Saturday, 31 May 2014

Arthurs Seat

It felt very like summer on Arthurs Seat today.

The air was scented with the coconut smell of the gorse and the marzipan smell of the hawthorns. Jackdaws were chasing each other round the cliffs and rockier parts of the hill. We had a very brief glimpse of a raven, which dropped the rabbit it had been carrying. Chaffinches were lined up along by the side of the path singing to each other. We also heard willow warblers and a whitethroat. Crafty Green Boyfriend was delighted to get this view of a greenfinch, which can be a very elusive bird.

Then we noticed some swifts flying round so we walked over to get a better view and found ourselves surrounded by about 30 low flying swifts! Crafty Green Boyfriend was very happy to get this photo, a tricky one, as swifts, as their name suggests, fly very quickly indeed.

Butterflies were out too, we saw green-veined white, small white, small copper, small tortoiseshell and a red admiral.

I'm running a blog giveaway to win a pdf of my book Bougainvillea Dancing, poetry, prose and photos inspired by Malawi. Find out more and enter here.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Woven pocket

I realised recently that one of my 'round the house' jumpers would be much improved by the addition of a pocket. I can't knit but I can weave, so I wove this pocket and stitched it on with blanket stitch and it's now a very convenient place to keep a handkerchief!

I'm running a blog giveaway to win a pdf of my book Bougainvillea Dancing, poetry, prose and photos inspired by Malawi. Find out more and enter here.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Calum's Road by Roger Hutchinson

Calum Macleod lived at the very north end of the island of Raasay, next to Skye in the Hebrides. He was a crofter, postman and tended a lighthouse. He also spent many years building a road from the north of the island to the central area. He hoped that this road would help encourage people to return to the north of the island, which had become extremely depopulated. Calum's Road became much acclaimed and was considered to be a piece of landscape art, certainly at the point where Calum's work finished before the road was tarmac-ed as it needed to be to make it functional for most vehicles.

This book not only follows Calum's visionary and eccentric project, but also outlines the history of Raasay, particularly the population changes. The Highland Clearances saw people driven from the agriculturally productive south of the island to the barren north and then later they moved back again as the north was starved of services.

The book offers an insightful study of an island community and the inspired creative work of one man who had a dream and was prepared to do whatever was necessary to make that dream come true.

Calum's Road by Roger Hutchinson published by Birlinn.

I'm running a blog giveaway to win a pdf of my book Bougainvillea Dancing, poetry, prose and photos inspired by Malawi. Find out more and enter here.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Tree Following

It was rainy and dull yesterday when I visited the larch tree in Colinton Dell that I'm studying for Tree Following.

The nearby hawthorns are in bloom just now and there's lots of cow parsley in flower underneath the larch.

Round the other side of the larch, there's a lovely variegated elder bush:

while in the larch itself, the flowers are continuing their progress into becoming cones

while last year's cones are still hanging on

No sign of the long tailed tits that were building a nest when I started observing this tree....

I'm running a blog giveaway to win a pdf of my book Bougainvillea Dancing, poetry, prose and photos inspired by Malawi. Find out more and enter here.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

What Happened to the Green Party?

I stayed up last night to watch the results of the European Parliament Elections. It was depressing to see UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) coming top of the polls in many regions of the UK and in the country as a whole. However it wasn't surprising given the huge amount of media coverage this right wing, single issue party had garnered on TV, radio and most newspapers.

Meanwhile the Green Party had more or less been ignored in the pre-election media coverage (though immediately before the elections there had been a flurry of trending articles on Twitter erncouraging people to vote Green). The election results coverage continued to treat the Green Party with disdain - despite the fact that they gained more MEPs (Members of the European parliament) than did the Liberal Democrats (the party that is currently in Government in a coalition with the Conservatives).

The election day coverage was appalling in its bias against the Green Party:

In one discussion the Green party was described as 'a boutique protest party' and the party for 'people who don't want to vote UKIP but don't like what the main parties are offering'

One of the rolling subtitles during the programme ran something along the lines of: 'Green Party gains two seats, while BNP leader loses his' which could be construed as the Green Party and the BNP (British National Party - a far right party) being linked as equally extreme.

One of the few mentions of Green Party candidates was to poke fun (twice) at one of the party condidates who was knitting while waiting for the votes to be counted.

Even in reference to the Green Party gaining more MEPs than the Liberal Democrats, this was never discussed in terms of the Green Party but always in terms of Liberal Democrat collapse.

I was so angry that I complained to the BBC and I signed the petition to the BBC NEWS to STOP THIS MEDIA BLACKOUT OF THE GREEN PARTY.

