The Garden Blog: September-December 2021

September - October 2021: finding my Roots. 

In September 2021 I started my residency in the community gardens, and it was immediately clear that there were plenty of things to do!

I started by exploring and researching the remaining features of the garden from the previous Craigmillar Arts Centre that opened in 1977, transforming the grounds and space from the church (St Andrews) that was its predecessor.

From discussions with members of the community I feel it's really important to preserve and record features from the previous Craigmillar Arts Centre in our archives, so that some can be included in our plans for the garden. I have grown particularly fond of the incredible ‘Elvis miner’ statue, lovingly created and designed by Alex Brown and currently sitting by the old font and main entrance to the centre.

Whilst I hope to find out more about these features, I'll be also keeping myself busy developing the garden spaces giving it new life and purpose for the local community.

I have currently identified some focuses for the lead up to the spring of 2022 to get stuck in with, which are the following...


1- The shed. This space was in some real need of TLC when I first saw it. It was cluttered with old garden tools, a random assortment of damaged art supplies from the previous centre and even an abandoned mouse nest made of crisp packets and wood in a hole in the floor. Thankfully I have managed over the last couple of weeks to clear this all out and it's all seemingly mouse free!

I'm looking to create here a multi-use outdoor space for storage and community events, which I feel would really benefit the centre and is something we can build on over the next season. I’ve been having chats with the Payback support team, who are trained in repair and ground maintenance by the council, about options and methods for repairing the shed. Some of this has already been happening over the past month.


2- The vegetable beds. There are two raised beds in the garden space: one constructed from breeze blocks adjacent to the centre, and a large wooden bed in which apparently used to be a pond!

These currently have the remainders of a vegetable garden that was briefly used to grow food for the fantastic Craigmillar festival that happened last month.

I'm exploring the idea of setting up a Dye Garden in this area, expanding on the current growing spaces, to teach and share the magic of colour and plants with the community.

This will hopefully lead to some wonderful collaborations and workshops at the centre in the coming year, and could provide opportunities to work with the seed library that is also being established at the centre.


3- The big space and shipping container to the right of the shed. This area used to be the community allotments and is the resting place of Bob Cairns, a well-loved member of the Craigmillar Arts Centre whose ashes were interred here a few years ago alongside a memorial tree.

Sadly, little else is growing here at the moment, and it's filled with fly-tipping and rubbish from the time the site wasn't in use. As a result, much of the area is effectively buried.

I’m aiming to organise the clearing of this area as soon as possible, so that the resting place of Bob Cairns can be properly accessed and the area can be of use to the community once more. I'll be discussing with the future use of the site with Rachel, as well as ways to prevent fly-tipping. It should hopefully be looking much better by the end of the year.

The shipping container is unfortunately looking in a really poor state with rust and leaks throughout, leading to its contents being largely damaged and often unidentifiable. I'll be looking at how in what is salvageable within the container at a future point and exploring options for its future with Rachel and the team at the centre.


8th November 2021 – meetings, progress and discovery!

Over the last couple of weeks, Rachel and I have been exploring options for gaining resources to help repair the shed and outdoor spaces. we've been applying for funding from local businesses and today we've arranged a successful grant of supplies from Travis Perkins, a business that deals with construction and landscaping. Crucially the company is lending our site a couple of huge skips in December, which means the old community allotment spaces can finally be cleared! HOORAY!

It's a big victory for the garden spaces as this has been a real problem and safety worry over the last few months. It feels like we can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

With this ive also made some arrangements for the site the work with the Edinburgh University Conservation Society (AKA The Dirty Weekenders) visit the site for a work day. I have been part of this group for several years now, and am really keen to get them on board. It looks likely that one Sunday in December they will be around to help us clear the old community allotment space.


After a good look within the shipping container, we've been able to salvage a few of the art supplies as well as a beautiful painting from a stage set and a range of old photographs that through water damage have created the most bizarre and beautiful range of colours and patterns. Rachel and I have decided to keep these safe, and have dried them all out ready for later use or display in the community. This is exactly the sort of find that demonstrates the importance of keeping a proper archive for the local community.


Monday 15th November - finally some gardening!

Today was a brilliantly sunny autumnal day to get started with the garden. Id spent the first half of the day helping with the payback team (A brilliant group from the council helping with DIY related things) Begin repairs and painting within the shed - Its incredible what a bit of paint can do to a space!. id decided to go for a brilliant white interior to really brighten up what otherwise was a really dark space as to also keep the walls neutral for potential mixed use as the exact purpose of the shed at the moment is still being decided on, with ideas varying from a outdoor working space or interviewing space as well as being a space for our garden tools. 

with the second half of the day I decided to clear out the vegetable beds that was left over from the festival in August, mostly left over onions with the occasional potato in wich we persuaded some of the volunteers to take for themselves. with doing that I also upcycled a load of leftover stone brick and broken paving slabs to construct a new planting bed as im aiming to make the most of the space to have it packed with a fabulous array of wildlife friendly dye plants. 


Sunday 5th December - Dirties assemble! 

Over the last two weeks ive been working with the Dirty Weekenders Conservation society a student group within the Edinburgh University whom are keen beans for all things conservation and the Craigmillar Now centre to have a big clean out day in our gardens. 

As Ive mentioned before the 'big garden space' to the right of the dye garden had over the last 5 years become a dumping ground and neglected space of concern as with the shipping container with its bad water damage

The previous week the skip had arrived from Travis Perkins much to our relief, allowing for today to be the big day!

By 11AM a team we had a team of 12 wonderful dirt's assembled and ready for a big clear out and by 1Am the skip was mostly full! Its bloomin marvellous how many hands make light work.

After a fabulous lunch of Pizza galore hosted by Rachel whom id have to say makes a excellent dinner lady, the shipping container was emptied and the garden space was soon cleared. Pipes, scaffolding, nets and old signage was to add a few some of the immense amount of rubbish we cleared from the garden, 

and by another hour we had reached the original ground level even finding a old staircase into the space where a rather grumpy mouse was least impressed abouts having his plastic pots taken away. By 3pm it was a job done, and my goodness what a transformation! I have to say this has been one of the best transformations the outdoor spaces here has seen in years. Now we can actually see the space we can start to make plans with the team on what we want to do with it, with already ideas abouts a future tree nursery currently being drawn up for some of the space here. 

After a bit of a pottering around within the garden the following week all then was set for 2022 and a new and exiting year in the Craigmillar now garden.