Monday 30 August 2021

Dr Neil's Garden and Duddingston Common Land

 On Saturday, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I had a lovely day trip. We started in Jock Tamson's Gairden, a new community garden that has grown up on what used to be a relatively open area beside Duddingston Kirk Parish Church. It's now a thriving organic growing area and space for people to explore their spirituality through gardens.  It was very sunny when we visited and several bees and hoverflies were enjoying the flowers, including this buff / white tailed bumblebee

Next to Jock Tamson's Gairden is Dr Neil's Garden, which was first established by Drs Andrew and Nancy Neil in the 1960s and has developed since then into a beautiful garden. Laid out on a hillside the garden is full of lovely little stepped pathways and hidden corners 


and has beautiful views over Duddingston Loch 

and Arthur's Seat 

It's also a very shady garden, making it one of our favourite places on a very hot day, though we don't visit very often as it isn't the easiest place to get to from our end of town! 

We then accidentally discovered Duddingston Village Community Land and Duddingston Field, which we had never before known existed. This is a lovely area comprising a community garden (the community land) and an orchard and community woodland (the field).  

On the hill above the Field is a woodland pathway that leads up to join with the main road and path around Arthur's Seat. Given how hot it was though we turned back and walked round the other side of the Field into Dudingston Village for lunch. 

I took loads of photos on Saturday, but accidentally deleted them all. We have a new computer system and I had forgotten that I needed to save my photos in a particular way. Very annoying, but hopefully I will remember in future. And luckily Crafty Green Boyfriend had taken the lovely photos that I've used here.

Sunday 29 August 2021

First Signs of Autumn in North Merchiston Cemetery

Recently, I've started to notice the first signs of autumn! In North Merchiston Cemetery, one of the lime (linden) trees has a few yellowing leaves:

Also in the cemetery, there are some large mushrooms, not for eating, I'm not sure what species they are, and even if they're (edible) large field mushrooms, I'd be wary of eating fungi that's so likely to have been visited by dogs. 

There were several speckled wood butterflies flying around the cemetery, mostly flying far too quickly to be captured on film. This one flew straight towards me but then did its best to hide

and there are some impressive spikes of cuckoo pint, aka lords and ladies 

Thursday 26 August 2021

The Pocket Book of Insect Anatomy by Marianne Taylor

The Pocket Book of Insect Anatomy (RSPB) Marianne Taylor ...

 This is a very good introduction to insects for anyone who is interested in these fascinating creatures. 

The book is clearly written and beautifully illustrated with line drawings and photographs. It's also fairly comprehensive, covering everything from how insects breathe, to how they reproduce, their biology at a cellular level, different groups of insects and issues around conservation. It also includes fascinating details such as the location of an unexpected colony of Monarch butterflies; the strange connection between the large blue butterfly and a species of ant and the insect species that look after their young. 

I also like the way the book is divided into very short sections so that you can read a bit at a time. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this book if you want an introduction to how insects work. It is definitely an introduction though, and may well leave you wanting to find out more! 

The Pocket Book of Insect Anatomy by Marianne Taylor published by Bloomsbury (2020)  in association with the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.)


If you're interested in insect emotions, there's an excellent article on the BBC Future website 'Why Insects are more sensitive than they seem'.




Wednesday 25 August 2021

Crafting Update

 I've been busy beading in my spare time over the past few weeks. I've just finished making a beaded necklace and a pair of beaded curtain tie backs, both featuring beads in a range of autumnal colours. In each case, I've used a mix of beads - most of these come from the bags of broken and unsellable jewellery that some second hand shops sell. These items are now in my Crafty Green Poet Etsy store

This is the necklace:

This necklace is for sale in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here.

This is one of the curtain tie backs: 

The pair of curtain tie back is available in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here.

Sunday 22 August 2021

Fungus and Galls on Corstorphine HIll

 We had a lovely walk round Corstorphine Hill, and luckily we had put on rain jackets as it was raining fairly heavily for part of the time! 

We were interested to see the various different galls on one of the oak trees, this tree usually has galls at this time of year. I'm not sure if all these galls are caused by the same species of wasp, here are just two of then to give you an idea of the variety:

There's a dead tree by the side of the path which is usually covered in fungi at this time of year. 

Sulphur polypore (chicken of the woods) is growing all round the roots of the tree, along with some dead man's fingers 

CORRECTION: I've been reliably informed this fungus isn't yellow enough to be sulphur polypore and is more likely to be giant polypore. 