The Green Party don't get everything right, and apparently they're not doing a great job of running Brighton council in the south of England. However they are a party with well thought out policies on a wide range of issues (not just relating to the environment) and offer a credible, respectable alternative to the main parties. UKIP on contrast have one policy, which is to take the UK out of the EU and they are widely perceived as incompetent and racist. The huge media coversage they were given almost certainly helped to increase their votes and to get many people to see them as a respectable party.

The EU for that matter doesn't get everything right. However, from an environmental perspective, the EU Natura 2000 Network (which I blogged about here) is a vital element in ensuring decent protection for the most special areas for nature.

Sunday, 25 May 2014


The hawthorn is in full bloom at the moment

but there's also a red version, which I'm not sure whether it's red hawthorn or a different species - if you know exactly what it is, please feel free to let me know in the comments!

Both the bushes in these photos are growing at the top of Corstorphine Hill, near the zoo, where the house martins enjoy flying above the zebra field!

I'm running a blog giveaway to win a pdf of my book Bougainvillea Dancing, poetry, prose and photos inspired by Malawi. Find out more and enter here.

Friday, 23 May 2014

woven gift sets

My latest experiment in weaving on a cardboard loom has been to make some bookmarks. I guess that gift sets of a bookmark and a coaster might be quite popular. After all, most of us like to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee (or other beverage!) while we read. So here is the first gift set (which I gave to my Mum on her birthday)!

I've got a lot of wool, given to me by friends and relatives and bought very cheaply in second hand shops. So I'm likely to make a lot more of these gift sets, some of which may end up in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

I'm running a blog giveaway to win a pdf of my book Bougainvillea Dancing, poetry, prose and photos inspired by Malawi. Find out more and enter here.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Musselburgh Lagoons

Musselburgh Lagoons are best known for the high chances of rare and unusual wading birds passing through in late August and September as passage migrants. At those times of the year the small and uncomfortable hides are often packed full of keen birdwatchers with high powered telescopes and flasks of coffee.

It's quieter at this time of year.

Yesterday, I was alone in the hides, watching this delightful pair of grey partridges, who seem to have decided to nest in the grass near the lagoons.

I was captivated by them and how close they came to the hides. I was also delighted to see four gadwall ducks on the water along with a large flock of oystercatchers and three shelducks.

At this time of the year, the area round the Lagoons is vibrant with birdsong - yesterday skylarks were in full voice above the Lagoons and the shrubs and trees around the hides rang with the voices of willow warbler, reed bunting, chiff-chaff and blackcap.

I was also delighted to see a pair of house martins building a nest under the eaves of a building in Musselburgh. They were gathering beakfuls of mud and adding them to the structure of the nest, chattering away to each other as they did it.

It's not just the birds either, last week I took this photo of a hawthorn bush growing over the wall of one of the hides at the Lagoons.
This week, butterflies were fluttering along the paths, including a lovely male orange tip.

I'm running a blog giveaway to win a pdf of my book Bougainvillea Dancing, poetry, prose and photos inspired by Malawi. Find out more and enter here.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Tree Following

It was a lovely spring day on Monday when I visited my larch tree for Tree Following, during my weekly trip round Colinton Dell, by the Water of Leith.

The hawthorn bush near the larch is looking lovely just now

and the wildflower meadow is looking very green

The bush vetch is in bloom very close to the larch

while the larch flowers continue their slow transformation into cones

In a different part of the Dell I was delighted to see a small copper butterfly, which I rarely see here (though we often see them on Arthur's Seat or Corstorphine Hill). I was even more delighted that this one was happy to stretch its wings out for a photo.

Monday was one of the those strange bank holidays which not everyone acknowledges is a bank holiday. I didn't even realise it was until someone asked me why I wasn't taking a Bank Holiday break from my volunteering for the Water of Leith Trust? Why would I want to take a break from walking round this delightful place on a sunny day? (Admittedly if I'd realised it was a bank holiday I may have taken a break from the litter collecting element of the volunteering, but there was very little litter yesterday anyway).

I'm running a blog giveaway to win a pdf of my book Bougainvillea Dancing, poetry, prose and photos inspired by Malawi. Find out more and enter here.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Giveaway of a pdf of Bougainvillea Dancing

Before I took my wee blog break to visit my parents, I mentioned I would be doing a giveaway here and I haven't fogotten!

I'm giving away a pdf of my poetry pamphlet Bougainvillea Dancing plus a jpeg of the photo used on the cover. 

