Staff blog: Glasgow's green sanctuary

John Muir Award Scotland Inclusion Manager Lucy Sparks reflects on our long-standing partnership with The Hidden Gardens in Glasgow

Img 6225 (credit   the hidden gardens) detail

Inspired by members and supporters sharing their favourite wild places in urban areas this summer*, I wanted to share my favourite accessible community greenspace in the heart of Glasgow - The Hidden Gardens. As the name suggests, it offers a peaceful sanctuary from the bustle of surrounding city streets - a green haven in the heart of Pollokshields, one of Scotland’s most diverse communities.

As soon as you set foot in the gardens, it’s clear that both people and nature are actively encouraged here. An award-winning public greenspace and community development organisation, The Hidden Gardens has been designed to create space for people to come together, share with each other and relax by spending time in nature, while also promoting biodiversity.

Over the years, The Hidden Gardens has delivered the John Muir Award, the Trust’s main engagement initiative. Numerous groups have been encouraged to get outdoors, connect with nature and get their hands dirty. From adult volunteer groups who have helped to transform what was once a derelict wasteland into a flourishing wildlife garden, to local children participating in summer holiday activity programmes, all have put something back for nature.

The Trust has other links with the gardens. In summer 2018, we held a training session on the theme of literacy and nature, sharing The Lost Words as a tool for engaging people with building literacy skills in the outdoors. With people from education, inclusion, environmental and community organisations, the afternoon buzzed with inspiration and chatter as participants wandered the gardens, appreciating the wildlife and sharing thoughts, poems, and ideas.

More recent John Muir Award activity has focused on taking action for pollinators. The gardens’ Greenthumbs volunteers come from a diverse range of backgrounds and ages ranging from 16 to 70+. Their weekly sessions provide ample opportunities for individuals to share their gardening and DIY skills, time and enthusiasm.

Having chosen to focus on supporting butterflies and other pollinating insects, the volunteers undertook pollinator surveys and researched habitat improvements that could help maintain and increase these populations. They documented their actions on the garden’s blog and have also taken time to share their knowledge with visitors, explaining why pollinators matter and how they can help. Plants propagated from seed will be sold from the garden’s plant kiosk, encouraging local people to help create more pollinator-friendly spaces within the wider community.

Volunteer Manager Andrea Gillespie said: “Taking part in the John Muir Award has provided an opportunity for our volunteers to escape from the busy urban environment in Glasgow and immerse themselves in nature.

“Volunteers took time to look more closely and enjoy the wild side of the gardens by looking at nature in different ways. They explored in depth an aspect of the gardens that could be improved to encourage wildlife to make the gardens their home, and discovered how everything in nature is connected. Volunteers learned and shared skills, made friends and improved their health while undertaking the Award.”

Sat in the heart of the garden, butterflies and bees flitting back and forth, it’s easy to see why this community greenspace is so widely loved by staff, volunteers, locals and visitors. It’s the perfect escape from the city hubbub - a space for breathing in the fresh air, relaxing with friends and finding calm before venturing out into the busy streets again.

Photo courtesy of The Hidden Gardens

*Read about other favourite wild places in urban areas.