Our incredible Beautiful Scotland and It’s Your Neighbourhood community

A blog post by Juliette Camburn

Juliette Camburn
Community Projects Officer

Posted 03/08/2020

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Monday 3 August would have been the first day of our annual Beautiful Scotland judging fortnight, when our volunteer judges start to tour the country, being shown around with pride by groups working tirelessly to improve their communities through horticulture, environmental responsibility and working in partnership for the benefit of residents, visitors and our natural environment. 

Many of our volunteer It’s Your Neighbourhood assessors would also have been out and about since May, visiting groups the length and breadth of Scotland who have been creating and maintaining community gardens, allotments, looking after parks, adopting streets, looking after habitat for wildlife…the list is endless.

Sadly, due to Covid-19, we’ve had to cancel all visits in 2020.

One of our long-standing volunteers, Terry Stott who is a volunteer Beautiful Scotland judge and It’s Your Neighbourhood assessor, said:

I will miss reading the portfolios from groups telling and showing the interesting activities taking place in their community over the year. It is with regret that I will not spend time meeting people who work tirelessly over the year to improve their community. I will lose out on seeing wonderful projects carried out by groups for the benefit of all. Well, I will just have to keep my own garden tidy and colourful and tend to the flowers in my plot which will have no show benches to look forward to.” [Terry is a flower show multi-award winner!]

Despite not being able to visit, we’ve been keeping our groups and volunteers connected through online get-togethers and showcasing inspiring stories and ideas through a weekly newsletter. Earlier on in the year, many of our groups had to stop or curtail their normal activities, but we have been blown away by what they have been achieving – whether that be setting up a food bank, encouraging and supporting others to grow their own, creating virtual garden tours, connecting their members through online catch ups and keeping their neighbourhoods bright and cheerful. 

We’ve highlighted a few of these inspiring stories below – this is just a snap shot of the incredible and selfless actions of our groups.

Connecting and supporting the community through lockdown

On top of food distribution, picking up prescriptions, distributing energy top ups and hosting the now infamous social isolation bingo bus, the group of nine very committed volunteers who make up Darkwood Crew in Ferguslie Park, Renfrewshire have continued to maintain the village green area, the local St Ninians Church, Darkwood Court (sheltered housing complex), the Tannahill Centre, Engage Renfrewshire as well as many vulnerable residents properties by implementing a community grass cutting schedule thanks to a generous £500 donation. The group has five key focus areas including isolation and loneliness, food insecurity, fuel poverty, poor mental health and most importantly the local environment. This wide ranging yet cumulative approach contributes to a ‘one community’ feeling and has significantly improved health and well-being at a time when many of these issues have been exacerbated. The group’s clear message throughout this to all in Ferguslie has been that community life continues and to eradicate any feelings of abandonment that may have been felt initially.

Darkwood Crew pre lockdown

The thing I miss the most this year with the necessary restrictions in place, is people, especially the groups who carry out such fantastic work. With each and every judging visit, the one thing that always comes across is how people are passionately working together to improve their local area. Sandy Scott, Beautiful Scotland judge

Flourishing Forth members hard at work

Forth is still flourishing despite restrictions

Marie McGurk, Flourishing Forth in South Lanarkshire: “We haven't been able to put our flower baskets and barrels out this year, instead we’ve helped organise a village clean up, following social distancing rules, which involved the whole village coming out, cutting the grass and weeding. We provided them with our flowers and the village is looking lovely; the community spirt has been outstanding and we’ve helped so many people who were struggling with the lockdown by including and motivating them to help us get our village looking great – including our pensioners who were only too willing to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in - a fantastic effort from all.”

