Balsam Bashing!

One of the many things we do in the conservation group is to control the amount of Himalayan Balsam that would otherwise take over all other riverbank plants down the Brunstane Burn.

Another successful day on Friday 7th August trying to remove as many “Himalayan Balsam” as possible. They may look lovely, but they are massively invasive. Largely impossible to remove from the infested south bank of the Burn, but the North side should be clear. Some are very big at over 2m tall!

Conservation Litter Clearance

Brunstane Burn 2016 to 2020

On Saturday 5th March 2016 a new activity was introduced to Portobello Timebank – an opportunity to join a team to work on a more substantial job, to clean up Brunstane Burn and path (John Muir Way) particularly downstream from Donkey Field. This local nature spot had suffered over the years from illegal fly-tipping and waste being deposited along its banks, so with Spring on the way there was an opportunity to make a big improvement while the undergrowth was still subdued after the long winter months. The work party of 18 bolstered by 10 students from the University of Edinburgh Business School, plus a large number of local residents, young and old(er), making it a truly effective community group effort. This made a big impact on the surprising amount of rubbish dumped in the burn from the bridge.
Pretty much the same team returned twice more in the Spring, and again the the Autumn, making a big impact with a huge amount removed and taken away by the Council.

This was James’s initiative, and he has always been the driving force, not only organising work parties, but making contact with the right people in the Council who provided the means of removing the rubbish at the end of the day. This applies to every litter picking event. However, it didn’t stop at simply removal of rubbish! James made contact with other Council officials responsible for woodland and agreed to participate in environmental conservation work to encourage indigenous species. Type of jobs ranges from removal of excessive ivy from trees, removal of self seeded sycamores, planting all sorts of young trees, plus spring bulbs beside the path and at the entrance from Daiches Brae. In March 2017 we planted a hundred or so crocus donated by the Rotary club in their support of the ‘End Polio Now’ campaign. A regular annual job is to weed out Himalayan Balsam from the banks of the burn every summer before the explosive seed pods burst.

On 24th April 2017 the Litter/Clean Up group (plus children and supporters) installed a bench on the Daiches Brae stretch of the Burn. This project arose out of an ‘Action Earth’ grant from Volunteering Matters Scotland, which allowed us to commission the Edinburgh Tool Library to design and build a rustic bench using a telegraph pole that was recently decommissioned and left in the area. The ground around the bench was cleared of nettles and planted with shrubs and wildflower seeds.

Not far from the bench is a luxurious bug hotel with slate roof, no less! And in 2019 an owl box was installed in a quiet spot hoping to attract a family of Tawney Owls.

Brunstane Burn of course continues upstream from Donkeyfield passing through a long culvert under the railway, the Range car park and Milton Link, finally emerging near the end of Magdalene Glen near ASDA.

Magdalene Glen is another area that is visited several times a year by the Litter Cleaning Group, and comes under separate posts.

Timebank members earn hours for the time spent on these Conservation and Litter Cleaning jobs, paid by the Community fund. It is a great way to meet new members as well as to earn valuable hours.


Bio Blitz

Fantastic weather helped a lovely early morning dawn chorus walk. The group, with the help of an amazing RSPB guide, identified 26 species of bird in the 90 minute walk. The highlights were a sparrowhawk with kill and a nearby buzzard. Goldfinches and the sound of chiffchaffs and goldcrests added to an educational and heartening 6am walk. The morning and afternoon BioBlitz sessions incorporating bug hunting, stream dipping and generally keeping an eye out for anything that moved were very much enjoyed by family groups, as well as those adults that wanted to learn more.

We hugely value the contribution the RSPB Scotland made to the day, the time of the volunteers and their impressive knowledge. The RSPB is much more than “just a bird charity”; they have a huge initiative in trying to give nature the home it needs. This involves dealing with councils, governments and large corporations as well as trying to get us all to do that little bit to give nature a home in our gardens too.

On the same day Nick, from The Field in Duddingston, helped some of our conservation group identify and map the various tree species along Brunstane Burn. It was absolutely fascinating, and so helpful in planning the future management of the burn. The canopy comprises, in numerical order, cherry, ash, beech, sycamore, field maple, silver birch, poplar and alder.