Water of Life

Gavin Corbett finds much to value in the Water of Leith Conservation Trust.

I often write about that thread of water which acts as a backbone to the area of which I am councillor: namely the Union Canal.  But there is another water theme in the area – an altogether more unruly and capricious one in the shape of the Water of Leith.

Starting in the Pentland Hills it marks the western edge of the ward, through the idyllic Colinton and Craiglockhart Dells and on through to Saughton Park.  Over the last couple of decades the river has become a huge asset to the city and a renewed haven for wildlife with herons, kingfishers and otters testament to that.

That revival has been the hard work of many organisations and hundreds of volunteers but none more so than the excellent Water of Leith Conservation Trust, whose centre I visited yesterday in the company of Trust Manager Helen Brown and chair George Hunter (in an earlier guise the popular and respected councillor for the old Craiglockhart Ward).

I am well acquainted with the Trust and the Centre, having visited with my family dozens of times, and for events, birthday parties and clean-up days.  But it was fascinating to discuss the facts behind the organisation.  For a total budget of around £100,000 a year the Trust supports a vast array of activities – not least around 8,000 hours of volunteer time at a conservative value of £60,000.  And not just the time too.  Volunteers range from regulars, to community groups, to business looking for “team days” with a real purpose; to young people and vulnerable adults looking for activity as a step-up.

I was especially pleased to learn that plans for micro-hydro are progressing in two or three sites, given the river’s past as a mill river.  And I share the Trust’s determination to make sure that much-needed flood defence works take heed of landscape re-instatement and restoration of habitats.

I left with a half-formed promise to assemble a cross-party team of councillors to kick-start the post-winter clean-ups in 2013.  I’ll need to find the City Chambers wellie-cupboard by then.