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What can Dunoon learn from other communities about how to manage green and blue spaces for people and nature?

In 2023, the BBC released the series Wild Isles, narrated and presented by David Attenbourgh. The series drew attention to the phenomenal diversity of wildlife that exists within the UK and the pressure this wildlife is under because of climate change and a reduction in natural habitats. It was great viewing, and stimulated a lot of discussion about issues like water quality, habitat restoration and biodiversity.

But, how do these issues impact on places like Dunoon, a town surrounded by trees, hills, lochs and sea? How can we use our green and blue spaces to build wealth and improve health in our community, whilst growing jobs and learning opportunities?

The Rose Garden, Dunoon
The Rose Garden, Dunoon

Access to greenspaces, parks, gardens, forests and pockets of grass and trees have proven benefits on human health. They have a calming and cooling effect that can be particularly valuable in more built up urban areas. Blue spaces, which are sea fronts, rivers and lochs, are also considered beneficial to people, creating opportunities for swimming, paddling and sailing - or simply dipping your toes into the water.

Oystercatchers, guillemots, eider ducks and the rare gillicker weevil are among the wildlife that depend on our lochs, rivers or sea fronts, areas like West Bay. In turn these birds and insects help to manage a healthy ecosystem for people. This wildlife and their habitats are a draw for visitors and an educational resource for the community. 

Increasingly, communities are coming together to protect green and blue spaces, whilst transforming them into valuable economic and community assets. For example, in Dunkeld and Birnam the community worked with partners to create an orchard on a disused greenspace that now attracts many visitors, encourages bees and other pollinating insects, and supports local schools to learn about food. 

Dunkeld and Birnam orchard sign. Image credit: Dunkeld and Birnam Community Orchard
Dunkeld and Birnam orchard sign. Image credit: Dunkeld and Birnam Community Orchard

Local authorities leading the way with the management of green spaces for biodiversity

Many local authorities in Scotland are showing strong leadership on biodiversity. Perth and Kinross Council have committed to reducing mowing, creating wildlife areas and not using chemicals to maintain spaces. Paths are mown through wilder areas so there is easy access for dog walkers and those who would like to enjoy a walk through the natural surroundings. Over time, fruit trees and native trees will be introduced into these greenspaces, creating more habitat for wildlife and interest – and fruit – for people.

Information sign, Perth and Kinross council
Information sign, Perth and Kinross council

These are simple and cost effective ways to create interest, spaces for play, to improve physical and mental wellbeing whilst enhancing wildlife. Read more about their research-led Grow Wild policy here>

In Leeds, the City Council is putting biodiversity at the heart of new developments within communities. They are integrating biodiversity management into maintenance plans and creating forested areas and wild roundabouts to encourage a linked network of greenspaces across the city. They have a really useful map of natural spaces to share information about their work which you can see here>

What’s the vision for Dunoon and how to develop our green and blue spaces for community benefit?

In Dunoon, we have green and blue spaces in abundance, but what we don’t always have is a clear vision of how these local assets can be managed and used to improve the quality of life for local people by working with nature. Our research to date suggests that there are policies, such as Argyll and Bute's Council’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action plan that commit the local authority to considering change, but there is no clear sense of how these policies impact on the management practices of spaces at the moment or into the future.

From May to July 2024, Dunoon Community Development Trust will be exploring how Dunoon’s green and blue spaces could be managed to boost local jobs and local enterprise and to keep money in the community (community wealth building) and improve the mental and physical health of local people (community wellbeing).

Not only have TV programmes like Wild Isles, Coast and Countryfile shone a lens on the need to protect biodiversity for the wellbeing of our planet, they have also boosted nature tourism with more wildlife watchers visiting natural sites, including Nature Reserves and Forestry Commission sites. Bird watching, wildflower observing and guided nature walks as tourism is increasing. 

We know from our research that there is a lot of frustration around how places like the Rose Garden and West Bay are looking, but we’d love to know more about what people think could be done to improve the way blue and green spaces are managed for people and biodiversity. Going forward, the thoughtful management of these spaces could help Dunoon regenerate economically. By showing we understand and value of nature and our role in tackling the climate and biodiversity crises, we can also give visitors a unique experience. But we need to show leadership in this area and be clever about how spaces are managed over the longer term to achieve this.

Here are some of the questions that we’re investigating: 

  • What are the changes that people want to see?

  • What are the current challenges and opportunities to work with the local authority to help develop a plan?

  • How can the way we care for these spaces help more people to access and enjoy them? 

  • How can we use these assets for learning and recreation?

  • Is there scope to save money by simply taking part in national campaigns like No Mow May?

  • Importantly, as town’s like Dunoon compete for visitors, how can our natural assets be protected and used to encourage sustainable tourism? 

We will be gathering information about green and blue spaces in a number of ways.

  1. Add your idea to the Green Map  If you have an idea about how to improve a green or blue space locally, then add it to our Green Map of good ideas. You can add images, sound and text to the map, so get creative! Link here>

  2. Attend a walk or workshop Over the next few months we will be hosting a series of activities around the town, including West Bay, Struan Lodge and other sites to give you an opportunity to learn about our local, natural heritage and share your ideas. We will share these ideas here>

  3. Come and see At the end June, Dunoon Community Development Trust will be creating an exhibition on West Bay to share information and test out ideas about how we can make small changes to the area in alignment with Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Beach Award scheme. More information will follow about this, but if you have questions please contact who is coordinating this project.


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