We had a most beautiful sunny morning for the first of the autumn work parties with children from George Heriot's school. Twenty-five children met at the Mural (I believe they had already studied it before FOMBL members arrived), and were having their snack when Peter the Park Ranger arrived bearing tools, and Heather the retired Convener arrived bearing bags, and shortly afterwards Yusef the Volunteer Co-ordinator arrived bearing knowledge of creepy crawlies. They were supported by Alex from Heriot's bearing trowels and refreshments, together with another teacher and a supportive Dad, making a good ratio of adults to children.
We divided into two groups, one raking autumn leaves, which were gathered into many large bags supplied by Peter for uplifting and composting later, and the other group engaged in clearing the grass from the guttering along Middle Meadow Walk, which was used to fill the many bare patches on the nearby 'lawns'. The two groups swopped over at half time.
The grass recycling team found many worms, signalling the health of the removed grass, and were told more about the life of worms by Yusef, who turns out to be very knowledgeable on the subject. Some worms were even rescued and taken home for further observation.
A great start was made on two important jobs that will take more sessions to complete, but luckily these are both sited near the school, so time will not be wasted on walking a long way before getting started. Posters were given to those children who live near the Meadows, advertising the FOMBL public meeting on 6 November. Many thanks indeed to all the children and their teachers for their help. We look forward to the next session on Thursday 2 November.
Today we focused on autumn leaf gathering, as usual: a huge number of bags were collected (I didn't make a note of how many). I made sure the children knew that the leaves would be turned into useful compost.
We divided the children into two groups: one concentrated on the leaf raking while the other took spades and trowels to tackle the weeds under the benches in Middle Meadow Walk. At half time (after hot chocolate) we swopped over, so both groups had a turn at both tasks.
It took a bit of gentle persuasion to make sure that each group in the weeding contingent had a spade or two as well as trowels: the spades tended to be bagged by the boys! But we soon made sure that the girls also had a turn. In the end we made a reasonably good job of clearing the weeds. One girl raised the question of weed-killer, and I explained that there was a question mark over glyphosate, which is now banned in some European countries, and is already questioned in the UK, though not actually banned (though since it is a carcinogen I'd like it to be - I don't like the idea of children grubbing about in weeds that have been treated with herbicide). Anyway, these weeds had certainly not been treated, and were in many cases really difficult to uproot. Congratulations to all!
This was the last of the sessions with Heriot's for this term. The weather was mixed: we went ahead in spite of showers, though while we were working it didn't actually rain, though it was pretty cold. It's not so much fun gathering soggy leaves as it is when they are dry, but the children made a very good job of it all. Many thanks to them, and to the teachers and parents who accompanied them, and also to Peter the Park Ranger, who supplied tools, expertise, and a lift to me personally.
We look forward to more work in the spring, and hope that their parents will spread the word about FOMBL. All groups have been supplied with FOMBL publicity leaflets. We also hope that perhaps some of them will be able to come to the public meeting tomorrow when Martin Hyman (Olympic running champion) will be speaking (7.30 pm at the German-speaking church, 1 Chalmers Crescent - starting with refreshments).
We hope too that the children will be able to access our website and learn more about the Mural:
Heather Goodare 17.11.16
We met once again at the Mural at 10.30 a.m., with three teachers/parents from George Heriot's, 26 children, Alec replacing Sarah from FOMBL, and Jimmy the Park Ranger (Peter had been redirected to other duties). The weather was a bit drizzly, but this didn't deter the workers, who tackled again more leaf-raking with enthusiasm, and piled the leaves into bags - 72 altogether by the end of the morning. Jimmy had brought along a barrow with rakes and loppers.
We divided the children into two groups of 13, one to do leaf-raking and the other tree feathering: they swopped at half time, when they had hot chocolate. Jimmy provided the tools, this time including of course loppers, which the children handled with skill and care: we had no accidents. We made sure that with every lopper-bearer there was a companion raker, who gathered up all the twigs and put them in the appropriate black bin identified by Jimmy. Everyone had a turn at lopping, and the children were very careful and responsible, and it seems enjoyed the task. Before going they were supplied with FOMBL leaflets via a teacher, and also a couple of posters for the public meeting on 18 November.
Nearly all the trees in Middle Meadow Walk have now been attended to, but we did not attempt to prune the tree stumps that have sprouted: this will be for another day.
Afterwards Alec and I put up the poster for the public meeting in our new notice-board in Middle Meadow Walk. The FOMBL leaflets need replenishing: if anyone is going that way!
Heather Goodare 9.11.16
This time we had a different class of 26 children, with again three adults from Heriot's including Alex Weir-Addie, Outdoor Learning Co-ordinator, plus Sarah Tolley and the two Park Rangers, Peter and Jimmy.
This time we divided the children into two groups: one concentrated on raking leaves into bags while the others went off with Peter to plant snowdrop bulbs. After a break for snacks (hot chocolate provided by the school this time!) we swopped over the groups and so each group had a chance to do two different activities.
I bagged three children for a really special job after the break: feathering the twigs sprouting from a nearby hollow tree-trunk and planting tulip bulbs and chinodoxa (lovely small blue flower apparently). The chinodoxa will come out before the tulips. The children really enjoyed this, and handled a lopper and a pair of secateurs very responsibly. Peter agreed to fill up the tree-trunk with more soil, which it needs. Many thanks to Mike Shields for providing the bulbs.
When thanking the children for their work at the end of the morning I hoped that they would be able to admire the results of their labours in the spring when the bulbs should flower. We didn't have time to talk about the Mural on this occasion: next time perhaps! I gave them FOMBL leaflets to take home. The weather was dry but quite cold and not sunny: but a good meeting all the same. Many thanks to Peter for transport there and back.
We met as agreed at the Mural: 26 children, three teachers (including Alex Weir-Addie, Outdoor Learning Co-ordinator), Sarah Tolley and myself from FOMBL, and two Park Rangers, Peter and Jimmy. The children had brought gloves and some trowels and hand forks, which we didn't actually use this time, though they will certainly be used on another occasion. They were kitted out in yellow tabards, which made us all look very smart.
We divided the children into four teams of six+, and the teams competed with each other to see who could gather the most leaves into large black bin bags. Each team had three rakes. The winning team achieved 19 bags, after which we ran out of bags, but luckily just as our time was coming to an end anyway. We might need 80 bags next time!
There was a strong wind blowing, which meant that it needed two people to hold the very large bags open for loading (a nice easy job for adults like me). I had taken along my litter picker, but there was actually very little litter to pick up.
The children seemed to enjoy the work, and carried on enthusiastically, with a short break for a snack at half time. We explored the topic of why the leaves blew into that particular corner, what the leaves would be used for, and where the prevailing wind was coming from: it was a useful prompt to find out (or remember?) in which directions were north, south, east and west. At the end we had a look at the Mural, and gave out FOMBL leaflets and newsletters to the children to take home.
The weather was fine and sunny, though windy, and we achieved quite a lot, though it would be good to vary the work a bit next time. There is a nearby hollow tree stump which needs feathering and could serve as a location for bulb planting. Also I believe Mike Shields has an idea for planting snowdrops along Middle Meadow Walk: this would be ideal for the children. Weeding under benches always needs doing as well.
Many thanks to all for a good morning's work. I was indebted to Peter for providing tools and bags, and for a lift there and back: thus conserving what little energy I now have for the work in hand!