Saturday 29 September 2018

Staycation Weekend - Water of Leith

Today we had a lovely walk along the Water of Leith from Roseburn to Stockbridge.

There were plenty of birds to see including dippers

a grey heron

and goosanders

This part of the river walkway passes by the beautiful St Bernard's Well with its statue of Hygeia, the goddess of health

St Bernard's Well is open tomorrow as part of the Doors Open Day, as is Dean Gardens, a private garden on the opposite side of the river from the walkway. We visited St Bernard's Well as part of Doors Open Day in 2016, it's well worth the visit - you can see some of our photos on my Shapeshifting Green blog here. I visited Dean Gardens last year with one of my birdwatching classes (someone in the class has keys to the garden - you can see my photos from that visit here) another place well worth visiting on Doors Open Day!

Friday 28 September 2018

Staycation Day 3: Braid Hills

Today has been a perfect autumn day, sunny, still and mild with a bit of a chill in the air. We took a walk through the Liberton Fields up to the Braid Hills.

There are lovely views across the Liberton fields to the University buildings with Arthurs Seat in the background

There were several skylarks flying about, though too speedy to be captured on camera. Some of them were even singing, which seems rather late in the season. There are often about 5 pairs of these lovely farmland birds nesting in these fields every year, which is great as they are declining across the UK.

There were also large numbers of rooks and woodpigeons flying round and foraging in the fields neat the Liberton Tower

We said hello to the sheep and goats at the top of the hill

then carried on over the road to the path that passes round the Braid Hill Golf Course and up into the hills the photo below shows the views across to the Pentland Hills to the south of Edinburgh.

 From the top of the hill

there are wonderful views across Edinburgh

and again across to Arthurs Seat

We also had wonderful views of a sparrowhawk as it soared above us

Again there were plenty of smaller birds around too including bullfinches

and a tiny goldcrest

Such a lovely walk, we should do it more often!

Thursday 27 September 2018

Staycation Day 2: River Almond

For day two of our staycation we walked from Cramond Brig to Cramond village along the River Almond. It's lovely to see the autumnal colours emerging

This grey heron was patiently waiting for a fish, which made it an ideal subject for a photo

There were lots of small birds around including several long tailed tits, this one was happy to pose for us

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Staycation Day 1 Blackford Hill

We're having a few days staycation in our beautiful city of Edinburgh! Today we walked down to Blackford Pond as we often do. We were impressed to see a large family of mute swans, with 7 large cygnets.

Just above the swans in the trees, several birds were flitting around including this acrobatic long tailed tit

We were pleased to see several hoverflies enjoying the last nectar of the season, including this marmalade hoverfly (always a common hoverfly, but having a particularly good year this year)

After walking round the pond, we noticed the lovely new art work on the gates

Normally we walk through the Hermitage of Braid, but today we decided to walk up Blackford Hill, which may not have been the best decision given how windy it was! It's a lovely hill though with wonderful views across Edinburgh to Salisbury Crags

and Arthurs Seat (with the crags again visible on the left)

Having recently read and reviewed Andrea Wulf's book The Brother Gardeners (you can read my review here) I was interested to hear Jenni Calder speak about Isobel Hutchison, a Scottish botanist and poet from the 1930s in an event on Women in the Archives at the National Library of Scotland yesterday. I reviewed the whole event over on my Shapeshifting Green blog here.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf

 The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession

This is a well researched history of botanical exploration, the development of botany as a science and the makings of English garden traditions.

The book to large extent focuses on the 18th Century with John Bartram in the American colonies searching for new species to send to botanists and gardeners in England and further afield. Bartram never seemed to be treated particularly well by his long distance employers but did eventually become a well known botanist both in the colonies and abroad.

All the plants that Bartram sent over from the colonies literally shaped fashions in English gardens, leading to a quiet revolution in how the country looks.

We are given a brief history of the development of botany as science, with some interesting insights into how Carl Linnaeus developed the basis for the scientific naming of plants which we are still familiar with today. He would sometimes name plants slyly after colleagues or enemies (for example, Siegesback, a harsh critic of Linnaeus was memorialised as Siegesbeckia sp, a stinking weed that thrives in wasteland).

This is a fascinating look at the history of botany and horticulture (including the part that botany played in the mutiny on the Bounty!). It's a good read for anyone interested in gardening or plants.

The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf published (2008) by Windmill Books.

Monday 24 September 2018

Recycle Week - New Beaded lanyard in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

I recently made this beaded lanyard from some of the beads in my stash, most of which come from broken and unsold jewellery from second hand shops.

