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Camilo's story: 'Connecting to nature and people through a sense of wonder'

I came into the project with a bit of grief actually, because I had come from another project I worked on for the entirety of the pandemic, where I had really grown close to a group of volunteers and to the space we were working on, and that project ran out of funding. And so coming into this project, which is on the last stage of its project life, and coming into a group and being in another town from where I’m based, all of that was a bit daunting at first. So it’s been nice to have it be a really positive experience connecting to everyone. 

I’ve been really lucky in that the connections that have been formed between people and between people and the place over the duration of the project has really positively influenced my experience. I’ve been able to step in, bringing myself and what I like to share, and learn from others. The participants and the volunteers have been amazingly welcoming. It’s made me feel very comfortable. It’s been a nice way to start something that otherwise could have some friction, stepping into a new project, trying to manage people who’ve known each other for a long time. But it's been really smooth.

We’ve had a lot of amazing moments. There was this one time, on a Wild Ways Well walk, we were walking along a burn, a stream, and there were trout jumping up a waterfall. It was so surprising and unexpected, and just seeing all the volunteers, everybody stopped, just watching the fish for maybe 15-20 minutes, it was just a really beautiful moment to share. Having the experience of seeing people really connected to their space and the land around them, and each other, yeah, it’s been really nice. 

I do a lot of plant identification and foraging, especially in the autumn.   So it’s been nice doing the Wild Ways Well walks during this time of year, because it’s a time when I feel like I have a lot of connection and excitement being out on the land every day, and I’ve been able to share that with others. Every day we go out there’s something new to see. You see something strange, mysterious and beautiful that you’re not expecting out on a walk, and then that bit of wonder opens the door for you to learn about all these other connections in the ecosystem. It just opens a lot of room for really great storytelling and that sense of wonder that we get. I think it creates a really nice environment. I’m a big fan of mindfulness and getting people to take notice of what’s in the world around them. I’ve only been with the project for a short time, but I feel like I’ve had an effect, like I’ve been able to share that with people. 

I’ve learnt loads. For me, being in a new area, it’s been really great, especially when we take tea breaks and we’re just sitting with the volunteers, hearing their stories. A lot of the people, they’ve lived in this town their whole lives. Some of them have known each other for their whole lives, and they have all these connections amongst them. Being someone who has never really stayed in one place for very long in my life, I benefit a lot from just seeing those sorts of connections and hearing people’s stories. I can feel very connected to the natural landscape very quickly - I try to really dive in and try to feel a connection with the space, but it’s really nice to see that come alive in the human side, seeing the stories of that space and hearing about how people used to play there as kids. And then for me to see how the land has changed, based on what they’re talking about. Just loads of little things about the history of this place, the history of conservation around Cumbernauld and how that’s affected people and what sort of hopes they have for that. It has kind of a back-and-forth chequered past of people trying to make a place that’s good for people and having very different strategies of what that entails and looks like. Cumbernauld Living Landscape is one chapter of that, one piece of this long story of people doing things with this land and trying to make it better for themselves and for others. 

The focus of the project now is really on sustaining connection, and empowering that group to continue in some way, thinking about how do we instil habits, how do we make that something that’s going to last for them, and if it doesn’t last in this form how can it last in some form. It’s a very different challenge from starting with a new project. It’s a little bit of pressure in that you feel like you’re holding something really precious, there’s something that people really benefit from and really care for and you feel somewhat responsible to help that continue. We owe it to these groups to try to make sure that things don’t end when the funding runs out.

Having a sense of wonder, or awe, that becomes curiosity, I think it’s really important. I think sometimes it’s more important than what we happen to plant or cut back. More than the work that we do, I think that that really informs our relationship to the world around us, and that really affects our mood and how we think about the meaning of our days. I’ve been lucky to have moments of wonder and connection while working, but feeling like I’ve helped others have those moments, that’s the highlight for me, because it feels like very meaningful work, it feels very important to do.



This is part of the project 'Stories of nature connections' (



Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.