The Water Tower

The Water Tower
The Water Tower at Dusk

Friday, August 12, 2016

Potting Shed and New Access Gate

16/00540/DPP on the councils' planning site.

On the planning system today, an application for a potting shed for me :-) and a new access gate into our garden because the sycamore tree that died (was poisoned) is no longer an issue.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ironmills, New Path

Sadly I missed the recent "paths day" with Midlothian Council Ranger Service targeting ironmills Park last week. Today though, I took the opportunity to survey the work that has been put into making good a circular path in the High Woods at Ironmills. 

Perhaps this path has always been there and it fell into disuse. It certainly had signs of being a path before. But now it has been way-marked and cleared for more able passage.

Here it is in photos.

I started here by climbing up a fairly steep section from the park into the high woods, you could start at the entrance off the more formal path in the park.

The new way marker posts

The path meanders through the woods.

You can smell the garlic

A wee narrow path through the wild garlic
Arrive at the rope-and-swing.

Light at the arrive at Lugton

Nicely marked with wooden poles

Follow the right of way heading up to the top path in the High Woods

It doesn't look too steep.

Head downhill into Ironmills Park

The junction where the top path at one time took you over the Viaduct. Now lost to the Borders Rail Line.

There's a couple of sections on the path where it is boggy due to water running off from the land above ironmills. There's even been some of the dreaded landslip but it doesn't look threatening. It's just nature re-shaping the land. 

A short route then that will raise the heart rate but won't tire you out. Any suggestions for improvements to this path gratefully received. 

Enjoy x

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Second Ironmills Landslip

A second landslip has taken place at Ironmills Steps. This time the landslip has tracked further East, heading in the direction of the Dalkeith Bowling Club. The original landslip started on the corner of Ironmills Steps and after a period of time this looked to have stabilised and the council carried out repairs and re-opened the steps to the public. 
Unfortunately though, after a spend within a budget of 58K, all the good works to the steps has been thwarted by this second slip. 

Its sad to see this after all the efforts. The ground was clearly damaged after the first slip and the rain in December and January was depressing, it seemed to rain every day. This rainfall probably caused this second slip (although the ground was clearly damaged after the first slip therefore its not so surprising that a second slip would happen).

The landslip that started in January 2016

Movement recorded by March 2016

The steps have been closed again to public access whilst the council seek expert opinion on what to do now. Our house is not affected by the landslip but the woodland ground that we purchased from the council is very close to part of the slip at the edge of the access route. 

Measures to ensure the public stay away from the bridge and the steps are as shown in the photo below. Quite an attractive fence I think. Looks like its going to be fenced off for a while.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wet December 2015

The wettest December in Midlothian in years apparently. Major floods over the country this month, with some terrible landslips and devastation caused by flooding. It wasn't so bad in Midlothian thankfully.

Of course I was keen to assess any impact on the landslip at Ironmills. The high river level meant I couldn't reach my favoured spot for taking a monthly photograph of the toe of the landslip this morning. But none-the-less, the photo that I did manage to take, and all other visual assessment of the area around the landslip at Ironmills, indicates no change.

This adds to the councils own observation, that since December 2014, there has been no movement on the land-slipped ground. All in complete co-incidence with the completion of repairs to the leaking drainage in December 2014!

September 2015

December 2015

Update 3rd Jan 2016, noted a hairline crack in soft soil to the East of the original landslip. May be nothing but worth keeping an eye on it. This is not anywhere near the original landslip crack, this is at the top of Ironmills at the path that runs along the cemetery wall heading towards the bowling club. It may be nothing more than movement in fresh soil that was moved here during the works to put in a land drain in this area. Who knows. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sycamore tree report at last.