Here's a close up of the dead man's fingers 

There's a lot of bracket fungus growing on the trunk of the tree and we noticed this was covered in fungus gnats, dancing around in their courtship displays! Click on the photo below for a better view!

Friday 20 August 2021

Snails both Big and Small and a Devil's Coach Horse

 I noticed a lot of snails on the gravestones in North Merchiston cemetery today! There were very large garden snails:

and some tiny snails in the letters of some of the graves 

Meanwhile, I was delighted to see this devil's coach horse beetle on the path in the cemetery. This is the first of these beetles I've seen in the cemetery. 

 The Friends Group for North Merchiston Cemetery is now on Twitter, you can follow them @FofNMC here.

Thursday 19 August 2021

Photos of Hoverflies

 Crafty Green Boyfriend took some amazing photos of hoverflies in Spylaw Park the other day, here are just a selection of them! 

 Three Epistrophe grossulariae.

Marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)


 long hoverfly (Sphaerophoria scripta).

 Sunfly aka Footballer hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus).
Syrphus sp.

Wednesday 18 August 2021

The Grass Boat by Imogen Forster


 This is a beautifully produced book full of poems, many of which show close observation of the natural world. Watching gannets fish the seas around Shetland, is captured beautifully in Cliff at Noss

Gannets, saffron smudged,
their tails stiff as whittled wood,
bank on ink dipped wings, hang
as if strung on wires, plunge
in arrow showers.

In this and several other of the poems in this pamphlet, the poet uses arresting images and comparisons, which lends a great freshness to the work.

Not all the poems here deal with the natural world, there are also poems about Forster's childhood, a drummer and one about the packaging of oranges.

This is a lovely book, well worth reading. 

The Grass Boat by Imogen Forster, published by Mariscat Press (2021).

Tuesday 17 August 2021

Sunshine along the Water of Leith

 We're both off work for a few days so today Crafty Green Boyfriend came with me to do my regular voluntary patrol along the Water of Leith (check out the Water of Leith Conservation trust's bright new website here!) 

As it was so sunny, and later in the day than I usually do my patrol, we hoped to see lots of insects. But first we stopped to notice the hadiwork of an insect - spangle galls! These galls are created by a tiny wasp (Neuropterus quercusbaccarum). 

You can find out more about spangle gall wasps on the Woodland Trust website here

We didn't see huge numbers of insects until we got to Spylaw Park where the pictorial meadow was full of honey bees, common carder bees, white and buff tailed bumble bees and a selection of hoverflies including:

Batman hoverfly (Myathropa florea) 

and banded hoverflies (Syrphus sp

Oddly most of the Helophilus pendulus hoverflies, which are commonly known as sun flies, were staying low down in the shady depths of the flower meadow! 

While we were taking photos of the insects, we heard buzzards and sparrowhawks up above and looked up to watch. A buzzard was patrolling the area and two sparrowhawks were flying around too. Sparrowhawks have nested near this park for many years and the buzzards must be nesting in the area too, I can't imagine that makes for an easy neighbourhood!


Saturday 14 August 2021

Views from Craiglockart Hill

 We had a lovely weekend walk round Easter Craiglockhart Hill, Craiglockhart Pond and then (after a nice lunch) along the canal and home again. 

Easter Craiglockhart Hill is in full bloom at the moment, 


with knapweed being particularly noticeable 

which was attracting a good number of bumblebees and hoverflies including this Epistrophe grossulariae hoverfly 

 There were quite a lot of mallards and mute swans on the pond, but all of them are at the back of the pond on this photo! 

The boggy area next to the pond is looking very green at the moment

though it's sad to see one of the ash trees here, like so many in Edinburgh, is badly affected with ash dieback disease. This tree will no doubt need to be removed soon, as trees with die back rot away inside and become dangerous.


I'm delighted that  the Ekphrastic Review has included my poem Poetry at the Chess Cafe in its selection of writing in response to Lily Prigioniero's painting The Poet. You can see the painting and all the written responses here.

Crafty Green Etsy Shops Update

 I've recently made some new earrings, using a selection of lovely beads that have mostly been rescued from unsold items from charity shops (some of the shops bundle up their unsold jewellery into cheap bags of jewellery supplies, which people like me then buy!). Here are the latest pairs: 

The pairs above have already sold but those shown below are still available in my Etsy shop:

These are available in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here

And these are available in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here

Or you can browse all the items in my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop!

