To coincide with our Edinburgh topic P6 children were invited to partake in community conservation work at Hermitage of Braid. The area is steeped in history and P6 were lucky enough to explore the surroundings to discover an ice house, a doocot (dovecot) in the walled garden and even a clever water pump system along the burn that provided running water to the Hermitage House in the past. The first recorded owner of this area was the son of a Belgian knight called De Brad, in the 12th Century. His son, Henri De Brad, was Sheriff of Edinburgh. He and his guests hunted for deer and wild boar in the forest. In 1775 the architect Robert Burn was employed by Charles Gordon of Cluny to design the mansion house. The house was finished in 1788 and it was around this time that the doocot, walled garden, stables and ice house were built. The doocot housed pigeons which were eaten by the householders. The ice house was used to store food. It was kept cold by filling the base with ice collected from local ponds and wrapped in straw, so it melted more slowly. In 1937, the Hermitage was presented to the city as a public park by the owner John McDougal.
We spent two full days (Monday and Tuesday) at Hermitage of Braid and were entrusted with numerous tasks including general maintenance, brushing, weeding, mulching, pruning and lopping of branches. As you can see from the photos below, we were extremely busy and proud of our efforts. We were even given the opportunity to ‘down tools’ and go off on a wildlife hunt. We saw a mixture of habitats including woodland, scrubland, grassland, the Braid Burn and wetland which all provide a refuge for wildlife. We eagerly looked and listened out for green woodpeckers, herons, kestrels, kingfishers, song thrush and even tawny owls, however we only managed to see and hear wood pigeons. On a plus note, Mr. Anderson taught us how to make wood pigeon noises by enclosing and cupping our hands then blowing into them!
On Friday, we set off to Craigmillar Castle Park which is set against a beautiful backdrop of Craigmillar Castle, famously associated with Mary Queen of Scots. The castle was built in the 15th century by Sir John Preston. It passed from the Prestons to Sir John Gilmour (a distant relative) in 1660 and remained with that family until 1946 when it passed to the state and then onto Historic Scotland who manage it today. We joined Castleview Primary who also partook in community conservation work. To celebrate all our work and effort, we participated in fun activities such as orienteering.
We loved developing our skills outside the classroom and this opportunity gave us a great insight into conservation work within our community.