Well, you learn something new every day. Today I learned several things:
1 – I learned what Himalayan Balsam looks like
2 – I learned that it likes to grow amongst nettles
3 – I learned that NETTLES STING!!
I learned my lessons while volunteering for the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. They help keep the paths clear and clean and teach people about the flora and fauna along the Water of Leith Walkway from their Visitor centre at 24 Lanark Road, Edinburgh.
The Water of Leith is an key contributor to the ‘health’ of Edinburgh. It provides a safe tranquil place to walk and is a haven of greenery and wildlife – right in the heart of the city. The first time I wandered along the Water of Leith I couldn’t stop gasping in amazement. It was like entering a secret world below the city. I was discovering little walkways, steps that go nowhere, creaky old wrought iron gates, plaques and memorials that were only barely visible through overgrown ivy. Each section had its own vibe – some were darker and more overgrown – others were open and sunny but were all connected by the twisting, gurgling river.
I’ve been meaning to volunteer for ages but never seemed to be available for one of the organised clean-ups until today. A small group of 7 of us met up in Cannonmills where we were given some safety advice, gloves, hi-vis vests and shears – not for the Himalayan Balsam (that popped out of the ground with no effort) but to clear a path from a locked gate to the river banks on the opposite side of the path. A few of the regulars were kitted out with waders to reach banks that we couldn’t walk along. We were shown what the offending weed looked like and told the importance of the clear out. Further downstream flood defence work meant that the banks were completely stripped and ready for landscaping. If we didn’t get the Himalayan Balsam out from our section before it went to seed – it would take hold of the clear area and interrupt the growth of the native plans.
I attacked my section from the ground up as I found it easier to identify the weed by the stalks rather than the leaves at the top. It meant I was super efficient at weeding however it also meant that I was crawling face first into patches of nettles!! It seemed as if the prickly nettles were protecting their defenceless cousins. Oh well, eventually the stinging will die down (I hope!!). After 2 hours of work – with a small tea break of course – we had cleared our section and hopefully will give the new planting a fighting chance of survival. Which makes the agonisingly painful nettle stings on my face and wrist worthwhile – plus I got to be outside in the fresh air, meet new people and get some exercise. Not bad for 2 hours of my day!!!
Weeding and clean-ups take place throughout the year at various sections along the path. If you want to join in you can go along to the visitor centre or go to The Water of Leith Conservation Trust website and sign-up for the mailing list.
Healthy Scale: Volunteering with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust
Mind: (+) Fresh air helps clear the mind plus lots of oxygen while crawling around in the greenery
Body: (+) A bit of exercise although the nettle stings were definitely a (-)
Community: (+) It was great to volunteer to help maintain a part of Edinburgh that I enjoy visiting.