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July 2019 – Second work party clearing entrance at Cramond
August 2019 – FRAW response to CEC Dowies consultation report
September 2019 – Meeting Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP to discuss Dowies Weir
October 2019 – Meeting with CEC with partner local groups to discuss Dowies Mill Weir – CEC agrees to consider alternative to their preferred option
October 2019 – Council replaces sign message at School Brae car park.
October 2019 – Submission sent to CEC detailing counter proposals for Dowies Weir.
October 2019 – Top dressing applied to new path surfaces at Dowies & Peggy’s Mill.
October 2019 – Meeting with SWECO to discuss progress on Steps. Costing information delayed until 26 Nov.
November 2019 – Last brush cut in Community Woodland to prepare for further path work etc
November 2019 – Work party to continue clearing and burning brash in Community Woodland.
November 2019 – SWECO meeting to discuss costings etc for Steps replacement.
In our last FRAW News we promised to report on progress with the Dowies Mill Weir controversy and the Salvesen Steps replacement saga (now in 7th year and counting).
SALVESEN STEPS REPLACEMENT
A meeting was convened on October 30 attended by CEC officials & Councillors, SWECO the consulting engineers, Sustrans and a strong team from FRAW. It had been hoped that a costing would be presented to determine the viability of the project but this will not now be available until a meeting scheduled for the end of November. However, we saw a detailed computer simulation of the proposed structure – the fruit of the LiDAR drone survey made earlier this year. There followed constructive discussions of associated design, technical and costing issues. There is no doubt that the Steps replacement will be complicated and expensive but the good news is that Sustrans, the funding partner remains very keen on the project.
DOWIES MILL WEIR
A meeting was held between the Council and local organisations on 2 October. Our staunch opposition to the Council’s preferred option of removing the weir was again expressed and after discussion it was agreed that our alternative option would now be given consideration and that funding would be sought to carry this out. We were asked to provide a brief summation of what we are putting forward and submitted the following. FRAW are now preparing a detailed paper to help this matter to go forward.
Further to the meeting of 2 October 2019, FRAW in conjunction with the Cramond & Barnton Community Council, the Cramond Association and the Cramond Heritage Trust believe that the stated objective of improved fish passage at Dowie’s Mill Weir can be best be achieved by replacing the existing fish pass and implementing the W.S. Atkins Option 2 Easement (2015 Optioneering Study to Improve Fish Passage) with associated works.
This will result in the retention of the existing weir and millpond thus preserving the industrial and cultural heritage and beauty of the area. It will remove potential erosion to the right bank, particularly adjacent to the Class C listed mill cottages and will also reduce the scour risk to Cramond Brig and remove the potential costs of relaying the 150mm diameter sewer (£880,882) and gas main (£994,207). It also saves the environmental impact of removing 300m3 of bed sediment and transporting it to Teeside for disposal and associated cost of £127,000. In addition we believe that our preferred scheme will result in cost savings from the CEC proposed option in excess of £150,000. We also consider the Risk Register costs in the CEC option to be understated.
On 29 October an elite work party completed the work to resolve the serious mud problem that has prevailed on the ‘turning circle’ below Dowies Mill Cottages. Five builder-bags of whin dust were barrowed and spread to smooth the surface of the aggregate that had been laid previously.
When our order is received later this month, we plan to dig in plant coverage on the fence-line by the boat yard at the Cramond entrance of the Walkway. We also hope to continue to clear back growth in the area to improve the light there and remove and burn the large accumulation of ‘brush’. In addition, we plan to cut back and tidy-up the growth of unwelcome snowberry etc that regularly threatens to overwhelm the entrance to the Walkway by the gate at the Queensferry Road.
The vast majority of the trees planted in the Community Woodland continue to flourish splendidly. Brush cutting has taken place to reduce the enormous growth of other vegetation that has also flourished around the trees – the weather has been greatly favourable to growth of all sorts this year. Some wood-chips have been delivered and we plan soon to improve and extend the paths together with more clearance of areas around the fringe of the Woodland. Work Party Volunteers stand in readiness!
SCHOOL BRAE CAR PARK BARRIER
In our last FRAW News we reported our unhappiness with the intrusive and unwelcoming nature of the barrier sign erected by the Council. After discussion, it was agreed that this should be changed and the result before and after is shown here. We very much appreciate the flexibility and helpfulness shown by the officer concerned. This demonstrates yet again the value of the effective partnership that can be achieved between local groups and the Council.
