You’ve got to admire community activists and social entrepreneurs who bring about change and make good things happen, and it’s a real buzz when our work gives us a chance to work alongside such folk. Andy Dorin, Forth Area Manager, tells us about some exciting community partnerships in north Edinburgh.
In October we held a Board reception in Edinburgh. This was a chance for our stakeholders and partners to meet with SNH Board members and Forth Area staff. Rather than picking a city centre hotel we took the step of working with a range of local partners to make the evening stand out as being a little special. And through Eventbrite we opened it to everyone interested in the topic of the evening: Creating green infrastructure and urban biodiversity.
Our choice of venue was Madelvic House, home of the Granton Hub, a new organisation promoting community events and activities and generating a huge wave of creative energy in the area. Visitors had the chance to look at the community garden before hearing Louise Knight who, with the rest of the Hub board, is really making things happen. Louise explained how her organisation is helping build community, linking people together through activities. How fitting that this twenty-first century innovation is happening on the site of Edinburgh’s first electric car factory that opened over 100 years ago in 1898!
In setting up the event, we worked closely with Edinburgh Living Landscapes (ELL), an initiative led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) in collaboration with Edinburgh Council, The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (RBGE) and a number of other partners including SNH. Ian Mackenzie from SWT showed those gathered some of the projects that ELL were promoting. One great success was the bug hotel built by contractors on a building site, in response to one of the engineers hearing his children talking about caring for wildlife through ELL.
Another exciting project has been the Square Metre for Butterflies campaign encouraging people to grow rock-rose, sheep sorrel and birds-foot trefoil in a square metre on their window box, roof or garden. Rock-rose is the food plant of the rare northern brown argus. This butterfly, once thought to be extinct but now rediscovered on Arthur’s Seat, is being encouraged all around the city by ELL. ELL is encouraging us all to be champions for insects by signing the Pollinator Pledge and doing more with our gardens and window boxes.
The high spot of the evening was a brilliant presentation by Karen Chambers of the Shoreline project. This is another ELL project brought about by just three amazing people, Karen Chambers, Leonie Alexander and Elspeth Wills, and supported by RBGE. The three of them have identified the potential of Edinburgh’s shoreline stretching from Portobello to Cramond and beyond. Although much of it is walkable, access is difficult, and adjacent derelict land, although sometimes being great for wildlife, is often no good for people, being fenced off and unmanaged green space.
Helped by SNH’s Green Infrastructure (GI) fund and funding from the Heritage Lottery, this project plans to work with local communities to raise awareness of the shoreline, the effects of climate change and the implications of new industry. It will champion the biodiversity of the coast and research how hard-engineered structures can be used to mimic natural habitats and integrate rock-pool environments. As well as looking at what practical work could be undertaken to improve matters and celebrating the history of Edinburgh’s coastline, the project will mount a travelling exhibition. They are now looking for support, so why not get involved if you live in the Capital?
The moral of this piece might be to show what grassroots action can achieve and the value of helping communities, businesses and individuals to change things for the better. Except there is something more. For SNH and other public agencies it is also a great example of how success can come with working with local groups and people in the community. While our resources are limited and we can’t fund every community garden or tree-planting project, we are always at the end of a phone, and encouragement or signposting who can help, costs nothing.
Our GI fund is a great way for us to promote some real investment (around £40m) into some of the urban communities in Scotland which most need it, achieving some fantastic regeneration projects. Too often in the past partnership has been solely about funding. I’d argue that if we want good things to happen it is time for a new sort of partnership, one which is more about mutual support and common cause, since agencies like SNH can’t always put in cash.
At SNH we believe that people need nature as much as nature needs people. Nature gives all of us a huge opportunity to improve where we live, boost prosperity, and contribute to healthy living and quality environments. To achieve this we need to involve everyone in a conversation about how our towns and cities need to change, and how it is up to all of us to contribute to bringing about a greener nature-rich future.
If you live in Edinburgh you too can make a difference to biodiversity by signing up to the Pollinator Pledge.
Find out more about our Green Infrastructure projects here.