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Community Rewilding

I doubt if many of us have encountered as ambitious a project as Community Rewilding. Restoring urban greenspaces in Greenock, Yoker and Clydebank lies at the heart of a Conservation Volunteers (TCV) project working with dynamic communities to improve the quality and usability of their local greenspaces.

Rewilding is a word, which in an urban context, has the power to stop people in their tracks. After all, isn’t rewilding about large landscape-scale projects often delivered in remote scenic regions of the Highlands?  Not any more is the answer.

However, this project doesn’t simply seek to deliver a richer biodiversity of plants and animals in an urban setting. Even the oft-stated rewilding ambitions of ensuring cleaner air and water, natural flood management and effective carbon storage aren’t the over-riding goal.  What we have with Community Rewilding is a dazzling initiative that seeks to regenerate and invigorate communities by giving people the skills and opportunities to rebuild their own neighbourhoods.

Using events to bring people together, the focus of improving multiple community greenspaces through practical volunteering sessions can take many guises. For example, improving paths, planting trees and creating wildflower meadows are one route to building a better locality. This might seem like no big deal on the surface – trees, flowers and paths – but the very act of creating these elements will galvanise communities. In some sense Community Rewilding fills a vacant niche – giving communities the tools and confidence to improve their local environment themselves.

Take the example of Yoker.  Here a Community Forest Garden has been created by the joint efforts of Glasgow City Council and the Yoker Housing Association. Based just off Sandholm Terrace a community garden will have more than 40 different species. That’s a significant development in a former industrialised area squeezed between Glasgow and Clydebank, within hailing distance of the former site of the famous Elderslie Shipyard. Where once railway lines, docks and towering tenements dominated it’s intriguing to see an area set aside for a woodland, which probably echoes how the area looked before shipbuilding took hold.

Energetic volunteers have planted pear, apple, cherry, and hazelnut trees.  A variety of shrubs herbs, flowers, and vines will follow. The community is set to benefit from a healthy food garden,

The woodland might look like an orchard, but locals are keen to point out that here variety, rather than a high yield single crop, are central to the plans. That’s a deliberate approach, to give not only a variety of food but a healthier ecosystem much less likely to be blighted by pests.  Many of these plants will attract pollinators and therefore a welcome contribution to Scotland’s Pollinator Strategy is a lovely add-on outcome.

Rubbing cheek by jowl with Yoker is Clydebank. This is a town which retains a special place in Scotland’s modern history. A shipbuilding icon, it was badly damaged in World War Two (it was reckoned that only 8 houses in the entire town escaped bomb damage). A loss of heavy industry has undeniably seen its economic fortunes wane.

But at Faifley Knowes the past is being tackled by a vigorous drive to create a special area for people and wildlife. Local residents have seized the chance to get involved in improving their local patch, the most recent example of which was a huge tree planting event. The group meet weekly to tackle tasks as varied as woodland thinning, wildflower meadow creation, path maintenance and habitat creation. The Community Volunteering Charity (TCV) and West Dunbartonshire Council are continuing to organise regular volunteer days which are transforming what was simply a dog walking area into something much richer.

Keep your eyes peeled for good news in Greenock too. On the south side of the River Clyde you could state a case for saying that in some ways Greenock is ahead of the game in transforming tired urban sites. The work of Inverclydebuzz and the evolving Inverclyde Pollinator Corridor is well documented. A determination to create wildflower havens has been joined by an opportunity through TCV to make the most of a Green Gym which offers a fantastic way for locals to get out and enjoy their neighbourhood whilst improving their fitness too.

The Scottish Government has a vision that ‘By 2050, Central Scotland has been transformed into a place where the environment adds value to the economy and where people’s lives are enriched by its quality.’

The Community Rewilding project matches up to those ambitions. It delivers tangible benefits to people living in Greenock, Yoker and Clydebank, with actions that will have a real impact on improving their quality of life.