Iain Macdonald is a Biodiversity Officer with Scottish Natural Heritage and recently attended an award ceremony on behalf of SNH where a community gardening group collected one of the awards. Impressed by the wonderful effort and enthusiasm he encountered he reflects on the hard work and dedication of the winning group below:
I am always amazed at the efforts which other people put into looking after wildlife. I was struck by this recently when I attended this year’s Beautiful Scotland award ceremony held in Aberdeen. The Bothwell Community Garden was awarded the Scottish Natural Heritage Biodiversity Award for its excellent conservation work.
Bothwell Community Garden was set up by the Organic Growers of Bothwell and opened to members in May 2010. It’s a diverse group of families, individuals and community groups who are passionate about organic gardening, biodiversity and reducing their carbon footprint, whilst improving their health and quality of life.
With more than 50 raised beds (including beds adapted for use by young children and those with limited mobility), two polytunnels, an orchard, soft-fruit area and several areas dedicated to wildlife; their garden is a place for members to grow their own produce and come together to socialise and share skills and interests.
Some conservationists can be a tiny bit “snooty” when it comes to gardening, “it is not proper conservation” or “they are not native”. It is a pity because gardens are where many of us meet our first wildlife.
I could barely walk at the time that I stumbled across what was probably a pretty stagnant bucket of water beside our coal bunker. The black plastic bucket had tiny baby fly larvae swimming about with tubes reaching up to the flat water’s surface. I was transfixed. I moved on to planting flowers with my mother and then to looking at blackbirds before appreciating the wilder things in life…
With a motto of “Let’s just do it”, Brighter Bothwell / the Organic Growers of Bothwell are worthy winners of the Biodiversity Award. It was a true pleasure to see how happy they were that others had appreciated all their hard work. Their projects include a bee border, an orchard, a pond, a bog garden, a wild flower meadow, wormeries, recycled water, solar panels and easy access raised beds (using their home-made compost)!
The value of their work is more than purely environmental too. There are now acknowledged health benefits from being outdoors and the work that the Bothwell group are engaging in is likely to be a great ‘stress buster’ as well as a super way of pulling a community together.
But citizen science, local involvement, and following organic principles are of value to the wider community beyond Bothwell. For example, the bee border and orchard are two strands of work that are very popular just now.
In the Autumn/Winter edition of the SNH Magazine Professor Dave Goulson talks about gardens being hotspots for bumblebees, providing havens from the often flowerless, pesticide treated farmland. Evidence is now emerging that bumblebees can be found in denser numbers in gardens than on farms and that the spill over form suburban areas boosts pollination of nearby farmland crops. He advocates thoughtful garden planting to help these popular insects.
Gardens and gardening do matter and I’d like to say “thank you” to the volunteers at Bothwell for inspiring me to do more work in the garden!
Further information: The SNH website has a section devoted to urban greenspaces and gardens. We recognise that your garden or allotment can also benefit wildlife and make an important contribution towards supporting biodiversity. Due to the disappearance of some habitats, wildlife is becoming increasingly dependent on gardens to find food and shelter.
Pictures courtesy of Brighter Bothwell and Bothwell Community Garden.