This Plan has been prepared by the Friends of Easter Craiglockhart Hill. It aims to complement the Management Plan for Easter Craiglockhart Hill Local Nature Reserve prepared by the Natural Heritage Section of the City of Edinburgh Council. The previous Management Plan covered the period from 2010 to 2015 and we hope a new plan will be drafted during 2021. The Council’s plan will focus on statutory requirements and good practice in protecting the natural environment. Our Plan looks at micro-management issues with greater emphasis on usage, access, inclusion and community involvement. We hope that the two plans will be complementary.
The Council’s Plan will cover a period of 10 years. We cannot see that far ahead so our plan only covers the next three years. Who could have predicted that, in 2020, we would be faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and a major landslip?
There is lots of information in the Plan and some lovely photos. You can read it all or just the bits that interest you most. If, for example, you are interested in the pond, go to that section in the ‘Places’ chapter. If you are concerned about litter, go to that section in the ‘Problems’ chapter. The final chapter sets out our plans for the years ahead – better paths, more play areas, clearer signage and an Outdoor Learning Resource Pack.
We want to get as much feedback as possible on our Plan from people who enjoy spending time on Easter Craiglockhart Hill. If you would like to leave a comment you can leave a message on the contact page.
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1. The Hill
Easter Craiglockhart Hill is one of the ‘Seven Hills’ of Edinburgh. The height of 525 feet is modest but the views from the hill-top across Fife, the Lothians and the Borders are outstanding.
Some 250 million years ago, the Craiglockhart Hills were formed by volcanic action and the distinctive grainy basalt on the cliffs and hill-top is known to geologists as Craiglockhart basalt. The land was shaped by glaciers during the last Ice Age when the valley between Easter and Wester Craiglockhart Hills was carved out.
Two ‘heroes’ also shaped the Hill. In 1773, Alexander Monro Secundus, Professor of Anatomy at Edinburgh University, purchased a 271 acre estate which included most of Easter Craiglockhart Hill and much of what later became the sedate suburb of Craiglockhart. Monro was a passionate gardener and planted thousands of native trees across his estate – some of the mature trees in the woodlands may have been planted by him. Our second hero is John Cox, owner of the nearby Gorgie Glue works, who, one hundred years later in 1873, built a stone causeway across the Megget Burn and so created ponds for skating, curling and boating.
In Victorian times, much of the original Craiglockhart estate was sold off for housing. The southern side of the Hill became the Merchants Golf Course and a Mental Health Hospital was built on the Craighouse land to the east. However, most of Easter Craiglockhart Hill – some 35 acres in total – is relatively untouched by modern development. Little more than 2 miles from Princes Street, it is an oasis of tranquillity in the heart of a busy city.
In 2005, Easter Craiglockhart Hill was designated as a Local Nature Reserve. The resident swans are a big attraction. Coots, moorhens, mallards, tufted ducks and little grebes all raise families despite the depredations of the local gulls. Goosanders and Canada geese are frequent visitors while kingfishers, herons and cormorants visit from time to time. Resident raptors in the Craiglockhart Hills include buzzards, kestrels and sparrow hawks. Occasionally a high-flying peregrine visits from the Pentlands. Woodland birds include bull finches, goldcrests, blackcaps, nuthatches and woodpeckers.
Walkers at dawn or dusk are sometimes lucky enough to spot roe deer. There are several fox dens and our resident badgers raised three cubs in 2020. Other mammals include three species of bats and a large population of grey squirrels.
User surveys have confirmed that the Hill is extensively used. 95% of visitors are from Edinburgh and 91% visit at least weekly. Our estimate based on these surveys was that about 200,000 visits are made over the course of a year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least double that number visited in 2020.
In 2008, the Local Nature Reserve was one of the first green spaces in Edinburgh to be awarded a Green Flag. The high environmental and management standards of the Green Flag scheme have been met every year since then. The flag flies proudly at the Craiglockhart Terrace entrance. Each year, the Council assesses more than 150 parks, Nature Reserves and other green spaces against Green Flag standards. In 2019, these Park Quality Assessments gave Easter Craiglockhart Hill Local Nature Reserve a higher rating than any other green space in Edinburgh.
The Friends Group was established in 1998 and merged with a Nature Trail Group in 2010.
Our constitution states that our aims are to:
(a) preserve and protect Easter Craiglockhart Hill Local Nature Reserve for the enjoyment of members of the public
(b) promote inclusion, access and learning.
(c) conserve and enhance wildlife and biodiversity.
(d) consult with and involve the members of the organisation and members of the local community in the management of Easter Craiglockhart Hill Local Nature Reserve.
(e) raise and administer funds for maintenance, developments and improvements.
(f) work closely with City of Edinburgh Council, the landowner, and with other relevant organisations whose interests include the protection and preservation of Easter Craiglockhart Hill Local Nature Reserve or of the environment in general.
In the years ahead, we want to promote responsible usage so that more people from the local community and from further afield can enjoy spending time on the Hill. We do not want just to preserve the Hill – we aim to improve it. Over the past twenty years, the Friends Group has been able to source more than £150,000 to finance improvements.
Over the period of this Plan, we will be working in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council to look at various options for the future management of the Local Nature Reserve.
The Craighouse site to the east of Easter Craiglockhart Hill was first used for a Mental Health Hospital, then became a campus of Edinburgh Napier University. After the University decided to sell the site, a controversial housing development was given planning permission. A condition of the planning permission was that three areas of woodland on the Craighouse site should transfer into Council ownership and become part of an enlarged Local Nature Reserve. The transfer took place in March 2018 and significantly increased the size of the Local Nature Reserve.
In 2013, the Council carried out a comprehensive consultation with the local community about the ownership and management of these woodlands and the wider Local Nature Reserve.The outcome was that the Council committed to take ownership of the woodlands on a transitional basis “with the community moving towards full community ownership and management over a period of time (e.g. 5 years) during which time the community is able to raise funds and show its ability to manage the land” (CEC Corporate Policy and Strategy Report – 11.6.2013). The expectation was that “the community group could take on an increasing number of tasks and requirements of land management” including access improvements, habitat management, site interpretation and site prescence. In order to move to alternative management options, a community group would then need to put together a sustainable Business Plan and demonstrate capacity and competence in these tasks and requirements. This Plan is one step in a process which could lead to a change in the way the Local Nature Reserve is managed in the future.
