11 Aug 2020

Blog: Keeping communities connected through woodlands

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of our local woodlands and greenspace has never been so important to us all.

Our local woodlands offer a place to wind down, chill out, recharge the batteries and simply get outside from the confines of your house.

For those people living in the cities, connecting with their local woodlands has been very important in maintaining their own mental health and well-being. Scottish Forestry supports three urban woodland sites in the central area of Scotland at Castlemilk, East Kilbride and in Craigmillar.

Over a number of years, strong partnerships have grown between Scottish Forestry and the Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust, the East Kilbride Community Trust and Cassiltoun Housing Association in Castlemilk.

Funding from Scottish Forestry contributes towards a community woodland officer at each of these organisations. It’s their job to work with the local community to develop projects and activities that will encourage people to visit and enjoy their local woodlands.

During the current Covid-19 crisis they have been adapting how they engage and interact with their community to keep them connected with their local woodlands. Here’s a few examples of their excellent work during lockdown.

Craigmillar Castle Park – Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust

craigmillar 2

The community woodland officer, Ben McCallum, has been delivering an online activity programme with local families. This was made possible due to additional funding secured from the Wellbeing Fund initially for an 8 week period and was extended to run until the end of the school holidays. These weekly sessions have involved tasks and activities for families while also encouraging them to continue visiting Craigmillar throughout lockdown.

Using social media platforms to keep in touch with local people, the Trust has offered plenty of activities including posting up photos of daily walks, Harry Potter wand making and even making dandelion cupcakes and nettle soup.

K-Woodlands – East Kilbride Community Trust

Jane McArdle, their community woodland officer, has been extra busy promoting the site through social media and articles about the healing power of nature.

East Kilbride 2

During COVID-19, the Trust decided to create a safe outdoor space for staff and volunteers to continue to be part of something helpful. In this area they have growing a variety of fruit and vegetables from seed, while remaining socially distant. Tasks involved in this included: making raised beds using pallets; planting thousands of seeds; preparing pots for planting; replanting out thousands of seedlings; watering and feeding; and of course harvesting.

The popularity of the K-Woodlands site has boomed but with that came some anti-social behaviour and vandalism during the early lockdown period. Jane has helped turn this around and engaged with the community to help with regular woodland litter picks and pond clearing.

Through this on-going work, the community is helping to maintain the woodland, learn about the environment and build a stronger bond with K-Woodlands.

Castlemilk Woodlands – Cassiltoun Housing Association

Situated in the heart of south east Glasgow, the on-going community engagement with the woodlands and greenspace have been hugely important. The woodlands have provided a much needed escape for local people during lockdown.

With an active Youth Advisory Group and with the support of the Castlemilk Park Volunteers, lots of the organisation’s engagement during lockdown turned to digital platforms.

An innovative example of the activities on hand were the virtual woodland walks. Volunteers filmed a series of walks that people could take using the woodlands whilst spotting and searching for specific plants and flowers. The Daffodil and Waterfall walks were very popular!


The Community Woodland Officer, Stuart Whittaker, advertised the virtual walks on their social media platforms and also used Zoom meetings to present and discuss the rich history of the woodlands and surrounding greenspace.