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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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Planting plastic

Planting trees is a rewarding experience, something we’re all being encouraged to do to help tackle the climate crisis and boost biodiversity in our local greenspaces. But the work doesn’t stop there if we want these trees to develop into healthy woodlands. Last week our Nature Ninjas volunteers were out collecting old tree guards in Glencryan Wood – not the most exciting activity, but important nonetheless! Tree guards are often used when planting new saplings, you’ve probably seen clusters of pale green tubes emerging from the ground alongside a new road or at a forestry plantation site. The guards help support the young tree in its earliest days, protecting it from the elements and, crucially, hungry deer, which can rapidly chomp their way through a new woodland before it’s even had the chance to grow. However, tree guards aren’t without problems. They can attract vandalism, and they’re usually made of plastic. By planting trees we may think we’re doing a good thing, but without planning ahead we could also be contributing to plastic pollution. So what are the alternatives? In

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Get back to nature in 2020

Taking our volunteers out at New Year always resonates strongly with me— I first started volunteering at New Year. So woooooOOooooOOOo, I want to take you back 8 years to 2012. I was completing my zoology dissertation. It was very boring! I felt like most of the time I had been cooped up inside doing calculations, tallying up surveys, reading screeds upon screeds of papers and typing up draft after draft to try and get my point across. My fieldwork the previous summer seemed long ago, itself so enjoyable— getting out into nature, experiencing all it could throw at me. As preposterous as it sounds, I felt locked out from nature. I came across a leaflet asking for volunteers to rewild a community space. I did not give it much thought at first until it dawned that, to paraphrase an old John Muir quote “I needed to get back into nature”. I gave it a chance! I was anxious meeting the volunteers at first; there must be something wrong with them if they wanted to go out in atrocious winter

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The State of Nature

Earlier this month Scotland received a wake-up call in the form of the State of Nature report, which confirmed that our nation’s wildlife continues to decline. The annual scientific report is published by more than 70 wildlife organisations, including the Scottish Wildlife Trust, a Cumbernauld Living Landscape partner organisation. This year’s report was the most detailed to date and full of alarming figures, including the fact that one in nine Scottish species is now threatened with extinction. That kind of loss to our natural world is almost unimaginable, but it’s happening right now. That kind of loss to our natural world is almost unimaginable, but it’s happening right now. Cumbernauld is an incredibly green town, so it’s no surprise that many of the reported threats to Scotland’s nature are relevant to us. For example, the way woodlands are managed is having an impact on the wildlife that lives there and the densely packed, non-native conifers common around Cumbernauld aren’t always the best kind of green. Invasive plant species are also a problem. Species such as dogwood and Himalayan balsam are

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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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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! .

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Conservation day at Luggiebank Wood

We are very excited to be heading out to Luggiebank Wood Wildlife Reserve for a spot of conservation work at the weekend. This is a wee gem looked after by the Scottish Wildlife Trust located just behind the train station at Greenfaulds. It is the Trust’s smallest reserve in Cumbernauld but what it lacks in size it makes up for in wildlife. I’ve been told you can spot kingfishers fishing in the fast-flowing waters either side of the waterfall and our surveys along the river have even found evidence of otters. There are a bonanza of birds to be seen including grasshopper warblers, chiff chaffs, buzzards and owls. And don’t forget about the plants! Shimmering bluebells, bright orange fox and cubs, and lots more wildflowers can be found. As long as the weather obliges our volunteer day will be aimed at turning a small patch of grass into a wildflower patch for local school children to explore and learn about and we will also be cutting back the vegetation that in encroaching on the path network. There is quite a lot

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Frost Beards

Sometimes you find beauty in the strangest places. Last Sunday was spent out with the Nature Ninja Volunteers at St Maurice’s Pond, removing invasive rhododendron and litter picking. St Maurice’s Pond itself is a beautiful place but you don’t normally get the best view of it while patrolling with a bin bag. On this occasion keeping our eyes to the ground paid off, and we came across some amazing silky white frost beards. Frost beards are created when water is forced out from inside pieces of fallen dead wood. They are quite rare and many people will live around woodlands all their lives and never see one. For some reason they actually seem to be relatively common in Cumbernauld. In order to form they need a precise combination of wood type, ground and air temperature and humidity. In the last few years scientists have discovered it also requires a very specific type of fungus called Exidiopsis effusa which shapes the ice into precise hair thin, silky filaments each just 0.01mm wide as it ‘grows’. Frost beards are incredibly delicate and