Tall oaks from little acorns grow

We continue our series of articles looking at the fantastic projects which entered the Keep Scotland Beautiful pollinator-friendly category. Today Catherine Lawson introduces to the work of ‘Bonnie Dundee’.

By Catherine Lawson

We are ‘Bonnie Dundee’ who are an It’s Your Neighbourhood (IYN) group which links in with the citywide Beautiful Scotland partnership of local communities, gardens, allotments, other IYN and Friends groups, and parks across Dundee. We formally began our focus on pollinators in 2019, starting small and now in our third year, like our planting, our ideas have just kept growing.

There are five areas in Dundee City Centre, which we plan, plant, and maintain and we have always been mindful of biodiversity and kept an eye on what wildlife visit our displays. We have also had small areas of wildflowers since 2017, including around our orchard planters and in a large community herb bed.

One of our areas is a main street through the city centre with fourteen large hexagonal planters. In 2019 we noticed an extraordinary number of ladybirds. This started us off on a mission to identify them, which lead to us displaying pollinator ID sheets, to pass on our interest to the public, increase knowledge of pollinators and their decline and hopefully pass on our enthusiasm too. Our notices included common bees, ladybirds and butterflies, information about how to get in touch with us and encouraging people to share what they’d seen with us. This was also the year of the Painted Lady, and added even more interest, or maybe excitement is a better word.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020 we noticed through social media that a small Arbroath group, Seeds of Hope Scotland, were giving away locally sourced wildflower seeds to interested groups and hoping to spread some joy along the way. We applied for 95 packets and so our pollinator project started.

Working with Dundee City Council we contacted all the city groups offering free seeds on the provision that they send us photos of the finished result. We explained that we were handing them out to spread some cheer, help pollinators and raise awareness of their decline. We also wanted to generate some enthusiasm for learning about them, being able to identify them, as well as motivating people to get involved. We used social media and all the seeds went within a few days.

The result was amazing for us, the pollinators and the growers and the resulting video of all the pictures did indeed spread much needed joy. It also brought groups together on a common theme and made individuals planting in their own gardens feel part of a bigger city-wide whole. We entered our project into the NatureScot Pollinator Award and to our surprise we won!

In 2021, we realised that this project had the potential to really grow throughout Dundee, so we decided to pass it on to the city-wide Beautiful Scotland group, with our members still actively involved. We renamed it ‘Flowering Dundee’ and so the Beautiful Scotland project began!This year, Seeds of Hope became a social enterprise and we used the award money to buy 120 seed packets from them, then we linked in with Dundee City Council’s wildflower areas, Dundee University Botanical Garden’s ‘Re-Wilding’ project, and Keep Scotland Beautiful too.

Heading towards summer, along with our 120 packets of Seeds of Hope, we collected 12 packets of sunflower seeds from Morrisons, 30 packets of Dundee City Council’s wildflower annuals mix, and 6 seed balls from Keep Scotland Beautiful giving us 168 packets to share across Dundee. These were distributed among 3 church gardens, 2 primary schools, 19 community gardens, 3 parks and 16 individuals!

The project was further extended by receiving 200 sunflower plants from Dundee University Botanic Gardens which we handed out as well. We added to our identification notices to include hoverflies and moths, with links to find out more. We made our second video with even more contributions than the first and we received even more positive feedback. 

Another big influence on us has been COP26 and the climate crisis, with the emphasis on restoring biodiversity. There is so much information out there on what we all ‘should’ do, and often with confusing jargon, so we decided to start with small steps and encourage everyone to do the same. We used the quote by Sally Nex from her book ‘How to Garden the Low Carbon Way’ to inspire people to start planting – even if it was just in a pot! The quote is . . .

‘A billion tiny actions have brought us to the edge of environmental crisis, and a billion tiny actions can pull us back from the brink’.

Throughout ‘Flowering Dundee’ we have tried to encourage as many people to take part as possible and help people feel that they can give it a go too. We encourage pollinator friendly gardening and highlight the methods you can use, such as; ideas for the best types of flowers, the importance of dandelions and nettles and keeping a small ‘untidy’ area, and at the end of the season to save leaves and stalks, especially sunflowers, to provide shelter for insects. We wanted to highlight that everybody can take these simple steps to help reduce their environmental impact and help pollinators, and that all these small changes as individuals can add up to a larger impact collectively.

