As part of the MyParkExplore series sharing ideas of parks to visit we spoke to Anthony Robson a Friends of Figgate Park Committee member and wildlife photographer on what he enjoys about Figgate Park.
What makes Figgate Park special?
The sheer diversity of the park as you walk its length gives the park a bit of a unique flavour within Edinburgh. Starting in the west the park is narrow, following a burn from a wild area, slotting between houses on either side, a green corridor providing quick and easy access away from the noise of the city. The gentle sound of the burn takes over instead, as it heads towards the shore, opening out as it reaches an island which the burn splits around, giving kids a place to jump over to and adventure.
Passing under Mountcastle Drive (pausing briefly to admire the new mural on the walls of the underpass, with images of the varied wildlife from the park) the green widens. To the north there is a play park, and wide green space, for taking care of any excess energy, while the centre of the park is dominated by a large pond. From the island in the centre waterfowl are all around, with mallards, tufted ducks, canada and greylag geese, and the resident mute swans, taking advantage of a raised platform where people feed them from; or on the opposite side there’s a wooden boardwalk taking you out and over the water, with two viewing areas.
The variety goes on and on, a truly wild area providing a refuge for rabbits (including some pure black and ginger examples); picnic tables with stunning views over the pond and Arthur’s Seat in the background; areas specifically set aside for butterflies; another large open grassy area; and a wildflower patch that in the summer is an absolute delight. We even have the remains of a historic railway line bordering the far eastern end of the park, an offshoot of the Innocent Railway, built by the Duke of Buccleuch to deliver coal to Leith.
Other parks in the area might have one or more of these different elements, but I’m not sure any can combine the sheer variety of landscape, views, wildlife, and flora. There truly is something for everyone.
What are your favourite memories of the park?
Personally, as a wildlife fan, the park is a joy for me, and certain sightings will always stand out. One morning taking shots of the seagulls they suddenly all rushed skywards, which usually means one of the regular sparrowhawks or buzzards is in the area. Scanning the sky I was stunned to see they were all actually heading up to mob a passing osprey. That was only a passing moment, whereas when an otter was spotted in the park it took a bit more patience. It only hung around for a few weeks, the fish in the pond not being quite big enough to support a predator such as an otter, but hours were spent watching bubble trails on the surface of the water. Finally, briefly, he popped his head up through the duckweed, and I rattled off five shots with the camera, getting one shot I’ll always keep as one of my favourites.
Of course there are slightly more regular sightings of a kingfisher, which never fails to put a smile on my face. But there are also the people. I love getting down to the park early at the weekends, and one morning, it must have been about 6am, a perfectly still, slightly hazy, morning and on the boardwalk, out into the water, there was an older gentleman indulging in the most graceful tai chi. It was such a relaxing sight, and I was completely transfixed.
What plans do Figgate Friends have?
We have so much in the pipeline. We have already started with our new flower planting, tree planting, bird boxes, and mural under the Mountcastle bridge. There is a new bird feeding station coming, with the help of the train depot bordering the park, and is going to be something truly out of the ordinary, given it uses some old, heavy train machinery; some more artwork being created; we have high hopes for some big improvements to the play park area; and of course we’re raising money for bat boxes.
But we’re always open to all sorts of suggestions from anyone who uses the park, and we know there is a lot more that people would like to see happen. Which all means one of the best parks in the city can only continue to get even better.
Check out the Friends of Figgate Park Facebook page to find out more about what is going on in the park and to offer your support.