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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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Visit your tree at Broadwood

If you took part in our tree planting day at Broadwood Loch in December you had the option to download an app and locate the exact grid reference for your tree. This means you’ll be able to chart your tree’s progress as it develops and matures, hopefully for many years to come! It will be fascinating to see how the landscape changes, and the wildlife it will bring to the area. If you left your grid reference behind for us to record we’ve added it to the map below.  

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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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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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Winter wisdom

Winter! That time of year when thoughts turn inwards, when we all seek respite from the cold and get ourselves cooried in until spring. The work of harvest is over and there’s time yet until planting so traditionally this was the time for storytelling. George Mackay Brown, the great Orcadian storyteller talked of tongues “touched to enchantment by starlight and peat flame”. Families would gather round the hearth to be thrilled by stories – such as that of the Cailleach Bheur who used her birch staff and her iron hammer to shape Scotland’s valleys and mountains. The Cailleach brought winter every year, her breath was the chill wind and her blanket was the snow. She would search the land and cull anything whose time it was to die, but she would also seek out and protect the buried seeds of life, guarding them until spring. She was the protector of the wolf and the deer – because sometimes the last kindness she could give to a starving winter stag was the embrace of the pack. Like many folk tales, there

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Tree planting day

I love planting trees! There is little as satisfying as rooting a tree, taking a step back and imagining its future. How many years will it stay up for? What challenges will it face? What animals might call it home? When you plant trees, it feels like you’re planting a legacy. It’s your tree, and you want to look after it! Cumbernauld Living Landscape’s tree planting day at Broadwood will be a fantastic chance to have a lasting impact on your local greenspaces. It will also be a great chance to learn more about the trees that are being planted there. I get quite nerdy when it comes to tree species! I see each species of tree as having its own personality; its own quirks. Here’s some of the trees we’ll be planting: Sessile oaks are welcoming trees often considered the ‘father of the forest’. They can be home to over 300 animals, more than any other tree! Silver birch is an incandescent white tree, often considered a sign of purity. Often the first tree to emerge on virgin land,

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Out of the office and into nature!

Our volunteer groups have been getting out and about in Cumbernauld, dabbling in all sorts of practical conservation activities: scything meadows, removing nasty invasive plants and shortly we’ll be planting native saplings too. Our volunteers love being outdoors and the pull to nature is one of the top reasons they give us their time. We want to extend this feeling to local communities and businesses, and we seem to have done just that with our recent corporate volunteer groups from Scottish Power. We have been taking groups of Scottish Power employees out of their workspaces and into the outdoors for the day; helping us tackle some large-scale tasks. Our first group came out to Ravenswood, where they helped clean up the local school’s outdoor play area by removing bags of litter – 12 in total! The group also helped in the ongoing battle against birch regeneration on the Ravenswood bog. These birch trees sook all the water out of the bog – drying it out and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Our volunteers managed to fell a lot of the

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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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Five reasons to volunteer in nature

With summer in the air and thunderstorms crashing about I thought that this would be a good time to introduce myself. I’m David, the new Project Officer with Cumbernauld Living Landscape! My job is to run volunteering activities that will improve green spaces across the town. I have a massive announcement…   Weekly volunteering groups will be starting at the beginning of September!   The groups will run every Tuesday and Thursday, starting from 3 September. Volunteers can sign up for one or two days a week depending on their preference. So why should you volunteer with Cumbernauld Living Landscape? With us you can develop your skills and enhance your employability while improving your local green spaces, experience working in a motivated and passionate team and get fit all at the same time! I’ve already had an amazing experience volunteering this week. We were out at St Maurice’s Pond, cutting back the encroaching vegetation with some HUGE scythes, allowing the public to walk freely along the paths. We also picked up a lot of broken glass at the back of