Green Infrastructure Project Update - Green evolution
Surveys continue to suggest that we drew enormous strength from local greenspaces during the coronavirus pandemic. Being outdoors and enjoying nature became increasingly important as lockdowns and travel restrictions bit home and it seems that if we are to be healthier and happier then we will need to live in a greener society.
Fernbrae Meadows, one of the projects to benefit from the ERDF Green Infrastructure Fund, certainly proved its worth during the Covid-19 crises. The conversion of a derelict golf course into a stunning urban park has been a huge success. At the height of lockdown it was a crucial support for the local community.
Numbers visiting the park demonstrate success on a statistical level, but stories, smiling faces and a sense of civic pride are surely equally valuable indicators.
Karen Smith, a South Lanarkshire Countryside Ranger, enjoys a long association with the park, and reflects fondly on how the local residents have taken the park to their hearts.
“A lot of people have just discovered the site for the first time during lockdown, and it's good to see people recommending the place as a good place to walk, wheel or cycle. We get a real mix of ages in the park now. On my last visit I saw older children out wearing wellies and playing in the burn, plenty of dog walkers, and lots of people walking with a friend or family member.
“Of all the sites I help to look after, Fernbrae Meadows looks particularly well cared for by the local community. Litter has been picked by local volunteers and extra bins have been installed to help with the increasing use. Any problems get reported quickly. The bridges and boardwalks, seats and feature walls, standing stones and lovely rusty deer are in good condition and it is great to see so many people caring for the site and sharing images across social media. Both the Friends of Fernbrae Meadows and the Fernbrae Meadows Allotment Association received Certificates of Recognition from Keep Scotland Beautiful It's Your Neighbourhood.”
Keeping an eye on how the park is used is going to be an important part of its evolution.
The grounds team at South Lanarkshire Council have been quick to respond to changes in use. They have mown the grass paths that meander through the rolling grasslands that little bit wider in order to accommodate greater visitor numbers and make social distancing easier. Given that these paths follow existing desire lines they remain one of the most appealing elements of the park.
If the desire lines represent informal decision making, then organised walks show what can be achieved when aiming for a specific outcome. The resumption of Tuesday Health Walks and Friday Buggy Walks is a sure sign that life around Fernbrae is returning to some degree of normality, indeed the buggy walks proved so popular when reintroduced that a booking system had to be created.
The Friends of Fernbrae Meadows were constrained in the lockdown contact they could have, but remained active during restrictions by holding online Zoom meetings and recruiting new committee members. Having enthusiastic and committed individuals is key to the future of this amazing site.
Of course no park comes without challenges for supporters to surmount.
Fernbrae’s meadow management suffered a slight setback when the tractor on mowing duties broke down. This meant that the community meadow didn’t get its September cut. But from adversity sprung opportunity, and Nicole Digruber, who has featured in our blogs about Fernbrae before, seized the moment to collect lots of yellow rattle seeds. Not for nothing is yellow rattle known as 'the meadow maker' or 'nature's lawnmower' and the seeds will be put to good use. No doubt the drifts of colour that lit up the meadow areas last spring and summer will flourish again. Even the young orchard will look good, the blizzard of buds more than even the local bullfinches could wish for.
In fact growing-for-food remains a core activity at the park, and the allotments continue to be hugely popular. Hope Amplified, a local growing group has been awarded £1000 from South Lanarkshire Council to encourage growing activities for families near Fernbrae Meadows and The Central Scotland Green Network (known to many as The Green Action Trust – formerly CSGN), through the ‘Greening Camglen’ project, has provided timber, compost and seeds for the community garden.
When the golf course was thriving the aim was to get water off this site as quickly as possible. Today the aim is the opposite. Slowing down the flow of water off Fernbrae Meadows is important for enjoyment of the site, good for biodiversity and reassuring for residents in surrounding streets. It’s particularly good news for the mallards that are beginning to become a regular sighting on the ponds, and when school visits resume in earnest the eternal favourite of ‘pond dipping’ is bound to feature high in the outdoor learning activities.
Knowing what’s in those ponds will require a little study, but local residents are already ‘on the case’. Several have enrolled for online training with Butterfly Conservation Trust in order to be able to carry out monitoring, and this dovetails neatly with a culture locally that see reports made by visitors about the bird life in the park.
This kind of activity has all the hallmarks of a Local Nature Reserve. In preparation for that possibility Karen has been keeping nearby resident aware of online resources which encourage ‘Getting Groups Outdoors’ training. This is a resource that South Lanarkshire Council have produced with Get Outdoors Lanarkshire and is part of the Lanarkshire Green Health Partnership helping to make more use of Scotland’s outdoors as Our Natural Health Service.
A huge success story when the park first opened was the use of the site by local schools. Fernhill School backs onto the site and pupils continue to visit the site for outdoor play and learning since schools returned. Cathkin Primary School also visited regularly and as things return to pre pandemic status school visits are set to increase.
Crisis can lead to lasting change. There is a keen local appreciation and pride in Fernbrae Meadows. Crisis or no crisis it seems unlikely that the site will be anything other than a central part of the community for quite some time to come.
The Green Infrastructure Fund Is part of the Scottish Government’s current European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme, which runs through to 2023. This is one of two ERDF Strategic Interventions led by NatureScot – the other is the Natural & Cultural Heritage Fund .
You can follow the European Structural Funds blog for ESF activities, news and updates. For twitter updates go to @scotgovESIF or use the hashtags #ERDF and #europeanstructuralfunds