WITH the recent soaring temperatures providing a much-needed boost to the Scottish summer, the Capital’s popular parks and gardens have been a sea of sprawled-out bodies soaking up the sun.
Barbecues, ball games and some sun-burnt faces have been the order of the day, bringing life to the city’s numerous outdoor spaces.
The timing for the recent flurry of park-related activity could not have been better as Edinburgh joins the rest of the UK in celebrating its beautiful green spaces as part of Love Parks Week.
The city council is using the annual event to encourage residents to become more familiar with their local parks to increase usage of under-utilised areas.
Whilst the city council manages 140 parks across Edinburgh, it tends to be the popular, well-known parks such as the Meadows and Princes Street Gardens which become a hive of activity on sunny days.
But the council’s project development officer in parks, Pete McDougall, says there are a number of “hidden gems” dotted around the city which are simply waiting to be discovered.
One of the parks which Pete says is particularly overlooked – despite being “second to the Botanics” – is Saughton Park.
And if you’re like “most of the population” and are not familiar with this spot, it’s on the corner of Gorgie Road and Balgreen Road, beside the skate park.
“We are using this week as a drive to get more people into Saughton Park, which is subject to a Heritage Lottery bid,” explains Pete. “It has a long history and is one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems yet very few people say they’ve ever been there.
“Princes Street Gardens are iconic, but Saughton Park is more of a secret garden.”
The park was given a boost after being selected to host the Scottish National Exhibition in 1908, an event which attracted 3.5 million visitors over the course of its six-month duration. Its lasting legacy from that includes an impressive winter garden and an Italian garden.
Pete has organised two events during Love Parks Week, which runs all of next week, to entice people to the park – one of which being a geocaching trail.
Geocaching – or a hi-tech treasure hunt which uses GPS – has become a popular family hobby in recent years, and this new trail will be launched on Tuesday. The specially designed trail for Saughton could be rolled out across other city parks if it proves successful.
“There will be ten locations throughout the park,” says Pete. “There’s one in the park already actually that someone else has done, which I found the other day.
“When you read the log book, you see that a lot of visitors to the city have come to Saughton Park especially for geocaching, people who would never normally have found this wonderful park.
“So we are hoping that creating a specific trail will have the same effect. And if it’s successful, it could be rolled out to create a parks geocaching trail all across the city.”
On Wednesday the park will also play host to a more traditional kind of treasure hunt as families are invited to take part in the great bear hunt. Thirty teddies will be hidden in the park, with prizes on offer for those who find them all.
“They will be up trees, in bushes, all over,” says Pete. “It will be a good laugh. This is all about making people aware of their local parks in the city and encouraging them to make use of them.
“Get out into these lovely bits of green space, get a bit of exercise, relax and enjoy yourself.”
There are a number of other events running to celebrate our green spaces, as part of Love Parks Week, which is organised by Keep Britain Tidy.
These include an organised walk along the River Almond and Cammo Estate on Tuesday at 10am, where participants can learn about their history, heritage and wildlife.
And on Wednesday, nature-lovers can help carry out a wildflower meadow survey at the Hermitage of Braid Local Nature Reserve from 1.30pm to 3.30pm.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, says: “Edinburgh’s parks are the pride of the city, and are central to the lives of many communities, groups and families. I would encourage the public to take this opportunity to get out and make the most of their local park.”