Dear Susan
Please find attached a copy of the report relating to your tree.  You'll see that it was written in February of this year (and my records indicate that it was also sent at that stage) but, as I was on the verge of a major IT failure around that time, it's possible that my Email programme's record of sent messages is erroneous.  I didn't realise that you hadn't received a copy until our recent discussion and your Email below, and I'm sorry that you had such a long wait.  I hope you'll find that it answers the need outlined in your message.
Best regards
Dr Steven Hendry
Forest Pathologist
Forest Research
Northern Research Station

EH25 9SY

Condition of mature sycamore located in Cemetery Road, Dalkeith

Background:  In June 2014, the Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service of Forest Research received a request from Mr. Gerry Goldwyre & Mrs. Susan Goldwyre to investigate a rapid decline in the condition of a mature sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) within the garden of their house in Cemetery Road, Dalkeith.  The tree in question,  located at an Ordnance Survey grid reference of approximately NT327669,  lies close to the boundary between the Goldwyres’ property and land owned by the Dalkeith Lawn Tennis Club immediately to the south.  A house built in 2009 is situated several metres to the north of the tree, though building works reportedly took account of impingement upon the tree’s rootplate and no decline in the condition of the tree had been observed in the years following its construction.

The tree is reported to have shown no signs of ill-health in 2013, and not to have appeared unhealthy at the time of bud-burst in mid-April 2014.  Shortly after flushing, however,  browning and wilting of the foliage occurred over much of the tree’s crown and affected leaves started to be shed thereafter.  The condition of the tree in early June 2014 is illustrated in Figure 1, which indicates that more pronounced browning and thinning of the southern side of the crown had occurred at that time.

Figure 1.  Condition of the sycamore in Cemetery Lane, Dalkeith on 3rd June 2014.  Semi-aerial view taken from the water tower on the opposite side of the road. Photograph provided by Susan Goldwyre.

Site visit and subsequent investigations:  A site visit to investigate the possible cause(s) of the tree’s decline was undertaken on 27th June 2014.  Activities in the vicinity of the tree were discussed and it was established that no invasive ground works or chemical applications had been carried out within the boundaries of the Goldwyres’ property in the recent past.  Whilst herbicides were occasionally used in the garden to control weed growth this was confined to paved areas and did not occur near to the tree in question.

An examination of the bases of the stems and the major surface-lateral roots was undertaken which revealed only the presence of living, healthy bark: no evidence of physical damage or fungal infection at the base of the tree was detected.  Inspection of the major limbs of the tree revealed no signs of bark exudation or sunken areas which might have been present if killing of bark on the stem had occurred or was ongoing.  Substantial defoliation had occurred throughout the crown of the tree (Figure 2) but was clearly directional in nature with the limbs on the northern side of the tree displaying the best retention of foliage (Figure 3).

Branch samples were obtained from the lower crown of the tree using high pruners and were inspected for signs of xylem staining and bark death on site.  Although death of the fine twig structure was evident, and patchy necrosis on small-diameter branches (<5cm) was noted, this was not associated with overt evidence of the presence of a pest or pathogen.  The samples were therefore bagged and transported to the laboratory for subsequent microscopic examination.

Figure 2.  Condition of the sycamore in Cemetery Lane, Dalkeith on 27th June 2014.  Ground view from the same aspect as Figure 1.

Permission to inspect the area to the south of the tree was obtained from Dalkeith Lawn Tennis Club via Mrs Goldwyre and the presence of a recently-created stump which apparently belonged to a sycamore was noted.  The stump had been cross-cut in a manner suggesting that herbicide had been applied to the cut surface at the time of its creation to prevent subsequent sprouting of suckers from the root system (Figure 4).  The distance from the stump to the boundary with the Goldwyres’ property, and the distance from the boundary to the base of the tree, was measuredusing an open-reel tapemeasure. The distance between the stump and the affected tree was thereby established to be approximately 8 metres.

Figure 3.  Condition of the sycamore in Cemetery Lane, Dalkeith on 27th June 2014.  Ground view from the north, illustrating foliar retention on the limbs of the tree nearest to the house.

Figure 4.  Cross-cut stump located within the grounds of Dalkeith Lawn Tennis Club to the south of the affected tree

The branch samples obtained during the site visit on 27th June 2014 were examined microscopically in the laboratory and isolations made from both the bark and xylem to determine whether infection by a fungal pathogen had occurred.  No signs of fungal colonisation were observed on the leaves, shoots, twigs or branches and isolation from both xylem and bark yielded no cultures of plant pathogenic fungi.

