Category: Blog


Outdoor Access Code when using the Meadow and Wood

We follow The Scottish Outdoor Access Code when using and managing the land, doing this ensures that we are protecting the environment and people are safe and welcome. Many people use the land and we rely on volunteers and community members to also follow these rules. If you are using the land please can you have a look at the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Together we can all enjoy and look after this beautiful wild place.Outdoor Access Code

The Importance of Diversionary Activities for Young People

The importance  of  Diversionary Activities for Young People

Since 2005 Glasgow’s violence levels have plummeted. This is thanks to the work of the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU). John Carnochan was one of the founders of the unit and in his Postcards from Scotland book – Conviction- he sets out what they did. For example, they took a public health perspective on violence and gangs, and made the problem the responsibility of lots of agencies, not just the police. They interacted with young people in gangs and provided alternative activities. The approach they instigated has led to a reduction in violent behaviour, including knife carrying, across Scotland.

Since the VRU started in Glasgow it has had most impact here and Glasgow rightly has become a model of good practice across the world. However, despite the VRU’s undeniable success in reducing Glasgow’s violence, the problem is far from fixed. I live in Maryhill and we have recently seen a rise in gang related activity and violence. So too have other local areas such as Lambhill, Possil and Cadder. Police Scotland describes the area on Maryhill Road as a MATAC – a Multi Agency Tasking and Coordinating spot. What this means is that it is a small geographical hotspot for violence. The police are now focusing their efforts to reduce crime there.

In our community there are some great initiatives for young people, but very little for teenagers involved in street gangs.

Established indoor clubs often don’t work for these young people anyway. This is because their behaviour is often seen as unacceptable: lots of swearing, play fighting, and graffiti, for example. They often don’t mix well with other groups of young people because they feel judged by those more in control of their emotions and behaviour. We know from our discussions with young people that many of them have multiple ACEs (adverse childhood experiences).

These children and young people are often unable to benefit from mainstream schooling. It’s pretty well impossible for teachers to handle such a wide range of needs and abilities in a single classroom. In many cases the young people’s challenging, anti-social behaviour leads to suspension or exclusion from school. This exacerbates the young people’s challenges, reducing the chance of developing the soft skills they need to integrate with mainstream activities, and potentially putting them at risk of being back in a vulnerable home or out on the street. They then fall further behind developmentally and this can be disastrous for their future lives.

Even out in the community our young people are facing barriers. They are often banned from various shops and other places they might congregate because of the number in their group and the way they behave. They are also at risk of taking dangerous drugs and misusing alcohol.

We keep hearing people saying of these youngsters involved in street gangs, ‘It’s their own fault’. But how would your own child fare if he or she was in their shoes and had to contend with some, or all, of the following? – little to no parental support emotionally or physically; exposure to various forms of implicit or explicit violence; extreme poverty; no money for out-of-school activities or personal transport to get there at night; exposure to casual substance abuse, and a local community, or school, which fails to provide support. Many have to overcome barriers that are more horrendous than most of us could imagine. How would you have fared between the age of nine and fifteen in these circumstances?

Yes, there are exceptions – those who excel in spite of extremely challenging circumstances. Others manage, despite difficult circumstances to create a reasonable life for themselves but too many struggle and never manage to turn their lives around.

In our area we can see that many of our most vulnerable young people are getting caught up in gang related behaviour and spiralling out of control. We believe that to stop this happening we need to involve them in diversionary activities. We also believe that the reason for their antisocial behaviour is not the young person’s fault but the result of inequality and poverty which is stressing their parents and leaving the young people with nothing to do and no money for hobbies and activities.

The problem is I cannot see this situation getting any better unless something radical happens. Young people need something to have control over, to hope for and to believe in. They need others to believe in them too. They need a place they can go to where people ask them: ‘What do you need?’ ‘What do you hope for?’ and ‘What do you enjoy? They need communities who are supportive. A lot of this is about developing trusting relationships.

This is what we The Children’s Wood has been trying to do in our own community through our G20 Festival. We have been working with a gang of young people for the last year and taking a bottom up/grassroots approach to finding out who they are, what do they need to flourish and how can we best support them. Thanks to funding from Glasgow City Council’s Hunger Fund and other funding, I believe we have created something quite special. We now have a team of amazing youth workers and a supportive community. Our numbers are increasing and other ‘gangs’ from different areas are coming to seek us out. I believe this is because they want something positive in their lives – something that engages with who they are now and what matters to them.

