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Jane's story: 'A walk with sweet cicely, jumping trout and beefsteak mushrooms that is all smiles and no grumping!'

I first discovered the walks when they had a stall up the town centre in an Eco shop. I started going on the walks about 3 or 4 years ago. I think it was Paul told me about it. He said it’s open to anybody, but they deal with people that have got mental issues, stress and everything, which is understandable. I thought what’s this going to be like, I just didn’t have a clue. We’ve all got mental issues right, but I feel as though I didn’t have many that would cause me anguish.  I just went along, and I enjoyed it and I just kept going.  I’m still here after 4 years and I’m still going. It’s got better as it’s gone on.  It was totally different when I started for some reason. There were less people but a lot more needy people I think, which I’m not saying is wrong.  I’m not saying it’s right.  There were people coming along who had carers. You still get a couple, but you don’t get as many, maybe because of COVID.    

I really missed it when it wasn’t on during COVID.  It was good they managed to keep it going after it eased off a wee bit and you didn’t need to wear your mask. You had to keep apart and you had to wash your hands and all that stuff, use sanitiser. 

I just think every week is great because every week is different. Sometimes we go into the woods and have a wee fire, safety fires right.  You’re connecting with wildlife, you’re learning about trees, you’re learning about all the different grasses and plants and animals as well. It just depends on who’s with you. Some people know more than others, but I really enjoy my time. Paul used to go out and tell you all the wee stories, fairy stories, legends, and history but because Camilo is not from this area he doesn’t know as much as that, but he does know a lot about other things. It is just fantastic because it’s something that you don’t get in any other walks. I find that sometimes I get up in the morning and I think oh jeez I really can’t be bothered. I force myself to go out and I really enjoy it. It’s really worthwhile. The longer I’ve been coming the less I’m likely to say no, I don’t want to go, even when it’s pouring rain because it is just so educational. I know it does everybody the world of good because you look at the people, they’re all smiley faces, you don’t get people walking along grumping. I’ve met a lot of really nice people. They’re all kind of interested in much the same things, like-minded people. I think you’re naturally going to get on with most of them. One thing that was significant was the winter and summer solstice that they did. A couple of folks came along. They had brought wee tin foils with peaches in it, and they heated it up on the fire and they had wee banjos and sang, it was really good.

I do a lot of wildlife myself anyway but it’s good with the group because you’ve got people that are all likeminded and you’ve got your leader.  I always did like fungi, but I found that I couldn’t do very much on my own but now I’m learning more about them. It’s difficult when you’re on your own because, as Camilo says, people tell you don’t touch them because they’re poisonous, so you’re frightened to actually lift them and look at them. I notice more mushrooms and I go into woods foraging, not to eat just to take them home and try…I’ve got a whole load to identify, my phone is filled with them to identify. I’ve really learnt an awful lot. I’ve probably forgot a lot as well [laughter] but I’ve learnt a lot about different things going out with Camilo into the woods. He takes you right into the woods, into places maybe other people didn’t because of safety concerns maybe. It’s fantastic. It has made me more aware of the greenspaces in Cumbernauld. I like to learn about wildflowers and reintroduce them to my area. Like Yellow Rattle, you put that down and I think it stops the grass from growing and that’s what they use in Wildlife Reserves at the edge of the paths, and it stops the grass from getting high and it stops it encroaching on the path.  There are 3 different types of that kind of flower, so I’ve learnt how to identify it, I think.  [Laughter] The last one I learnt was sweet cicely.

We were on a walk 2 weeks ago and we’d been looking at sweet cicely and he was telling us about the season, how to identify it, what it tastes like. He said you can smell it, it’s not dangerous. I loved it because it smells of liquorice, aniseedy. I had tasted it and I was walking along eating it and they were all laughing right, and then we got to the wee bit where we were going to have a tea and I said to him, och I’ll no’ bother and he said oh there’s bound to be sweet cicely about here, why don’t you make a cup of that?  He went away and he picked me a big bunch and we put it in a cup, and it was lovely, it was really nice. On the way back I was picking a lot of it, and I dried it. I do dried herbs and all that in my house. I dried it on a tray, and I’ve got it in a jar now. These wee things are special to me.  

We saw trout jumping, like the salmon leaping down at the Luggie. It was amazing and I just never thought I’d see that.  It was one of the people in the group that spotted it, so it was nice. And I found beef steak mushrooms. We were coming back, and I shouted Camilo look what’s that, and it was a beef steak, and he went hey you’ve found one, great! It took him years, I think.  [Laughter] So I was just so chuffed, that was another special moment. It might seem insignificant to other people but the trout and the beef steak, what more could you ask for in a day! And that was the sweet cicely as well that day. It was a good day.  



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

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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.