Most of my summers are spent organising things from Forth Rivers Trust HQ on the outskirts of Edinburgh, so I take advantage of opportunities that allow me to get outside and down to the river.
We held a guided walk at the beginning of August, which due to a path closure, an extremely muddy/slidey path and slippery hill, had to be rescheduled. We had 5 people turn up to meet us at the Almond aqueduct, where the union canal crosses over the river Almond – although a road closure had made it notably stressful to find the meeting place. The walk went from the aqueduct along the approx. 2.7km of the canal feeder that is built as a contour at 72 meters above sea level. It’s fascinating to think of the construction all those years ago, when JCBs didn’t exist, and see the multiple criss-crossings of the water way, crossing over the river and finally entering the canal. Here is a man-made water system that is joined to and draws from a natural water system. Over the hundreds of years it has been there it has been naturalised and new species have moved in, such as the salmon parr that we found there during recent repairs, and beautiful water avens (Geum rivale) along the feeder banks. A thank you to one of our volunteers, Jonathan, who provided a commentary about the built heritage along this walk. Also, apologies to the young person who attended the walk who was harassed by a plethora of summer insects for the 3 hours.
Summer heat noticeably brings people and animals down to the river (see Scot’s tale of an odd reptile hanging out on the heat in the country park). On the walk we crossed over the canal feeder bridge in the lovely Almondell and Calderwood park, we could see young kids and their dog paddling around waist deep in the river at low flow, with the rest of the family watching from the bank. We’ve also been seeing the changes to the old weir at Howden Bridge in Livingston, where the level of the river bed has risen with the construction of the rock ramp (again Scot has a good blog on this). Nearly every time that I’ve visited the Howden site I’ve seen someone at the river’s edge, and often actually in the river. I assume this is a result that it is much more inviting with slow flowing pools between stepping stones.
I was particularly pleased recently when I visited in the August holidays, I saw two young lads, having left their bikes on the viewing platform, they were hopping about on the rocks and eventually paddling about in the edge. I walked off downstream of the river and returned about 15 minutes later and found that they were now paddling about, using an ASDA shopping basket that had washed down the river to collect the other bits of litter on the riverbed. Sights like this give me great faith that the environmental messages so frequently bandied about, are being enacted by the next generation.