Friday, 23 September 2022

Autumn in the Cemeteries

 Since lockdown was first eased and we could meet with people again outside, something that has become much more popular (at least among people I know) is having meetings outdoors! So today, I met up with a colleague / friend and we walked around the local cemeteries. 

We were very impressed with this array of ink caps and bracket fungi in Dalry Cemetery

A tree stump with bracket fungi on the left hand side and ink caps on the right hand side

Here's a close up of the ink caps 

A close up of ink caps growing beneath and between green leaves

There were also some fungi in North Merchiston Cemetery, these look like edible field mushrooms, but as there are other fungi that look similar, I wouldn't be too sure. 

an area of grass with white mushrooms growing in it

a close up of three white mushrooms growing amongst fallen leaves

The leaves are starting to change colour too!

Bright yellow Autumnal leaves on the branch of a tree

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Writers and Landscape - a book review

 I've recently read two books which look at the relationship between writers and landscape, though they use this starting point to explore other aspects of both the writers and more general issues. 

Romantic Ecology by Jonathan Bate), subtitled Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition, examines William Wordsworth's relationship with nature and the landscape of England's Lake District and connects that with wider themes around changing political attitudes to ecology. Wordsworth was, in his time, credited with encouraging other writers and thinkers to 'walk with nature' and Bate underlines the importance of the poet as helping to establish an environmental mindset that has continued from the days of the Romantic Tradition (that Wordsworth was part of) to today. 

The book looks at the influence Wordsworth had on other writers and thinkers, including the poet John Clare, the philosopher John Ruskin. It looks at other pioneers of the ecology movement, including the English minister and diarist Gilbert White and Ellen Swallow, who campaigned for clean air and water and was the first to use the term ecology in its modern sense of defining the human relationship with nature.

The book also offers close readings of some of Wordsworth's poetry, showing how he explored 'the relationship between land and inhabitant ... [and] considered the evolving and increasingly disruptive influence of man on his environment.'

This book is quite academic in tone, but still entirely readable and is well worth studying if you're interested in how the Romantic Poets, particularly Wordsworth, influenced our understanding of our relationship with nature.

Romantic Ecology by Jonathan Bate, published by Routledge (1991)


Hiking with Nietzsche by Professor of Philosophy, John Kaag follows the author on two hiking trips around the Alpine landscapes where Nietzsche spent a large part of his life. The first trip Kaag made was as a naive 19-year-old and the second years later with his wife and young daughter. 

The narrative interweaves thoughts about landscape with elements of the life stories and philosophy of both Nietzsche and Kaag. Kaag traces his own love of walking back to his childhood when his mother would take him and his brother on walks. 'These were slow meanders with nowhere particular to go. At first, the pace infuriated me, but she explained - and showed - that it really was the best way to see  things. Things: trees, leaves, bugs, streams, ideas. Things that we, in our everyday lives, run past or intentionally step over.'

The book explores ideas around climbing being a metaphor for life's challenges. Kaag uses mediations on hiking and on Nietzsche's work to explore some of his own issues. He doesn't always come across as a particularly sympathetic narrator or easy travel companion and he shares with Nietzsche a definite tendency to pessimism. 

This is an enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys climbing or who is interested in philosophy. Though having read other reviews, I get the impression that if you want to explore this area of the Alps, you should invest in a good guidebook with maps, rather than try to rely on the route descriptions included here. 

Hiking with Nietzsche by John Kaag, published (2018) by Granta.




Monday, 19 September 2022

Early Autumn in the Dells

We had a lovely bank holiday walk around the Dells along Edinburgh's Water of Leith today. It was a beautiful sunny day 


with the first hint of autumnal colours appearing in the trees.

There were good numbers of pollinating insects around later on during our walk, as the day got warmer. Including this bumblebee (either a Buff tailed Bumblebee or a White Tailed Bumblebee, I always find them difficult to tell apart, other than the queens). 

and good numbers of hoverflies including this Footballer (Helophilus pendulus)

and this Long Hoverfly (Sphaerophoria sp)

There were plenty of fungi about too, including this clump, which I haven't yet identified


For Nature Notes

Friday, 16 September 2022


star gazing -
basking in the glow
of ancient light 
I also posted a haiku today on my Shapeshifting Green blog, you can read it here
Links to recently published haiku - click on the coloured text: 
A selection of haiku on Lothlorien Journal
A selection of haiku on Tsuri Doro (scroll down to read mine).  
A selection of haiku on Under the Basho.

