Since 2013, Cumbernauld Living Landscape have been making improvements within the town for habitats, biodiversity, people and communities.

First, our ‘Living Windows’ project, enabled local community groups and schools to work with contemporary artists to create murals and pieces of art to reflect the special greenspaces of Cumbernauld. Six pieces of art were ‘exhibited’ at local shopping centres, replacing derelict shopfronts with colour, creativity and the overarching message that the town has lots to explore.

Then, we worked to Engage Communities to Enhance Urban Greenspaces in Cumbernauld through our ‘Natural Connections’ project. We made significant impacts for young people, community, and nature through our school sessions, volunteering, internships, and improvements to habitats.

Most recently, Creating Natural Connections was a four-year initiative (2019 – 2023), which aimed to make the town’s woods, parks and open spaces better for wildlife and people, with the support of National Lottery players.

The Project aims were:

  1. To create a community network, which connected more people to nature, giving a wider range of people the capacity to benefit from and improve Cumbernauld’s greenspaces.
  2. To improve the quality of Cumbernauld’s greenspaces for people and wildlife

Working with the community, and our partners, the team nurtured ideas and strategies to improve habitat and access connections within, and between, greenspaces. The team worked with local young people, hard-to-reach groups, and community groups to build a sustainable network of people who care about – and have the skills to care for – the town’s natural heritage in years to come.

You can read all about our completed projects, and the impact they have had within Cumbernauld, below.

Creating Natural Connections

We are pleased to present our final reports for the Creating Natural Connections project funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund

Creating Natural Connection was an ambitious four year project to improve greenspaces in Cumbernauld and to connect people and groups to these space through engagement covering education, health and wellbeing and volunteer action. The project came to a successful close in October of 2023.

It has been our privilege to work with, and for the communities of Cumbernauld and for the greenspaces and the wildlife that make these spaces their home.

We would like to thank everyone who was involved with Creating Natrual Connections, without your input the project would not have been as successful, fun and engaging. We would also like to thank the players of the National Lottery, without you the project would not have been possible.

Click here for the full report.

Creating Natural Connections partners the James Hutton Institute led on the monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes for people you can read their report here.

Our plans

We developed Habitat and Access Network Plans to tackle key threats and gaps in the town’s green network by actively managing 230ha of urban woodlands, improving the biodiversity of 22 local greenspaces and removing the barriers to access to nine natural heritage sites. The plans prioritised actions which would provide the greatest possible community benefit and involvement and were delivered on wildlife sites owned and managed by North Lanarkshire Council and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

The hope was that more people would be able to access nature on their doorstep by delivering targeted access improvements, raising awareness of local sites with events, and building people’s confidence in using the natural environment.

Image courtesy of Andrew-Parkinson-2020VISION

Our approach

The project delivered significant enhancements to Cumbernauld’s habitat network and greenspace access by tackling key threats and opportunities. The development phase facilitated the development of a Habitat Network Plan, an Access Network Plan and an Action Plan in consultation with local stakeholders and the community.

The plans considered the potential for community benefit from, and involvement in, these projects and how this would be achieved. All work was delivered with the agreement and support of the landowning partners (North Lanarkshire Council, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Sanctuary Scotland) who agreed to integrate the maintenance of the plans into their management regimes.

The habitat and access improvements were planned strategically together through three key themes:

  1. Securing the woodland network to create a sustainable core woodland whilst reinforcing and expanding key habitat connections
  2. Making the most of the habitat mosaic seeks to protect important sites whilst creating new habitats and diversifying greenspaces in urban areas
  3. Accessing Cumbernauld’s wild side aims to make natural heritage accessible to all in key locations and improve access close to people’s homes.


Cumbernauld is incredibly green and, whilst most people live within walking distance of a park or nature reserve, these greenspaces are not always as accessible as they should be. Narrow walkways, uneven surfaces, tough gradients and overgrown vegetation can all cause issues for people using wheelchairs, bikes and buggies, and for people with other mobility issues or special requirements.

Over the lifetime of the project, Cumbernauld Living Landscape is upgrading paths at priority sites so that everyone can feel welcome, safe and secure while enjoying the nature on their doorstep.

