Luke Mallett, a dedicated Callander’s Landscape volunteer, talks about his experience as a practical conservation volunteer and the positive influence of being in and around nature.

I started volunteering  with Callander’s Landscape earlier this year and have found it a very rewarding experience. It’s involved a variety of tasks from litter picking, removing invasive species to preparing sites for archaeological investigation. It’s a great way to get into the outdoors, do some moderate exercise and learn new skills while doing something positive for the environment. You also get to meet some interesting people. My fellow volunteers have been of all ages and backgrounds and the staff are very friendly, enthusiastic and very willing to pass on their considerable knowledge. It’s not too earnest though and a lot of fun is had.

I am getting over a long-term illness and taking part in the volunteering has rekindled my love of the countryside which has really helped in my recovery. One interest, in particular, that has been renewed is wild flowers. Often overlooked or just seen as weeds, wild flowers are an important, fascinating and beautiful part of the natural environment. Callander is a wonderful place to see wild flowers because it has so many different habitats all within easy reach. From loch side and river bank, meadows, lowland wood, heath and moor to mountain top you will find wild flowers growing.

From top to bottom: (1) Red campion, (2) Butterfly-orchid, (3) Wild strawberry, (4) Forget-me-not, (5) Fox-and-cubs, (6) Crane’s-bill, (7) Hogweed, (8) Broom, (9) Thistle

I get real pleasure from being able to recognise the flowers I see. Some become familiar old friends that mark the passage of the seasons but I’m always happy to find something I don’t recognise. I enjoy the process of identifying a new species but it’s not just about ticking it off a list though. Once a plant has been correctly identified it’s possible to maybe find out something about its biology and its part in human culture. Many plants have been used as food, herbal medicine or have played a role in folklore.

I’m not an expert in botany but, using a simple field guide, I have been able to identify over 80 different wild flower species in the Callander Landscape volunteer areas so far this year, including Ragged Robin, Marsh Marigold, Cow Parsley, Germander Speedwell and Heath Spotted Orchid.  I will be helping with in the plant surveys for Little Leny Meadow this summer, which is a good chance to learn more about survey techniques and about the flowers, grasses and sedges you might find in a wet hay meadow.

Why not get involved yourself in monitoring the flora of Little Leny Meadows or learning about what we can do to help our local environment to thrive and flourish this August? Find out more and book a space by contacting Julie at julie.wilson@lochlomond-trossachs.org.

Images credit: Luke Mallett