Women and the environment: Activists, pioneers, and gardeners. 

Join us next month for an exciting programme of events celebrating women activists, pioneers and gardeners.

Part of the Harpies, Fechters and Quines 2022 events programme, Women and the Environment: Activists, Pioneers, and Gardeners is a collaboration with the Bonnie Fechters, Glasgow Women’s Library and Edinburgh City Libraries.

The Three I’s: Isobel Gunn, Isabella Bird and Isobel Wylie Hutchison
Tuesday 7 June at 2pm, George Washington Browne Room, Central Library

Jane George, a tutor in Scottish women’s history and a member of the Bonnie Fechters, will give a talk on The Three I’s: Isobel Gunn, Isabella Bird and Isobel Wylie Hutchison, three unconventional, intrepid and inspirational women whose lives spanned three centuries and whose enthusiasm for exploring and travelling in relatively unknown environments challenged the social conventions of their time.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

“Scots women who chose to challenge”
Wednesday 8 June at 11am, George Washington Browne Room, Central Library

Jackie Sangster is a Learning Manager with the Learning & Inclusion team at Historic Environment Scotland – working across Scotland to bring people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to discover, explore, understand, and be inspired by our historic environment. Mostly Jackie works with digital archive material from Scran – that’s ½ million records, not counting all the other HES archives such as Canmore. As a former teacher, she endeavours to make engagement with school and community groups as creative as possible. Allowing people to explore heritage in a meaningful and enjoyable way.

Her talk will explore archive material, meeting Scots women who‘ve made their mark in their respective fields whether in politics, law, medicine, the arts or the world of sport. Introducing some well know faces through archive photography and perhaps a few less familiar, but nonetheless inspiring individuals who chose to challenge their world.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

Sister Earth – Story Café
Wednesday 8 June at 1pm on Zoom, a women only event

In these uncertain times, nature has become more important than ever to us as a source of calm, and healing. In this story cafe, we look to women’s writings and stories of action that celebrate our natural environment, from urban gardeners and wild walkers to women working together on issues of climate change and preserving and protecting our natural environment. We’ll be reading from poetry, prose and fiction about how ordinary and extraordinary women are getting to grips with the present and future of our precious landscapes.  Grab a cup of tea and bit of cake, then sit back and enjoy!
Book through Glasgow Women’s Library

An introduction to climate change and why it’s important that we do something about it.
Thursday 9 June at 2pm, George Washington Browne Room, Central Library

Kirsten Leggatt is a Climate Change Consultant for Arup and a tutor on the online Carbon Management Masters at the University of Edinburgh. She is heavily involved as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Ambassador in schools teaching students and young people about the causes and consequences of climate change. In January 2020, she presented evidence to the UK Climate Assembly on the solutions to reaching the UK Government’s net-zero emissions target by 2050 and has since represented young people on the Stewarding Group for the Scottish Climate Assembly.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

The garden Ella grew – a Japanese garden in Scotland 
Monday 13 June at 11am, George Washington Browne Room, Central Library

The Japanese Garden, Cowden is a ‘wee’ gem, hidden amongst the hills of Clackmannanshire in Scotland. Created in 1908 by Japanese landscape architect Taki Handa, it was the dream of Ella Christie, independent traveller and explorer, who had journeyed to Japan herself the year before. In 2018 the garden opened to visitors after an extensive restoration project and today it’s unique beauty amongst the Ochil hills is available for everyone to see. 

Join us as we share its history and layout.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

Ground-breaking: Women at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Thursday 16 June at 2pm, George Washington Browne Room, Central Library

Graham Hardy is a member of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Library and Archives team. 

RBGE’s history has always been told from the vantage point of the Regius Keepers and Principal Gardens/Curators, because they leave the biggest historical record.  Tucked away in manuscript accounts and notebooks are the names of the men who were paid to do the work and also as time progressed from the middle of the eighteenth century women’s names start to appear.  

Using original source material from the collections, Graham will give an overview of some of the women who worked or were heavily involved with The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh from 1750 to the present. Their roles range from the anonymous women paid to weed to illustrators, tutors/teachers, gardeners, plant collectors, laboratory and herbarium staff, administrators, scientific researchers and research students. 

Graham’s research, undertaken when not working in his professional capacity, has been much helped by research both national and international on the topic and also by input and enthusiasm from colleagues, volunteers and research associates.  His research is ongoing.  There may be much for Graham and others still to unearth, but we will receive an excellent insight to how much has already been discovered.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

All events, apart from the online Story Cafe, take place in the George Washington Room at Central Library. The George Washington Browne Room is accessible by stairs or the public lift.

