The Cumbernauld Living Landscape partnership has successfully completed the first year of its ‘Creating Natural Connections’ programme. Significant improvements have been made to the town’s greenspaces, including planting of over 5600 native trees and almost 100 people taking part in green mental wellbeing programmes.

The ambitious four-year programme includes a variety of projects at locations across Cumbernauld, focussed on improving the town’s habitats for wildlife, improving access to greenspaces, connecting young people to nature, promoting green health and wellbeing and bringing people together to make a difference in their local community.

In 2019, Cumbernauld Living Landscape projects resulted in over 5600 native trees being planted and approximately 1.4km of path upgrades at some of the town’s most popular greenspaces, including Netherwood Way and St. Maurice’s Pond. Wildflower meadow equating to around half the size of a football field has been created, providing a vital food source for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects.

Fiona McGrevey, Cumbernauld Living Landscape Project Manager said: “To the outside world, Cumbernauld often has a reputation as a concrete jungle, but in reality, the town is incredibly green. Thanks to support from our partners and the local community, we’re making real progress in our mission to make Cumbernauld an even better place for people and wildlife to live side by side.”

A partnership between the Scottish Wildlife Trust, North Lanarkshire Council, TCV, Sanctuary Scotland and the James Hutton Institute, much of the work is carried out by project partner staff and contractors, but the local community is also heavily involved. An open and inclusive group of volunteers – known as the Nature Ninjas – have been cutting back invasive dogwood plants at Luggiebank Wildlife Reserve, removed 500 plastic tree guards at Glencryan Wood and managed a meadow in the Whitelees area, amongst many other valuable contributions.

Anne, a regular Nature Ninjas volunteer said: “By volunteering I’ve explored greenspaces in Cumbernauld I’d never been to, and I’ve lived in the town 36 years!  I’ve learned about local plants and wildlife and gained new skills— scything is great fun.

“Volunteering is great physical activity, outdoors, in all weathers. I definitely feel fitter and stronger. It’s great to be doing something positive for the environment with a group of like-minded people.”

Over the past year almost 100 people have participated in weekly Wild Ways Well events, designed to improve mental wellbeing through time spent in nature. A typical Wild Ways Well session involves a gentle stroll through a local greenspace such as Cumbernauld Glen or Seafar Wood, a nature-themed activity and a chat over a hot drink prepared on an outdoor kettle. Closed groups cater for those referred by a support worker or health professional, while open groups are welcome to anyone looking to improve their mental wellbeing.

Reflecting on the past year one support worker commented: “It isn’t forced, it’s all just natural and it just seems to happen. Nature’s got an amazing way of bringing people together, an amazing way of bringing yourself together.”

Cumbernauld Living Landscape has also engaged with nearly 300 primary school and almost 100 high school pupils, including Whitelees Primary, St. Maurice’s High and Greenfaulds High. Workshops have included interactive sessions about raingardens, wildflowers, and practical outdoor skills to build confidence in young people and to help them to connect with nature.

The wider Cumbernauld community has also engaged with the Living Landscape through a variety of pop-up events and volunteering sessions organised throughout the year, including guided walks, animal ID workshops and nature-themed craft clubs. The most successful event of 2019 was December’s tree planting day, in which as many as 300 locals came to Broadwood Loch to plant a native tree; creating the beginnings of a new mixed broadleaf woodland what will provide homes for a diverse range of birds, insects and mammals in years to come.

Funded by National Lottery players through The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Cumbernauld Living Landscape will continue to deliver a range of projects over the next three years. Alongside a continuation of volunteering, Wild Ways Well and engagement with young people, highlights in 2020 will include restoration work to some of Cumbernauld’s ‘urban’ peat bog habitat in the Abronhill area, the creation of a rain garden at Whitelees Primary School and fire pond restoration at Forest Wood.

Caroline Clark, Director Scotland of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“Now, more than ever, we appreciate just how important green spaces and the wildlife around us are. They give us a place of calm, of reflection and are proving to be essential to our health and well-being. Thanks to National Lottery funding, Cumbernauld has shown that nature can blossom in a busy town, bringing such great benefits to people living there and to the wildlife on their doorstep.”

Cumbernauld LL