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A bug’s eye view of volunteering

We were marching through the woods. The sun bursting through the trees, the cold air sucked into our lungs. My volunteers had entered a new area of Cumbernauld Glen; unveiled before their eyes. In this space they saw what first appeared to be a void; the last vestiges of winter still clinging onto the forest. I prompted them to take a closer look. Spring had already sprung! Snowdrops erupting through the soil with crocuses not far behind, painting a dash of colour across the woodland floor. We investigated the glare of the light and saw a goldfinch dart across. We cupped our ears upward to hear a cacophony of bullfinches, coal tits and robins singing their song. As our eyes slalomed down the trunk of the imperious Scots pine, we saw its delicate tangerine hues embellished by the light. My feet crunched the beech seed casings below my feet.  My volunteers were startled as their feet also crunched these fuzzy little casings. I told them the story of one of our previous Project Officers, who liked munching away on these

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Cumbernauld Conversations

Cumbernauld Living Landscape is coming to a venue near you! We are coming out into communities to talk to you about your local greenspaces. We want to find the community champions: the people who are looking after these places in unforeseen ways. They could be members of the public doing a weekly litter-pick down the park, they could be an informal club that uses the greenspace for an exercise class or they could be a retired teacher who tells amazing stories about the fascinating heritage of our breathtaking nature reserves. Since starting in this position a month ago I have had the privilege to meet so many amazing individuals and community groups working tirelessly to connect the people in their communities with the natural world at their disposal. At the Living Landscape one of our main goals is to “unlock” this community capacity to create even more connections with nature, using Cumbernauld’s greenspaces as the connector. So how are we going to do this? Well to start, over the next few weeks we’ll be popping up in and around places

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Volunteers in the Willows

  The rain is trickling down the small of our backs, our bodies still warming from the tea. “Twenty five to go!” harks the cry from within the group, in an almost victorious tone. Bending the thin strips of willow down, intertwining them with last week’s work (and the week before’s), it’s fair taking shape. As the hiss of the fire slowly becomes less frequent, the small droplets falling on the fire, the last few go in place, and as the pitter-patter of rain starts to become more frequent and slightly heavier, not an eyelid is batted…no one seems to notice, or care. That’s it, done. “Doesn’t look like much just now.” “Will it even grow?” It will, in fact it’s already started. Gently pulling on previous weeks’ strips of willow, it’s solid, it’s already started rooting and as we look closer we can see small buds appearing, small petite green buds fluttering up through the branches. It’s not just pretty to look at, some caterpillars have already been enjoying the green delicacy of our work. They’ll soon grow into beautiful

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Please don’t tiptoe through our bluebells

It turns out people who are trying to get the perfect photo of a bluebell are in danger of killing them off. The UK woodlands are home to approximately 50% of the world’s population of bluebells, which are incredibly delicate and beautiful flowers. Cumbernauld’s wildlife reserves, including Cumbernauld Glen, Seafar Wood and Luggiebank, feature dazzling displays of these plants, which have taken centuries to colonise in our town through a symbiotic relationship with ancient oak woodlands. Walking off the paths puts our native bluebell at risk of being destroyed by trampling. Cumbernauld Living Landscape has held a number of bluebell walks over the years. During these events I always have to regularly remind people not to walk off the path. These bluebells are vitally important plants for pollinators especially when during the false starts to spring that we have experienced here in recent years. Certain plants can shut off systems if a leaf of branch is broken, diseased or cut, this isn’t the case with our native bluebell. Damage sustained is damage retained. While this may sound like a soundbite

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From the mouths of babes

I’ve been asked many times if I think that conservation has a future. There are some environmental issues that aren’t always clear cut, and at times it can be difficult to express the benefits of protecting our environment due to background noise. Additional pressures from large companies who lobby politicians to curb environmental protections for the benefit of the economy, often only look at their needs and requirements and not the big picture. Their arguments tend to be one sided without consideration for the negative impact they have on the natural world. And then a young girl speaks up and does the impossible. The whole world is talking about Greta Thunburg. At the age of 15 this young girl decided to hold a strike one Friday afternoon outside the Swedish Parliament to get politicians to listen and take action to mitigate climate change. They are not the only ones listening, this one young girl’s action has created a movement around the world. Arguably, this one young girl has done more in the past few months than any politician or scientist

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The work never stops for our Nature Ninjas

This weekend on Sunday 3 March Cumbernauld Living Landscape has a volunteer day from 12-4pm at Cumbernauld Glen reserve, as part of our Creating Natural Connections project. Our Nature Ninja volunteers have a number of tasks to do this year, such as trimming back the snowberry, removing grass and overgrown weeds, and clearing leaves off the path. Keeping the path clear helps keep things safe for visitors and also shows off features such as the historic wall. We plan to cut back branches that are hanging over the fence and create small piles of habitat for nesting birds. Once the sap has risen in the hazel has risen we’ll be coppicing some of these trees – a traditional practice that spurs new growth and gives us material for wooden hurdles and other features. And, sadly, we always have a job to do to keep on top of litter. Volunteering is a great way to connect with the natural world. It’s a good excuse to get outdoors and get active, and there are few things as satisfying as enjoying a hot

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Funding boost for Creating Natural Connections

As you might recall we were on tenterhooks during December, waiting to hear about the funding from Heritage Lottery Fund for our new initiative, Creating Natural Connections. This is a very exciting four-year project that will lead to huge improvements to our green spaces and connect even more people to nature. It has been a tense couple of months and our nails have been bitten down to the quick. It is with great pleasure that I can tell you that we have been successful in gaining the funding, and that you are going to be hearing much more about Creating Natural Connections over the next four years. To celebrate we have invited people who have been involved with the Cumbernauld Living Landscape since its launch in 2011 to an event tonight at Kingdom City Church. This our small way of saying thank you for having faith in us and for being willing to try something out of the ordinary, but mostly for supporting us and the work we do. Without valued funding, the dedication from our partners, the support of

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Winter words from Wild Ways Well

I can’t help it. I always find beauty in nature, or rather it finds me! What has been soul-lifting these last weeks have been the skies! They were well worth stepping out of the path and away from the skyscrapers: dramatic and full of contrasts, from the darkest of the darker shades intermingled with different and lighter shades of greys, miraculous and dazzling rays of the low-lying sun, pastel blue patches playing with careless scarves of pink in the cold mornings. Looking down and closer to earth, on a recent Wild Ways Well session we enjoyed meeting the trees in a totally different way. We looked at how to identify trees in the winter by examining trunks and reaching out for buds! We got right into that guessing game. It was a bit like meeting an introverted individual who is not giving out too much. Finally, while we are all getting ready for some time off, we can follow the trees’ attitude and give ourselves an inwards look. With longer nights, nature is inviting us to sleep longer. While it

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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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Wish us luck!

After a lot of conversations, consultations, taster sessions and report writing we have finally hit the button to send the Creating Natural Connections Stage 2 Application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.  The Living Landscape team would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this application.  We really appreciate your opinions, your time and your support for what we think is a fantastic project.  We’ve even made a wee video showing what this project means to us too! Our last request to you, our community is to keep your fingers crossed for us and wish us luck! .