The Friends of Corstorphine Hill
have been active in the restoration of the Walled Garden on Corstophine
Hill. This project was featured on the BBC TV Beechgrove
Garden programme (20th September 2001) and revisited by the
Beechgrove Garden team (29th June 2004) to see the progress made since
initial startup. It is most important that the local community, and in
particular the Friends, take on ownership and a
pride in the garden. It is really amazing the amount of work that has
been done already but the garden will continue to develop over a number
of years and continued interest and input from the community is
essential. Volunteers are always needed to help
with the on-going practical work to continue with
this great garden.
- Work parties
are in action on Tuesday mornings (11am - 1pm) and Thursday afternoons (2pm – 4pm) throughout
- The location of the 'Walled Garden' on Corstorphine Hill can be seen on this map (182kB, 1:5,000 scale, A4 sheet).
- An information brochure, titled Walled Woodland Walk,
has been produced for the Walled Garden and can be viewed
or downloaded here in Adobe Acrobat format (121kB pdf).
Gallery: before and after pictures of the 'walled
garden' project can be seen here.
- Geological photo guide
to the 'Wall'. As part of the ambitious plan to restore the
Walled garden, the walls were repaired and rebuilt in an attempt to
return them to their former state. The east wall, together with the
adjacent small storage hut, was restored in 2004. The difference
between the remnants of the older wall and the more recent addition are
clearly shown by the contrast between the dark and light portions. At
present, the rocks on the wall face present a variety of features that
tell us much about their origin and a little about the plants and
animals that inhabited this part of the world about 350 million years
ago. Read more in the The
Story Behind the 'Wall', by Grant M Young
(1.5MB pdf), a geological photo guide to the rocks incorporated into
the rebuilt wall.
- A diagram
of the original plans
can be found at the bottom of this page, at the beginning of the Walled
Garden log-book (which runs here in reverse chronological order).
February in the Walled Garden is – well – February…. but there are some highlights of colour, the Hamamelis mollis at the top (east) side is in full orange/yellow bloom, and the first daffodil fully out was spotted on the 8th.
is a time for other work, and the team have been busy on general
maintenance. We lost only one garden tree, a pine, in the winter
storms, while one large tree fell (without damage) on the west wall
from outside. Access to the decking area is temporarily restricted
until the slippery surface has been cleaned- a work in progress.
Acquiring some heavy concrete slabs, through Freecycle, transporting
and laying them in preparation for a new metal storage unit is nearly
done. The new unit has been fully funded by the Western Edinburgh
Plans are afoot for some new planting
of dogwoods with mahonia as an informal shrub hedge on the west side to
give year-round interest, and a re-think of planting in some of the bog
garden is in hand. Spring bulbs are well on their way now –
snowdrops are in flower, daffodils and narcissus are coming up
strongly, and new tulips are lurking with intent,just below the surface.
Yes, the green
shoots are again visible in the Walled Garden after their winter
hibernation. Following a hard winter the gardening team have been busy
tidying and generally carrying out garden maintenance. Just before the
snow arrived a plan had been formed of the work most needing attention
so when the white blanket departed, tree pruning and other items could
be tackled. Therefore once the spring growth takes off it should look
more managed. As with all gardens there is always something to do, so
come along to help and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere in the sunshine
whilst feeling good about helping.
shades into October, the Walled Garden is a mix of positives and
negatives. The approaching end of the growing season means that winter
will be following all too soon. But in the meantime, there is still
much to enjoy: while watching and listening to the aspen trees
quivering and rustling, interspersed with the sounds of mums and
toddlers, planes overhead and the number 26 bus.....
dense planting of heathers and ericas puts on a show of purple, white,
dusky pink- all against green and gold foliage. Further up the slope,
orange crocosmia and white marguerites stand out, while close by are
the yellow rudbeckia and deep purple buddleia bushes.
silver birch in the central seat has changed colour and started
dropping its leaves uncommonly early, but we hope it will revive next
season. The fight against rose bay willowherb continues unabated, while
buttercups are massing for another invasion. Deep blue sage puts on a
fine late summer show, while the best of the yellow flag iris has now
passed in a (rather dry) bog garden, still packed with the tall pink
flowers of lythrum ‘firecandles’.
Rowan berries are in abundance, fuschias glow red and the rose hips swell in crimson on the old fashioned rose hedge.
Mr Badger has a bad leg, which is in need of a good tree surgeon!!!
meadow has had its once-a-year cut and our Corstorphine sycamore’s
leaves are showing their autumn colours. The biennial teasels’ spiky
seed heads stand out in the shrubbery. The new alpines look set to
flourish next year, together with some more spring bulb planting.
