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Mark's story: 'Something worthwhile'

I retired at the start of 2020, so I didn’thave any interaction with this project or Cumbernauld Living Landscape before that because I was working. But I’d read about it often in the paper and Cumbernauld Living Landscape was just another group that offered the opportunity to get outside and do things that were worthwhile. I did at first very much look upon Cumbernauld Living Landscape as an outdoor gym, as a good opportunity to get outside, have some exercise, do something that’s worthwhile and maybe some good; and it’s been exactly that. I think my first time out with the Nature Ninjas would be about August 2020; we were removing Himalayan balsam in Abronhill

We’ve been removing lots of invasive species, just to try and give natural plants a better chance to grow because then they’re more of a natural habitat for wildlife, or maybe evena food source for wildlife, whereas all these invasive species are the opposite, they take over and choke the life out of areas. But that’s only a very small part and I think a lot of the more worthwhile projects that we did, all through various lockdowns and restrictions, was scraping back and discovering paths that people didn’t even realise were actually there. So when people were only supposed to go for a limited amount of exercise, the fact that we were opening up paths seemed like a very worthwhile thing to do. I run with the local Jog Scotland group, and because we opened upsome of these paths, we will come and run some of these routes now because I’vediscovered them through the Cumbernauld Living Landscape. We’ve done a lot of running through Cumbernauld Glen, Ravenswood Nature Reserve and St.Maurice’sPond.  

St Maurice’s Pond is a very scenic little area that is not that far from the town centre and my mum is in her nineties now; during the pandemic when she was kind of stuck in the house, this was a good place to bring her because it got her outside, we could bring a picnic and she could see some of the wildlife. So I think pandemic-wise it’s been a very goodexercise because it’s let a lot of people make good use of a lot of the greenspace in Cumbernauld. Also from a community point of view as well because there’s a lot of places in Cumbernauld that are maybe not the safest, whereas if you open it up it becomes a lot safer to walk and you feel safer being there. 

One of the things that we’vespent a lot of time doing recently is removing tree guards that have been on these trees for about twenty years. So actually far from protecting the trees they’re stopping the trees growing and they’re harming the trees. These trees are going to have a better future and be healthier and survive better for the work that we did. We have also planted a lot of new trees.

Everywhere the Nature Ninjas go you can tell where we’vebeen because areas are opened upand a lot of the waste that we cut down gets organised into nature piles; we leave it neat and then these are used by some of the wildlife like hedgehogs. So we try to make somewhere that is inaccessible more accessible but make it more user-friendly to a lot of the wildlife as well. 

Hopefully if we spend a bit of time here and we do what we’ve done for the last couple of years, this place will be spectacular with wildflowers for like two, three or four months during the summer. I feel I’m doing something worthwhile that is benefitting quite a number of people at what was quite a difficult time.



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

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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.