Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Trees in Bloom

 It's not just the cherry trees that are in bloom, though those are beautiful and will be even more beautiful in a week or so 

But other trees are also in bloom, though most are easier to overlook than the showy cherry. Here's a close up of an ash tree

and here's an elm tree 

The flowers on the larch trees are now well on their way to becoming cones. You can see my post showing the whole development of the larch flower into a cone here

What are your favourite trees at this time of year?

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) is one of Scotland's most diverse cultural events, including everything from music, film and theatre, to storytelling, sketching and origami.

In 2021, the festival takes place from 3-23 May - online and in outdoor locations across Scotland - exploring the theme of 'Normality?' a particularly pertinent topic in the midst of the COVID_19 pandemic, which has upturned normality for most people. The festival dates incorporate Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May) which this year has the theme of 'Nature' and is encouraging people to experience nature, share nature and talk about nature. During lockdown, many people have discovered just how vital access to nature is for mental well-being.

Many of the events in the SMHAF this year explore how nature can inspire creativity and also support good mental health. Workshops range from film screenings to origami workshops, from mandala making to nature walks. You can browse all the festival events here. Some events are restricted to participants within a certain geographical area, others are open to anyone living in Scotland.  

I'm delighted to be involved in this year's festival, facilitating three creative writing workshops celebrating local green-spaces in three different outdoor locations in the north east of Edinburgh. Participation is limited to local residents, but you can find out more about these workshops and the art workshops that will run alongside them here.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Some flowers grow in unexpected places

 This year the lesser celandines seem to be more magnificent than ever, I feel as though I'm seeing more of them and in more locations than normal, or is this just because I saw so few last year because of lockdown? 

This must be my favourite patch of lesser celandines, growing in the junction of a tree trunk (I should check what species of tree it is too!) in Craiglockart Dell along the Water of Leith.

Celandines have been growing in this tree (and the one next to it) for years! 

Meanwhile, upstream at the other end of the Dells, wood sorrel is just coming into bloom and this is my favourite patch of that flower, growing on a mossy wall 

When you look over the wall, it's amazing how far down the sorrel is growing (though sadly I couldn't get a good photo to show that).

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Birds on the Hill

 After a very wet winter, we're having a very dry Spring. The threat of wildfires in Scotland is very real at the moment so if you're out and about, please don't light fires and don't use disposable barbecues! 

As well as being very dry, it's beautifully warm and sunny. We had a lovely walk earlier today around Edinburgh's Corstorphine Hill, taking in some of the quieter routes as well as some of the main paths. 

The sycamore trees are beautifully coming into leaf at the moment 

and it was lovely to watch this blue tit flying to and from it's nest hole in this beech trunk 

It was probably feeding its mate who's sitting on eggs, though we have no way of knowing that for sure! 

These jackdaws were very entertaining to watch! To start with it looked like they were courting - one of them was bobbing around fluttering its wings, then the other one attacked and they started fighting but eventually they patched things up. 

The lesser celandines seem to be more numerous than ever this year, there are several patches of these lovely flowers in full bloom on the hill 

and close to this patch, there was a large patch of cuckoo flowers (lady's smock) 

Much though it's lovely to see the sunshine, I would like it to rain soon, so that the plants can grow properly and the birds and mammals have enough to drink!

Friday, 16 April 2021

State of UK Woods and Trees report from the Woodland Trust












ancient beech tree, photo by Nick Turner, for Woodland Trust, used with permission

The Woodland Trust's State of the UK’s Woods and Trees 2021 has just been published and gives a mixed picture of our trees and woods. 

Woodland cover in the UK has more than doubled over the past 100 years, but many of the new trees are non-native. Our native woodlands are in poor ecological condition and woodland wildlife is declining. 

Woodlands are vital. They offer valuable habitats for a range of wildlife, they capture carbon to help reduce the effects of climate change and they offer pleasant places for us to spend time, contributing to positive mental and physical well being. 

Woods and trees in the UK currently face a variety of threats to their very existence. These include climate change, pollution and destroying woodland to make way for so called green infrastructure such as high speed rail links. 

We need to plant more trees and create new woodlands, but even more we need to protect the ones we have. A mature woodland is so much more than the trees, it is home to a wide variety of plants and animals from mosses and lichens growing on the trees, to the birds, mammals and insects that live in the woodland. A plantation of newly planted trees will take years, even decades to create a natural community as rich as that found in a mature woodland. So we desperately need to stop cutting down healthy mature trees and we need to stop destroying mature woodland.

Read the  summary of the report on the Woodland Trust website here and read the full report here.

Thursday, 15 April 2021


Spring is the time of year when nature seems to wake up from the dormancy of winter so we're all particularly aware of the beauty of flowers, fresh new leaves, emerging insects and singing birds. Many plants change really quickly at this time of year too! Less than a month ago, the coltsfoot was fully in bloom

now it's almost entirely gone to seed and is just as pretty (and there's a dandelion in bloom on the left in the photo below, which conveniently shows the difference between the flowers of these two plants)

This spring in Scotland we are voting for #oorfuture. The candidates we elect to the Scottish Parliament on 6 May will be responsible for taking action to tackle the nature and climate crises over the next few years. Nature and climate groups across Scotland have joined together to encourage people to show how much they care about nature ahead of next month’s election. People are being asked to share photos of their feet and words about their feelings about nature, using the social media hashtag #oorfootprint.  

Nature is vital, it is only if nature thrives that we can hope to have a sustainable future. We need to protect nature for it's own sake as well as for the vital services it offers including supporting our mental and physical health and well being.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Haiku Share for Dylan Thomas

star gazing -
basking in the glow
of ancient light 


The haiku above is my response to the Haiku Share, being organised by the official Dylan Thomas website. The haiku share is running up until Dylan Day (14 May). You can find out how to take part here