Something very special is happening around the River Garnock. Garnock Connections is a suite of 25 projects that will restore a network of wildlife habitats and historic sites across the landscape, as well as encourage local people to become involved through a range of hands-on opportunities.
Garnock Connections is a partnership between RSPB, Historic Environment Scotland, SEPA, SNH, Scottish Wildlife Trust and North Ayrshire Council, based around the catchment of the River Garnock. A post-industrial landscape, the Garnock Connections area is lively one, while still dealing with all the challenges that come with declining industry and reduced opportunity. By working in partnership, and linking up with the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Green Infrastructure Community Engagement Fund, the Garnock Connections partnership is striving to enhance, improve, and promote natural and cultural heritage around the River Garnock.
From the Clyde Muirshiel Hills to the coast at Irvine, the area has long been appreciated by the local population for ease of access, a fabulous variety of natural habitats and an impressive cultural heritage. Now a suite of projects will help enhance and reveal what is special about the landscape, with a few new ideas thrown into the mix for good measure.
The project website places a spotlight on all of the current projects, and we’ve given you a link to this resource at the end of this article. However, before you head off to that link, let’s have a closer look at just a couple of the ideas now being developed in the Garnock Connections area.
Garnock’s Buzzing is a highly topical, and extremely welcome, project to help pollinating insects thrive.
Globally around 90% of flowering plants and 75% of leading food crops depend on insect pollination. The economic value of pollinators in Scotland has been estimated to be in the region of £43m for agriculture and horticulture. Our main pollinators are bumblebees, honeybees and hoverflies, although some butterflies, moths and other flies provide pollination services too.
The Garnock Connections Landscape Partnership has worked to create a project intended to increase the area of high quality habitat available for pollinating insects. Equally important the project will increase public appreciation of the vital role that pollinators play in enhancing our environment, improving our biodiversity and contributing to our enjoyment of the outdoors.
At its most basic helping pollinators means providing good habitat for them. Wildflower meadows, rich in nectar and pollen, are high on the list of needs. For pollinators good habitat offers a mixture of food, shelter and nesting sites. Make a network of connected sites and you have insect havens.
The Garnock’s buzzing project is committed to providing a swathe of pollen and nectar sources with the creation of over 15 hectares of wildflower meadows. Backing up the meadows will be 11 insect nesting sites, the planting of pollinator friendly trees and developing roadside verges into landscape-scale habitat networks. That sum of the many parts in this project will be connectivity of suitable sites for pollinators.
The public can be great advocates when it comes to improving the lot of our pollinators. With this in mind the value of creating quality greenspaces will be emphasised by working with six local schools and a collection of community and volunteer groups to create and manage habitats for pollinators. The children involved in this work will learn about their local natural heritage and have opportunities to take part in what promises to be a fascinating active learning project.
Seeing what is going on is highly valued by the project. That means investing resources in ensuring Access is good. To this end various small, but influential, projects have sprung up. Under an access ‘banner’ Garnock Connections will train a network of walk leaders to guide groups of all abilities to explore the area. By securing vehicles that can take wheel-chairs the enjoyment of the local area is extended to as many people as possible.
There is a good path network in this area, and a network of volunteers are now looking after the path stewardship. This means providing tools, training and support to enable volunteers to survey and, where feasible, implement small-scale improvements.
This is just a flavour of that’s going on to connect people and places in the Garnock Connections landscape. As Alyson Hunter, the Garnock Connections Project Manager, said recently “We’re delighted at the fantastic opportunities available to enhance this area’s heritage for the benefit of communities and visitors. The people and communities of the Garnock Connections area are at the core of the programme.”
Find out more :
Visit the website at https://www.garnockconnections.org.uk/projects
Follow progress on twitter @GarnockLP