Spring has sprung in Edinburgh (amongst other places!)

We’ve been having a busy couple of months with the Edinburgh Midweek Group this season, having completed several projects in and around Edinburgh and the Lothians, as well as a huge display of teamwork and hard work at the Seven Lochs project in Glasgow where we worked alongside the Stirling and Glasgow volunteers for eight weeks!

Team Edinburgh!

Volunteers from Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow Mid Week Groups.

Back in February the group started helping out at the beautiful Howden Walled Garden in Livingston. Here our aim was to create an edible walkway around the garden’s walls for the community to enjoy. The first task was to clear the walls and the ground to make room for some fruit trees and bushes – no easy feat! Fortunately someone had kindly left a supermarket trolley in the grounds to help us with the moving!

The volunteers were also kept busy repairing a beautiful walkway made of willow, for the local community to enjoy.

A few weeks later we returned to the garden to plant the fruit bushes; raspberries, gooseberries, cherries and strawberries, among a few others. What a difference!

—————————————————–

At the end of February we started work at the Seven Lochs Wetland Park in Glasgow; an urban nature project focused on protecting and enhancing the biodiversity and heritage of the wetland area, as well as providing a space for locals and visitors to enjoy (GCV Green Network Partnership).
Alongside the Stirling and Glasgow teams, our volunteers worked hard over the course of almost two months! We undertook a variety of tasks; preparing the land for wildflower planting, digging ponds and creating water channels, as well as some general woodland management work.

We also worked hard to improve the boardwalk at Hogganfield Park, placing non-slip grip strips (try saying that quickly three times!) along each plank of wood to make it safer for visitors to enjoy the beautiful views over the loch.

Our favourite project (or mine at least!) was helping to create floating bio-havens to sit on top of the loch. These bio-havens were made of recycled materials and adorned with various wetland plants (gathered by our volunteers). They will be providing a key shelter for birds and pond life on the loch.

—————————————————–
Across April and May we’ve been doing various bits and pieces of work at the Peebles Community Action Network (CAN) Garden. Our first big job was to help lay the wooden foundations of the new flower beds and path within their brand new poly tunnel.

The next time we visited we spent an amazingly sunny (and very warm!) couple of days building an incredible 16 new raised beds for the garden. It was a brilliant team effort and we had some fantastic help from the local families who would be using the beds, giving them the opportunity to see how they were built and to be part of the building process. Even the little ones were keen to help!

—————————————————–

Although we’ve been busy doing work elsewhere, we certainly haven’t forgotten about our local Edinburgh parks!
In the lovely Figgate Park near Portobello our volunteers helped with some path clearance, working to make the stairs safer and more accessible. We were also helping to stabilise the river bank by panting native shrubs and trees, which will also help to increase biodiversity and create wildlife habitats.

We’ve also been busy in Starbank Park this year, working closely with their ‘Friends Of’ group. Some of the tasks we’ve been involved in were neatening their path edges, trimming bed borders, clearing away vegetation in preparation for summer growth, lots and lots of weeding and, of course, the most coveted job; helping to turn and cycle their compost area.

Last but not least, we were in the beautiful Braidburn Valley Park doing path edging. What a difference we made!

It’s been a wonderful and jam-packed few months and we’re all looking forward to spending some more time in the sun (and the rain) over summer!

Kathryn (Volunteer Officer)

Winter fun in Edinburgh

Throughout November and December the Edinburgh Mid Week volunteer group has been full of activity, visiting some old favourites along with some great new sites. We’ve been extremely lucky with the weather, with mostly beautiful sunny (but sometimes chilly days) and only a couple of days with rain (not that that would stop us!).

The amazing view from the Friary Community Garden

The amazing view from the Friary Community Garden

At the start of November the group were back at the wonderful Friary Community Garden in Inverkeithing. There’s always a great variety of tasks to keep the gang busy here and it’s always a pleasure working here as we are treated to a spectacular view across the Firth of Forth.

Modelling the latest in vegetable hat wear at the Friary Community Garden

Modelling the latest in vegetable hat wear at the Friary Community Garden

Working with a smile at the Friary

Working with a smile at the Friary

Re-purposing old material to create weed suppressors at the Friary Community Garden

Re-purposing old material to create weed suppressors at the Friary Community Garden

Speaking of amazing views, the volunteers have also been back to the beautiful Starbank Park in the north of Edinburgh numerous times. Here we’ve been continuing to help them to neaten up their footpath borders and to clear the autumn leaves around the park. The lovely Friends of Starbank Park are always on hand with cakes and other yummy treats to keep our volunteers going (which, given the steep incline of the park, is much needed after carting bag after bag of leaves up the hill to the compost bins!).

Fantastic rainbow photo opportunity at Starbank Park

Fantastic rainbow photo opportunity at Starbank Park

Leaves, leaves everywhere!

Leaves, leaves everywhere!