   

G20 Youth workers

When I wrote The Dear Wild Place I talked about the positive power of accessing local wild space for the mental and physical health of our young people, and I also talked about having access to a supportive community and how this can play a vital role in tackling gang related activity and for inclusion.  We have been collaborating with other community partners like Police Scotland, schools and our local McDonalds restaurant. Recently McDonalds told us how the young people have gone from causing mayhem in the shop to now diffusing fights and playing a positive role within the community. McDonalds have been developing positive relationships with many of the young people and their families.  This has happened through us all working together as a community and we are collectively making a difference.

 

Mc Donald’s staff at the Children’s Wood community ACES’s training event with Suzanne Zeedyke

We have a long way to go. While it has been hugely motivating and supportive for our young people to get support from Glasgow City Council, other groups and services need to do more for young people both locally and nationally. This has to be a priority since failing to do so will not only impact on the young person’s life but also the communities in which they live. This is everyone’s issue. Young people deserve more than their current lot. They deserve a better future.

 

Volunteer Action Weekend

Come and join local community members to make a difference to the garden and the land. Experienced gardener Christine will be on the land all day with lots of gardening jobs needing done. 10-4pm on Saturday 18th May

Wild about Waste in the Wood

There are various different forms of composting and waste recycling on the land. Join one of Nikki’s workshops to find out what can be composted and how you can get involved in the process.

11am-12pm worm farming
1pm-2pm composting
3pm-4pm dog poo wormery

Flower Power: The Land Needs You

Planting extravaganza 

when – 2nd March 11-2pm

where – Community Garden on North Kelvin Meadow

Come and join the community in supporting the development and biodiversity of the land. Seeds and plants will survive in the land much better after being cultivated at home first.

Collect seeds from us, plant them in a small pot and take them home to grow. After a few weeks you can bring them back to the land to plant.

Together we can do more for the land including increasing biodiversity, supporting the wild aspect of the land and also creating more colour throughout the year.

Everyone is welcome

Bringing Children Closer to Nature: Quality Practice Outdoors

The Children’s Wood and Upstart Glasgow Network are delighted to host a day with Kathryn Solly- Specialist Early Years Speaker, Consultant,Trainer and Author.

Following Kathryn’s keynote address we will enjoy workshops including Kathryn leading on “Space, open ended resources and objects outdoors”. Lunch will be cooked on the fire. This event is for early years practitioners and teachers up to P1/2.

BOOK NOW

More about Kathryn

Kathryn is now a specialist Early Years trainer and consultant working around Britain and internationally. Previously she was the Headteacher of the historic and diverse Chelsea Open Air Nursery School and Children’s Centre for nearly 17 years. However, Kathryn started her pedagogic life as a secondary school teacher on Voluntary Service Overseas in Papua New Guinea for two years. Since then she has taught across all the phases of education in a variety of places including a short time in an Albanian kindergarten. She retrained to teach in the early years and has since achieved a special needs qualification and an M.A. in Early Education and Care.She has travelled widely and studied education and care in Italy, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Aust

Kathryn was awarded the Unilever Fellowship researching aspects of Early Years Leadership and Management in 2006. She has contributed articles to several journals and books on a variety of aspects of young children’s play, teaching and learning. Her first book ‘Adventure, Risk and Challenge in the Early Years’ was published in December 2014. She is an experienced and passionate public speaker, trainer and consultant at home and abroad. She is a Froebel Travelling Tutor, and is Vice Chair of the Early Childhood Forum.

 

 

 

The Dear Wild Place: Greenspaces, Community and Campaigning

In The Dear Wild Place local campaigner Emily Cutts recounts her community’s successful David and Goliath struggle against housing development in Glasgow’s North Kelvin Meadow, also known as ‘the Children’s Wood’. Emily talks about the importance of green space for physical and mental health. She explains why getting children outdoors is crucially important for their well-being and outlines the innovative projects at the heart of the Children’s Wood campaign.