Our ‘little acorn’ of an idea has grown faster and spread wider than we expected in such a short space of time, but luckily there are still many stages of Flowering Dundee to look forward to before, like the oak, it reaches full maturity, and we are excited to see what the future will bring.

Please visit

https://www.dundeecity.gov.uk  and search for Beautiful Scotland

Bonnie Dundee IYN | It’s Your Neighbourhood (keepscotlandbeautiful.org)

Homepage | Seeds of Hope Scotland

Friends of Victoria and Westburn Park, Aberdeen

Today we begin a series of articles looking at the fantastic projects which entered the Keep Scotland Beautiful pollinator-friendly category. First up Janice Lyon gives us an insight into a very impressive entry from Aberdeen.

By Janice Lyon

The Friends of Victoria and Westburn Parks is a very active group of volunteers in Aberdeen who work every Saturday morning to improve our local parks. We were established in 2013 and currently have 22 active members all from the local community around the parks. We have a really good relationship with the Environmental Services folks in Aberdeen City Council and meet with them routinely to agree the projects we will take on.

Back in 2018 our group took over a derelict part of the park where old greenhouses had been demolished, and we converted this area into a wildflower garden. In the first year we mainly prepared the ground (which was hard work!), had a path installed and planted indigenous hedging around the boundaries. By the second year we were able to plant annual wildflower seeds.

Using annuals meant we had the chance to weed out the couch grass, dockens, etc. before planting the area with spring bulbs and sowing perennial wildflowers.

Elsewhere in the park we have actively chosen to put in plants which are in flower throughout the year to provide food for pollinators. For example crocus in the springtime, sunflowers in the summer, salvia in the autumn and mahonia in the winter. 

We use the RHS “Perfect for Pollinators” leaflet as a guide to choosing what we plant.

Last year we established a no-mow area under deciduous trees in another part of the park where we have planted Scottish bluebells and shade loving woodland plants. We are looking forward to seeing this area develop into a shady woodland walk.

In the autumn we collect seeds from the wildflower plants to boost up the show for next year, and we join forces with members of the Rotary and children from our local primary school to plant more spring bulbs. Unfortunately in 2020 the school pupils were unable to join us for bulb planting due to constraints relating to the pandemic but we were delighted that this has been possible again this autumn. The children really enjoy being outside and planting bulbs, but I think the best bit for them is finding worms! It is great to see many of the children coming back into the park later in the year with their parents – in particular to see the bulbs they planted come into flower in the spring.

Over the past two years, like everyone else, we have been a bit limited in our ability to keep working in the park, but emphasis has been on keeping the wildflower garden up to scratch, and this year the wildflower garden has been buzzing with bees, hoverflies and other pollinators all summer long! We have acquired additional gardening tools so we can all work at safe distances from each other – but still keep gardening (the weeds don’t stop growing for the pandemic!).

For more information on our group please see our Facebook page

Pesky pollinators

By Athayde Tonhasca

Thrips, also called thunder flies or thunder bugs, are small (most species are 1-3 mm long), slender insects. Their wings are fringed, a characteristic used to name their order: Thysanoptera, from the ancient Greek thysanos (tassel or fringe) and pteron (wing) – although not all species are winged. There are around 6,000 known species, mostly from tropical and temperate regions of the world. In Britain, there are about 180 species.

A characteristically fringed-wing thrips (it’s ‘one thrips’ and ‘two thrips’), and a common encounter in the garden © Wikipedia Creative Commons

Thrips are not among the most loved insects; if you search the internet for ‘thrips’, the first pages are likely to include ‘how to get rid of’ in their titles. Indeed, many thrips species are pests of crops and vectors of plant viruses. They feed by puncturing tissue and sucking up plant juices, thus reducing yield, damaging commercial flowers and fruits, and often causing galls and leaf rolls. They are capable of parthenogenesis (reproducing without fertilisation), so in situations where natural enemies are scarce, such as in greenhouses, thrips populations may explode. Gardeners are familiar with flower thrips, which look like masses of dark specks scurrying over petals and buds. To add injury to insult, the little blighters can ‘bite’ (actually they jab with their mouthparts), causing mild skin irritation in some people.