It's now in the Crafty Green Etsy shop, you can see it here.

These lanyards are a smart looking way to wear your ID badge or similar round the office. They're also a neat way to reuse and recycle elements from unwanted jewellery.

It's Recycle Week this week - what's your favourite way to reuse items to reduce waste?

Sunday 23 September 2018

Faces Places - film review


This is a beautiful, informan ald thought provoking documentary featuring film maker Agnes Varda and environmental artist JR.  I was particularly keen to see this film after seeing The Gleaners and I which screened in the recent Agnes Varda retrospective at the Filmhouse (you can read my review here). 

Faces Places sees Varda (in her 80s) team up with JR (in his thirties) to travel around France in a mobile photographic studio to photograph people and to use those photos in large scale art installations that draw attention to the connections between people and places. They plaster the walls of condemned miners' houses with photos of the miners who used to live there along with the one woman who is refusing to leave after everyone else has been evicted. They place huge portraits of dock workers' wives on the side of a stack of containers at the docks where the men work.

The film makers meet two goat farmers - one who has changed all his production to mechanised milking machines and has removed the horns from all his animals, the other of which gave up mechanised milking after an experiment and who has kept the horns on her animals as she believes it is natural for goats to have horns. As a result of these meetings JR and Varda plaster a wall in the area with a huge photo of a goat complete with magnificent horns.

They meet many people, which leads to all sorts of creative discoveries, including an elderly man called Pony who makes wonderful works of art using re-used bottle tops (if you're inspired to make similar art, this link takes you to the bottle tops for sale in my Crafty Green Magpie Etsy shop).

It's a wonderful film, conversational in style but full of wisdom and insights into creativity, friendship and culture.

Faces Places is screening at Edinburgh Filmhouse until Thursday 27 September.

Friday 21 September 2018

The People's Manifesto for Wildlife

Between 1970 and 2013, 56% of UK species declined. Of the nearly 8,000 species assessed using modern criteria, 15% are threatened with extinction.

This gives a terrifying picture of the state of nature in this country, a country that is thought of as being full of nature lovers, but where we seem complacement about the amount of green space we are carelessly destroying (see this earlier post about a current campaign to save one of Edinburgh's much loved green spaces).  

The People's Manifesto for Wildlife has been put together by Chris Packham, Robert MacFarlane and Patrick Barkham to put forward ideas that could change our relationship with nature and ensure that wildlife survives and thrives in our islands. 

The manifesto includes ideas on how to improve our relationship with nature such as to increase the amount of nature studies in education, to get children and young people involved in practical conservation tasks such as planting trees and to increase the amount of greenery surrounding all of us in our everyday lives. 

The manifesto includes proposals to protect wildlife such as rewilding our uplands, protecting trees and hedgerows, gardening for wildlife, stopping the badger cull and replacing it with a TB immunisation programme in badgers, ending the culling of mountain hares and seals, better policing of and harsher sentences for wildlife crime. 

It proposes the creation of a new Environment Act to enforce protection of the environment for the benefit of nature and people and enshrining environmental rights in law (this will be particularly important if we leave the European Union which currently offers a lot of environmental protection - see my 2016 blog post about the benefits of the EU as relating to the environment). 

There's also a section on improving the relationship between agriculture and nature in this country - many of our farmers farm in harmony with nature but nowhere near enough of them, largely because the systems in place make it expensive and difficult to do so. 

It's an excellent, well researched document and you can access two versions of it on this page of Chris Packham's website - there's an illustrated version and a non illustrated, fully referenced version. 

If you're in London on 22 September (tomorrow) you can join Chris and organisations such as the Woodland Trust on the People's Walk for Wildlife.

Thursday 20 September 2018

Crafty Evening with Gorgie Collective

Last night I went along to a craft workshop with Gorgie Collective, a local arts organisation that holds creative events for adults in local community centres.

Last night's workshop was part of the Freelancer's festival organised by Gorgie Creative Network, a network of local creative and freelancer workers. It took place in Gorgie Collective's office in the basement of the St Martin's Community Resource Centre.

The activity was to decorate a re-usable coffee mug. There were some complications in the planning as the original reusable bamboo cups proved to be impossible to permanently paint on so we used compostable mugs from VegWare - an Edinburgh compnay that produces cups made from compostable vegetable fibres. The cups can be used only a few times before they fall apart, but they can be put in the compost bin afterwards.

It was a lovely relaxed and sociable event held in a very calming, creative atmosphere

Few readers of this blog will be surpised that I decorated my cup with a mountain hare - I added eyes and whiskers after I took the photo

This is far too nice to use as a coffee cup and I'm going to use it to store things in. I rarely get takeaway coffee anyway and already have a reusable mug for the times when I do so.