Conclusions / recommendations:  The speed and pattern of symptom development which was evident on the sycamore located in Cemetery Lane, Dalkeith was only consistent with the actions of a limited range of potential damaging agents:
1. A rapidly developing root pathogen (such as a Phytophthoraspecies) killing the bark in the main roots and at the stem base of the tree, thereby depriving the crown of the necessary resources to survive.
2. A vascular wilt pathogen infecting the conducting wood within the stem & branches, thereby preventing the flow of water from root to crown necessary for the survival of the shoots and foliage.
3. A chemical agent capable of systemic spread, introduced into the tree via its rooting system or at its stem base and subsequently transported by the tree’s vascular system to the shoots and branches, killing these directly.

The first two of these possibilities can be discounted on the basis of the site investigation and subsequent laboratory examinations reported above.  No evidence of bark death at the stem base or in the major roots was detected (eliminating possibility 1) and no evidence of a wilt pathogen was found either in the form of xylem staining or via isolations to determine the identity or the fungi associated with dysfunctional bark and wood within the tree (eliminating possibility 2).

Contrastingly, the speed, nature and pattern of symptom development which were noted on the tree in question would all be consistent with damage by a chemical agent capable of being transported within the tree’s vascular system (such as a systemic herbicide).  Such an agent could have been introduced into the tree by a variety of routes:
1. Direct injection into cuts or holes in the stem or roots of the tree.
2. Treatment of suckers at the base of the stem or emanating from its roots.
3. Treatment of another tree / stump of the same species sharing a root graft with the affected tree.

No evidence for direct introduction of a chemical into the affected tree was found, though a careful examination for signs of such an introduction were made.  Possibilities 2 / 3 are difficult to separate in practice, particularly where the production of suckers from the roots of a large tree, and at some distance from its stem, is a possibility (as is the case with sycamore).

Circumstantial evidence suggesting that possibilities 2 / 3 might apply in this particular case was found in the form of a recently created stump which had been cut in a manner consistent with the application of a herbicide to it.  The stump was of the same species as the affected tree (as confirmed by examination of historic photographs showing the tree from which the stump had emanated) and was located on the side of the affected tree which had developed the most severe symptoms.  It therefore appears possible that a herbicide was applied to the stump in question and that it was translocated into the rooting system of the affected tree via natural continuity of their vascular systems or via a root graft between them.  However, information supplied by Mrs Goldwyre following discussions with Dalkeith Lawn Tennis Club suggest that, although a translocated herbicide (glyphosate) was indeed applied to the aforementioned stump, this action took place after the affected sycamore had started to display symptoms of poor health at the beginning of 2014.

Nevertheless, the symptoms displayed by the sycamore in Cemetery Lane are consistent with damage by a chemical agent capable of being transported within the tree’s vascular system and not with infection by a pathogen:  the introduction of such an agent may have occurred via a route which was not uncovered by the site investigation.  Chemical analysis of shoots from the affected tree could be undertaken to confirm this diagnosis but would be of little value in the absence of evidence as to the source of the chemical concerned.

Trees may recover from chemical damage if a sufficient quantity of dormant buds are present on their branching structures to promote recovery growth in subsequent years.  It is therefore recommended that the tree in Cemetery Lane should be retained until the spring of 2015 (provided that tree safety considerations make this a viable option) and that the extent and vigour of any recovery growth be assessed at that time.  Since certain chemical agents influence the form and colouration of foliage produced in the year after the tree’s initial exposure, this action might also serve to provide an indication of the identity of the damaging agent concerned.

Dr Steven Hendry
Forest Pathologist
Forest Research
18th February 2015.

Postscript - Susan Goldwyre
Sorry that the photos don't appear from the report. This is one of the photos, already posted by myself previously when I described what was found on the tennis club ground. The club maintain that they treated this stump after they observed the leaves on our sycamore tree turn brown. The club would not supply a sample of what they applied to the stump.  The stump is from a sycamore tree felled without permission, and it is large enough to have required permission. I didn't hear of any action levied against the club for the removal of this tree without permission. 

