celebration, reflection and renewal. The natural world has always been a vital part of this renewal. Many evergreen plants like holly and ivy were loved for their bright colours and fresh smell which brought cheer throughout the winter. An old belief was that the sharp spines of holly leaves could act as a ‘fairy trap’ preventing evil spirits from entering the home, and we still use it to make Christmas wreaths to hang by the front door. In some places it was traditional for communities to extinguish their hearth fire at solstice time and then to relight it with a burning yew log, brought to each house from a communal village fire. Yew trees were powerful symbols of renewal, love and hope. The modern chocolate ‘yule log’

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What is biodiversity?

We have recently been asked “what is biodiversity, and is it really important?” Well yes, it is vitally important! Biodiversity is the variety/diversity and abundance of living species and habitats on the planet, right down to the rocks that weather to become soil. It is also how these species and habitats interact with each other to boost ‘ecosystem services’ such as providing clean water and air, healthy soils and flood resilience. No matter how small, everything on the planet has a role to play. Yes that includes wasps, they are incredible at pest control! We have blogged before about the importance of not making nature sterile, of clearing woodlands of all the cut timber/brash or of cutting grass to within an inch of its life. These are vital micro habitats. The insects that decompose material also need food and shelter, just like foxes or deer. If we clear it all because we like straight lines and everything to be tidy, we are destroying habitats and creating more problems than solutions. The higher the biodiversity the more resilient and healthier our

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Thanks to you

It’s the National Lottery’s birthday— for 25 years people up and down the country have been purchasing a weekly ticket in the hope of winning a life-changing sum.For most that big day never comes, but for charity projects like Cumbernauld Living Landscape, every ticket is a winning ticket. You may have heard that Lottery money goes to ‘good causes’, but you might not know exactly what that means. Of the £40 billion that’s been raised over the past quarter century, more than £850 million has been spent on projects that are improving biodiversity across the UK. The financial support Cumbernauld Living Landscape receives from the National Lottery Heritage Fund is enabling us to improve Cumbernauld’s greenspaces for both people and wildlife over a four-year period. In the next 12 months we’ll be helping 700 young people in Cumbernauld’s schools to connect with nature, supporting adults to improve their wellbeing by exploring the outdoors and working with a hardy team of volunteers to create better homes for wildlife. Habitat projects will include peatbog restoration, meadow creation and tree planting. We’re also

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Access your wild side

When was the last time you ventured out into nature? If you live in Cumbernauld this may simply be part of your daily routine. Cumbernauld is an incredibly green town, and most people are fortunate enough to live a short distance away from a park or nature reserve. However, despite this fact, not everyone finds it easy to get outdoors and explore. While the town was designed with pedestrians in mind, today Cumbernauld’s greenspaces are not always as accessible as they should be. Narrow walkways, uneven surfaces, challenging slopes and overgrown vegetation can all cause issues for anyone with special requirements. At Cumbernauld Living Landscape we believe that everyone should feel welcome, safe and secure while enjoying the nature on their doorstep, which is why over the next few years we’ll be upgrading paths at various priority sites around the town. We believe that everyone should feel welcome, safe and secure while enjoying the nature on their doorstep The first project starts this week at St. Maurice’s Pond. Very soon the site will have a brand new boardwalk, plus part of the connecting woodland path will

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Out of the office and into nature!

Our volunteer groups have been getting out and about in Cumbernauld, dabbling in all sorts of practical conservation activities: scything meadows, removing nasty invasive plants and shortly we’ll be planting native saplings too. Our volunteers love being outdoors and the pull to nature is one of the top reasons they give us their time. We want to extend this feeling to local communities and businesses, and we seem to have done just that with our recent corporate volunteer groups from Scottish Power. We have been taking groups of Scottish Power employees out of their workspaces and into the outdoors for the day; helping us tackle some large-scale tasks. Our first group came out to Ravenswood, where they helped clean up the local school’s outdoor play area by removing bags of litter – 12 in total! The group also helped in the ongoing battle against birch regeneration on the Ravenswood bog. These birch trees sook all the water out of the bog – drying it out and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Our volunteers managed to fell a lot of the

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Finding Fungi

Hearing that the nights are ‘fair drawing in’ is as predictable at this time of year as the leaves fluttering down or the sweet sound of geese above our head, but on the woodland floor something just as amazing becomes apparent. Fungi seems to be everywhere, but why is there so much of it at this time of year? Well, with so many leaves and dead vegetation falling to the ground it is munch-time for mushrooms. They have the very important job of breaking down dead material that is then enjoyed by a huge number of bugs and grubs. Fungi is often the leaders in a parade of life that breaks material down into substances that are edible for further waves of species. This makes them extremely important and let’s face it, they are pretty good looking as well! Walking over to some deadwood I peer some bright orange blob that looks a bit like Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants. What an odd but awesome sight. “Two krabby pates please”. I ask, laughing to myself. Typically there’s no-one around to hear it. Moving

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The State of Nature

Earlier this month Scotland received a wake-up call in the form of the State of Nature report, which confirmed that our nation’s wildlife continues to decline. The annual scientific report is published by more than 70 wildlife organisations, including the Scottish Wildlife Trust, a Cumbernauld Living Landscape partner organisation. This year’s report was the most detailed to date and full of alarming figures, including the fact that one in nine Scottish species is now threatened with extinction. That kind of loss to our natural world is almost unimaginable, but it’s happening right now. That kind of loss to our natural world is almost unimaginable, but it’s happening right now. Cumbernauld is an incredibly green town, so it’s no surprise that many of the reported threats to Scotland’s nature are relevant to us. For example, the way woodlands are managed is having an impact on the wildlife that lives there and the densely packed, non-native conifers common around Cumbernauld aren’t always the best kind of green. Invasive plant species are also a problem. Species such as dogwood and Himalayan balsam are