Access works were completed as part of the Creating Natural Connections project at these locations:

  • Seafar Wood Wildlife Reserve (North Side)
  • Ravenswood Local Nature Reserve
  • Netherwood Way, Westfield
  • St Maurice’s Pond – boardwalk and path access
  • Broadwood Loch

Some key achievements from this workstream include:

  • 10.9ha of peat bogs restored, with 0.2ha of piling, reprofiling and scrub clearance 
  • Access improved at 8 sites, through the upgrading of 3.1km of boardwalk and paths
  • 4.9ha of meadow managed
  • 1ha of agricultural meadow created for farmland birds
  • 3 ponds installed
  • 13,640 trees planted
  • Complex tree works on 60 trees, to improve woodland composition and biodiversity
  • Woodland biodiversity undertaken, with enrichment planting, INNS removal, cutting back vegetation, and litter removal. 


Our schools programme provided opportunities for children to be closely involved in practical projects, to create pockets of urban wetland habitat through rain gardens and diversifying areas of amenity grassland with wildflowers. We worked intensively with young people at risk of disengaging from high schools and colleges; each group took part in a 6-month Natural Connections programme, where they were supported to develop and deliver environmental improvements to their local greenspaces. These improvements complemented the capital works programme.

Teachers from schools across Cumbernauld and North Lanarkshire took part in workshops and training sessions, to build confidence in delivering outdoor learning skills to their students utilising nearby greenspaces.

Image by Pidgin Perfect

Our approach
Our approach to this workstream was informed by the needs and themes arising from our previous work with young people, combined with audience research, consultation, and taster sessions carried out as part of the development phase. These can be summed up as:

  • Building skills and confidence – there is a need to improve skills, create alternative learning opportunities and increase positive destinations for marginalised young people
  • Health and well-being – there is a growing mental health crisis and a need for programmes which improve both mental and physical health for young people
  • Awareness and understanding – many young people are simply not aware of Cumbernauld’s greenspaces and the opportunities and benefits they can bring
  • Capacity-building – teachers and youth leaders lack the knowledge, skills and confidence to deliver sessions outdoors to enrich their activities and provide a range of benefits for young people

Children enjoying a pond-dipping session on the improved St Maurice’s boardwalk (c) Jamie McDermaid

Some key achievements from this workstream include:

  • 39 Early Connections primary school workshops delivered (for 8-10 year-olds). These workshops highlighted new conservation ideas, such as rain gardens, wildlife surveying and habitat quality.
  • 1195 engagements with young people of primary school level 
  • 10 workshops delivered to community groups (for example, in scything and meadow management)
  • 24 high school groups engaged through Natural Connections workshops to build confidence and soft social skills. Activities included cooking outdoors, wildlife surveying, art and conservation tasks
  • 142 young people engaged at high school level in outdoor learning
  • 125 CPD training workshops delivered to teachers and group leaders to build their confidence in outdoor and green learning
  • 4 summer schools delivered to 62 young people  


We built on the Wild Ways Well approach successfully piloted by The Conservation Volunteers and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. This takes a proven methodology – Five Ways to Wellbeing – and combines it with nature to bring added benefits. Through this programme, at least 200 people at risk of mental ill-health – such as adults with additional support needs and people at risk of social isolation – developed skills to use nature to manage their mental health. We unlocked capacity and sustainability through support and training for volunteers, support workers, and other organisations.

Yellow Stagshorn - Calocera viscosa, image Tracy Lambert
Yellow Stagshorn – Calocera viscosa, image (c) Tracy Lambert

Our approach
Issues surrounding poor mental health are on the rise and affect all age groups and areas of society. Poor mental health destroys lives and blights communities. There is still a stigma attached to this issue, with people reluctant to admit they are sufferers and to engage with traditional forms of support – which are often overwhelmed and under-resourced. In Cumbernauld, a wide range of groups provide health and social care, and the people they work with are at the greatest risk of poor mental health. Our approach supported these groups and individuals to connect with nature, and develop strategies to improve their own health and well-being.

As shown by our audience research, poor mental health prevents people from engaging with other people, community, and nature. Lack of information on where – and how – to access sites also prevents people from benefiting from their local greenspaces. Raising awareness, combined with opportunities to join existing groups, reduced the barriers to taking the first steps to engagement.

There is a large and growing body of research from around the world showing that a nature-based approach can have a positive and lasting effect on people’s well-being, empowering individuals and communities to change their lives for the better.

