Celebration event marks successful Nature Network project

Forty people gathered in New Cumnock Town Hall on the evening of Thursday 19th April to celebrate the successes of Nature Network, a large-scale environmental project delivered by the East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative (CEI).

Nature Network ran between 2013 and 2018 and was part of EcoCo LIFE, a Central Scotland-wide project aimed at improving ecological connectivity and increasing biodiversity. Since 2013, Nature Network has delivered 479 hectares of peatland habitat restoration in the East Ayrshire Coalfields. Volunteers have contributed to wildlife surveys and practical conservation tasks at over 1oo events on the bogs. A programme of education and engagement has seen the local community involved in a variety of events aimed at raising awareness of these special habitats. This includes over 900 young people who have participated in hands-on activities ranging from species studies to field trips to their local peat bog.

The evening was chaired by Councillor Jim McMahon who is member of the CEI Board and it featured talks from CEI Project Manager Daisy Whytock, CEI Project Officer Gemma Jennings and the Chair of the CEI Steering Group, Toby Wilson. Project artwork was on display and the event included the first screening of a specially commissioned project film called ‘Peat, people and partnerships’. The event was attended by members of the public, project volunteers and project partners as well as MP Bill Grant, Councillor Jacqui Todd and Councillor William Crawford.

Daisy Whytock, CEI Project Manager said “As Nature Network draws to a close, we were delighted to celebrate our success with our partners, volunteers and the local community. The project achieved so much more than anticipated and this is due to the support it received in the local area. East Ayrshire has a wealth of important peatland sites and to be able to help improve their ecological condition is a wonderful achievement and will result in benefits for wildlife and people. Healthy peatlands support wildlife and are great places to explore. When peatlands are in good condition they improve water quality, help prevent flooding and store carbon, playing an important role in climate change mitigation.”

Future plans for the East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative were also unveiled. A new two-year project ‘Nature Network Legacy’ will deliver peatland conservation in the East Ayrshire Coalfield area between April 2018 and March 2020. The project will restore peatlands at priority sites and advise and encourage land managers to manage and restore sites. Nature Network Legacy will work with local volunteers to survey and monitor peatlands, helping them to gain skills and increase their knowledge of local sites and species and will engage with the community to promote the value of peatlands. If you would like to get involved or find our more please contact CEI Project Manager, Daisy Whytock on daisy.whytock@ea-cei.org.uk or 01563 553513.

CEI Project Manager Daisy Whytock presenting some of the Nature Network / EcoCo LIFE project highlights

The Nature Network project was supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, East Ayrshire Council, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Heritage Lottery Fund, Peatland Action, Cumnock and Doon Valley Minerals Trust, Forestry Commission Scotland, CSV Action Earth and with the contribution of the LIFE+ financial instrument of the European Community.

More photos from the event can be viewed on our Facebook page.