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Window wildlife-watching

Nestled in the middle of an industrial estate, I’m always amazed by how much wildlife there is to see from the Cumbernauld Living Landscape office window. As I type, I’m watching two male bullfinches potter about, their orange-pink bibs unmistakeable against the open green grass. I’ve seen flurries of visiting redwings, prancing young roe deer; and there’s always robins, starlings and blackbirds coming and going throughout the year. A couple of days ago there was bit of a commotion taking place on the roof above my head. A familiar sound, but I couldn’t quite place it…suddenly an oystercatcher appeared out of nowhere, being swiftly chased off by a less-than-impressed gull. It was a welcome distraction from emails and report-writing! Research has consistently shown that spending time in our local greenspaces – exercising, breathing fresh air and connecting with nature— is hugely beneficial to our health and wellbeing. Cumbernauld Living Landscape is committed to helping as many people as possible access the nature around them, whether through our path improvement projects, inclusive events and volunteering or Wild Ways Well sessions. But

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A stroll with the snowdrops

Hope’s Flower, Eve’s Tears, the beautiful Fair Maids of February, the portentous Death Bell or maybe even just simple Dingle Dangles. Whatever you call them, snowdrops have arrived in Cumbernauld’s woods. Legend says that snowdrops were the only flower kind enough to share their colour with the newly made snow and thus became the only flower able to grow amongst it, allowing them to capture people’s hearts as the harbinger of spring.  Snowdrops aren’t native to Scotland, they probably arrived here in the 16th century, but they aren’t regarded as invasive due to their slow spreading habits and their value as an early nectar source. They are perfectly adapted to the cold, able to protect their delicate flowers and survive in the harshest conditions.  Although we may be most familiar with Galanthus nivalis, the common form of snowdrop, there are actually more than 20 species and more than 2000 cultivated varieties. ‘Galanthophiles’, those who collect the flowers, will pay big money for a new type – one single rare bulb once changed hands for £1390! This trade may be part of the reason why snowdrops are

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A new ancient tradition

We don’t just work to protect greenspaces here at Cumbernauld Living Landscape, we also try to engage with them at a human level, and preserve some of the ways our ancestors would have interacted with the woodlands. Recently the Wild Ways Well group went “Wassailing”. This is an ancient tradition that people believed helped woodlands to come back to life after a long hard winter. Wassailing traditions vary across the country so we developed our own Cumbernauld version that we hope might become a local tradition! We walked through Luggiebank Wildlife Reserve and read an extract from David Gray’s poem “The Luggie”. Once we reached the apple trees we toasted bread and made a bowl of hot apple mead, and toasted each other. We then chose an Apple Queen to lead the rest of the festivities. We scattered the toast into the treetops and poured apple mead into the tree roots while reciting some old Wassailing rhymes. We then walked round the trees banging pots and pans together to ensure the Apple Tree Man heard us and awoke from his

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A wild year ahead

It’s hard to believe that we’re more than halfway through January already! Here at Cumbernauld Living Landscape it’s full steam ahead as we continue to work towards our vision of putting both people and wildlife at the heart of our town’s future. We’ve got lots of exciting projects coming up in the next 12 months, many of which you could get involved with. Our Wild Ways Well Thursday sessions started back last week, open to anyone looking to improve their mental wellbeing by spending more time outdoors. For people who like to get their hands dirty, our Nature Ninjas volunteers have been out planting trees at Glencryan Wood, and will be carrying out a variety of conservation activities throughout the year. Our education team are busy connecting with local schools, organising workshops and programmes that will connect young people with nature through fun and engaging activities based on natural heritage. Our habitats work will include a continuation of our ‘Nectar Networks’ projects, creating more homes for pollinating insects and improving biodiversity in the town. We’ll be working with partner organisations

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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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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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Finding Fungi

Hearing that the nights are ‘fair drawing in’ is as predictable at this time of year as the leaves fluttering down or the sweet sound of geese above our head, but on the woodland floor something just as amazing becomes apparent. Fungi seems to be everywhere, but why is there so much of it at this time of year? Well, with so many leaves and dead vegetation falling to the ground it is munch-time for mushrooms. They have the very important job of breaking down dead material that is then enjoyed by a huge number of bugs and grubs. Fungi is often the leaders in a parade of life that breaks material down into substances that are edible for further waves of species. This makes them extremely important and let’s face it, they are pretty good looking as well! Walking over to some deadwood I peer some bright orange blob that looks a bit like Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants. What an odd but awesome sight. “Two krabby pates please”. I ask, laughing to myself. Typically there’s no-one around to hear it. Moving

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World Mental Health Day

This Thursday is World Mental Health Day, a day created to promote conversations about mental health and reduce stigma. This year’s theme is ‘Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention’. Countless studies have shown that spending time outdoors in natural green spaces is vital for our mental health. Our Wild Ways Well project demonstrates this as we explore Cumbernauld’s nature reserves and spend time socialising, learning and giving back to nature. The effect this has on people is evidence-based and it is real— stepping out into the woods really does change lives. However it’s important to remember that this project isn’t just for those already suffering from poor mental health. It’s also a great preventative, everyone can benefit from a daily dose of nature. Stepping out into the woods really does change lives Through all our project streams we promote positive mental health every day. We talk about it at schools and public events, and we give talks and presentations to organisations from all sectors of the community. We lead by example, showing how our work can help and telling our

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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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Discovering the Living Landscapes in Cumbernauld

When I was asked which environmental organisations I would like to visit as part of my internship, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Living Landscapes Project were definitely on my list. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to learn more about the work of one of Scotland’s most important conservation NGOs. I am originally from Hanover, Germany, where I am doing my Master’s degree in environmental planning. Before I will hopefully enter into employment in spring next year, I wanted to spend time abroad and learn how other countries approach the topic of environmental protection and nature conservation in practice. Therefore, I moved to Stirling at the end of April and started an internship at greenspace scotland. greenspace scotland is Scotland’s parks and greenspace charity and a social enterprise working with partners to pioneer new approaches to managing and resourcing greenspace. During my internship I was given the opportunity to get a taste of various projects around greenspaces and to dive into the Scottish green network, where the Living Landscape projects is an integral part. Cumbernauld is characterised by