A cluster of flower thrips © Canberra Nature Map

But not all thrips are bad to us. Some species are predators of other pests such as scale insects and plant mites. And because so many thrips hang around flowers, it has been long thought that there’s more to their story than pollen munching. 

When Charles Darwin was busy with his plant reproduction experiments, he noticed he couldn’t exclude thrips from his net-enclosed flowers. He pondered whether these gate crashers were cross-pollinating plants he intended to be self-fertilized (Darwin, C. 1892. The effects of cross and self- fertilization in the vegetable kingdom). Traditionally, thrips have not been considered to be relevant pollinators because they are small, are poor fliers, and have no structures adapted to carry pollen. On the other hand, they do move from flower to flower with pollen attached to them, and their large numbers may compensate for small pollen loads.

Pollen grains attached to a thrips’ bristles (setae) © Eliyahu, D. et al. 2015. Journal of Pollination Ecology 16: 64–71.

It turns out that the more researchers look into it, the more they find evidence of thrips pollination, especially for species previously identified as wind-pollinated. Plants such as the common wilkiea (Wilkiea huegeliana) and the Red List species Brazilian walnut (Ocotea porosa) from the Australian and Brazilian rainforests, respectively, are thrips-pollinated; and possibly coffee and chilli peppers are too, at least partially. Thrips pollinate in our backyard as well: bearberry (Arctostaphyllos uva-ursi) and other heath or heather species (family Ericaceae), long assumed to self-fertilize, are pollinated to some degree by thrips, especially in northern latitudes where other insects become scarce. 

Elder or elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is another strong candidate for thrips pollination. Evidence comes from exclusion experiments – where thrips are kept off flowers and plant fertilization is then assessed – and from floral characteristics suitable for thrips such as compact inflorescences and powdery pollen. Elder grows in woodland, grassland, scrub, hedgerows, roadsides, brown sites, or any habitat with disturbed soils across the UK and most of Europe. If thrips pollination is confirmed, it would set this plant apart from other common members of our flora. 

Elder in flower, a haven for thrips © Willow, Wikipedia Creative Commons

Thrips pollination is relatively rare and poorly understood, but it has been going on at least since the Early Cretaceous (145 million years ago, give or take a few months). And it reminds us of some important points. Bees and flies may have the spotlight as far as pollination services go, but there are other important players out there; we know a fraction about these players and how they interact with each other; they often have conflicting roles – as destructive pests, helpful biological control agents or essential pollinators – so we must be cautious when considering intervening. Nature is complicated.

Green Connectors

Life in Glasgow is slowly returning to normal after the heady excitement of hosting the world during COP26. One of the local climate change strands that is set to continue is the intertwined raft of Glasgow City Council pollinator-friendly actions. With Pollinator Parks, wildflower meadow management, masses of planting projects, a thriving nursery and heaps of community-based activities the city can be rightly proud of the progress it is making.

Tollcross Park (Copyright Glasgow City Council)

However, Glasgow isn’t a city to rest on its laurels.  Take the intriguingly named Green Connectors. A five-year project it will create valuable habitat links throughout the city for pollinators (and other wildlife) by nurturing wildflower meadows, hedges and tree planting in a jigsaw of appropriate sites. The title is a perfect fit for a project that will provide vital natural stepping stones across Scotland’s biggest city.

The first year of the project was awarded £111,000  from the NatureScot Biodiversity Challenge Fund to create green connections within the south west of Glasgow from Dams to Darnley, a designated Local Nature Reserve (LNR), and northwards through Pollok, on to Rosshall Park and the White Cart Water. 

This connection identifies and seizes opportunities along existing road and river corridors, parks, amenity managed open green spaces, woodlands and hedgerows to create ‘active travel’ corridors for the benefit of wildlife and people. 

Glasgow deservedly earned international plaudits as a great host for the COP event, and that ability to connect with people lies at the heart of this project. A collaboration between Glasgow City Council Parks Development Team and RSPB Scotland you can find out more on the Council’s website

One of the most impressive aspects of the pollinator friendly work in Glasgow is the fact that it draws what could be seen as individual projects into a greater whole.

The designation of both Hogganfield Park LNR and Queen’s Park as ‘Pollinator Parks’ displays a commitment to habitat management and creation as well as raising awareness of pollinators . Making the changes is one thing, explaining their value is a vital follow up step if the public are to embrace changes that might not be instantly attractive or obviously beneficial. New signage explaining the rationale behind wildflower areas in the pollinator parks will raise awareness of the challenges pollinators face, and how biodiversity loss and climate change are interwoven.

