Saturday 28 February 2015

Lauriston Castle Gardens

Lauriston Castle has beautiful grounds overlooking the Firth of Forth. The highlight is the Japanese Garden, which is a haven of tranquillity.

Through the gates you have a lovely view of Cramond Island in the Forth.

There are water features and gravel gardens, it really is very pretty and well worth a visit.

Friday 27 February 2015

Wildlife Garden, Gorgie City Farm

Alongside the rabbits, the wildlife garden has always been my favourite part of Gorgie City Farm. However, as it is tucked away in a corner of the farm, it has in general often been overlooked by visiting members of the general public. That should all change in the future, following a recent redesign of the garden, which sees new water features, dry stone walls, seating and access walkways added.

The new wildlife garden was designed by Tracy, of the Farm's Gardening Team and opened by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh earlier today. Here Tracy and the Lord Provost are planting a commemorative tree

Not much is yet growing in the garden, but the mural gives a hint of how alive with wildlife it all will be in a few weeks time

While I was there I walked round the rest of the farm. They have some adorable pygmy goats at the moment

I was also pleased to see that the roof of the Farm Education Centre is now covered with solar panels

with a sign explaining the benefits of solar power

Thursday 26 February 2015

Urban Bee exhibition

At the weekend we visited Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens. You can see the birds we saw here and in the nearby Inverleith Park here.

We also went round the very interesting and informative exhibition about Urban Bees.

This exhibition looks at some of the different species of bees found in urban areas of Europe, explores some of the difficulties facing bees in general (such as insecticides and pesticides), looks at the consequences of declining numbers of bees (including the effect on food production) and looks at how we can help our local bees (including planting necxtar rich native plants in our gardens and building homes for bees).

The exhibition also looks at insects, such as hoverflies, that mimic bees and also looks at insect pollination of plants in general.

I was slightly disappointed that,despite a sign inviting visitors to don 'bee bibs' and pretend to be a bee, that option didn't seem to be available. Or maybe that only applies to the special children's tours of the exhibition.

I really liked this sign at the foot of the model bee:

I wonder if the organisers had had problems earlier with people trying to dismantle the bee? 

Urban Bees is part of the European Union Life Urban Bees Project. It will be on display at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens until Sunday 7 June.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Left Behind (Book One) The Forbidden Voyage by Anne Polcastro

Endirion is a thirteen year old boy. His hairless skin is green and it glows. Like everyone else on the poisoned Mother Planet, he lives in a cave underground, only venturing to the surface to forage for herbs or hunt animals. Both herbs and animals are badly damaged by suradiation (a form of irradiation from a mysterious form of energy that wiped out human civilisation as we know it).

After an incident during a meal he is banished to the Dump where he must work together with his enemy Harlo, another banished boy, sorting recyclables from rubbish.

One night they are forced to camp overnight on the Dump and then discover a mysterious settlement which according to their world view shouldn't exist. As they work to find out about the settlement and it's strange technologies from a bygone age, the two enemies learn to work together and even become friends. As they investigate the settlement's mysterious power source, they find themselves travelling to the Madlands, the area closest to the site of the Disaster that ended civilisation.

Set in a convincingly unpleasant future world, this is an intriguing story of friendship and adventure, with plenty to say about environmental destruction and social inequalities.

Left Behind (Book One) The Forbidden Voyage, a middle grade novel by Anne Polcastro. Thanks to the author for sending me a review copy of this book

Tuesday 24 February 2015

This Good Box - a preview

I was delighted yesterday to receive a parcel in the post from This Good Box, an ethical subscription service in the UK. The parcel was part of their trial to find out what people think of their service before their official launch in Spring 2015.

The parcel arrived all beautifully tied up in purple tissue paper and contains:

ginger lip balm from Raw Skincare

a lovely recycled paper-bead bracelet made by Sarah Mamaganda from Awamu, a social enterprise that works with women in the slums of Kampala, Uganda

a white chocolate lolly from Chocolate Memories, a social enterprise in Northern Ireland that offers training opportunities to young people with autism.

a card designed by Jenny Jackson, printed on recycled card

and This Good Box merchandise - an insirations postcard and two badges!

Not only is this a lovely little parcel of goodies, but obviously they can read my mind as I was going to be buying lip balm again very soon and ginger is one of my favourite flavours!

So thank you to This Good Box!

Monday 23 February 2015

Jazzing up a boring Hat

I bought this lightweight wooly hat recently from a second hand shop, but felt it was missing something. So I added the floral type decoration, which was sitting in a bag of 'broken jewellery' which I recently bought from another second hand shop.

I quite like the way it looks and will be happy to start wearing it once the weather is a wee bit warmer. At the moment it's still weather that demands my thick thermal hat, though it's been beautifully sunny today!

