As part of this traineeship I have travelled far and wide to many green spaces in Scotlands central belt. These places are weird and wonderful while often taken for granted. In the course of writing this blog I have retraced my steps and thought of my experiences within these spaces and how enriching they have been for me. I heartily recommend getting out and going to your local park, or going to one in the town over from yours. A lot of these places due to external factors are being earmarked for development. So go surveying, volunteering or even just for a walk in these places, experience something new and raise awareness about how awesome they are. Hopefully this blog will give you tips for where to go!
My first stop was a sensory awareness course at TCV towers in Edinburgh. This course was a follow on from the sighted guide course that I took part in previously. It involved learning about how to interpret the world for someone with severe sensory disabilities. This course proved enlightening and illustrated a broad number of ways to open the world to someone who experiences it through a keyhole. Touch plays a vital role in cases such as this and I will look to incorporate this into my work in the future.
NORTH KELVIN MEADOW!
It was a privilege this month to work with the community group – WSREC. This group are particularly keen to get involved in more nature stuff out and around Glasgow. I took them for two sessions with Jess down to the north kelvin meadow in the west end. This meadow on the site of an old school ash pitch totally reclaimed by nature is bizarre and beautiful; a testament to the commitment of the local community who have fought so hard to protect it as an important green space for recreation, and learning. The children certainly appreciated it. Within this site me and Jess where able to show off our own skills and traineeships. Jess did some tree and lichen surveys while I was rolling about the place highlighting the increased preponderance of pollinators infesting the park. The kids also took part in building bird feeders and a safe campfire. I was rubbish at making chocolate bananas and they were not slow in telling me about it. The program also allowed us to talk about global warming which the kids took great interest in. The meadow should be cherished as an important learning space.
I paid a visit to the Scottish deer centre last month where I delivered a few bug walks. The public engaged with having bug walks leading between deer enclosures. This expanded on organisms that live out with the enclosures and their own back gardens. I particularly enjoyed talking about bugs when there was a huge bear two meters away from me, watching keenly as I picked up juicy grubs.
I paid another visit to Barons Haugh in Motherwell. I used to volunteer at this reserve. I jumped at the chance of taking out a community group from Barnados around it. We were not disappointed; on a day when the sun was bursting through the trees we spotted a number of lovely beasties. Of particular note was the awesome looking swallow tail moth which was having a very nice day thank you very much up until I ran about laughing my head off that we had found it. The group loved the day out and they learned a great deal about their natural environment while also getting the chance to exercise the old leg muscles.
It really has been a peculiar Scottish summer, there has actually been sun! The hottest day was at the ranger day held in Glasgows Pollok Park. In the big tent I perched right next to the door hoping to get any sort of draft/shade. Both were not forthcoming. It was still a cracking day though with many enthusiastic members of the public grabbing a net and swinging it at anything vaguely bug shaped (myself included, I was having a beetle day). We also heard lots of grasshoppers, silently we creeped towards them and like ninja masters we pounced upon them for a good look. After we were satisfied we knew what they looked like we set them free to do all their cool grasshopper things.
This month I got the first opportunity to inspect one of Buglifes restoration projects at Slammanan raised bog. My colleague Scott took me out and highlighted the importance of this raised bog. It is home to one of the rarest geese in Britain: Taiga bean geese, which come over here for a wee holiday every year. And they only come to this bog in Cumbernauld! Scott also showed me the other amazing parts of the bog such as the peat cutting pits that were dug up 100 years ago (we also saw a dragonfly ovipositing there!). The management of the bog is fascinating and learning about each organisation that has a stake in the bog and all the competing interests really makes you understand what a daunting project it is. I also learned about the improvements under way that will make this bog, well…a proper bog again. This includes damming a lot of the draining ditches within the area while also teaching the public about how important is. We also stumbled across a hedgehog that had a really crusty bum. So yeah….
Another scrumptious event that we attended recently was the Ayrshire play day event in Kilmarnock. All the trainees put on a really cool set of activities for the public while also showing them some cool bees and hoverflies that were located nearby. This event was hectic with all the gang doing a great job of keeping momentum going in the face of absolutely awful weather. At one point the gazebo completely blew over. Imagine the surprise when you are in the process of badge making and then you’re exposed to all the elements. It turned out alright in the end and everyone got on with showing the public the awesome work that TCV does. We also showed the public how TCV deals with naughty gazebos (like an absolute boss).
I attended two courses with Inner Forth Landscape Initiative. These concerned hoverflies and dragonflies. They were highly informative and allowed me to network with other like minded individuals. I now feel more confident in identifying these organisms. I also caught a really cool fly called a thick headed fly which has a can opener like apparatus on its backside which is uses to crack open bumblebees which they then lay their eggs within. All within flight!
The Woodhall Faskine estate in Calderbank is next to an ancient canal where the first iron hulled boat in Scotland was built and launched from. The area is also home to stunning natural beauty along the canal. This unfortunately is being earmarked for housing development so this place is now under threat more than ever. I lead a large group of local concerned residents on a nature walk along their canal. There were so many wildflowers and pollinators found on the walk. The local populace could not believe these existed on their canal. At the end of the walk they had a new found appreciation for this habitat right on their front door step. I wish them luck in their fight against the development.
I joined my fellow trainee Rebecca for a bioblitz at the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture centre. The centre is right next to two large wildflower beds. The farmland next to the centre was filled to the brim with butterflies. I spotted my first peacock butterflies of the season. I also managed to spot a few small tortoiseshell butterflies which are not doing too well at the moment. This was a lovely moment but it was part of a much larger effort that raised awareness of the species around the site. I must commend Rebecca for putting it together and having me out there.
The past six weeks have clung to me. Not just because of the stifling heat, it’s the people that I have met on my travels. All the people who dedicate their lives to conservation. The public only notice them sporadically but if they disappeared, their loss would be keenly felt. It fills me with pride to join their ranks and work along side them. Go out to the green spaces and see their work. Get involved!