Making wildlife connections at Dance Connect

One of the biggest challenges facing emerging pollinators each spring is finding food. What we plant in our gardens, parks and around our workplaces can be a huge help for foraging insects. So take a bow Dance Connect in Kinross who have skilfully transformed the area around their dance and fitness studio into a pollinator-friendly hot spot.

Inspired by the work of the energetic Kinross-shire Raingardens Challenge, Dance Connect have combined choreographing a pollinator banquet with improving the environmental and social value of the area on their doorstep.

There are certainly multiple benefits in what Dance Connect have done.  First and foremost their actions are great news for local nature, however their approach is also creating an attractive environment for people to admire, which acknowledges the recognised links between health and well-being and the natural world. It’s what PR gurus at one time labelled a ‘win-win’.

So how did this project to transform the area around the studio come about?

When Dance Connect purchased their site from Perth and Kinross Council the swales and much of the willow planting, which fringe their car park, were already in place. However, there was an opportunity to make more of the site, to better protect the swales, and extend the planting.

Swales should not be undervalued. Nowadays, we often experience water in our towns and villages as a problem: flooding property or roads, bubbling up from overloaded sewers in wet weather. 

One of the attractive characteristics of a swale is channelling and making use of heavy rainfall. Well-designed swales take the peak flow of rainwater and only slowly release it; in that way they help manage flood risks. The water seeps into the ground in a more controlled fashion, and it is worth adding that beyond potentially reducing the instances of flash floods, a swale can also help plants survive during dry spells. 

However, the swales at Dance Connect were likely in time to be damaged by cars, the soil was susceptible to being compacted, and surrounding plants in danger of being crushed. It was the clever management of willow planting around the swale, allowing the subtle presence of overhanging soft willow branches to fringe the car park edges, which helped demarcate the swale and protect it from compaction and damage.

The good work doesn’t stop at the car park edge. Additional planting beyond the car park borders stretches up nearby banking to impressive hawthorn and a few conifers (including a young Scots pine which will become an impressive tree in due course). Across from the studio’s entry driveway is a flat area of open grass which it is intended to make into a wildflower meadow.

So the Dance Connect surroundings became a multi-functional project, capable of helping nature (the emerging bumblebees on the willow catkins being a great example), mitigating against heavy rainfall incidents, and providing a natural and pleasant arrival point for visitors. 

Co-owner Rachel has certainly been busy adding to her banquet for bees, and along with Jane Shields of Living Water, who is also an ecological designer for the Kinross-shire Raingardens Challenge, planted woodland wildflowers into the willow area, starting with foxgloves at the margins. A few red campions were growing on the site already and more have been established now in the edges of the willow woodland, with lesser celandines adding vibrant early spring colour in the wetter soil in the base of the willow swale. 

Nature rarely stands still. The original mulch covering the soil beneath the trees has long gone, and grass, nettles and docks are beginning to colonise the area. The aim now is to try and create a more varied, beneficial and interesting woodland floor.

The work to enhance the natural features around the studio will continue for some time. The diversity of the grounds certainly increases interest for visitors and passers-by alike, and if you visit you won’t be the only one enjoying the experience. As we head through spring and summer – a range of pollinating insects are sure to make their moves around Dance Connect.