Wilding our Parks case study - East Dunbartonshire report
Whitefield Pond and Lade naturalisation in Lennoxtown
Site: Whitefield Pond
Location: 55.97695, -4.205051
Site type: Formal lochs/ponds
Secondary type: Public parks & gardens, Amenity greenspace, Green corridors/networks
Management responsibility: East Dunbartonshire Council
Naturalisation types: Watercourse naturalisation, Native wildflower meadow
Project partners: East Dunbartonshire Council, Ebbsford Environmental (contractors), Water Gems (naturalisation of lade), Whitefield Pond Working Group
Other groups involved: Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Clyde River Foundation, SEPA
- East Dunbartonshire Council greenspace information
- East Dunbartonshire Council biodiversity information
- Whitefield Pond information
Watercourse naturalisation, Native wildflower meadow, Formal lochs/ponds, Amenity greenspace, LBAP, Biodiversity, Lade
Whitefield Pond and Lade in Lennoxtown has been naturalised creating an attractive, natural-looking space which provides a more diverse and friendly space for wildlife, with enhanced amenity for locals.
In 2016, the Streetscene Technical Support team at East Dunbartonshire Council developed a naturalisation project at Whitefield Pond and Lade in Lennoxtown. The lade is an artificial watercourse constructed in the early 19th century to provide a supply of clean water to the Lennox Mills Printworks.
Today the pond is a popular recreational area used by the community of Lennoxtown, anglers and visitors. The area includes a man-made pond, fed by the lade, and surrounded by amenity grass, shrub area and native woodland planting. Over a number of years, the Council has naturalised sections of the pond, upgraded the path surface, and installed attractive seating, sculptures and interpretation, along with attractive stone boundary walls and entrances.
The pleasant pond area was let down by the unattractive lade feeding the pond, with canalised vertical sides, granite setts and concrete slabbing. There were areas of breaching and increasing issues with erosion, silt deposition and leaking which needed to be addressed, along with its poor level of biodiversity. The Council viewed these required repair works as an opportunity to create a more attractive and biodiversity friendly space to complement the pond and the rest of the greenspace.
Drivers for naturalisation
- A key driver was the deterioration of the lade. This comprised in part an asbestos-clad wall which was damaged and leaking, with water running out onto the lower ground at times of high flow, causing erosion and flooding. The lade did not function well during flash floods, with a deep (500mm) layer of silt on the bed of the lade and a delta of silt fanning out into the pond.
- The Council’s Open Space Strategy and Local Biodiversity Action Plan promote the creation of wildflower corridors. The banks of the lade had little marginal vegetation and being straight and man-made had limited biodiversity value.
- Residents wanted the silt fanning rectified and asked for the pond to be drained. SEPA, who were involved in initial investigations on how to deal with the issue, advised that draining the pond and any silt removal would negatively impact on many species living in the pond. Lade improvement and naturalisation were devised as an alternative solution with more benefits, including a positive impact on existing and future habitats.
What has been delivered?
The existing straight lade, which ran for 125 metres into the pond, has been recreated as a more natural feature by re-profiling its banks and lining the new watercourse with blue clay. Shelves were created and planting with a variety of native aquatic and emergent wetland plants. The steepest section by the silt trap was landscaped with native wildflower turf to ensure quick and successful establishment. Plants were supplied as large blocks of local provenance single species.
Watercourse, marginal and wildflower meadow habitats have been created. The meadows include planted yellow rattle, with naturalised common spotted orchid and broad-leaved helleborine orchids.
Two entrances to the pond were upgraded to include a new entrance wall, the paths were upgraded around the site and the main wall was repointed and repaired.
The area now forms an enhanced wildlife corridor connecting the pond to the road, and on to Balgrochan Marsh at the foot of the Campsie Hills.
How was it done and by whom?
East Dunbartonshire Council worked with Ebsford Environmental Ltd to design, carry out the repairs and implement the biodiversity enhancements. Existing open space GIS maps were used, as no design drawings were found of the existing pond or lade construction. Watergems completed the planting of the naturalised watercourse and stonework at the entrance of the pond to enable a one-way flow of water into the pond.
- The existing lade was encapsulated with soil and a new channel excavated to re-meander the watercourse more naturally.
- Clyde River Foundation supported the fish rescue when the lade was drained temporarily.
- Reclaimed granite setts from the lade were used to re-profile a section of the existing Whitefield Pond to allow trapping of silt and create additional areas for planting.
- Consideration was given to water level management through the introduction of a high-level berm in case of potential flooding and adding another level to the existing silt trap to reduce the amount of sediment that travels down the new channel.
- 40,000m2 of new native wildflower meadow was created with ornamental grasses and meadow planting within the site.
- Glyphosate was used during the creation of the wildflower meadow.
- 150m2 of native wildflower turf was laid on the steepest banking (instead of sown) to help the meadows establish quicker.
