Autumn Adventures in Edinburgh

It’s been a busy and exciting couple of months for our mid week volunteer group here in Edinburgh with a huge variety of conservation work taking place all around Edinburgh, the Lothian’s and Fife.

At the beginning of September we visited Davidson’s Mains Park in Edinburgh to help them tackle everyone’s ‘favourite’ invasive species: Himalayan Balsam. With the help of volunteers from Friend’s of Davidson’s Mains we cleared countless bin bags full (and even had to go on an emergency bin bag run as everyone was working so hard!).

Balsam bashing at Davidson's Mains Park

Balsam bashing at Davidson’s Mains Park

Davidson's Mains Park

Next on our big ‘to do’ list for September was some footpath maintenance at Almondell and Calderwood Country Park in West Lothian. Armed with spades and shovels our volunteers spent a happy (and very mucky!) morning removing mud from a waterlogged section of footpath and creating drainage channels across the path. Whilst the mud was being cleared the team took it in turns to transport the gravel to refill the path; not an easy task considering the distance and steep slopes they had to negotiate with their wheelbarrows!

Checking the drainage channel depth

Checking the drainage channel depth

Mud, glorious mud!

Mud, glorious mud!

Adding the finishing touches to path!

Adding the finishing touches to path!

At the end of September we headed up to Braid Hills in the south of Edinburgh to carry out some more destruction- this time cutting back huge gorse bushes in order to open up a very narrow bridal path. Thick gloves and very strong arms were needed as we worked our way along the path and cut back huge amounts of the very spikey gorse. The volunteers did an amazing job and have had some fantastic feedback from users of the path.

Hard at work opening up the bridal way and footpath along the edge of Braid Hills.

Hard at work opening up the bridal way and footpath along the edge of Braid Hills.

The team enjoying the great view from the Braid Hills

The team enjoying the great view from the Braid Hills

We’ve also been lucky enough to help out at several community growing projects and gardens over the last few months and each one has offered its own exciting mix of tasks (and some fabulous views!). At the beautiful Starbank Park in the north of Edinburgh our volunteers helped to erect some lovely handmade bird boxes and worked hard to neaten the footpath borders- a tricky and tiring task due to the steep incline of the park!

Tidying up the path borders at Starbank Park

Tidying up the path borders at Starbank Park

Caught snoozing on the job!

Caught snoozing on the job!

Erecting bird boxes at Starbank Park.

Erecting bird boxes at Starbank Park.

Some great team work at Starbank Park.

Some great team work at Starbank Park.

As October arrived we headed across the bridge to the Friary Community Garden in Inverkeithing. Weeding and vegetation clearance were our main priorities here (as they often seems to be for us; we do love a good bit of destruction!) and, as a thank you for all the teams hard work, we were treated to some marshmallows to toast over the fire!

Taking a little break from working...

Taking a little break from working…

Fantastic views across the Firth of Forth from the Friary Community Garden.

Fantastic views across the Firth of Forth from the Friary Community Garden.

Great fun toasting marshmallows!

Great fun toasting marshmallows!

A chilly autumnal tea break!

A chilly autumnal tea break!

Last but not least, a firm favourite for our volunteers these last few months has been the wonderful Gracemount Walled Garden to the south of Edinburgh. To thank our volunteers the extremely generous guys (and amazing cooks!) at Gracemount always put on a fantastic three course, home cooked meal for us to enjoy at lunch time- a very welcome step up from our usual tea and biscuits! And when we’re not busy eating we do manage to squeeze in quite a bit of work; we’ve tackled some very stubborn tree stumps, helped to prune their fruit trees, built a fire pit, done a heck of a lot of weeding and, most recently, cleared the woodland at the back of the garden to open it up and create a new pathway.

The team tackling a very stubborn tree stump!

The team tackling a very stubborn tree stump!

All smiles at Gracemount Walled Garden!

All smiles at Gracemount Walled Garden!

Making habitat piles in the woodland behind the garden.

Making habitat piles in the woodland behind the garden.

Lunch time at the garden.

Lunch time at the garden.

– Ali (Volunteer Officer with TCV Edinburgh)

Fungi hunting at Muiravonside Country Park

TCV Stirling’s Wednesday group were at Muiravonside Country park to join in with the removal of Rhododendron ponticum and the invasive sycamore. Rhododendron are prolific seed producers and they will crowd out native flora if left unchecked. Sycamore trees are good for the landscape but as they too produce hundreds of seed that set very easily, they can become dominant and their large leaves block the sun stopping other plants thriving.

So, while removing these two plants there was time to examine what else grows in the woods and we found a variety of fungi!

*** WARNING!! ***

Never eat ANY fungi that you find unless you are with or have been
trained by a professional fungi forager.

This is Trametes versicolor, aptly named Turkey Tail (see foraging warning above!) and is found all over country.

rsz_turkey_tail

The Turkey Tail fungus can be found throughout the year but the best time to see it is in the autumn and winter months.It grows on fallen trees and branches and can also be seen growing on standing stumps of dead trees. The colourful caps can grow up to 10cm in diameter and the wide range of colors and overlapping pattern make it one of the most attractive fungi.

The next one we spotted is Bovista plumbea, which is commonly known as Puffball.

rsz_puffball

These are quite small balls, up to 4 cm across, whereas its cousin the GIant Puffball can grow up to 80 cm! They are found in parks and grassland clustered together and the best time to see them is May to October so best get out quick if you want to spot some.

The third one is an odd looking thing – Phallus impudicus, the Stinkhorn!

rsz_stinkhorn

The Stinkhorn emerges from an egg in the soil and are easy to find once you smell them! They grow in groups so you should be able to find some still in the egg shape among the group. Some people eat them when they are like this but please heed the warning above. Once you have had a whiff, you will wonder why anyone would have this for lunch.

There is lots more to see and do Muiravonside Country Park so have a look at their website and join in.