Rewilding is a phrase which, in an urban context, has the power to stop people in their tracks. After all, isn’t rewilding about a wave of large landscape-scale projects often delivered in remote, scenic, areas of the Highlands?
Were you to ask that question of TCV - the community volunteering charity - they would justifiably reply “There’s more, much more, to rewilding than that.” And, if proof were needed, they would point you to their remarkable Community Rewilding projects in Central Scotland.
It’s with an incredible mixture of skill and boundless energy that their projects connect communities with greenspaces to deliver lasting outcomes for both people and places. They’ve made tremendous strides in improving quality of life in areas around Greenock, Yoker and Clydebank by basically encouraging and helping communities to enjoy their own local spaces.
Community Rewilding is a dazzling urban initiative which invigorates communities, bringing them together by giving people the skills, and opportunities, to rebuild their own neighbourhoods.
“If you don’t mind getting your hands (and knees) dirty, then you’ll find it very rewarding. Also, TCV are incredibly helpful with training and progression up the skill ladder.”
They seamlessly fuse supporting people’s health and wellbeing with delivering a richer biodiversity for everyone to enjoy and benefit from.
As well as using events to bring people together and engagement activities to connect people to their local greenspaces the project delivered weekly opportunities for people to take part in practical volunteering sessions. For example, clearing paths, planting trees and creating wildflower meadows was one route to building a better locality. This might seem quite ordinary on the surface – trees, flowers and paths – but the very act of creating these elements improves and galvanises communities. Community Rewilding gives communities the tools and confidence to improve their own environment.
In Yoker residents created a Community Forest Garden. It’s a remarkable achievement by any standards, transforming a former heavily industrialised area into a green oasis. Where once railway lines, docks and towering tenements jostled each other, it’s intriguing to see an area set aside for a tranquil, edible woodland.
The devil might even be in the detail. Enthusiastic volunteers have planted pear, apple, cherry, and hazelnut trees. A variety of shrubs herbs and flowers are in the mix too. The community will, in time, benefit from a healthy food garden, and maintaining this area will meet the long-term outdoor aspirations that TCV cherishes.
On the surface the woodland might look like an ordinary orchard, but locals are keen to point out that here it’s variety, rather than a high yield single crop, which is key. That’s a deliberate approach with variety of species hopefully giving greater resistance to pests.
Just ‘up the road’ in Faifley there is another exciting project to reflect on. At Faifley Knowes, residents seized the chance to get involved in improving their local patch, the most dramatic example of which was an epic drive to plant 850 native trees.
The group met weekly to tackle other tasks as varied as woodland thinning, wildflower meadow creation, path maintenance and habitat creation, which have transformed people’s lives by giving them renewed confidence, a network of friends and valuable new skills.
There is more good news on the other side of the River Clyde. In the hills that overlook Greenock sits Coves Reservoir, where volunteers have been acquiring practical and social skills whilst improving this popular local nature reserve
The setting up of a Green Gym was an inspired move. There was a pressing issue of how to help people diagnosed by GPs as suffering from depression and anxiety issues. It was known that the outdoors offered a natural health service opportunity; thus the establishment of a Green Gym gave a practical avenue to deliver that help.
“Being part of a team of like-minded people who are making visible changes to an area for others to use is very satisfying. We already have people stopping and thanking us for our efforts when we are working on tasks such as path widening.”
The value of this ‘community’ is immeasurable. One participating summed it up neatly “Being at the project gives me time away from looking after my mother, letting me look after myself. Attending has increased my confidence and self-worth. This has overflown from Coves and into my day-to-day life making ‘normal’ tasks (such as food shopping) more manageable.”
Community groups and volunteers are the lifeblood of many urban greenspaces. Their ability to deliver health and wellbeing gains with improvements for the nature on their doorstep is a fantastic modern success story.
Rebecca Strofton, TCV team leader on this work, sums it up neatly: “We’re very proud of the achievements of the Community Rewilding project. It has demonstrated how engaging people with their local greenspaces can have a huge impact on individuals’ lives and the quality of those greenspaces. People have benefitted by gaining skills and confidence; improving their health & wellbeing and making social connections and the biodiversity and accessibility of a number of greenspaces continues to be improved through the hard work and commitment of the individuals involved”.
So it’s true, there is more to rewilding than mountains and glens. The folks in Yoker, Faifley and Greenock know that for sure.
Watch the TCV video about Community Rewilding