Topic outline

  • Luggiewatch volunteers meet at the footbridge over the Luggie Water in Waterside, Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, before they begin one of their monthly litter picks.

  • About this course-of-action

    This course-of-action describes the regular litter-pick activity of a local environmental group in East Dunbartonshire, its impact on the local environment and how it has become an important and sustainable community activity, for the local people in the vilage. 

    Who is this course for?

    This course-of-action may inspire you and others, to participate in running such an event.  It is relevant to those wishing to engage with others in important activities, in any setting; school, college, business, workplace or voluntary work.  The community activities described are transferable, easy to be adopted by  communities across the country.

    The main characteristics described here involve an interest in nature and ecology, of health wellbeing and leisure, conservation and building community.

    If you belong to a community of any description, then this course-of-action will be of great interest to you and may draw out interests you never thought you had!  Additionally, if you are interested in global development and concerns then this will also be of great significance to you.

    As you read this course you will hopefully see that addressing local concerns also leads to impacting wider, national and global concerns.

    Reading/viewing time 30 minutes

    This course is presented by Danny McFadden, Luggiewatch member and resident of Waterside.

  • Learning outcomes

    After studying this activity you will:

    • be able to identify some key aspects of local ecological and environmental protection and conservation.
    • know how the history unique to this former coalfield-community, has evolved to become the village community it is today.
    • have reflected on how such activity can have an immediate positive impact, on the quality of health of those living within such a community, as well as others living nearby.
    • know that community activities enable individuals to bring their own ideas, thoughts and skills to the benefit of others.
    • know that the origin of plastic pollution in our seas can often be within communities far inland.
    • reflect and consider how activities like this can be organised in other communities, connecting people, while addressing a key global concern.
    • discover interesting ways to involve individuals, other groups and a wider population, in fun and care of the environment.

  • Introduction - The Waterside setting

    Waterside is a village in East Dunbartonshire with a growing population of well over 700.  It is connected to the larger town Kirkintilloch but still maintains its distinctive character of the village, with a rural aspect. 

    As the name suggests, it grew at the side of the river Luggie Water and has a history of, among others, weavers' cottages and lint and corn mills beside the river. The mills are no longer there and a largely uninterrupted, eco-system has developed in the area instead, with an extensive biodiversity of nature. From the late Victorian age onwards, on the east-side of Waterside, was the Wester Gartshore iron-stone mining colliery. It was also next to the water but is now also no-longer there. There remains a large bing on the site and a significant amount of nature has evolved there as well. 

    Indeed, walking from the village to the bing reveals a most interesting nature corridor - developed before the existence of the village and its industries, and continued thereafter.

    A large part of this corridor belongs to landowners who have allowed this nature to develop by leaving it largely untouched. Tracks and narrow paths have formed as people used them over the years - more commonly beside the Luggie Water, but also in areas around it.  Unfortunately and consequently over these years, much rubbish and litter has been left in the corridor. 

    This is evident to anyone walking along its trails, but it is also now deep amongst the layers of soil and nature!

  • Looking at other inhabitants of Waterside

    As we all know, water is the main ingredient to an eco-system developing. The Luggie Water nature corridor - particularly from Waterside to the bing - is recognised as having an abundance of species, of nature and wildlife.  The Luggiewatch website describes it well and it is worth visiting.  

    Let's take some time to look at moments of nature typical of the Luggie surroundings.

    Have a look at a video of a heron and a buzzard from Youtube:



    While this video is not from Waterside, it does feature 2 species of wildlife that is often seen.  It is worthwhile stopping to see what the natural neighbours are up to.

    The following videos were taken by Luggiewatch members Karen Chesney-Bathie and Danny McFadden, at the stretch of the Luggie described. Again take a few moments to watch the whole of each video and enjoy watch Waterside wildlife!


    Otters, captured by Luggiewatch member Karen Chesnie-Bathie.



    A heron fishing, captured by Luggiewatch member Danny McFadden.

    The above video clips show moments of nature that are both sometimes and rarely seen by people. When capturing such scenes using current mobile technology, the immediate wish is normally to share those moments with others - usually those close to us at first. But then perhaps they might be shared to others in the community, who then become more aware of the non-human inhabitants, residing in and around the human community.

    Often photographs and videos can help those in a community to experience wonder and awe, which is either the kind of our first time seeing and hearing this, or of the kind that we experienced a long time ago in our youth - and have forgotten about until now!  

    Either way we might feel the need to preserve nature and enjoy its gift to humanity. However in doing so we might discover the main culprit behind the need to preserve or conserve!

  • Luggiewatch focuses on a local problem.

    This photo captures a common problem up and down the Luggie Water in both North Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire. This one was taken in Waterside, East Dunbartonshire.

    Luggiewatch is a voluntary organisation founded by some Waterside residents who decided to celebrate more, share and take steps to preserve the local biodiversity of nature in and around Waterside - specifically at the Luggie Water in the village. This rivulet runs in equal lengths between two local authority councils - of many miles from its source in North Lanarkshire Council to its end in Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire Council, where the water runs in confluence with the River Kelvin to the River Clyde and so further into the sea.