Green Pennant for 2010 has been awarded to Corstorphine Hill Walled
Garden. The Green Pennant Award is a national award that recognises
high quality green spaces that are managed by voluntary and community
groups. The Award is part of the Green Flag Award scheme.
Scotland has given us an assesment of Thriving in the It’s Your
Neighbourhood catagory of community gardens. That is only just below
their topresult of Excellent and they urge us to “continue the good work to improve the site”.
Pretty soon after
starting to help out the team of volunteers who tend the Walled Garden,
I found myself agreeing to write about it for the Newsletter. But these
aren’t really my very first impressions: those go back more than the
ten years or so since the Garden was officially opened, and an earlier
call for volunteers from the man whose vision started it all off – the
late Iain MacDonald. That involved heaving logs and branches around to
roughly mark out the line of accessible pathways through a woodland
garden of natural species, typical of the Hill. The old garden was then
more of a jungle than a garden, but the idea certainly took root and –
with the hard work of the Friends over more than a decade- has produced
today’s oasis in the city.
Walled Garden is rather more than your average garden. It is a garden
with quite a formal shape, when looked at from above, but with an
informal style. The core theme of native trees, shrubs and plants has
been built around with the addition of garden and exotic plantings.
Open areas with attractive benches are complemented by several other
varied habitats – including heathers, a bog garden, a wild flower
meadow and an apple and cherry orchard - all to a human scale and
sheltered by the old stone walls all around.
The garden has developed its own character - a pleasant mix of the
natural but not too wild, and the tended but not too manicured - that
visitors appreciate and enjoy. So do the birds that build nests in the
walls, while keeping a wary eye open for the buzzards - wheeling and
mewing high above when not being mobbed by the local crows…
real garden is ever finished, and this one continues to evolve from
year to year. At the time of writing, early May, the Garden is
producing a burst of bulbs and blossom: growth that is all the more
striking after being held back by the unusually hard winter. Like many
other gardens there have been a few winter casualties to be weeded out.
But most of the garden has survived unscathed and ready for another
season. The apple trees will soon be in bloom and the many
summer-flowering shrubs are again beginning to flourish in the
traditional Scottish garden areas, frequented by butterflies and bumble
bees. Some new alpine planting is in progress and the rose hedge will
soon be out. And the rare Corstorphine sycamore continues to
Amid the fanfare of the Open Day '10th Anniversary' celebration, the
Walled Garden unveiled its Green Pennant, which is a national award that recognises high quality green spaces
managed by voluntary and community groups. This is the first to be awarded to a garden in Scotland.
The garden is looking quite mature now.
Apart from the usual maintenance, the main initiative this year has
been to improve the selection of plants in wildflower meadow, the wild
flower section and the marsh areas. A section is also being developed
as a herb garden with a variety of different plants.
Now that growth is well under way
the garden is looking quite mature. The plan is essentially to continue
to develop areas already started and to consolidate with some
relocation of plants as we learn where the plants best suit their
conditions. As always the regular team are delighted to have help, no
for how short a time, to keep the garden looking smart. It provides a
of satisfaction. The Corstorphine Sycamores are looking splendid at the
In the summer the garden was
judged for the Keep Edinburgh Growing and we were awarded the Gold
certificate for the community category jointly with Gorgie City Farm.
In the Beautiful Scotland in
Bloom competition we were also awarded Gold certificate. Credit must be
given to the small dedicated team who maintain the garden a few hours a
week. Where would we be without volunteers?
On Clermiston Road improvements
to the footway and gate at entrance on the drive to the Tower are most
welcome. It also helps to describe to visitors where this wonderful
During the summer some plants put
on a good show especially the roses and
buddleia. Some trees are growing which in time will give a woodland
The garden was judged for the Keep Edinburgh Growing competition and we
waiting for the result.
One of our occasional visitors was moved by the atmosphere he
experienced in the
garden to put his thoughts into verse.
The Woodland Garden
By Robert Watson MA BD
On Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh fair,
Stands an old walled garden, tended with care.
Its pathways, flowers, plants and shrubs, all lovingly designed,
A more homely layout it would be hard to find.
Lavender, rosemary and mint
Bunched together, to the sensory buds give more than a hint.
The oak tree saplings lie bedded as one,
All with a promise of great things to come.
Quercus rubra , Scottish-bred,
With Ilex Aquifolium , its holly cousin, from far Zante shed.
The carved wooden seat does Freddy Fox and Berty Badger proud,
But real ones to enter the garden are not allowed.
Yet a flash of white tail and flap of ear
Betrayed, alas a bunny was near.
There stand the irises, proud queens in blue,
Their long, wide tunics and enchanting wings of gorgeous hue.
Persona of the rainbow and messenger of the Gods,
In her hands the Herald’s staff and pitcher holds.
