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Margaret's story: 'Freeing the trees'

I was aware of Cumbernauld Living Landscapes but it wasn’t until a year ago that I finally managed to get involved in it, and I was really glad that I managed to do that. It’s a very welcoming group, you feel part of it right away. It’s something I did in the past - when I was 20, I was a member of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, so I went drystone walling and different projects with them. I then go to work, you have a family, and it all gets kind of lost.  So when I saw this, I thought yeah, I would really like to do that again. I’ve learned about places I didn’t know in Cumbernauld to go and visit and walk around which I’ve discovered from being taken to do various projects there, whether it’s the invasive species, picking up the litter, or planting the wildflowers.  

You get to know some more people in Cumbernauld.  Although I’ve lived here for 30 years, I didn’t work here so didn’t necessarily know people who live in this area, so that’s nice as well.  It helps me because when I retired I could easily have taken on more work, but I’ve got a lot of commitments in terms of dealing with elderly parents and family members that need help with health appointments and different things.  So you don’t want to be committed to anything.  Something like this that you can come or not come is helpful, it gets you a balance in what you’re doing with your time and it’s constructive, I believe. It’s a concern I’ve always had, we’re actually doing so much damage as a species, to all the other species.  So the little bit that you can do gives you a bit of hope, I guess.

You get good training, there’s plenty of training courses to go on.  I was on a wildflower identification course which I really enjoyed, and there are various other courses that you can attend. All of this group went on a 2-day First Aid course, so that was quite good.  It was also quite a good way of getting to know the people that you volunteer with.   You were stretchering them about and different things, so that was a good time and very useful. I’ve got a 3-year First Aid certificate now.  And strangely, since I got that certificate twice recently people have collapsed in front of me. It was all good in the end, but still it was quite useful that I had done this course. 

You learn about the flowers, and we always notice the wildlife round about us.  It was surprising to find all the little teddy bear caterpillars that were here last week. A buzzard was here the last couple of times flying around. And when we were here in the spring the little baby coots were out and you could see the swans in their nest.  It makes you aware I think, and you learn more.  I enjoy being outside, I like being out in nature, especially when the seasons are changing, that’s always nice to see.  It helps your own health I think, in terms of exercise, because it’s moving about. I enjoy it every week. I look forward to coming out. 

One of the things I like to do is where the tree guards have been put on to help the young trees to grow, these are just nasty things, so nasty and they grip into the bark of the tree. And so we’ve spent a few weeks this year in this really beautiful forest pulling all this plastic off of the trees and gathering it all up, taking it away - freeing the trees, if you like, which has been quite a nice thing, to feel you’ve achieved because it’s so horrible, it really is, and you see them everywhere.  So that’s a really constructive thing and you feel you’re helping. 

At the moment the way it’s run I enjoy it; it works for me as a volunteer to come along and take part and do everything we can to help the area improve.  And we get comments from people as they walk by, ‘oh we saw you here last year’, or ‘what’s that you’re doing?’ They’re always pleased, especially with gathering all the litter around about.  That usually raises a bit of a cheer, people are pleased to see that so…I think people appreciate it.  We’ve certainly got that feedback from the public that they like to see it.  

I would be really disappointed to see it stop because everyone was leaving, moving on. And we thought maybe it would stop and I was quite disappointed to think that over the summer, that just as I’d managed to get finally involved after thinking about it for quite a few years, because I felt we were doing good work.  But fortunately, they managed to get Camilo and Aimee so I’m pleased to see that, and I hope that it can continue and grow.  



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.