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A summary of environmental projects in Craigmillar

British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) Scotland
Formerly Scottish Conservation Projects, the staff and volunteers have carried out a lot of practical conservation work in the Craigmillar area, including pond creation with Green Scheme, garden landscaping and tree-planting in Children’s House and Greengables Nurseries, and much of the local tree-planting for the Urban Forest Project.

Castlevale Project 1997 - 1998
This originally started life as the Craigmillar Children's EcoCity Project in March 1996. Forty primary school children worked together with teachers, architects, planners, urban designers, environmentalists and youth workers to produce a model of their vision of the future of the area. The model was called Castlevale.

In January 1997, the Castlevale Project was set up. This involved children from local primary and secondary schools and decision- makers from the South East Wedge development. The children worked closely with planners and developers to put forward their ideas about developments in the area. Issues explored included sustainability, health and drugs, employment, and how housing and the environment affect how you feel about where you live.

In May 1998, decision-makers were invited to a conference, in which the children presented their ideas about the South East Wedge developments. This conference also included a Panel Question Time, chaired by a presenter from BBC Scotland.

To find out more, please visit the Castlevale web site at 

CFS Arts and Environment Project
Based at the CFS Arts Centre, the project works with groups and individuals in the Craigmillar Community. It helps people to accomplish art projects, which focus on environmental issues or improve their local environment in some way. ‘Environment’ in this case can mean natural or man-made. Past work has included creating Sister Kay’s community garden, painting murals on the Greendykes shops, creating a metal memorial tree for inside Richmond Church, making a seating area at Peffermill Primary School and running the Cool Hoose kids workshops at Greengables. It has also helped the P7’s from the Instep Study Group to paint some botanical drawings for this pack. In future, the Arts and Environment Project will be working with Womanzone, and also helping to create the Thistle Community Garden.

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Craigmillar Country Park
There were once plans to develop the land around Craigmillar Castle into a local tourist attraction, centring on local history and the environment, with contemporary interpretation and education facilities. I am not sure if these plans still exist, although it is already used by locals in a number of ways for informal recreation and education.
Along with Hawkhill Wood, it was designated an Urban Wildlife Site in August 2000. It is looked after by City of Edinburgh Council.

Craigmillar Urban Forest Project 1996-2000
In the 1990’s, the Edinburgh Urban Forestry Strategy found out that there was a dwindling and ageing tree resource in Edinburgh. It highlighted the need to increase the overall tree population, to protect existing woodland, to increase private and community involvement and promote the economic, cultural and social value of the city’s trees and woodland.

In 1996, the City of Edinburgh Council, in partnership with the Craigmillar Initiative, applied for and received funding from the Millennium Forest for Scotland Trust to carry out the aims of the Edinburgh Urban Forest Strategy in Craigmillar. The success of this project enabled the Council to find more partners, apply for more funding and extend the initiative to other areas of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Urban Forest Project still exists today.

The key objectives of the Craigmillar projects were to:

  • Enhance and improve the landscape and visual interest of local neighbourhoods

  • Provide and expand recreational and amenity resources

  • Attract wildlife by creating appropriate habitats

  • Create wildlife corridors to link existing woodlands

  • Provide an economic resource by creating jobs and training opportunities as well as an attractive location for new business initiatives

  • Reduce dust and noise pollution

  • Provide shelter and screening to neighbourhoods, schools and recreational areas

  • Provide a social and cultural resource

  • Enhance educational opportunities

Two Urban Forestry Officers liased with local community groups and organisations over the planning of tree planting areas, and issues such as litter, loss of light, personal security and access.

They also worked with local schools in providing environmental education activities, as well as participatory tree planting and bulb planting events. With the help of BTCV staff and volunteers, over 100, 000 trees were planted around the Greater Craigmillar area, including Brunstane Burn, Niddrie Primary, Castlebrae School, Hawkhill, Innocent Walkway, Cavalry Park, Holyrood School, Hunters Hall Park, Bingham Park, Lismore Primary, Greendykes Primary and Magdalene Glen. One of the most famous events was the Edinburgh Plantathon, at Craigmillar Castle in 1997. 39,650 trees were planted in three days by volunteers from all over Edinburgh and Scotland, in an attempt to set a new World Record for tree planting by volunteers in this amount of time. The World Record wasn’t broken, but I think a new British record was set.