Maximise opportunities for learning land management skills through joint training and by working alongside Council staff.
Look at all options for future management and consult fully with members and local stakeholders.
A further condition of the Craighouse planning permission was that a payment of £150,000 should be made under Section 75 of the Town and Country Planning Act and “applied by the Council towards maintaining the woodland areas in perpetuity for the benefit of the Development and the wider community”. This payment was received by the Council in 2018. Given the expectation of greater community involvement in management, it is essential that community bodies are involved and consulted about the spending of this fund. In the three years since the receipt of the Section 75 payment, only a small sum has been released from the fund for one path improvement. It is clear, however, that significant additional spending is required to improve paths, signage, seating and other facilities in line with the terms of the grant.
Agree, in consultation with the Council, priorities for spending of the Section 75 fund for the “benefit of the community”.
Ensure that the views of the community are fully and properly taken into account in decision making.
In April 2018, the Friends Group was awarded a grant of £42,547 from the Community Led Activity Fund of the Big Lottery Scotland to cover the costs of employing a part-time Community Engagement Worker for three years. The worker came into post in January 2019 and funding will support this post at least until the end of 2021. A huge contribution has already been made towards achieving the goals set out in this Plan.
The Community Engagement Worker has:
- Increased volunteer activity and land management skills through the Hill Work Squad and other volunteer initiatives
- Begun to develop information and learning materials for young people and for people with additional needs
- Planned and delivered a range of events and activities aiming to be as inclusive as possible
- Boosted the social media profile of the Friends Group and promoted Easter Craiglockhart Hill as a location for sport, exercise and family outings
- Increased the active membership of the Friends Group
- Liaised with the Forestry and Natural Heritage section of the Council and with a wide range of community and environmental organisations
- Gathered feedback and consulted on activities and forward plans
Consolidate current work and plan future work to meet agreed objectives.
Look at possibilities for continuing the post beyond the expiry of the Lottery grant.
The Friends Group exists to represent the views of the community. These views are often expressed informally. Friends and neighbours meet when walking the dog or feeding the ducks on the pond.
The AGM offers a more structured opportunity for community feedback. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not possible to organise an AGM in 2020.
The Friends Group will use AGMs, events, the website and social media to get feedback about this plan and future plans. We will listen to all views and consider all ideas and try always to act in the best interests of the community.
Use every possible means to get feedback to guide future plans and actions.
Alexander Munro was a leading figure of the ‘Edinburgh Enlightenment’ and a jovial character. He was happy for the people of Edinburgh to walk in the Craiglockhart Hills. He could be described as an early supporter of the ‘Right to Roam’.
John Cox was a showman and an entrepreneur. Skating, curling and boating were popular from the 1870’s onwards in the ponds he created. At the western end of the ponds, military bands played in a bandstand under the illumination of gas lights. An amusement park was built in the 1930’s and the lower area of Craiglockhart Woods became known as ‘Happy Valley’. There were ice cream stalls and tearooms and a dance hall and swings and roundabouts for children – it was the Disneyland of its times. As recently as the 1970’s, boats and pedalos could still be hired at the pond.
So, for nearly 250 years, Easter Craiglockhart Hill has been a destination where the people of Edinburgh could relax, exercise, have fun and enjoy the natural world.
That is still the case today. People visit the Hill for many different reasons. A survey in 2015 identified some of the different groups of users. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that usage by all groups increased significantly during 2020.
Most visitors to the hill come to walk and enjoy spending time in a natural environment. Some use the paths as a short-cut to other destinations such as the local shops or the Craiglockhart Leisure Centre. Some come to pursue specific interests such as bird watching or photography. There are some ‘regulars’ who visit daily to feed the swans and ducks.
Many walkers, and especially at weekends, visit because they seek peace, serenity, green space and closeness to nature. Research has proved that spending time in ‘green spaces’ has a positive impact on mental health and well-being.
Our survey found that more than a quarter of the visitors to the Hill were dog walkers and empirical observation suggests the proportion could be even higher. Dog walkers like being able to exercise their dogs in an open and safe environment. The majority of the dog walkers live locally though some drive and park at one of the entrances. The dog walkers are an informal network and often the first to identify and report back on anything unusual or untoward on the Hill.
The walkers include a sub-group of foragers. They pick the brambles, and wild raspberries which grow in abundance on the northern slopes of the Hill. They harvest the apples and plums from Craighouse and from the little orchard at the Craiglockhart Terrace entrance. They gather native herbs from our small raised bed, wild garlic and even the pernicious few-flowered leek to add flavour to their cooking. There are many other edible plants which can be gathered around the Hill. A Foragers’ Walk in 2019 was well attended and identified many of the plants which can be used for medical or culinary purposes.
Repeat the Foragers Walk on our ‘Walks and Talks’ programme.
Add a Foragers Guide to our website.
The path from the Craiglockhart Terrace entrance to the Leisure Centre entrance is part of Cycle Route 15. Many other paths are stepped which acts as a disincentive to cycle use.
Some cyclists use the paths to commute between home and work, sometimes linking to the Union Canal path. Families with small children are frequent weekend visitors, often combining cycling with feeding the water birds or playing on our simple play structures.
There is a bike rack at the Craiglockhart Terrace entrance and cyclists use railings at several other entrances. There are, however, several entrances where there are no bike racks or suitable ways of securing a bike. The Council have a policy of not installing bike racks within a park or Local Nature Reserve but there are several internal locations where it would be helpful to cyclists to have a bike rack.
Work with the Council to get additional bike racks installed in suitable locations.
Seek permission and alternative funding if the Council is unable to provide and install bike racks.