    The village of Waterside grew up around the Luggie which widens substantially there.

    From Facebook group to activity group

    Some years ago, local resident Danny McFadden began taking photographs with and decided to share them with others through his creation of a Facebook group. Originally the social media group was called Luggie Wildlife Corridor and he tentatively began a website of the same name - to see if they would gain interest . Through attending local Waterside Community Council meetings, some local residents also declared similar interests and activities and later began contributing to the Facebook group with amazing photographs. 

    After a local community-council meeting one evening, these residents decided to explore the idea of establishing a group of enthusiasts, who would meet regularly to appreciate and share discoveries and knowledge of this corridor, and encourage others in activity of celebrating and preserving the wildlife through social media and the website. The group then became a formal organisation with a mission statement, calling themselves Luggiewatch and changed the name of the Facebook group and website to that name. 

    Meetings convened each month and were characterised as being "full-of-fun", while growing in determination as a group to engage others in appreciation and preservation of the local wildlife. Quickly the main actions of the group focussed on the need to clean and protect the local biodiversity - mainly through litter-picks and organised walks. These events originally happened several times throughout each year, where possible.  Then after a year or so, they were held monthly. This was due to an increasing sense of satisfaction that was felt by the group, in improving the environment this way.  The group's actions were also being acknowledge by others in the community, who kindly expressed much appreciation, sharing their observations and telling of a huge positive difference, thanks to the time and effort the group gave to this.

    The over-riding feeling of local residents and visitors to the area, was that Waterside was a beautiful area and had the potential to be even more beautiful.  They were united in the view that Luggiewatch was helping to uncover this potential.  The group found this very supportive, especially when they discovered that some people would still continue littering the area - perhaps unaware of the efforts made or perhaps not!  Either way the group had found litter-picking to be a main feature of their mission. They decided to step up this activity and invite as many others as possible, to participate in some way.

  • Human resources and equipment is all you need.

    Over time, more and more people came along to Luggiewatch litter picks. Some came almost every time, others came when they could and some turned up on rare occasions. They all know they can come whenever they wish.  The group were very happy to have a range of attendance - helping establish the character of an 'open group', where people coud come any time and were always welcomed.


    With numbers of attendance ranging from 6-22, it became important to ensure health and safety was being achieved at its best. The best way to do this was to look at equipment and wear, suitable for picks.

    Often you can't see what is in the undergrowth, so proper protective-gloves and  litter picks became essential.  Hi-vis jackets helped to know where each person was and communication through walkie-talkies were ideal - this allowed the group to splits into parts for tackling different areas at one time.  Some areas were remote from the main actvitity.  Additionally, trolleys and wheel-barrows helped to remove large and heavy objects found, for taking to the place of pickup.  Acquiring such useful and necessary equipment ultimately required funds.

    Young entrepreneur and the new challenges.

    Fortunately for Luggiewatch, young Rudy, a key member, surprised the group hugely, and quickly solved the issue of funding. This helped us achieve a higher standard and level of safety required, to progess to much larger litter picks.  In fact 'litter-pick' was not an accurate description on many occasions!  On one occasion, 60 tyres were removed from the banks and nearby fields. Fly-tipping as we all know, is prevalent on the outskirts of communities.

    Rudy had quietly decided to apply to famous entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter for funds, under Hunter's project known as the Young Disrupter - where young people were encouraged to employed their own entrepreneural skills to plan and carry-out a community project that improved the lives of those involved. Rudy chose Luggiewatch and won substantial funds for Luggiewatch.  Rudy was delighted - he could carry out his plan. 

    You can imagine the delight amongst Luggiewatch members when they discovered that Rudy had decided to do this and that he chose Luggiewatch to benefit from the funds. This was a remarkable moment which affirmed Rudy - in his individual quest to make a difference and in his ability to communicate and bring this to help Luggiewatch. Indeed beforehand, he discreetly checked with a couple of members to see if he could do this. Upon success of winning the funds he was then able to communicate to the group why he chose the group and described what needed to be done.
    Rudy was supported greatly by his mum Fiona, who then also joined the group to help where she could.

    Group of litter pickers with equipment

    A typically well-resourced Luggiewatch litter-pick begins!

    litter pick stick

    Cordy had an impromptu inspection from another nature-lover.

    Clothed and well equipped

    Along with Luggiewatch chair James Carmichael, Rudy then wisely scrutinised how we could spend the money.  He was able to purchase not only what was required to continue and step-up litter picks, but also other equipment that would enable the group to help nature. Thanks to Rudy we have been well equipped for the group and also for guests to the litter picks. 

    Luggiewatch was able to communicate their activities to a wider audience - it regularly had visiting participants along with us, to see how we work. We make sure every event is fun and worthwhile to our mission.

    Litter picks bags full

    Local MSP Stuart McDonald has sometimes been able to join Luggiewatch litter picks.