Saturday 21 February 2015

Lovely day for Birds

Crafty Green Boyfriend wasn't with me when I recently saw the water rail at Inverleith Pond. So we went there today, hoping it might still be there.

Indeed it was, and although I'd had good sightings of it last time, today was even better, with the advantage that it posed very nicely for Crafty Green Boyfriend's camera:

We were also delighted to see that lots of redwings were still around (the redwing is a winter visitor and will by flying back to Scandanavia soon).

(I posted a poem about redwings on this blog yesterday).

After we had walked round Inverleith Park we went into the nearby Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. Lots of people had gathered to watch a kingfisher who was visiting and Crafty Green Boyfriend got this photo of the kingfisher and a moorhen

Friday 20 February 2015



For weeks now their crouching run,
a moving field of Scandinavian beauty,
stained red and eye-browed.

Lately they flocked and wheeled,
small groups fusing,
now fifty strong,
calling and whistling.

Yesterday they flew away,
north wind on their wings,
frost on their beaks.

An emptiness on our fields.


(The poem was published in my pamphlet Unthinkable Skies. I took the photo in the Meadows, Edinburgh on 13 February 2015. It's been a good winter for redwings)

Meanwhile I've been restocking and updating the beach finds section of the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. More to come in the near future too! 

Thursday 19 February 2015

Bird Therapy

 mute swan on Inverleith Pond

Last autumn I lead some birdwatching walks for a mental health project. Everyone who came along was very enthusiastic about seeing birds and finding out more about them. Numbers of attendeed were on the low side, largely because the weather tended to be quite poor on the days of the walks (in fact one class was cancelled due to bad weather). The low numbers though meant I was able to spend more time with each person individually,which was great. Hopefully in the warmer weather of Spring, we might run the classes again.

The mental health charity Mind recently carried out research into the value of ecotherapy, which includes therapy throuigh gardening, spending time in nature and carrying out nature conservation tasks. You can read about their research and browse their ecotherapy resources here.

Birder Joe Harkness is specifically interested in finding out how birdwatching helps people's mental health and wellbeing. You can read about his project and take part in his survey here.

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

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Sandside Bay

Sandside is an interesting little place on the north coast of Scotland. It has a pretty beach, which is obviously popular with surfers (there were around six people in the waves the day we visited). Yet it is near Dounreay, the nuclear power station, which you can see in the background of the photo above. (You can also make out a windfarm, obviously a cleaner, greener form of energy, but even wind turbines have their problems as I briefly discussed in the latter part of this post).The sign in the photo warns against picking anything from the beach, due to the likelihood of it being radioactive. But no warnings against surfing.....

The geology of this bay is beautiful

and there's a picturesque harbour at the end of a wee path

Not sure I'd want to eat the lobsters caught in these lobster pots, (even if I liked shellfish in the first place!)

We were fascinated to find several song thrush anvils on the path. Song thrushes are the only bird in the UK that can smash a snail from its shell and it usually does this on a favourite anvil stone. I have never before seen so many anvil stones in one place and we wondered whether it was one very busy song thrush or whether there was a whole colony of song thrushes each with its own anvil in it's favoured part of the path. We didn't see any song thrushes on our walk but here's the remains of a few snails around an anvil stone


Obviously I wouldn't have picked sea glass or sea pottery from Sandside beach, but we saw almost no sea pottery or glass on any of the beaches on our trip. However, I've been updating the beach finds section of the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop and will be adding more in the near future.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Volunteering with the Water of Leith Trust

As many readers of this blog know I've been volunteering with the Water of Leith Trust for several years now. I regularly walk through the Colinton Dell section of the riverside pathway, picking litter and recording wildlife sightings.

Recently, I've also been sometimes adding the Slateford to Saughton Park stretch of the river to my walk, as the trust is currently without a regular volunteer to do this patch. This is a much more urban part of the river, with a couple of stubbornly bad blackspots of litter. It's a surprisingly good area for wildlife though. Yesterday, I saw two dippers and a grey wagtail and had my best ever sighting of a goldcrest, which hopped round the branches near me, just at eye level, for several minutes.

Plus the snowdrops are lovely at the minute and I found this patch of winter aconite, a beautiful garden escape which I've never seen before.

So if you are in Edinburgh and looking for an outdoor volunteering opportunity, you may be interested in offering to be a river patroller for the Slateford - Gorgie - Saughton Park section of the Water of Leith. The role involves walking the route about once a week, recording wildlife and picking litter (with no expectation that you pick every single piece of litter!). Training and a litter picker provided, plus regular opportunities to meet with other volunteers.

Find out more about volunteering with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust.

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

Monday 16 February 2015


While we were up north we hoped to visit Forsinard Flows, a peatland nature reserve managed by the RSPB. However, the paths were closed due to icy conditions, flooding and fallen trees.

