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Grow Wild update

Grow Wild update

Last month I wrote a post on the Grow Wild Scottish Vote, the vote has now taken place and almost 20,000 people took part (some of them through this blog). The winning project is the Barrhead’s Water Works project, they will have been awarded £100,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to help their development for the benefit of their local area.

The Waterworks in Barrhead aims to transform an abandoned sewage works into an industrial wildlife area for the community to enjoy, using derelict sewage tanks as giant experimental planters where beautiful displays of Scottish wild flower habitats can be carefully created. The site is located near Dunterlie in Barrhead, which is one of Scotland’s most deprived communities, the project is led by East Renfrewshire Council, in conjunction with Barrhead High School and Still Game community group for older residents.

Runners up for Grow Wild in Scotland were the Frog Pond Rises project in Livingston, West Lothian which will see a much-loved pond and park area undergo a transformation through wetland creation and the design of a wild flower structure. And Belville Community Garden in Greenock which planned to deliver a community garden on the site of former high rise flats in Greenock to encourage community participation in healthy activities. These projects will receive £4000 each to help their progress.

Grow Wild aims to engage young people by providing opportunities to take direct action and transform local green space, giving them the chance to showcase their drive and creativity for the benefit of the local community. The Scottish project was the first to go ahead in the UK, with sites in England, Wales and Ireland will follow in 2015 and 2016. Over the next three years, 250,000 seed-sowing kits will be sent out by Grow Wild partners with the aim of reaching young people, aged 12 -25, creating a new audiences who wouldn’t usually engage with environmental or community projects.

If you have found this inspiring and think there is an opportunity to do something for your community, you can apply for funding for a Grow Wild community project in Scotland here.

Grow Wild

Grow Wild

These days I often get e-mails from PR people either offering to write something for my blog about a product they are wanting to push, or wanting me to write something about a product they are wanting to push. Generally these message are of no interest to me and show that the person sending them hasn’t taken the time to read anything I have written or find out what my blog is about. These e-mails are simply deleted. However, yesterday I received an e-mail from Emmy who had taken the time to read some of posts I have written, understood some of my interests, and sent me a pitch on behalf of her client Grow Wild, a campaign from Kew Gardens, in which she to invited me to take part in the Grow Wild Scottish Vote.

Grow Wild, is a campaign bringing people together to do something positive for the place they live by sowing native wild flowers. Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, it offers four local communities across the UK (one in each of the home nations), the opportunity to create and inspirational space by encouraging wild plants. There is more to this that just sowing a few packets of wild flower seed, it is based on enthusiastic community members who’d actively rallied local people to decide what their community should do with the Grow Wild funding. Youth groups, community associations and residents groups, artists, high school design students, and landscape architects have all worked to pull together to create some really inspirational plans.

Hopefully it won’t just be the horticulturists from Kew who will be supporting the winning communities, but they get the scientists involved too and teach the communities about the ecology of their local environments. I won’t tell you which community group I voted for, but encourage you to make your own decision, and please do vote. Voting runs from 14th October until midnight on 3rd November. The winning Scottish Grow Wild site will be announced in mid-November and will open in May next year.

The three short listed Scottish sites are:

If you would like to vote, you can do so using the widget below –

If this widget isn’t working then follow the link here.

Hopefully there will be another round and maybe an Edinburgh based community group will be in the running for a £100,000 Grow Wild transformation.

Shutting the stable door, thoughts on ash dieback and other pathogens

Shutting the stable door, thoughts on ash dieback and other pathogens

The UK Government has recently announced a ban of the import ash saplings (Fraxinus excelsior) due to the spread of the Chalara fraxinea fungus, AKA ash dieback. This has been a disaster waiting to happen and one that could be avoided. Although the ban has just been announced there widespread reports infection across the UK (including Scotland), this is not an isolated windborne infection, which the Sectary of Sate for the Environment Owen Paterson MP, is currently claiming that it is.

The government’s own scientific advisors have repeatedly given warnings that there are an increasing number plant pathogens entering the country, such as C. fraxinea, Phytophthora ramorum, P. lateralis, P. cinnamomi and P. kernoviae. They have also been telling the Government that there is a need to increase biosecurity in the horticultural trade (plant nurseries and garden centres). However, the Government has refused to take notice of these warnings, saying that putting regulations in place which required the horticultural trade to improve biosecurity would be an increase “red tape” and this would be “bad for the economy”. Really? The scientist who investigated the Phytophthora Spp. outbreak which caused over £2m of damage to Balloch Country Park, were told they are not allowed to name the Garden Centre (which borders the park) which is the most likely source of the infection. On the grounds of commercial confidentiality. No action been taken against the Garden Centre, nor can any claim for compensation be made due to the gagging order on the plant pathologist who investigated the outbreak. How exactly has this helped the economy?

Nor is the UK Government particularly keen coming clean on the cost of felling and destroying all the Larch (mostly Larix kaempferi) in the South West of England, to control an out break of P. ramorum. Should P. ramorum spread into Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), which is a possibility, this would devastate the British forestry industry, worth over £7.2 billion a year.

This is not all, the UK Government has a track record of opposing any form of environment protection at the European level as well. So it is rather rich for them to suggest that the current problem is the fault of EU for allowing international trade, without appropriate controls and biosecurity measure. The problem of imported plant pathogens is not new, Dutch Elm Disease was c. 1967 from North America. In spite of its name Dutch Elm Disease does not come from the Netherlands, it gets it name because the fungus that causes it and the way it spread by beetles were first discovered by two Dutch scientists (Bea Schwarz and Christine Buisman) in 1921. It is thought to originate from Asia, possible in the Himalayas, but no one really knows.

What we do know is that the movement of plants and living plant material is increasingly being moved around the globe. At the same time the number of plant pathologist being trained and employed in Britain is in sharp decline. At a time when we are seeing an increasing threat to our forests, it is galling to find that the UK government is cutting almost 30% of jobs at Forest Research. This is merely symptomatic of this Governments attitude to science, particularly environmental science which it sees as an inconvenience. Well Minster the truth can be very inconvenient and the cost of dealing with environmental damage is massively greater than protecting the environmental.

For the record, the author of this post is a plant ecologist who has, in the past, worked on forest biodiversity.

What’s the story with Nitrogen?

What’s the story with Nitrogen?

There is much talk these days about the threat to our world from climatic change driven by the release of fossil carbon in the form of CO2. However, this is not the only pollutant gas released by the burning of fossil fuels (and from other sources), and one that is far less talked about is nitrogen. This week there is an international conference in Edinburgh reporting the results of a five year project (NitroEurope) funded by the European Science Foundation programme “Nitrogen in Europe”. 200 scientists/experts in the field produced “The European Nitrogen Assessment”, which explains the state of the threats to water, air and soil quality and the impacts on biodiversity and climate change in Europe, and highlights the possible solutions. I thought I would flag up this video which explains why should we care.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
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