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Window wildlife-watching

Nestled in the middle of an industrial estate, I’m always amazed by how much wildlife there is to see from the Cumbernauld Living Landscape office window. As I type, I’m watching two male bullfinches potter about, their orange-pink bibs unmistakeable against the open green grass. I’ve seen flurries of visiting redwings, prancing young roe deer; and there’s always robins, starlings and blackbirds coming and going throughout the year. A couple of days ago there was bit of a commotion taking place on the roof above my head. A familiar sound, but I couldn’t quite place it…suddenly an oystercatcher appeared out of nowhere, being swiftly chased off by a less-than-impressed gull. It was a welcome distraction from emails and report-writing! Research has consistently shown that spending time in our local greenspaces – exercising, breathing fresh air and connecting with nature— is hugely beneficial to our health and wellbeing. Cumbernauld Living Landscape is committed to helping as many people as possible access the nature around them, whether through our path improvement projects, inclusive events and volunteering or Wild Ways Well sessions. But

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A stroll with the snowdrops

Hope’s Flower, Eve’s Tears, the beautiful Fair Maids of February, the portentous Death Bell or maybe even just simple Dingle Dangles. Whatever you call them, snowdrops have arrived in Cumbernauld’s woods. Legend says that snowdrops were the only flower kind enough to share their colour with the newly made snow and thus became the only flower able to grow amongst it, allowing them to capture people’s hearts as the harbinger of spring.  Snowdrops aren’t native to Scotland, they probably arrived here in the 16th century, but they aren’t regarded as invasive due to their slow spreading habits and their value as an early nectar source. They are perfectly adapted to the cold, able to protect their delicate flowers and survive in the harshest conditions.  Although we may be most familiar with Galanthus nivalis, the common form of snowdrop, there are actually more than 20 species and more than 2000 cultivated varieties. ‘Galanthophiles’, those who collect the flowers, will pay big money for a new type – one single rare bulb once changed hands for £1390! This trade may be part of the reason why snowdrops are

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A new ancient tradition

We don’t just work to protect greenspaces here at Cumbernauld Living Landscape, we also try to engage with them at a human level, and preserve some of the ways our ancestors would have interacted with the woodlands. Recently the Wild Ways Well group went “Wassailing”. This is an ancient tradition that people believed helped woodlands to come back to life after a long hard winter. Wassailing traditions vary across the country so we developed our own Cumbernauld version that we hope might become a local tradition! We walked through Luggiebank Wildlife Reserve and read an extract from David Gray’s poem “The Luggie”. Once we reached the apple trees we toasted bread and made a bowl of hot apple mead, and toasted each other. We then chose an Apple Queen to lead the rest of the festivities. We scattered the toast into the treetops and poured apple mead into the tree roots while reciting some old Wassailing rhymes. We then walked round the trees banging pots and pans together to ensure the Apple Tree Man heard us and awoke from his

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Winter Blues

As I write this I’m huddled over a steaming mug of tea, wearing my warmest jumper and waiting for the forecast sleet to start falling outside. I console myself with the thought that, though it might not feel like it, spring is on the way. It probably hasn’t escaped long-term readers of these blogs that I’m no fan of winter! I’m not always right though— Aristotle said that “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” And for John Steinbeck “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” Get outdoors and go looking and it won’t take you long to spot the signs of nature coming back to life. The trees are already full of bud and the tips of the first bulbs are poking through the ground, ready to bring us snowdrops and daffodils, with primroses not far behind. Robins and blackbirds are singing already at dawn, eager for the spring to come, and it won’t be long before we start to notice

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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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Winter wisdom

