Sometimes it pays to have bold ambitions. Back in 2009 the local community around Toryglen began work with Urban Roots to manage Malls Mire woodlands. It was a partnership that thrived – by 2015 the site had gained Local Nature Reserve status – and they could have settled for that. But ambition had taken hold, and the next step was to transform the wider, near derelict site, into a community asset. A few weeks ago the stunning £3.3m Malls Mire Park opened, revealing a fantastic transformation.
Gemma Jennings, community engagement manager and ecology advisor with Urban Roots, has seen the transformation of this area first hand.
“I’ve been involved in the Malls Mire project for the past four years,” she explains. “Originally we had funding from the Green Infrastructure Community Engagement Fund to look at developing some of the green spaces in the Toryglen area and we had some funding from Sustrans too. We led a consultation for a period of 18 months with the community, and got a lot of people involved — from schoolchildren to Urban Roots volunteers, members of the public and different community groups — and this revealed what the local community’s hopes were for the area. Their suggestion fuelled a master plan and Malls Mire Park is the outcome.”
The connection that Urban Roots, a community-led environmental charity, have with the Malls Mire area is solid. The group has been involved in the development and care of the woodland for 10 years, turning what was virtually a no-go area into an accessible nature reserve. From that came the vision and belief behind the creation of Malls Mire Park.
Gemma explains, “There was lots of land connected to the woods that wasn’t good value, it just didn’t feel safe, you couldn’t walk or cycle there, so although it had biodiversity value it didn’t feel like a greenspace that was suitable for the community to make the most of.
“Following on from the consultation exercise we were delighted to welcome more support and able to partner with Clyde Gateway and Glasgow City Council, as well as a raft of local stakeholder groups in the surrounding communities to develop the bigger plan which has now come to fruition with this park.
“We are all incredibly grateful to the Green Infrastructure Fund and the ERDF programme, for being able to help fund this. What we have now is a development where we have linked the woodland with another 16 hectares of greenspace. This provides a great opportunity for the community to get outdoors and is a great place to spend time, playing, exercising, and connecting with nature. As such Malls Mire is a real boost for people’s health and well-being.”
Local residents agree with Gemma’s summary. When I spoke with a couple who had brought their two small children along to the opening event, at which MP Alison Thewliss announced the park opened, they were fulsome in their praise. “When we moved here we knew there were plans to redevelop this area,” they recalled. “We use the woods regularly, and when I was at home during lockdown we made good use of the improving local greenspaces. It’s fantastic to see the improvements that been carried out. The girls have joined the summer programmes that are run here, and really enjoy the activities that are arranged such as climbing trees, making swings and building dens. The new path network is really good for walking and cycling and the community planters are popular too. We are always out and about these days, and having this on our doorstep does encourage you to get out a lot more. You can feel a million miles away from the centre of the city, thanks to the quality greenspace.”
The path networks are an exceptionally practical bonus for Malls Mire.
Much of the success of those paths is down to the undoubted expertise of Sustrans. Ad Leeks, Senior Communications Officer at Sustrans, has a clear vision of the role colleagues played in the development of Malls Mire Park. “From the outset I must acknowledge that Urban Roots have been a fantastic partner, and have really excelled in pulling everyone together”, explains Ad. “Our main contribution at Malls Mire is the path network funded through our ‘Places for Everyone’ fund. This sees us regularly working closely with Local Authorities and community groups. We support placemaking aspirations, as well as providing easy access paths which help everyone to walk, wheel and cycle. The paths and the lighting around Malls Mire are designed to make the routes feel as safe as possible.”
Urban Roots, Clyde Gateway, Sustrans, Glasgow City Council, NatureScot … it’s all about partnership working and a shared drive to succeed. In Toryglen Urban Roots are the cement that bound this project together.
That’s a role they are well-versed in.
Working with agencies and communities across the south side of Glasgow, they have encouraged community gardening and community cooking projects in Govan, Pollokshields, Priesthill, and Castlemilk. Now the creation of Malls Mire Park, adjacent to the flourish local nature reserve, mean that ever more people eagerly connect to their local environment around Toryglen.
At time when the benefits of nature and healthy life styles are ever emphasised, the quality greenspaces of Malls Mire show that it certainly pays to be ambitious.