Significant damage to the environment can be caused by mountain bikers leaving established paths and creating their own trails. There are also safety risks to other users. Mountain biker usage has not, however, been a significant problem on Easter Craiglockhart Hill though there is some evidence of erosion to the side of paths and of informal trails from the hill-top down through the woodlands. In the past, some ‘jump’ structures created by bikers have been removed. It seems unnecessary and possibly counter-productive to attempt to block trails.
Monitor mountain bike usage together with the Council with a view to remedial action if necessary.
The Hill is popular with runners. They are under-represented in our surveys due to the difficulty of intercepting them.
The Seven Hills of Edinburgh race in July brings upwards of 600 runners to the hill-top entering through the Leisure Centre and exiting through the Craighouse estate.
We would like to encourage more use of the Hill for running and exercise in accordance with Active Scotland and Green Gym principles.
We would need to consider the impact on the environment of these activities and avoid mass events that could cause damage.
Highlight the potential of the Hill for running and exercise on the website and on social media.
Explore the possibility of creating a fitness trail using exercise stations or ‘Trimtrack’ exercise points.
Craiglockhart Primary School started their Forest School Initiative in 2014 and meet in the woods every Wednesday. Every class in the school spends four sessions following the Forest School curriculum which combines play and exercise with learning about the natural world. The Forest School ‘hub’ is at the north-east corner of the Local Nature Reserve. Several other local schools – notably George Watsons College and South Morningside School – are also frequent visitors.
The nearest nursery is ‘Little Monkeys’ and, during 2020, groups of nursery children visited the woods on most week days for prolonged outdoor play sessions. Other organised groups spending time in the Local Nature Reserve include Corner House Nursery, the Activator Holiday Play Scheme run by Craiglockhart Leisure Centre, Earth Calling, Art Buds and local Cubs, Scouts, Rainbows, Brownies and Guides. The Cubs built and installed a splendid bug house in 2016.
Several small ‘rustic’ play areas have been created to encourage families with young children to visit the Local Nature Reserve. These simple play areas have been popular and well-used – especially by the pre-school children for whom they were designed.
Some local residents have complained about habitat damage in the areas where the children spend their time. It could be argued that the opening up of a few areas previously dominated by nettles and brambles is of benefit to all. We could rotate the designated locations for Forest School and other organised youth activities to reduce habitat damage.
Many of the children who spend structured time in the Local Nature Reserve with their school, nursery or youth club return to play informally at weekends and during holidays or visit with other family members. We would like to provide some learning opportunities to these families at these times. In the summer of 2019 and 2020, we piloted ‘Family Fun Days’ with a variety of different craft and exercise activities.
We want to work with local schools and youth groups (including those in areas less advantaged than Craiglockhart) to encourage them to spend time on the hill and learn about their local environment. Using our experiences on the Family Fun days, we plan to design and distribute a Learning Resource Pack for use by schools and youth groups. This Pack will link learning materials and activities to specific locations within the Local Nature Reserve – a section, for example, on activities suitable around the pond area or around the meadows on the hill-top.
Monitor environmental damage from organised youth activities and take remedial action where necessary.
Repeat Family Fun Days
Design and distribute a Learning Resource Pack containing learning materials and environmental activities for primary age children.
People with Additional Needs
We have made initial contacts with some of the local services for people with physical and learning disabilities. Initial contacts suggest that the people who use these services would enjoy spending time in the Local Nature Reserve.
There are a number of Care Homes and Sheltered Housing complexes in surrounding communities such as Craiglockhart and Morningside. The people living there could also be encouraged through visits and publicity to visit the Local Nature Reserve. We would like to encourage people with dementia and their carers to spend time in the Local Nature Reserve.
Aim to be more inclusive by taking specific initiatives to encourage people with additional needs to make greater use of the Local Nature Reserve.
There are many different habitats within the Local Nature Reserve each requiring specific micro-management strategies.
The pond has a rectangular shape and covers an area of about 500 square metres with an average depth of about a metre. No fishing is allowed on the pond and, in any case, there are no fish worth catching despite attempts in the past by local anglers to introduce chub and carp. Despite the long history of boating, no boating now takes place. In a local ‘cause celebre’ in 2014 (reported on the BBC news and on the front pages of ‘The Scotsman’ and the ‘Glasgow Herald’), the longstanding kayaking school had to be cancelled, on health and safety grounds, since the resident male swan had persistently attacked the young kayakers.
Craiglockhart Pond was built for recreational uses like boating and skating but has evolved into more of a wildlife reserve. In 2005, the eastern shore of the pond was planted with willows and aquatic plants to provide nesting areas for water birds.
In cold winters, the pond sometimes freezes over. It is not, however, safe to walk or skate upon the pond. The ice is almost always too thin and the water is more than 4 feet deep in places with deep silt beneath. Those who venture onto the ice put themselves and others in danger.
Place ice warning notices on social media if the pond freezes over to the extent that people might be tempted to venture onto the ice.
There have been concerns over water quality in the pond especially in times of low rainfall and there has occasionally been some evidence of algal bloom. Many people feed the birds and this may mean that the pond supports more birds than it would naturally. Droppings, uneaten food and accumulated leaf-fall contribute to the thick silt layer in the pond and may raise levels of nitrates and phosphates.
Ensure that algal bloom and water quality is regularly monitored and reported to the Council for remedial action.
Despite a high density of water birds, nesting habitats are limited. The western side of the pond is eroding and the rising water table makes paths muddy across the top of the pond. Privet (which is not a native species) grows between the path and the water edge on one side of the pond.
To improve nesting and roosting habitats, we could:
- Plant willow and other water-loving plants and shrubs along the side of the pond with a view to eventually replacing the privet
- Build a barrier fence along this same side using woven coppiced wood to protect nesting birds and keep dogs out of the water
- Build up the shore at the top of the pond using gabions (wire cages filled with stone) to stop erosion and create new nesting habitats
- Create an island in the middle of the pond (there once was such an island) or a spit built out from the north-west shore to break up the present ‘rectangular’ shape of the pond
- Introduce ‘floating islands’ in suitable areas of the pond to further increase nesting habitats
- Remove and infill the wooden pontoons on the north-west edge of the pond
Explore whether funding could be found for a feasibility study into these possible initiatives
North-West Shore of pond
This area lies in front of the Leisure Centre Gym. A double gate at one end marks the most used entrance to the Local Nature Reserve. This area has become the most popular feeding station for the swans and water birds.
