Neighbourhood Nature Area sign. Summer
This is another old,
plantation woodland. Most of the woodland here lies on the slopes to
the north, south and east, with a grassy clearing in the middle of the wood.
The first thing to note is that, on a clear day,
there is a brilliant view from here, over the Forth, to Fife.
Starting from the ‘Neighbourhood
Nature Area’ sign that was put up by GreenScheme
(see picture), this walk follows the paths
anti-clockwise round the hill. So from here,
follow the path to the left, up the hill.
In spring (early-mid May)
this path goes through the pretty white flowers of Few-Flowered
Leek. Their onion smell can be detected from metres away! This plant is
often muddled up with Wild Garlic, because it looks similar and has the same
smell. However, Few-flowered Leek has thinner leaves, and the white flowers are
droopy, with fewer of them than on Wild Garlic. They are
both members of the Lily family and can be used in cooking, making an
excellent mild substitute for garlic! The leaves can also be added to salads.
Up the hill a little, are
Wild Raspberry canes on the right hand side, with large, leafy grasses between
Further up the
path (before the steps) there is an area with many tree stumps in it. In
summer, this area is full of leafy plants and you can't see the stumps! These
are the stumps of Wych Elm trees. They will have been cut down due to
Dutch Elm Disease. These stumps are still alive, and are
producing shoots. Other trees in this area are Sycamore and Oak,
with leaf litter and rotting twigs beneath them (good for minibeasts). Also, there are many
tree stumps with bracket fungi growing on them.
grow on both living and dead
wood. Unlike toadstools, they are hard to the touch (and sometimes look
like hooves). They can survive for many, many years.
Bracket fungus on rotting tree
Back on the path, just before the steps, look out for a large
patch of Lesser Celandine on the left-hand side, in the spring. You will
see its glossy, ‘kidney-shaped’ leaves and starry yellow flowers in
April/May. Following the path up the steps, there is another small
path, to a trench on the right-hand side. This is absolutely full of
Few-flowered Leek in spring. Smell those onions!
On the main path, to the
left, is a Broom
bush. This is very like
Gorse, without the fierce jaggy thorns. It has similar yellow flowers
and pea-like seed pods, which dry out and pop open in the heat of the
summer, flinging its seeds out as far as possible. See if you can hear them
‘popping’, or even watch them doing this.
Gorse in flower
Past this Broom bush, the path leads us into a
clearing, with very short grass between Hawthorn, Gorse and more Broom bushes.
Here, on a warm day in spring or summer, you can smell the coconut smell
of the yellow Gorse flowers. (You’d be forgiven for thinking it was
is also known as Whin. It flowers all year round and supports many
insects, including Bumble Bees. It is very nutritious and was once used
to feed cattle and horses - the young leaves were grazed in the spring
and, in winter, the jaggy bushes were cut, crushed and used as animal
feed when other food was scarce.
The short grass is
due to rabbit grazing. The
plants here don’t have a chance to grow very big! There is a lot of
Wild Strawberry here (try to find the 3-piece leaves) and Daisies. From here, the path follows the Hawthorn boundary of the
wood to a view over an Urban Forest plantation. There is a lot of Ivy along
here, on the ground and up into the trees and there’s a rock-face on
the right-hand side—remains of the old quarry that once existed
here. At this point, above the rock face, is a patch of Japanese Knotweed.
This is yet another introduction to this
country, which is doing very well. It appears in summer - looking a bit like reddish
bamboo, but with larger leaves. Another thorn in a conservationist’s side!
Through the Hawthorn tunnel, mosses seem to be the only ground plants
that can survive this amount of shade. Past the paved path on the left-hand
side, there’s rubble and stone on the right, a large Rose bush on
the left and then the path leads up to a small Yew tree. To the right of
this tree, the path goes through more Wych Elm, some young Ash trees and
comes out of the tree canopy, meeting another path beside a large Crab
Horsetails hiding in grass - spring
here, if you take the left fork for a few steps, you’ll pass Common Reed and Horsetail
plants, which both grow
in boggy soil. These particular Horsetails are probably Common Horsetail
Horsetails are very primitive
jointed, hollow stems, which reproduce by spores (so do fungi, ferns,
Hundreds of millions of years ago, they made up a large
group of plants. Some of these were the size of trees and grew in forests.
These forests have now turned into coal.
smaller kinds of Equisetum exist. They have a lot of silica
in them, which makes them very tough plants. It is their toughness that led to their use as pot-scourers many years ago, although
they have also been eaten as vegetables and used medicinally by humans
since Roman times. All Horsetails are poisonous to livestock, and are
therefore unwelcome in pasture fields.
Turning round, and back
along the path, there
are some young Scots Pine trees on the left-hand side amongst
larger Alder, Broom, Hawthorn and Ash. This path gets extremely muddy in
autumn / winter.
Finally, we come to the clearing in the middle of the
wood. This has extremely short grass (grazed by rabbits) in it, with
mosses and other plants with very small leaves. These include
Silverweed, Common Mouse Ear, Wood Avens, Ragwort, Ribwort and
Broad-leaved Plantain, White Clover, Creeping Buttercup, Thistles and
Yarrow. Around this grazed area are taller shrubs of Wild
Raspberry, Brambles, Hogweed, Broad-leaved Dock, Rosebay Willowherb, and
Pipistrelle bats have been seen
this area. These bats are very small. They come out at night time and
feed on small flying insects - so no need to worry about them attacking humans!
See the game Bat and Moth to find out how they
catch their prey!
to look out for and when
(in each season start off
on left-hand path from Hawkhill sign)
white flowers and onion smell of Few-Flowered Leek
Glossy leaves and yellow starry
flowers of Lesser Celandine
White Hawthorn flowers
Green carpets of Ivy on either side of path
Carpet of moss all over path and sides
Good time to look for minibeasts
of Wild Raspberries
delicate flowers of Broad-leaved Willowherb, with oval leaves.
Different shapes and textures of
Furry, brown seed pods on
evergreen Broom and Gorse (Gorse pods protected by thorns)
Small, white flowers of Wild
Strawberry on ground
Red Rowan berries stand out when
looking over new trees towards Craigmillar Castle
Delicate leaves and small, pink
flowers of Herb Robert at this viewpoint
Butterflies on flowers
Horsetails in boggy areas
Creeping Thistles, some with downy seed heads
Green cones on Alder trees beside Scots Pines
Clearing: pink Rosebay Willowherb round edge, Silverweed in middle and yellow
flowers of Black Medick all over.
Bats at dusk
fruiting beside Hawkhill sign
holes all over wood
Small, dark pink flowers of Hedge
Woundwort (right of path going up hill towards steps)
Bright red Hawthorn berries
Robert still flowering
Bright red berries of
Purple and yellow
Michaelmas Daisies still out
Teasel seed heads on long stalks next to clearing
and Sycamore leaves very different colours now. Maple: yellows / oranges / reds. Sycamore: darker yellows / browns with red
stalks and more crispy texture.
Lots ripe, red, smooth Rose hips on rose bushes
red and shiny berries of Guelder Rose – next to path near clearing, towards main entrance.
see birds and rabbits much easier now, as less
Yellow flowers of
views over to Craigmillar Castle.
tree – dark green - standing out amongst surrounding brown
Ivy flowers and berries
Bracket fungi on tree-trunks and logs
hard and frozen – crunchy as walk
skies at this time of year
all bare, except Bramble, Scots Pine, Broom, Ivy, Moss, Ferns, some
cones now dark and very obvious
Clumps of 'keys' on Ash trees.
Guelder Rose berries still bright red and
lush, near clearing