Thursday, 22 March 2018

Liking the Lichens! The Lichen Safari at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

This lunchtime I went along to Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens for a guided walk round the garden's Lichen Safari Trail (I can't find reference to the lichen safari on the gardens own website, so the link above goes to Facebook).

It was a fascinating walk, checking out four of the stops on the trail

and spending time looking at the different lichens we saw there.

There are many species of lichen and some are  notoriously difficult to tell apart but they are fascinating organisms, being a symbiosis between fungi and algae. There are three main types of lichens, the crustose (crusty) which are very tightly bound to the substrate like these ones on the stones in the Alpine Garden

the fruticose (shrubby) like the one in the foreground in the centre of the photo below

and the foliose (leafy) like the one in the background in the centre of the photo above and also like the Xanthoria parietina below

If you look carefully at the Xanthoria in those two photos you can see that it has little cups in amongst the leafy parts. These cups are the fruiting bodies of the lichen.

Lichens can grow almost everywhere, the crusty lichens are best at growing in naturally harsh conditions. Lichens are very sensitive to air pollution and can be used to measure levels of pollution.

Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens are a great place to find lichens, you can buy a copy of the lichen safari booklet for £1 in the John Hope Gateway building. There's another walk next Thursday which I can definitely recommend going to if you're in Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

International Day of Forests

This year for International Day of Forests the theme is Urban Forests and Sustainable Cities. The urban forest includes all the trees in a city, street trees, those found in parkland and in private gardens.

In the UK urban forests have made it into the news a lot recently, given the shocking fact that Sheffield (once known as a very green city) has been destroying many of its street trees. Gone or threatened are historic avenues of lime trees, monuments to those fallen in the wars and a rare elm tree that is resistant to Dutch elm disease and home to a very rare butterfly. As if this isn't bad enough, those people who have been protesting the tree fellings havebeen treated as criminals, charged in the courts or in some cases injured when police have attacked them in the streets.

It's not just Sheffield though. Edinburgh City Council recently removed all the beautiful trees from Picardy Place so they can improve the traffic flow - the trees were removed almost overnight and with barely enough time for the ink to dry on the so called consultation on the traffic measures. The beautiful trees around Meadowbank Stadium have a very uncertain future under plans to modernise the stadium and use 'excess land' for housing and other developments.

Urban trees provide many benefits to urban communities, from cooling the environment and saving energy, to providing health benefits and building resilience against floods and storms. They should be nurtured and celebrated not destroyed for the sake of traffic.

Trees for Cities is the only international charity working to create greener cities.  Since 1993, they have engaged over 70,000 people to plant over 600,000 trees in urban areas.  They plant trees where they will have the greatest social and environmental impact on local people and their communities.  In London for example this might mean planting trees to clean the air while in Nairobi it may mean planting fruit trees for food.

Woodland Trust protects and creates woodland across the UK, some of their woodlands are near or in urban areas. 

I took the photo at the top of the post in the woodland area at Musselburgh Lagoons today. Coincidentally, my poem Traffic was posted today (which is also World Poetry Day) at Plum Tree Tavern.

As ever, red text in this post contains hyperlinks that take you to other websites where you can find out more.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Some Advice for Dog Owners

I walk through  the Dells alongside the Water of Leith most weeks. I've met a lot of lovely dogs while doing this, but today was one of the rare occasions when I had a bad incident with a dog. I was cutting back some overhanging vegetation (which is part of my role in patrolling the river) when this dog jumped at me (and not in even remotely a friendly way) and started ripping my cotton carrier bag apart. The owner muttered 'Sorry, very sorry' as she walked past but if your dog is likely to attack people like that you really need to a) train it better and b) keep it on a short lead!

A dog related problem that I encounter far more frequently in the Dells is that of dog poo. It is disgusting how many people let their dogs poo in the woodlands or even worse pick up their dogs poo in a poop bag and then throw it into the trees! If your dog poos, pick it up in a bag and then bin the bag! It's only commonsense! (The anti-fouling sign above is more picturesque than most and can be found near the site of Lindsay's Mill alongside the Water of Leith as it passes through Dean Village.)

