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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.

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.

Deer in Scotland, part 2

Deer in Scotland, part 2

Some years ago I wrote a post on the need to reduce the population of deer in Scotland, recently concern about Scottish deer population has come back into the news. Due to the amount of snow we have this winter, a larger than usual number of deer are starving. As anyone who walks in the Scottish hills will know, it normal to find a few dead deer which haven’t survived the winter each year.

So what is the scale of the problem? Well, figures vary, but there are estimated to be between 500,000 – 750,000 red deer (Cervus elaphus) alone in Scotland, in addition there are also more than 400,000 roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and about 40,000 sika deer (Cervus nippon). To put that in perspective there are about 500,000 in North America. Note the difference, Scotland is a small country whereas North America is a medium size continent, but the numbers of just red deer in Scotland and all deer species in North America are about the same (remember these numbers are just estimates).

There have been suggestions from some quarters that additional feed be put out for deer to help them get through the winter, but the simple fact is the number of deer in Scotland is way greater that carrying capacity of the land area available to them. For the good of the deer population as a whole there needs to be a longer cull this year, and we can all do our bit by eating more (or at least some) venison.

Deer in Scotland

Deer in Scotland

I read recently in the papers that the incoming chair of SNH has suggested that more Scottish people should be involved in the culling of deer in Scotland. As an ecologist I feel this is a great idea and one to be supported.

It has long been known that there are too many deer in the Scottish highlands and that this has a negative effect on the regeneration of native forest and biodiversity. There is a clear need to manage deer populations in Scotland, the current approach of the Sporting Estates selling the shooting to the rich alone, simply isn’t effective. There has been a long term under cull and this need to be addressed.

I am not suggesting a free for all. It is important that all those involved in the cull should be up to the task i.e. they should be able to shoot straight and understand proper safety procedures. (Not that this is a problem at present). When I was younger I spent several summers working in Norway, there all hunting is under community control. Anyone wanting to hunt must go through a test to ensure their competence before they can get a licence. Each hunter is then allotted a quota of animals to be shot, in this way a balance can be maintained.

Here in Scotland the Estates have under culled the hinds and have only concentrated on the stags, so allowing the population to spiral out of control. Maybe we need to find a way of setting quotas for the Sporting Estates, whereby only those estates which have achieved their quota of hinds culled will be allowed to carry out a stag cull. Where an Estate is struggling to meet its responsibility in the hinds cull then it would have the option of asking the DCS to carry out the cull on its behalf, and pay them to do so, or allow qualified hunters from the local community to carry out the cull (under supervision), paying only a nominal charge. Hunters stalking stags can currently expect to pay £250 or more per day for the privilege of doing so, lucky them. There is nothing wrong in this Sporting Estates play an important role in the economy of rural Scotland.

We have a moral duty to protect and maintain the biodiversity of our country, part of this involves controlling deer numbers. In Scotland Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) should have at least four natural predators, wolves (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and humans (Homo sapiens). Well the wolf and the lynx are no longer with us, both hunted to extinction by man. Now much as I would like to see they both return, there are major problems involved in such reintroductions and they are not likely to happen any time soon. Golden eagle can only take small calves and will never have a significant impact on deer populations. That leaves humans.

Like it or not humans are natural predators of deer, when the glaciers retreated from Scotland at the end of the last ice age, the ungulates moved in closely followed by humans. One of the oldest archaeological finds in the Scottish highlands is a stone arrow head found in the Lairig Ghru. So as the last significant predator of Red Deer, humans have a moral responsibility to play their part in controlling population densities of deer. One that is not currently being taken sufficiently seriously.

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