Thursday 31 May 2018

Great Clothes at the Granton Goes Greener Clothing Swap Shop

One element of the Granton Goes Greener Project that I currently work for is the clothing swap shop. The idea is that people take in clothes that are still in good condition but perhaps they've grown out of or that they're bored of and swap them for something that is new to them. We are delighted to receive donations but want to discourage people from using the swap shop as an excuse to get rid of clothes that they otherwise would still happily wear. We don't want people thinking 'oh I've got to find something for the clothing swap!' but to think of it as the first place to take clothing that they genuinely wouldn't wear any more. It's fine if you don't have anything to donate, even if you take something.

I took in a skirt that no longer fitted me and swapped it for this lovely jumper.

We weigh the items swapped to give us an idea of how much waste and carbon we're saving in the project (this is a requirement of our funding). This jumper weights just over 300g(which works out as 0.005kg of CO2 saved if my maths is correct).

You can read more about our swap shop in the latest blog post on the Granton Goes Greener blog here.

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Granton Community Gardeners

When you walk round the Granton area of Edinburgh you can't help but notice the wonderful mini gardens that have popped up (and continue to pop up!) on street corners around the area, like this one

These thriving plots are the work of Granton Community Gardeners, a community based project that is encouraging local people to get involved in food growing.

The group then use the food  they grow (along with donated food) in community meals. Last night, I went along for the first time to their community supper in Granton Parish Church. I was very impressed by the delicious vegetarian shepherd's pie. It was great to see so many people enjoying the food and conversation too. 

Tuesday 29 May 2018

The Wood for the Trees by Richard Fortey

 The Wood for the Trees by Richard Fortey

Richard Fortey is a scientist best known for his work in paleontology (you can read my brief reviews of other books of his here). The Wood for the Trees however is a wonderfully thorough exploration of a small patch of woodland that Fortey owns in the Chiltern Hills.

He takes us through the history of the woods through the centuries, including how thewoods have been affected by changing land use patterns and changing fashions in using wood as a material for furniture and fuel. He details the seasonal changes in the plant and animal life of the woods. Fortey isn't the kind of nature writer to wax lyrical about nature in general, he waxes lyrical about the details of things that many people would overlook and he notices everything - he has found well over 300 species of fungi in his wood! He is adept too at making the connections, finding cherry pits that have been nibbled by wood mice and then finding where the mice are living.He is also very aware of his own limitations and has consulted experts in the fields where he isn't able to identify species himself, weaving their input into the complete story of his woods.

Fortey would be a brilliant companion for a walk through any British woodland and reading this book inspires me to pay even more attention when I'm next in the woods.

This is a totally fascinating and satisfying read for anyone who is interested in natural history. A book to enjoy and learn from and read over and over again.

The Wood for the Trees by Richard Fortey published by William Collins Books (2016)

Monday 28 May 2018

Summer Yellows and a Bold Mistle Thrush

It's a beautiful day today and the buttercup meadows are yellow in the Dells alongside the Water of Leith 

The laburnums are too! In fact I've never seen the laburnums look more beautiful than they do this year.

This mistle thrush was busy collecting food for its brood and was entirely fearless in running towards us

It was also a great day for insects, lovely to see so many orange tip butterflies

plenty of hoverflies too, including this Helophilus pendulus

and bumble bees too, including this early bumble bee, looking slightly inelegant in flight

Thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for the photos of the thrush and the insects.

Saturday 26 May 2018

Up river to Balerno

We had a lovely walk today up the Water of Leith from Colinton to Balerno. This is a section of the river we rarely walk along and it offers a lovely walk with some very pretty views of the river.

The wild garlic is still out and looking beautiful

and there are lots of other flowers in bloom, in this photo there's leopard's bane, red campion and forget me not with some male ferns.

This grey heron was happy to pose for Crafty Green Boyfriend

as was this mistle thrush

It was nice to see lots of hoverflies too, including this Sericomyia lappona (thanks to the Hoverflies Facebook group for the identification and to Crafty Green Boyfriend for the photo) 

Friday 25 May 2018

What's your attitude to second hand clothing?

A couple of days ago I attended a training event for Granton Goes Greener with our funder Climate Challenge Fund.

One of the highlights was a discussion about attitudes to second hand clothing.  On the negative side we talked about:
  • people’s desire to wear the latest fashion or to fit in with cultural norms and expectations
  • people’s distaste for clothing that’s been worn by something else
  • laziness – it’s often quicker to find a specific item in a chain store than in a second hand shop
  • stigma – the feeling that you’ll be looked down on if you buy second hand
On the positive side we talked about:
  • creativity – creating your own look or customising old clothes to make something new
  • saving money – you can often find good brands at low prices in second hand shops (though some discount  stores are often cheaper than second hand)
  • more and more clothing designers and fashion retailers are using up-cycled materials in their productions, making the idea fashionable in itself
  • the environmental benefits of reducing waste
Ever since I was a student, I have bought all my clothes second hand (except for underwear). I often buy 2nd hand shoes too.

Part of the Granton Goes Greener Project is the clothing swap shop which is already an ongoing part of the Granton Parish Church community but is set to expand in the very near future! You bring in good quality clothing that no longer fits and swap it for something else. We want donations of good quality used clothing. The swap shop isn’t an excuse to clear out your wardrobe just for the sake of it but part of a circular clothing economy that tries to extend the life of clothing and reduce waste (see this article).  We want individuals to both bring clothing in and take clothing away. Having said that, we won’t turn away donations and we’re happy for people in need to take items of clothing even if they don’t have anything to donate.

