Sue Walker, Communications Officer for the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative (IFLI), reveals a little of the workings behind a partnership that delivers to a variety of projects from wetland creation to archaeological digs, and from recording wildlife sightings to documenting stories of mining. The IFLI goal is however quite simple … to make the inner Forth a better place to live for people and wildlife.
From old Stirling Bridge down to Rosyth, the Forth slowly changes from a gently meandering river to a mile-wide estuary. Wooded banks become saltmarsh and mudflats, small, ancient settlements are replaced by massive modern industrial complexes. Mention the inner Forth to most folk, and it is the industry they think about – the flaming towers and steaming chimneys.
Appearances can be deceptive. Despite this image, the inner Forth is in fact a place of global importance for its wildlife, as well as home to some of the country’s most important historic buildings.
Recognising the mismatch between perceptions and reality, a group of organisations, led by the RSPB, and including SNH, got together in 2012 to change those perceptions. The Inner Forth Landscape Initiative was the result. A Heritage Lottery Funded Landscape Partnership scheme, which will run from 2014 to 2018, it is made up of eight partners: RSPB, SNH, Historic Environment Scotland, Sustrans, Central Scotland Green Network Trust, Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire Councils. Together, our vision is of an Inner Forth where local people and visitors alike value, protect and celebrate this unique landscape at the heart of Scotland.
There are 50 hugely diverse projects within the Initiative, from wetland creation to archaeological digs, and from recording wildlife sightings to recording stories of mining. What they all have in common is their aim – to make the inner Forth a better place to live for people and wildlife. We work not only with our eight partners, but with a whole host of other organisations, community groups and volunteers.
Protecting and celebrating the wildlife and natural landscapes of the inner Forth are key aspects of many of our projects. Woodlands, grassland, bogs and wetlands are all important habitats that we work on. The whole Forth estuary is protected by a number of European and international designations, including Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar site. The latter means that the Forth is a wetland ‘of significant value not only for the country or the countries in which they are located, but for humanity as a whole.’ How much more important can it get?
As a result, wetland projects feature strongly in our portfolio, both in terms of protecting and improving what we have already, and in encouraging people to value these precious resources. Work is going on, or planned, at the RSPB’s nature reserves at Black Devon Wetlands and Skinflats, at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Cambus Pools, at Falkirk Council’s sites at Bothkennar Pools and Kinneil Lagoons, and at Stirling Council’s Polmaise Lagoons and Wester Moss. Most of these sites are open to the public, and give people a chance to experience first-hand some of the stunning waders and wildfowl that find a haven on the inner Forth. The sight – and sound – of a flock of whiffling pink-footed geese, or hundreds of lapwing wheeling overhead, is not easily forgotten – even when the backdrop is an oil refinery.
But we want to go further than protecting the sites themselves, because it is only through people valuing what they have that we can hope to ensure the inner Forth landscape survives and flourishes. Much of the support from SNH is directed at this part of our work. Our Like the Back of My Hand project seeks to reconnect people with the landscape through events and activities that celebrate the natural and historic heritage of the area.
There’s a programme of free, fun activities throughout the year for all ages and abilities. The highlight for 2015 was the Inner Forth Festival in September, when over 1000 people enjoyed 27 events across the IFLI’s area. Forth Nature Counts helps people to get more out of their natural encounters – and to give something back, through learning to identify and record the huge variety of wildlife that they see here. Last year over 8000 records were collected, and over 100 people improved their ID skills through free workshops and courses.
The inner Forth was formed by nature – but it has been, and will continue to be, shaped by people. IFLI is keen to bring together as many people as possible to ensure that it is shaped in a way that celebrates, protects and nurtures the wildlife and history of the place.
There is so much going on now. If you want to know more, or better still get involved, do visit our website at www.innerforthlandscape.co.uk, follow us on Facebook and Twitter @innerforth, or sign up for our enewsletter via our website.
Image credits :
Lapwings over Grangemouth. David Palmar/www.photoscot.co.uk
Pinkfooted geese taking of from inner Forth farmland. David Palmar/www.photoscot.co.uk
Children help out at a Forth Nature Counts bioblitz. Paul Barclay
Glorious mudflats at Skinflats. Robert Trevis-Smith
Learning to identify saltmarsh plants. Paul Barclay