Everyone produced very attractive designs and I think most people are going to use them as storage rather than as mugs.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Join the Friends of Midmar Paddock to protect this lovely greenspace

Last night's meeting to save Midmar Paddock was so full that we had to move from the Morningside Parish church hall into the church itself (a beautiful church!).

Midmar Paddock is privately owned and currently up for sale, advertised as a good place to build housing. Local residents and all of us who value Edinburgh's green spaces want this to remain a green space, part of the greenbelt and a continuation of the beautiful nature reserve that includes Blackford Hill and the Hermitage of Braid.

At last night's meeting we discussed how we can protect the land from development including surveying how people use the area to mark out rights of way (which can be protected and can make development very difficult) and to record the value of the area for recreation, and surveying the wildlife of the area. People are also looking into how to protect the land possibly as a 'Field in Trust'.

The City of Edinburgh Council is about to start discussions on its next local development plan and we want to make sure that Midmar Paddock remains designated open space in this plan.

A Friends of Midmar Paddock group has been set up and can be found on Facebook here.

It would be tragic 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 the local nature reserve)

It can sometimes feel as though history is repeating itself. Back in 2015, a campaign to protect Midmar Paddock was launched in the paddock 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)

Last time the threat of development was stopped and hopefully this time we can find some way of permanently protecting the land, which is such a lovely green space in the heart of our city.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Repairing a favourite pair of trousers

This was one of my favourite pairs of trousers until I tripped and fell and ripped holes in both the knees. (Ironically I tripped over a traffic calming hump in a road, one of those humps  that's supposed to make roads safer for pedestrians and I've seen other people trip there too!). I thought about just stitching up the holes but it would have looked very obvious and ugly and it would no longer be a nice smart pair of trousers. So, I  thought I'd go for something more showy that makes a feature out of the repairs so I covered the holes with some black lacy fabric that I had in my stash.

so that the trousers now look something like this

I'm thinking of adding some of the same black lacy fabric to the edge of the pockets too,though the pockets are so high up on the trousers that they're generally covered by the top I'm wearing ..... What do you think?

Sunday 16 September 2018

Amazing birds on Arthurs Seat

We had a lovely walk round Arthur's Seat yesterday

We were delighted to get brilliant views of a kestrel hunting

Kestrels used to be the most common bird of prey in the UK, it used to be that you couldn't drive any distance along a motorway without seeing akestrel hovering over the grass verge. Now they're much less common but Arthur's Seat is a consistently good place to see them still.

It's also a great place for ravens, which are more thought of as a bird of wild places (and the Tower of London). They nest on Arthurs Seat though and can often be seen here, though for such big birds they're oddly elusive. We had several good views yesterday and heard them calling too. No good photos though!

We were slightly surprised to see this speckled wood butterfly, it seems like too open an area to find one, as they tend to prefer shady woodland

The lichens (mostly Xanthoria parietina) on this fallen branch are beautiful when seen close up

It was nice too to see lots of hoverflies, like this footballer (Helophilus sp) on the yarrow flowers (which were full of hoverflies)

Friday 14 September 2018

Very Changeable Weather

Some places in the world are just now bracing themselves for the big storm to hit (there are seven major storms happening in the world at the moment, which is a lot. Climate change is increasing the number of such storms and also making many of the storms more deadly than they otherwise would be).

Here in Scotland we're out of the path of any major storms and the weather all day has been entirely unpredictable. It's raining heavily at the moment but at lunchtime it was beautifully sunny for a while so I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for a walk round Corstorphine Hill.

Hoverflies (like the Epistrophe grosullariae below) were keen to make the most of the umbellifers in the sunshine

and the yews are looking at their best just now (remember these trees are poisonous!)

The sun went in soon enough though and the clouds brought the rain over

It became quite slippery underfoot but it's nice to wander round in the rain if you're wearing waterproof clothes!

Thursday 13 September 2018

Autumnal Fungi

I found lots of interesting fungi today in Colinton and Craiglockart Dells alongside the Water of Leith. Unfortunately the light wasn't the best for photos and these are the only two that turned out!

It's annoying partly because I like to have the photos for themselves but also because good photos can help to identify the species of fungus. This is particularly interesting for me when it involves fungi in the Dells as then I can add their names to the list of plants and fungi in the area which I've been adding to over the past several years for the Water of Leith Conservation Trust.

If you can identify the fungi in these photos, please let me know in the comments, thanks!