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Tracy's story: 'Opening eyes to nature'

When it started it was all bright lights and excitement.  We were raring to go. It was going to be a fantastic opportunity not just for the Trust but for the people of the town as well.  I’m a resident here as well so I’ve got a vested interest in this project, always have, always will do. 

I worked with the High Schools. Nobody worked with teenagers and everybody that you talked to was like oh they’re too hard work.  Yes, everything is hard work, put the effort in, because it’s one of those most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had in my life. They’re becoming awake as adults and they’re still getting treated like 8 year oldsat times.  So, they start to behave like 8 year oldsand that starts that horrible cycle again and it’s such a shame because there’s so much potential in these young people. The biggest problem is they don’t see it themselves because they’ve had too many people tell them you’re crapat this.

I had a couple of students who were absolutely outstanding. They were getting into trouble in the school constantly, but they came out with meand they were great.  One of them did work experience with me. We did some woodworking. We were showing this young lad how to use the shave horse. He made a spatula and a spoon, and he was onto a knife and I’m like, you need to slow down, we’re running out of wood!  [Laughter] We took him to the Reserves, and we told him about the story of the Reserves and when we got them, what we do with them now, the history of the park itself. He went back to the school, and he said he had an absolutely fantastictime thank you very much.  I had a teacher coming up to me saying do you know for the very first time in his whole academic career he actually put his hand up and asked a question. And I was like oh right…getting a wee warm glow. It worked for him and maybe that’s the lesson that we need to learn is that we’re not all used to that Victorian setting, sit at a desk. There’s energy and movement, it needs to be displaced gently instead of being built up in a person to the point that they’re totally high. 

The first year Broadwood [a section of woodland] was cleared and it was very controversial. We changed it to a broadleaf woodland [from windblown non-native spruce] and it just kicked up such a stink. It really did. People were very negative towards the staff about it and the staff were just explaining why we were bringing in broadleaf trees: it will be better for our wildlife,it doesn’t make the soil toxic. They weren’t happy about that. But then we said well, you might not be happy about that, but the other people might be if we do something to include them. We had a tree planting day, we had 600 trees to put in a wee space that had been dug up. We had over 300 people come that day.  We expected about 40. We had the marquee up and we had roasted chestnuts and hot non-alcoholic cider on the go for everybody. There were all these families with their wee teeny tots, and they got cookies with the GPS of the tree that they planted. They had an absolute blast, oh that day was amazing. We were blown away by it, utterly blown away by it. It’s like a trifecta of people helping people, people helping nature, nature helping people, and everybody can benefit including habitats. 

When COVID hit us, the impact that we were able to have for nature and for the young people just dropped overnight. The impact that COVID had on myself was horrible I was indoors all the time, I was stuck in a space this size, which is about 4 feet by 4 feet for 2 years, to a computer screen, trying to come up with adaptations and fun sessions for kids or families using everyday materials that you could get in the house that you could recycle instead of just throw out. That had an absolutely massiveeffect on us.  We weren’t outside all the time.  You weren’t talking to people.  I think the staff really felt it. We all kind of were siloed, it felt like that team cohesion was gone. You were in your own wee bubble and then other things started to crop up and it just felt as if it was constantly building more pressure, and more pressure, and more pressure, for a whole load of different things. You just did not have that outlook of being able to get out there and just breathing. It was horrible. But I think we did amazing work for what we did, adapting all the activities to ensure that families had something to do with the kids. Our experiences gave us a better connection to the community, they were feeling the same as us. I think it opened it up for families and everyone really, to go out and experience nature. 

Actually, managingthe project now is really strange. It’s a very strange feeling to be leading it and leading the team. I have tobe very conscious when I’m talking to the team that this is their experience and I’m there to support them. I’m not delivering anymore, I’m not doing that in my job, I’ve got other things that I need to juggle to make sure that they can do that. It’s how they get the best out of this roleand they get the best experience they can in the greenspaces that they’re in. 

We’re very fortunate I think that we have got such good people working in the project. If you are happy with the job that you’re in and you’re passionate about the job that you’re in It’s not a job, it’s a calling and it’s great. It’s like a holiday every day because you get to be in that all the time, out with the trees, and the woodlands, and your meadows, and your rivers, and the whole lot and it’s just…it’s a whole new world that opens upto you. 

It’s that fun aspect because that’s what brings people into it, when you’re passionate about something people see, it’s infectious, and they buy into it and that’s the hook.  It’s the people that work here who are the hook.  It’s not just that wee birdie that you’ve hardly ever seen, it’s the people that tell them the story of that wee birdie, People in Cumbernauld love a good story. There’s a real good history with the town. There really is, and people buy into that as well. It was this job that has kind of opened my eyes to the whole of the place [town of Cumbernauld] and I now know it like the back of my hand. I think that was what fuelled [my belief that] everyone needs to get out, they need to see these places, they need to know that they exist. 

The Cumbernauld Living Landscape is a 40-50 yearvision and delivery, this project is the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much that we could do if we had the freedom, that space to innovate and longer-term funding. Creating Natural Connections has definitely beenthe biggest project we have had for Cumbernauld.  It is also the longest project we’ve ever had, 4 years, it’s absolutely fantastic. Longer term projects help create the foundations for lasting connections with communities, but short-term improvements for greenspaces due to the huge difference in timescales between us and nature. For example, the work that the Unlocking Community Capacity Officer has been carrying out with the Nature Ninjas on the meadows has been incredible. There are traditional skills such as scything that people are interested in, as well as the physical and social aspect that make volunteering fun and desirable.  But it is all down to funding. We don’t know if we’ll gain funding to continue the work here. You never know where it’s going to come in. I’d like to stay with the Living Landscape and see it and the town thrive [both for people and nature], I’m invested in the town, I love my town, I love the people in it. But it’s that unknown at the end of projects it become demoralising and has a major effect on everyone’s mental health, we just leave things to wind and say oh well we might have something next year, we might not. So… I honestly don’t know. It’s in the lap of the gods.



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




Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

Printed from /research/projects/tracys-story-opening-eyes-nature on 01/12/23 10:31:38 AM

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.