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Get to know...John MacLennan

A blog post by John MacLennan

With a past career in horticulture including involvement at Suntrap, NTS Gardening Advice Centre and Oatridge Agricultural College's first horticultural lecturer, as well as numerous years as a technical representative in the commercial seed trade working with growers and local authorities advising on crop production, John MacLennan is now retired and has been volunteering as a Beautiful Scotland judge, It's Your Neighbourhood assessor, and a Green Flag Award judge, for almost 10 years.

In this excellent Q&A he provides an insight into why he loves volunteering with #TeamKSB.

What is your motivation for getting involved as a Beautiful Scotland / It’s Your Neighbourhood judge or assessor?

Being retired but wanting to remain active in community gardening, plus the benefit of meeting like minded folk with whom there is an open sharing of ideas.

What experience do you have that makes you a good judge / assessor?

That is a hard one to answer! Perhaps it is far more than just community gardening as, like many, my first input was via a local gardening club while I was still in primary school. When I was 14 I started gardening in the grounds of a residential care home and the support I received from my mentor at the garden introduced me to the concept of reuse (he fitted his kitchen from second hand items acquired at the local dump!). Several of my customers supplied plants to Bloom groups which meant I met up with the Bloom  coordinators. Within Scotland those involved in gardening and horticulture often know each other or have contacts. But each judge or assessor is unique and I hopefully have, or had been, a good 'un.

What is your favourite thing about judging / assessing?

Being able to share ideas but more importantly listen to how the group has engaged in their local communities. And as part of my green prescribing being able to have day trips throughout Scotland which act as my summer holidays.

What is some of the best practice you have seen on visits?

Engaging with primary schools and becoming a safe haven for pupils after school. Taking over a redundant bowling club and using structured funding applications make a community garden with raised beds producing edibles for the wider community. Developing community gardening initiatives which are fully inclusive. Developing trails related to local fauna and flora and listing the information widely on social media. Hearing of numerous after-school and holiday clubs in which there are no barriers to being involved.

What are the common improvements you highlight?

Nothing is ever impossible. Take larger steps as it is easier to make them smaller once you start! There is no ‘them' and 'us’ when engaging with local councils - it is an equal partnership in which sharing and caring must be the goal and, related to that with cash strapped councils, being the catalyst for funding. Council employees need to realise the potential of community participation and be willing to engage, and perhaps even use skills within community groups to develop joint projects.

What are the benefits of Beautiful Scotland / It’s Your Neighborhood for potential applicants?

Networking with other groups with one proven example being a West Dunbartonshire group exchanging ideas with one in West Lothian. Building up positive relationships with the local council parks team, although this can also be museums and galleries, social work, education and cleansing.

Visit It's Your Neighbourhood | Keep Scotland Beautiful to learn more about our community initiative.

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