Through the Wild Ways Well work which has been piloted in Cumbernauld, we have demonstrated how we can link the nature-based approach with the recognised Five Ways to Wellbeing methodology. We worked with target groups suffering from, or at risk of, poor mental health, encouraging positive changes through a series of Wild Ways Well sessions.

By training staff and volunteers, we increased the number of people aware of, and capable of delivering, this model of mental health recovery. At local events, we aimed to raise awareness of both the scale and reality of the mental health epidemic – and our approach to combating it. Our supporting activities also helped to raise awareness of the programme with local groups, and we will facilitated connections to form mutual support networks. Working with volunteers we mapped suitable sites and created resources for people who, potentially, were exploring nature for the first time.

Roasting Marshmallows at the Kelly Kettle, just one of the activities we offered during our Wild Ways Well sessions © Catherine Leatherland

Some key achievements from this workstream include:

  • 25 guided walks delivered encouraging people to be active 
  • 25 public Wild Ways Well special events 
  • 24 groups engaged in Wild Ways Well to connect with nature
  • 234 participants attended Wild Ways Well to improve their mental health and wellbeing 
  • 11 greenspaces mapped for people to take notice of local areas 
  • 11 Wild Ways Well CPD training sessions delivered for group leaders and NHS professionals to learn new skills
  • 6 paid traineeships completed, to give opportunities to those wishing to work in in the conservation sector



Our innovative, Asset-Based Community Development Approach sought to get to know people and build relationships with them. From this, we were able to understand the existing assets and connect people who wanted to take action. This approach was built into all of the project activities.

Developing skills and unlocking capacity was integrated into all our activities. We sought to make connections – even amidst the challenges of the pandemic – between groups, organisations, and initiatives supporting environmental improvements, and the local community, to avoid duplication and bring added value.

Volunteers excited for another session! (c) CLL 

Our approach 

It is vital, when working with communities, to understand what is already there before supporting them to access the help they need. Our project centred around an Asset-Based Community Development Approach. Identifying the aspirations, skills and assets of individuals and connecting them to each other was the key to the sustainability and legacy of this project. Connecting people who care enough to make a difference in their neighbourhood created a shared capacity, greater than the sum of its parts. It also increased the resilience of individuals and projects.

Our research has shown that, although there are many community groups within Cumbernauld, they are not well connected and are predominantly made up of the older generation. Many members are active in multiple groups and find themselves spread too thinly. This has led to a limited pool of skills and abilities, reducing capacity within the groups and making communication between groups challenging. We have also learnt that although many residents don’t want to be part of an official group, they are keen to get together to discuss and deal with issues.

First, to unlock community capacity, we decided to get to know people and understand the capacity that already existed. We got to know groups and individuals through personal conversations, focusing on what they were able to do, rather than what they were unable to do.

Second, we began to create opportunities for engaged individuals and groups to come together and share their aspirations for their neighbourhood. We created social opportunities and hosted conversations, focusing on how to have an impact on our community. This was complemented by volunteer opportunities, training and skills development, which helped people to work towards their aims.

Finally, we supported individuals and groups to act upon the things they most wanted to see happen, which did require support to access specific skills, advice from organisations, and information on how to access funding or resources. The concept was built on a foundation of what the community, themselves, could already do, thus unlocking and highlighting the intrinsic potential they had. In this way, we developed projects in a sustainable way from the very beginning.

Staff, volunteers, local residents, MPs, MSPs and local councillors took part in a litter pick at Seafar Wood in April 2023 (c) L Healy Smith

Some key achievements from this workstream include:

  • 201 volunteers engaged who took action for nature 
  • 960 hours of volunteering time donated by our ‘Nature Ninjas’ volunteers
  • 3765 people attended events, despite the pandemic putting pressure on this aspect of engagement
  • 222 weekday volunteering sessions held and 39 weekend sessions
  • 17 networking events delivered with 348 people attending these events 
  • 18 training and upskilling sessions carried out 


Engaging Communities to Enhance Urban Greenspaces in Cumbernauld

St Maurices Pond Picture
A Natural Connections group celebrating the work they did to improve St Maurice’s Pond

Natural Connections built on the activities Cumbernauld Living Landscape had established since 2013, to enhance, restore and reconnect green areas of the town.

