Saturday, 28 November 2020

A sunny visit to the Botanic gardens

 We were able this morning to book a time slot for visiting Edinburgh Botanic Gardens this lunchtime! (Due to COVID the gardens are only admitting a limited number of people, you can book a time slot here). Once you are in the gardens you can stay as long as you like! 

The gardens looked beautiful in the late autumn sunshine 

and though there were a lot of people around, some areas were quite quiet. Though it's annoying that large parts are roped off to allow for preparation for the Christmas light display, as this means that people are restricted to the paths and some areas feel very crowded). 

The silver birch trees look particularly pretty in the low sunlight  

Many of the birch trees have witches brooms in them, these are caused either by a parasitic wasp or a virus. 

These witches brooms don't damage the trees.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Tide by Hugh Aldersey-Williams


 Subtitled 'The Science and Lore of the Greatest Force on Earth' this is a chronological look at the development of thinking about tides. It covers mythology, science, natural history, art and social issues around tides from the times of ancient Greece to the present day. The historical narrative is interspersed with the author's observations of tides in various oceans. 

Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt were all situated in areas around the Mediterranean, which doesn't have major tides so the tides as such didn't play hugely significant roles in these cultures, until the Romans expanded their Empire beyond the Mediterranean (and found the tides a significant obstacle to invading Britain). The first significant scientific research into tides took place in the area that is now India. 

Tides obviously have a profound influence on the wildlife of the coast, particularly the intertidal area (the area between low tide and high tide that is constantly being deluged by water then drying out). The book contains a fascinating chapter examining how wildlife responds to changing tides, from the feeding behaviour of wading birds such as knots to the breeding cycle of the grunion, a fish that lays its eggs on the beaches of California.

Tides have played major roles in war (e.g. the D-Day landings), tragedies (e.g. the death of 23 cockle pickers on Morecombe Bay in 2004), historical turning points (e.g. The Boston Tea Party) and the reshaping of geography. Historically tides have always eaten away at coastlines, but in these days of climate chaos, this effect of the tides is increasing. Tidal defences have been built in many places, while in others the tides are harnessed to generate electricity.

Tides have influenced artistic creations too, including Handel's Water Music (composed for an event that took place on the water) and Telemann's Water Music, which was more of a creative response to the water itself.

This is a fascinating insight into the power and nature of the tide and it very effectively synthesizes knowledge from many different areas. However, I would have liked more coverage of the environmental issues affecting our oceans, particularly plastic pollution. 

Tide by Hugh Aldersey-Williams published (2017) by Penguin.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

A Friends Group is on its Way for North Merchiston Cemetery!

I had a socially distanced walk round North Merchiston Cemetery yesterday with someone who is interested in setting up a Friends Group for the Cemetery. We discussed a lot of issues, looked at some of the gravestones and even caught sight of the albino squirrel.

So, as a result of this meeting, we have set up a Facebook group for the cemetery as a way of gauging interest in setting up an official Friends group to look after and celebrate the cemetery as a place of remembrance and as a wildlife haven. We'll be looking for people who are actively interested in serving on a committee and / or taking part in volunteering activities (subject to COVID restrictions and council guidelines on Friends group activities). We want the group to be as inclusive as possible of local residents and people who work in the area. 

So if you're live or work in the North Merchiston / Slateford / Gorgie area of Edinburgh then watch this space! 

You can find the Facebook group for the Friends of North Merchiston Cemetery here.

Friday, 20 November 2020

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


I just re-read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, a novel many of us probably read in childhood, or we know through the various adaptations for stage and screen that have been made over the years. 

Mary is a spoilt young child who was brought up in India but when she was orphaned she came to live with her Uncle in his huge house in Yorkshire. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms and at night, Mary hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors.

Mary starts to explore the grounds f the house and discovers a locked secret garden, surrounded by walls.With the help of a local boy, Dickon, she discovers a way into the garden and the two of them start to bring it back to life. When Mary discovers that it is her cousin Colin who is crying at night, she and Dickon start to take him out into the garden. 

This is a story of how nature can help young people to develop skills and recover their health after illness. It's beautifully written and some of the descriptions are wonderful, the robin that inadvertently leads Mary to the entrance to the secret garden is particularly well portrayed:

"The robin flew down from his tree top and hopped about or flew after [Mary] from one bush to another. He chirped a good deal and had a very busy air, as if he were showing her things."

This is a wonderful book to revisit or read for the first time in the strange times we're living through. There's a good review of the book and a recent television adaptation on the Guardian website here



Thursday, 19 November 2020

Albino Squirrel in North Merchiston Cemetery

We were delighted to see this albino squirrel in North Merchiston Cemetery today! We watched it scampering around the trees and gravestones for quite a while! It seemed quite tame and certainly happy to pose for the camera! This is the first time we've seen a white squirrel in the cemetery, though they're often seen in places not too far from there. 

Apparently albino and other white squirrels are commoner in Edinburgh than in most other places. Albino grey squirrels are entirely white and have pink eyes whereas other white squirrels are leucistic grey squirrels, and have brown eyes and may have patches of grey or brown on their bodies.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Preparing for Christmas - Part 1 Christmas Cards

 It's going to be a strange Christmas this year, but some things will still stay the same. I'm still making Christmas cards to send and here are some of my designs I've made so far 

I've used a variety of materials including: 

* pictures cut from old greetings cards and calendars

* card stock from my stash

* paper shapes from a huge bag of paper craft supplies I bought in a local second hand shop (the shop shut its doors forever during lockdown, which is a real shame, it was the best local shop for second hand craft materials). 

A lot of people see Christmas cards as wasteful and are turning to digital greetings. However I think there's something special about getting greetings cards through the post and cards that are handmade using upcycled materials are pretty eco-friendly. You also need to think that anything digital has a large unseen carbon footprint when you take into account all the servers etc which use electricity. 

Making Christmas cards could also be a great lockdown activity for children, specially if Christmas cards aren't counted as essential products in your local version of lockdown.

Anyone else making their own Christmas cards this year?

Monday, 16 November 2020

Sun Glowing in a Beech Tree

 This beautiful beech tree at one of the entrances to Craiglockart Dell along the Water of Leith was really catching the sun today

Meanwhile these fungi (I think they're velvet shanks, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) reflect the same colour in the wooded Dells