Friday 31 March 2017

Glorious Gorse

The gorse is beautiful up Corstorphine Hill at the moment!

and today it was warm enough for the gorse to be releasing its scent of coconut!

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Saughton Park

As I often lead guided walks along various stretches of the Water of Leith, I was very interested to attend today's talk about Saughton Park, one of the Edinburgh parks that is found along the length of the river.

The event was made up in fact of three talks. Peter McDougall, Project Development Officer, talked about the plans for the restoration of the park. These include the creation of a new footpath following the course of the river and a new biodiversity area along this path. The bandstand will be restored to the park, the stables will be renovated to create office space and a new cafe will be built. LED lighting will be set up round the park, ecologists have been consulted to see whether this will affect the three species of bats that live in the park (pipistrelle, Daubentons and another species, perhaps long eared bat?) the ecologists apparently said the bats won't be affected though personally I'm a little skeptical about that. I think safe footpaths are vital, but I also would hate to think that restoration of a park that includes biodiversity improvements might inadvertently have negative impacts on some of the wildlife in the park.

The other two talks were about the history of the park, which is fascinating. In 1824, the old Saughton House (which is no longer there having been burned down) became a 'lunatic asylum' which pioneered the use of horticultural therapy in its treatments of people with mental health problems. The gardens at one time included a scented garden with labelling in Braille for the enjoyment of blond people.

To find out about events happening at Saughton Park, visit the Friends of Saughton Park website.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Etsy update and plastic recycling

One of the great things about selling craft supplies on Etsy (as I do in my Crafty Green Magpie shop) is that sometimes I find out what people make with the supplies I sell!

I recently sold a whole load of plastic bottle tops to the owner of the OldsNewCrafts shop. My first reaction was one of great surprise as I had had these bottle tops listed in my shop for a while and no-one had bought any of them - I was literally going to give up on trying to sell them when this order came in!

I love the little gingerbread man she's already made with recycled bottle tops and look forward to seeing what else she makes!

If you wonder what to do with your old plastic bottle tops you can (if you're in the UK) take them to your nearest branch of Lush Cosmetics who will melt them down and make tops for their toiletries bottles. (This is what I used to do before I came up with the idea of trying to sell them on Etsy.)

Monday 27 March 2017

Sunshine in the Dells

It was beautifully warm and sunny this morning in the Dells along the Water of Leith.

The water is sparkling as it flows over the weir at Colinton

It was here that I saw my first kingfisher of the day, flying upstream uncharacteristically high through the outer branches of the trees. Five minutes later and slightly further downstream I saw two kingfishers flying downstream!

Many of the yellow flowers of spring are in almost full bloom now including these lesser celandines

and these coltsfoots

the strange flowers of the few flowered leeks are starting to appear

The Water of Leith Trust is currently working to get as much information as possible about all the plant and fungi life along the river. I'm recording as much as I can (adding to a list that predates my involvement with the trust). When it comes to lichens I can't even hope to get any of them down to species level, but I'm taking photos. I think they're very beautiful, and I love how they form little different coloured colonies which have visible boundaries where the two species are effectively waging chemical warfare against each other.

Despite the warmth, some of the orange ladybirds are still hibernating in the fence posts, I was amused to see that this seven spot ladybird had joined the orange ladybirds, the size difference is quite obvious when you see them together like this. Seven spots eat aphids and as far as I know wouldn't eat the orange ladybirds.

Sunday 26 March 2017

Year of the Toad

Common toad near Blackford Pond, Edinburgh

Last weekend we visited Blackford Pond hoping to see lots of toads spawning but we were too early for the toads, though just on time for the frogs!

I just found out that this year has been designated as Year of the Toad! In the UK, common toads have alarmingly declined by 68% over the past 30 years. This is likely to be due to a number of factors including changes to farming practices, loss of ponds, an increase in urbanisation, milder winters and more toads dying on roads.

There are many ways you can help toads, including by digging a pond in your garden or by taking part in activities to raise awareness of toads. You can find out more on the Froglife website

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

Friday 24 March 2017


I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for his lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill today. It was warm and springlike, which was a refreshing change from the last few days of cold wind, rain and intermittent snow and hail! I love the contrasting yellows of the gorse and daffodils

We also took time to admire the more subtle charms of the elm flowers

and were delighted to see the heather full of honey bees, though only one stepped into the frame for this photo

We also had excellent views of a nuthatch, a great spotted woodpecker and three mistle thrushes! Nuthatches only recently came as far up as Edinburgh but are now already quite a frequent sight in certain places (Corstorphine Hill being one!), I still get very excited to see them though!

