Seasonal Update from Ranger Johnny

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January to April was known years ago as our quieter time, when we had a chance to reflect on the past year, to update risk assessments, recharge, prepare for the season ahead and avoid the worst of the wetter colder weather. Nowadays with the size and enthusiasm of our volunteer team we find ourselves out ever more keeping paths in good condition, hunting rubbish no longer hidden by foliage, carrying out surveys and helping our volunteers stay connected during the darker months.

For our staff team this connecting began with a visit to the source of the river to renew ourselves for the year ahead by taking in the healing waters above Crosswood reservoir.

Thankfully our volunteers have a bit more sense and we renewed them with a beer tasting evening courtesy of master brewer, Vinnie at Moonwake brewery at the end of the river in Leith

Our conservation team connected with fellow rangers from across the Lothian’s and Fife for a skills exchange at Musselburgh Lagoons as part of a Scottish Countryside Ranger Association gathering, to hear about how this amazing designed landscape supports nature. SCRA promotes the beneficial role Rangers play in managing Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage and thus having chance to hear from other professionals always gives us new ideas for the river.

Steven joins
We welcomed our new conservation officer, Steven Renton to the fold and he’s hit the ground running driving the biological surveying along the river and also experienced some of the wettest days recently. We look forward to seeing the results of the riverfly, pollinator, fungi and wildflower surveys to expand our knowledge of the natural world along the river and how it changes due to the effect of humans on it.

Spring Clean Up
As the water levels have fallen and risen we started the spring clean of the river and after a winter of not wading we’ve been finding rubbish galore. For those fans of litter bingo it’s been the usual suspects of traffic cones, trolleys, bikes, wet wipes and cans thus we’ve been grateful for reinforcements from Rotary Scotland, Edinburgh Young Walkers and tenants at Atra One and 9 Edinburgh Square to date lending a hand to our efforts

Giant Hogweed
Many of you will know of our efforts to control Giant Hogweed on the river banks through chemical spraying, this year we’ve also been trialing digging up GH seedlings during the winter months to reduce our need to use chemicals on the river. Digging is a much more time consuming task and can only be done whilst the plants are small enough, however we’ve removed bag full’s at Redbraes, Bonnington, Murrayfield and Bells to help keep the banks safe for users. Thus as we begin to spray it’ll be interesting to see the difference where we haven’t dug.

Willow planting
In addition to the 600 trees we planted along the walkway courtesy of TCV #idigtrees, we’ve also been planting willow whips along the banking at Bells, Craiglockhart and Murrayfield with the goal of having a supply of willow we can coppice each year. We regularly use willow to weave it into fencing to protect wildflower meadows and for bank restoration so instead of buying in the willow we are looking at creating a renewable source which can also reduce bank erosion at the sametime.

End of financial year stats
Finally as always with reaching the 31st of March we tally up all the numbers of the volunteer hours that have been done to enhance and conserve the Water of Leith. On the practical side and including river patrols the total is 7792 hours which based on the living wage is worth almost £90,000, 249 tasks.

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