This seminar on the 9th of May, hosted in collaboration with Forestry Commission Scotland explored a variety of issues surrounding the Commonwealth Woods, a network of new and established woodlands in and around Glasgow.
Joneen Clarke of Forestry Commission Scotland spoke about the Cuningar Loop, a new woodland adjacent to the Clyde and the site of the Athletes Village which will be easily accessible from Glasgow City Centre. She touched on the problems associated with dealing with large areas of contaminated land and Japanese knotweed, and the constraints and opportunities of working around established wildlife- in this case a significant population of badgers. She also presented the work that artists had carried out in collaboration with local people. Cuningar Loop, which will open in 2015, promises a variety of events and activies including bouldering, teaching areas and natural and adventure play areas and releases back to the public of Glasgow an accessible woodland area in the heart of the city.
While re-connecting Cuningar Loop should prove to be a draw for local people such challenges are not insignicant. Richard Bolton of Cassiltoun Housing Association talked about the challenges and opportunities associated with bringing an unloved local woodland back into use. Castlemilk Park, an established woodland dating from the time of Castlemilk Estate, was infiltrated by significant swathes of housing when the area was developed to house people from Glasgow following the Second World War. Over the years the Park developed a bad reputation with local people preferring to avoid it, even when it provided the shorter route to their destination. Richard described what he had done in Castlemilk Park in terms of a varied events programme to reintroduce people to the woodland, including weekly volunteer events and clean ups that have transformed what was once seen as a blighted problem into a community asset.
Part of the success seen in Castlemilk Park is due to good communication in the local community, which has generated high turn-outs to woodland events. The Commonwealth Woods are managed by a network of partners and Lynne Veitch of Pagoda PR spoke about the strategies used by all partners to enhance this network of communication, so that messages about events in the woods are communicated successfully through all partners to reach the widest possible audience.