,

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

,

Hallow”scream” in the Glen

It’s that time of year when the nights draw in and the veil between worlds thins. Aos Sí or fairies from the otherworld get to visit for one night only, and this year we’re inviting them to our Halloween event at Cumbernauld Glen on Thursday 31st October. Tickets sold out incredibly fast, so congratulations if you are one of the 250 people who managed to secure a place. This is a departure from our normal weekend events, but as well as the activities and spooky stories it’s a great opportunity to see one of Cumbernauld’s best greenspaces in a new light (or very little light!). We’re usually encouraged to avoid walking through the woods at night, but the experience can be magical in the right context. Halloween is believed to be taken from Samhain, the ancient Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvesting season and the beginning of winter. A place was set at the table for the return of the souls of loved ones seeking hospitality offerings. Food and drink were put out for the Aos Sí who needed

,

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

,

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,

,

Volunteers in the Willows

  The rain is trickling down the small of our backs, our bodies still warming from the tea. “Twenty five to go!” harks the cry from within the group, in an almost victorious tone. Bending the thin strips of willow down, intertwining them with last week’s work (and the week before’s), it’s fair taking shape. As the hiss of the fire slowly becomes less frequent, the small droplets falling on the fire, the last few go in place, and as the pitter-patter of rain starts to become more frequent and slightly heavier, not an eyelid is batted…no one seems to notice, or care. That’s it, done. “Doesn’t look like much just now.” “Will it even grow?” It will, in fact it’s already started. Gently pulling on previous weeks’ strips of willow, it’s solid, it’s already started rooting and as we look closer we can see small buds appearing, small petite green buds fluttering up through the branches. It’s not just pretty to look at, some caterpillars have already been enjoying the green delicacy of our work. They’ll soon grow into beautiful

,

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

,

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

,

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

,

Fresh signs of pine marten in Cumbernauld

Recently Nature Ninja volunteer Ann Innes captured video of a pine marten in a woodland in Cumbernauld, it looks wonderfully healthy and it may be a female looking for a safe space to den and have her young in spring. We’ll be watching out for signs of these very cute kits! It is safe to say that the pine marten is at home here in the town. In 2013 a Scottish Wildlife Trust volunteer captured footage of one in another of the woodlands of Cumbernauld following on from a scat survey (where we look for pine marten poo) carried out by the Vincent Wildlife Trust. Both confirmed the presence of this beautiful creature and cameras were set up to determine if they were residents or just moving through. Over the years we have also conducted our own scat surveys in Cumbernauld and residents have also told me that they have either seen it or have noted the scat and asked about it. Pine martens, Martes martes, are mustelids related to ferrets and otters. They are easy to recognise with reddish-brown fur, a

,

Taking time to breathe – how grounding can help combat anxiety

While we are waiting to hear whether Cumbernauld Living Landscape’s planned new project has received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, I have been visiting high schools to maintain and build relationships to allow a smooth transition for the new project. Each week I test new ideas which we plan to use in future workshops, and each week I have seen an alarming rise in the number of students having panic attacks on a regular basis. This got me thinking about techniques I could share with students who could then share with family and friends or even use for themselves to combat these episodes, Inspired by the Wild Ways Well project I came across a technique called grounding. This helps people to slow down, distracts from the immediate feelings of anxiety and panic, and helps them gain focus. I also suffer from anxiety at times and I find it best to use this technique outside in fresh air, a woodland works for me as I find that habitat is my safe space and that I like to think of myself