The Half Way Point of the Cairngorms Wild Plants Project!

Gwenda Diack

Gwenda Diack

Cairngorms Wild Plants Project Officer

25th July 2018

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The Cairngorms

It is a year and a half since this Plantlife project started in the Cairngorms National Park and timely to reflect on what has been achieved and what comes next.

Here is a summary of what the project has achieved since it began at the end of January 2017:

Volunteers

The project needs the support and help of ‘flora guardian’ volunteers to monitor plants and to be ambassadors for sites which are locally important for plants. The project had a target to recruit 25 flora guardian volunteers and engage not only people with good botanical knowledge but also novices who are keen to learn.So far the project has had 23 people come forward and volunteer their time and skills as flora guardians. I have also reached out and engaged with volunteer rangers and Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland volunteers as it all helps to spread the knowledge of how important the Cairngorms are for wild plants. To date, the project has supported a whopping 39 volunteer ‘events’ covering training, rare plant monitoring, public events and social media.

Land Managers

I have also been engaging with land managers, foresters, path workers and land management advisory staff to raise awareness of the conservation needs of Cairngorms wild plant of the uplands and Caledonian pinewoods through training field events, presentations and site meetings.At the half way point, several very useful events have been delivered (6 presentations to various organisations such as RSPB conservation staff and SNH ecosystems and biodiversity advisory staff), 6 field events (reaching various kinds of land managers from UHI student foresters to The Mountains & The People apprentices) and advice on 7 sites (all Caledonian pinewoods in Strathspey and Deeside) have been achieved.

Group Leaders

Over the wintery months, the project was taken indoors and I was also able to develop two new resources for group leaders. These are sets of weatherproof cards which help interpret the plants of Caledonian pinewoods and mountains. These tough little cards are designed to be durable enough to be pulled in and out of rucksacks by leaders when they are out with their groups. PDFs of these resources can be found on our website here. Training in the first set of cards for Caledonian pinewoods was recently carried out with Cairngorms National Park volunteer rangers at Glen Feshie and it was wonderful to get positive feedback on them and to trial them out in such a beautiful location.Further distribution and training for leaders on these resources will be delivered in the second half of the project.

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Flora Guardians

Public Awareness

Raising the profile of this new Plantlife project in the Cairngorms has been a constant feature throughout the first half of the project with regular Plantlife Scotland blogs, facebook and twitter posts as well as articles, a radio 4 interview and over 11 public events. Earlier this year, I also managed to get an article in the Woodwise magazine which focussed on woodland flora.The whole magazine is an interesting read.

Other highlights for me include presenting the project recently at the Cairngorms Nature 2018 seminar and participating in the Cairngorms Nature BIG weekend events, Volunteer Cairngorm events as well as hosting Plantlife events such as the ‘Jewels of the Caledonian pinewoods’.Most of these public events could not have been achieved without the help and support of flora guardian volunteers.

What’s Next?

The Cairngorms Wild Plants project seeks to secure the fortunes of the richly diverse flora of this Important Plant Area.Can this be achieved in just three years? The simple answer is ‘no’.In three years we can make good progress, produce resources, start things up and get people involved, but to secure the fortunes of our Cairngorms wild plants we need to build on these foundations.So Plantlife and our project partners are already beginning to think about what comes next and where the focus should be and how we can keep up the momentum.

But in the meantime, keep in touch for the exciting next half of the project.Follow the project on Facebook #CairngormsWildPlants. This three year project could not happen without the funding of Cairngorms LEADER, SNH and the National Park Authority and also the support of your donations.Many thanks to all!

If you live in the Cairngorms and would like to get involved locally in the project, I would be delighted to hear from you. Contact me on Gwenda.Diack@plantlife.org.uk

Find out more:

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