So we had to content ourselves with enjoying the scenery from the side of the road. We drove to a forest area, and had a wintry walk.

There's a lot of local opposition to the RSPB around Forsinard. Partly this is due to their plans to build a large visitor centre, which locals (and others) claim will be out of character with the setting. I haven't seen the plans, but it is clear that the current visitor centre in part of the railway station is almost certainly insufficient. Local opposition seems to be counterproductive to be honest, as surely the biggest source of income in this remote area is from birdwatchers who come to the RSPB reserve?

Apparently some locals are angry that the RSPB object to the planned windfarms in the area. However, the RSPB always make it clear that they only object to wind farms in the wrong places. Wind farms around Forsinard and Strathy would definitely be in the wrong place for several reasons:

a) they would damage fragile wildlife areas
b) they would destroy peat bogs which are valuable carbon sinks - that is they store carbon and once they are destroyed they release this carbon into the atmosphere making climate change worse.
c) these wind farms are so far from major centres of population that a fair amount of electricity (and I don't know how much, sorry) would be lost in the journey south.

Read more about the RSPB campaign against Strathy South windfarm.

There's a good article on Rain Geese and Selkies about windfarms and peat bogs in Shetland and another from Raptor Politics about how wind turbines threaten populations of rare birds

As ever, red text contains hylerlinks which take you to other pages where you can find out more.

Saturday 14 February 2015

Famous Flagstones of the North

One of the things I noticed on our recent trip to the north of Scotland, when we first arrived in the Strathy area, was that a lot of fields had upright flagstones around them, rather than dry stone walls or hedges.

The mystery was solved when we discovered Castlehill, an abandoned flagstone quarry and workers' village on the coast near Castletown.

The beach is full of old flagstones, left over from what used to be a major source of flagstones exported across the world.

 The village and quarry are now a very low key heritage site, with information boards that inform the visitor without dominating the site.

When we later in our trip visited Forsinard Flows nature reserve, we were interested to see that the pathways across the peat bog were constructed of Castlehill flagstones.

Friday 13 February 2015

Show the Love - Save Midmar Paddock

#ShowtheLove is a Campaign to make Valentine's Day green and to share your love of nature and other things that are threatened by climate change. The campaign features a simple love poem, a video of celebrities reciting Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?'

People are being asked to share what they love on the website, in the form of Valentine's messages. People are also making and wearing green hearts to demonstrate their love of nature. World Wildlife Fund sent me this heart, which was made by Annette in Guildford, who loves 'the planet'.

I wore my heart to the official launch of the Save Midmar Paddock campaign hosted by the Friends of Blackford Hill and Hermitage of Braid. Midmar Paddock is an open green area that adjoins the Hermitage of Braid, that like many people, I had assumed was part of the nature reserve. However in fact it is privately owned and it's owners are wanting to sell the land for development.

It would be tragic though to lose this beautiful patch of land to development (the paddock is the field in the foreground, the hill in the background is Blackford Hill, part of a local nature reserve)

There was a demonstration last week (while we were up north) and today's was the official launch of the campaign, attended by local politicians, including Green Party MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) Alison Johnstone.

 It was good to see so many people turn up, along with their dogs (it's a favourite dog walking area)

 You can keep up to date with the campaign on the Friends of Blackford Hill and Hermitage of Braid Facebook Page.

 I also took the opportunity to do a bit of birdwatching along the way. Blackford Pond, just near the Midmar Paddock, is quiet well known for unusual birds turning up every so often. Today it was three teal, two drakes and a duck! Teal turn up at Musselburgh in large numbers at this time of year, but unusual to see them on Blackford Pond. I took some photos, but the colour is poor in them for some reason, this one almost turned out though.

Then a bus ride later and after doing some shopping I found myself in the Meadows, where I was delighted to see about twenty redwings hopping round in the crocuses, which are just starting to show. The Meadows used to be a guaranteed place to see redwings in the winter, but over the last few years I've hardly seen an, so it's been lovely to see them a couple of times this year. It seems to be a good year for redwings (which come over here from Scandanavia to spend the winter in our warmer climate) - I've seen good numbers of them in various places. 


I still have more to say about our trip up north, so look out for those posts over the next few days! 

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

Thursday 12 February 2015

Melvich beach

Just along the coast from Strathy where we stayed on our trip up to the north of Scotland is Melvich.

Another beautiful beach set in dunes. In fact it feels like two beaches, one alongside the river estuary on one side of the dunes and the sea beach on the other side. We were both fascinated by the patterns of the dunes

and also by the amazing range of stones on the beach 

and lots of seaweed too - particularly interesting to see many seaweeds attached to the rocks with their holdfasts