The period since our last FRAW News has not been without its frustrations. Progress on the two major areas of concern, Dowies Mill Weir and the Salvesen Steps has been disappointing and we summarise below what the current position is to the best of our knowledge.
DOWIES MILL WEIR
FRAW, together with the bulk of locally expressed opinion remains staunch in its view that the proposals to demolish the weir are the wrong solution. In a nutshell, we believe, the proposal severely damages a local amenity and environment loved by many. The alternative of retaining and maintaining the existing weir not only delivers the improvements to fish passage while removing all the disadvantages and is significantly cheaper. However this has not been seriously considered by the promoters of the scheme.
It was greatly appreciated that so many people made submissions after the exhibition in February. To say that we were disappointed by the paper subsequently issued by the Council in response to these submissions would be an enormous understatement. We have in turn written a paper (as yet un-acknowledged) strenuously detailing our disapproval of its findings which has been copied to our members and local and national political representatives. A meeting for local representatives, rather than the community in general has been promised by the Council to discuss the matter and has now been set for early October.
The next stage is for a paper prepared by officials to be considered by the appropriate council committee (now changed from Transport & Environment to Culture & Communities). There would seem to have been some difficulty in preparing this document as it was not ready for the expected September meeting. We have also asked for an early copy of this document. When this proposal comes before the committee, now believed to be November, we intend to ask for a deputation to be heard together with our partner local organisations – the Cramond & Barnton Community Council, Cramond Association and Cramond Heritage Trust
SALVESEN STEPS REPLACEMENT
Earlier this year following vegetation clearance and a LiDAR survey by drone, we were upbeat about progress towards costing and final design. A schedule was issued specifying a suggested progress meeting for the end of June. Two months have now passed by and the consulting engineer now calculates that sufficient information will be in place to hold the meeting at the end of September. This is disconcerting. The problem is stated as being that the sheer volume of data produced by the LiDAR survey has taken greater resources and time than originally envisaged. For reasons that we find puzzling, test drillings are not now required as it is believed that sufficient data has been assembled to produce a costing for the project. We therefore hope that by October we will know if the replacement project is financially viable – the crunch point.
The need to complete the replacement of the steps is ever more apparent. The scaffolding was never intended to be anything other than a temporary expedient. Inspection and rental continues to notch up to thousands of pounds. In addition parts regularly require repair and replacement including a large number of new treads to be fitted soon.
As far as larger work parties are concerned we have had a bit of a rest during the summer months – largely due to awaiting materials. However, activities will soon re-commence. Members of your committee have attended to smaller jobs as they were required. We aim initially to complete the new path surface by Dowies Mill, add to the woodchip path in the Community Woodland and plant covering to the fence by the entrance to the Walkway by the boatyard. Our gallant work-party volunteers stand by!
January 2019 – Meeting organised for local groups to discuss with CEC plans to remove Dowie’s Weir to improve fish passage -a last minute response to a long-term request for information.
January 2019– Dowie’s Exhibition held at Cramond Maltings. Members and local groups asked to attend and comment.
January 2019 – Meeting with Christine Jardine MP to discuss Dowie’s Mill proposal.
February 2019 – FRAW Dowie’s submission sent to CEC stating that to avoid the many problems with the proposed option that no work should be agreed until a better and cheaper alternative to retain the weir was properly investigated.
February 2019 – Well attended work party took place in Community Woodland to open up south end by clearing and burning brash barrier that had collected there – more to be done.
February – March 2019 – Salvesen Steps – specialised forestry team clears band of vegetation from rock-face using ropes and boats to enable the next stage of a LiDAR survey prior to design work.
March 2019 – FRAW advised that over 140 Dowie’s submissions had been received by CEC and that these would be analysed prior to submission to the appropriate council committee (May/Sept?)
April 2019 – FRAW AGM – 7.30 Cramond Kirk Hall.
April 2019 – Work Party to apply top dressing to newly laid path at Haugh Park
May 2019 – LiDAR survey of rock surface for Steps replacement by consultants SWECO
June 2019 – Work Party to weed & clear entrance at Cramond
June 2019 – Aggregate laid to improve paths at Peggy’s Mill & Dowies turning circle.
June 2019 – Council releases Dowies Weir consultation report
June 2019 – concern expressed to CEC at new sign in car park at School Brae
This is our first Newsletter since our well attended AGM in April – many thanks to all that came along. Many thanks too to all those who have renewed their membership and a welcome to new ones. It would be greatly appreciated if anyone that has not yet renewed would take the time to do so as strong numbers are vital to much that we set out to do.