The space, the light and the Katsura tree planted in the new space are wonderful. As is the wood for burning. Almost makes up for the cost of felling. Doesn't compensate one bit though for raising a complaint about an insignificant wood store that cannot be seen by anyone and will cost over £200 for planning permission. Shame the club didn't have to pay £200 for felling a tree w/o permission and probably inadvertently killing off a mature TPOd tree at the same time.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Diary of Planning Events 2014 to 2015 part 2

Part 1 of this subject matter related to a planning application by the tennis club for the mesh screening used around the tennis courts, in 2014.

Part 2.......

Relationships with the tennis club and myself have always been slightly "edgy" given that some of their members were not at all pleased that the ground around the club was sold to Gerry and I by Midlothian Council. Prior to the sale, the club had, I guess, a free reign for access and use of the land at the back of the clubhouse. And here it is.....

This is the exit at the metal fence that the club used for many many years to get rid of leaves. No problem there. The cut away shows the pile of waste blaise (blaze?) which is the  crushed red bricks/stone that is used to make the playing surface on the courts. 

It had fairly piled up on the ground that we had purchased, and over a period of probably more than 5 years now, I have been making in-roads into getting rid of the pile to recover the land to a condition fit for planting. Not an easy task. At one time we brought in a small digger and used that to move as much of the blaise as possible. I created 2 blaise bays with the material and it's being mixed with soil whenever possible to create a planting medium where I shuck-in plants pending planting proper in a designated area the woodland. 

I made a path through the waste blaise in 2013 and continued to allow the club to use that route to dump their leaves (and more blaise). My only caveat was that this dumping now be taken to the edge of the woodland where the leaves could be tipped over the edge and fall to the river below. 

To say I was angry the following year, when I encountered the pile at the base of a Horse Chestnut tree at the top of the slope, is an understatement. No attempt had been made to tip them over the edge and the pile not only brought risk to a mature tree, it was piled such that the cesspit outlet pipe could not be seen by anyone visiting to assess that pipe. (That's another story for another day).

So I painfully moved as many leaves and blaise as I could over the edge. It was summer time and I was recovering from a very painful shoulder injury. I didn't want to damage my shoulder so I had a bonfire to get rid of more of the leaves. It burned well for over 4 hours before someone from the club came through the exit and asked me to put the fire out because the smoke was on their courts. I couldn't see smoke anywhere near their courts and went into the club area to take a look. I was told it had belched smoke when the wind changed direction but there was certainly none on the courts when I looked. The fire having been burning for over 4 hours already was by now almost out and it was left to burn on - putting it out would have made no difference whatsoever. 

But this is when relations lurched from "slightly edgy" to something more serious. Alistair (not a club member but the husband of a club member) claimed I was burning deliberately and that I had another agenda. He claimed I knew it was their "tennis day" and that the smoke had reached his house at the other end of the cemetery. I left having said my piece and asked Gerry to go and mediate and to take the camera. I put the Alistair story on Facebook at the time. 

One fun part was when Alistair said that Gerry's camera had been affected by the bonfire because - "look, its covered in ash". Actually Gerry had spilled Alpen on it that day!

And so relations were now beyond edgy. I decided to take matters into my own hands for the long term betterment of the woodland behind the tennis club. 

Part 3 to follow.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Planting today

Just for the record, its mild and damp today and finally I had some spare time to plant.

30 x Holly - heeled in pending a place on the slop, back of the woodland. Anywhere that can use evergreen holly.

20 X red stemmed Cornus, planted in front of the felled sycamore tree.

20 X green stemmed Cornus, planted at the bottom of the slope under the power line. 

3 X woodland Honeysuckle and 3 X cotoneaster, at the fence at the back of the woodland. Fingers crossed this takes, it tends to be too dry to support growth and I have to walk round there and remember to water it for a couple of years at least.

The Council have also been busy planting. 3 sessions with different community groups. I took part in the first group with Salters Gate school. I think there are around 200 shrubs planted on the bank above the land slip. 

From what I can remember off the top of my head;

Red Mrs Popple Fuchsia
White Deutzia
Red flowering currant
Blue Ceanothus (Californian Lilac)
- there are probably others, I can't remember

Planting scheme designed b the council landscape architect. It was complicated, but we followed it to the design brief. 

Wild flower area to be re seeded next Spring. All is good in the wood.