Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Sea Pottery crafts

I was delighted to receive a lovely parcel of sea pottery from a fellow blogger recently and have enjoyed planning what to do with it! I have donated some to Gorgie City Farm and the Lochend Secret Garden for their respective garden mosaic projects but the rest is for my own crafts!

I first made a ring, using the last of the ring bases I bought. For some reason the rings in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop haven't sold, so this will be the last I make unless they start selling....

This ring is in the shop here.

I then made two brooches of different sizes

which is in the shop here, and

which is in the shop here.

I'm also experimenting with hair grips, gluing sea pottery shards to kirby grips, but this is quite fiddly and I'll need to test one out to see how durable it is before making more. The other project I have in mind is to decorate picture frames or mirror frames with sea pottery shards.

I have also used sea glass in decorative bottles and a decorative candle holder!

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

Monday, 22 May 2017


constant rain -
nesting herring gulls argue
on the rooftops

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Woodland Trust events and volunteering

Yesterday I took part in a very interesting Woodland Trust Volunteers Gathering at the Water of Leith Conservation Trust Visitor Centre.

Matilda Scharsach, Volunteering Development Officer with the Woodland Trust in Scotland talked about the work of the trust carries out across Scotland, conserving and promoting the value of ancient woodlands and trees. She outlined some of the varied opportunities available for volunteers, ranging from survey work to photography to recording threats to areas of ancient woodland. You can find out more about volunteering with the trust here.

I then gave a short presentation on my work as a volunteer Super Campaigner (you may have noticed most recently for example my blog posts on the trusts campaigns including the General Election campaign and the Bluebells Survey.)

After a delicious lunch, I lead the group on a guided walk round Craiglockart Dell along the Water of Leith (this is part of the area I cover in my weekly river patrol and is classified an area of ancient woodland as it has been constantly wooded since 1750 (the Scottish definition of ancient woodland)). I concentrated on the plantlife and birds, though I did talk about the local history as well, as this part of the river (though you would hardly believe it now) used to host several mills.

Several more volunteer gatherings will be happening in Scotland in the next few months. Everyone is welcome to go along, both current volunteers and those interested in the possibility of volunteering. You can sign up to more than one event as they all offer different interesting activities! The details of these events are:
3rd June

Stirling University
Find out more about our Ancient Tree Hunt and the Ancient Tree Inventory, and go on an Ancient Tree Hunt with us, recording ancient trees in the university grounds.
10th June
Backmuir Woods, Dundee
Learn more about our talking Trees speaker project, and afternoon tree and wildflower ID walk.
17th June
Traquair House and St Ronans Wood, Borders
Photography workshop in the grounds of Traquair House and in St Ronans Wood
26th August
Lang Craigs woodland, West Dunbartonshire
Find out more about how we manage this woodland and go on a plant ID walk in the woods with the Site Manager and a very knowledgeable local volunteer.
16th September
Drumlanrig House, Dumfries and Galloway
Find out more about our Ancient Tree Hunt and the Ancient Tree Inventory, and go on an Ancient Tree Hunt with us, recording ancient trees in the grounds of the house.
23rd September
Ledmore and Migdale Wood, Spinningdale, Highland
Find out more about our Seed Collection Project whereby we are collecting tree seeds for the Millennium Seed bank at Kew Gardens, and then join us with collecting seeds in the afternoon. Evening BBQ including local Woodland Trust venison, and a chance to stay overnight help us to build a revetment on the Sunday!
You can find further details of these and other events across the UK as well as find details of how to book here.

If you are looking for conservation related volunteering opportunities, I can definitely recommend both Woodland Trust (wherever you are in the UK) and Water of Leith Conservation Trust (if you're in Edinburgh)!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Ask your General Election Candidates their views on trees and woodlands

 woodland in Craiglockart Dell, by Water of Leith
I love walking in the woods and I am very aware of how important trees are! They offer homes for wildlife and brighten up our city streets. Woodlands are vital habitats for a range of species and help to reduce the risk of flooding and lower the local temperature, compared to nearby urban areas. Through photosynthesis they remove carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen. It has been shown through several studies recently that walking in the woods is a great way to relax and can have positive impact on mental health.

For all these reasons, trees matter! But it is clear that not everyone agrees. The city of Sheffield in England has recently seen almost wholesale removal of its street trees, which has lead to plenty of protests.

Very often decisions about trees and woodland are made at a local level and it seems like only yesterday we were writing to our local election candidates asking their opinions on trees and woodlands. But many decisions that affect the planning process are made at a national level and we need our politicians at Westminster to stand up for woodlands and the general environment. The Woodland Trust suggests that these are some of the questions you may want to ask your candidates:

Do they support a register of ancient woodland and ancient trees to help to identify and protect these vital habitats?

Are they committed to the European Habitats and Birds Directives to be enshrined in UK law once we have left the EU? These directives have proven to be very useful (though not perfect) in safeguarding many of our most precious wildlife sites.