Over the past couple of years, The Friends Group has, in partnership with the Council and the Leisure Centre, tried to make this area more attractive to visitors by:
- Filling and planting the ‘ponds’ within the wooden pontoons
- Digging out areas on either side of the boundary fence and planting with wildflower seeds and plugs
- Placing a wooden memorial bench beside the path and a ‘Lest We Forget’ metal bench overlooking the pond
- Planting a living willow structure in the shape of a pirate ship for children to play around.
We have placed some snapframes in this area to give information about water birds and advice on responsible feeding for them. Given the popularity of this area, more detailed and more robust interpretation material could be provided.
Consolidate and extend the landscaping initiatives.
Plan, together with the Council, how best to provide better information and interpretation.
There is a marsh area to the east of the pond where the outflow leaves the pond. This is an unusual and valuable habitat in the Edinburgh area. Frogs, toads, newts and leeches are found in the marsh. Ponds and pools have been dug out to provide better habitats for these amphibians. Greater willow-herb dominates some areas of the marsh to the exclusion of other plants such as marsh orchids. Volunteers have been deployed to pull out the willow-herb and allow other plants to flourish.
Deploy volunteers to continue to create ponds and pools and to control willow-herb.
The Craiglockhart Curling Rink Area
Waverley Curling Club constructed several curling rinks to the north-east of the Hill in the late 19thand early 20th centuries. Most were gradually lost to housing developments. One, at what is now the Craiglockhart Terrace entrance, survived the longest. Though derelict for decades, generations of children enjoyed riding bikes and playing football and outdoor games on the concrete surface. In 1998, the Council proposed that a swathe of land between Craiglockhart Terrace and Lockharton Crescent should be sold to housing developers. The community opposed this proposal. The Council agreed to put the land sale on hold provided that the community demonstrated capacity to look after and improve the area. In the following few years, thanks to community donations and fundraising of more than ten thousand pounds, trees were planted, paths constructed, the out-buildings of a derelict hotel were demolished and the curling rink surface was broken up and filled in. The housing development proposals were, accordingly, withdrawn.
The curling rink area has been gradually improved over the years with:
- A small orchard with apple, plum and greengage trees
- A raised bed with native herbs for community use
- A planter seat
- A small wildflower plot
- A living willow tunnel (known as the Magic Tunnel) and some simple play structures using recycled wood
The funding for all these initiatives was sourced by the Friends Group. All structures were built or installed by volunteers and all maintenance is carried out by the Friends Group.
From 2015 to 2017, the whin surface covering the old curling rink was used for summer evening petanque sessions. Although there were nearly 1000 attendances at the petanque sessions over the three years, numbers declined slowly and the sessions were discontinued though informal use continues.
There are a number of possible options for the future use of this space – the only open flat space in the lower part of the Hill:
- A grassed area with additional seating
- A community garden with raised beds or allotment plots
- An outdoor gym
- A playpark extending the existing play space
Part of the area could be designed specifically for older people and people with dementia: amenities could include specialised fitness equipment for low impact exercise, a small relaxation garden with sensory planting, a few small raised beds for gardening and plenty of seating.
Alternatively, the whin surface could just be left as it is but used:
- As a venue for concerts and theatre (perhaps during the Festival)
- For annual fetes (these were organised from 2001 to 2012)
- For a community bonfire on Guy Fawkes night (older residents remember bonfires on this site during the 1980’s and 1990’s)
Continue to maintain the existing structures.
Assess alternative uses for the area, produce proposals and consult with neighbours.
The Hill Top
This area is part open meadow and part scrub dominated by gorse, brambles and willowherb. The upper and lower meadow areas are a valuable habitat for birds and insects. A view-point to the north-east looks out over Edinburgh and Fife. The hill top is a popular destination and the views are excellent.
The meadows are mown in May and September by the Estates Team of the Council’s Natural Heritage Service and then raked by a volunteer squad from Lothian Conservation Volunteers.
There are three memorial benches on the hill-top – all need some repair work around the base.
There is no information or interpretation material on the hill-top. Visitors would appreciate ‘panorama’ boards describing the features across the points of the compass.
Assess, together with the Council, how volunteer management of the meadow areas can best be provided.
Seek funding for two panorama boards displaying the urban and geographical features both to the north and the south.
There is mature woodland to the west of the Hill with many ancient trees. The wetter areas at the foot of the hill are dominated by birch and willow. The woodlands are managed by the Forestry Team of the Council who inspect on a regular basis. Many woodland areas present access problems for large Forestry vehicles.
There are some open areas which could be planted with native species such as oak and Scots pine to counter-balance the dominant regeneration of ash and sycamore. Similar action could also be taken when trees fall or are felled.
Underplanting of bulbs (snowdrops and native daffodils) and of some native plants has been carried out in the lower woods. We plan to continue these planting initiatives using our Hill Work Squad and other volunteer groups.
Promote the planting of native tree and plant species both by the Forestry Team and by volunteers
The woodlands transferred from the Craighouse estate are mixed woodland with some good specimens of beech, horse chestnut and Corsican pine and some planted areas of pine and larch.
As elsewhere, there are some open areas which could be replanted with native species such as oak and Scots pine to prevent colonisation by ash and sycamore. Similar action could also be taken when trees fall or are felled and more action may be needed as ash dieback advances.
Some underplanting of bulbs and native plants would also benefit Craighouse Woods as would removal of laurel, rhododendron and some of the Rosebay willowherb.
A small play area was built during 2020 in Craighouse Woods using felled timber recycled from elsewhere in the Local Nature Reserve.
