Donald Anderson: The health benefits of an active park life

Karen Sales and young Isabel take part in a previous Burdiehouse Burn clean-up. Picture: Toby Williams
Karen Sales and young Isabel take part in a previous Burdiehouse Burn clean-up. Picture: Toby Williams
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I am a volunteer. I became involved with Burdiehouse Burn Valley Park way back in 1986 when I was elected as a councillor. A group of residents had started doing clean-ups and it was always great fun to get your sleeves up and stuck in to make a difference.

Over the years the park has expanded and now runs the two miles from Burdiehouse Road down through south Edinburgh to Moredun Woods.

Almost exactly ten years ago, a Friends group was established to help look after the park. I was subsequently asked if I could get involved and I was happy to step up.

It’s a small group and they’re all fantastic people to deal with and passionate about looking after and improving the park. The park is almost twice as big as Princes Street Gardens and is a haven for kids playing, dog walkers, mums with buggies and is also popular with cyclists. Wildlife loves it too and there are protected species in the park like otters, kingfishers and an array of bats.

Because of its wildlife, the park was turned into a nature reserve, and it has become one of Edinburgh’s finest green spaces – despite the litter. More on that later.

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The work of the Friends group has changed as the park has improved. Having started out just doing clean-ups, we are now doing tasks like woodland management, willow weaving – no, not making baskets, it’s about building a wall at the side of the burn to stop erosion – pathway widening and improvement (hard work), organising wildlife walks and we’ve put in bird and bat boxes.

We’ve secured funding for an array of other facilities from new park benches through to organising Edinburgh’s first Community Asset Transfer. The group is buying ‘The Bothy’, which is a run-down old park bothy, and it will be refurbished to create a proper base for our activities.

It will also become both a window on and a classroom for the park, helping spread the word about the park and all that is going on.

But in spring our thoughts turn to litter. It is still the biggest problem we face and prevents us spending more time doing other improvements. We’ve organised our third annual ‘Big Spring Clean’ which is a series of three events taking place over the next few weeks.

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The first is this Saturday. So why not join in our Spring Clean, or one of the many others taking place in the city. There’s a great bunch of people to work with and you can really see the difference that it can make.

The added bonus is that you will be getting some good fresh air and exercise at the same time – remember sitting is the new smoking.

Volunteering is great fun. It’s become a hobby and my company is now a proud sponsor of the Friends group. So how about it? Join us for some good and healthy exercise, or join one of the many other clean ups being organised throughout Edinburgh in the coming weeks.

This month you can rise up from your couch and make a real difference for your local neighbourhood and for Edinburgh by helping give the best city in the world a nice ‘Big Spring Clean’.