Be inspired by our 2022 award winning communities – part 1

Every year our Beautiful Scotland and It’s Your Neighbourhood groups have the opportunity to be recognised by a range of discretionary awards.

We thought it was about time that we shone the spotlight on some of our 2022 winners and hope that their stories will inspire others.

In part 1, we focus on exemplar groups for horticulture, community involvement including working with young people, sustainability, biodiversity and climate change.

Horticultural excellence

Best for Community Horticulture - Bonnie Blantyre & pals (South Lanarkshire)

Any visitor to Blantyre will receive a ‘wow factor’ no matter what time of year they visit. Through working with the area’s most innovative grower, numerous large planters are brimming with colour, and these are looked after by nearby homeowners. Mining heritage is celebrated through floral coal bogies, spring bulbs are increasing, and a network of groups of all ages lead on various horticultural projects across the community, including wildflower meadows, a community orchard, community gardens growing a vast array of edibles, some worthy of a ’Show Bench’, and most of which are distributed to those in need. The group also involves Community Payback, not only for tasks, but is teaching them transferrable gardening skills.

Best Local Authority Horticulture – joint winners Aberdeen City Council and East Lothian Council!

Aberdeen City Council is passionate about horticulture and has a very proud history and tradition of horticultural excellence dating back over 50 years. It has a wide range of beautiful parks, gardens, and green spaces. The staff, Friends groups and volunteers involved, live and breathe their green spaces, and take real pride in maintaining, showing off and celebrating the wonderful spaces! The team continue to deliver traditional high-quality horticulture and floral displays with a mix of seasonal bedding and permanent perennial planting. In recent years, the team has moved towards managing more parks and green spaces as spaces for nature, planting more pollinator friendly varieties to add to the biodiversity value of the sites. The team has reduced grass cutting to allow grasses and wildflowers to thrive and demonstrate the beauty of these plants. This adds to the variety of planting included in the space but also adds a new learning to the team’s horticulture.

East Lothian Council continues to offer tremendous support to all the community groups operating across East Lothian, giving advice on planting, supplying plants and offering day to day support. They continue to carry out grounds’ maintenance to an exceptional standard, which is evident in whichever town you visit. They are also one of the last local authorities to have their own plant production facilities, which are clearly used to their full potential, again this is evident across the open spaces. The council also uses sustainable planting to great effect. Well thought out design and plant choice mean there is minimal maintenance required and a reduction in the requirement to use chemicals. Trainees are given the opportunity to help design these sustainable plantings as well as being given a worthwhile training experience, again one of the last remaining local authorities to give this opportunity.

Best for Parks & Green Spaces – joint winners Ury Riverside Park SCIO (Aberdeenshire) and Dollar Horticultural and Garden club with Dollar in Bloom (Clackmannanshire)

Following extensive community consultation, Ury Riverside Park SCIO has been working since 2016 to develop a sixty-one hectare park on a flood plain, from a former barley field into a biodiverse, accessible park. The council owns the land, but the community is leading on the development of the park, and it is this partnership working that is essential for the success of the project.

Areas are being managed with wildflower meadows, wetlands, newly planted native woodlands, and informal recreational areas, and the park provides somewhere to be close to nature while walking, running, cycling or just some quiet wildlife watching. An official Park Run has been set up, attracting up to 150 people each week from near and far, and bioblitz events have taken place, with members of the public learning how to identify species and record them. These records now form part of the baseline surveys for the park, which will help to monitor its development.

Dollar Horticultural and Garden club with Dollar in Bloom has been working on a recent and ongoing renovation of a memorial garden in the centre of Dollar. Clearance work has been undertaken, and new planting has been designed for maximum impact and changing colour through the seasons, without intensive pruning or staking requirements. Trees, shrubs and easy-care perennials which attract birds and insects have been incorporated into the scheme, and spring bulbs have been added to extend the season of interest.

Trees and shrubs were sourced from a local nursery which specialises in Scottish grown stock. Roses were purchased from rose specialist David Austen and were selected for their suitability for the damp Scottish climate. A deep layer of composted bark mulch will be laid in the newly planted borders to minimise weeding and help retain water within the soil.

Like Ury Riverside Park, this project has progressed through excellent partnership working with the local council, other local groups, community payback and TCV volunteers, as well as many willing local volunteers.

The garden renovation project has already encouraged more locals and visitors to walk through the gardens, and to sit and reflect and remember loved ones, and the project has brought in new volunteers of all ages

Community involvement and engagement

Best for Community InvolvementInspiring Innellan (Argyll & Bute)

Inspiring Innellan epitomises ‘Community’. Their Beautiful Scotland judges commented that they had never seen so many, and such a large cross section of the community when they visited. All age groups are involved at all times of the year through the wide range of activities offered, and those doing the heavy work are extremely well looked after by others organising refreshments. One particular project exemplified this, in having ‘something for everyone’, from discussion with the children the judges met and how they enjoyed contributing and what they got from it, to the obvious use a wildlife hide was getting from all age groups. The judges commented that they had never been to a group and come away with such an overwhelming sense of community.

