The new football season in Scotland gets underway in earnest this week and in celebration we’ve been taking a look at the wildlife and nature you can enjoy while following your team. The link between football and nature may not be immediately obvious, but it is there … if you look closely.
Several club nicknames and crests point heavily to nature. Good examples are Alloa Athletic, known as ‘The Wasps’, or our oldest club – Queen’s Park – nicknamed ‘The Spiders’. Partick Thistle have long been associated with Scotland’s national emblem and their popular name of The Jags reflects this. But some connections are more obscure. For example, Kilmarnock have two squirrels in their club crest and there is a tree and a stag in the club crest of Forfar Athletic. The origins of the elephant that used to dominate the Dumbarton badge are harder to fathom!
Ross County are often called “The Staggie’s” but fans from further south might enjoy looking out for some special birdlife on their journeys north – the area between Inverness and Dingwall is known to be a good area to spot red kites.
Of course our most majestic bird of prey is the eagle and you will find it represented on the club crests of both St Johnstone and Inverness.
Wildlife spotting from grounds is always possible. The best examples are probably Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Arbroath where fans can peer out over vast stretches of water if the match isn’t grabbing their attention. From Inverness’s stadium it might just be feasible to spot a dolphin in the Moray Firth and of course Arbroath’s Gayfield Park has a seawall protecting the stadium from the ravages of the North Sea, so seabirds are never too far away.
Seabirds, and in particular gulls, are a likely sighting too for fans watching games at Aberdeen, Hibernian, Stranraer, Ayr United and Montrose – all of which are quite close to the sea. And for those who are keen to combine wildlife watching with their football, setting off early on a trip to Aberdeen affords a chance to look for dolphin action at the mouth of nearby Aberdeen Harbour, before goalmouth action becomes uppermost in fans’ thoughts
Some of our football clubs even have stadium names that reflect a link with nature. Motherwell’s Fir Park is a good example, as is Stenhousemuir’s Ochilview. The view from several of our football stadiums is one to savour. Allloa’s Recreation Park and Stirling Albion’s Forthbank both give great views of the aforementioned Ochils, whilst St. Mirren’s former home of Love Street gave fans in the main stand a wonderful view of the Kilpatrick Hills. Their great Renfrewshire rivals – Greenock Morton play at Cappielow Park and no drive to the ‘tail of the bank’ is truly complete without wonderful views to the Argyll hills and beyond.
Urban greenspaces shouldn’t be overlooked either. Visitors to Partick Thistle’s Maryhill home can enjoy the Firhill Basin that lies next to the stadium, Rangers fans could approach their ground via parts of the regenerating River Clyde and Stranraer’s Stair Park is sited in a large and attractive park.
Dropping out of Scottish senior football and glancing at the ranks of our junior football clubs throws up some nature inspired names including Linlithgow Rose, Irvine Meadow, and Largs Thistle. The Highland League is not without its nature links either. Strathspey Thistle’s very name has a strong link but the badge of Nairn County is the real star in this league, featuring as it does a dolphin.
So clearly the links between Scottish football and nature are there if you look closely. We’d love to hear about your stories of football and nature. Perhaps you could tell us about the most unusual wildlife you’ve seen whilst going along to a match – and we don’t mean any of the fans. In the meantime enjoy the game and the nature all around it.