Disabled of Craigmillar - Environment Group
Used to meet every week to discuss environmental issues relevant to themselves and Craigmillar, with a focus on what they could do in Craigmillar and who it would be best to work with to achieve their ideas for action. Speakers from outside organisations (such as Friends of the Earth Scotland) also came in to talk about various environmental issues. The group made a video with Woods For All, about the environment, and held discussion groups arising from the issues hi-lighted in the video. The group also went on trips to see wildlife gardens, with the aim of creating a wildlife garden in the grounds of the Jack Kane Centre. Unfortunately, funding was not ongoing and the project could not be developed further.

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Friends of the Earth Scotland
In 1997 / 98, Friends of the Earth Scotland staff and volunteers teamed up with volunteers from Craigmillar for three months to carry out an investigation on sustainable development in the area. Using the ’Resources for the Future’ pack, surveys were carried out to find out people’s opinions on the local environment and ‘development’. Environmental information was also collected to monitor air quality and water quality. At the end of the project, a mobile display was produced on all the issues. For more information on ‘Resources for the Future’, contact FoE Scotland.

Green Scheme March 1991 - March 1998
This was an innovative and active Arts and Environment project, funded by the Urban Aid Programme and sponsored by the Education Department. There was a varied programme of arts sessions, workshops and events for the purposes of raising local awareness of environmental issues and making improvements to the physical environment. Key projects included: painting ‘ideal neighbours’ on shutters to highlight void housing; exploration and arts sessions towards the production of a Craigmillar Community Map (from which the map on this website is taken); ‘Tree Time in Craigmillar’ - a programme of drama and music workshops leading to a multimedia performance, tree sculpture and tree planting; a volunteer aluminium can recycling programme to raise funds for local groups; and a Nature Trail linking open spaces in Craigmillar and the then proposed Craigmillar Country Park, through creating sculptural landmarks with local groups and individuals. As a part of the Nature Trail, there was a guided walk to celebrate the green spaces of Craigmillar, on International Women’s Day in 1996. This was called ‘A Woman’s Walk Through Craigmillar’, which was videoed for posterity. If you want to see this, please contact Faye at the Arts Centre.

In July 1997, a 3-day Earthkeepers Programme was run in Hawkhill Wood. This is one of a series of carefully planned hands-on learning programmes for children of different ages, designed by the Institute for Earth Education. Earthkeepers is specifically designed for 10—11 year olds. There was a proposal for Green Scheme to further develop environmental education, particularly Earth Education, using Craigmillar Country Park to educate people from Craigmillar and much further afield about ‘living lightly on the Earth’. Unfortunately, the seven-year funding was coming to an end and no other funding was forthcoming.

Gruff Challenge 1995, 96, 98
This was a competition in which children from communities all over Scotland took part. The challenge was to take on and complete a project involving improving the local environment.

In 1995, a group of five children from the Craigmillar Out of School Project (COOSP) upgraded the area around the Craigmillar Library, along with some students from Denmark. This included doing up the garden as well as painting a mural on the wall of the library (which is still there). This work won the children first prize that year, which was to choose a holiday anywhere in the world! They chose to go to Los Angeles and San Francisco, taking in Yosemite National Park as well.

In 1996, another five children from COOSP took part. Their massive project was to upgrade the grounds of the Craigmillar Arts Centre. Extensive work was done in the garden - removing diseased trees, unearthing the cellar door, putting in steps, removing vegetation from the front door, recycling old stones and renovating the old font, which was found in the garden! (For those who don’t know—the Arts Centre is an old church.) Also, the Centre was made fully accessible to disabled people. The crowning glory was the renovation of the finial for the spire, which was found in the cellar. This was cleaned up, painted and placed on the spire by steeplejacks. There was too much work to be done by the five kids themselves (45 different tasks in all!), so they organised help from professionals and volunteers, whilst putting in a huge amount of practical work themselves. Again, the group won first prize! This time they elected to go to Antigua and Florida. Via COOSP, the Antiguan tourist board, took the kids to stay on an island frequented by the rich and famous, and gave them their own chef. This same year, the volcano on Montserrat erupted, and the kids could see it from where they stayed. A truly awesome experience.