The wet woodland is adorned with crimson-flowered campion,
But to many its tattered petals are champion
Brightening the dull grasses,
Just like the young men are by the lassies.
This spring has been
exceptionally dry and very little planting has been done. With rain
falling in the last few days it is amazing how the garden recovers and
it looks great with the trees coming into leaf, and plants such as
bluebells and Ragged Robin in flower. More sensory plants have been put
in the bed opposite the animal seat. A low wall on the edge of the
meadow was built by BTCV. This wall will eventually be planted up with
small alpines. BTCV have also added ropes to the bridge at the wetland
to add a final touch to the project. On the “gardens open day”
organized The Cockburn Association visitors were very impressed by the
The Friends took on the project
of restoring the Corstorphine Walled Garden, which had originally been
the walled garden of Hillwood House. The theme is a pleasant peaceful
garden with the accent on native planting to reflect much of what can
be found growing naturally on the Hill. With a bias to enlightening
especially the young, it has been carried out entirely by voluntary
help. It is pleasing that the efforts have been recognised by being
awarded gold in the community garden category of
the Keep Edinburgh Growing Competition 2006.
This summer has been
exceptionally dry and very little planting has been done because of the
hard clay soil. Despite that the established plants that like dry
conditions have put on a great show. The garden has been kept tidy by
volunteers who come on Tuesday and Thursday as well as the Saturday
girls. The judges for the Edinburgh Gardens Competition were very
impressed. The judging for “Scotland in Bloom” will take place later
on. We hope that they will be equally impressed.
Earlier on in the year we built
some new woodchip pathways and some drains. The screen around the
utility area is finished and climbers will be put against it. Of the
plants in the wetland Ragged Robin, Loosestrife and Marsh Woundwort are
flowering. The grass meadow next to the wetland is now growing and
should provide another seating area. A good place to stop, look at the
wetland and ponder.
Andy Ross (Community
Project Officer, BTCV Scotland) reviews progress on the
Walled Garden 'Wetland Project'.
The bulk of the work on this
project was completed in November 2005, at which stage the rectangular
boardwalk was completed, as was the arched bridge. The liner was fitted
within this enclosed area and many tons of soil were barrowed into this
area. Access paths were built to allow the public to reach the area,
and a native hedge was planted so that in time the area will become
separated to a degree from the rest of the walled garden. From this
point, it was necessary to allow the soil within the boardwalk to
become saturated with rainwater, and to wait for spring, which was the
ideal time to plant the wetland plugs.
In April 2006, the wildflower
plugs were planted and in July and August of this year, the handrails
to the bridge were completed and specimen trees (birch and willow)
added at each corner of the bridge. The plants that were put in at the
site included: Ragged Robin, Water Avens, Meadowsweet, Marsh Woundwort,
Purple Loosestrife, Devil's-bit Scabious, Bugle, Fritillary, Yellow
Iris and Yellow Loosestrife.
The 'wetland' now needs time
for the plants to become established, and it is expected that the
plants will begin to look mature in a couple of years.
A walk on the wetside:
work on the wetland at the garden has almost finished! The boardwalk
has been completed, the liner inserted and the many tons of soil moved
back into the wetland area. In addition, the bridge has been erected
and the site has been landscaped with the addition of a native species
hedge and rotting logs. The rails for the bridge are being built by a
local group and will be added soon. The wetland area has been planted
out with a variety of plug plants which should become established over
The summer has been very dry and
since there is no water supply in the garden, some plants have thrived
and others lost. Since the garden is a microcosm of the hill subject to
the same climatic conditions, this just reflects the wild nature of the
garden. Seeds of the Poppies and Corn Marigolds which were shed last
year have not germinated, but may come up next year as they can remain
dormant in the soil for years. Despite the dryness the garden has been
looking good with a lot of colour and the grass cut; this has
encouraged more visitors this summer. Some plants are being replaced in
the sensory part. In the coming months the wet woodland will be planted
up with other type of plants such as iris and primulae. To encourage
wildlife such as small birds and insects, hedges and small walls may be
put in on the high part of the garden to create a corridor from north
to south. The garden entered the “Neighbourhood Awards” a
noncompetitive scheme run by The Royal Horticultural Society, Britain
in Bloom project. The judges were very impressed. The garden also
entered the “Keep Edinburgh Growing Garden Competition”. Last year we
were third in the Community Garden category and thought unlikely to be
in the prizes for two years, however, we came Second! At the awards
ceremony Alan White did the honours of accepting the prize from the
judges and the Lady Provost, which consisted of an 8 litre bag of bird
seed, a bird feeder and a book on Wildlife Gardening. An appropriate
selection, as well as that all important Second prize certificate.
