On a clear day the views from Fernbrae Meadows are stunning. The Campsie Hills rear up to the north and beautifully frame Glasgow, but to be fair you don’t really need such a glorious distant view when the close vision is as rich as the one at Fernbrae.
Marking a boundary between Glasgow and South Lanarkshire this is a site open to all. The residents of Fernhill, Castlemilk and Cathkin can testify to that. Since the site of the former golf course was converted into an attractive urban park it’s been a huge hit for miles around.
The 20-hectare site is bedding in nicely and highlighting individual successes is an easy task.
Next to the Fernbrae Avenue entrance the new allotment area saw enough produce this year to keep local families and individuals who tend the site on their toes. Raised beds matched raised expectations as the debates around healthy eating and ‘grow your own’ increasingly appeared in the political landscape.
There was seldom any doubt that the Green Infrastructure Fund would be an ideal support for this project. The rolling park offers an escape from city life, a place to exercise, somewhere wonderful to walk the dog, a community asset, a biodiversity haven, and a green and pleasant route between neighbourhoods. Fernbrae is no longer the golf course behind the fence, but the park where everyone can experience nature and relax. And there is plenty of room to ‘get away from it all’.
That’s a great outcome for a park that was always intended to meet the needs and wishes of the local population. A busy consultation preceded the works here and the ‘Friends of Fernbrae’ group will ensure that this ethos continues into the future.
Significant native planting and habitat creation were always part of the aims for the site and that has paid dividends. Health walks are part and parcel of park life at Fernbrae and that’s partly down to the attractiveness of the site.
Certainly the area has appeal to all ages. It’s been particularly well-used for a wide range of outdoor play and learning, as the list below shows:
- An after school Mucky Boots club – a play session led by teachers from Cathkin Primary School
- Outdoor Woodland Learning (OWL) Lanarkshire held a networking event there for local practitioners including teachers, early years staff, forest school leaders with den building, natural art, fire and cooking workshops.
- A toddler group held outdoor summer sessions with free play. The children loved the mud kitchen and playing in the stream.
- Rutherglen High School used the site for its John Muir Award group to observe birds and contribute to the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
- Community members learned about green woodworking with Green Aspirations and made garden benches.
- Local Beavers group came out to play, make boats from natural materials and go on a minibeast hunt as part of their My World Outdoors badge.
- Fernhill Nursery uses the space for Forest Kindergarten, cross country runs and outdoor learning.
- Oakwood Nursery and Ace Place Nursery and After School Care have used the site for Forest School.
As Karen Smith, a Countryside Ranger with South Lanarkshire Council noted, “It’s an everyday occurrence now to hear a group in the distance at Fernbrae Meadows and as I approach I can see that they are a nursery on a noisy dinosaur hunt or a school group splashing about with nets in the stream. Families are using it as a place to have a picnic and a play, and visitors are sharing wildlife sightings and local knowledge. Even the older adults on the weekly Health Walk have been spotted playing on the natural log features which have been installed instead of traditional playground equipment. Clambering over logs, playing in fallen leaves and crossing streams is an adventure that many are discovering for the first time. This is a place where people of all ages want to play, and are inspired to learn.” There’s a practical side to the park too. In August there were heavy downpours across the south of Glasgow. Rain water in torrents caused problems on roads and pavements across the city, but at Fernbrae the flood alleviation measures worked superbly.
A clear winding burn and retention pools did their job. The locals posted picture on Facebook celebrating how the park had absorbed the deluge and averted any damage to homes and property nearby.
That was a climate change mitigation victory and the same can be said of the tree planting in ‘the Meadows’. Not only did the design of Fernbrae Meadows retain older trees and hedges but it incorporated swathes of new planting.
Nature is capable of providing solutions to complex climate issues and Fernbrae demonstrates that nicely. From holding sudden cloud-bursts, to clearing the atmosphere, right through to simply providing a venue where people can boost their sense of health and wellbeing, it does a job in the modern world.
Let’s leave the final word with children from nearby schools who use the site.
"I learned different tree types such as maple and beech"
"My favourite part was being on an adventure"
"I loved building a dam in the stream"
"I liked playing with sticks and making pretend fire"
"I learned about leaves and their shapes"
"I learned how leaves change colour in autumn time"
When Blairbeth Golf Course closed it was goodbye to 105 years of history. Now the undulating slopes of Fernbrae Meadows have ushered in a new chapter. In nurturing nature the likelihood is that the new vision will be a long lasting one.