Best for Involving Young People and Children – joint winners EAGerBunch – Ellon Academy Gardeners (Aberdeenshire) and FARE Lochend Community Allotment (Glasgow)                                                                                                            

EAGerBunch – Ellon Academy Gardeners encompasses all ages of pupil in their growing activities and in the development of a Memorial Garden. Additional support for learning pupils are regularly involved in all garden projects, mainstream art classes use the garden, and a lunchtime club gives mainstream pupils the chance to get involved. The school runs The Caley’s Grow and Learn courses, as well as offering SQA courses on Agriculture and Horticulture, Practical Craft skills, and an Introduction to Gardening Skills.

A wealth of activities is carried out to deepen everyone’s understanding of environmental issues. These include maintaining many forms of compost heaps, from traditional cold compost, to a leaf mould pile, comfrey tube and nettle soup; using water butts and tanks to collect rainwater; making rain gauges to monitor rainfall; planting pollinator friendly flowers; going mushroom spotting in autumn to learn about fungi and mycelium and their connection with plants and trees; and collecting their own seeds to re-sow or feed to the birds.

The garden is wheelchair accessible, and specialist light-weight, long-reach tools were donated by a garden charity. Surplus food is donated to a local food bank to help feed local families, and green tomato chutney was made to add to their Christmas hampers. Produce boxes are sold to staff to keep the garden project sustainable in terms of replacing tools and buying seeds. This helps “spread the word” about the garden project.

Award ceremonies are held in their polytunnel classroom and families are invited to see pupils presented with their certificates, and a blog is maintained to keep the community updated.

FARE Lochend Community Allotment has partnered with five nursery schools, two primary schools, a secondary school, a Childminders, and three afterschool clubs – wow! A minimum of 95 children attend the group’s allotment weekly, and up to 600 people attend per month. The group works with children from different ethnicities, where everyone works as a team, and are tying lots of their projects into the school curriculum, teaching children about recycling, upcycling, biodiversity and nature.

Each school and group have their own plot of vegetables, and many different areas have been created to give fun, exploration, and excitement. The group started the allotment with a blank canvas, and the children have very much taken ownership, helping to design and plant. They have created a wondrous woodland area, a frog and bog pond, a Japanese garden, a music wall, a secret garden full of evergreens, and a wildflower garden.

The Growing Communities Award joint winners – Darkwood Crew – Helping Ferguslie Flourish (Renfrewshire) and Broxburn & Uphall Growers Society (BUGS) (West Lothian)

Darkwood Crew – Helping Ferguslie Flourish is an entirely volunteer led organisation which has a single defining aim of helping the area flourish, with a positively environmental ethos. The group aims to make the otherwise abstract concept of climate change relevant to local need, with a broader aim of meeting those needs in a dignified and sustainable way.

The village green area of the community had fast become an area identified as an anti-social behaviour hotspot, so the group got together and decided to challenge it, appreciating it was a fantastic green space that could be used to help tackle historical challenges including isolation and loneliness, poor mental health and long-term unemployment. The group could not possibly have understood how important the space would later become when the Covid Pandemic happened. All local engagement was transferred outdoors and a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle initiative for the area was born. The community continues to benefit, in that other persistent challenges including food insecurity and fuel poverty are now tackled comprehensively as part of an environmental crusade.

The group have recently established a base, by way of a welfare container sited adjacent to the village green, allowing a real visible presence within the community. This is a milestone achievement and will allow for the further development of a community growing area in partnership with the local council. This initiative will provide a perfect platform for intergenerational learning opportunities, with a local sheltered housing complex and three schools bordering the village green. 

BUGS - in early 2019, the Development Group and the Community Council joined together to promote the idea of increasing the attractiveness of the two towns by creating new planting schemes. After community consultation at a gala day and street stalls, they successfully applied to the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Improvement Fund. The aims of the project included creating over 20 planters around the towns, with vegetables for free distribution, and street planters to beautify the locality; contributing to an existing charity dealing with adults with chronic mental health problems to help them complete their own “Mind Garden”; growing fruit trees and fruit bushes in designated areas in public parks; and creating a Central Hub for horticultural education and community engagement, for meeting, enjoying and gaining confidence in cultivation.

By the late summer of 2020, they had donated more than 100 kilos of potatoes grown in their planters, along with lettuce, onions, spinach, chard and cabbages, and, although the Covid Pandemic slowed progress, the group has gone from strength to strength, helped by staff and students at SRUC Oatridge. The group has been providing a venue and are benefiting from the work of the council’s Community Payback teams who have provided the group with valuable physical help in setting the layout, digging out and laying wheelchair accessible paths across the new community garden.

The group has also welcomed the help given by parties of school children and, with a number of group members, of a more elderly age-group, they are able to clearly demonstrate cross generational involvement.

Young People Award (Beautiful Scotland) – Kinnesswood in Bloom (Perth & Kinross). The Young People Award was introduced in 2018 to celebrate the Year of Young People, and is supported by Young Scot. It is awarded to the entrant that demonstrates the most effective involvement by young people, aged up to 26, within their Beautiful Scotland activities.