Across a city that famously cherishes its green spaces 13 large meadow sites are being managed by contractors with 15 smaller sites managed by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) with some assistance from the council’s Parks Development Team. The work of the TCV is significant and amounted to a total of 6 days’ work (168 hours) was carried out at 4 sites – Elder Park, Glasgow Necropolis, Ruchill Park and Springburn Park. A staggering 5000 crocuses were planted on the Cenotaph beds on George Square under the trees which when allied to 40,000 pollinator friendly bulbs in Ruchill Park and Queen’s Park is a mighty contribution to our vital pollinating insects.

Many European cities sport planters and wildflower strips these days, and to deliver maximum benefit to pollinators the items planted have to offer good forage for pollinators. In Glasgow Ajuga (a dazzling blue Bugle), various heathers and pink clusters of Bergenia are used in city centre planters whilst pictorial meadow strips of a metre wide in front of uncut grass were seeded with cornfield annuals. The very action itself is significant, but it is even more impressive when you appreciate that it totals 7500 square metres over 23 sites (roughly equivalent to a car park for around 620 cars).

We’ve covered the Flower Power nursery at Pollok County park before in this blog, but a good story doesn’t tire in the telling. Thanks to volunteer support, and the involvement of both Friends of Pollok Country Park and Friends of Linn Park, this facility is in good shape. Last year was hindered by Covid-19 restrictions, but maintenance and involvement from the two groups mentioned continues and the nursery will be a key element in future ambitions.

The Helping Hands for Butterflies project was another initiative where Glasgow worked with others to maximise potential. Butterfly Conservation Scotland (BCS) were the key partners and harnessing the enthusiasm of a band of volunteers they carried out grassland habitat maintenance and wildflower plug planting on the south-facing side of Ruchill Park. It reaped instant rewards, the tweets of BCS’s Anthony McCluskey, showing six-spot Burnet moth caterpillars in the park, were evidence of the quick changes that can be brought about. There was also meadow preparation at Elder Park, Govan which paved the way to wildflower seeding and plug planting along with the Friends of Elder Park, and the wildflower planting continued at Springburn Park on the other side of the Clyde.

The team behind  Yorkhill Green Spaces were one of the most active community groups and we will feature their work in a future blog.  Suffice to say at this stage that they really excelled in doing their bit for pollinators and inspiring others to follow suit.

Glasgow captured the world’s attention in early November and if the range of pollinator friendly actions benefitting from Glasgow City Council’s actions are anything to go by it won’t be the last time they hog the headlines. Indeed that old 1980s strapline ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ might need dusted down and pressed into action again.

Find out more:

Green Connectors

Yorkhill Green Spaces

Glasgow’s Flower Power Nursery

Sweet, dangerous attraction

By Athayde Tonhasca

In ancient Greece, nymphs were deities portrayed as gorgeous maidens who would hang around ponds, rivers and other outdoor spots. But their beauty was hazardous: just like those wicked mermaids, nymphs could lure a virtuous man who happened to be passing by, leading him to madness or perdition.

A Nymph abducting the Greek hero Hylas © François Gérard, 1826. Image in the public domain

Nymphs may have been the product of overstimulated male fancy, but they also inspired the name of the water lily plant family, Nymphaeaceae. And just like the Greek nymphs, some water lilies do engage in devious charming, sometimes with fatal outcomes.

© Ann Murray, UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

The white water lily or fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata) is an aquatic plant from shallow lakes, ponds, and slow moving waters throughout the Americas. It’s a popular nursery choice for ornamental ponds and water gardens around the world, but its floating leaves can form thick mats of vegetation, sometimes preventing light penetration and retarding water flow. So this plant is considered invasive in some places.

When a white water lily flower opens, its female parts are shaped like a bowl with the stigma (the part that’s receptive to pollen) at the bottom. This bowl is surrounded by a wall of stamens and filled with a viscous liquid full of sugars and detergent-like substances (surfactants). If this rigging has the look of a trap, that’s because it is one. 