Winter! That time of year when thoughts turn inwards, when we all seek respite from the cold and get ourselves cooried in until spring. The work of harvest is over and there’s time yet until planting so traditionally this was the time for storytelling. George Mackay Brown, the great Orcadian storyteller talked of tongues “touched to enchantment by starlight and peat flame”. Families would gather round the hearth to be thrilled by stories – such as that of the Cailleach Bheur who used her birch staff and her iron hammer to shape Scotland’s valleys and mountains. The Cailleach brought winter every year, her breath was the chill wind and her blanket was the snow. She would search the land and cull anything whose time it was to die, but she would also seek out and protect the buried seeds of life, guarding them until spring. She was the protector of the wolf and the deer – because sometimes the last kindness she could give to a starving winter stag was the embrace of the pack. Like many folk tales, there

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World Mental Health Day

This Thursday is World Mental Health Day, a day created to promote conversations about mental health and reduce stigma. This year’s theme is ‘Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention’. Countless studies have shown that spending time outdoors in natural green spaces is vital for our mental health. Our Wild Ways Well project demonstrates this as we explore Cumbernauld’s nature reserves and spend time socialising, learning and giving back to nature. The effect this has on people is evidence-based and it is real— stepping out into the woods really does change lives. However it’s important to remember that this project isn’t just for those already suffering from poor mental health. It’s also a great preventative, everyone can benefit from a daily dose of nature. Stepping out into the woods really does change lives Through all our project streams we promote positive mental health every day. We talk about it at schools and public events, and we give talks and presentations to organisations from all sectors of the community. We lead by example, showing how our work can help and telling our

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Discovering the Living Landscapes in Cumbernauld

When I was asked which environmental organisations I would like to visit as part of my internship, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Living Landscapes Project were definitely on my list. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to learn more about the work of one of Scotland’s most important conservation NGOs. I am originally from Hanover, Germany, where I am doing my Master’s degree in environmental planning. Before I will hopefully enter into employment in spring next year, I wanted to spend time abroad and learn how other countries approach the topic of environmental protection and nature conservation in practice. Therefore, I moved to Stirling at the end of April and started an internship at greenspace scotland. greenspace scotland is Scotland’s parks and greenspace charity and a social enterprise working with partners to pioneer new approaches to managing and resourcing greenspace. During my internship I was given the opportunity to get a taste of various projects around greenspaces and to dive into the Scottish green network, where the Living Landscape projects is an integral part. Cumbernauld is characterised by

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Leave no trace

The Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Seafar Wildlife Reserve is one of my favourite places in Cumbernauld to visit. The Trust is working hard to change the structure of the woodlands, helping native trees and wildflowers to flourish in the new light, open spaces. More native trees and flowers means more insects like butterflies and dragonflies, which in turn leads to more birds and mammals. Already you can see signs of this change. The reserve is popular with the public too, and because we spend a lot of time here the Wild Ways Well team feels a bit of responsibility towards it. A few weeks ago we had a litter pick and removed ten bin bags of litter, plus a family-sized inflatable paddling pool and a destroyed picnic bench, all from one tiny area. The saddest part was all the broken glass. It’s awful to think of barefooted children playing there, and of the animals who call Seafar home. Wildlife can be badly affected by litter, eating it, becoming entangled or injuring themselves. A cut paw for a badger, without access to

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Endings and beginnings

Last week we said goodbye to one of our Project Officers, Claire Bailly, who is moving on to a new post in Glasgow working with communities on flood resilience. Claire has been an amazing group leader and will be sadly missed, but I’m sure her new project will soon feel her benefit. There was a record turnout for her final Wild Ways Well session in Cumbernauld Glen as people made a special effort to come along. We built a shelter and had a party, there was cake, muffins and more biscuits than is strictly healthy. We made crepe suzette over the fire, popped popcorn and toasted marshmallows. And of course, since this was forager extraordinaire Claire’s day, we also made some foraged mint and meadowsweet teas! We were joined by Italian volunteer Guido. Guido is visiting Scotland on an exchange programme— our own volunteer Grant will be off to Bulgaria later this year on a similar exchange. Gill, Cumbernauld Living Landscape’s Communications Officer, was also there to lend her expertise to the shelter-building, but in the end her efforts weren’t required.