Will they put woodlands and trees at the centre of land use planning?

Will they champion the health and wellbeing benefits of woodlands?

Will they work to increase tree planting rates to increase tree cover in the UK, which is one of the least wooded countries in Europe?

Will they make the most of the benefits trees and woodlands can bring? These benefits include reducing the risk of flooding and improving air quality.

You can join the Woodland Trust campaign here to contact your General Election candidates.

The Woodland Trust General Election campaign pdf is here.

The Woodland Trust priorities for the UK 2017 General Election can be downloaded here.

I also recently blogged about general environmental issues for the forthcoming UK General Election.

I am a volunteer campaigner for the Woodland Trust and tomorrow will be speaking at and leading a guided walk at their Edinburgh Volunteering Gathering, an event for everyone who volunteers or would like to volunteer for the trust. There may still be time to book, you can find out more here.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Cactus coming into bloom!

Our lovely cactus is just coming into bloom!

This cactus once  grew so tall and at such an angle that it kept falling over. So we chopped its top off and then later it grew back an extra four tops. It still leans at a funny angle but no longer generally falls over. It did however once fall over and roll under the television and sat there for a day before we noticed it. Since then it has behaved well and sat nicely on the windowsill. It never used to flower but has done so for the last several years, I suspect something about chopping its top off stimulated its flowering. Click here for some photos of the cactus in full bloom a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile I cleaned the living room windows today, we're three floors up which makes it a slightly daunting task for someone with no head for heights (window cleaners round here don't do upper floor windows in the traditional old buildings like ours). I clean the windows every year at this time, because that means I can see the swifts better! The highest number we've seen from the living room this year so far is six, though that will increase over the summer. Still the numbers are overall down on a few years ago.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Levelling (a film review)

Clover (played brilliantly by Ellie Kendrick) is a trainee vet returning to her home in the Somerset Levels for the funeral of her brother, who is suspected to have committed suicide, though their father (David Troughton) maintains it was a stupid accident.

The family farm is failing, not having recovered from the recent floods and with the insurance company being reluctant to pay up. In addition, the threat of bovine TB stalks the cattle.

This background leads to much family tension, with Clover and her father barely speaking to each other. The mood is underscored by the wonderful landscape shots with low dark clouds hanging over muddy fields. There are also frequent shots of a hare swimming through the flooded fields, which is dreamlike and quite spooky.

A lot is left unstated in the relationship between Clover and her brother and their father and the viewer is left to wonder whether Clover's heart is really still on the farm or whether she was glad to escape to college.

As the farm workers dig ditches round the farm to protect it from future floods, the walls that Clover and her father have built between themselves start to fall - but can they really patch up their relationship or save the farm? 

The Levelling is showing at Edinburgh Filmhouse until Thursday 18 May.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Colourful Rhododendrons

These are some of the azaleas and rhododendrons that were looking particularly beautiful at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens yesterday.

You can see the mallards we made friends with on yesterday's trip here.

Meanwhile you can read my review of Apples and Other Languages by Camilla Nelson on Eco Art Scotland here.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Lovely weather for ducks

It was raining for much of today while were were visiting Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens. Lovely weather for ducks! These two mallards made friends with us in the cafe garden, where we sheltered from the rain under the umbrellas!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Thinking Green for the General Election

People across Scotland are possibly annoyed to find they can no longer vote Green as the Green Party is not fielding candidates in most areas of the country. So who among the other parties is making the best case for the environment?

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) suggest asking your candidates these questions:

1. How will you ensure that our vital laws protecting wildlife and habitats remain strong after Brexit?
2. How will you ensure that the way we farm and use the land is sustainable and helps nature?
3. Is your party committed to completing the designation of a comprehensive and well managed network of protected areas at sea?
4. Has your party committed to achieving our climate ambitions? Will you invest in clean energy?
5. How do you think the UK should continue to show global leadership on climate change and nature protection?
6. Connecting with nature has numerous health and wellbeing benefits, how does your party intend to help people to re-engage with the natural environment?
7. What are your personal commitments to help nature in our constituency?

And you choose who to vote for depending on who gives the best answers! You may also have other questions of your own.

Meanwhile the Ecologist has published this piece about the environmental elements from the Labour Party's leaked manifesto (note as I write this manifesto is still at the draft stage). Not perfect but definitely better than the Conservative Party and there are a lot of good environmental commitments in there (though personally I'd certainly like more specific commitment to nature protection).