© SanctuaryX, Wikipedia Creative Commons

The fragrant flower – hence the epithet odorata – is irresistible to bees, flies and beetles. When a visitor lands, it falls into the bowl. It tries to pull itself out, but the palisade of flexible stamens hinders escape. As the insect struggles, pollen attached to its body is washed off by the liquid. The pollen drifts to the bottom of the bowl where it comes into contact with the receptive stigma, pollinating the flower. The insect may eventually crawl out, or it may drown: it makes no difference to the white water lily. It has got its pollen.

At the end of first day of blooming, the flower closes. When it opens again the next day, it spreads out more widely, no fluid is produced and the stigma is no longer receptive. The stamens release their pollen on the second or third day, and this asynchrony with the female parts prevents self-fertilization. Visiting insects are safe now, so they may fly away covered with pollen – perhaps to meet a watery end on another flower with a receptive stigma. On the fourth day, the flower is pulled underwater, where the seeds mature.

Sweat bees (family Halictidae) are common visitors to white water lilies. Image in the public domain

In South America, giant water lilies (Victoria spp.) take unlawful detention to another level. Their flowers attract and trap beetles until the following day, when they are allowed to leave loaded with pollen. Watch a time-lapse video of a giant water lily flower opening and closing over the course of two days. The flower opens during the receptive stigma phase, closes to entrap beetles, turns pink (pollen release phase), opens again to free its pollinators, then closes before sinking in the water.

By detaining insects for a while, plants increase the probability of fertilization. This type of relationship is known as entrapment pollination, and molecular studies suggest this is one of the oldest pollination systems. Nymphaeales (the order consisting of water lilies and other plants) and beetles have been playing this game for approximately 90 million years. It has worked nicely for both gaolers and gaoled.

Reasons to be cheerful

I enjoy opening my emails these days. More often than not they bring news of yet more pollinator friendly activity.  The latest was an update on a raft of actions being taken by Aberdeen City Council under its Climate Change Plan. The update celebrated their success in adopting a more natural approach to managing greenspaces. 

Those of you who know Aberdeen will perhaps have spotted that there are eight places around the city where the new style of managing greenspaces has been adopted. The sites include Garthdee Road, Riverside Drive, Culter bypass, Skene Road verges, Riverview Drive, Raeden Park, Eric Hendrie Park, and Fernielea Park. 

A survey of those eight sites found around 80 species of wildflowers and plants. And the method has been surprisingly simple; these are areas where grass has not been cut. That single action delivers many benefits – encouraging wildflowers, helping pollinating insects, and creating multi-functional greenspaces that support people and nature.

The impressive list of flowers that have flourished includes northern marsh orchids, buttercups, hawkbits, dandelions, scentless mayweed, ox-eye daisy, meadowsweet, cow parsley, bugle, sorrel, red clover, white clover, and birds-foot trefoil. These would be scents and sights to lift the spirits in the Granite City, and you can be sure the a host of insects will have benefitted from this floral banquet.

Given that loss of habitat is one of the biggest challenges facing our pollinators Aberdeen’s drive to help biodiversity flourish by reducing mowing and promoting wildflowers is great news.

Changing the management regimes which underpin public greenspaces is a move which is gaining momentum up and down the country. From ‘No Mow’ to relaxed mowing there is a growing realisation that amenity grassland can work much better for nature with some tweaks.

Change will be determined by how sites fare.  So whilst some areas will only be cut once, at the end of the summer (and all the cuttings removed), other areas may require to be cut two or three times a year in order to gradually remove nutrients from the sites and make for a better platform for many wildflowers. 

Aberdeen City Council operational delivery committee convener Councillor Philip Bell caught the mood of the moment perfectly when he noted that “With increasing awareness of climate change, there is a need to take action to manage greenspaces more sustainably to mitigate and reduce climate change and support biodiversity.

“It is good to see our efforts have supported about 80 species of wildflower and plants, and the associated increase in insects and small mammals, and we hope people enjoy these new areas and the benefits they bring.”

Aberdeen City Council are to be congratulated on their determination to tackle climate change by reducing emissions through council buildings, mobility, transport, and council operations. Their sensitive management of greenspaces is part and parcel of this approach.  They have a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2045, and aim to meet that whilst also allowing people to get closer to nature in their local area and by complementing traditionally close-cut parks and nature-friendly greenspaces.