Meanwhile, I've been adding a few things to my vintage and supplies shop, Crafty Green Magpie including this lovely vintage pin cushion, which is available here

Friday 13 August 2021


It's not been a great year for hoverflies this year. I think the strange weather has affected them, as other than early on in the Spring I've really not seen many at all. So I was very pleased yesterday to see several hoverflies in two of our local parks. 

There were several marmalade hoverflies (Episyrphus balteatus) in Dalry Gorgie Community Park, though I could only get two of them in the one photo

Then in Saughton Park, there were a good number of batman hoverflies (Myathrpoa florea) though not as many as I've sometimes seen in previous years.  

Saughton Park was also full of common wasps and bees, including this white tailed bumblebee

Wednesday 11 August 2021

Peaks and Bandits by Alf Bonnevie Bryn translated by Bibbi Lee

 First published in 1943, ths classic of Norwegian literature has only now been published into English! 

In later life, Alf Bonnevie Bryn became an acclaimed mountaineer, writer and engineer but this book covers an expendition he made as a student. He and the Australian George Ingle Finch (who himself in later life became one of the greatest mountaineers of all time) made a trip to Corsica in 1909.

 Even before getting to Corsica the pair were demonstrating their mountaineering prowess by climbing the rigging of the boat taking them to the island. What follows is a humourous telling of a real adventure, full of incident and memorable characters including a snake called James.

This short (less than 120 pages!) narrative not only gives an engrossing and entertaining view of the mountaineering aspect of the expedition, but also gives insight into the Corsican culture of the time. So alongside the details of difficult climbs, river crossings, improvising snowshes and skis from found materials and coping with the very basic facilities (even in the then best hotels in Corsica) the book gives very interesting insights into the way of life in rural Corsica. In the early twentieth century Corsica was a land of banditos and long running blood vendettas between families. In addition, the book offers a potted history of forests in Corsica from the rich forest cover that lasted until around 1600 to the pipe making industry that used tonnes of pine roots from Corsican forests from the middle of the 19th century into the 20th century. The author also offers an interesting perspective on the concept of geographical discovery:

Neither George nor I have been recognised by geographical science as the discoverers of Corsica. Also we have been too reticent to demand such recognition, even though it may have been well deserved. The discovery of a populated country will always be a strictly subjective endeavour. Both Leif Erickson and Columbus separately discovered America. The only difference between them on one hand and me and George on the other, was that they did not know what the country was called. 

This ia well worth reading whether you're interested in the mountaineering or the history of Corsica. It packs a huge amout into a short narrative and is consistently interesting, informative and amusing. Bibbi Lee's translation is excellent too, the reader gets a real feel for the author's own voice and the humour works (humour is one of the things that can be most difficult to translate).

Peaks and Bandits by Alf Bonnevie Bryn (translated by Bibbi Lee) published (2021) by Vertebrate Publishing.  

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Tuesday 10 August 2021

Crafty Little Owl!

I love finding craft supplies in second hand shops! My most recent find was a kit to make fabric owls! It comes with enough fabric to make two owls but I have a lot of scraps of fabric that I could use to make more owls (of course then there is the question of what to do with all these owls, but we'll come to that later!). 

Here is my first attempt, made from some of the fabrics included in the kit

This own doesn't have wings as the wings that I made following the pattern were horribly misshapen and so I didn't add them on (I'll re-use the fabric I used for them). In future owns I think I'll make each wing from one layer of felt instead of the two layers of fabric with stuffing inside that was advised in the instructions. 

This owl is an ideal size to make a lavender bag and I could attach a loop at the top so it can be hung up. I also thought of making just the front piece for some owls and attaching those flat to tote bags or other items. 

There may be many more of these to follow.... If any of them are good enough, they may well end up in my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

Monday 9 August 2021

Tree Following - August Update

 I really can't believe it's time for the August update already! 

For Tree Following this year I'm following one of the several wonderful old silver birch trees in North Merchiston Cemetery in Edinburgh. Crafty Green Boyfriend and I started walking round this cemetery (and the nearby Dalry Cemetery) every day for our #DailyExercise during the first UK lockdown last year. And we're still doing the same walk regularly.  

By the end of July, the leaves on the tree were already starting to look a bit tired 

I found this beautiful ladybird larva on one of the leaves, click on the image for a closer view!

A little bit of research showed this to be the larva of an orange ladybird! I've been a little surprised not to see more ladybird larvae around the cemetery, as adults of many ladybird species are found here and some of the trees (though not this birch tree) are covered in aphids, which are the main food source for ladybirds. 

The hairy willowherb next to the tree was beautifully in bloom at the end of July