Thursday, 1 December 2022

Local Greenspaces - Part 2: Gorgie City Farm

 I did originally intend to include photos from Gorgie City Farm in yesterday's blogpost, but got distracted, so here are the photos now! 

Gorgie City Farm has been around for as long as I've been in Edinburgh, but has been under the management of LOVE Gorgie Farm for the past few years after the original management went under. 

The new management have brought in some new animals, including these alpacas

and these Vallois black faced sheep

Olive, a duck who used to live on the farm, who famously once met Queen Elizabeth II (read more about her in this blogpost) now has a grave marker 

In memory of Olive, a loving duck, who spent her days putting a smile on the faces of everyone she met including royalty.
and a path named after her 

A sign saying Olive's Walk, Edinburgh, EH11

The trees of North Merchiston Cemetery are visible above the top wall of the farm

We ended our trip with a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the cafe and were amused by this notice outside the cafe:

A chalkboard with the message Unaccompanied Children will be given a double espresso and a free kitten

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Local Greenspaces - Part 1 North Merchiston Cemetery

 Some people seem to think that our area of Edinburgh (Dalry-Gorgie) lacks green-spaces, but in fact they're wrong! We've got a few days off and spent today, exploring some of our local green-spaces, including Dalry-Gorgie Community Park, North Merchiston Cemetery and Gorgie City Farm

We looked for Waxwings in the park (in late autumn and winter, they often gather in the Poplar trees there) but no luck, though we'll keep looking as they have been seen in this country already this season. There were some pretty spiders' webs in the shrubbery

The Autumn light was lovely in North Merchiston Cemetery too

and the dewdrops in the grass were shining beautifully in the low sunlight 

We were very happy to find several ladybirds hibernating on some of the gravestones - here is a Harlequin with a group of Pine Ladybirds

here is a group that includes Harlequin, Pine and Two Spot Ladybirds

and here is a larva (probably of a Harlequin Ladybird) and an adult Cream Spot ladybird

We continued our walk by wandering through Gorgie City Farm, but I'll post the photos from that part of our walk tomorrow.

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Shouting at Crows by Sadie Maskery


Sadie Maskery is a poet I first encountered by chance on Twitter, in what feels the dying times of that social media platform, which, though much aligned, has been important for many writers to connect with each other. 

Sadie was offering copies of her latest poetry collection, and I accepted eagerly, attracted by the title and the cover art. 

Aside from the fact that this isn't as nature themed as I thought it would be given the title, this is an excellent collection of powerful, sometimes angry, sometimes disturbing poems. 

Some of the poems are rooted in nature, such as in there is a beach, in which crabs 'infant faces etched into their backs' remind the narrator of her dead child, and the comfort of animals in Pet

It is not people who comfort me
but soft fur and the warmth
of small bodies, simplicity
with no need for question
or answer, just trust.

The benefits of being outdoors crop up in Allotment about a man who relieves the boredom of work by digging in his allotment garden and Cubicle whose narrator dreams of 'cool forests' while enduring a boring job.

Harvest belies expectations of a poem about fruit and abundance by describing a bloody ritual carried out to ensure a good harvest. This poem also is one of a few in this collection that uses non-standard formatting successfully:

'fear cured by rites of flay / and / burn / and / lash
the sound dis solv ing into sparks / and / ash'

Several poems in this collection are about witches, including the mistreatment of women accused of witchcraft and the hypocrisy of the church in its attitude to witches. The best poem about witches for me is Magic, which looks at connections between magic and physics: 

Witches can idly turn a bubble
inside out without breaking its surface:
They grasp the universal law
that every atom is all places at once -

Mortality and reincarnation are common themes too, as in Pass On 

'Death is just
An adjustment. She is
Still here, in fragments.'

While in Ghost - someone is reborn as a mosquito ('zithers curses with her wings') rather than as the white butterfly that ghosts are sometimes expected to be. My favourite poem in the collection, Suffer the Children, considers reincarnation in the context of a growing world population, looking first at old souls:

souls recycle to the core of us
and some, therefore, are old motes,
suspended, that saw how
henges caught the moon
or patterns became words

going on to describe the potential problems faced in an overpopulated world with too many new souls

"A peerless population of ego
untethered by accrued wisdom"

And Kind People Will Say furnishes us what seems like a good motto for life

This is your life, not a scoreboard
with crosses where you fail.