In conversation with Carol Craig, series editor for Postcards from Scotland, Emily also reveals how her campaign group galvanised their community to challenge the rampant materialism of modern life.

BOOk NOW

BUY THE BOOK

G20 Youth Festival

In 2015 local Maryhill resident and friend Eva Baille and I (Emily Cutts), in collaboration with The Goethe Institute (where Eva worked at the time) hosted an inequality event on the land and in Glasgow Kelvin College. Inequality was a subject both Eva and I were  passionate about given the relevance of income inequality to our area. The Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow  is situated in one of the most unequal areas in the UK.   Eva secure funding for us to join the European INtransit project which took place between 2015 and 2016 with our Market of Ideas event being the first in the programme. At our Market of Ideas inequality event we heard from projects from Denmark, Ireland and Finland.   We also heard from a youth project in Sweden Mitt 127. This youth led, postcode based, festival had amazing results in engaging young people, tackling crime, getting young people into work and integrating minority groups in an economically deprived area of Sweden.   This project has inspired our very own youth based programme: the G20 Youth Festival. We owe a huge thanks to Eva for her role in this.

After hearing from the Mitt 127 project, I wanted to do something similar in our area.  I had a strong belief that there is nothing of this kind for young people – something open to all, community based and organised and led by the young people. The MITT 127 model could work for our community.  However, though it was clear this type of idea could work in Maryhill, for various reasons, it wasn’t until Spring/Summer 2018 that anything happened with this idea.

The reason it wasn’t until 2018 that a youth programme was initiated is because suddenly there was an urgent need to work with young people. This was due to the young people engaging in antisocial behaviour on the land and in the wider area.  We were able to work with the young people intensively because our charity had more capacity, now that we had employed staff, many volunteers and no intensive campaigns to fight. I approached our committee about the antisocial behaviour and asked if the charity could fund a few weeks of youth work to help us engage with the young people; to find out who they were and what they needed.  Luckily, the committee were supportive.  It soon became clear that there was a dire need for youth engagement and for a way for our young people to take positive risks (something the outdoors provides).  Young people in our area have very little opportunities for free activities and especially activities outdoors and easily available in their community.  We continued to spend every evening outdoors for the next 2 months engaging and getting to know the young people.

We were able to carry out this level of engagement because The National Theatre of Scotland agreed to employ youth workers instead of security for the land, for two weeks when they  staged the outdoor production of  The Reason I Jump on the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow. This was a theatrical performance about autism based on the book by 13 year old autistic boy Naoki Higashida and directed by Graham Etough.

During this time, an intense level of youth engagement happened, many different youth workers, volunteers and community members helped us to work with the young people. We got to know who the young people were, what schools they were from, what they wanted and how we could support them. To cut a long story short, we now have a fantastic youth based festival: G20 Youth Festival. It is composed of many different young people who are responding well to our outdoor Forest School based activities. We also work during the day through the schools with some of our young people.  We meet three times a week cooking and eating food over an open fire together. One of the nights we take the young people to a club locally (although from now until February we will be based primarily indoors for all of our sessions – in the Maryhill Community Centre – so that we can plan ahead and create art work)

The reason we have something sustainable is also down to us receiving Glasgow City Council’s Summer Hunger Fund and the North West Integrated Grant fund from Glasgow City Council as well as small pots of holiday funding. This allows us to  work with young people during the holidays, working outdoors and taking them away to do activities like fishing, parkour and dance. My dream is that by next summer we have a summer long festival organised and led by our young people, not just on our land but in other areas locally so that activities are spread out and diverse.

The heartwarming feedback is that since we started working with the young people the police have reported a reduction in crime and antisocial behaviour, and this has continued. They came by a few weeks ago, when we were planting trees with volunteers from Scottish Water, and gave us this positive feedback. Local policeman Stevie, even planted a tree.

The success of the G20 Youth Festival is down to the amazing work from our youth workers.  Our youth workers are bringing out the best in our young people and integrating them into the community. You can follow their progress here

 

Meet Lesley, our lead youth worker

Hi I’m Lesley, I  enjoy working outdoors and experiential learning. The Woods gives me that opportunity. I also enjoy watching young people grow into themselves and progress through their own learning. P.s. I am also a big kid myself so that helps.

