Join us in connecting children, families and community groups to create a city-wide wildlife garden, and celebrate nature within Glasgow.
As the Glasgow Wildlife Garden Festival approaches its third weekend, guest blogger Deirdre Heddon explains a bit more about her participation in the festival, through the Walking Library.
The Walking Library is a creative research project initiated by Dee Heddon & Misha Myers in 2012. In its simplest conception, The Walking Library is a library filled with books, each one suggested as ‘good to take on a walk’. The Walking Library follows in the historical footsteps of those eighteenth-century poets and writers such as William Wordsworth and John Muir who would travel great distances by foot but always in the company of books, selected carefully to provide companionship.
The Walking Library for a Wild City is the ninth edition of the project. Each edition asks a specific question: what book would you take on this walk? And then it gathers up those books and walks with them.
For The Walking Library for a Wild City, commissioned by Glasgow 2018, we asked: ‘What book reveals wildness in the city?’ and ‘What book would you rewild by walking?’ By the date of the first walk, the 13th May, we had received more than 50 suggestions.
We were delighted that our first walk of this new Library was a collaboration with the RSPB, as part of their Garden Festival. Titled “a walk to arcadia: a biblioblitz from the Barras”, we borrowed and adapted the RSPB’s popular observing and recording activity, the BioBlitz. A BioBlitz involves identifying all living things in an area within a set period of time. For our walk we brought together the bio with the biblio (from the Greek, biblion, meaning book) in a biblioblitz. Carrying recommended books with us as we walked from the Barrowlands to Arcadia Street and back, we used them to help us ‘rewild’ our city, seeing anew the nature and wildness all around us, from the weeds in the pavements to the nests in the trees.
At the start of the walk, we invited those who had joined us to select a book from our Walking Library, one that they would like to carry with them. We then invited them to stop and share something from their walked book wherever they felt a resonance between the book’s content and our environment. Keen to remap the city according to the wildness we found, we also invited people to point out any wilderness encountered en route and rename the streets (‘Bees Brow’ and ‘Dandelion Daunder’). Our collaborator, the artist Alec Finlay, who walked with us, would take use these observations to make new, wilder maps of Glasgow.
We were lucky for this walk. The sun shone on us. Books we carried and shared included Field Notes from a Hidden City: Urban Nature Diary, by Esther Woolfson, Wild Plants of Glasgow, by J. H. Dickson, The Public Life of the Street Pigeon, by Eric Simms, Dead Cities, by Mike Davis and Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. We saw wild flowers (‘weeds’) taking over numerous derelict buildings, oblivious to concrete and masonry; we imagined the post-apocalyptic city alongside a wilder, more open shared commons; we learnt of the use of pigeons during the war (unwitting conscripts); we thought about land managed as ‘wild space’ for the pollinators; we talked of the heavily polluted Clyde, now home to otters and fish; we wondered what sort of future we could imagine for this dear green city, home to the Glasgow Garden Festival 30 years ago. What sort of Garden City might it be 30 years from now? Walking, reading, talking, imagining…
Our next walk offers another Biblioblitz, this one starting at the site of the original Glasgow Garden Festival (Festival Park): 26 May, 11-12.30
Walks are free but booking is recommended:
For more information on wild city, visit our blog:
Photographs by Kate McAllan
Swifts are returning to our skies after spending a lovely, warm winter in Africa. We’re even running an event all about them at the Kelvingrove Museum this weekend as part of the Glasgow Wildlife Garden Festival! But how well do you know these sickle-shaped birds? Here are our top ten facts about swifts:
1) Swifts spend almost their entire lives on the wing, and have been recorded flying without landing for at least 10 months!
2) Their Latin name is Apus apus, which literally means footless footless. This is because their legs are so short, people used to think they didn’t have any at all.
3) Their legs are short because they don’t really need them. You’ll never see them on telephone wires, though they do land to nest! If you find a swift on the ground, it may well be in trouble. Here’s some guidance on what to do: http://www.swift-conservation.org/SwiftFirstAid.htm
4) Swifts usually migrate back to the UK from Africa about a month later than swallows and house martins, and leave earlier as well, so enjoy them while they’re here!
5) Swifts can be identified by their screaming calls: it’s an iconic sound on a warm summer’s evening.
6) Swifts usually hunt at quite high altitudes, but in areas where they’re breeding, they can be seen at rooftop level or even lower in what are called screaming parties. These are groups of swifts that call excitedly to each other as they perform breath-taking aerobatics around buildings at dusk.
7) You sometimes see them referred to as devil’s birds. Maybe people used to think all that screaming was spooky?
8) Swifts nest in holes and crevices, not in mud cups like swallows and house martins. They like old buildings and towers, anywhere where they can come out over a bit of a drop.
9) Adult swifts feed by scooping small insects and spiders out of the air. Parents mix their catch with saliva to form food balls to pass to their nestlings. Each of these food balls can contain 500 insects.
10) Swifts are now amber-listed birds due to a big fall in their population.
You can help! Once swifts are lost from an area, it can be difficult to get them back again. If you have screaming swifts near your house, why not consider putting up a swift nesting box to help them. You can also submit your swift sightings. Find out more on our website https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/conservation-and-sustainability/safeguarding-species/help-us-help-swifts/
Over the next four weekends, there will be dozens of events running at sites all over the city as part of the Glasgow Wildlife Garden Festival 2018. This is a celebration, not only of our city's wildlife and green spaces, but we're also marking the 30th anniversary of the Glasgow Garden Festival, so why not come along and join in the fun!
Wherever you live, there will be something happening near you. Many of the events are free, or for a donation only, and there are activities suitable for all ages.
You can find all the events listed here: https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/at-home-and-abroad/scotland/glasgow/wildlifegardenfestival/events.aspx
Or the leaflet is also available to download below.
If you have any questions, or would like to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also tweet us @RSPBGlasgow.