STOP PRESS – DOWIES MILL WEIR
Coinciding with the ‘going to press’ of this Newsletter came the release of the Council report on the responses to the public consultation earlier this year. This is a stage in the process that will lead to a proposal being submitted to the appropriate Council committee. It had been hoped that account would have been taken of what was the large majority view that the original proposal was gravely flawed and that providing a proper survey was undertaken, repairing and adapting the current weir would be the best solution and would avoid the visual and environmental damage and would cost less. A brief look at the new paper indicates that this is regrettably not the case and we will take a considered view of this and report back. The report can be viewed at https://consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk/bi/dowies-mill-weir-fish-migration-improvement/consult_view/.
WORK PARTIES & PROJECTS
In recent months we have, in conjunction with the Council, improved three particularly bad sections of the path. After the serious test of the recent heavy rain they seem to be standing up to the challenge well. A work party barrowed fine top surfacing to the path at Haugh Park by the Brig to make it easier under foot while others engaged in a local litter pick. The improved section by the turning circle at Dowies Mill is awaiting a delivery of ‘finings’ and the same will be done there. As the picture shows, the previously dreadful path by Peggy’s Mill is also now dry but the drainage by its side, although improved, is not performing as planned. We are discussing if this can be improved.
Your Committee took a walk along the Walkway in May to check out progress and some ideas. We decided that as a new priority, the appearance of the entrance to the Walkway at Cramond was in great need of improvement. It is dark, overgrown in places and would benefit from some attention to make the entrance more welcoming. We have made a start and as part of a work party at the beginning of June, the opportunity was taken to start to cut back vegetation and to remove an enormous toppled over cast iron post. The main purpose of the party was to weed part of the informal planted area just inside the entrance.
We would also like to plant suitable screening plants along the fence line to add a bit more colour. We need to take account of the boat club requirements before we can decide what will be suitable and are in discussion with them. We also thought of commissioning a large wooden carved object/sign to be placed at the entrance and will be discussing what ideas available craftsmen might have. We will come back to members should we find this to be a practical proposition.
COMMUNICATION WITH THE COUNCIL
We continue to gain enormously from the cooperation we enjoy with the Natural Heritage Service and in particular with our excellent local officer David Kyles. Even with the goodwill of ‘both sides’ communication is not always as smooth as we would like and we now plan regular meetings to improve matters. Recently David organised a ‘scraping’ of the Strathalmond path and steps section and very good it is too. We are less happy with the barrier that suddenly arrived at the School Brae car park. While we agree that vehicular traffic should be barred from the Walkway, we feel this barrier is out of place and presents an unwelcoming and visually strident message at what is the start of the Walkway for many visitors. From a distance it even might indicate that the Walkway is closed. We are in negotiations on this and hope for a suitable compromise.
CRAMOND PRIMARY PLOT AT COCKLE MILL
In Autumn last year pupils from Cramond Primary P7 classes planted more Fritillary and Star of Bethlehem bulbs. They also sowed Cornflower and Poppy seeds which had been so spectacular last summer. This month Red Campion, White Campion, Ragged Robin, Nottingham Catchfly and blue-flowered Viper’s-bugloss are all attracting lots of bumble bees! Passers-by have mentioned how lovely it is to see the colourful display. We now await the flowering of Cornflowers and Poppies and the children will shortly come to observe the insect activity.
The proposal to remove Dowie’s Mill Weir has been our main focus recently and a brief résumé is presented first here. However, it’s not only been about Dowie’s Mill – a lot of other useful work has taken place and the rest of this FRAW News is dedicated to this. Much of what we set out to accomplish takes a long time to come to fruition and it has been very encouraging that in recent months good progress has been made in several areas – even some completions!
Dowies Mill Weir – Quick Update
We encouraged our members earlier this year to view and respond to the exhibition and ‘consultation’ on the proposals for the weir at Dowie’s Mill. We now wait to hear the response from the Council to the many comments and suggestions that were made. We know that over 170 were submitted and we are most grateful to everyone concerned. We hope that these will be taken into account and FRAW will continue to monitor the process. Our position remains that ‘no action should be taken until the alternative of retaining the existing weir is properly evaluated – an alternative that avoids the difficulties and dangers of the proposed option, enables fish passage and which should be cheaper‘.