Meet Daniel

 

Hi I’m Daniel, The Woods and Meadow is a truly magical place! It’s a space were you can totally switch off from the digital world and find nature and play again. It’s great to see the amazing effect this has on the young people that come to the club. It’s a place where they are totally free to play, create, laugh, cook and most importantly learn.

Meet Jacque –

Hi I’m Jacque Working in the Children’s Wood and Meadow is a fantastic source of inspiration for the arts. Using the imagination invoked by the wildlife, wealth of colour and natural materials that surround our young people, it enables them to stretch their imagination in the best environment for their health and well being. It encourages them to become knowledgeable in using natural materials as opposed to plastics and man made resources.

 

 

Meet Stacey

Youth Worker

We’d like to say a special thanks to others who helped with the development of the G20 Youth Festival. These include (though not exclusive) Samantha MacGregor, Laura Harrison, Simone Murray, Susie Marshall, Rachel Carmen Simpson, Liv Glatt, Peri McMillan and Forest School worker Joni Mackay.

 

Happbee Anniversary

It was just over a year ago that social artist Kathleen Friend approached us about bringing honeys bees to the land. Local resident and mutual friend Gary introduced us. We knew this would be a meaningful and worthy project, but it has proved to be far more engaging, educational and community building than we expected.   Kathy, as she is known to locals, is an experienced beekeeper and if you have ever met her you will know how much knowledge and interest she brings to the subject of bees. It’s contagious.  Her idea wasn’t any ordinary bee project though. Kathy wanted to house the bees in a structure which she has modelled on a traditional doo-kit/doo-cot/dovecot; a large home for pigeons often made from corrugated iron.  There’s one up by the canal near Firhill basin.

Kathy’s beedookit idea is genius, since it allows communities to have bees on the land, but keeps people (and bees) safe and at a distance.

Copyright Kathleen Friend

The idea behind the beedookit is that the bees live upstairs inside the large temporary structure; the bees exit and enter the beedookit through small slits at the top of the structure (you can see the slits in the picture above, they are located at the bottom section of the wooden top part of the beedookit). Kathy had a clear idea and vision for what the  beedookit would look like and where it would be situated on the land.  The joiner she had to build the structure fell through at the last minute.  Luckily, we knew of a community member who might be able to help and pointed her to our friend and volunteer Josh Reid.  Josh has volunteered with the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow for some years now, you may have been to one of his infamous yearly firework displays on the land?  or his rocket launching at the space event a few years ago? to name just a couple of ways he has helped out. Josh’s mum Betsy is a beekeeper so Josh has a family connection with bees.  Josh is also a brilliant engineer and has a large workshop nearby in Maryhill.  Josh immediately offered to help out, and this reflects his generous spirit. He refined Kathy’s idea then built the beedookit in his workshop.  In true Josh style, he did all of this in amongst a full time busy job, selling and moving house and supporting his wife and 3 children.

The beedookit wouldn’t be here with out Josh’s engineering prowess.

Admittedly it ended up a lot bigger than we expected but I think you will agree it is a beautiful structure, while also being very much in keeping with our space and also the traditional dookit design envisioned by Kathy.

beedookit honeycomb design

 

beedookit from a far

It was a major feat getting the structure onto the land and into the pre dug holes.  But Kathy, Josh and their team of helpers did it.

 

Susie and helpers


cement preparation


Josh, Ivan, Gary, Quintin, Keith and Josh’s father in law navigating the wooden top structures up


Almost there

 

beedookit from a far

The goodwill didn’t end there.  To prepare for the structure arriving our Land and Community Garden coordinator Joni Mackay (who sadly no longer works with us) helped Kathy to facilitate the hole digging.   The Conservation Volunteers and RBS volunteers also helped out.  The Conservation Volunteers have been supporting and working with us the last 6 years building and making things on the land: raised beds, tipi, mudkitchen and helping with conservation work. They also played a critical role in our campaign to save the land from a housing development.   Check out the hard work and success of digging the holes Copyright Kathleen Friend

To increase community engagement Kathy wanted a way for people to look at the bees. She created a periscope for people to look into the beehive directly, without having to get inside the beedookit. This has become a very busy spot and people often come by just to look through the periscope to see how the bees are getting on.