One of the lasting memories of any visit to Kinnesswood in Bloom is how they connect with their local primary school. This relationship is not contrived; it matches the current primary school curriculum, and, how gardening with this cohort is delivered by members of the group, is a benchmark for all primary schools to follow. The atmosphere is relaxed and, even though at the time of the judging visit it was the school holidays, the Head Teacher and fifteen or more pupils were there to talk about what they grow, sowing dates, when they harvest them and which ones are their favourites to eat.

Sustainability, biodiversity and climate change

Best for Community Sustainability – Flourishing Forth (South Lanarkshire). Flourishing Forth’s community hub – the Eco Site - was created to supply a need in the community. It has impressive new compost bays, enabling them to recycle green waste produced and to provide compost for plot holders to use rather than buying it in. The site is completely off grid, using solar panels to be able to grow in the polytunnels year-round, has huge water capture tanks and, amongst many things, has a dedicated growing area to supply the local food bank.

Best for Local Authority Sustainability – Dundee City Council runs the Take Pride in Your City campaign to improve the urban environment, working with many local groups through, for example, a huge range of litter picks, and this is being taken forward through a revised action plan. They promote and take part in many KSB campaigns, including Upstream Battle on the Tay, to tackle litter at source. There was a city-wide celebration of COP 26, with a 6-week programme of 41 events, and the city has an ambitious climate action plan including investing in sustainable transport, for example, with 175 electric council vehicles. The university has long-standing environmental policies, for example, on encouraging travel by bikes. In terms of horticulture, some large areas have been sown with both annual and perennials to provide colour for people as well as a food source for insects, and the core volunteer group has continued its climate and pollinator themes into 2022, linking them into the Year of Stories with colours representing creativity as well as some silver for the Platinum Jubilee.

Best for Biodiversity: winner of the Garden for Life Biodiversity Award Blairgowrie & Rattray in Bloom (Perth & Kinross): the collective 21st century vision the group has adopted, of sustainability and biodiversity in regard to town beautification, is to be praised, and the cohesive working relationship with environmental groups who can advise and guide them with this vision is to be commended. In recognition of the group’s action plan to help restore nature in the local area, Blairgowrie has now been designated as the First Biodiversity Town in Scotland.

Winner of the NatureScot It’s Your Neighbourhood Pollinator Friendly AwardYorkhill Green Spaces (Glasgow): during 2022, Yorkhill Green Spaces (YGS) helped reverse pollinator declines by promoting pesticide-free, peat-free gardening and sustainable green space management; planting pollinator-friendly perennials including new fruit trees and a sensory garden herb chessboard; planting native flowering hedging and trees; planting pollinator-friendly spring bulbs; over 100 volunteers and 90 pupils from Glasgow’s Gaelic School helped plant over 2,800 native wildflower plug plants, with plants provided through Glasgow City Council’s Area Partnership fund; two existing wildflower strips were cut & lifted in autumn, and two new areas of amenity grass were converted to meadow management and sown with yellow rattle; ran sustainable meadow management and scything workshop; collected wildflower seed (yellow rattle) to sow in new areas; native wildflower seed bombs made at events and wildflower seed provided as prizes to support pollinators; bog garden habitat and dead wood piles made; monitoring and awareness raising of pollinators - took part in City Nature Challenge, Big Butterfly Count; promoted pollinators using social media and public events; and biological recording - Yorkhill Biodiversity List: 1,179 species (November 2022), Pollinators include: 12 butterflies, 211 moths, 29 bees, 122 flies (52 hoverflies) and 22 wasps. Yorkhill pollinator highlights of 2022: 4 new hoverflies and nine new species of moths.

Best for Gardening in a Changing Climate - Bonnie Dundee and Bonnie Dundee IYN aim to reduce their carbon footprint where they can, and are passing their knowledge onto the public via notices and events they attend, for example leaving a few Dandelions for early pollinators and nettles for butterfly larvae to help pollinators, and use of home-made pesticides. They are changing from buying over 1,500 plug plants to growing their own from seed. They also choose a variety of colour and shape of flowers so that they can accommodate pollinator and insect preferences, for example, open flowers, tubular shape, and a wide diversity of species for shelter, hibernation, nesting, and egg laying sites. They are changing from mostly annuals to pollinator friendly perennials and shrubs, being careful to choose wisely. Because they are a city centre group, they have to be aware of the Urban Heat Island effect, and use plants that are tolerant of drought and stronger winds. They are working to make the soil more moisture retentive by using compost made from the council’s green waste, their own compost, fallen leaves and covering the soil with plants, ground cover, and, in some areas, shredded bark. They have also reduced their digging by moving to more sustainable planting. The group re-uses pots, saves seeds, takes cuttings from their perennials and takes part in plant swaps.  They do not use sprays but have used a homemade garlic spray in the evening on young plants, and, once established, they leave or hand crush blackfly to encourage ladybirds.

To explain and highlight their activities, the group led a ‘Climate Gardening Walk’ to talk through everything, and they hope with that, and their contact with the public, community groups, zoom meetings, they can show that they take environmental stewardship seriously to improve Dundee today without harming tomorrow. 

28 December 2022

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