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Looking into the past as we build for the future

So, it begins…

An air of excitement is surrounding the Croft as we move into our autumn/winter period. The pavilion renovation is reaching its final planning stages and is soon to be executed, with our contractor being in place, we hope, by mid-November. The work to prepare for the builders’ arrival has started and we have lift-off or, rather: ‘dig-down’.

Yesterday, we dug our ‘soakaway trial pit’ with an archaeological expert doing what’s called ‘a watching brief’, as this is considered to be an area of archaeological significance due to the siege of Leith and the plague burials. Phil was kind enough to share a video of his findings with us. The layers of the centuries are exposed as we move down the metre-deep hole.

The beautiful thing about dirt

‘The beautiful thing about this dirt,’ says Phil, ‘is that it can sing. It tells the story of the history of the site.’ The first layer is our own mulch. The second layer is 20th century, and relates to a dumping deposit by the council, or it could be the make-up for the old tennis court grounds. The next stratum is a ‘dark earth’ or ‘midden’ deposit, which is found all across Edinburgh. It relates to churned-up, sometimes cultivated, soils, and is the sign of a mediaeval settlement. It goes back to when Edinburgh was first settled, so could date to any time after the 12th century. Below that is the sands of Leith.


Yes, Leith Links was indeed a beach, though it’s possible for sand to blow in on top of other deposits, according to Phil, and underneath it there could be earlier mediaeval material, or even Bronze Age, Neolithic and Mesolithic deposits. He says that there were Mesolithic hunter-gatherers roaming around in the Queensferry Crossing area – that’s going back to the time of the last Ice Age. Wow!

So what was the purpose of this digging? We were digging the trial pit to test the drainage for our eventual soakaway for the refurbished building (with its wonderful kitchen facilities!) The mission was to discover how quickly the water drains so that we could determine how large the final pit would need to be. It is good news. As Leith used to be a beach and there is pure sand down there, we couldn’t even fill the trial pit up to its full capacity as it drained away so quickly. This means we are good to go. There will be no issues making our soakaway work. So, time to fill in the hole!

The Water Wars

Another sign that our renovation plans are progressing is our borehole being brought back to life. It was dug many years ago but, due to a lack of power and the clay at that site, it wasn’t possible to get it working at that time. However, with a little bit of expert knowledge and support from our Design Team consultants, we have been able to unstick the pump and clear out the clay. We are now living in hope that our water for the Crofter and market garden area will now, very excitingly, come from the water table rather than the mains. This will be a far more sustainable way to water our crops in the long run, and will reduce our water rates too. The ‘Croft Water Wars’ will end as our own little north-south divide will be forever healed. This was a real issue on Leith Community Croft, and a microcosm of more serious potential global conflicts related to climate meltdown. When Crofters turned the mains water on at one end of the Croft, the supply disappeared at the other. Crofters will once more be seen all smiling and rosy, cheerily watering their crops. Many of them were around in the early days of the Croft and will remember how hard it was to water our crops with our little watering cans, lugged all the way from the pavilion. What a journey from that to this day!

Roll on, summer!

In the next few days our containers will arrive and we shall start to move out of the old and decrepit little pavilion until the building works are complete in the summer months of next year (or perhaps in late spring!) Roll on those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summertime, when our living will indeed be easy (to mix song lyrics!), or at least easier than the last eight dank, damp, cold pavilion years have been. No more freezing winter operations for us. Now the only thing left to do is save the biosphere!


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