Michael’s year as our Trainee Ranger

Michael joined us back in April 2023 as a Trainee Ranger on the New to Nature scheme - and he has really thrived. We are delighted to say that he will be staying on with us for another 6 months, to help across our work.

Share This Post

With the sun emerging from its hibernation (hopefully!) late April marks one wonderful year for me at the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. I can’t believe. The time has flown and so much has happened since I joined my first project at Bells meadow, eager, bright eyed and if honest… also covered in bird poop thanks to a generous pigeon. So, what better time than now to reflect on some of the joys, luck and oddities I’ve had this year at the Water of Leith. 

Spring 2023, was a hot one! A few months of near constant sun meant that there was plenty to get stuck into soon as I started. From battling brambles on the walkway to getting my head around the cafe inundated with requests for iced coffee, lollys and ice-creams. It was around this time I popped on a pair of waders going knee high into the river for the first time!  

Craiglockhart Dells has always been a favorite part of the Water of Leith for me, so to have my first wade here really felt special. Wading across the rivers the pebbly bed at first felt strange and moonlike. Very slow and reliant on the wading pole as extra leg I waddled more like a duck on land than a duck to water. Yet after a few stumbly steps I was able to pick out my first dozen or so pesky wet wipes from the bankside and find a sort of rhythm to walking the river. Although picking out litter is not the most glamorous of jobs, it’s still one of my favorite tasks to do on the river. With the Dells it’s feeling the peaty water flow around your boots and seeing the mayfly catch the light beams bobbing up and down wading the river feels like you’re in the realm of the otter and dipper.  Wading a river opens a whole new way of seeing and experiencing the river and I’ll forever remember my first time.   

When it comes to litter it can occasionally feel like you simply can’t escape it and it’s been a big part of my role, clearing up the endless dog bags, Tennent’s cans and Buckfast bottles. Yet litter, as rubbish as it is, occasionally provides us with a few laughs along the way with just how on earth it got there. One of the most bizarre things to this day for me, was how a cast iron toasty machine was up in the top of a tree across from the Rocheid Walkway bridge.  I ended up climbing a fence, falling through a path of bramble and halfway up a tree before I victoriously wrestling it from the branches. So, if you spot any John Waynes lassoing toasty machines off bridges do let me know as I’d love to have a word! Another more recent case of strange finds is a vintage packet of Foxes glacier sweets where with its 40P price tag has it dated to being stuck in the side of the river for at least 40 years! Other top weird finds this year have been a red car door in the Murray burn, a trampoline in Colinton Dell, and a brand-new window in Coalie park! Which shows how two days are the same at the Water of Leith.  

Talking of much nicer discoveries on the Water of Leith my year here also introduced me to the wonderful world of wildlife surveying – something that was totally new to me. I remember before my first wildflower survey in May 2023 thinking “right get your serious brain on this is going to be a lot”, the reality was much more relaxing walking the Juniper Green meadow site exploring the world of vetch, clover and buttercups. Thankfully, the genius survey team was patient with me in sharing their knowledge and captivating me into the world of surveys. So much so that by the Autumn of 2023 I was setting up my own survey introducing the team and volunteers to the weird and wonderful world of fungi. I have to say being in the middle of an ancient wood scrambling over a log piles and occasionally jumping into a compost heap has its benefits, For as much as it seems like goblin behavior so far over the 6 months of Fungi surveys, we’ve discovered around the Dells over 120 species of fungi which I feel is a pretty impressive amount!.  

Thinking on the topic of impressive the Water of Leith certainly wouldn’t be here without a impressive amount of rain! Whether it’s the serenity of wading in the river as the raindrops patter around you or the elbow deep in mud planting hundreds of bulbs in Coalie Park in November, the rain is something I’ve certainly become used to. Coalie park held the crown for the soggiest of experiences over my time on the river but recently this march the soggy crown was swiftly taken by Poets Glen steps!  

What usually is a peaceful mossy location this March turned into a raging torrent! The steps themselves becoming a waterfall that was a true battle to climb.  

Yet that didn’t dampen our volunteers’ determined spirits, and we spent the morning digging a new drainage ditch and stopping a good few bags worth of plastic from washing into the river.  Rather tragically, I didn’t wear wellies on this project, so I had half of Poets Glen in my boots as a souvenir once back in the van – But it was nothing a good cuppa and strong radiator couldn’t fix.  

Looking back now, it’s been one big year!  Yet despite the time I still find a sense of excitement in calling the Water of Leith my workplace. For it’s something I genuinely love! No two days have ever been the same and the wildlife that surrounds us (volunteers included!) never fails to bring me a smile on the day, no matter the task. 

Having seen the seasons come fully round and the wild garlic sweep into leaf and bloom across the woods I also can conclude this wee ramble of a blog by answering the most important question I’m sure you’ll all want to know. After a year of “extensive” research, do I have a favorite biscuit to work with? – Of course I do! – The Malteser chocolate biscuit! Also known as the “Triple Blobber!” The perfect balance of biscuit and chocolate is something quite rare these days and although it doesn’t outright solve all problems in the world it certainly helps in fixing them. 

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get news & updates straight to your inbox