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

The Blusher (fungi)

 The difference a couple of days makes! At the weekend Crafty Green Boyfriend and had a lovely walk round Corstorphine Hill. You can see some of the lovely things we saw in this post. There were plenty of fungi around, including these weird looking growths

I posted this photo in the Edinburgh Natural History Facebook Group where someone suggested that they were Amanita rubescens (The Blusher) and asked if I could visit again a few days later and take more photos. So, I managed to make time today to join Crafty Green Boyfriend on his regular lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill (he works very close to the hill and walks round it most lunchtimes!) and this is what the same fungi look like today, which looks very like a mature Amanita rubescens, though I'm waiting to get confirmation on that.

We also saw lots of other fungi today, including this impressive bolete 

and this rotting fungus which was being used by a pair of mating flies

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Leopard in Balance

Amur leopard knows nothing of borders
or memorandums of understanding
and wouldn't recognise the names Putin or Xi.

She just follows herds of deer
through the mountains
stopping when she gets a chance
in a favourite resting place.

She surveys the world
secure in the spots that blur her
into the background.

She chooses solitude
until her cubs arrive
driving her to hang out at deer farms
where the pickings are easier. 


previously published in Plum Tree Tavern 

Monday, 12 September 2022

Second Hand September

Second Hand September is a campaign to encourage people to buy only second hand items for 30 days in the month of September. Apart from underwear and hiking boots, all my clothing is second hand anyway, but if you've not yet got the second hand habit, this is a great way to start. 

Second Hand September is a project from Oxfam, which is a global charity working to eradicate poverty. it also manages a large chain of second hand shops in the UK, including excellent second hand bookshops as well as general second hand shops selling everything from clothing to homeware.

The fashion industry has a large carbon footprint, for example manufacturing a new pair of jeans emits around 16.2kg of CO2 – the equivalent of driving over 58 miles in a car.

By recirculating our clothes – buying, wearing and donating second hand – we can help to reduce the demand for new clothes, reduce the amount of clothing going to landfill and reduce emissions. Here is Oxfam's guide to sustainable shopping.

 It's also helpful to look after the clothes you already have. A great way to make your clothes last longer is to repair them in creative ways, as discussed in this blogpost from Oxfam. I like making creative repairs myself, on this blog post, you can read about the satin cuffs I made to repair a favourite blouse. 

I realise that I should have written this post earlier in the month, but it's never too late to start buying second hand! 

Oxfam's biggest fundraising campaign at the moment is the Pakistan Floods Appeal. You can find out more about this humanitarian disaster and donate to the appeal here.

Sunday, 11 September 2022

Fungi and Butterflies on Corstorphine Hill

 Autumn is the time of year most connected to fungi (though not all fungi appear only in Autumn) and in Edinburgh, Corstorphine Hill is one of the best places to see fungi. So that's where Crafty Green Boyfriend and I walked yesterday. It's a lovely hill to walk round, with lovely open areas and woodland. The tree in the centre of the photo below is a Rowan (also known as a Mountain Ash).

The hill also gives some magnificent views of Edinburgh. The photo below shows Calton Hill and Arthur's Seat in the distance, beyond the golf course 

There were already good displays of fungi, including this Giant Polypore growing where it always does 

and these puff balls  

and these fungi, which I can't recognise at all, they look like the young stage of something, perhaps earth stars? 

A good number of Speckled Wood Butterflies were flying around and basking in the early Autumn sunshine 

 Looking up into the canopy, many of the trees still look pretty green


Even some of the ash trees still look green (the tree in the centre of the photo below is an ash)

Sadly, most of our ash trees are infected with ash die back disease. Both the ash trees in the photo below are probably infected, but the tree on the left is obviously much more badly affected. 

This is the time of year when Oak trees tend to get infected with galls (these are generally not damaging to the tree's overall health, though they probably do weaken the trees to some extent). Here are some Spangle galls, made by the Spangle Gall Wasp.

And hereis a gall on a hazel Tree, we weren't able to identify these! 


For Nature Notes.

Friday, 9 September 2022

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty


 Some readers of this blog may be familiar with Dara from his appearances on Springwatch and in fact may have heard of this book even if you haven't already read it.

