Introducing the river to New Scots

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During February Charlotte led a series of Guided Walks for The Welcoming along the river as part of a research project with Edinburgh University Grounds Well Consortium
The aim was to introduce the river to New Scots, giving them the confidence to enjoy the natural green space in Edinburgh while making friends and learning more about their new city. By filling in questionnaires before and after each of the walks the research project aimed to use the information to make conclusions about the effects of accessing greenspace to newcomers in urban areas.

Circulatory routes were designed to introduce the group to interesting social and natural heritage as well as pointing out nice places to visit with friends and family. Places of interest included The Union Canal, Dell’s, Colinton Tunnel, Redhall Walled Garden and Craiglockhart Hill.
The walks took time to point out interesting wildlife, plants as well as telling stories about local history and folklore. It was amazing to see plants emerging and hear birds song increasing each week as the group walked away from Winter towards Spring over the 4 weeks. The Colinton tunnel mural inspired some of the group to write poems which reflected on the walk through the Dells. Such as this poem by Thomas Liu

The Water of Leith, a symbol of life, its calming waters, a source of relief and delight. And the Colinton Tunnel Mural, a tribute to the land, a celebration of nature’s beauty, both grand and planned.”

Children were invited during the February break and the walk got more “hands on” as they were encouraged to take a closer looks at animal tracks and signs, the micro world of mini beasts and even the under the water life in the river.

At the end of the walks the group had a recorded discussion for the research project (See word cloud generated from the recording). This was very moving. It’s easy to underestimate how hard it is to start again in a new city, in a different country with a totally different climate. Without friends, family around you for support, and often a language barrier, it can be very isolating.
Some people had come from cities that had no accessible greenspace and they were unaware that that walking in nature was even an option in a city. Some members of the group spoke about how previously fear of the weather had stopped them enjoying walks or even leaving the house. But now they were confident to enjoy the cities wild spaces whatever the weather , and couldn’t wait to visit some of the areas they spotted from the top of the hill like Cramond Island, The Botanical Gardens and Portobello Beach.

In an urban environment there is a symbiotic relationship between people and nature. Green and blue space in our cities is crucial for nature, but it is also vital for people’s wellbeing. The more we appreciate natures calming influence and more we rally to help it.

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