Community Woodland & Path Improvement
At the end of 2018, we were delighted to have installed an additional set of steps, to give better access to our Community Woodland. These were built almost single-handedly, by George Bee, using materials provided by the Council and others purchased using our own funds. They make it easier to head up to the Woodland to enjoy a peaceful walk through the trees, and then go back down to the Walkway, rather than have to retrace your steps.
Also in that area, we have been working on improving the drainage around the foot of Peggy’s Mill Road and at the turning area at Dowie’s Mill. This has been made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Almond Neighbourhood Partnership, who are great supporters of local projects and augmented by CEC Natural Heritage Service and some of our own funds. Our funding bid to the Neighbourhood Partnership was greatly helped by the strong support of the Community Council.
The surface of the pathway has been raised and a drainage pipe installed, so we hope that the mud bath that existed whenever it rained will not reoccur and we are considering ways to improve the area around the seat in the future.
We had to be very careful working in this area to avoid disturbing the remains of the historic Peggy’s Mill structure which is located below the surface of the Walkway and followed the guidance of the City Archaeologist to ensure no damage was done.
Cramond Primary P7
Last year, we worked with Cramond Primary P7s to create a colourful wildflower garden. This was enjoyed by the children and greatly admired by everyone who uses the Walkway. We started work again in the autumn and this will resume when the better weather arrives.
We’ve also made major progress with a project we’ve been working on since FRAW first started – which is now nearing completion. Back in 2012, there was no information along the Walkway about the route, its plants and trees, or the fascinating industrial heritage. Since then, we have been working to provide information at various points along the way. The entrances at the Boat Club, School Brae and Dowie’s Mill all have orientation boards with maps of the route and space for occasional, temporary notices to be displayed. The Community Woodland has a wonderful information board that sets out the layout and shows all the different species of native trees and how to identify them.
In 2018, we worked alongside the Cramond Association, Cramond and Barnton Community Council and the Cramond Heritage Trust to create the Cramond Heritage Trail, which included an interpretation board at Fair-a-Far Mill setting out the industrial heritage and history of the mills along the river.
Our most recent addition is a new, informative interpretation board at the foot of Peggy’s Mill Road which shows details of some of the plants that can be seen along the walkway throughout the year.
We have also planned the installation of a small but stylish plaque on the historic Cramond Brig giving key dates in the history of the bridges at Cramond. This is financed and ready to go but requires Listed Structure consent and approval from all owners in the immediate area which is time consuming.
We hope these all add to the enjoyment of all visitors to the Walkway.
As well as building on the knowledge of members of FRAW and experts from other local groups, the boards have been made possible thanks to generous funding from Edinburgh Airport Community Grants Fund, Historic Environment Scotland, the Almond Neighbourhood Partnership and City of Edinburgh Council Parks, Greenspaces and Cemeteries, as well as the generous support of all our members through their subscriptions and the many generous donations (and Gift Aid). Thank you everyone!
We’ve also been continuing our work to get a fully accessible replacement for the Salvesen Steps installed. Sustrans have been very supportive of this project and have worked alongside Edinburgh Council to get the various surveys carried out and, most recently, some of the vegetation along the line of the proposed walkway was cleared to enable a LiDAR survey to be carried out. LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that uses a laser to create a 3D map of the cliff face along the line that the new walkway will run – vital in deciding where the supporting brackets are located.
This clearance has now been completed as it had to be done before the nesting season was fully underway to minimise any disruption to birds and wildlife and a check for any signs of otter or bats had been carried out before the work started.
It’s encouraging that we’re finally beginning to see some real progress with this long running project.
Recent Work Parties
Apart from maintaining areas already cleared, a new project has been to clear the area just up from the car park at School Brae. A geologically interesting length of rock, can now be seen; bluebells have been planted and more clearing up to and including the Steps undertaken.
A work party was held to start clearing and burning some of the brash that had been allowed to form a barrier in the Community Woodland. Other strimming work has also been carried out in the Community Woodland – we now have two brush-cutters to help productivity.
Finally & Most Important
It is renewal time for our memberships and you should all have received an email from our Treasurer and Membership Secretary, Euan Drysdale, inviting you to renew. If you haven’t received this, please email us. Also, if you are able to, please consider Gift Aiding your subscription and any donations you are generous enough to make. We have just submitted our Gift Aid application to HMRC and are looking forward to benefitting from £471.25 from HMRC.
This means that, in the last three years, our funds have been boosted by almost £1200. Thank you everyone for your support.
We look forward to welcoming all our existing members, and many new members, to continue our work supporting the River Almond Walkwa