A curling rink was built in the Craighouse woods around 1900 for the benefit of the patients at Craighouse Hospital. It is the only intact historic curling rink in Edinburgh and few remain elsewhere in Scotland. During 2020, work was carried out by Green Team volunteers and pupils from George Watsons College to clear the site. The concrete surface is 40 metres long and just over 5 metres wide. During 2021, we will look at options for the future use of this space. We would try to avoid damaging the existing surface. We would also try to avoid any usage which would have a negative impact on the amenity of the nearby West Craig houses which are likely to be built in 2022 on the Craighouse estate. Possibilities include a playspace for children using ‘playground’ markings for hopscotch, mazes and activity trails. Another possibility would be an exercise circuit for adults with exercise stations around the perimeter of the rink.
Replant open or cleared areas.
Carry out appropriate underplanting and species removal.
Maintain play area.
Complete clearance of historic curling rink and consider uses for the cleared site.
There are two recognised viewpoints on the Hill both looking out over Edinburgh to the north. There is no directional signage to these viewpoints and no interpretation information. Undergrowth often obscures the views in summer.
The ‘lower’ viewpoint in Craiglockhart Woods is a popular site for teenage gatherings. Fires are frequent in the open space above the viewpoint.
Work with the Council to improve signage, information and undergrowth clearance around recognised viewpoints.
Plant shrubs in the open area near the lower viewpoint to discourage the building of fires.
Four wildflower areas have been established in recent years.
- A small wildflower plot (about 100 square metres) was created in the curling rink area in 2014.
- A larger wildflower meadow (about 300 square metres) was established in the western half of the lower meadow also in 2014.
- Another small area (about 50 square metres) was established in 2016 on either side of the path at the west shore of the pond.
- A fourth area was planted early in 2018 above the ‘campus’ path between the upper and lower meadows as a remedial measure following disruption caused by the laying of a water pipe to the Craighouse development.
The meadows have been sown with a wildflower seed mix. In some areas, supplementary planting with wildflower plugs has been carried out by volunteers.
Deploy volunteers to rake, weed, reseed and plant plugs in the existing meadows.
Review options either for replacement or extension of the wildflower meadows.
By comparison with the other hills of Edinburgh, there is little archaeological evidence of historic settlement. There was an Iron Age fort on nearby Wester Craiglockhart Hill and it is possible that outlying settlements or fortifications could have been established on Easter Craiglockhart Hill.
Features of historical interest include:
- The ruined dovecot below Old Craig (photos exist of the building which was largely intact until the 1930’s)
- The two water storage tanks hidden in the gorse below the hill-top
- The two curling rinks at Craiglockhart Terrace (covered with whin) and in Craighouse Woods (recently uncovered)
Look for any evidence of previous settlement
A consultation about plans for the Craiglockhart curling rink area was carried out in 2012. Several parents of young children commented on the lack of local play facilities especially for pre-school children.
With funding from South-West Neighbourhood Partnership, funding was secured to build some simple play structures dispersed across five sites in the lower woods. The structures were designed and installed by Earth Calling –a local environmental education organisation. Council officials provided advice and guidance (and all the woodchip). The simple wooden structures are made from local felled or fallen timber. The stepping stones, balance beams and log walks contain no metal or plastic and are designed to be compatible with the natural environment. In three of the play areas, there are living willow structures – a maze, a tunnel and a pirate ship.
The structures have proved to be very popular with local families with young children. All maintenance (fungicide application, wood preserver application, replacement wood, willow pruning, woodchip renewal etc) is carried out by the Friends Group.
In 2020, two further play areas were created in the upper woods and a site for another has been cleared and framed near to the Craighouse Road entrance to the Local Nature Reserve.
Continue to maintain the play trail structures.
Seek funding to construct a new play site at the Craighouse Road entrance site.
5. Protecting Wildlife
Swans have nested on the pond for more than a hundred years. There has been much debate concerning the nesting site for the swans. For many years, the swans nested on an ‘island’ on the northern side of the pond. In 2015, the swans chose to nest at a site in the reedbed area at the south-east corner of the pond. This nest was predated by dogs or foxes and the male swan was killed.
For the past five years, the current pair of swans have continued to build their nest in this reedbed area. Despite the seeming vulnerability of this location, they have raised large broods of cygnets every year.
Monitor nest locations and nesting success.
Continue to inform the public about the swans through newsletters, snapframe information and social media.
Badgers have visited the hill for many years and raised three cubs in 2020. As a result of the landslip, the sett location has changed but their welfare continues to be monitored through camera traps
Continue to monitor welfare of badgers and ensure that statutory protections are implemented
The large population of gray squirrels results in a lot of damage to the woodland trees especially to sycamores. Easter Craiglockhart Hill could possibly be a location for the reintroduction of red squirrels as has happened elsewhere.
Monitor squirrel numbers and investigate whether red squirrel reintroduction is feasible
Bird and bat boxes
Boxes are distributed across the Local Nature Reserve. Some need replaced and there are gaps in the distribution. Bats have rarely chosen to nest in the boxes we have provided for them.
Map and replace bird boxes.
We are concerned about:
The Craighouse entrance to the Local Nature Reserve above Queens Craig has been fenced off since the beginning of 2016. This closes off some favourite walking routes and the entrance is unlikely to reopen for several years. However, access to the hill-top and to the ‘Orchard’ area has been maintained and will continue to be maintained. The Friends Group has liaised with the Craighouse developers so that path closures can be anticipated and advance warning given to people visiting the Local Nature Reserve.
In August 2020, torrential rainfall caused a serious landslip from the ash spoil heap on the slope beneath the Craighouse estate. Material from this landslip flowed down the slope, across the path beneath and into the gardens of residents in the Meadowspot houses at the foot of the slope. It was later discovered that the landslip material was contaminated with asbestos. The ‘Meadowspot’ path has been closed since the landslip with barriers and warning signage at the western and eastern ends. The closure creates significant access problems for people wishing to connect the eastern and western sides of the Local Nature Reserve. There is no quick or easily accessible alternative route. Negotiations are proceeding to decide how best to remove the contaminated landslip material and to restore public access.