The giveaway is open until midnight GMT on 30 June 2014.
The giveaway is open to anyone in the world.

To enter the competition please:

a) leave a comment on this blog post, saying why you would like to read Bougainvillea Dancing

for additional entries please do any of the following:

b) tweet the link (and leave a comment (including your Twitter name) to let me know you've done that)
c) pin the link on Pinterest (and leave a comment (including your Pinterest profile) to let me know you've done that)
d) talk about this giveaway on your own blog (and leave me a comment to let me know you've done that)

(Feel free to mention the giveaway on Facebook too, but Facebook rules mean that I can't make publicity on Facebook a condition for getting an entry into a blog-hosted giveaway).

Names will be put into a woolly hat or other similar container and the winner's name will be drawn by Crafty Green Boyfriend by 7 July 2014. The winner will be announced on this blog and a link to the announcement will be posted on Twitter.

If lots of people enter there may be additional prizes. 

Please make sure you leave your email address or other way of contacting you in the comments. If I cannot contact you then the prize may pass on to someone else.

Good luck!

Background information

My first poetry pamphlet Bougainvillea Dancing, published 2002, raised money for charities working in Malawi. The original pamphlet is sold out now, but I was delighted that Chris Crittenden  reviewed it recently on Owl Who Laughs.

 Most of the poems in Bougainvillea Dancing focussed on Africa, but many of them were unrelated to that continent. I've just put together an updated version of this pamphlet, removing all the poems unrelated to Africa and adding in more poems on African topics, plus a couple of prose pieces and some photos.

Bougainvillea Dancing costs £5 to download as a pdf from Lulu or from the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. If you don't want to shop via Lulu or Etsy, you can buy the book directly from me and pay:

a) via Paypal
b) if you're in the UK, you can pay by cheque.

Please email me on juliet.m.wilsonATgmailDOTcom for details.

10% of proceeds from this publication will go to VSO for their work in Africa

VSO’s programme in Malawi concentrates on HIV and AIDS, health and social wellbeing, secure livelihoods (food security) and education in seven rural and remote districts. The districts were chosen due to their excessive poverty levels, high prevalence of HIV and AIDS, and low involvement of other international charities.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Gathering Night by Margaret Elphinstone

Set in the Stone Age in Scotland, this novel follows the fortunes of a number of families, their battles with each other and their struggles to find enough to eat. A tsunami pushes one group into the territory of the others which sets up lots of tensions.

The novel is structured in the form of a storytelling session round a campfire, but unfortunately the various characters all sound the same, no-one has a distinctive narrative voice.

What I loved about the novel is the close shamanistic relationship the people have with the animals, mediated by Go-Betweens, shamanistic figures who can communicate specially closely with the animals. As a result the animals choose 'give themselves' to the hunters and help humans in other ways too:

Dolphin saw Bakar's danger. But Dolphin didn't know the marshes - he'd never hunted there. Swan knew. Dolphin spoke to Swan and Swan took Bakar's spirit from where it lay and flew with it out of the marshes. Swanran across the water, splashing with every step - a man's spirit is heavy and not used to flying.

It's an adventure story set in the far distant past, but with plenty to say about our current relationship with nature.

The Gathering Night by Margaret Elphinstone published by Canongate.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Arthur's Seat

We wandered round Arthur's Seat today. The sky was very grey but it didn't rain and in fact the gorse and cow parsley look particularly pretty against such a dark sky.....

There were plenty of birds around, we enjoyed watching this kestrel hover for a while and Crafty Green Boyfriend took several photos including this one

We didn't see it catch any prey! We were delighted to see the first cygnets on the little loch (again photo by Crafty Green Boyfriend)

There were lots of birds singing, including willow warbler, whitethroat, wren, chiffchaff, blackcap and song thrush.

I also took some photos of St Margaret's Well, which you can see on my Shapeshifting Green blog

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

Corstorphine Hill (and bunnies)

 Glorious gorse
 and a shady wooded path

Crafty Green Boyfriend works very near Corstorphine Hill and I occasionally join him at lunchtime for a walk there. The photos above are from last Friday's walk and below are from today's walk.

  the first small copper butterfly of the year and yes it does seem to be feeding on bunny poo!
 a beautiful wych elm tree
bunnies outside the hotel near Edinburgh Zoo, and below, one of the entrances to their warren. This entrance is just by the wall next to the pavement of a busy main road.
You can see more photos of the bunnies outside the hotel in Monday's post.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Tree Following

I'm continuing to study a larch in Colinton Dell, by the Water of Leith as part of Tree Following.