Thursday 23 March 2017

Ancient Trees are Amazing! Let's Give Them the Protection they Deserve!

Ancient trees, like these oaks in Dalkeith Country Park, are amazing, beautiful things in their own right and also home to numerous small plants such as mosses, and animals including insects that hide away in the cracks of the trunks and birds and squirrels that feed on these insects.

Unfortunately ancient trees and woodlands in the UK are currently not given enough protection against being destroyed in the name of development. Although by law planning permission should be refused if it impacts on these trees and habitats, a loophole has led to devastating losses.

Now however, there's a very promising sign that things might change! The UK Government, through the Housing White Paper, has proposed adding ancient woodland and aged and veteran trees to the current list of assets that should be explicitly protected from development in England. This would give ancient trees and woodlands the same status in planning terms as currently enjoyed by National Parks, SSSIs or Green Belt. (Which admittedly isn't exactly a guarantee but does offer a significant amount of protection).

But things won't change unless the relevant guidance elsewhere in planning policy is amended accordingly.

The Housing White Paper consultation is the best way to have your say on the Government's plans and to see the relevant planning policy (paragraph 118 of the National Planning Policy Framework) amended. It's open for views until 2 May. Find out more and add your voice via the Woodland Trust website

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Willow catkins

The catkins of the pussy willow also known as goat willow (Salix caprea) are beautiful at the moment. These are on a tree by the side of Musselburgh Boating Pond.

Tuesday 21 March 2017

A Day for Poetry and Forests

Today is UNESCO World Poetry Day and International Day of Forests! The Woodland Trust gives several ideas at this link for how to celebrate the latter!

This morning I did my regular patrol of the Dells, a wooded area along the banks of the Water of Leith (the photo above is from late summer a few years ago!). I am constantly amazed by how rich this area is in woodland cover and bird-life, as it was once part of Edinburgh's industrial heartland with several mills, producing paper and other products, lining the river banks.

It's a very inspiring area for poetry, though i didn't write anything on today's trip, not least because I hadn't realised it was World Poetry Day until I got home!

My poem Corstorphine Sycamore features one of Edinburgh's most famous trees, in another area of the city.

Monday 20 March 2017

International Day for Happy Sparrows!

 Today is International Happiness Day.

What better way to celebrate the day than to go bird-watching! (As I was leading a group there are no photos from today, the photo below is from a previous visit!). The weather was very mixed, ranging from strong winds to torrential rain with perhaps a little hail and then occasional clear blue skies. The route was a long circular walk along paths through the farm fields at Liberton (where the skylarks sang for us, but the grey partridge remained hidden) up past Liberton Tower
(where we saw lots of house sparrows (and some llamas, which are new to these fields!) then along the bridle path by the golf course (where we saw tree sparrows, bullfinches and yellowhammers!) and down into the Hermitage of Braid and along the road (where we saw goldcrests and buzzards).

We were particularly happy to see the tree sparrows and house sparrows as it is also today World Sparrow Day!

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

Sunday 19 March 2017

Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames

I was drawn to this book about the River Danube as I have travelled part of the river myself! Sure enough the book explores Regensburg in Germany along with the monastery (and brewery) of Weltenberg upriver from that city, where the author's description missed out on the adorable little cats that I remember running round the beer garden from my visit! So from Weltenberg through Regensburg and the hilltop Parthenon downstream from the city and all the way to Vienna was familiar territory to me and I enjoyed the opportunity to see the area through someone else's eyes. I enjoyed equally the chance to explore, in a literary sense, the parts of the river I've never visited, particularly as it passes through Serbia and Romania to the famous Danube Delta, which seems, from this book, not to be quite the ecological wonderland it has always been in my mind.

I found the mixture of travel and history to be fascinating, this is a river that passes through some of the most changeable and turbulent areas of Europe, where borders have changed several times. The aftermath of these changes are still felt and explored well here too, though I did feel sometimes that the author's obsession with the old aristocracy a little overdone, important though they are to the overall history of the river.

This is not primarily an environmental book though occasionally it touches on some of the ecology of the river, sometimes as an aside: 'I could see no storks, only a Tesco's plastic bag rising steadily on an upward draft of hot air' and sometimes at greater length including a discussion on how the canalisation of the Danube has 'caused the loss of 80% of the original floodplain along with species like the moor frog and the black poplar.'

Overall this is a book well worth reading if you're interested in the history of Europe and the continent's major river.

Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames, published by Transworld Publishers.