This is an excellent collection of intense poems that repay re-reading, but may be best read a few at a time as the mood is often quite dark and could become overwhelming.

Shouting at Crows by Sadie Maskery published (2022) by Alien Buddha Press.

Monday, 28 November 2022

Earth Star

Fungi are amazing, there's such a variety of them. One form of fungi that never ceases to astonish me is the Earth Star. There are several species, which I haven't yet learned to tell apart, but all of them are quite striking in appearance. I found this one on the overgrown area at the back of the roof of a building at the corner of Spylaw Park (the roof is on a level with the Water of Leith Walkway that passes by the park). 

I've seen Earth Stars in several places in Edinburgh, but never before in this particular spot.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Saughton Park

 We had a lovely visit to Saughton Park this morning. The Water of Leith flows through the park and the bridge over the river in the park is one of the best places in Edinburgh to see either Otters or Kingfishers. We didn't see either today, but we did get a brief glimpse of a Dipper as it dashed downstream under the bridge. Further upstream we had a lovely sighting of a Grey Heron.

The ivy on the banks of the river was still in bloom, and we even saw a Banded Hoverfly (Syrphus sp) enjoying a aote season snack

The light was lovely and the trees looked beautiful, especially this paper birch

There were quite a few fungi around too, including these inkcaps

and these seed heads of some sort of giant thistle looked very dramatic against the clouds

Friday, 25 November 2022

Planting Bulbs and Finding Ladybirds

 Today, I joined other members of the committee of Friends of North Merchiston Cemetery to plant daffodil bulbs in the cemetery. We planted bulbs alongside the newly restored perimeter wall that overlooks the railway line. (The wall had become unstable and had to be demolished and rebuilt). 


The daffodils will hopefully look lovely in the Spring.

Before and after planting bulbs, I wandered round the cemetery to take some photos. You'll notice from the first two photos that some gravestones in the cemetery lie flat. Some were vandalised, others were deemed unsafe and laid down by the council after an incident in Glasgow when a child was killed by a collapsing gravestone. It is expensive and time-consuming to put the graves right and in this cemetery, priority will be given to the gravestones that needed to be removed to allow the perimeter wall to be rebuilt.

Looking up into the camopy of trees!
A nice view of St Michael's Church across the road from the cemetery.

I was also very happy to find some ladybirds already hibernating on a gravestone. In the first photo, from the top down we have: Harlequin larva, Harlequin adult, 2 Spot and Cream Spot ladybirds. 

and below we have a mix of Two Spot (the red ladybirds with black spots) and Pine Ladybirds (black with red spots) 


Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Back to Nature by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin


 Chris Packham and his step daughter Megan McCubbin are best known for appearing in the BBC TV series Springwatch and its spin offs Autumnwatch and Winterwatch. Both have also been involved in campaigning to conserve the UKs wildlife.

Back to Nature is a book the two of them wrote largely during the COVID-19 lockdown. It's a celebration of British wildlife and a plea to conserve what we have. It reads like an episode of Springwatch in some ways with both Chris and Meghan taking it in turns to write sections and with lots of different topics all thrown into the mix. Topics include the state of the UKs national parks; the failure of our governments (or our governmental agencies such as NatureScot or English Nature) to properly protect wildlife; the pros and cons of planting trees (basically make sure they're the right trees in the right place and look after them after planting); issues around how new developments impact on wildlife; climate change and how it's a much bigger challenge than the COVID pandemic;

Chris is in typical combative mode, pointing out for example that the wildlife we often say we've lost, we haven't in fact lost, but have destroyed, either directly (eg shooting) or indirectly (eg building over prime habitats). He calls for a major overhaul of our governmental agencies that so clearly fail to protect what they're supposed to protect and suggests we need to replace them with apolitical organisations that are staffed only by people who are experts committed to saving nature. He also shares a personal story about his youthful fondness for a group of badgers that lived near his home, and how devastated he was when their sett was destroyed to make way for a new development. 

There's a discussion here too about why nature should be protected and a great quote from Lord Sandford, speaking in 1974 when he was chairing the National Parks Policy Review Committee: "If there's a conflict between protecting the environment and people enjoying the environment that can't be resolved by management, then protecting the environment is more important."

This is a comprehensive overview of the plight of wildlife in the UK and manages to be both entertaining and sobering at the same time. 

Back to Nature by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin published (2021) by Two Roads.