Earlier this week, it was looking very green:

the flowers continue to develop into cones

and flowering in the undergrowth at the moment is this pretty little plant, Crosswort.

 and the garlic mustard is still in bloom too:

meanwhile, nearby in the Dell, the beech trees are looking lovely

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Short Stories for Children

I'm delighted that my second children's story Mr Mouse is now up on the Children's Stories website. It's based on a true story of a vole that one of my Uncles rescued (if you're in the UK, you may have seen my Uncle with the vole on BBC Springwatch Unsprung last year). With my Uncle's permission I changed the protagonist of the story into a young boy. I needed to provide my own illustration for the story, thus proving that perhaps bunnies aren't the only things in the world I can draw!

Talking of bunnies, my first children's short story Anya and the Foxgloves is still up on the Children's Stories website. Anya and her bunny family live in a magical woodland glade, a bit like this one on Calton Hill, in Edinburgh (which is better known for its architectural folly).

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Cammo Fields Update

 This green field is now likely to become housing.....

It is a sad day when Edinburgh City Council allows developers to put in a planning application for the fields at Cammo.

Cramond and Harthill Estate have applied to build 670 houses on an agricultural field at Cammo. A field that is home to yellowhammerstree sparrows, linnets, all of which are both red listed in the UK (ie of special conservation concern) and mentioned specifically in the seed eating birds section of the Edinburgh Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP)), reed buntings (which are amber listed in the UK, as being of moderate conservation concern and mentioned specifically in the seed eating birds section of the Edinburgh LBAP) skylarks (red listed in the UK, though not specifically mentioned in the Edinburgh LBAP and, in the winter fieldfares (which are red listed in the UK but not mentioned specifically in the Edinburgh LBAP).

Edinburgh City Council claims that it takes the LBAP into account when deciding which land to release for development. If that is the case, why are they even thinking of building on this field? Brownfield sites should be developed before greenbelt land is even considered for development. Also housing should be prioritised over for example new supermarkets and empty shops and commercial buildings could be redeveloped as housing in many instances.

In addition to the devastating impact on the local birdlife, any development of this field would:

lead to gridlock in the surrounding streets (where traffic is already at standstill for large parts of the day)
destroy the rural feel of the area
destroy the buffer zone between the built up area and Cammo Country Park, and
draw developers to thinking about developing the other fields in the area.

The application may be viewed at Planning and Building Standards, Waverley Court, 4 East Market Street, Edinburgh between 8.30am - 5pm Mondays - Thursdays, and 8.30 - 3.40 on Fridays. Or viewed electronically through the Planning online services .

Comments can be made on the application either:
a) in writing to the address above
b) online through the Planning online services using the application reference number 14/01776/PPP

Comments must be made by 29 May 2014. Please comment if you can, these fields should not be developed. If you already made comments at the pre-application stage, you will need to make comments to the council on this application if you wish them to take them into account.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Monday Bunday - beautiful baby bunnies

There's a warren of rabbits near the hotel near Edinburgh Zoo. Lots of young rabbits at the moment:

and they really are this close to a wall by the side of a pavement of a busy road

I hope their fur protects them from nettle stings

Meanwhile, the older bunnies were relaxing in the shade

for Nature Notes

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Wild garlic

At this time of year, many of our woodlands are full of ramsons, also known as wild garlic. The luxuriant leaves grow like carpets and fill the air with a strong scent of garlic even before the lovely white flowers come out. Wild garlic is edible and tastes lovely in salads or pesto.

This is a beautiful wild garlic lined path in Dalkeith Country Park:

and here is a close up I took recently alongside the River Almond:

for Shadow Shot Sunday

and I also posted a shadow shot over on my Shapeshifting Green blog.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Dalkeith Country Park - the ancient oaks

One of the things that Dalkeith Country Park is renowned for (as well as the bluebells, which you can see in Sunday's post) is its ancient oak wood. These trees are amazing, all gnarled and broken but still hanging on. The park management realised a few years ago that because of the livestock that lives in the oak wood very few seedlings were growing and the wood would one day die out. So they've planted seedlings in protected positions, putting fences round them to protect them from the cattle and rabbits. You can see two of these protected seedlings in the background of this photo which shows one of the (probably relatively young) mature oaks.

I like the contrast here between the ancient oak tree and the modern plane in the clouds!

There's something beautiful too about the empty acorn cup here:

and the patterns in the camopy here:

and finally, for Weekend Reflections:

May is Walk in the Woods month, find out more on the Tree Council website.