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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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Winter Blues

As I write this I’m huddled over a steaming mug of tea, wearing my warmest jumper and waiting for the forecast sleet to start falling outside. I console myself with the thought that, though it might not feel like it, spring is on the way. It probably hasn’t escaped long-term readers of these blogs that I’m no fan of winter! I’m not always right though— Aristotle said that “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” And for John Steinbeck “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” Get outdoors and go looking and it won’t take you long to spot the signs of nature coming back to life. The trees are already full of bud and the tips of the first bulbs are poking through the ground, ready to bring us snowdrops and daffodils, with primroses not far behind. Robins and blackbirds are singing already at dawn, eager for the spring to come, and it won’t be long before we start to notice

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Discover Autumn Connections

Autumn is always a wonderful time to explore the outdoors.The air is crisp and sharp, the leaves are changing hue and our wildlife is winding down for the year. It’s a time of change when nature’s energies are drawn back to store for the coming winter. In some cases, wildlife is finding places to sleep or develop over winter. While no animal in the UK truly hibernates, some do love a good snooze. For us however the changing seasons mark a different path. For many, the darker nights and change in nature are thought of negatively. With reduced sunlight hours we feel sluggish, blue and sometimes we just can’t be bothered. That’s all natural, it’s perfectly normal that our bodies and mind processes slow down, we too are trying to conserve energy for the coming winter. Us humans tend to think in the short term. Technological advances have made life easier for us in many ways and it has become an constant repeat of now, now, now! But maybe we need to listen to our inner nature’s call and accept

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Broadleaves for Broadwood

You might have already seen on social media that some exciting work is about to begin at Broadwood Loch. Our partners – North Lanarkshire Council – will be carrying out forestry work over the next few weeks. This work is part of a larger programme of woodland improvements within Cumbernauld. This part of Cumbernauld Living Landscape is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Scottish Forestry’s Woodland in and Around Towns fund. The works will include clear felling and thinning areas of dense non-native conifers which have little value for wildlife and stop light reaching the forest floor, meaning wildflowers and shrubs can’t grow. These mature trees are also particularly susceptible to being damaged by storms Clear felling has a very immediate impact on the landscape but we’ll be replacing the conifers with over nearly 4,000 native broadleaf trees including oak, rowan, hazel and birch to create a mosaic of woodlands. As that develops, and surprisingly quicky, we’ll start to see much more wildlife in the woodland. Broadwood Loch will also be a much brighter and easier space for

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Where has the summer gone?

Over the summer I’ve had the pleasure of working with around 60 children transitioning from Primary 7 to first year through the brilliant Home School Partnership Officers (worth their weight in gold) at Greenfaulds and St Maurice’s High. The children were out pond dipping, insect hunting, scavenger hunting and making smores or tea in nature reserves in the town, and they loved it. I hope to extend this to the two other high schools in the town next year!   It got me thinking back to when I was just starting high school: the thoughts and feelings that were rushing through my head at the time, and how I learned to cope with it all. With schools starting back this week the students are getting ready for more than just education. For many it is a time of making new friendships. Some will last a lifetime, others fleeting but it is these experiences which shape them up to become the adults of the future. It’s a time for getting lost in new surroundings, learning how to map out the school

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30 days of wild Cumbernauld

The Wildlife Trust runs an annual event over the month of June connecting people to nature every day under the name #30DaysWild. Tasks range from reading poetry in the garden to planting trees or flowers for pollinators. A massive number of organisations join us in connecting with and exploring nature. The Cumbernauld Living Landscape team thought we would add our own twist to an old favourite. In past years we have focused on wildlife, showing different species that you can easily find in your gardens, parks and woodlands. From tiny insect pollinators to deer grazing on the grasslands, there has always been something to see. This year we tried something different. Our new Creating Natural Connections project vision is “People and nature at the heart of Cumbernauld’s future”, and what better time to begin that ethos than during the #30DaysWild campaign.   We know that there are still a lot of people in the town who do not know of the beautiful sites that they can visit. This month we brought nature to you through events, both in and outdoors,

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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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Masterchef goes wild

I held my last workshop of the school year year with St Maurice’s High School last week. This session gave me a chance to observe the change in these incredible young people and to express what I saw to them, as they move on from school towards employment or continued further education. While it was tinged with sadness to see another group coming to an end, I was also filled with pride and admiration for the young people in the group and how far they have come. With the weather behaving, we finally managed to run the outdoor cooking element of the Creating Natural Connections workshops. This is a session which encourages teamwork, listening, independent working and cooperation. It has very dry over the past couple of weeks so we set our fire in small barbecue buckets. We managed to cook sausages, pancakes, marshmallows and – adding a cultural edge from Cyprus – halloumi cheese! I have never been able to get so much cooked before in one session and was amazed to see everyone wolfed down the food in

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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