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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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As Above Better Below

The sound of the motorway thunders in my ears and I imagine the cars moving up and down it. What are all those people thinking about as they drive past? Are they marvelling at the road itself, this miracle of human engineering?  Oh the wonders above, but what about the wonders below? I chuckle as I move through the woods, wondering how many people know about the badger highway I’m currently following…I step on a branch and something rustles nearby, I look through the leaves of a beech tree to find a confused deer looking back at me. The roe stares for a moment, then as the wind drifts my distinctive aroma towards him, his head snaps up, he catches my scent  – and bye bye buckie! I think again how without Cumbernauld Living Landscape I would never have found or known or cared about what beauty simply lay at my front door. I think back to 6 months ago of that deep dark place I was in but force the thought away and take a deep breath and smile. I

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The woods are alive!

Do you ever take a wander through the woods and get that feeling in the back of your neck that you’re not alone… that you’re being watched? It sounds like the intro to a horror film, but the truth is you probably are! Luckily, the only creatures watching are likely to be foxes and deer, birds and insects. A group member recently commented that he was amazed that there was so much life in Cumbernauld’s woods. He’d just assumed that nothing would live there. But in fact our woodlands are bustling communities of life. That’s never more true than in spring. I’m sure many of us can sympathise with the lives of badgers and foxes who are currently stuck underground with their newborns, vibrant bundles of energy, growing fast, and no doubt causing trouble in their little homes. Sometimes at this time of year older badgers will actually move out and go live somewhere more peaceful for a few weeks – who can blame them! The birds are full of colour and energy, the males with their newly minted breeding

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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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Winter is Coming

As my granddad used to say, “the nights are fair draw’n in”. As I write this at 4pm it’s already dark outside and the tail end of a winter storm is blowing freezing rain through the town. But before I complain, perhaps I should spare a thought for the wildlife which is enduring the same conditions but doesn’t get to come in out of the cold and put the kettle on! People are sometimes surprised to find out bats and hedgehogs are the only mammals that really hibernate through the winter in Scotland. For most daily life must go on. Many will already be planning for the new year – foxes right now are beginning to find and defend territory, preparing for cubs in Spring. This is the peak time for foxes mating – and for mistaken but well-meaning calls to the police as people hear their eerie calls and mistake them for human screams. Badgers mate all year round but practice delayed implantation. This means no matter when they were conceived young don’t begin to develop in the womb

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The chilling bite of Autumn

Had to dig the winter jacket out the cupboard the other night, boy was it chilly! A crisp autumn evening with clear skies and a smattering of stars heralded the need for gloves, a hat and a hot drink when I returned from my walk. It got me thinking of how wildlife copes with such changes of temperature and the prolonged cold over winter. Last year’s winter felt incredibly long and I thought about how bats, hedgehogs and badgers get through such winters and how it must affect them the following year. You see, for many animals, autumn is a time to prepare for the winter ahead. October is a month of last-minute feeding frenzies and getting homes ready for the cold season. Our bats will be feeling the chilly evenings as they search for hibernation roosts to cosy into over the winter months. Fortunately with the great summer we have had their tummies should be full of midges (bless them) and other insects. Hedgehogs hibernate after feeding up with juicy worms, slugs and other insects and these prickly little

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Wasps… what are they good for?

It’s that time of year again. You might be enjoying a picnic, eating your lunch in the town centre, or relaxing with a cup of tea in the garden. Before long you’ll catch sight of the dreaded black and yellow stripes of a wasp coming to see what you’re up to. A question we’re often asked at this time of year is just what are wasps good for? Wouldn’t the world be a better place without them? The answer to that is simple. No! There are actually thousands of different species of wasp in the UK. Some are tiny, most are solitary – and you probably don’t even notice them all around you.  Only a few species fit the usual description, large and social, living in colonies of thousands, controlled by a queen. These wasps live complex, fascinating lives in their intricately constructed paper nests. The common wasp, Vespula vulgaris, is a supreme predator hunting and eating many creatures we consider pests such as caterpillars, greenfly and flies- other species are important pollinators.  A world without wasps would have many

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Take a closer look

The spate of heavenly weather we have been having makes getting out for a walk all the more pleasant. Feeling the sun warm on your face and enjoying the tiniest of breezes is pure heaven! On a recent walk I thought I would see how many wildflowers I could spot, to give me a feel for what creating more meadows through our new Cumbernauld Living Landscape initiative can do. I walked, I immediately started to spot the wildflowers growing in amongst the buttercups and grasses. As I listed off the number of wildflowers I could see, I was amazed to count at least 40 different species. But when I said to a fellow canine personal trainer “isn’t the meadow looking lovely?” the reply came in a questionable tone, “what the buttercups?” I spoke of all the different wildflowers I had come across and my dog walking compatriot thought I was nuts. Challenge accepted! I took her for a walk through the meadow and started to show her the different flowers – she was stunned, so I was happy! Because the

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Foxes and Cubs

Spring has now well and truly sprung and over at Cumbernauld Living Landscape we are savouring every moment of this blissful time of year. Our Wild Ways Well group has been accomplishing the ‘Take Notice’ part of the 5 Ways To Wellbeing by immersing themselves in the changing cycles of nature. Being mindful of the changes around us is a great way to live in the moment and become more in tune with nature. This is also an ideal time of year to keep learning as bird song becomes louder and beautiful wild flowers such as cuckoo flower, wood anemone, cowslip and lesser celandine are all starting to pop up around Cumbernauld. Spring is also the perfect time of year for babies such as badger and fox cubs. Our Wild Ways Well group recently set up a camera trap and were delighted to capture some lovely footage of a family of foxes with three cubs. We think the cubs were probably about a month old. Adorable! When cubs are born they are deaf and blind and rely on their mother

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Responsible Wildlife Walking

Wild Ways Well went for a wander this week, taking the loop down through Cumbernauld Glen.  The incessant rain and snowmelt have transformed calm streams into rivers of fast murky water.  We watched a dipper for a while as it stood on a rock, its characteristic motion showing where it got its name.  It’ll be a long wait for the water to settle before it can properly swim and feed. It’s a hard time for wildlife right now.  Later on our walk we came across a beautiful Roe Deer grazing just a few feet away.  It watched us warily as it ate but hunger overcame fear and it tolerated our presence.  Not for long though as a pair of dogs appeared, running off the leash, and chased the deer away through the woodlands. The dogs didn’t catch the deer but that isn’t the point, the chase is damage enough.  The deer’s life right now is balanced on a knife edge, juggling calories gained by eating against those expended in the struggle to stay alive.  Being chased means it isn’t eating,