Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Saughton Park

As I often lead guided walks along various stretches of the Water of Leith, I was very interested to attend today's talk about Saughton Park, one of the Edinburgh parks that is found along the length of the river.

The event was made up in fact of three talks. Peter McDougall, Project Development Officer, talked about the plans for the restoration of the park. These include the creation of a new footpath following the course of the river and a new biodiversity area along this path. The bandstand will be restored to the park, the stables will be renovated to create office space and a new cafe will be built. LED lighting will be set up round the park, ecologists have been consulted to see whether this will affect the three species of bats that live in the park (pipistrelle, Daubentons and another species, perhaps long eared bat?) the ecologists apparently said the bats won't be affected though personally I'm a little skeptical about that. I think safe footpaths are vital, but I also would hate to think that restoration of a park that includes biodiversity improvements might inadvertently have negative impacts on some of the wildlife in the park.

The other two talks were about the history of the park, which is fascinating. In 1824, the old Saughton House (which is no longer there having been burned down) became a 'lunatic asylum' which pioneered the use of horticultural therapy in its treatments of people with mental health problems. The gardens at one time included a scented garden with labelling in Braille for the enjoyment of blond people.

To find out about events happening at Saughton Park, visit the Friends of Saughton Park website.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Etsy update and plastic recycling

One of the great things about selling craft supplies on Etsy (as I do in my Crafty Green Magpie shop) is that sometimes I find out what people make with the supplies I sell!

I recently sold a whole load of plastic bottle tops to the owner of the OldsNewCrafts shop. My first reaction was one of great surprise as I had had these bottle tops listed in my shop for a while and no-one had bought any of them - I was literally going to give up on trying to sell them when this order came in!

I love the little gingerbread man she's already made with recycled bottle tops and look forward to seeing what else she makes!

If you wonder what to do with your old plastic bottle tops you can (if you're in the UK) take them to your nearest branch of Lush Cosmetics who will melt them down and make tops for their toiletries bottles. (This is what I used to do before I came up with the idea of trying to sell them on Etsy.)

Monday, 27 March 2017

Sunshine in the Dells

It was beautifully warm and sunny this morning in the Dells along the Water of Leith.

The water is sparkling as it flows over the weir at Colinton

It was here that I saw my first kingfisher of the day, flying upstream uncharacteristically high through the outer branches of the trees. Five minutes later and slightly further downstream I saw two kingfishers flying downstream!

Many of the yellow flowers of spring are in almost full bloom now including these lesser celandines

and these coltsfoots

the strange flowers of the few flowered leeks are starting to appear

The Water of Leith Trust is currently working to get as much information as possible about all the plant and fungi life along the river. I'm recording as much as I can (adding to a list that predates my involvement with the trust). When it comes to lichens I can't even hope to get any of them down to species level, but I'm taking photos. I think they're very beautiful, and I love how they form little different coloured colonies which have visible boundaries where the two species are effectively waging chemical warfare against each other.

Despite the warmth, some of the orange ladybirds are still hibernating in the fence posts, I was amused to see that this seven spot ladybird had joined the orange ladybirds, the size difference is quite obvious when you see them together like this. Seven spots eat aphids and as far as I know wouldn't eat the orange ladybirds.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Year of the Toad

Common toad near Blackford Pond, Edinburgh

Last weekend we visited Blackford Pond hoping to see lots of toads spawning but we were too early for the toads, though just on time for the frogs!

I just found out that this year has been designated as Year of the Toad! In the UK, common toads have alarmingly declined by 68% over the past 30 years. This is likely to be due to a number of factors including changes to farming practices, loss of ponds, an increase in urbanisation, milder winters and more toads dying on roads.

There are many ways you can help toads, including by digging a pond in your garden or by taking part in activities to raise awareness of toads. You can find out more on the Froglife website

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages where you can find out more.

Friday, 24 March 2017


I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for his lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill today. It was warm and springlike, which was a refreshing change from the last few days of cold wind, rain and intermittent snow and hail! I love the contrasting yellows of the gorse and daffodils

We also took time to admire the more subtle charms of the elm flowers

and were delighted to see the heather full of honey bees, though only one stepped into the frame for this photo

We also had excellent views of a nuthatch, a great spotted woodpecker and three mistle thrushes! Nuthatches only recently came as far up as Edinburgh but are now already quite a frequent sight in certain places (Corstorphine Hill being one!), I still get very excited to see them though!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Ancient Trees are Amazing! Let's Give Them the Protection they Deserve!

Ancient trees, like these oaks in Dalkeith Country Park, are amazing, beautiful things in their own right and also home to numerous small plants such as mosses, and animals including insects that hide away in the cracks of the trunks and birds and squirrels that feed on these insects.

Unfortunately ancient trees and woodlands in the UK are currently not given enough protection against being destroyed in the name of development. Although by law planning permission should be refused if it impacts on these trees and habitats, a loophole has led to devastating losses.

Now however, there's a very promising sign that things might change! The UK Government, through the Housing White Paper, has proposed adding ancient woodland and aged and veteran trees to the current list of assets that should be explicitly protected from development in England. This would give ancient trees and woodlands the same status in planning terms as currently enjoyed by National Parks, SSSIs or Green Belt. (Which admittedly isn't exactly a guarantee but does offer a significant amount of protection).

But things won't change unless the relevant guidance elsewhere in planning policy is amended accordingly.

The Housing White Paper consultation is the best way to have your say on the Government's plans and to see the relevant planning policy (paragraph 118 of the National Planning Policy Framework) amended. It's open for views until 2 May. Find out more and add your voice via the Woodland Trust website

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Willow catkins

The catkins of the pussy willow also known as goat willow (Salix caprea) are beautiful at the moment. These are on a tree by the side of Musselburgh Boating Pond.