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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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Getting stuck in for nature

Last Thursday as many as 300 people joined Cumbernauld Living Landscape at Broadwood Loch to grab a spade and plant a tree before enjoying some festive treats round the campfire.   With it being polling day we had a steady flow of children looking for something active to do on their day off from school, and plenty of adults looking for something positive to do while anxiously awaiting the results! The previous day pupils at Carbrain Primary had set the ball rolling by planting 165 trees in their school grounds.  There’s been a lot of talk of trees in the national news recently, with political parties competing in their pledges to create new woodlands that will help tackle the climate crisis. In response, conservationists have pointed out that numbers are not enough – it’s crucial that the right trees are planted in the right places.   As a community we planted 600 trees in total, including crab apple, willow, oak and hazel. These species are all native to the area, which means that as they grow the new woodland will provide homes for the widest possible

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Why robins are not just for Christmas

As I was recycling this year’s batch of lovely Christmas cards I started to wonder why so many of them have robins on them. Is it because my friends know I have a soft spot for wildlife or were they just on sale? What did robins have to do with Christmas anyway? After bit of research, I found it all came back to the Victorians, those well-known Christmas romantics. The postmen delivering good tidings were nicknamed ‘robins’ thanks to their bright red jackets. As the idea of Christmas cards caught on the robin made a leap from delivering the cards to featuring on them and the fact that robins can easily be spotted in the snow strengthened the connection. Robins are visible and sing noisily through the year making them one of my favourite animals to watch. They are specially adapted to make the most out of the poor light and are often active in half-light when few other birds are about. Whist they look cute they are fiercely territorial and will sing loudly to defend their territory and attract

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Investing in young people, today

Word has been going around the campfire about the great work Cumbernauld Living Landscape has been doing with young people of the town. So much so that we were invited to an event called Investing in Young People; Investing in our Environment by the Central Scotland Green Network Trust. I invited the Achieve students from Greenfaulds High School to come along and we decided to make a day of it with a wee tour of Edinburgh.  We visited Johnston Terrace Garden, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s smallest wildlife reserve, which is hidden away deep in the heart of the Old Town. We learned all about the garden and how important these spaces can be for wildlife and people. We also had a wander down to the Christmas market on Princes Street to see how large spaces can be used for spectacular public events. Needless to say, the funfair grabbed their attention more than my explanation of how parks can be used in lots of different ways to benefit people. I can’t blame them, it was a wonderfully chilly and festive afternoon. We

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Christmas comes just once a year

Christmas comes just once a year – but for those of us with anxiety or stress problems, that can be quite often enough! Decorating trees, buying gifts, preparing meals, visiting family and friends, bad weather, crowded streets… with all the pressure on our purses, family relations and waistbands, it’s no wonder that the festive period is regarded as one of the most stressful times of the year. For some the problem over Christmas might be too much time spent in the company of rarely seen family members, for others the issue will be loneliness. When social media feeds are crammed with updates from family get-togethers it can be very difficult for those who are alone, either physically or emotionally. Someone with depression can feel very alone even in a crowded room. But there are things we can all do to help beat the stress and you won’t be surprised to hear me say that number one of these is getting outside! It’s all too easy to shut ourselves away indoors over Christmas and let the pressure build. A walk outside doesn’t