Steve Cardownie: Beauty spot trashed by the littering louts

I had the opportunity last Saturday to visit one of ­Edinburgh's hidden gems, ­Harlaw Reservoir in the ­Pentland Hills near Balerno.

Tuesday, 10th October 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 8:35 am
Harlaw Reservoir is well worth a visit. Picture: Scott Louden

At just 25 minutes by car from the city centre it is readily accessible and is extremely popular with walkers (with or without dogs), cyclists and anglers

I was met by a friend of mine, Ricky Handyside, who is one of the ­baillifs charged with the responsibility of looking after the reservoir and its ­surrounding woodland. Ricky has been fishing Harlaw for roughly 40 years and is frequently to be seen casting his line from the same spot where he started all those years ago.

He kindly provided me with a rod but for all the good it did me he would have been just as well giving me a chair leg, much to the relief of the fish no doubt. However, he is an experienced angler and within an hour had landed three rainbow trout which was the maximum he was permitted to take, so we had ample time to talk about this spot and its wonderful views of the Pentlands.

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Hearts Craig Levein and Hibs Willie Irvine attack the Bayern goal at Tynecastle in 1985

Harlaw Reservoir was built between 1843 and 1848 by James Jardine. It is situated in front of Threipmuir ­Reservoir and was constructed as a water supply for the city. Now, though, it plays more of a recreational role and is regularly stocked with fish throughout the year.

I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people enjoying what the area has to offer. I arrived at 9am and the car park was already beginning to fill up. A couple of hours later it was totally full, with cars then being parked on the adjacent road.

This popularity, though, comes with its own challenges and although the vast majority of day visitors act responsibly and clear up behind them, this is not always the case. Ricky informed me that there is a particular problem with overnight campers, some of whom leave a whole manner of different items of rubbish behind.

From alcohol bottles and boxes to papers, discarded tents and, on one occasion, a double mattress, some people have no concern for others or indeed the environment. Without the assistance of Alan Holbrooke who works hand in hand with Ricky, and that of members of the Malleny Angling Club, with support from the Friends of the Pentlands, the area “would turn into a rubbish tip”.

Hearts Craig Levein and Hibs Willie Irvine attack the Bayern goal at Tynecastle in 1985

I would highly recommend a visit to people of all ages. There are well laid out footpaths for walkers (and cyclists) as well as more challenging treks for seasoned hillwalkers. With a well-stocked superior hot food outlet outside the visitor centre, it is the ideal place for a picnic.

There is however, one drawback – at present there are no public transport links, which is a shame really as it means that for the vast majority of Edinburgh residents there is little opportunity to take advantage of this asset. Food for thought?

Raising a glass to friendship between cities

News that the Oktoberfest is to start this week in West Princes Street Gardens prompted me to take another look at the origins of Edinburgh’s Twin City agreement with Munich, home of Oktoberfest.

Reading signed the first twinning agreement with a German city after the Second World War when it formalised links with Dusseldorf. Edinburgh later followed suit with its agreement with Munich in 1954.

The modern concept of twinning was conceived after the Second World War as a method of healing divisions and fostering new relationships. This was to encourage friendship and understanding of different cultures between former “enemies” as an act of peace and conciliation.

Development of reciprocal trade and tourism led to sporting and cultural exchanges including school links and joint projects and school exchanges. One of these sporting exchanges occurred when Bayern Munich played an Edinburgh select team comprising of Hearts and Hibs players in August 1985. The final score was 2-1 to Edinburgh with Willie Irvine of Hibs scoring the opener and John Robertson of Hearts netting the winner. So, if you are lucky enough to visit the event this week it is worth remembering that Munich is Edinburgh’s oldest twin city. It takes as much pride in being twinned with Edinburgh as we do with it. So raise a stein and toast to peace and understanding between all races and cultures and have a bloody good time!

Money matters

In my column of August 22, I wrote that three City of Edinburgh councillors had been named in a report stating that they had outstanding financial arrears to the council. They were not alone in this regard as the report highlighted the fact that there were many other councillors throughout Scotland who were in the same boat. This would impose restrictions on the very same councillors when it came down to discussing and deciding upon council financial matters.

The issue has now been satisfactorily resolved in Edinburgh with all three councillors (from three separate parties) settling their debts, thereby freeing them to participate in the civic affairs that they were elected to do in the first place.

Keep an eye out for amendments to political parties’ vetting procedures and would-be candidates taking out bank loans to pay off any arrears that they may have outstanding.