At the Corstorphine Walled
Garden, BTCV Scotland (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) are
creating a wetland which will extend the biodiversity value of the site
by offering damp and marshy habitat which will support plant and insect
species not currently represented. When completed, the area will
consist of a 70m stretch of boardwalk and bridge, surrounding and
crossing the marshy area. As the site is not particularly wet or
water-logged at present, this will be achieved by laying out a liner
which will prevent rain-water from draining away. It is hoped that this
part of the garden will add interest to an already beautifuk and
successful restoration project.
As the hours of daylight
lengthen, daffodils and other plants have emerged from the well-watered
soggy soil of the garden on the western slopes of Corstorphine Hill. We
await with interest to see the effects of our efforts in cultivation
and additional planting in the autumn as we progress into the spring of
another year. Since the first planting in September 2001, progressively
more areas have been developed, with a view to providing examples of
differing but predominantly native species. The path network has become
consolidated and improvement to the drainage at critical points results
in sections of path no longer being washed away after torrential rain.
The completion of the wall and storage shed has greatly enhanced the
atmosphere of the garden, resulting in it becoming the outdoor clubroom
of the Friends.
During 2005, we intend to develop
the wet woodland area, providing the environment for marsh type plants;
increase the amount of native plants in the most recently cultivated
area; and provide sculptural interest. Certain of the plants already
encourage butterflies to visit the garden and the introduction of four
bird feeders is beginning to increase the number of species of birds
spotted: as well as blue, great and coal tits, there are wrens, robins,
chaffinches, blackbirds, magpies, carrion crows and wood pigeons.
Kestrals can be seen flying overhead.
The Beechgrove garden team
revisited the Walled Garden on 29 June 2004 to see the progress since
their initial help in getting the garden started in September 2001. A
good deal has been accomplished since their first visit. The wall has
been completed as well as a stone clad tool shed. The planting which
they initiated has matured very much as they had envisaged and it is
possible to see how successive planting including trees and wild
flowers has developed. Hopefully a glimpse of the progress will be
shown on the programme due to be broadcast on Thursday 8th July.
The garden has been entered in
the "Edinburgh in Bloom Gardening Competition", in the community garden
category. The judges will be visiting us during July the results will
be known in the autumn and we hope that our wide range of native wild
flowers and the type of plants to attract butterflies and other insects
will impress the judges.
"Or close up the wall", said Eddie
It is with as much determination
as Henry V rallying his troops that our Chairman has summoned resources
for repairs to the walls of the garden. The breaches in the west wall
have been closed. The east wall has mostly been restored. There remains
a further section together with the shed which has yet to be completed.
Even now, though, the results are dramatic, giving the garden a more
complete and sheltered feel. It is noteworthy that all the restored
sections of wall have been built to a high standard, highlighting the
fact that the old skills do still exist. Throughout the summer, the
stalwarts have kept on top of the weeds and trimmed the grass. Martin
has carried out a personal campaign with a particularly mole-like
determination, grubbing up even the tiniest bits of Japanese knotweed
root which might otherwise have evaded detection. Additional areas have
been cultivated, pushing out gradually from the centre. The planting
has mainly been of native wild flowers but it will be next year before
the effects will be apparent. The overall effect is taking shape
gradually. There are plenty of ideas as to how more areas of the garden
can be developed to make it pleasant, interesting and educational. It
is your garden so do come along and give us your ideas, suggestions
and, if you have the time, a bit of physical help in the way of
practical gardening - welcome anytime but particularly at the regular
work times of Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons.
Plans: Walled Garden/Beechgrove Project
It is proposed to convert the
existing walled area adjoining Hillwood House which at present is
overgrown with various weeds and trees in poor condition, to a wooded
area containing species of trees, woodland plants and fungi, which can
be found in and around Corstorphine Hill.
Access would be provided to the
area via an entrance in the North wall from the access road to the
Tower. A drawing has been prepared showing the proposed layout of a
path. In the future both the entrance and the path would be constructed
to a standard that would make the area accessible for disabled people.
It is also proposed to site
information boards along this path which would provide information on
the various aspects of Corstorphine Hill, e.g. archaeology, geology,
history, Botany Group etc. as well as information on the trees and
plants. The drawing shows suggested trees and a possible planting
layout. The choice of trees is broadly based on trees presently growing
on the hill with a few additions and the layout is intended to provide
a mixture of deciduous and evergreens throughout the area. By
identifying and labelling each species we would hope to provide an
educational facility for the use of local schools, colleges and the
community in general as well as visitors.
- Tree and plant species to be confirmed by
- Gradient and surface of path to be suitable for
wheelchair access. Maximum gradient 1 in 12, flat rest area at 16m max.
- Tree planting: min. distance to wall 2m, min.
distance to path 1m.