The East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative (CEI) is part of an exciting new venture – The Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership – and through this scheme will be delivering three projects that benefit nature in East Ayrshire.
The Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership (CCLP) is a five-year project led by East Ayrshire Council and working with communities and organisations to deliver projects in the coalfield area of East Ayrshire that:
- Address the threats to the natural, built and cultural heritage through conservation, enhancement and promotion, capitalising on the area’s assets for the benefit of people in the landscape
- Create opportunities for learning, recreation and wellbeing within the landscape for people with a range of abilities and backgrounds
- Reveal the past lives of the communities, drawing upon their close relationship with the land, thereby connecting people with their heritage and inspiring stewardship
- Equip people with the skills and knowledge to manage their landscape sustainably, building capacity and making it a successful place for residents and visitors alike
The CEI’s projects are:
East Ayrshire has an abundance of blanket and raised bogs, which are important wetlands for wildlife and contain deep deposits of peat soils. Much of the area’s peatlands have been damaged or lost. Perfect peatlands aims build on past work by CEI to restore an area of degraded peatland the size of 100 rugby pitches (100ha).
Peatland restoration has huge potential to benefit the environment, wildlife and people. Healthy peatlands are able to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere, whereas degraded peatlands release greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. 100 ha of peatland restoration could lock up an estimated 1,000 tonnes of CO2 (tCO2e) in the first 5 years after restoration!
Restoring peatlands means making them wetter by blocking man-made drainage ditches, slowing the flow of rain water into nearby rivers and improving water quality. This can be beneficial during high rainfall in lessening the impact of flooding on communities downstream. It is thought that in combination with other actions, peatland restoration is important in Natural Flood Management.
We’ll work with volunteers to explore, identify and record the special animals and plants living on East Ayrshire’s bogs. This helps us better understand the area’s wildlife and how the populations are responding to our conservation work.
We want to share the love for peatlands! Our events will encourage local people of all ages to appreciate the nature on their doorstep and get involved in efforts to increase biodiversity in the landscape.
Coalfields for Pollinators
Our native pollinators are in trouble! Pollinating insects such as bees, hoverflies and moths are vitally important to nature and to us, as they pollinate both wild plants and the food that we eat such as tasty apples, strawberries, potatoes and tomatoes. In living memory there has been a devastating reduction in wildflower-rich grassland across the UK, with over 97 % being lost since the 1930s. This has been one of the major contributing factors behind dramatic declines in our native pollinators, with over 75 % of butterflies and 66 % of our moths in trouble. Half of our bumblebees species are threatened, with three species have gone extinct in the last 100 years!
Much of our surviving wildflower-rich habitat exists as small isolated fragments surrounded by intensively managed farmland, and infrastructure leading to towns and cities.
The Coalfields for Pollinators project will help reverse 80 years of devastating habitat loss and fragmentation of our wildflower-rich grasslands. Working with East Ayrshire Council, local communities, schools, landowners and specialist contractors we aim to will deliver landscape-scale, colourful, wildflower-rich grassland creation and enhancement across the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership (CCLP) area.
The Scottish Pollinator Strategy (2017 – 2027) has highlighted the need for more, larger, better quality and more connected areas of wildflower-rich habitat to allow threatened pollinator populations to recover, reconnect and move across the landscape in response to climate change. The River Doon and River Ayr Valleys have been identified as priority ‘B-Line’ pollinator corridors passing through East Ayrshire in a recent CSGN pollinator habitat mapping exercise (https://www.buglife.org.uk/b-lines-hub/scotland). Creating and enhancing pollinator habitat ‘stepping stones’ within these corridors will provide nectar and pollen resources and allow our beleaguered pollinators recover and move through the countryside.
Working with landowners and local communities a target of 25 ha of pollinator habitat will be created/ or enhanced on derelict OCC sites, in Community green spaces and along active travel routes in the CCLP area. This project will compliment proposed active travel routes such as the Lugar Way and the Doon Valley way.
Many of East Ayrshire’s communities within the CCLP area have produced Community Action Plans that mention community appearance and improvement of poor quality green space as priorities for local people. As part of this project we will work with local schools and communities to design and create colourful community meadows on areas of biodiversity-poor amenity grassland and VDL sites. Following sowing, community meadows will be managed with a single cut in the autumn, rather than the standard 20 cuts per year, so there will be savings in time and money for East Ayrshire Council. Local meadows next to schools provide the opportunity for more out-door lessons and are an attractive focus for a wide range of curriculum-focused activities.
Working with the community and local schools, spring bulbs and community fruit trees will be planted near meadows for the benefit of pollinators and the local community. The community will be encouraged to plant pollinator-friendly spring bulbs and wildflowers in their own gardens to improve habitat connectivity throughout villages and towns, and to encourage community connection with the project.
A programme of volunteer training and survey days with volunteers, community groups and schools will promote the recording of pollinators using simple survey methods. Volunteers will help record pollinators and wildflowers in the newly created meadows. The data collected will provide useful statistics to show the benefits of the improving habitat for pollinators compared to un-enhanced areas.
Healthy East Ayrshire Rivers
‘We twa hae paddl’d i’ the burn, frae morning sun til dine; …’ Robert Burns ‘Auld Lang Syne’
Working with the Ayrshire Rivers Trust and the Riverfly Partnership this project aims to empower and support local communities to take action that will help conserve the river environment. This project will provide training in a simple biological monitoring technique that can be used to detect perturbations in river water quality and puts communities in direct communication with the local ecological contact of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
This monitoring scheme, when used alongside routine monitoring carried out by SEPA ensures that water quality is checked more widely and action taken at the earliest opportunity should any pollution incidents or unusual perturbations be detected. Similar monitoring initiatives in catchments in other parts of the UK with are known to act as a deterrent to incidental polluters. Successful schemes are underway within river catchments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Many of East Ayrshire’s water courses pass close to former opencast coalfield sites; receive water from drained and degraded peatlands, or pass through urban and agricultural landscapes, so the possibility of a pollution incident occurring could be quite high. Even minor pollution incidents such cattle poaching at the edge of a watercourse can be damaging to sensitive wildlife, while others can potentially wipe out the entire river ecosystem downstream of the pollution event.
With this simple monitoring scheme in place, improvements to river catchment quality as well as potential negative impacts form infrastructure projects can be detected.