Continue to liaise with the Quartermile Group (the Craighouse developers) on matters affecting community usage so that up-to-date information and advice can be provided.
Monitor discussions between the Council and other relevant parties and represent community wishes for restoring access to the Meadowspot path as quickly as possible.
The great majority of dog walkers act responsibly in disposing of dog waste. A minority do not. There has been criticism of the dog walking businesses which use the Hill. Often a single individual is responsible for trying to monitor a large number of dogs.
The Council’s Environmental Wardens have statutory powers to issue on-the-spot fines for dog fouling but have not, as far as we know, ever exercised these powers on Easter Craiglockhart Hill.
There are no dog fouling notices at many entrances and those that do exist are small, old and unlikely to have any impact.
Strategies elsewhere to reduce dog fouling have included:
- poster campaigns
- spray-painting waste with fluorescent paint
- on-site waste bag dispensers
Design and implement, together with the Council, a strategy for reducing dog fouling.
By comparison with most other parks and green spaces in Edinburgh, litter is not a major problem. Litter picking is often one of the volunteer tasks on ‘Clean-Up’ days. Several local people routinely pick up other people’s litter when they walk through the Local Nature Reserve.
According to Council policy, there should be a waste bin at all main entrances to parks and green spaces. However, the Council’s Waste Department will not install or service bins that are more than a few yards from a road. They have also refused to install a waste bin at the Leisure Centre entrance – one of the most used entrances to the Local Nature Reserve. Three new entrances to the Local Nature Reserve Service will be created when the Craighouse housing development is complete.
Argue for waste bins at all entrances.
Until recently, few of the paths in the Local Nature Reserve had a name. Because of this, it was often difficult to describe routes and locations to visitors unfamiliar with the hill. In 2020, we asked our members to use an online voting system to choose names for seven of the main paths. There were more than 150 votes and the names chosen were:
- Happy Valley Way for the path in the lower woods linking the Craiglockhart Terrace and Glenlockhart Road entrances
- Poets Path for the path from Glenlockhart Road round the hill to the Craighouse Estate entrance
- Hill-top Path for the path from Craiglea Place across the hill-top to meet the Poets Path
- Pine Walk for the path that cuts diagonally through Craighouse Woods beside some fine pine trees
- Birdsong Walk for the path in Craighouse Woods that links the Hill-top Path and the Poets Path
- Zig-Zag Path for the path from the lower woods through an open meadow to meet the Poets Path
- Meadowspot Path for the level path leading to the Craighouse Road entrance
These path names are included in the revised trail leaflet and will be included in new signage.
In August 2019, a funding application to the Paths for All Community Paths Grant was approved. This funding has made it possible to create two waymarked trails. The Happy Valley Trail has already been described. The Woodland Trail circumnavigates the hill on a figure of eight route passing across the hill summit. Snapframes on posts contain some interpretative material. The trail is publicised in the new trail leaflet which uses the Paths for All grading system to indicate the degree of difficulty and the suitability for people with disabilities.
There has been continuing concern about the poor state of certain paths. The path causing greatest concern in the past was the path leading from the northern side of the hill to the hill-top (the top section of the Zig-Zag path). This path was muddy at the best of times and, in wet winter weather, became virtually impassable. The path was reconstructed in the spring of 2019. It is now a safer route to the hill-top. Funding came in part from a grant made by Paths for All and in part from the release of Section 75 funds.
Concern has also been expressed about the Meadowspot path particularly after the autumn leaf fall. This path has been raked by contractors and by volunteer squads on several occasions over recent years. It has, however, been closed since the landslip in August 2020
Several of the paths in the lands transferred from Craighouse were in a poor state at the point of transfer and clearly in need of improvement.
As a consequence of the Covid Pandemic, visitor numbers increased significantly especially during lockdown periods when many people chose to exercise on Easter Craiglockhart Hill. We were happy to see so many new visitors but there has inevitably been a detrimental impact on the path network. Existing paths became muddier and slippier. Narrow sections were eroded to the sides as people tried to observe social distancing. New informal paths were created as people tried to find new routes and shortcuts.
We believe that a comprehensive programme of path improvements is now required. The paths requiring attention are:
- Happy Valley Path: rebuilding and widening of eroded steps in upper section
- Poets Path: repair of stepped section through Craiglockhart Woods
- Hill-top Path: extension of stepped section to west of hill-top and rebuilding of eroded section to east
- Pine Walk: new path required across entire length with proper base, drainage and surfacing
- Birdsong Walk : new path required across all or most of length especially on the lower section from the junction with the Pine Walk downwards
- Zig-Zag path: reconstruction and widening required on section up to lower meadow especially on eroded lower section
- Meadowspot Path: repairs, resurfacing and improved drainage required across entire length (effect of remedial work to clear landslip material to be taken into account)
- ‘Steep’ path linking Craighouse main gate and Meadowspot Park : provide stepping to improve these alternative routes which avoid crossing the busy Craighouse Road
Work together with the Council to represent community priorities and to plan path improvements.
Agree how to fund improvements whether from external sources or from Council budgets such as the S75 fund.
Deploy volunteers to rake key paths and steps after autumn leaf fall and to undertake minor repairs
There are intrinsic challenges in maximising disability access across the steep wooded slopes of the Hill. Many paths are stepped, often with steep risers.
The path from the Craiglockhart Terrace entrance to the Leisure Centre entrance can be accessed by wheelchair users and a ramp from this path links to the Meadowspot path which (though currently closed) is also wheelchair accessible. Paths from Craiglea Terrace to the hill-top and across the Craighouse estate either are or could be made wheelchair accessible. Requests have been made to improve disability access from the two Lockharton Crescent entrances both of which are stepped but there is no obvious solution
Our new waymarked trail in the lower woods – The Happy Valley Trail – will help people with mobility difficulties to enjoy a short walk over level and wheelchair friendly paths. The trail, completed during 2020, leads from the Craiglockhart terrace entrance to the western bank of the pond and back again.
