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Large streams from little fountains flow, Tall oaks from little acorns grow…

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Riverside’s Stirling Success by Pat Morrissey

Earlier this year we were asked to contribute to the Scottish Pollinator Blog - you can read about all the different activities and groups working hard to protect our pollinators here.

I suppose it’s almost a truism that no tree dies without giving: nutrients are returned to the soil, invertebrates benefit from the breakdown of tissue, and a whole new biodiverse environment can be created if the wood isn’t carted away, shredded or burned. But what if the death of a tree gave birth to local environmental ecological activism that resulted in many more trees being planted, orchards being developed and maintained, wildflower meadows, woodland gardens and other areas being managed for the benefit wildlife and thereby the benefit of people? Wouldn’t that be wonderful offspring?

This is exactly what happened in Riverside in Stirling in 2019. A beautiful mature red oak was taken down much to the displeasure of local residents and, prompted by discussions around the Scottish Wildlife Trust publication “Living Cities”, a group was formed to enhance the locality to make it a better place for people, by making it a better place for nature: Riverside Naturally was born. 

In the two- and a-bit years of its existence RN has, in consultation with local partners, redesigned and replanted raised beds in the area with plants specially chosen for their appeal to pollinators. A range of annuals and perennials were grown to give a season-long source of food and shelter. Six different species of bees, innumerable hoverflies, many butterflies (and a few wasps) have been spotted feeding, resting and mating in these newly created spaces. The raised beds have been replicated in the local primary school which has resulted in opportunities to engage with staff and pupils ensuring that the children are aware of the need to support pollinators and how to provide it.

We also maintain the local community orchard which provides food for pollinators and for the local community: we have over twenty fruit trees in this site. Volunteers help maintain the orchard – weeding, pruning and composting the cuttings and grass. The trees derive a reciprocal benefit from the bees and other insects and all of our trustees, members and volunteers reap the rewards of working closely with nature and learning about the cycle of giving and receiving in the environment. In the years prior to the Covid pandemic we have held Orchard Days where members of the public are invited to share the fruits of our labours and learn of the vital roles played by plants and animals in maintaining a healthy planet. 

The charity has also converted two neglected formal garden areas in Riverside Park, removing sick and unproductive plants, and replacing them with native species of trees, shrubs and ground cover to create woodland gardens which, especially in the Springtime, will give early sources of nectar to those bugs which are active at that time of year. As this work progresses more planting will help sustain these vital insects through the year.

We also have worked in partnership with Stirling Council to designate an area around the river bank as an Area of Restorative Kindness (ARK) where the land has been planted with native species, and then only lightly maintained to allow nature to thrive at its own pace. However, to give it the best start possible we have planted seven oaks and a rowan with additional native plants scheduled for introduction in the coming months.