Read about what happened at the 2023 Merlindale Nature Festival below.
Directions to Festival
For a map showing the parking of the Merlindale Nature festival and walk down to festival site please click the button below.
Festival Site Map
For a map showing the Merlindale Nature festival site in more detail, displaying where things were located please click the button below.
What Happened at the 2023 Nature Festival?
On the 19th of August Merlindale welcomed a collection of local and regional groups involved in wildlife conservation and nature restoration for the Merlindale Nature Festival 2023. The event was a buzz with life, from stalls filled with inspiring information to successful guided tours where some were even able to see their first red squirrels. We were pleased to welcome back Billy Anderson from Fingerpost Farms who was once again the star of the festival. Working alongside Billy to mow the meadow was Rob Brodie who followed up on last year's successful scything workshop at which more than forty people had a go at scything under his instruction. It has been widely reported that an experienced scyther can mow grass at a comparable rate to a strimmer, but with none of the noise.
Once again we were pleased to welcome our friends at the Tweed Forum who attended with information on a range of projects including an update on their nationally significant Destination Tweed project. The new national trail will pass within touching distance of Merlindale. We were also proud to be working with the local community group Connecting Threads who organised an artist in residence last year that worked with our local school to visit the meadows at Merlindale and produce related artwork. This year they they were the centre of an organised seed collecting event in which people were provided with information on meadow flowers, grasses and seeds by an expert as well as being encouraged to collect seeds themselves.
The Tweed Foundation also held their electrofishing event where people were taken fishing in the Tweed at Merlindale and displayed the results in a special tank at the festival. They brought a whole host of information on the life cycles of the fish and other aquatic life that reside in this section of the Tweed.
The Tweeddale Red Squirrel Network (TRSN) also joined us with information on their important project which is at the centre of the resurgence of red squirrels in the Borders. Our very own Alex took visitors on red squirrel walks in Merlin's wood, successfully replicating many of the sightings from last year. Merlindale currently has at least four red squirrels in residence who have benefited from the TRSN project. You too could be a part of the Borders successful red squirrel network!
Merlindale was pleased to welcome the Southern Upland Partnership in this year's event; we fully support the important projects which they are managing such as the reintroduction of golden eagles to the southern uplands - indeed we have seen some of these eagles flying over Merlindale itself. Their stall proved to be a fascinating place to get updates on their projects.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust returned to Merlindale this year alongside the Borders Forest Trust ("BFT"). We heard about the next stage in the BFT's "Wild Heart of Southern Scotland" project which hopes to fund the purchase of another area of land, further adding to a restored segment of now native woodland.
Also present were Borders Organic Gardeners with their beautifully arranged stall, who alongside a whole community of local landowners, have been working with Merlindale Nature on our project to extend a series of haymeadows down the Tweed catchment. The project has been received funding from NatureScot with the support of many local groups including the Scottish Borders Council.
This year we were proud to welcome Buglife, who have been central to our understanding of the sheer scale of our loss of insect biomass over recent decades and who are of paramount importance to attempts to reverse this trend. It was Buglife who in 2021 commissioned the research which provided us with the knowledge that we are losing flying insect pollinators at the rate of 34% per decade. We hope that Merlindale's Tweed Meadows project can function alongside Buglife's Pollinators along the Tweed project to restore meadows and their associated insect populations at scale down the Tweed catchment.
The Wildlife Information Center was present allowing visitors to further develop their understanding and interest in the natural world, they also took part in this year's bioblitz. Additionally, alongside The Wildlife Information Center we were able to welcome back the Scottish Badgers group who provided information on everything you need to know about badgers.
Peebles' own Stuart Craig was at the Festival once again, bird ringing throughout the event; visitors experienced many of the some 77 different bird species recorded at Merlindale up close. With Stuart's expert assistance visitors were able to release birds which he had rung back into the woods and meadows. Furthermore, Robert Fleet, our local bodger, shared and displayed his craftsmanship throughout the festival making for a fascinating spectacle and great chat.
This year the Nature Festival also welcomed Bosse Dahlgren, the Swedish Farmer from the book “Meadows: The Swedish Farmer & The Scottish Cook”, who gave a fascinating and insightful talk on creating meadows. Bosse has farmed with nature all his life, rearing rare breeds, shunning all inputs and using only on-farm nourishment for his crops and animals. A living legend in Sweden, he still advises on Nordic living genebanks and his depth of knowledge is inspirational. “Meadows” is the story of one man’s farming life using horsepower intertwined with the preparation of food – a match made in heaven when the Farmer met the Cook (Wendy Barrie). Wendy, Director of Scottish Food Guide, was also on hand to answer any culinary questions. Furthermore they successfully sold many copies of their book which they had on sale during the event.
Their book is available to purchase online and from these stockists
The 2023 Festival Bioblitz
As at last year's festival, Merlindale Nature held a bioblitz at the 2023 event. Amongst those attending were Luke Gaskell (the botanical recorder for Peebleshire) recording plant species, John Woolliams surveying bats, Stuart Craig from Peebles ringing birds, Frank Ashwood recording earthworms, and Reuben Singleton of Tweed Ecology recording moths and butterflies.
Galena Woodhouse also led some foraging walks and discussed culinary uses of plants. Additionally, Charlotte Rankin from Buglife was recording other invertibrates.
Ben McCallum of the Tweed Foundation carried out electrofishing in the Tweed. Visitors were able to participate and view the fish in more detail in a specially prepared tank in the Tweed Foundation's stall.
Michelle Stamp, attending on behalf of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, recorded trees. Furthermore we are also pleased to welcome back Graham Pyatt to survey lichen. David Maw and the Scottish Borders Fungi Group will return to record Merlindale's fungi.
Finally, the Wildlife Information Centre's Nathalie Harmsworth recorded Merlindale's mammals.