During 2021, with funding from Paths for All, we will print and distribute a new trail leaflet which will include information about which paths are suitable for wheelchair users and people with visual or mobility difficulties.
We have asked the Council to provide a disabled parking space at the Craiglockhart Terrace entrance.
Our plans for the Craiglockhart Curling Rink area (see Pages 17 and 18) could improve facilities and make this entrance more welcoming for people with disabilities.
New leaflets and waymarked trails will improve information about disabled access but information on notice boards could be improved.
Handrails and possibly ramps in some steep areas might be helpful.
It is difficult for people with dementia to enjoy spending time on the hill. Our activities and events and signage are not designed with people with dementia in mind.
Improve information about disability access on signage and publicity materials.
Maintain and publicise the Happy Valley Trail.
Continue to argue for disabled parking spaces and dropped kerbs in suitable locations.
Print and distribute trail leaflets.
There is not a lot of seating in the Local Nature Reserve and frequent requests for additional seating have been made. The Park Quality Assessments have also recommended additional seating. There is already seating on the hill-top and at the Craiglockhart Terrace and Leisure Centre entrances.
Some seating has been provided through the Council’s Memorial Bench scheme. The Friends Group have provided the funds for other seating through donations or funding applications.
Possible locations for additional seating include:
- the lower meadow area where a picnic bench could be located close to the ash trees or beside the living willow maze
- at the two viewpoints
- at the new play areas in Craighouse Woods
- at the halfway-point on the paths to the hill-top (perhaps ‘pinch’ seats)
The Craighouse developers plan to restore the seating in the three enclaves along the path from Craiglea Place to the hill-top.
Agree suitable locations for seating with the Council and explore funding options including use of the Section 75 fund.
Many aspects of signage in the Local Nature Reserve are unsatisfactory.
There are no welcome signs at entrances and only one entrance has a map.
There is limited information that would help wheelchair users or people with disability or visual difficulties.
There are seven main entrances to the Local Nature Reserve and there will be an additional four entrances when the Craighouse development is complete. There are only four Notice Boards. These Notice Boards can hold only three A4 sheets and several are broken.
Interpretation signage has improved during 2020 with snapframes in some locations. There is also a Relief Map at the Craiglockhart Terrace entrance, Trail Maps at the eastern end of the pond and at the Craighouse Road entrance and a Social History Board at the foot of the pond – all were designed, installed and maintained by the Friends Group. The Trail Maps are 25 years old and now inaccurate.
Despite a few finger posts, directional signage is poor. First-time visitors to the Local Nature Reserve often have difficulty in navigating around the site.
Agree with Council how existing Notice Boards can be replaced or repaired and new larger ones installed using the Section 75 funding.
Include accurate trail maps in Notice Boards and at key locations.
During the Covid lockdowns of 2020, large groups of teenagers, communicating through social media, gathered at secluded locations in the Local Nature Reserve. Large quantities of litter (mostly empty cans of beer and cider) had to be removed after each ‘gathering’. Fires were often lit during these gatherings and caused some environmental damage. Some graffiti was sprayed on fences, rubbish bins and trees and there was some minor vandalism – signage and fences kicked down. The greatest concern, however, was for the health and safety of these young people whose inexperience with alcohol (and possibly drugs) put them at risk. The local Community Police, despite receiving many reports about these gatherings, were unable to take any action during 2020. They had advised in previous years against any kind of active intervention but suggested that some drinking ‘dens’ could be made less attractive by breaking up fire pits and cutting back surrounding trees and bushes.
Monitor teenage ‘gatherings’ and assess what action should be taken at specific sites
Ash dieback disease
A significant number of the trees in the woodlands are ash trees. Many have already been affected by ash dieback and have had to be felled or cut back. Many more, perhaps all, will be affected in future years. Extensive felling will have an environmental impact.
Monitor progress of ash dieback disease and plan how to restore woodlands.
There are not, at present, significant problems with invasive species in the Local Nature Reserve. Small stands of Japanese knotweed in the lower woods were eliminated by spraying in 2014. A larger stand in the transferred woodlands was treated by the Craighouse developers in 2016.
Few-flowered leek is a recent non-native invader and may crowd out the wild garlic which grows in the same locations. There does not appear to be any effective management strategy at present to control few-flowered leek which does at least die back quickly. There is a window of opportunity to dig it out in the spring before it sets seed and this has been attempted at one location.
Other conspicuous non-native species include variegated yellow archangel and Michaelmas daisy but none present serious control problems.
Dig out few-flowered leek and variegated yellow archangel in key locations.
Monitor invasive and non-native species and report for treatment if necessary.
7. Publicity and Promotion
Our website – www.eastercraiglockharthill.org has been redesigned and upgraded several times. Regular news stories and information about events and activities are posted.
Several sections were rewritten during 2019 and 2020 but some sections (such as the Environment section) need to be rewritten
We have introduced text and Paypal options for making donations on the website and intend to extend this so that bookings or payments for events and activities can be made.
As consideration is given to future management options for the Local Nature Reserve, the website has been used more for consultation and feedback rather than simply for information. An example during 2020 was the vote on path names. Visitors to the website have been asked for their views on this Community Plan and a short summary version has been highlighted on the website.
Maintain information flow on website but with more emphasis on feedback and member input.
Rewrite some sections and add new ones.
Introduce a booking and payment facility for events and activities.
A Facebook Page was started in 2016. The volume of posts has steadily increased (especially since the appointment of the Community Engagement Worker) and the number of followers is now over 400.
Reciprocal arrangements with nearby groups and community organisations allow us to publicise their events and activities and vice versa.
Work to increase Facebook input and coverage.
Continue to network with other community groups and organisations.
Newsletter to members
Regular e-newsletters are circulated to about 300 of our 400 members.
New members are recruited at events and activities and by informal contact.
Continue to circulate newsletters to alert members to events, activities and new developments.
