The Hit Squad is our regular weekday volunteer group and this team has been awarded Community Path Group of the Year by Paths for All. Recognising our volunteers commitment to enhancing the Water of Leith walkway and river.
The Hit Squad volunteer group has been running for many years and before the Covid restrictions regularly attract 20 members each session to improve the river and the almost 13 miles of walkway.
Depending on the season, jobs ranged from trimming back vegetation, raking up leaves, caring for wildflower meadows, removing invasive species and clearing litter both in and out of the river.
Like most activities, the group came to an abrupt halt when the lockdown first hit to protect the safety of the volunteers.
Project officer Johnny Wells said: “While our volunteers stayed safe, the walkway became the busiest it’s ever been as a vital green space for Edinburgh residents to escape, meet up and exercise in during lockdown”.
This huge footfall had an impact of the state of walkway with erosion of the verges as people socially distanced leading to the walkway becoming muddier, increases in littering, erosion of river banks from dogs and the good summer meant vegetation shot up.,
As lockdown restrictions relaxed, the group started working again with staff, at first just two volunteers at a time and then increasing as the months progressed with more tasks happening weekly to allow for smaller groups.
Since April 2021 to date, the group has have completed 105 sessions equating to over 2000 hours of practical conservation and teamwork.
Johnny explained: “Our volunteers’ dedication to being outdoors in all weathers doing something practical for the river & walkway is amazing. Over the last year they’ve accepted and adapted to many changes including us stopping the communal biscuit barrel.
“Without their effort I’d hate to think of how much harder lockdown would have been for the public without this green space. This award is a brilliant acknowledgement for the volunteer’s hard work and dedication.”
Our volunteers were commended at the awards ceremony which was held virtually for the second year and hosted by Fiona Stalker