Fairtrade Fortnight: Monday 21 February to Sunday 6 March 2022

Edinburgh has held Fairtrade City status since 2004. Fairtrade is a movement to give better prices, fair terms of trade and improved working conditions for farmers and workers in the developing world.

Fairtrade Fortnight is an opportunity to stand with farmers in low-income countries affected by the climate crisis; a show of solidarity with communities on the frontline. Together we can help farmers benefit from fairer prices and fairer trading practices, and obtain the resources they need to tackle the climate emergency.

The climate crisis is the biggest threat to the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers and agricultural workers in low-income countries. Without a fairer income they are unable to invest in the mitigation and adaptation techniques needed to protect the environment and their businesses.    

Thousands of Fairtrade communities play a key role in raising awareness of the link between trade and poverty. Fairtrade fights the climate crisis: Fairtrade standards encourage producers to protect the environment by improving soil, planting trees, conserving water and avoiding pesticides, while Fairtrade’s climate academies help farmers share best practices and learn the latest agricultural methods to adapt to conditions.

Engage with Fairtrade Fortnight to protect people and planet, and buy Fairtrade products to make trade fairer for those in lower-income countries.  

We are facing an existential planetary threat.  Global heating is already disastrous for the farmers and workers who grow our food – they need cash to adapt.  Poverty and environmental damage in food supply chains will not end until exploited farmers are paid fairly and can plan for the future.  Only then can they effectively fight the impacts of the climate crisis. This matters to you as climate change threatens the survival and sustainability of supply chains behind some of the UK’s best-loved imports, such as coffee, cocoa and bananas.

Being a farmer shouldn’t be a route to poverty, and the Fairtrade Premium is vital to give farmers in low-income nations the tools to tackle the climate crisis.  For example, without it cocoa farmers only earn 3% of the price of a chocolate bar.  

Join us this Fairtrade Fortnight and act for climate justice.
There will be Fairtrade stalls at the following libraries where you’ll be able to speak to volunteers and find out more about the movement:
Central Library: Saturday 26 February and Saturday 5 March, 10.30am until about 2pm
Gilmerton Library: Saturday 26 February and Saturday 5 March, 10.30am until about 2pm
Morningside Library: Saturday 26 February and Saturday 5 March, 10.30am until about 2pm
South Queensferry Library: Saturday 26 February, 10.30am until about 2pm

Or for more information go to:
Fairtrade Foundation
World Fair Trade Organisation
Scottish Fair Trade Forum
Edinburgh Fairtrade City on Facebook

COP26 – How to Be a Responsible Activist

With so much talk about COP26 happening in the news and in schools, many pupils in Edinburgh secondary schools are becoming interested in campaigning and activism about issues that are important to them. But what makes a responsible activist? Catrina Randall from Young Friends of the Earth Scotland is here to help! Secondary school pupils across the city were given the opportunity by their school librarian to submit questions to Catrina via an online form. A small group of school librarians then had the challenge of selecting the best questions to put forward to Catrina. This interview is a culmination of their amazing questions and Catriona’s thought-provoking answers: 

Next steps? Pupils from eight Edinburgh secondary schools will put Catrina’s advice into practice and create their own protest banners on the issues that matter to them. The final banners will be revealed during COP26 – so watch this space!

Go outdoors to Edinburgh’s parks and greenspaces this Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week runs 10-16 May and this year’s theme is nature. During the Covid pandemic many of us have turned to nature as never before enjoying our local green spaces for exercise, for sustenance and to meet friends outside in a socially distanced way. Research on the mental health impacts of lockdown have shown that going for walks has been one of our top coping strategies. 

Edinburgh has many greenspaces with a wide variety of both managed and natural heritage environments to enjoy. Connecting with nature is central to our emotional and psychological wellbeing and we want to inspire you with some of our favourite greenspaces managed by the City of Edinburgh Council to get out and open yourself up to connecting with nature.  

Where can I go? 

What’s your favourite park in Edinburgh? Are you looking for new ideas of where to go? Search the directory of parks and greenspaces to find a space or just trawl through the A to Z of records. It’s amazing the variety of size, shape and location of places to visit. Below are some of our favourites. 

