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 (Salix caprea) are beautiful at the moment. These are on a tree by the side of Musselburgh Boating Pond.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A Day for Poetry and Forests

Today is UNESCO World Poetry Day and International Day of Forests! The Woodland Trust gives several ideas at this link for how to celebrate the latter!

This morning I did my regular patrol of the Dells, a wooded area along the banks of the Water of Leith (the photo above is from late summer a few years ago!). I am constantly amazed by how rich this area is in woodland cover and bird-life, as it was once part of Edinburgh's industrial heartland with several mills, producing paper and other products, lining the river banks.

It's a very inspiring area for poetry, though i didn't write anything on today's trip, not least because I hadn't realised it was World Poetry Day until I got home!

My poem Corstorphine Sycamore features one of Edinburgh's most famous trees, in another area of the city.

Monday, 20 March 2017

International Day for Happy Sparrows!

 Today is International Happiness Day.

What better way to celebrate the day than to go bird-watching! (As I was leading a group there are no photos from today, the photo below is from a previous visit!). The weather was very mixed, ranging from strong winds to torrential rain with perhaps a little hail and then occasional clear blue skies. The route was a long circular walk along paths through the farm fields at Liberton (where the skylarks sang for us, but the grey partridge remained hidden) up past Liberton Tower
(where we saw lots of house sparrows (and some llamas, which are new to these fields!) then along the bridle path by the golf course (where we saw tree sparrows, bullfinches and yellowhammers!) and down into the Hermitage of Braid and along the road (where we saw goldcrests and buzzards).

We were particularly happy to see the tree sparrows and house sparrows as it is also today World Sparrow Day!

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

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames

I was drawn to this book about the River Danube as I have travelled part of the river myself! Sure enough the book explores Regensburg in Germany along with the monastery (and brewery) of Weltenberg upriver from that city, where the author's description missed out on the adorable little cats that I remember running round the beer garden from my visit! So from Weltenberg through Regensburg and the hilltop Parthenon downstream from the city and all the way to Vienna was familiar territory to me and I enjoyed the opportunity to see the area through someone else's eyes. I enjoyed equally the chance to explore, in a literary sense, the parts of the river I've never visited, particularly as it passes through Serbia and Romania to the famous Danube Delta, which seems, from this book, not to be quite the ecological wonderland it has always been in my mind.

I found the mixture of travel and history to be fascinating, this is a river that passes through some of the most changeable and turbulent areas of Europe, where borders have changed several times. The aftermath of these changes are still felt and explored well here too, though I did feel sometimes that the author's obsession with the old aristocracy a little overdone, important though they are to the overall history of the river.

This is not primarily an environmental book though occasionally it touches on some of the ecology of the river, sometimes as an aside: 'I could see no storks, only a Tesco's plastic bag rising steadily on an upward draft of hot air' and sometimes at greater length including a discussion on how the canalisation of the Danube has 'caused the loss of 80% of the original floodplain along with species like the moor frog and the black poplar.'

Overall this is a book well worth reading if you're interested in the history of Europe and the continent's major river.

Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames, published by Transworld Publishers.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Toad in the Hole and a Lot of Frogs

We wandered down to Blackford Pond today hoping to see some frogs and toads! We were delighted to see lots of frogs in one part of the pond, surrounded by frog spawn

We also met lots of frogs sitting in the path behind the wall, it's interesting to see how different they can look

and how these two amorous frogs didn't seem to notice the toad behind them.

And more frogs, as they are so cute, especially when they try to hide in the leaves!

There are drainage spaces in the wall so that water can drain away from the path back into the pond. This toad seemed to be quite at home in one of these holes

Thursday, 16 March 2017

More Daffodils

The daffodils are in bloom around Edinburgh! These lovely flowers glowing in the sun between showers are in the Meadows area.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

More Curtain Ties

All the curtain ties had sold out from the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop and I wanted to make more, but had run out of matching loops for the ends of them! So I was very pleased to be able to salvage a whole lot of suitable loops from a damaged necklace that I found in a bag of unsold jewellery that Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother had picked up from a jumble sale!

I combined these loops with beads and chains from another damaged necklace from the same bag and created these curtain tie backs

which are now in my Etsy shop here.