Increase membership through leafleting, posters, website promotion and asking existing members to recruit new members
Posters are used to advertise events and activities. Some posters are placed in the four Notice Boards (if they are not broken and if there is space) scattered around the Local Nature Reserve. Others are tied to railings or gates at entrances or access points or attached to snap-frames.
Community Notice boards at Sports Centres, supermarkets and the local undertakers are also used to publicise activities and events.
Posters could also be used as part of a strategy to reduce dog fouling and to encourage dog owners to act responsibly by keeping dogs on a leash around nesting sites.
Design and produce posters for specific purposes.
Flyers have been printed giving basic contact information about the Friends Group. These could be used for a door-to-door campaign in chosen locations where membership levels are low.
Distribute flyers at key locations and on a door-to-door basis.
The text and photos for the ‘War Poets Trail’ leaflet were provided by the Friends Group with design and printing carried out by Edinburgh Napier University. The leaflet is available to people who visit the War Poets Collection at the Craiglockhart campus of Edinburgh Napier University. The leaflet is also handed out at events and activities.
Our revised Trail Leaflet will be printed early in 2021.
Distribute ‘War Poets Trail’ leaflets and reprint/ redesign as required
Agree how best to publicise and circulate the new Trail leaflet
8. Plans and Projects
Voluntary work on the Local Nature Reserve has taken many shapes and forms:
We have organised a considerable number of ‘Clean-Up’ days which have involved local members of the community in a huge variety of tasks
From 2015 to 2018, the staff of Craiglockhart Leisure and Tennis Centre tackled a range of practical tasks on their ‘Green Team’ days.
Lothian Conservation Volunteers rake and improve the upland meadows during sessions in late spring and early autumn
Other volunteer contributions have come from ‘The Dirty Weekenders’ (Edinburgh Universities Conservation group), from the Community Payback team, from the Green Team, from corporate groups, from local Scouts and from Duke of Edinburgh Award students.
The volume of voluntary work has increased as the area of the Local Nature Reserve has expanded and as more land management tasks have been devolved from the Council to the Friends Group. A ‘Hill Work Squad’ has been recruited and had more than 30 members by the summer of 2019. The squad members are invited to monthly sessions over the course of the year with tasks varying according to the season – planting and pruning in the spring, strimming and meadow management in the summer, leaf clearing and path improvements in the autumn. Because of the Covid pandemic, the work of the Squad was greatly restricted during 2020.
It is hoped there can be a continued phased devolution of maintenance responsibilities with advice and training from the Natural Heritage section of the Council.
Review volunteer inputs and responsibilities with the Council.
Identify tasks suitable for corporate groups and aim to attract and facilitate more such groups.
Co-ordinate the ‘Hill Work Squad’ team of volunteer workers and discuss with the Council how maintenance tasks can be devolved further.
Various different events have been organised over the years.
For more than a decade, a popular annual fete was held in the curling rink area. There were pony rides, a tombola, cake stalls and jazz bands.
Our programmes of ‘Walks and Talks’ began in 2017. They have been well attended with more than 200 participants in the 2017 programme. The 2019 programme included a Woodland Knowledge walk, a Foraging Workshop, a History Cruise along the Union Canal, a Woodland Mythology Walk, a War Poets Remembrance Walk and a Funghi walk. The Covid pandemic meant that the planned programme for 2020 had to be cancelled. We hope it will be possible to resurrect the programme in 2021.
Family Fun days were organised in the summers of 2019 and 2020 with drop-in activities for primary age children and a fuller programme will (Covid permitting) be organised in 2021.
Events like this bring the community together and reinforce the value of Easter Craiglockhart Hill to the surrounding community.
Plan a programme of events, co-ordinated by the Community Engagement Worker, to increase community interest and participation.
Future management options would be dependent on financial viability and sustainability. Options to increase revenue income would include:
- Membership fees and covenants
- Encouraging legacies and bequests
- Sales of merchandise
- Charges to corporate bodies
- Set or suggested fees for walks and activities
- Income from events
Our website now includes a Donations page with options to donate through text or Paypal. Donations from members and the public exceeded £1000 in 2020.
Plan an income generation strategy to steadily increase uncommitted revenue income.
Some of the actions in this Plan can be undertaken routinely by the Council or by volunteers. Other actions require new funding commitments either from external funding bodies or from the Council,
Over the years, many projects have been designed to make use of external funding opportunities. Many of these funding sources can only be accessed by voluntary organisations like the Friends Group. Funding sources have included:
- The Community Fund of South-West Edinburgh Neighbourhood Partnership
- The Action Earth Fund of Volunteering Matters
- Edinburgh and Lothian Greenspace Trust
- Scottish Natural Heritage
- Craiglockhart Community Council
- Waste Recycling Environment Ltd (WREN)
- Paths for All Active Travel and Community Paths grants
- The Robertson Trust
- Tesco Bags of Help scheme
More than £150,000 of grant funding has been secured over the past couple of decades.
The projects we would like to get underway in the next three years (Covid permitting) are as follows:
- A Learning Pack for schools and groups working with young children (see Page 13)
- Panorama Boards on the hill-top (see Page 19)
- New use for Craighouse Woods curling rink (see Page 21)
- New play site at Craighouse Road entrance (see Page 24)
- Comprehensive path improvements (see Page 31)
- New Notice Boards (see Page 34)
- Feasibility study for improved habitats on pond (see page 16)
- Redesign of curling rink area at Craiglockhart Terrace entrance (see page 18)
- Pond habitat improvements (see Page 16)
- Discussion paper on future management options (see Page 5)
Continue to identify projects and to seek project funding in consultation with the Council.
Thank you for reading this Community Plan. It sets out what we have done in past years, what we are doing right now and what we hope to do in the future. This plan will be reviewed and updated annually. We want to get as much feedback as possible from the people who visit the hill. We welcome all comments and suggestions.
Easter Craiglockhart Hill is a wonderful community asset that needs to be protected and cherished. It is already a lovely place. We plan to make it even lovelier.
Photo credit: Caroline Loudon, John Forbes.
Map: Lunaria Ltd.
Published February 2021