Coronavirus and the associated lockdowns saw use of public spaces shoot up and Aberdeen City Council responded with a trial to see how they could better manage their public spaces to help with climate change mitigation and biodiversity benefits whilst ensuring the Aberdeen public continued to enjoy access to good greenspaces. 

Many of the areas were, and remain, popular areas for walking, running, cycling and dog walking, and are away from the surfaced path network. To maintain access for these activities, wide paths have been cut though the areas of longer grass.

Routes for these paths were chosen by following ‘desire lines’ where usage revealed the natural paths people were taking. This was often a link between points of interest or access to any existing surfaced path network. 

Positive greenspace management is here to stay across Scotland.  The new natural areas in Aberdeen may require a period in which the Council communicates that they are being managed for wildlife. However, as other councils have found, this message is widely understood. There are many gardeners in Aberdeen and their bee-friendly planting allied to the council’s new direction is a double-whammy of the positive kind, it should be received with open arms.

Aberdeen’s new strategy is further proof that we are moving towards greener, healthier cities, and that’s good news for people and pollinators, as well as a welcome addition to my email inbox.

So long, see you next year

By Athayde Tonhasca

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost

When temperatures begin to fall, life becomes hard for insects. Some species try to escape the cold by sheltering in holes in the ground, under tree barks or even inside our homes; others, like bumble bees and some moths, generate internal heat by biochemical processes, just like we do. However, these strategies are not enough to protect such small creatures when it gets really cold.

© Malene Thyssen, Wikipedia Creative Commons

Many insects just leave: some flies and butterflies undertake journeys of several thousand kilometres to spend the winter around the Mediterranean, returning to the UK in spring. But most insects cannot escape. For those that stay put, the greatest winter threat is the formation of ice inside their bodies. Ice expands, tearing through body tissues. If you’ve ever put lettuce or apples in the freezer and let them thaw, you have seen the catastrophic effects of internal ice.

To avoid freezing to death, insects go into diapause, which is a state of dormancy similar to hibernation. This can happen at the egg, pupa, larva or adult stage, depending of the species. We may think diapause is prompted by temperature, but in fact the daily light regime (photoperiod) is the main trigger. Temperature alone is not a reliable yardstick; a cold spell may induce diapause too early, and a prolonged autumn may delay it. Either way, the wrong timing could be fatal.

When photoperiod reaches a threshold, a series of events kicks in. In the case of an adult insect, it begins accumulating fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Hormones and enzymes induce a thickening of the cuticle (‘skin’) to reduce water loss. The insect then will look for a cosy, safe hidden spot such as inside tree trunks, under rocks or underground. Breathing and metabolism drop to the bare minimum. The insect produces large amounts of cryoprotectants (cryo:  cold) such as glycerol, sorbitol and sugars, which act as antifreeze – similar to the products we use in our cars. In the same way that vodka remains liquid in the freezer, these compounds don’t freeze.

A German wasp queen (Vespula germanica) hibernating inside a fallen tree © MaxNikon, Wikipedia Creative Commons

By lying dormant, and topped up with natural antifreeze, insects have a good chance of surviving the winter. These adaptations are far from perfect; mortality is high, and often just a few individuals make it through. 

But the resilience of some insects is truly admirable. When temperatures drop, the flightless Antarctic midge (Belgica antarctica) produces large amounts of antifreeze sugars and loses up to 70% of its body water. It becomes so dehydrated it can’t freeze. The Arctic woolly bear moth (Gynaephora groenlandica) spends roughly 90% of its life in diapause as a caterpillar, and it survives temperatures as low as −70 °C. Predators and parasites may get at these insects, but a blizzard or two and freezing conditions are nothing. It’s adaptation at its best. 

An Arctic bear moth caterpillar © Barrio, I.C. et al. 2013. Arctic 66(4)

Perfect Partners

At this year’s Local Authorities Pollinator Conference Louisa Maddison gave a most impressive update on the actions being taken across South Lanarkshire to help pollinators. With the balmy days of summer a distant memory it seems appropriate to bask in a little reflected heat by looking back on what went on.