Clearing leaves with a fantastic view at Starbank Park

Clearing leaves with a fantastic view at Starbank Park

Continuing the theme of tasty treats to keep our volunteers going, we’ve been back to Gracemount Walled Garden several times where their amazing chef always has a small feast for us to enjoy at lunchtime. In order to earn their lunches the volunteers have been hard at work improving the footpath around the garden and continuing to maintain the woodland to the rear of the garden. Here the group have done a fantastic job of cutting back the trees and widening the footpath to improve access to the garden from the local park.

Beautiful autumnal scenes at Gracemount Walled Garden

Beautiful autumnal scenes at Gracemount Walled Garden

Monkeying around in the woodland at Gracemount

Monkeying around in the woodland at Gracemount

Brilliant before and after of some impressive footpath improvement at Gracemount Walled Garden

Brilliant before and after of some impressive footpath improvement at Gracemount Walled Garden

Footpath maintenance in action at Gracemount

Footpath maintenance in action at Gracemount

We’ve also had the pleasure of working at some fantastic new sites in the last couple of months. First off was Warriston Cemetery where the volunteers helped to plant lots of bulbs (mainly daffodils ready for next Spring) and helped to create some new dead hedging using material from around the cemetery.

Creating stakes for a dead hedge at Warriston Cemetery

Creating stakes for a dead hedge at Warriston Cemetery

Dead hedging at Warriston Cemetery

Dead hedging at Warriston Cemetery

Next up was the fantastic Figgate Park tucked away in the east of the city near Portobello. Here the volunteers spent the day helping to uncover some amazing bug hotels that had been completely overwhelmed by vegetation. It was a site that none of our volunteers had visited before and all of them were blown away by the beauty of the park and thoroughly enjoyed their day.

Smiles all round after a hard day's work at Figgate Park

Smiles all round after a hard day’s work at Figgate Park

Vegetation clearance at Figgate Park

Vegetation clearance at Figgate Park

Another beautiful autumnal scene at Figgate Park

Another beautiful autumnal scene at Figgate Park

Before and after of our work at Figgate Park

Before and after of our work at Figgate Park

Last but not least, the group had the chance to work right in the heart of Edinburgh’s city centre on Calton Hill, a popular tourist hot spot thanks to its brilliant views across the city. Here the volunteers primarily helped with footpath maintenance; straightening the path borders and clearing vegetation.

Hard at work on Calton Hill

Hard at work on Calton Hill

Lovely neat borders at Calton Hill

Lovely neat borders at Calton Hill

Now as winter closes in it’s almost time for us to hang up our waterproofs for the Christmas break, so from everyone here at TCV Edinburgh have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Ali (Volunteer Officer)

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)

Dogwood Demolition at Danskine Loch

As July came to an end we said a fond farewell to Danskine Loch, a site that the Edinburgh Midweek Group volunteers have been at almost every week since February in conjunction with Scottish Natural Heritage.

It’s a beautiful secluded Site of Special Scientific Interest near Gifford and was designated as an SSSI due to its large fen woodland and open freshwater – habitats which are rare in East Lothian. Unfortunately invasive dogwood had grown at the edge of the loch and had developed into dense thickets which smothered the native plant life, altered the wildlife habitats and reduced the flow into the loch.
pic 1

Our volunteers have been working hard to rid the loch of this pesky dogwood, using loppers and bow-saws to chop it down and then (the fun bit!) burning it in large bonfires. It was hard but satisfying work and the interesting fen woodland has finally re-emerged from behind the ‘red sea’ of dogwood. pic 2

pic3

Thankfully we were blessed by some beautiful, warm sunny days more recently but as we started work in February, we also had some rather cold, wet and wintry days to contend with. pic4

However, nothing can dampen the spirits of our dedicated and enthusiastic team of hard-working volunteers (as long as there’s a well stocked tea and biscuit kit to keep them going of course!).

Balsam Bashing…..

…well, not really bashing, more like gently pulling the balsam out of the riverside.

Today the TCV Stirling Midweek Group was out at Muiravonside again, no not more rhododendron removal, this time we were pulling Himalayan Balsam from it’s cosy nooks in the banks of the river.

This plant is extremely invasive and a non-native to boot! It can spread extremely quickly over large areas of land and out competes the native plants. The Himalayan Balsam is an annual plant usually found near rivers, meaning that it grows very quickly once spring comes then flowers and drops its seeds before dying back in the winter. This means that any river bank it’s found on can experience severe erosion during the winter as there’s nothing holding onto the earth.

The best way to remove Himalayan Balsam from a site is to hand pull it during set times every year over several years after the plant has grown enough to identify it, but before it actually flowers and drops its seeds. So around May-July (ish!). This ensures that no seeds can disperse to make next year’s crop of plants (each plant can produce up to 200!) and is an easy, if time consuming, way of removing the plants from the site.

It’s pretty easy to identify by its three leaf arrangement and you may even see a tinge of pink around the leaves, and more often around the base of the plant near the roots.

We had a good day removing all the Balsam we could find from part of the riverside at the Country Park and as always met some nice dogs, saw some wonderful wildlife and had a well deserved cup of tea! We always welcome new volunteers and if you’d like to join us click on this link to #JoinInFeelGood!