The project focused on young people, community and nature for two and a half years. We worked with local schools and communities to improve three important wildlife sites in the Cumbernauld Living Landscape project area – St Maurice’s Pond, Ravenswood Local Nature Reserve, and Cumbernauld Glen.

The improvements to the sites were driven by the town’s young people, from local high schools, who also inspired local residents to volunteer their time to improve the areas for people and wildlife. This project utilised Scottish Wildlife Trust and North Lanarkshire Council sites and it gave young people the opportunity and skills to improve their environment, confidence, and their own employability.

Students from the high schools across Cumbernauld took action to improve their environment. To celebrate their work with the Natural Connection project, they also created three distinctive artworks. Over 300 young people were involved and the pupil-led group created the design brief and steered the creation of the art work.


Young People –

  • Strong partnerships with schools gave us time to build relationships with young people
  • 45 students between 14-16 yrs old took part in 42 sessions, with 88% gaining accredited awards, such as the John Muir Award
  • 100% of the young people felt they had improved their connection to the community
  • Confidence and awareness grew, which was recognised by teachers

Community –

  • Support from volunteers enabled us to reach over 6000 people
  • Internships developed the professional skills of the volunteers and knowledge base of the project
  • Volunteer skills and confidence increased and fledged a children’s Wildlife Watch group
  • Social media engagement grew
  • Community was better connected to nature, with 82% of Nature Ninjas living locally

Nature –

  • The sites and the nature within them is now more widely appreciated
  • A better understanding of the ecology of the sites was established, through expert volunteer surveys
  • Existing natural habitats were reinforced with 1500 native plug plants and 160 oaks planted
  • Non-native, invasive species were systematically removed from 80% of two sites
  • The greenspaces were made more accessible by clearing paths and improving boardwalk
  • Project was included in the 2016 Keep Scotland Beautiful competition


The success of this project was recognised in 2017 as it won the Nature of Scotland Youth and Education Award. 


Living Windows

The Living Window art project took place in 2014 and it revolved around six sites within the town. We worked with Pidgin Perfect and three contemporary artists (David Galletly, Emily Shepherd, and Gabriella DiTano) to produce six ‘Living Window’ murals, with the help of the following community groups, at these sites across Cumbernauld:

  • Langriggs – Cumbernauld Village Action Committee (CVAC)
  • Ravenswood Local Nature Reserve  – Cumbernauld Environmental Society & Ravenswood Local Nature Reserve Community Group
  • Cumbernauld House Park – Friends of Cumbernauld Glen & Cumbernauld High School
  • Cumbernauld Community Park – St Andrew’s Primary School
  • Palacerigg Country Park – Watch Us Grow

Each piece of ‘Living Window’ art, produced by the groups, celebrated one of the greenspaces within Cumbernauld, capturing the essence of these special places. The hope was to encourage those who saw the artworks to get out, explore, and get involved with the community groups that care for them.

The impact of the project:

  • To restore the connectivity and quality of the greenspaces in Cumbernauld
  • By working with groups, we directly engaged young people and used their experiences to increase awareness of the greenspaces around the town
  • By installing murals in the shopping centres (Antonine and Cumbernauld) – in the form of an ‘exhibition’ – we promoted the greenspaces to a much wider audience than was previously possible
  • Empty shops were given a new lease of life through a unique collaboration between local community groups and some of Scotland’s leading artists
  • To raise the profile of the Living Landscape and promote the greenspaces around the town. The images contained common motifs which raised the awareness of CLL in Cumbernauld. 

The project consisted of three elements:

  1. Workshops: 1 day was spent with groups at park or woodland, where Scottish Wildlife Trust education officer or North Lanarkshire Council ranger-led activities to explore the space. This was followed by a workshop with the illustrator to create the mural where ideas were collected as to why people value the space that was created in the mural. The artists worked with the group to design artwork in their greenspace.
  2. Murals: the 6 murals that were created had to promote the group or school involved and include information on how to get to the greenspaces. They contained a common theme so they were recognisable as part of the Living Window project. They also had to fit on the outside of empty unit windows, within the shopping centre.
  3. Living Window map: this was created by the designers to show people where the greenspaces are and it was hosted on the Cumbernauld Living Landscape Facebook page and Scottish Wildlife Trust website as a download.