I hope to make several more pairs of curtain ties in the near future, which I'll share here and put up for sale in the Etsy shop!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017


The daffodils are now out! They look lovely alongside this little path at the back of Redhall Gardens in Craiglockart Dell by the Water of Leith

and also in Spylaw Park at the other end of the Dells in Colinton Village

The celandines are also in bloom and look particularly wonderful when the sun shines directly on them

Also looking lovely in the sun, though mostly not blooming yet are the wild leeks and wild garlic

It definitely feels like Spring out there!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Buy Malawian 2017

The Scottish Malawi Partnership's #BuyMalawian2017 campaign is encouraging people across Scotland to buy Malawian products to celebrate the birthday of David Livingstone, the Scottish explorer who began the special relationship between the two nations more than 150 years ago. Dr Livingstone fought against the slave trade and explored new trade routes to support economic development in Africa.

The Scottish Malawian Partnership hopes that Livingstone’s birthday (19th March) will become an annual “Buy Malawian” day, to promote Malawian produce and support sustainable economic development in the country.

To become part of the campaign, you can enter a contest to  Win a Dream Holiday to Malawi. Simply take a photo of yourself with a Malawian product and share it on Twitter or Instagram!

As I lived in Malawi for a couple of years (many years ago now!) I always like to support Malawi in any way I can. I always buy Kilombero fair trade rice, which is produced in Malawi and here is my entry to the contest (you can apparently vote for it here!)

The map in the background comes from Malawi too!

Last year also saw me posing in our living room with a bag of Kilombero Rice for the Kilombero Virtual 90 Challenge

On Thursday, 16 March, the One World Shop in Edinburgh is holding a Malawian event, which promises entertainment and curry served with Kilombero Rice!

My poetry pamphlet Bougainvillea Dancing raised money for charities working in Malawi. I have recently discovered a couple of copies of the original pamphlet and have also produced a PDF version. If you would like to purchase either of these please let me know! All proceeds to the work of Voluntary Service Overseas in Malawi (with whom I worked in Malawi when I was there).

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Linlithgow Loch

We visit Linlithgow Loch every year at about this time, hoping to see the great crested grebes performing their courtship dance. Today the weather was mild and calm and we had a lovely walk all the way round the loch.

Although we saw a few grebes, they mostly weren't really interested in each other

and the only view we got of the courtship display was through a veil of reeds

 There weren't a huge number of birds on the loch overall, though we did see a pochard and several goldeneye (that didn't want to be photographed). This male mute swan was very proud

while this youngster was enjoying the grass

This male tufted duck has dressed up for the breeding season

while this female has so much white on her face we almost thought she might be a scaup

and the coots were fighting!

All bird photos by Crafty Green Boyfriend.

I did however capture this photo of our favourite alder tree by the loch, which is looking particularly beautiful at the moment

and these lovely celandines on the bank of a stream near the loch

Friday, 10 March 2017

The Zebras of Edinburgh

I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend again for a lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill. We were delighted to have some close views of the zebras

These zebras aren't wild in Edinburgh of course, they're on the African Plains of Edinburgh Zoo, but can be clearly seen from the footpath round Corstorphine Hill.

We also heard a green woodpecker laughing near this tree below, while a pair of long tailed tits were building a nest in the gorse.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Signs of Spring

The pussy willow catkins are already out and looking beautiful against yesterday's perfect blue sky

Yesterday evening there was still just enough light for me to take this photo of the crocuses on Leith Links before going to teach an evening class at Leith Academy.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Things to Make and Mend by Ruth Thomas

Sally Tuttle and Rowena Cresswell were best friends at school until a misunderstanding changed their lives and destroyed their friendship. Now in their early forties, they are both single mothers, still haunted by memories of their lost intimacy. Sally works at In Stitches, an alterations shop and makes large embroideries in her spare time while Rowena travels the world working as a translator. 

Sally has been invited to present at a major embroidery conference in Edinburgh and as luck will have it, Rowena is at the same time in Edinburgh visiting family. Will they meet and be able to patch things up? 

This is a quiet book full of closely observed detail both about needlework specifically and life in general. I like the close attention paid to the craft of needlework, both embroidery and patching up. Both types of needlework are used as metaphor throughout the book. We see Sally and Rowena in their separate adult lives and also in their inseparable teenage friendship. 

