Rugby tackling the river litter

By Col Stocker

Weaving through the heart of the city, a river can bring in a wealth of wildlife to the urban environment, but being in such close proximity to human activity it needs looking after. The Water of Leith Conservation Trust works to conserve and enhance the river, its heritage and wildlife and works with volunteers and community groups to deliver around 240 river clean-ups and habitat improvement tasks annually. 

There's usually plenty of enthusiasm for looking after the river, and as a result of covid restriction and the cancelling of the rugby season it unlocked more volunteers!


Johnny, Project Officer for Water of Leith Conservation Trust saw an opportunity to maximise the energy of the Broughton Rugby Ladies Section and get them in the river helping with a spring clean-up of the rubbish that ends up in it.

"As a result of covid restrictions and the cancelling of the rugby season. We have begun to run green gym sessions for the Broughton Rugby Club Ladies section, so they have an opportunity to stay fit and to support one another, especially those who would be socially isolated.. We have begun fortnightly session where they have been coming out working on the Water of Leith walkway (13 miles) to remove leaves and cut back vegetation, however to help them fully experience the river I want to take them wading in the river for litter.”

Already something they do with their conservation volunteers there were shortfalls in the numbers of waders for the whole team to work on the river at once.

So not ones to see that energy go to waste we were delighted to help with the purchase of more waders.

“15 members of the Broughton Ladies rugby team helped them to have small moments of purpose, fun, drive and a sense of teamwork which due to not being able to play rugby together for the past 13 months has been lacking for many ,especially those that live alone. Through wading the river the Broughton ladies were shocked by the amount of wet wipes that had been flushed down the toilet and were hanging from branches, many of them committed to stop using them then and there, whilst others mentioned how they would be reminding friends not to flush them.”

The work that the whole team at the Water of Leith Conservation Trust do is so important for the whole population of Edinburgh who use the walkway as a place of relaxation and wonder. With rubbish being removed from the river especially heavy metals and plastic it provides a cleaner habitat for the wildlife on the river and enhances the appearance for walkway users. On the stretch that was cleaned they now have regular sighting of dippers, kingfishers and otters. So it is great to hear that these waders will continue to be making regular strides along the river

“The waders are also being used by our wider 100 strong volunteer team who are out three times a week doing something to enhance and improve the river, during March/April we focus on cleaning the river of rubbish and in May/June we'll be wading it to remove invasive species including Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam.”

If you want to get involved then find out more here: Water of Leith Volunteer

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