Saturday 18 March 2017

Toad in the Hole and a Lot of Frogs

We wandered down to Blackford Pond today hoping to see some frogs and toads! We were delighted to see lots of frogs in one part of the pond, surrounded by frog spawn

We also met lots of frogs sitting in the path behind the wall, it's interesting to see how different they can look

and how these two amorous frogs didn't seem to notice the toad behind them.

And more frogs, as they are so cute, especially when they try to hide in the leaves!

There are drainage spaces in the wall so that water can drain away from the path back into the pond. This toad seemed to be quite at home in one of these holes

Thursday 16 March 2017

More Daffodils

The daffodils are in bloom around Edinburgh! These lovely flowers glowing in the sun between showers are in the Meadows area.

Wednesday 15 March 2017

More Curtain Ties

All the curtain ties had sold out from the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop and I wanted to make more, but had run out of matching loops for the ends of them! So I was very pleased to be able to salvage a whole lot of suitable loops from a damaged necklace that I found in a bag of unsold jewellery that Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother had picked up from a jumble sale!

I combined these loops with beads and chains from another damaged necklace from the same bag and created these curtain tie backs

which are now in my Etsy shop here.

I hope to make several more pairs of curtain ties in the near future, which I'll share here and put up for sale in the Etsy shop!

Tuesday 14 March 2017


The daffodils are now out! They look lovely alongside this little path at the back of Redhall Gardens in Craiglockart Dell by the Water of Leith

and also in Spylaw Park at the other end of the Dells in Colinton Village

The celandines are also in bloom and look particularly wonderful when the sun shines directly on them

Also looking lovely in the sun, though mostly not blooming yet are the wild leeks and wild garlic

It definitely feels like Spring out there!

Monday 13 March 2017

Buy Malawian 2017

The Scottish Malawi Partnership's #BuyMalawian2017 campaign is encouraging people across Scotland to buy Malawian products to celebrate the birthday of David Livingstone, the Scottish explorer who began the special relationship between the two nations more than 150 years ago. Dr Livingstone fought against the slave trade and explored new trade routes to support economic development in Africa.

The Scottish Malawian Partnership hopes that Livingstone’s birthday (19th March) will become an annual “Buy Malawian” day, to promote Malawian produce and support sustainable economic development in the country.

To become part of the campaign, you can enter a contest to  Win a Dream Holiday to Malawi. Simply take a photo of yourself with a Malawian product and share it on Twitter or Instagram!

As I lived in Malawi for a couple of years (many years ago now!) I always like to support Malawi in any way I can. I always buy Kilombero fair trade rice, which is produced in Malawi and here is my entry to the contest (you can apparently vote for it here!)

The map in the background comes from Malawi too!

Last year also saw me posing in our living room with a bag of Kilombero Rice for the Kilombero Virtual 90 Challenge

On Thursday, 16 March, the One World Shop in Edinburgh is holding a Malawian event, which promises entertainment and curry served with Kilombero Rice!

My poetry pamphlet Bougainvillea Dancing raised money for charities working in Malawi. I have recently discovered a couple of copies of the original pamphlet and have also produced a PDF version. If you would like to purchase either of these please let me know! All proceeds to the work of Voluntary Service Overseas in Malawi (with whom I worked in Malawi when I was there).

Saturday 11 March 2017

Linlithgow Loch

We visit Linlithgow Loch every year at about this time, hoping to see the great crested grebes performing their courtship dance. Today the weather was mild and calm and we had a lovely walk all the way round the loch.

Although we saw a few grebes, they mostly weren't really interested in each other

and the only view we got of the courtship display was through a veil of reeds

 There weren't a huge number of birds on the loch overall, though we did see a pochard and several goldeneye (that didn't want to be photographed). This male mute swan was very proud

while this youngster was enjoying the grass

This male tufted duck has dressed up for the breeding season

while this female has so much white on her face we almost thought she might be a scaup

and the coots were fighting!

All bird photos by Crafty Green Boyfriend.

I did however capture this photo of our favourite alder tree by the loch, which is looking particularly beautiful at the moment

and these lovely celandines on the bank of a stream near the loch

Friday 10 March 2017

The Zebras of Edinburgh

I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend again for a lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill. We were delighted to have some close views of the zebras

These zebras aren't wild in Edinburgh of course, they're on the African Plains of Edinburgh Zoo, but can be clearly seen from the footpath round Corstorphine Hill.

We also heard a green woodpecker laughing near this tree below, while a pair of long tailed tits were building a nest in the gorse.