Apart from the occasional odd note (they must have done a much more difficult French O-level than me if they were writing essays about Madame Bovary!) this is an excellent story about how friendship can fade and how a simple misunderstanding can spoil things. There's also a twist to the tale, that I found totally unexpected, but then when I thought about it, it made perfect sense (which is the best type of twist!)

Things to Make and Mend by Ruth Thomas published by Faber and Faber

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Carpets of wild garlic

The Dells along the Water of Leith look wonderful carpeted in wild garlic (and wild leeks) and the air smells of garlic already, even before the first flowers are out! 

Here the wild garlic (ramsons) is growing through fallen leaves

and these slopes look lovely covered in wild leeks (you can tell they're leeks rather than garlic because of the narrower leaves).

 The very wide leaved plant in the photo below is harts tongue fern.
Wild leeks are invasive and tend to take over areas which before were covered in wild garlic, which makes affected areas look very different. Both plants smell quite strongly of garlic, so that stays the same! I'm not sure what the ecological effects of the wild leeks are, as I imagine the two plants are pretty similar in terms of what eats them (does anyone have any information on that at all?). A lot of people forage wild garlic, which can leave bare areas, ripe to be taken over by the leeks. So I suggest foraging the leeks instead, their leaves I think make as nice a pesto as the wild garlic leaves do.......

Monday, 6 March 2017

Beaded lanyards and another assemblage bracelet

I've recently added a few more items to the Crafty Green Poet shop on Etsy.

I made a final assemblage bracelet - I was particularly pleased to finally find a way of using that gorgeous vintage green bead!

 You can see this in my Etsy shop here. (You can read more about my other assemblage bracelets here).

Meanwhile I've made three new beaded ID badge lanyards

which is in the shop here.

which is in the shop here and

which is in the shop here.

Thanks for your kind comments about yesterday's sea glass candleholder and for those of you who requested a photo of it with the candle lit, I will post that photo in a few days alongside photos of the other sea pottery projects I'm currently making.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Candles glowing through sea glass

I received a lovely parcel of sea glass and sea pottery from a fellow blogger the other day! I've been busily sorting it all out. There's more than I can possibly use so I'm hoping to donate some of it to local community projects that are developing garden murals! (More to follow on this!)

That still leaves plenty of material for me to craft with. This is my first wee project! I've put a tealight candle in a small candle holder then put that holder in a large holder and filled in the space with small shards of sea glass. It looks lovely as it is and will look even lovelier when the candle is burning!

Friday, 3 March 2017

World Wildlife Day

 mute swan with cygnets, Union Canal, Edinburgh, 2011

Today is World Wildlife Day, the date chosen to mark the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The theme this year is “Listen to the Young Voices.” 

Young people are often considered not to be connected with nature as they spend so much time sitting with the computer or playing on mobile devices and not getting outdoors. However, it seems to me that a lot of young people are concerned about environmental issues and they are very interested in the natural world if they're encouraged to experience the great outdoors! Many organisations take school groups outdoors - including the Water of Leith Conservation Trust, whose Education Officer regularly takes groups of children out into the wooded Dells along the river for river dipping and other activities. 

There are many wonderful television programmes about wildlife, but many of them focus on the wildlife of faraway places and give a sense that it's only in those places where the wildlife and nature is worth learning about. In the UK, Springwatch and related programmes are great for focussing on UK wildlife and even better in that they encourage viewers to get outdoors and to take part in wildlife surveys and to do things to help their local wildlife. 
Whatever your age, though, the best way to enjoy and learn about wildlife is to get out there (if you can) in your local area! If you are observant and pay attention, there's a lot to be seen, whether it's a beautiful moss growing in a wall or the ducks in your local pond

There are events happening across the world to mark World Wildlife Day. Find out what's happening near you here.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Tufted Ducks looking all spruced up for Spring

I popped into Lochend Park today on the way to a writing class. The tufted ducks (or should that be the tufted drakes?) look at their handsome best at this time of year. Not only do they have a lovely tuft on their heads but their heads also glow purple in the right light.

The females, like most female ducks are in contrast camouflaged brown, after all they need to blend in with the background when they're sitting on a nest!