Princes Street Gardens 

An ornate fountain is surrounded by flowers in the park beneath Edinburgh Castle.
Ross Fountain and Edinburgh Castle, image from Capital Collections

Don’t we all just love Princes Street Gardens? Nestling in a valley between the Old and the New Town this beautifully manicured garden with floral clock, welcome benches and gentle slopes for sitting out on, shaded with trees, provides welcome respite from the usual hustle and bustle of the city centre and plenty of space for friends and family to meet and walk.
Admire the floral clock – did you know it was first planted in 1903 and each year the planting scheme commemorates a special anniversary? You can enjoy the gardens from home by looking at the Libraries’ collection of images on our online Capital Collections Princes Street Gardens exhibition

Saughton Park and Gardens

A mass of daisies in a formal garden and the roof of a bandstand is visible in the distance.
Saughton Park and Gardens

Situated in Balgreen in the south west of Edinburgh, Saughton Park and Gardens is a hidden gem of a park. Saughton Park combines formal classical gardens featuring Edinburgh’s largest herbaceous border, flower and heather beds and a Scottish Physic garden with playing fields, an athletics track and the biggest skateboard park in Scotland.  There really is something for everyone! If you want to get more involved in the park, join the Friends of Saughton Park and Gardens

Leith Links

Information board at entrance to a park.
Leith Links entrance at Links Gardens. Image from Capital Collections

Situated in the north of the city, Leith Links provides a large open space with tree-lined avenues and walkways well used by families, joggers, dog walkers and the whole community besides! Leith Links is steeped in history as the site of the Siege of Leith in 1560 and during the 17th and 18th centuries was a premier place to play golf. Leith Links became formalised as a public park in 1888 and today is very much a central park for the local community with the Edinburgh Mela and Leith Festival sited there. Enjoy the community orchard, tennis courts, play area or just take a seat and watch the world go by. Search for images of Leith Links on the Libraries’ Capital Collections image gallery. 

Water of Leith

Red painted sign on stone pillar at entrance to a wooded walkway beside a river.
Water of Leith Walkway plaque, Coburg Street. Image from Capital Collections

If you’re looking for a walkway taking through different areas of Edinburgh explore the Water of Leith Walkway. Starting in Balerno at Bridge Road, the walkway winds its way to Leith passing through Balerno, Currie and Juniper Green before reaching Colinton and Craiglockhart Dell. The Dell is a wooded gorge and haven for wildlife. Beyond the Dell the river passes the Water of Leith Conservation Trust before hitting Gorgie, Saughton, the Dean Bridge, Stockbridge and onto Leith. There are plenty of access points to the Walkway along the path of the river. A place of history the river once powered 90 water mills providing paper, snuff, linen and flour and the remnants of these activities can be seen in the weirs and buildings along the river.  Explore on foot and find images of the Walkway illustrating its history on the Libraries’ Capital Collections image gallery. 

Cramond Foreshore

A view of a row of white houses. Large stones and boulders line the road in front.
The foreshore, Cramond, c1895.
Image from Capital Collections

From Joppa to South Queensferry there are many places along the Firth of Forth to enjoy coastal walks and breathe in the sea air. Cramond Foreshore accessed from Cramond Glebe Road takes you down to the shoreline where you can look across to Fife and across to Berwick Law. There’s a café, toilets, an outdoor gym and seating but you can walk along the shoreline or out to Cramond Island at low tide. Cramond is one of Edinburgh’s oldest villages and longest known period of human settlement. Back from the shore you can also explore the more secluded Crammond Walled Garden where you’ll find seating and play equipment for both toddlers and teenagers. Enjoy the exhibition of some 100 photographs illustrating the history of Cramond during the 19th and 20th centuries on Edinburgh Libraries Capital Collections image library.  

Cammo Estate Local Nature Reserve

Steps lead up a grassy slope to a stone wall and the remnants of doorway.
Cammo Local Nature Reserve

Not far from Crammond is the natural heritage site Cammo Estate Local Nature Reserve on the western fringes of the city. Cammo is a large estate with woodlands, mature trees, open grassland, a walled garden and ruins of buildings that once formed part of the Estate. There’s a lot of interest in terms of both wildlife and fauna with plenty of space for people to spread out and for dogs to enjoy running about. Cammo House has an interesting history: bequeathed to the National Trust in in 1975 following the death Percival Maitland-Tennant, the last occupier of Cammo House. In 1977 the house was partly destroyed by two separate fires which left only the chimney stack and outside walls standing. The house was considered unsafe and partially demolished. The National Trust feud the estate to the City of Edinburgh Council. Read more about the history of Cammo House and its owners on Edinburgh Libraries Tales of One City blog. 

There is much to do at Cammo with a permanent orienteering course, a QR trail, seating to stop and admire the views and designated walks.  

If natural heritage sites are what you enjoy why not visit the Hermitage of Braid Local Nature Reserve on the southern side of the city?
Or use the Edinburgh Outdoors website to find greenspaces near you.  

