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An urban gem in Toryglen

The saying ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ could easily capture the growing ambitions of Urban Roots.  It was back in 2004 that Toryglen Gardening Club was founded by three local residents. Soon they were working with community groups and schools on popular gardening projects; by 2009 an application to the Climate Challenge Fund was successful, and by then Urban Roots was born. They haven’t looked back since.

Now Urban Roots is flourishing. Their Growing Connections Project takes them on their latest vibrant and energetic journey and is delivering welcome green spaces in Toryglen,

Toryglen, it’s probably fair to say, is warm to the idea of a refresh. When built in the 1950s and 1960s this was a housing development which was towards the very southern fringes of Glasgow.  As old housing in the centre of Glasgow was demolished the concept of new housing, on the green edges of Scotland’s largest city, was widely welcome.

Imagine the scene. Castlemilk was still developing, nearby Rutherglen was viewed as a distinctively separate town, many Scots would only come across Toryglen through trips to the nearby Hampden Park. Glasgow had been known as the ‘Dear Green Place’ for some time and Toryglen in the 1950s was certainly near a lot of green space.

However, in the time that has elapsed there have been a lot of social and economic changes in this part of Glasgow.

Urban Roots vision is to see a return of healthy green places for play, learning, food growing and nature. Their feeling is that if they do it well they could help with the economic regeneration of this district on the Southside of Glasgow and give the local population valuable greenspaces on their doorstep.

Two green space activities in particular catch the eye.

Malls Mire Local Nature Reserve dates back to the 1980s and is currently drawing admiring glances on the back of a concerted effort to engage the surrounding community in being custodians of this great resource. Every Thursday morning visitors attend sessions which tackle tree felling, path maintenance, litter picking and habitat surveying. Add to the mix a liberal dash of meadow management and hedge-laying and it’s clear to see things are in good hands here.

If the people of Toryglen are embracing tending this valuable site then the same must be said for the vigour shown in helping a Community Garden find its feet.

Located on land behind the sizable Polamdie Recycling Centre this area has seen allotment style beds created which will allow local people to grow their own veg. The move is towards creating a fully functioning market garden, and this is a development that has the potential to deliver a swathe of good outcomes.

The Community Garden doesn’t only look to grow healthy food, it’s also becoming a location where volunteering and environmental skill training are offered. Linking with other groups and sharing experience has pitched Toryglen in with like-minded groups in Priesthill, Pollokshields and Carnwadric as well as nearby Castlemilk

Urban Roots is clearly building on the success of working with local people for the last eight years and there is a growing awareness of the impact and quality of their work in Toryglen.  They foster a sense of ownership and involvement by welcoming and regularly consulting with the community about their hopes and aspirations for the area. This all ensures that any project is delivered by local residents for local residents.

We are living in an era in which the benefits to health and well-being of being outdoors and getting active are increasingly recognised.  Nurturing greenspaces is just one highly effective way to put this knowledge into practice. By embracing outdoor learning, offering volunteer opportunities, and providing relevant training there is a neat progression towards creating a place  that looks attractive, is safe, and is well looked after.

Over half a century on from its boom period, Toryglen is stirring again.  And as it was then nature and people are very much at the centre of renewed optimism and drive.

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