 

periscope

 

Kathy has worked with local schools, Dunard and St Charles Primary, and the children came up with some brilliant bee picture for the beedookit.   Kathy put these pictures up on the day of the beedookit launch during the West-end Festival.   MP Patrick Grady joined Kathy to ceremoniously opened the beedookit.

MP Patrick Grady Opening the Beedookit


Kathy and Patrick

Copyright Kathleen Friend.  The beedookit at our halloween event

We had previously contemplated bringing bees to the land,  however there was no one with a practical enough vision or the skill to support bees long term on the site.  We had also been warned against bringing bees to the land by bigger conservation groups like Bug Life who argued that large number of bees could potentially outcompete and interfere with local insect life and biodiveristy – although the warning was more connected to commercial bee hives.   Kathy’s project has been the perfect idea for bringing bees to a community space.  It has brought people together. It has made us plant more meadow plots (with support from the RSPB, Joni and the gardening crew), flowers and plants to support our new wee pals.   We even hosted a bee festival at the beginning of 2018.  Just a few weeks ago we planted 200 more crocuses thanks to the Conservation Volunteers.   Supposedly these are early flowering and the bees love them.

 

 

Kathy has been regularly at the beedookit educating people about the bees and training local people up in how to manage and care for the bees.  Even the little ones have been enjoying beekeeping sessions.

Not only has the bee project brought people together but we also got a little amount of  honey from the bees.   Delicious. Maybe next year there will be more honey! what do you think Kathy?

 

Copyright Kathleen Friend

 

Lastly, we’d like to say a massive thank you to Kathy for brining honey bees to our community. And Happbee anniversary Kathy.  The beedookit project has strengthened our community  and raised awareness for one of the most special creatures in our community – the honey bees.  Thanks Kathy.

Check out the beedookit and Kathy in the music video Be Kind by Warren Starry Skies. To find out more about the beedookit  project you can follow/get in touch with  Kathy on her Facebook Page 

Full Planning Permission Granted

On Halloween 2014 we as good as won the lottery when Alex Macgregor, Architect and previous Chief Planning Officer, came into our lives.  Not only did Alex help our community fight off a high end housing development  (with his counter planning application for keeping The Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow  as a community park and garden) but today we find out that our plans, beautifully thought through and hand drawn by Alex, for upgrading the shed have been successful.  We have been granted full planning permission.

 

This success is down to Alex capturing what our community need to be sustainable, his hard work and persistence in not giving up. I first met Alex when he came along to our Halloween event in 2014.  His daughter Sam was working at the Woodlands Community Garden at the time, and she and a colleague had offered to help at our annual Halloween event.  At the event, Sam introduced me to her daughter Rachel, her dad Alex and mother Mitzy. Alex was charming and charismatic with an unforgettable distinctive and timeless style.  I won’t forget the conversation we had that night on the meadow, with fairy lights twinkling in the background, it was one of those milestone moments that have changed things for the better.  He was interested in helping us.

 

At the time I knew we were lucky to have someone like Alex support us, but I didn’t realise just how lucky we would be. The initial conversation has led to a 4 year relationship between us. During this time Alex has stood by our side, fought our corner and for no fee or reward since all of his work is Pro Bono. This gift from Alex has helped us to realise our potential as a community and to plan for the future. You can see our plans below.   The building will provide a much needed toilet, running water, storage, light and a space for small groups to meet indoors.

Planning application for the upgrade of the existing shed

All we need now is to submit a building warrant and to raise the funds to realise this dream….should be a piece of cake??!!!!!

Awesome Childhood Experiences

Earlier this year I attended an event with speakers discussing the impact of  Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) – the public health implications of early adversity on later development.  At that talk childhood campaigner Sue Palmer said something that struck a chord with me. She used a phrase Awesome Childhood Experiences. I loved the play on words, but it also described to me what I, and my  community, have been working towards for the last 7 years – a different childhood experience for children and families in our area.  The Children’s Wood project began with the intention of making childhood (and adulthood) a more nurturing, tolerant and meaningful experience for people locally.  To do this, we have facilitated regular outdoor community activities on our local wild space – The Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow  – and we now have a strong community feeling around the land.

