Johnny’s Autumn Update from the Conservation Team

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I’m never sure which I enjoy more those heady days of summer sweating slightly in waders & wielding a scythe in a meadow or the damp cold days raking leaves, cutting back and making plans for the coming years. It’s certainly nice to have the contrast to keep me on my toes. Before I head off to have an early Christmas with family here’s the latest news from the river.

Its been an incredibly busy year, since April we have delivered a total of 182 task and volunteers have clocked up an impressive 5804 hours improving and protecting the river. Patrol volunteers devoted around 175 hours, keeping an eye on the river, recording walkway use, spotting wildlife and helping us to plan tasks.

A Walkway of Leaves – From the 16th of October you can see the seasons change on our volunteer hours spreadsheet and notes of wading for balsam, riverfly survey and scything are replaced with a standard line of – Cutting back walkway, raking leaves and litter picking for almost every task.
Thus, it’s no wonder that with Xmas on the horizon the walkway is looking significantly better than I can ever remember in my four years. Partly due to the new porous service between Balerno – Lanark Rd needing less maintenance but more importantly the big numbers turning out weekly clearing the walkway and the access paths. Hopefully not much more needed and then it’s all done for a few months.

Scything Training – In November we ran our 1st in house training on “How to Scythe” for five volunteers. As this was the first training, we’ve done ourselves it was really promising that by the end everyone had learned the basics, were cutting grass and there was only one cut between them all. We’ll be running the next training in April so watch spond for spaces

Leith Whisky Tour & Xmas Quiz – A couple of very enjoyable evenings with plenty of laughter recently as we toured the new Leith Whisky distillery at Ocean Terminal. Learning how different yeasts effect the taste of the preaged spirit and that a 25ml measure can vary from volunteer to volunteer when allowed to fill a wee taster bottle. Last week we had the annual xmas quiz with 4 rounds of Water of Leith trivia, taskmaster challenges and a general knowledge round.  After the covid years it was great to see so many people in attendance and a real buzz of interaction between the conservation and visitor centre volunteers. Coming up in January will be our annual Beer Tasting evening at Moonwake brewery at The Shore and then I’m looking to organise another tour of the Lind and Lime Gin Distillery at the start of March for those interested. All proving volunteering is not all hard work.

Tree Planting – Having received 600 trees from the TCV #Idigtree campaign we’ve planted up hedgerows at Juniper Green and in Craiglockhart Dell to boost the biodiversity around the wildflower meadows. We’ve still got some left and will be doing more planting at Bonnington and Fords Road over the coming weeks.

Otters – Richard Wells posted this shot of a mum and two cubs on the river this month, rumour has it the other female has had one cub. Hopefully they’ve avoided the worst of the surges. All showing our work helps the river’s residents.

Coming Up for the next Quarter
January – Whilst the weather is wet/cold and the river level is high we’ll be staying on dry land doing walkway maintenance. Having smashed out the main walkway we’ll be focusing on the many access paths onto the walkway that get very little love and need a rake and trim back.
February – Once water levels start to drop, having seen the success of the faggotting bank restoration at Tanfield bridge. I’d like to experiment doing the same on a section of a bend that’s eroding at the Rocheid path using bundles of buddleia that could be removed. More details of the process here
March – The spring clean begins, hopefully with water levels dropping we can get into the river and do a full sweep from Balerno – Leith giving it a good sweep for lots of rubbish to keep it healthy before vegetation on the river bank hides it.
We’ll be doing wading classes at the start of the month to help develop everyone’s confidence and river legs. Meanwhile Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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