Everyone’s a winner

Making space for nature in gardens, allotments, greenspaces and communities is a boost for wildlife and people. Thankfully many agree on this. This was borne out at this year’s Keep Scotland Beautiful ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood gathering when the judges confessed to being spoiled for choice when it came to exploring the many excellent projects competing for NatureScot’s pollinator-friendly awards.

Juliette Camburn, Community Projects Officer at Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “We’re delighted to have this ongoing partnership with NatureScot, to highlight, recognise and reward community groups across Scotland who are going above and beyond to help our native pollinators and to engage and educate people. As well as the Climate Emergency we find ourselves in, we are also in a Biodiversity Crisis so it is more important than ever for everyone to do their bit to help, no matter how small an action.  Well done and thank you to this year’s winners who are all inspiring, and prove that even simple measures can make a big difference.”

Yorkhill Greenspaces retained their Pollinator-Friendly first prize with another fabulous entry.  Promoting pesticide-free, peat-free gardening & sustainable greenspace management, they complemented these targets by planting pollinator-friendly perennials at Overnewton Park and Cherry Park, including new fruit trees and a sensory garden herb chessboard.

Urban parks are a welcome component of city life. First created in the 19th century, they initially offered a green escape in busy industrial cities. Gradually in some quarters they encountered financial tension and fell from grace, but as work in Glasgow shows the tide is turning. Today our urban parks fulfil a vital role both in terms of social value and in providing wildlife benefits. During the pandemic our parks were a welcome refuge and popular sites for exercise and relaxation. Today urban greenspaces are increasingly recognised as being good for our health and wellbeing. We need greener, healthier cities, and councils are warmly partnering communities to help improve sites.

The list of achievements that Yorkhill Greenspaces can point to is as remarkable as it is impressive. From planting over 100m of native flowering hedging and trees at Yorkhill Park to introducing pollinator-friendly spring bulbs (100 wood anemones, 150 crocuses, 300 grape hyacinths, 750 native bluebells, 145 snake’s-head fritillaries, 377 snowdrops, 350 winter aconites).

Calling on the support of more than 100 volunteers, and 90 pupils from Glasgow’s Gaelic School, the Yorkhill team were able to plant around 2,800 native wildflower plug plants at Yorkhill Park and convert two areas of amenity grass at Overnewton Park to meadow.

Looking ahead, and future-proofing their work, is a big part of what goes on in Yorkhill. The group ran sustainable meadow management and scything workshops and collected yellow rattle seed in Yorkhill Park to sow in new areas.

Monitoring continues to be a strong suit for this group. They expertly fused monitoring and awareness-raising classes in their parks with contributions to the City Nature Challenge, Big Butterfly Count, and POM Scheme FIT-counts. 

The imagination of St Machar Biodiversity Community Group caught the judges eye. Their use of church grounds sets a wonderful example of how opportunity exists in almost every walk of life. 

A project which started in 2020 is now a joint partnership between St Machar’s Cathedral and Aberdeen City Council. The aims were to increase biodiversity whilst balancing the needs and expectations of families visiting graves, tourists and wildlife. A small steering group with representatives from Old Aberdeen Community Association, the Cathedral, Friends of Seaton Park, Aberdeen City Council Maintenance team and a Countryside Ranger was formed to keep things on track. 

A grass maintenance scheme was conceived which allowed for a variety of habitats in the graveyard by using different cutting schedules. There is now no herbicide use around graves and less strimming with some areas only cut once a year. 

It’s a real community effort with a variety of people including older residents, families and University students taking part. Tasks include propagating, and planting, low growing Thyme borders, and introducing a wide range of wildflower plugs (Ox-Eye Daisy, Cowslips, Red campion, Herb Robert and Bird’s Foot Trefoil) into long grass areas. 

An added extra came in the shape of family bio-blitz events diligently recording flora and fauna, popular pollinator ID sessions, and fun seed bombing with local primary schools. 

The folks at St Machar don’t intend to rest on any laurels. They have plans in place to increase their beautiful Thyme border, by division and growing more plants, as well as intentions to plant a shade tolerant wildflower mix on the north of the cathedral whilst reviewing their grass maintenance scheme annually.

Another fantastic entry from Bonnie Dundee, who excel in both pollinator-friendly planting and engaging with their community

There was an award too for the energetic team at Bonnie Dundee.  The sheer breadth of their approach draws admiring comments from everyone who hears about their work. In 2022 Dundee ‘Flowering Dundee’ became a Beautiful Scotland city project and the group’s drive through planting, erecting notices, and hosting a range of engaging events clearly demonstrates that there can be so much more to helping pollinators than growing flowers. 

Last year the group threw a welcome spotlight on solitary bees and an exploration of the opportunities to use bee houses. As ever the planting by Bonnie Dundee was very pollinator-friendly and included apple orchards underplanted with wildflowers, seasonal planting from early bulbs such as snowdrops and alliums through to summer shrubs, perennials, and annuals with provision made to include late flowering species.

But really in a gathering of this kind everyone’s a winner, and pollinators are major beneficiaries.  Congratulation and thanks go to FARE Lochend Community AllotmentFriends of Starbank ParkHazlehead Outdoor Nursery, and Inchview Care Home for fantastic entries too. All of our entries have been sent a NatureScot community seed pack to help them keep up the good work.