In 1998, another group took part in the challenge! This time, the group of five was made up of children from 4 clubs—three run by COOSP and one club from the Venchie. Many families would use the grounds of the Venchie at the weekend so that the kids could play, but there was nowhere nice for the adults to sit. So, this year’s project was to upgrade the Venchie grounds. Over 50 tonnes of material were removed (with help from a JCB), including an old motorbike and numerous bedsprings! A garden was created at the front and to the side of the building, with bark paths, some play equipment for toddlers and a nice place to sit for adults. The amount of manual labour that went into this project was immense and the children worked extremely hard. The project didn’t win this year, but enough money was subsequently raised for everyone to go to EuroDisney in Paris for a weekend. This was in recognition of their hard work, and the positive input that their project would make to the community.

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Pefferbank Adult Training Centre
A few years ago, the Centre received an award of money to develop a wildlife garden in their grounds. This was created, with the help of a team from the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Over the years, the garden has been left to its own devices and is unfortunately a target for vandalism. However, the trees and shrubs are still thriving, and in its wildness, it still supports an array of plants and animals.

St. Helen’s Birdwatching Group
This group met on alternate Tuesdays to go for walks and find out what birds and other animals they could see and hear around Craigmillar and Musselburgh.

Places visited included Musselburgh sea front, Duddingston Loch and Bawsinch Wildlife Reserve, Arthur’s Seat and Figgate Pond. Other visits further afield have included the Water of Leith and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Self-build Project
This pioneering project currently involves a group of about 20 local people. They have been inspired to take on the task of building their own environmentally-friendly houses amongst all the new conventional building that is taking place in Craigmillar. Many houses built in Britain these days are harmful to the environment and to those that live in them - both in building and maintaining them. The self-build group aim to create healthy houses, by building them from natural, sustainable, non-toxic materials, from the four walls to the fixtures and fittings. Many aspects of the build will employ time-honoured skills and traditional materials, that are overlooked by many modern builders. Maintaining the houses will mean making full use of our natural resources, using non-toxic paints to decorate, renewable sources of energy for power and reedbed systems to purify and recycle waste water. All power to you, I say!

Sister Kay’s Community Garden 1998 onwards
When Kay first moved in to her flat, the garden was a muddy field, which children would run over and use as a play space. With prompting from a small girl who suggested that the garden was too big for just one person, Kay decided to turn it into a community garden. With the help of local children and adults and staff and volunteers from CFS Arts Centre, the garden was transformed. Many plants were donated by people who were moving out of the area, including an apple tree. Last year, to celebrate the garden’s success, a Sports and Activities Day was held, which was extremely popular.

Kay received a Millennium Award in 2001 to upgrade the field behind her flat, which stretches down to Brenda House. This space was disused and full of litter. The project enlisted the help of an Edinburgh arts and crafts charity—Four Winds Inspiration Centre—to make a small garden for young children, at Kay’s end of the field, with things to play in and on, made from wood. Kay might apply for more money to do up the bottom half of the field, creating a football pitch for the local children. Go Kay!

It is possible that the whole area will be built on with the new housing developments taking place in the area. However, in the meantime, there would be immense benefits for children that are involved in these projects—not least having a good-looking, safe place to play.

Thistle Animal Group
This informal group, used to meet on alternate Tuesdays to talk about animals and the environment, with occasional visits from feathered or furry friends!

Thistle Community Garden 2001 onwards
A group from the Thistle Foundation have firm plans to create a community garden, which will add to the outdoor educational resources in the area. It is hoped that groups and individuals will be involved with the construction of the garden and horticulture, as well as taking part in the courses that will be on offer, such as drystane dyking, willow weaving and wood working.

Vetwork UK 1998-2002
Funding from the National Lottery Charities Board enabled this small charity to undertake a survey of opinions in the area about animals - both pets and wild animals. It was found that over half the adults in Craigmillar liked to watch or feed wild animals, and would like to know more about how to appreciate and look after wildlife in the area.

From this information, an environmental education project was set up, to help people engage with the local wildlife (animals and plants). Nature workshops were run for children in local out-of-school groups, and the Craigmillar Wildlife Information Pack was written and placed in Craigmillar library.

Further funding, from Scottish Natural Heritage, has enabled more nature workshops to be carried out with children and adults, and for this website to be written.

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Go explore for yourself!