Meadow makers at Fernbrae Meadows (C) Karen Smith

One of the key approaches that Louisa and her colleagues adopted last year was partnership working. “We were so grateful that we teamed up with Butterfly Conservation”, she explains. “They passed on a range of expertise and knowledge not only to our own staff, but to a range of enthusiastic volunteers. As a result three sites really benefitted hugely — Bothwell Road Park in Hamilton, and both Stonefield Park and White Gates Orchard in Blantyre.”  The Countryside and Greenspace team clearly maximised the benefit of working with such as skilled partner “We held several information sessions for the public and our volunteers in summer 2021. This was an ideal opportunity to explain the importance of creating space for pollinators in urban areas. They helped us plant wildflower plugs, to sow seeds, and as we headed into autumn 2021 volunteers returned to assist with clearing end of season cuttings and planning the next season’s work.”.

Butterfly Conservation aren’t the only valuable partners that South Lanarkshire work with. 

Buglife’s national B-Lines project has enjoyed considerable success in Lanarkshire and celebrated a number of successes in 2021.  “This certainly was another success story”, says Louisa. “Our ‘Making a B-Line in the Clyde Valley’ project with Buglife Scotland was funded by the Biodiversity Challenge Fund and completed in Spring 2021, which was with grateful thanks to a funding extension. During the year the sites were monitored for success; a formal monitoring programme will be put in place in 2022 and I think we are quite excited about what we will find out next year.”

Buglife’s B Lines is hugely popular and stunning project. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the project it’s a great step along the road to addressing the problem of the loss of flowers and pollinators. B-Lines are basically ‘insect pathways’ running through urban and rural settings along which Buglife work with partners to restore and create corridors and areas that are wildflower-rich and effectively act as habitat stepping stones. 

With an active South Lanarkshire Biodiversity Partnership there is a ‘buzz’ about the direction this Local Authority is heading in.  Take a walk through Milheugh meadow in Blantyre and you can see the thought that has gone into the site.  The raised beds at the orchard are complemented by pragmatic grass paths through the main site that make access through the meadow area easy and a real close up nature experience. It’s a similar approach to the one taken at the popular and sometimes busy Strathaven Park which blends public access with pollinator havens in a cleverly integrated fashion.

Another thing that  South Lanarkshire Council can be very proud of is that fact that they not only improve sites for pollinators, but actively plan how to manage them into the future.  Louisa takes up the story. “Yes, whilst I’m pleased to report that more pollinator and wildlife-friendly sites are being added to our list, I’m equally delighted that we are committed to maintaining them too. This year, for example, yellow rattle seed collection at the “Meadow Makers” event at Fernbrae Meadows in July was a distinctive part of ongoing meadow management. 

Yellow rattle at Fernbrae Meadows (C) Karen Smith

The work at Fernbrae Meadows is really impressive on a national let alone a local scale. Many residents remember it is a golf course, and when that folded there were concerns about the future of the abandoned site when it began to attract anti-social behaviour.  But the Green Infrastructure Funded project that helped enable a transformation into a Community Park has worked really well. The nearby communities of Fernhill, Cathkin and Castlemilk are delighted to have this great resource on their doorstep.”

Karen Smith is the South Lanarkshire Countryside Ranger who counts Fernbrae Meadows as being in her patch.  With a vibrant community group — Friends of Fernbrae Meadows — continuing the good work the council established it’s an encouraging outlook for pollinators. “We are using our Nature Restoration Fund to improve various sites for pollinators and in 2021 this work mainly involved preparing sites for seeds and plants that will be in place in 2022.  It’s an exciting time for sure. I think our meadows look fantastic and because of the number of identification and volunteer sessions we have run I think we are helping people appreciate that flowers and pollinators go hand in hand. By getting local communities involved the stewardship and sense of local involvement is excellent. Even things like learning to love  a little long grass is taking hold as the world looks to tackle the challenges facing our vital insects.  People’s understanding of why we are a making space for nature makes long-term management of meadows so much easier.

“The one thing I remember about our seed gathering day was how nice it was for people to sit in the meadow and get up close and personal with a variety of species. Young and old meadow makers had fund spotting ladybird larvae, and they were comparing paper bags of yellow rattle seeds like it was gold dust.”

Between meadows, B-Lines, community engagement, and volunteer enthusiasm there is so much to celebrate in South Lanarkshire.  And as we head into winter that brings a warm golden glow in anyone’s book.

Further reading:

Find out more about South Lanarkshire sites and how to get involved:

Friends of Fernbrae Meadows

South Lanarkshire Countryside Rangers

Local Nature Reserves in South Lanarkshire