Clothes swapping is becoming quite trendy now with Swishing parties being very popular.

Tuesday 22 May 2018


Seven years old, in my jigsaw world map
I saw the west coast of Africa
fit neatly beside Brazil
despite the expanse of ocean
that correctly came between
in broken blue.

Years later in a college lecture room
I discovered continental drift,
plate tectonics, theories of biogeography
and instantly understood.

Now, sifting through photographs
I see your distant face:
Africa to my Brazil. 

First published in my pamphlet Unthinkable Skies and originally posted on this blog in 2006.

Meanwhile you can read my poem Beach Hut over on my Shapeshifting Green Blog here

Monday 21 May 2018

Insects and Ducklings enjoying the Sunshine

It's a beautiful day today and I took a walk along the John Muir Walkway at Musselburgh. Birdwatching is the usual draw to the area, but today the insects were well worth paying attention to.

With my increasing interest in lichens, I was fascinated by this tree, but what really stands out are the two spot ladybirds hiding in amongst the lichens

When I got to the Boating Pond, I was delighted to see about 6 common blue damselflies, though only one stopped for a photo

Meanwhile the eider ducks have got ducklings

Saturday 19 May 2018

Dalkeith Country Park

Beautiful sunshine today for our walk in Dalkeith Country Park. We visit at this time of year, every year as the bluebells are so lovely

The wild garlic was also beautifully in bloom

and the dandelions are seeding

The park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for it's lichens, including these

The ancient oak trees are always a highlight of the visit, whatever the time of year

We saw several speckled wood butterflies but only this one allowed us to get close enough to take a photo

We also saw a few solitary bees and their little holes

This larger hole belongs to a bunny

Thursday 17 May 2018

Granton Hub Community Garden

Yesterday, as part of my new job with Granton Goes Greener, I visited Granton Hub, a volunteer run community project with a real environmental ethos!

There is a wonderful garden space  behind the building, with space to grow vegetables and woven willow shelters

  and a wildflower nursery.

The Hub sells wildflowers and has supplied Butterfly Conservation and others with plants for their projects.

Edinburgh Scrap Store is also based here, though it was shut when I was there

Granton Hub is based in the original office building of the Maldevic Motor Carriage Company which in 1899 was manufacturing electric cars!

This aspect of the history of the site is reflected in the occasional events held at the Hub that focus on the history of cars and alternative transport. The car factory itself is now derelict (the building can be seen in the background in the photo below).

The Granton Hub Garden is one of three Granton community gardening projects that are involved in the Power of Food  Festival, which is happening across Edinburgh on 16 and 17 June. The other local gardens taking part are Granton Community Gardeners and Granton Castle Garden. The Hub Garden will be making an Iron Age Boat as part of the power of Food Festival, the boat will be built in this space

and then launched into the nearby Firth of Forth. Once the boat has been built, the area will probably be turned into a wildlife area. As I stood there, several goldfinches were flying around and white butterflies too.

The garden is already very set up for wildlife, I really like the way that the ant hill has been marked out to protect the ants and their home.

A slightly different version of this blog post will appear on the Granton Goes Greener blog tomorrow.

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Fighting Food Waste - One Garlic Bulb at a Time

I hate wasting food and particularly now as part of my job at Granton Goes Greener is to help redistribute useable unsold food from bakers to the local community.

I was annoyed to say the least when I discovered that our garlic looked like this

I did some online research and it seems as though it's the wrong time of year to plant garlic and also it seems as though it's not a crop that will grow well on a window-ledge. However, given that in the past we've very successfully grown tomatoes on our window-ledge (see for example here), I'm going to try growing garlic.

I've separated the sprouting cloves and planted them into two pots and we'll see what happens. If it's successful I'll blog about it again!

Tuesday 15 May 2018

King Crow by Michael Stewart

 The cover of 'King Crow' by Michael Stewart.

Paul is an outsider, obsessed with birds. He watches birds all the time and constantly compares birds to humans and vice versa:

'People often overlook the starling. I  think that's a shame. Just because they're common, doesn't mean they aren't fascinating. What I like more than anything else is their sociability. This can often be mistaken for aggression, but I reckon one goes with the other - you see people piling out of the Brown Cow on Friday evenings and you'll know what I mean.' 

Ashley is everything that Paul isn't, tough and good looking, and inexplicably happy to make friends with Paul. When the two get into trouble, they leave home in Salford and head off to the hills of the Lake District. Paul wants to find ravens, Ashley wants to disappear.

Along the way they meet Becky and the three explore the Lakes together, though definitely not taking the tourist route.

There are many reasons why I love this book - the setting (Salford being close to where I grew up and the Lake District being a favourite place), the writing (Stewart creates a very convincing voice for Paul), and of course the birds. I also really enjoyed Paul's journey to self discovery.

This is Michael Stewart's debut novel. 

King Crow by Michael Stewart published (2011) by Blue Moose Books

If you like quirky novels about birdwatchers, you might also like Pelican Blood by Chris Freddi, which I reviewed here).or An English Guide to Birdwatching by Nicholas Royle, which I review here).