Should you ever find yourself in Edinburgh’s Trinity or Newhaven areas, and seeking some relaxing greenspace, then head for Starbank Park. You won’t be disappointed. Here you will find a green oasis, sure to soothe and re-energise in equal measure.
Starbank is well-connected, not just physically but socially. Starbank House – which still sits in the park – was once owned by Alexander Goalen, You may not have heard of him, but you will recognise the name of a distant relative of his, the four-time British Prime Minister William Gladstone.
Looking out over the Firth of Forth the park boasts a rich mix of trees, flower beds, areas devoted to herbs, and much more besides. There is interest all year round. In a few weeks time the cherry trees here will deliver their wonderful annual display, and pollinators will make the most of the feast this offer.
The Keep Scotland Beautiful ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ scheme is nothing short of a modern national treasure. When they opened up a Pollinator Friendly award it chimed with many community and volunteer groups. The Friends group at Starbank Park were one such group and keen to submit an entry. In went an entry that was glittering with pollinator-friendly practices. From top to toe their’s was a submission up with the very best. As Janet McArthur explained their approach mirrors the intentions of putting nature at the very centre of this category.
“We encourage pollinator-friendly planting through our planting plans. We have planted many bee friendly bulbs and have a wide selection of fruit trees, shrubs and annual flowers to feed a variety of pollinators. It’s an important element of our planting action plan that we choose plants, herbs and flowers which are attractive to pollinators throughout the year. In short we want to attract as many pollinators to our community garden as possible by creating a welcoming habitat in our neighbourhood. That’s why we did little things too like put up a few bee hotels in our nature trails.”
They have followed up those inspiring words with a range of impressive actions.
Even the pandemic couldn’t stop them in the tracks.
Janet takes up the story. “When lockdown began we knew we needed to try to bring the spirit of the park to people’s homes. We kicked off a sunflower competition encouraging our community to participate in growing this nectar rich plant. This resulted in some spectacular sunflowers grown by all ages (and we now have a young volunteer working with me) which I’m sure really cheered people up in the late summer months. Appreciating the challenge our community had in obtaining seeds during the early weeks of lockdown we opened up our seed library to those interested in growing a little bit of Starbank Park in their own gardens, patios or window boxes.”
And the good news didn’t end there.
There has been a significant pollinator bonus in a wonderfully ambitious switch from bedding plants to annuals. Keeping a park vibrant and appealing is not an easy task. It requires impressive detail as well as breadth. One of the most admirable actions is the seemingly straightforward one of leaving dandelions to flower in the park for hungry early bumblebees. That might seem an easy step on the surface, but in parks this is switch from the old engrained ethos of neatly manicured lawns that requires a bit of explanation and engagement to convince folk that things are actually being managed better for nature rather than simply being left to go to ruin.
That job of persuasion and convincing was well done and now it is another popular and beneficial move for pollinators that is part of the ethos here.
The Friends of Starbank Park formed in October 2013 and have not only restored this park to its former glories but carried forward a range of activities and actions that have engaged the local community. Today local schools, edible growing projects and space for toddlers are all part and parcel of a very broad appeal. There are even a couple of ‘little free libraries’ where locals share and swop books.
My own experience of parks is mixed, but of late the swing has been towards nature and community friendly spaces. Starbank combines pleasure, practicalities and pollinators in what is, by any standards, a really pleasing mix.
Find out more and visit:
Starbank Park are active on social media and have an excellent website which gives a lovely flavour of the delights that wait in store. The park also has a regularly updated twitter feed.
The park has a lot to offer at any time of the year. If you would like to see the cherry trees in bloom, weather depending, the first week in May is a good date for your diary!