- Seeds and turf were supplied by Scotia Seeds (meadows, Scotia Seeds MG5 Meadow Mix) and Wildflower Turf Company (wildflower turfLandscape – 34).
- Development work started in 2016 and completed in 2019.
Cost of the project
The project cost £200,000 and this came mainly from council funds. Whitefield Pond Working Group secured £1,000 from Greggs/CSGN funding to help fund community planting events for the meadow creation. More recently, some Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration funding was used to fund white and yellow water lilies and broadleaved pond weed to increase water quality of the main pond, and to cover the cost of erecting owl, bird and bat boxes on site.
Breakdown of budget spend (approx. figures):
- £60,000 pre contract works and prelims
- £90,000 contracted works
- £40,000 compensation events
- £10,000 planting
Costs exclude entrance wall work and path upgrades.
The total annual cost of maintaining the site is circa £2,000. There is no cost saving on annual maintenance arising from the naturalisation of the site.
Communication and engagement
Before any work began, a public consultation was held in Lennoxtown to let the local community know about the planned works and to allow them input into the design. There was also direct communication with the Community Council and Whitefield Pond Working Group as work progressed.
There was a mixed response to the consultation. The community were very positive about improving the lade and removing the asbestos, but disappointed that part of the work involved removing a footbridge that could not be replaced. This was an issue as it changed access routes within the park. Accessible path improvements were made on either side of the lade.
Concerns were also raised while stabilisation of the watercourse was being carried out, as levels of the pond dropped. The Council undertook stonework to ensure the watercourse levels would not negatively impact the pond. Anglers were concerned about access for fishing due to increased vegetation.
Technical notes were used to communicate with Councillors, and the responses received were positive. Communication with internal and operational staff was through verbal updates and site visits. The Greenspace Officer worked closely with the operational teams on meadow creation and maintenance. This approach is embedded within the operations team, who understand the benefits of this type of greenspace management.
Volunteer activity included primary school pupils getting involved in planting with support from Mugdock Countryside Rangers. Clyde River Foundation were involved in fish rescue during the work to drain the lade. During 2021, Butterfly Conservation Scotland volunteers sowed yellow rattle seed into the new meadow areas and hosted a community session about the butterflies and other species making their home in the native wildflower meadows.
How is it looked after and maintained?
There are annual checks of the lade, with ongoing checks to ensure flash flooding or prolonged periods of dry weather doesn’t affect the clay lining. Greenspace Officers regularly monitor species and unwanted weed growth within the naturalised meadows and waterside areas. The wildflower area is replanted as required, with invasive weeds removed by hand.
The wildflower meadows are cut and lifted at the end of the season when seeds have set in autumn. No specialised equipment was purchased for maintaining the site, instead an external contractor, AMW Arboreal, carries out the work. They have appropriate machinery for the meadow and ground conditions. Using a mini bailer, work is carried out efficiently and arisings removed from site.
The Greenspace team has continued to improve the site by upgrading interpretation features around the pond, including carved seating and sculptures.
Benefits from the project
A more naturalised and attractive open space has been created, transforming a deteriorating asset with higher quality habitat for local biodiversity, along with the strengthening of a wildlife corridor.
Kingfishers can now be spotted on the lade, while swans and ducks swim up the naturalised channel. Nesting waterfowl, breeding amphibian and odonatan (dragonflies and damselflies) habitat has been created through small pools in the emergent/reed bed area.
“The meadow at Whitefield Pond is an amazing place for wildlife like butterflies and bees. They all depend upon the rich diversity of wildflowers there.”
Anthony McCluskey, Butterfly Conservation
The site was already very well used, as it had links to a path network and the cemetery, and use remains high. Levels of anti-social behaviour and graffiti are low and there is strong community pride in the greenspace.
Issues and challenges
The presence of asbestos was a major factor in how the council redeveloped the site. The area also had a large amount of made ground (ground composed primarily or significantly of manmade material) and so a substantial amount of clay and block planting was required to maintain the integrity of the watercourse. The project also uncovered a network of pipes that needed to be checked prior to sealing or capping. Initial excavation, preparation and planting was complex due to the levels of mud on site. There were issues with swans eating the newly planted materials and plug plants!
Learning and advice
More extensive, early stage ground investigations are important when working on post-industrial sites and avoid unexpected issues arising during the delivery. Using wildflower turf enabled quicker establishment of meadows and wildflower areas.
The Council is looking proactively at rewilding projects throughout East Dunbartonshire to provide nature-based solutions to climate change. Focussing on ‘Climate Ready Parks’, this includes utilising parklands for flood mitigation, native planting and meadow creation to improve habitat and strengthen resilience for local populations, whilst encouraging communities to help shape their local space through planting and volunteering.
Joe McCulloch, Streetscene Team Leader, East Dunbartonshire Council.