I'll miss meeting like-minded volunteers which reinforces that there's so much good going on in the world and the VIP tours around the assessment visits that shows you everyone's hard work and pride. Sarah Turnill, It’s Your Neighbourhood assessor

The Winchburgh Wombles

Not content with the usual litter picking, Winchburgh Community Growing Group in West Lothian has set up the Winchburgh Wombles. The ambition is to have every part of the community covered by the Waste Warrior Wombles, with each Womble managing a womble zone, picking unsightly litter and reporting large or unsafe items via an online form. Each womble also records all their data so the group can build up a picture of the issue. What's more, every womble recruit can earn Womble Rewards from each litter pick to exchange for rewards from local independent businesses. The primary school eco clubs are also set to join in when they return to school in August. Winchburgh Developments Ltd is funding the project so that money can be reinvested in future growing projects within the village - Waste Warrior Wombles get to choose what the money can be spent on such as flowers, bulbs, trees and everything edible in-between. You can read the full story here.

Winchburgh Wombles

I’m going to miss those unexpected pleasures which are around every corner on our judging tours, no matter the weather, no matter the category and how well written the portfolio. I always return home full of enthusiasm and waxing lyrical about the people, the places and the projects that I’ve been privileged to meet and see. I’ve even returned to some places (‘in civvies’ of course!) for another look without the time pressure. Thank you everyone for always making the judging such a special and enjoyable experience. Lorraine Turnbull, Beautiful Scotland judge

Blooming Inverkip’s star garden for key workers
“We had a damaged area in the village so we came up with the idea/theme of a garden which we could dedicate to say a 'thank you ' to our local key workers. We had obtained 1m square collapsible boxes that were going to be discarded last year and thought we could turn them into a star garden after hearing the term 'You're a Star' being used to describe some people going above and beyond during the current pandemic.

“Inspired by our friends at Inverclyde Shed, creating four small planters from recycled pallet wood became a garage project for one of our group, giving them something besides Covid to focus on. These were then painted in our ' Beach Blue' and we are grateful to Westcoast Woodfuels which made a generous donation of woodchip for us to cover the damaged area. We are also very grateful to B&Q Port Glasgow which offered a generous donation of lovely bedding plants which we have used to fill up our existing garden and planters, whilst following social distancing guidelines. The pastel colours were chosen to try to give an atmosphere of tranquillity, calmness and composure that our key workers have been giving to us whilst saving lives, delivering our mail and keeping our local shops open, amongst many other examples. This project has become a remote collaboration which has allowed us to create a small feature as our way of saying 'thank you' and recognising what our key workers are doing for us.”

Keeping the money coming in

Ray from Lauder in Bloom in the Scottish Borders, sent in this novel idea which has had great success in her community: “I ran a wee roadside self-service plant stall with an honesty box from our back gate for 22 days in May [for people passing by on their daily walk]. This was a great success and hugely appreciated by our community who at the time were unable to access garden centres, many of them were gardening for the first time and they wanted to support Lauder in Bloom. I posted daily a list of plants we had on offer that day so that people could look them up to see if they matched their garden’s conditions and we had our free Seed Swap box so that anyone could help themselves to any seeds they could make use of and leave any packets (full or half empty) for others. Daily I was frantically dividing our perennial stock, thinning my own garden and potting up. We made an amazing £2,000 which will cover the cost of our hanging baskets this year and so take the pressure off our sponsors, many of whom are independent local businesses.”

Inspiring youngsters to grow at home

Bonnie Blantyre in South Lanarkshire has done an incredible job at motivating, engaging and encouraging young people in their community to get growing. You can see how infectious ‘growing your own’ has become in Blantyre through this short film here. On top of this, another one of our groups was inspired by hearing about Bonnie Blantyre’s success, so decided to set up a planter challenge for young people in their community – read the full story here.

It’s a two-way street - I shall miss the immersive experience of community betterment - meeting diverse groups that are all aiming to improve their communities, with many openly acknowledging financial and social difficulties yet still striving to tackle issues in ever more resourceful ways. I shall miss the opportunity to pass on a small amount of horticultural knowledge to eager ears too. Adrian Miles, Beautiful Scotland judge

We’d like to take this opportunity to say a massive THANK YOU to each and every one of you for everything you have been doing – you’re all incredible!

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