Dara was 16 when this book was published - a diary of a year in his life (age 14 - 15) as he records his observations of nature, his thoughts as growing up as an autistic teenager in a family with an autistic mother and two autistic siblings and his increasing involvement in climate activism. In the course of the year he moves across Northern Ireland and starts at a new school, where he sets up an ecology group and gets his classmates involved in the School Climate Strike

Dara has a beautiful way with words, and never either overburdens his diary with polemic, nor overwhelms the reader with overly flowery prose. He writes with a straightforward but lyrical style, whether he's describing an encounter with a bird, an episode of bullying he's experienced at school or thoughts about climate change and the human relationship with nature: 

"... we saw the damage of last night's raging winds: trees toppled over, branches brutally snapped. Some had escaped their prison of decorative concrete or clay pots. One tree, an oak, growing below the pavement had fallen to expose its root ball, so tight and tangled that there couldn't possibly have been any more space for life. It wasn't the wind that toppled the oak, not really. Being confined  in asphalt and under slabs, that's what did it. When we strolled past on the way to school there were traffic cones all around it, but I stepped inside the space anyway and wondered if anyone saw me touch the bark. 'Sorry' I said."

I don't normally like books written in diary format, but this one works very well for me. Dara writes so well about his love of nature and his experiences as an autistic teenager. It's a very engaging read and one I definitely recommend. 

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty published by Penguin (2020)

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Signs of Autumn and an Otter in the Dells!

Yesterday, I did my regular volunteering (picking litter, recording wildlife) in the Dells, alongside the Water of Leith. The weather was warm and sunny and most of the woodland still had the look of summer

though there were many signs of Autumn, such as beautifully coloured leaves like this Sycamore leaf (the black spots here are Tar Spot fungus, which occurs on Sycamore leaves late in the Summer every year and doesn't harm the tree)

and fungi, like these, which I've been reliably informed (by Edinburgh Natural History Society on Facebook) are Pleated Inkcaps

The highlight of my walk though was seeing an Otter in the river. I spent about ten minutes watching it swimming around. It was too far away for me to feel able to guarantee getting a good photo, so I just enjoyed the moment, rather than fiddling around with my camera.

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Tree Following September Update

 For Tree Following this year, I've chosen a magnificent old cherry tree in North Merchiston Cemetery in Edinburgh. Crafty Green Boyfriend and I started walking round this cemetery every day for our #DailyExercise during the first UK lockdown last year. And we're still doing the same walk regularly, though not quite as often. 

Here are a couple of views of the cherry tree from the middle of August 

The leaves are starting to turn already, and some have even fallen 

Later in August, we noticed these small fungi growing near the tree

in fact, they are growing all round the tree, in a classic 'fairy ring' arrangement, which is lovely to see.

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Craigmillar Castle Park

 I had a walking meeting today with a colleague to scope out a route for a walk we'll be leading next month. We met at Craigmillar Castle Cemetery, though we did in the end decide that wouldn't be part of the walk. It was nice to walk round the cemetery though, to admire the views across to the Pentlands 

and to Arthur's Seat 

As you might guess from the photos above, it did rain for part of our walk, which is probably why Craig, the Cemetery Cat wasn't able to give us a guided tour (see previous posts about the cemetery here, here and here).

We then moved on to Craigmillar Castle Park

and then on to Little France Park, where for some reason I didn't take any photos. It's a nice walk that links up with convenient buses at both the beginning and the end. There is also plenty of nature to see along the way, hopefully the Autumn colours will be showing nicely when we do this walk again with a group in October. The pretty Grimmia pulvinata moss should also still be looking lovely 


Sunday, 4 September 2022

Around Arthur's Seat

 Yesterday we had a lovely walk round one of our favourite places, Edinburgh's Arthur's Seat. 

with views over Duddingston Loch, which is where most of Edinburgh's Grey Herons nest, though they have left their nests by now. 


Yarrow is still in bloom, in both the usual white 

and a very pretty pink variety 

Also in bloom were Vipers Bugloss 

and Bird's Foot Trefoil 

It's lovely to see so many flowers in bloom at the end of summer. 

Yesterday's weather was dull and windy, but mostly dry. The rain has moved in today! I hope it lasts for a while, as we've had a very dry summer and really need the rain.

Our summer of drought is a sign of climate change, though a relatively benign one compared to the boiling temperatures and forest fires in many parts of the world and the devastating floods in Pakistan, where 33 million people have lost their homes.