Hit Squad update from Johnny
With the clocks having gone back this weekend and the leaves dropping at a fair rate, I thought I’d take the time to sum up what we’ve achieved over the past couple of months and to look ahead as 2020 draws to a close. As Covid restrictions were reduced we ran 22 small volunteer tasks in Aug, 31 in Sept and in October we are on track to have run 36 which is down to the energy and enthusiasm of our volunteers to get out and about. Due to the small numbers we have each session, it’s meant focusing the work more than normal and in turn, I feel the quality has increased. Over the last few months, we did the following.
There was a huge amount of pulling of Himalayan Balsam up and down the length of the river with big sections destroyed at West Bowling Green Street, Edinburgh Tennis Club, Murrayfield and Slateford. Many of you have told me the difference you’ve seen on the river with native species taking over since pulling intensified under over the last few years. In addition, Charlotte has been out with Ian and Andrew spraying and injecting Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed to kill off these and stop them from getting a foothold on the river.
Re-establishing the width of the walkway
Slowly but surely, we are working along the walkway, trimming overgrown vegetation back and rediscovering at least another foot of walkway in most places. You can really notice the progress we have been making down at Leith where we have been regularly every Monday in October, also Kinleith Mill in Currie and the reopened section near Ford’s Rd, Saughton. Although it’s tiring work for all involved it has had a really positive effect with encouraging people to use the walkway and feeling safe social distancing from one another.
Surveys were completed at Bells and Bogs Meadows which showed an increase of species respectively of 36% and 24%, Since then we have strimmed, scythed and raked the seven in our care with the aim of promoting even more species along the course of the river.
This was a bit of thankless task raking out the mud from the soak away drain at the back of Donaldson’ college but it helped to resolve in part a very wet section. It’ll need more work each year but we’ve started the process which is the first step.
As always we’ve had volunteers out galore both doing self led litter picking, as part of river patrols and twice in the boat at Leith. This has stopped huge amounts from getting into the river and being eaten by the wildlife which is kudos to our volunteers efforts
Coming Up in the Next Few Months
We received a grant from Action Earth for £250 to spend on wildflower seeds and bulbs to bulk up the smaller meadows and community gardens so we’ll be doing seeding and planting soon in November. Sustrans are buying us £1,000 worth of tools to use on the upkeep, predominantly on the sections of N75 cycleway that are on the walkway, but we can use them throughout. One of the tools is a professional extendable pole saw so we can trim back some of the overhanging branches along the walkway to raise the canopy and let some light in.
In December we will be receiving 500 trees from TCV (the conservation volunteers) a lot of these will be smaller trees like dogwoods, hazels and hawthorn which we’ll be looking to replant in the sections where we have cleared Himalayan balsam from and to replace sections of brambles. We’ve applied for a small grant for timber from Edinburgh Uni and if it comes through, we’ll be looking to start a weekly carpentry group to build planters, bird boxes and bug hotels allowing us to offer some tasks that aren’t out in the worst of the winter weather.
Covid is going to be with us for a while so we’ll be sticking to small groups for the foreseeable future and putting opportunities up on Spond our new way of getting folk to sign up for tasks. We are also conscious that our mental health is as important as our physical health so we welcome volunteers to come past for a quick chat at the centre or during a task (although I’ll probably keep grafting at the same time) if you are having a low day and need the motivation to get out of the house as the nights get shorter. Part of the give back to our volunteers’ hard work is that we are always happy to offer a smile and chat if needs be. In addition, if a task doesn’t have a self-led litter pick attached to it and you want to come past to grab a picker and bags to have a womble by yourself you are more than welcome just let me know you want to do that. We love that our volunteers keep on coming out some weekly, others monthly and some yearly, together we’ll keep the river and walkway being epic.
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