A renewed effort is being made to revitalise the Rigside and Douglas Water Community Nature Reserve at Loudon Pond.
On Sunday, March 25, more than 20 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and got to work – planting 165 tree saplings donated by the Woodland Trust and 25 orchard apple trees, paid for by the Coalfields Community Futures fund.
John Hancox, from Scottish Fruit Trees who supplied the orchard trees, was also on hand to show volunteers not only how to plant the orchardbut how to look after it in future.
For Andy Wallace, chairman of Loudon Pond and Ponfeigh Glen Association, it is just the start of a campaign to give the nature reserve its due prominence once again.
The association is manned by a four-strong committee who are all eager for the community to embrace the countryside on their doorstep.
Andy said: “The site was formerly home to Douglas Colliery but, when the mine closed in 1967, they knocked it down along with hundreds of houses.
“Loudon Pond was formed when they flooded the old mine works but it became a bit of a fly-tipping area – it was a mess.
“The association was formed back in 1994, amid fears that opencast mining had earmarked the area.
“The aim was to fight the opencast plans but also to create a nature reserve on the land.
“Some 2000 trees were planted and a bird hide installed, although, sadly that was later vandalised.
“The momentum was then lost and the area started to look a wee bit like a jungle in the summer.
“So last year, we started making renewed efforts to improve the site.
“The path which cuts through the land, the former Carmichael Street, was cleared by a Community Payback team, who did an excellent job.
“And we planted some wildflowers around the site, just before the Beast from the East arrived – hopefully, some will have survived!”
Galvanised to bring new life to the land, the association also sought out funding for new trees.
And the Coalfields Regeneration Trust was only too happy to help, as was the Woodland Trust.
However, when Andy advertised the tree planting event he was delighted that even more people came on board to lend a hand.
He said: “We had 22 volunteers on the day, several of whom were new faces from the local community – we were delighted to welcome them along.
“Around half of the volunteers were from Rigside and Douglas Water who could see that we were starting to make a difference at the nature reserve.
“We also asked a local geocacher to plant a cache on the nature reserve.
“So the remainder of the volunteers were Scottish Geocachers from a bit further afield, some from as far away as Leadhills and Helensburgh.
“None of them had ever been to Loudon Pond before, mainly because they didn’t know it existed.
“We’re hoping even more people will discover it with more caches being planted.
“We’d like to thank everyone who made the effort to come along.
“It wasn’t easy getting through the stones and bricks, left over from when the old miners’ rows were demolished so picks were used as much as spades – but they got the job done!
“Special thanks to Sandra Boyle and Dave Coats for providing the well-rotted manure and Hyndford Plant Hire for delivering it.
“Frances Lowrie, Margaret Roberts and Michael Derrington also planted a hedge.
“And Michael busted a gut to haul two big containers of water all the way up Carmichael Street, while Frances provided soup and Margaret some tablet to keep everyone’s energy up.
“It really was a team effort and everyone enjoyed it.”
As for the future, funding is always a problem, as is enough hands to do the job.
But the association is determined to ensure the nature reserve is a success.
Andy added: “If we can get people involved who are keen gardeners, we have space to create a wildflower meadow.
“We’d also like to offer bushcraft skills and install a composting toilet.
“But I can only ask people to do so much so I’d love to get more people involved to help lighten the load.
“Just trying to stay on top of the rosebay willowherb is a big job in itself.
“Hopefully, people will visit the reserve to see what’s been done, enjoy the birds and wildlife that visit and consider lending a hand.”
To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Making Rigside Greener Facebook page.