Passions: Walking my patch of Edinburgh's Union Canal is a daily treat, especially when I spot a kingfisher

It’s a bucolic paradise, but in the city centre

Earlier this year, I spotted a flash of blue in the trees.

The colour looked artificially bright, like a Dairy Milk wrapper. It was pouring with rain, but I hung around and kept squinting, with water on my lashes, until I could focus.

A kingfisher, at the side of the Union Canal, in the middle of the city.

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It was my first ever sighting of one of these birds and it was so beautiful that it seemed like an envoy from another world.

I’m so used to sparrows in varying shades of sludge, that I got rather emosh.

Embarrassingly, I stopped every other passerby to point the bird out to them, before it flew nonchalantly away, dipping between boughs.

That experience made me appreciate this waterway even more.

Although it’s 51km long, stretching from Lochrin Basin to the Falkirk Wheel, my patch encompasses the Edinburgh section with the Victorian boathouse. The best bit, I’d say.

Now that I work from home, I do daily circuits along the same route. Despite that, it will never be boring and overly-familiar to me. It’s too beautiful.

There are the vast sycamores, with corvids shouting from the top, and the willow tree that drapes itself over the path.

There are pale hard brambles, ripening towards autumn, and, at various times of year, dog roses, elderberries, nettles, thistles, yarrow, yellow irises and lots of rosebay willowherb, plus a patch of renegade orange blossom that temporarily made a square metre of path smell like the old Jenners perfume hall.

Every once in a while, the council will heavily crop the plants by the water, and it’s amazing how quickly they bounce back.

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I’ll see various colourful barges come and go, to stop at the 24-hour visitor mooring. There was once a smallish boat that had a family of five squished into it, and a large dog.

When I walk underneath the bridges, I enjoy the change in acoustics, with the water lapping, the gormless coo of pigeons and maybe a bicycle bell ringing behind.

This summer, there seems to be an increase in fishing. Mind you, I’ve never seen anyone with an actual catch, though I’ve heard that there’s brown trout in there, along with the occasional kids trike or shopping cart.

There must be some fish to be found, as my neighbours tell me they’ve spotted otters. I’m so jealous.

It takes a lot to trump my kingfisher, but that just might.



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