Growing North Kelvin Meadow

Have you spotted the ferns that have recently arrived in the Meadow? They traveled all the way from Govan’s Graving Docks – an old ship repair and fitting facility on the South side of Glasgow. Work stopped there in 1988, and since then nature has slowly claimed the dockland as an urban wilderness. New City Vision Ltd now owns the site, and they are seeking approval for plans to develop a housing and commercial complex there. To make headway with their regeneration plans, they have plans to raze the urban ecology that has flourished there.

In the meantime, a precious few ferns and other plants have been transported to the Meadow via bicycles pedaled across town by Ruth Olden and Erin Despard—two researchers in the geography department at the University of Glasgow who also live in the area. Shortly before Christmas, in the course of Ruth’s doctoral research at the docks, Ruth and Erin came up with a plan to transplant some ferns to the North Kelvin Meadow. This was conceived in part as a rescue mission, but also as a giving of gifts from one so-called ‘wasteland’ to another. The plants were shortly to be without a home, but at the same time, the Meadow could benefit from a contribution to its biodiversity (however small in size, and coloured by wishful thinking). Before the transfer, there were only a few ferns to be found amongst the trees (and none of the species we moved)—and what is a wood without ferns?

The challenge of finding appropriate locations for the ferns made the legacy of the meadow’s past life apparent: in most places, the layer of top soil over gravelly clay is quite thin yet. Left to its own devices, it seems it will be a while still before the meadow and children’s wood can welcome a greater variety of plant species. This led us to wonder what it would take for the community to cultivate a more hospitable soil for newcomers such as these. What kinds of tending might be imagined – similar to those of the vegetable plots and the orchard, but in the wood itself? We invite you to search out the ferns and encourage them, and perhaps think of the ways in which we might make their reproduction, and the arrival of other woodland plants more likely in the future.

By Ruth Olden and Erin Despard
Here’s a question: What growing would you like to happen on North Kelvin Meadow?
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