Edinburgh is full of parks and greenspaces including those managed by other organisations which are also free to access including Holyrood Park and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.  

One tip for enjoying a deeper connection with nature, try taking your shoes and socks off and feel the grass or the sand underneath your feet. Walk about barefoot. This practice of earthing connects us to the Earth’s surface electrons transferring energy from the ground to a body. How good does sand feel beneath your feet and to walk barefoot along the sea shore? 

What’s your favourite park or greenspace?  

Patrick Geddes and Edinburgh

In another addition to Our Town Stories we feature a noted biologist and botanist who went on to be a pioneer in the field of town planning – Patrick Geddes.

Geddes’ work in Edinburgh brought about the redevelopment of a number of parts of the Old Town which were abandoned as slums in the late 1700s when the New Town was developed. Geddes believed that in order to understand and improve conditions it was necessary to share a community’s experience. With his wife, he chose to live in James Court in the Lawnmarket which at the time was considered housing for the poor.

They started cleaning and painting their new home, encouraging their neighbours to do the same. Working with the residents he transformed spaces he had cleared into community gardens.

Geddes worked with Edinburgh University to produce a series of halls of residence, the most striking of these being Ramsay Gardens which was a mixture of student accommodation and private flats.

Drawing of University hall extension at Castle Hill
University hall extension, Castle Hill, 1893

Geddes was involved in the improvement of Moray House, Huntly House and Whitehorse Close. Another project involved transforming Short’s Observatory on Castlehill into the ‘worlds first sociological laboratory’, The Outlook Tower, now the Camera Obscura.

His work in improving slums in Edinburgh led to him travelling to India at the invitation of the Governor of Madras to advise on urban planning issues. He subsequently held a position in Sociology and Civics at Bombay University.

Sir Patrick Geddes, by Lafayette (Lafayette Ltd) half-plate nitrate negative, 30 December 1931. Given by Pinewood Studios via Victoria and Albert Museum, 1989 © National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG x47992), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Geddes’ health began to deteriorate in 1924 and he left India to settle in Montpelier in the South of France.

He was knighted in 1931 and died in Montpelier in 1932.

Find out more about the celebrated environmentalist and sociologist and his lasting legacy on the city in our Patrick Geddes and Edinburgh story on Our Town Stories.

Green fingers at Oxgangs Library

For the past year here at Oxgangs Library we have been working hard to improve the green spaces around the library. This has been done with the help of the community, especially the local children who have played a pivotal role in getting things done!

Initially the kids seemed unsure, can gardening really be that exciting? Well it turns out… it can!

Our first project involved planting some lovely pollinator friendly bulbs at the front of the library, these were a mix of snowdrops, crocus and snakes head fritillary. Although the local earthworm population might be a bit disgruntled, it turns out they have played a key role in getting the kids involved. Who can find the biggest earthworm providing all the motivation needed to get stuck in do some digging.

We then set our sights on bigger goals! Our attention was brought to the wonderful Free Trees scheme by the Woodland Trust, so we decided to apply for a hedging pack. This provided us with a whopping 36 trees, including Dogrose, Dogwood, Crab Apple, Hawthorn and Hazel! These arrived mid-November and were successfully planted once the ground had thawed, again with the kids providing a helping hand.

Box of saplings from the Woodland Trust

We are looking forward to these maturing over the next couple of years. Not only will our new hedge provide food and shelter for local wildlife, it will also provide a nice outdoor space were the community can feel closer to, and learn about, nature.

If you would like free trees from the woodland trust scheme, please find more details here https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/schools-and-communities/


Green Pencil Award 2012

“The Green Pencil Award is surely one of the most important children’s writing competitions there is. Year after year it fires up children’s imaginations about topics that really affect us all. I’m very much looking forward to hear what the boys and girls will say about ‘Birds & Beasties’. I know it will be imaginative, thought-provoking – and, most of all, exciting!”

– Edinburgh Makar Ron Butlin

This year’s Green Pencil Award for children in the P4 – P7 age range was launched yesterday at the Hermitage of Braid by pupils from Pentland Primary School and Reader in Residence Ryan Van Winkle.

The theme this year is ‘Birds & Beasties’, encouraging entrants to write about wildlife they encounter in spaces such as their garden or local park .

In addition to the trophy there are various activity prizes for the winner and their class mates donated by the Scottish Seabird Centre, RSPB, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Forestry Commission Scotland, Forest Rangers, Scottish Natural Heritage and The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

More details at http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/greenpencilaward