Park life

Balgreen library has been hosting a display for the improvement of Saughton Park  so Gavin Corbett went to see them this week.

The park, which sits beside the Water of Leith, has a dear place in my heart as I visited it almost daily for that time when my youngest son was only a couple of months old and my oldest just over two.  The gardens area does not allow dogs so it was one park where we could run around on grass without fear of wading through or sitting down in dog shit or being knocked over by dogs not properly under control.  In my memory each evening was sunny and warm and the grass soft like velvet.

As the kids have grown it is more to the playpark and now the popular skatepark (Scotland’s largest) that we have gravitated.

There is a lot in the park.  And there is a lot of history too.  In 1908 the Scottish National Exhibition was held there with 3.5 million people attending and a peak single day attendance of 65,000! Meanwhile, during world war two, the gardens were given over to the growing of onions….

Like many of Edinburgh’s parks some attention is needed. The formal gardens are meticulously attended but the park as a whole could be improved.  Which is why there is an ambitious Heritage Lottery Fund proposal being developed just now.  This could see formal avenues restored, a new entrance created and the return of the former bandstand among many other ideas.

After visiting the display at the library I took a wander back through the park.  I like much of what is proposed but I do often wonder if enough attention is paid in public projects – or any projects! – to ongoing maintenance compared to the actual development.  Development is sexy, time-limited and lends itself to ribbon-cutting and press releases.  Maintenance is none of these things, yet this is what really makes the difference to how a space is used and perceived.  I would almost challenge architects to start with a long term maintenance plan and work back to the project.  Then we could get a park that could easily rival the Botanic Gardens or the Meadows in Edinburgh’s affections.