There are also seasonal issues related to dogs.

At this time of year many fields are full of lambs and pregnant ewes who will soon give birth. Dogs running wild can panic pregnant ewes and cause them to abort the lambs. There have been several incidents recently where livestock have been attacked by dogs running out of control. To avoid this, if you have a dog, please don't take it into fields where there are young animals.

The same applies to ground nesting birds - from April to July is the nesting season for bird species such as skylarks, which are decreasingly drastically in number. To help give them the best chances of breeding, please keep them on a short lead in open areas where birds might be nesting.

Outdoor Access Scotland has some good advice for dog owners and professional dog walkers on their website, you can read it here.

Monday, 19 March 2018

A Relaxing Green Space or a Venue to make profit from?

One of the nicest features of the centre of Edinburgh is Princes Street Gardens with its views of the castle and other iconic city buildings and its lawns and trees that support a range of wildlife and are enjoyed by residents and tourists alike throughout the year. However, increasingly the gardens are being commercialised, the Hogmanay festival that takes place every New Years Eve these days sees the gardens shut to public access from Christmas until into the New Year!

The old Ross Bandstand admittedly could do with a facelift

but current plans seem to be excessive (see this article) - with plans to potentially hand over management of the gardens to a private company who will make the gardens a profit making venue holding daily events. Now I have no problem with there being a profit making element to the gardens, it's good that there are small cafes in the gardens in the summer, and I have no problem with events as long as they are in keeping with the setting (the free events that sometimes happen during the Festival Fringe are excellent for example). On the other hand, the gardens are a tranquil green space in the centre of a capital city and that's what they should remain.

Admittedly the plans outlined in the article I linked to above havenot been finalised but Edinburgh Council does have a tendency to be less than transparent when it comes to its development plans. So I think it's a good idea to know what's being discussed.....

Friday, 16 March 2018

Easter Cards

I always like making greetings cards and these are a few of the Easter cards I made this year.

I used coloured card stock that I recently bought from a 2nd hand shop and added pre-cut shapes and floral papers that I had also bought from 2nd hand shops. Even the rubber stamp I used to complete the design of the first two cards was 2nd hand!

Landlove magazine has a lovely template for lino-print Easter cards which you can find here.

Meanwhile I've added several pairs of new earrings to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, which you can see here

Thursday, 15 March 2018


There’s something of life in the picture –
dull, dreich mist over storm-dark hills, the lift
of the water as it leaves the canvas,
the peek of light through the foreground
break in the clouds.

I feel wet sand between my toes,
watch eddying rain watering down
shy sunlight, hear the splash of sea
on rocks, the pull of currents.

Wind fresh in my face, drawn into
the scene, I drown in the lake
of a painter’s imagination.

Reposted from May 2006 and previously published on the Sound and Image issue of Online Poetry Journal.  

Meanwhile over on Shapeshifting Green I've reposted another poem from 2006, you can read it here

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Wild Garlic and Birds Building Nests

In the Dells along the Water of Leith, wild garlic is the signature scent of Spring. Even before it flowers it fills the woodland with the scent of garlic

You can forage wild garlic to make a delicious pesto, but I wouldn't forage anything from the ground in a place so popular with dog walkers! If you're really keen on foraging, it's better anyway to leave the wild garlic and instead forage the wild leeks which are invasive and taking over from the garlic in places. The two species of leeks can both be recognised from the garlic by their thinner leaves (the flowers blooming in the photo below are snowdrops which as far as I'm aware are not edible)

It's a very pretty time of year, with the undergrowth looking so green

even though most of the trees think it's still winter

 The birds aren't fooled by this year's strange weather - I saw a magpie carrying a twig that was longer than itself, a jackdaw flying back and forth with twigs and a pair of dippers gathering moss.