You might wonder why we need an alternative, what’s wrong with the way we bring up children? Childhood is thought to be a time when children feel loved, supported, nurtured and are free of stress. However,  sadly, this is not how many children feel growing up. For many children it’s a toxic, stressful or unsafe experience. Mental and physical health issues are impacting upon children as young as 5 .  Because of this, there is a growing movement of people campaigning for a more nurturing, and developmentally appropriate, childhood.   I think the Children’s Wood demonstrates two important ingredients which are missing from the lives of many children, but which can play an important role: community and nature.

Community has played a central role in the work we do at The Children’s Wood.  It helps children to feel part of something bigger than themselves; part of a wider support network. Getting to know people of different ages, and from diverse backgrounds, builds empathy; children will learn about the struggles others have gone, or are going, through, and that we are ‘in it together’. It also builds trust in others since through our communities we will inevitably meet and get to know our neighbours.   Being part of a community brings problems to be solved – we’ve experienced this many times through our campaign to stop a housing development and to get people outside into nature more.  Collectively, more can be achieved since it’s easier to support the whole family as well as the child.

Community is needed more now than ever, it is far too easy to be connected to social media and electronic devices.  These feed addiction and stop us from connecting with each other and feeling alive.  It also breeds a kind of individualism that can undermine our healthy social, emotional and physical development.  Relationships are key to making us happy and through community life we can develop these bonds with other people. Social Scientists have studied happiness levels and time and again they have found that our relationships are THE top factor in making us happy.

It is not surprising then that when relationships breakdown-  and attachments are broken – children suffer.  Attachments are central to us living a meaningful and healthy existence.  The research into ACES highlights how toxic and long lasting the breakdown of relationships in childhood can be – this is because the attachment has been damaged in some way between the child and the adult(s).   This then impacts on  seemingly unrelated outcomes such as crime, physical health, mental health and even life expectancy.

The great news from this research is that there is hope. Relationships can be repaired and the wider community can help with this.  Attachments can be forged with people out with family: teachers, police, youth workers, shop keepers, neighbours, community workers, volunteers and so one. These  figures – YOU –  in the community have the power to transform children’s lives and build resilience.   All it takes is small acts of kindness or unconditional love.

YOU in the community have the power to transform children’s lives and build resilience.   All it takes is small acts of kindness or unconditional love

This is where nature comes in.  We have an in built connection with nature that is primitive and hardwired.  Biologist E.O. Wilson describes this as ‘ the urge to affiliate with other forms of life’.  Wilson developed a theory around this called Biophilia which supports the idea that we are biologically hardwired to respond to nature.  We need it, just like we need social interactions.   Being in greenspace for even 10 minutes can help us focus better, a walk in the park can reduce symptoms of ADHD and depression, playing in wild spaces increases resilience and the list goes on.  Nature will always be there. A child can climb a tree and feel relaxed when life gets stressful or there is trauma at home. The tree, and nature in general, will provide some level of nurture and relief  to that child.

Sadly, children are becoming  more disconnected from the natural world than ever before, and they are suffering because of it.  Children need to have contact with nature and until fairly recently they have always had a relationship with the natural world.  If you go back in time you will find that children would have either played or worked on the land; we are now seeing the virtual disappearance of this type of childhood activity. Environmental writer Richard Louv has brought this to our attention in  his book Last Child in the Wood.  Louv coined the phrase Nature Deficit Disorder to explain the unhelpful behaviours associated with a lack of nature. Being in nature can reduce these symptoms and build resilience, happiness and well-being.  This makes it important for us to look at how we can structure our communities so as to increase children’s access to greenspaces and reconnecting childhood to the natural world.  This can happen locally in the heart of communities by cleaning up and utilising local wild and greenspaces.

Even more powerful though, is when both nature and relationships coexist like they do in the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow. When the two factors – community and nature – come together we have something very special. When this happens the child is being nurtured by two of the strongest influences in their environment;  both of which build attachments and resilience.   Facilitated community activities bring these two elements together and can build a more nurturing and rich environment for children and the wider community.  I believe this is a great model for creating Awesome Childhood Experiences and I hope that more people take on their local wild spaces for changing childhood for the better.

by Emily Cutts