The first cut is the neatest

Not far from the remnants of the Romans Antonine Wall are several meadows that would have brought a smile to the face of even the meanest centurion.  They are the work of East Dunbartonshire Council, and there are more in the pipeline.  

Like a well drilled army a routine will be applied to the new meadows. After the ground is prepared. squadrons of pollinator-friendly plants will be introduced either as seeds or plugs. Further down the line the meadows will be cut once a year and the arisings removed. It’s a reliable method which will allow beautiful flowers including Northern Marsh Orchid, Bog Cotton, Greater Trefoil, and Marsh Bedstraw to flourish. 

For pollinators it all represents a welcome banquet, but a lot of hard work lies behind these stunning meadows.

A mini-baler in operation

Jackie Gillespie, Streetscene Project Officer with East Dunbartonshire Council, reflected on the unique challenges that 2020 presented.  “Lockdown meant we were unable to carry out the works in May which would have been ideal as we enjoyed such good weather at the time,” she ruefully recalled. “Work eventually started in August and the weather was so wet that some areas were under water. This has meant that germination is patchy in some areas but we will revisit and re-sow Spring 2021.”

As with so many Local Authorities, the work to create wildflower meadows relies significantly on forging a good partnership. 

Cut and Lift machinery

In the case of East Dunbartonshire the allies come in the shape of Buglife Scotland who were awarded funding by NatureScot through the Biodiversity Challenge Fund. Working with the Council, Buglife have sown a mix of wetland and neutral grasslands.  An impressive 19,000 square metres were sown in a variety of sites, within parks and open space in Milton of Campsie and Kirkintilloch.

Planting and sowing can be a mixture of muscle power and machines. 

Buglife part-funded a machine bulb-planting exercise which saw a biodiversity-friendly mix of spring bulbs planted at Kirkintilloch High School and Milton of Campsie. There was a Dutch influence in this work. Lubbe, a Dutch bulb company, supplied and planted around 176 square metres of their ‘Bee Surprise’ mix. It’s a mix that pollinators, and people, are sure to love, containing early splashes of colour in the shape of crocus, scilla and small tulips.

The ever-popular John Muir Pollinator Way , Scotland’s first B-Line, runs through this district and stretches of the route benefitted from a range of enhancements in 2020. With the launch of the completed B-Lines map for Scotland  the work in East Dunbartonshire is adding to a very exciting and ever expanding network of pollinator highways.

Chief amongst these was the planting of 5,700 jumbo sized wildflower plugs. A combination of Ragged Robin, Devil’s Bit Scabious, Ox-eye daisy, Cowslip and other nectar rich species formed what for pollinators is a heady mix. These were originally to be planted by Community Groups and Schools, and it was a great shame that Covid 19 halted this and the only way to proceed was to employ contractors to carry out the planting instead.

But despite the challenges East Dunbartonshire’s Streetscene Technical Support pressed on with two more wetland meadows in Lennoxtown, transforming 3,000 square metres beneath the Campsie Fells in the process.

Six miles north-west of Glasgow lies the popular suburb of Bearsden. Long associated with the aforementioned Antonine Wall, it may have just acquired another notable feature. A total of 5,000 wildflowers were recently planted and will form an impressive swathe in the Heather Drive Open Space area. 

An example of power harrowing, from Kincaid Park.

Local residents have grown to love the Heather Drive meadow and so too have a range of butterflies.  Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Small White, Orange Tip, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock have all been recorded on this site, no doubt lured here after the maintenance regime was changed to suit pollinators needs.

Meadow turf is a less travelled route to success, but very effective. Whilst most projects grow wildflowers from seed or from plug plants, the easiest way to establish a wildflower meadow is probably to lay wildflower turf, which you can buy from online suppliers. That’s the approach that was taken in Bishopbriggs. A total of 160 square metres of Biodiversity lawn turf was laid and has been very successful.

Our Roman centurion might have hankered for the Piano Grande in Umbria. However, were he here today, he would be hard-pressed to deny that by creating a rich abundance of wildflowers East Dunbartonshire is doing its bit for pollinators.

Further reading

You can find our 2019 blog about pollinator-friendly actions in East Dunbartonshire @ https://scottishpollinators.wordpress.com/2019/10/01/the-grass-isnt-always-greener/ 

and our initial blog covering East Dunbartonshire from August 2018 @ https://scottishpollinators.wordpress.com/2018/08/20/east-dunbartonshire-on-the-ball/


Marvellous meadows

East Dunbartonshire Council are one of a number of councils converting much of their bland amenity grassland into wildflower meadow.  Under the expert influence of Jackie Gillespie they have made great strides, and as I found out recently, they aren’t finished yet.

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I visited four locations around the Strathkelvin area and saw at first-hand how they are slowly but surely delivering a transformation that is going to be great news for pollinators. And I rather suspect that people are going to like it too.

I started my tour at Lennoxtown in the shadow of the Campsie Fells and the popular cycling challenge that is the famous Crow Road.  Bathed in sunshine down by the River Kelvin I came across a stunning wildflower meadow. This rich meadow is just a few  years old and in summer a glorious technicolour feast for pollinators. The ever-popular John Muir Way runs alongside the meadow and the area is well noted locally. Asking for directions revealed a degree of local pride in ‘our meadow’

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During my visit I saw red-tailed bumblebee, various hoverflies and a generous smattering of butterflies. It was clear that as a source of food the meadow was doing a great job.

A quick hop along the road and I found myself in Bearsden’s Cluny Park. Here a four-year old meadow was perhaps going over, but had,  judging by the comments I heard, made a huge impression locally. Sandwiched between the Bears Way cycle route and busy A81 and has become something of a local landmark. The weather was sunny and fine, the mix of grasses were swaying in the gentle breeze and cyclists were gliding past … all in all a most tranquil scene on the fringes of Scotland’s largest city.

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If the Bearsden meadow is highly visible then the equivalent in Torrance could accurately be described as being ‘tucked away’. This is a new meadow so at the moment the planting has just been completed. As anyone who knows about meadows will testify, you need patience. It isn’t much to look at just now, just a series of pock marks on the grass but given time an array of wildflowers will pop through.  No two meadows are alike, no single meadow is the same year on year … and always there are challenges. Here the challenge might be the proximity to the River Kelvin and the banks of rosebay willow-herb patiently poised for areas to spread into.  Time will tell.

My final port of call was Milton of Campsie, where like Torrance, works are at an early stage. I feel the folks of Milton of Campsie are on the verge of being spoiled, for the ambitious folks at East Dunbartonshire Council have gone for not one, not two, but three meadows. The new meadows promise to give pollinators some great forage in addition to the plethora of gardens that are a proud hallmark of this community.

Creating meadows is a sure-fire way to help pollinators.  Tackling historic loss of habitat, and a shortage of food, is an incredibly practical step to take to help deliver Scotland’s pollinator strategy.   It hasn’t been easy, and it may not look at its best yet, but in time what East Dunbartonshire Council have done will be mightily well-received – by people and pollinators.