    Some 'litter' from over the years!

    Further, essential human resources

    The local council of East Dunbartonshire have been excellent in responding to our request of removing the vast amounts of litter and waste we found. Often we felt the need to tackle large jobs - because sadly when a place is cleaned, some people then use that area to fly-tip again. The council were fantastic, especially when the rubbish was unusually large - they still collected what they could on the same day, then arranged an additional pick a few days later.

    council pickup van

    East Dunbartonshire Council refuse pick-up van arrives.

    As a result of much activity in partnership with others, Luggiewatch is recognised as the main group of people for working with others in cleaning up the Luggie banks in and around Waterside village. The residents are very complimentary and supportive of our work.

    When this happens other people surprise you with ways they can help. We received a perfectly-sized container, to hold all of our litter-pick equipment and also received permission from a land-owner to place our new 'house' on his land, adjacent to the Luggie. It has now been painted in beautiful rainbow colours.

    container painted with a rainbow

  • Time to celebrate

    All worthwhile activities MUST be able to celebrate their achievements and successes - during all activities and at some points of the year.

    This is a principle shared by all at Luggiewatch. As well as litter picks, much planning, decision making and and communications go on within the group. With monthly meetings and a variety of other co-operative activities with other people and groups, a group could easily find itself 'run off its feet' as it keeps up with demand. Along well as the many activities it is vitally important to build-in fun and celebration.  

    Luggiewatch believes that a large part of its litter-pick success is due to the fantastic support of the proprietor of the local village shop - Lisa Giffen.  Every litter pick ends with a gathering at her lovely shop, where Lisa provides the pickers with free hot rolls and hot drinks!  After a good couple of hours this is so much appreciated.

    Lisa says she really appreciates what the group does for the village. She is regarded as a person who is not only generous to Luggiewatch, but also to many others in the village.  Luggiewatch cannot thank her enough for what she has done and is doing.  At the end of the pick Luggiewatch and attendees, sit outside the shop at benches and tables provided and eat, talk and laugh.  It is always the perfect end to a perfect morning/afternoon.  If you are ever in Waterside you should go to the shop and savour some food!

    Lisa (centre 6-from-left) serves Luggiewatchers with delicious hot drinks and hot rolls, after a litter pick.

  • Advertising

    Events are always advertised on our Facebook page. Often done by adding text in a previous picture, using a simple photo or graphics-editing software - many of which are free.

    There are other Facebook groups that we share the post on: 
    Waterside Community Council, the Waterside Village Events Page, and further afield such as Kirkintilloch Action Group.  Amongst these outlets we usually receive warm comments and lots of sharing. If we have an organisation associated with us at specific points (such as Keep Scotland beautiful) we also ask them to share.

    Sometimes people will ask us to remind them of the next one, so we will message that person in some way or another.

    All welcome - at any time!
    We ask Facebook group members to pass on the word and perhaps bring along someone to the event. This way we have a mix of regular helpers and visitors. This caters for all levels of commitment.

    Here are some examples of our online posters:

    The next poster below was created by the Waterside Village Events group, which shows how we were included as an event in the local village fest the group were running.  In this case it was also printed out as a flyer and spread around the village and neighbouring areas.

    Luggiewatch member meets Star Wars characters at local village festival

    Luggiewatch meets Star Wars - "May the force of the Luggie be with you!"

  • Connecting with others to address a global contemporary concern.

    Connecting with wider organisations

    Keep Scotland Beautiful meeting

    Above: Rudy from Luggiewatch attends a final meeting with Keep Scotland beautiful

    After some time of many litter picks and promotion of nature conservation, like-minded people and organisations began to approach us - either to become involved in our activitities or to work in partnership with themselves and other organisations.

    One such organisation was Keep Scotland Beautiful, who asked for our help by being an 'anchor group' for their national activity called Upstream Battle. Their particular approach was to encourage groups to focus on the rivers next to them,  that eventually flowed into the sea, carrying litter and plastics into the oceans.

    This was an impactful campaign which had an effect on many communities. It vastly highlighted the concerns locally and nationally and connected their local actions of conservation and protection as being necessary to stop the global concern of plastics being in the oceans - with their effect on sea nature.  

    There has been a great satisfaction for Luggiewatch to have had experiences; where they began by taking a few photographs of the local rivulet and it led to forming an action group that was able to help the local environment and then to contribute effectively towards a larger global action.

    Luggiewatch was one of the 16 groups approached to help with plastics flowing into the River Clyde.  As it was so successful, Keep Scotland Beautiful will next apply the same model to communities around the River Forth.

  • Acknowledgements & web links

    Thanks to the Luggiewatch members and associative volunteers


    In memory
    As this course was written Luggiewatch sadly lost one of its founder members Thomas 'Tam' Wilson, who was very committed and active until he suddenly died in June 2020.  Luggiewatch will always remember our great friend and a friend to many.  Most of all a huge loss is felt by his wife Carole - also a founder member and current member of Luggiewatch.

    Tam Wilson

  • Review this course