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Lovely birds at Musselburgh

Yesterday I went for a walk at Musselburgh and was delighted to see this drake mandarin almost as soon as I got off the bus

I have no idea if this is the same bird that has been seen at Lochend Park, Blackford Pond and Figgate Pond but it wouldn't surprise me. He always looks happy enough but he hasn't got a mate and always seems to attach himself to a female mallard

though she sometimes gets tired of him and chases him away

Along at the Lagoons, I was delighted to see the grey partridge pair, who can be very elusive (and are very tricky to photograph)

I also got lovely views of a yellow wagtail (a rare bird in these parts), though I didn't try to get a photo, it's a small bird and was too far away for my camera's zoom to even hope to do it justice, but it was lovely to watch it run around for a while.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Fulmars on Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh is well known for many things, including the remarkable range of birds and other wildlife found on its slopes and in its valleys. I took a birdwatching class round Hunter's Bog in the middle of Arthurs Seat yesterday and we saw and heard a good number of birds. We didn't however see any fulmars. Fulmars are sea birds but they nest on the cliffs of Arthurs Seat. It's difficult to get a close view of them on the cliffs but this lovely sculpture by Lorne MacKean outside Dynamic Earth (sited neat the base of Arthur's Seat) is much easier to photograph!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Swimming with Seals by Victoria Whitworth

I went to the launch of this book a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed by Victoria Whitworth's presentation and the range of topics she covered in her talk.  The book, which had its beginnings in a series of Facebook posts, is even more amazing.

Victoria Whitworth moved up to Orkney and found herself becoming more and more drawn to swimming in the sea, first with a group of local people (who call themselves the Polar Bears) and then increasingly by herself. She swims most days in all weathers. The book centres on her swimming experiences but expands to take in many other issues and topics without at any time becoming self indulgent or pretentious. Although the book is beautifully written, I never felt that the author was straining for self conscious poetic prose as some nature writers seem to do.

I am not a strong swimmer and would never be drawn to actually swimming in the northern seas in midwinter wearing nothing but a swimsuit. But Whitworth makes this experience appealing even to me! She is very aware of all the nature around her and is particularly drawn to the seals:

...there was a seal between me and the beach, maybe four yards from me. Usually they look startled and splash off, but this one - a small common seal - just swam steadily, watching me - I could count every whisker, see the whites of its eyes. Then it dived and surfaced a bit further away with a friend. They stayed about 30 feet away the whole time I was in the water, tracking my zigzags, watching me with hopeful puppy eyes. Young ones I think. Very curious as to what I was up to. The eider (duck)s kept up their gossipy chorus of disapproval throughout. 

She talks  about how swimming helped her cope with the death of her mother and the failure of her own marriage. She talks about church history (her own academic interest) and her not quite successful attempt to convert to Catholicism. She talks about the ancient history of the Orkney Islands, the ecology of the ocean, her childhood in Kenya and the connections between grief and depression. She mentions a lot of old poetry, particularly the long poem The Wanderer, written by an unknown poet, which she uses as a measure of people's evolving relationship with the sea. All the various themes are woven in together beautifully and make this a kaleidoscopic book that will probably turn out to be worth reading several times. As she says in the closing line of the book: Sea swimming, like having a finger on the pulse of the world. 

 Swimming with Seals by Victoria Whitworth published by Head of Zeus.

(It shouldn't be necessary to add that swimming in the cold northern seas is something not to be undertaken lightly, you need to be a strong swimmer and to understand the currents and sea floor of the beaches you swim on. Start by finding a group to swim with).

Monday, 8 May 2017

Happy flowers!

Leopardsbane is now out in Colinton Dell alongside the Water of Leith, I always think it looks like a very happy flower

The ramsons (wild garlic) are also well in bloom now 

as indeed are the bluebells, I don't think I've ever seen so many native bluebells in the Dells before!

If you like bluebells you may like my post from Dalkeith Country Park this Saturday!

The Woodland Trust is currently putting together a map of bluebells across the country. They are interested in all bluebells, whether native, Spanish or hybrid. You can take part and add your records to the map here.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Swifts have returned!

This haiga is a version of a haiku previously published many years ago now in Issue 7 of Shamrock, The Irish Haiku Journal. I'm reposting it to celebrate the return today of the swifts  to Edinburgh from their wintering grounds in Africa. It was lovely to see four of these wonderful birds up in the sky above our rooftops! Hopefully there will be more of them over the coming weeks.

As many readers of this blog will know, swifts are my favourite birds! They are the ultimate bird, as they spend almost all their lives in the sky, even sleeping on the wing! 

Swifts feature in several of my poems, including these:

Endless Skies (ghazal)
Swifts (triolet)

Swifts are struggling in Scotland, to find out more, please visit the Concern for Swifts website

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) want records of swifts across the country (more details here). 

If you want to help survey swifts in Edinburgh, you may be interested in the event advertised here

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Bluebells in Dalkeith Country Park

Dalkeith Country Park is one of the best places near Edinburgh to see native bluebells! We make a point of visiting the park every year at about this time specifically to enjoy the bluebells and today they were at their best

and here with the ramsons (wild garlic)

Dalkeith Country Park is also famous for its beautiful ancient oak trees

The Woodland Trust is currently putting together a map of bluebells across the country. They are interested in all bluebells, whether native, Spanish or hybrid. You can take part and add your records to the map here.