In the Project of the Month for May we look at North Lanarkshire Council’s ‘Mega Flora’ project – experiments in creating wildflower meadow habitat and better planting and management regimes for North Lanarkshire’s urban grassland and country parks.

Funded from the Council’s Nature Restoration Fund allocation and a 2023 Levelling Up Parks grant award from greenspace scotland on behalf of Scottish Government, this two-year project extends North Lanarkshire’s existing work on making grassland management better for nature and for people.

The project aims to:

• Create diverse and healthy greenspaces for local people to enjoy.

• Benefit wildlife and reduce biodiversity loss.

• Help combat the climate emergency including reducing carbon emissions.

• create a new standard for grassland management best practice throughout the Council area.

Mega Flora is a pilot project, centred on the grasslands within and surrounding Strathclyde Country Park west of Motherwell, and Palacerigg Country Park south of Cumbernauld, with a few other sites.

Mega Flora seeding locations around Strathclyde Country Park and west Motherwell. Contains OS data © Crown Copyright and database right 2023 Contains data from OS Zoomstack.

Nineteen sites have been selected in total, covering 124,947 m2 (12.5 hectares). These range from large areas of amenity grassland within and surrounding Strathclyde Country Park, to woodland edging, a redundant red ash football pitch, residential areas, and school grounds.

Scarifying (scraping) ground and seeding at Torbothie Road and Southfield Avenue in Shotts, autumn 2023

The Council expects to invest around £100,000 in these improvements over the two years from March 2023. £35,000 came from the greenspace scotland Levelling Up Parks award. This allowed sites to be surveyed, existing species diversity and soil conditions recorded, and detailed plans to be developed for different wildflower establishment techniques tailored to each site. 

Bespoke seed mixes have been created for 15 sites based on local conditions. Experiments include single species planting plots, to make it easier to assess what are the best performing plants for specific purposes and places.

Site preparations followed by seeding and bulb planting took place in autumn 2023. Volunteers from community organisations Palacerigg Community Trust and Watch Us Grow helped planting at Palacerigg. Pupils from Allanton Primary School near Shotts helped sowing seeds in the sites surrounding the school. 

The planting team at Palacerigg Country Park

Permanent signage has been put in place to explain what is happening. There is also extensive information for people on a dedicated area of the North Lanarkshire website here . 
The very wet winter and cool early spring of 2024 has held back plant growth somewhat, and at time of going to press, seeding of colourful annual flower meadows for this year was still to take place. However, as the months proceed into summer, changes will become more visible, and the learning from the project will grow, including from a survey asking people how they have used and enjoyed the sites. 

An existing wildflower meadow at Strathclyde Country Park, 2023

Picture credits: North Lanarkshire Council / Pictorial Meadows.

Mega Flora is one of 11 projects supported by greenspace scotland with funding from the 2023 Scottish Government/UK Government Levelling Up Parks programme to restore nature in urban settings and country parks.

For information on ways of tackling the issues from a selection of the other projects, see these past Projects of the Month - Aberdeen Flagship Parks for Pollinators  Improving Nature Networks for East Lothian’s Communities, and Nature networks across Falkirk – Spaces for Nature Action Plan .

Thanks to Cheryl Oliver, Greenspace Project Officer, North Lanarkshire Council for providing information and help with this article.