There’s a real buzz about one of the district’s “hidden gems” as it moves into the 21st century.
The Muiravonside Country Park estate near Maddiston has a rich history of intrigue stretching all the way back to 1189 when it was called Morgunessete – the home of the Morguns – but to make it fit for modern purposes and attract a steady stream of visitors there is now a wealth of community spirit, hard graft, funding and creativity being invested in the park.
Falkirk Community Trust’s parks and sustainability team leader Claire Mennim and countryside ranger Simon Bowers are enthusiastically spearheading the changes with not a little help from volunteers and community groups which will see major improvements and attractions over the next few months to three years.
Already a new cafe and visitor centre have opened alongside a busy children’s play area and there’s plenty of picnic tables for families to enjoy a bite to eat in the great outdoors – when the Scottish weather permits obviously.
To highlight the park’s abundant wildlife and biodiversity plans include a poetry and sculpture trail which will feature a four-metre high metal sculptures of teasel plants that will be seen from a distance, a giant wooden newt currently being sculpted and a range of adventurous events for children and adults including bat and badger walks.
The trail is being funded by Avondale Environmental from landfill tax money totalling over £50,000. In addition, when the trees grow in the new community growing area, visitors will be able to pick fruit from the “edible corridor” for free eating the apples, pears and plums as they wander round. It’s called scrumping and scrumpers will be very welcome once it all comes together.
Simon said: “The idea is that people will be able to come for a walk, pick some fresh fruit and get some exercise as well. It will be a scrumping trail, you’re allowed to scrump here.
“You pick the fruit and eat it there and then if you want. That’s the whole idea, getting people out and consuming locally grown food, absolutely free. Hopefully we’ll have about 200 trees in over the next three years.
“We have 35 trees on site now and with the support from the Heritage Lottery Fund we’ve managed to extend that orchard all the way down the hill and round to the mill building, which is where the historic orchard and historic wall garden would have been so it’s basically linking the new with the old.”
Maddiston Community Council came up with the concept and volunteers have helped get it off the ground with funding as well as cash from Forth Valley Orchard Project.
Simon added: “It’s a massive help to have the local community on board, they’ve helped out a massive amount at the community growing area. It was them who asked for it and they also put their hand in their pocket and paid for the majority of it as well and got their hands dirty getting it off the ground.”
The park is managed by the community trust and receives core funding from Falkirk Council but it now has around £175,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to play with and Claire is impatient to get all the improvements implemented.
She said: “Because we are the only country park in Falkirk, it’s our responsibility to do the nature angle and introduce people to aspects of wildlife they don’t always think about and finding ways of doing that are a bit fun and be engaging.
“The teasel sculpture will be real focal point, really eye-catching, you should see them from the car park so the moment a visitor arrives they’ll see these things on the hill and want to go and explore and find out more about it.
“It will be interesting for people who don’t consider country parks to be their natural weekend choice for a day out, it’s particularly aimed at families who are looking for something interesting to do with kids. It should fit in really nicely with our ‘Learn, Explore, Enjoy’ project which is the Heritage Lottery one.
“We’ve also got money to do things like the events programme, a lot of wildlife events, giving people a close up view of animals they wouldn’t normally see. Simon has been taking some wildlife footage of badgers with a special camera of them feeding and how they live as families. You get to see them within a metre of you on our badger walks.
“We get fantastic feedback from that event, several dates are always booked out. We want people to come to our events and then say ‘I’ll come back here’. You can come here and don’t have to spend money, bring a ball, a frisbee, come and enjoy the park for what it is.”
Maddiston and Rumford Local History Group is another local group involved in the park’s resurrection. Simon said: “We’re working very closely with the local history group to do historical interpretation panels throughout Muiravonside. It’s another good link we have with the local community.”
Events on in Muiravonside, August-September:
August 8: Sculpture Day – workshop with ‘Blazing Blacksmith’ for inspiration for sculptures on new trail.
August 22: Meet the Bees – a behind the scenes peek into the secret life of the hive.
August 29: Bat Walk – Echoes Ecology leading an introductory walk and talk focussing on the fascinating twilight world of bats.
September 13: Apple Day with Forth Valley Orchards.
September 18 & 25: Badger Watch – Fascinating look into the secret lives of badgers with ranger Simon Bowers. For more information or to book an event contact (01324) 506850 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.