Open Wide!

Within an hour – the crowds arrived

We knew it was happening; on Thursday 7 November, the refrigerator was taken out of the workers cabin, leaving the microwave and the kettle. ROSPA had been in on Monday doing the final safety inspection. Turn your back and a crane had nipped in and taken the whole cabin. Nothing left. Then a couple of men started removing the security fence. At 12.30, a question, “Is it open?” . “Yes” and that was it.

At 3pm we sauntered in to a park empty except for a grandmother and buggy who had no idea that she might be the first – imagine. Still silent, then a trickle of children flowed down the hill getting more excited as they saw the massive rocks, the swoopy curves of the skate park and the intricacies of the globe rope climbing frame. One child was rushed home to do her homework (aged 5) and was back out like a shot, climbing, running, screaming, enjoying. After that the tidal flow continued to sunset. A couple of hours later a torch bobbed through – man with headlight walking his dog. Normality had been established.

Day 2

Just after dawn, about 7.15, the bikes, boards, wheels resumed followed by a lull while some education was done; then midday it was real beehive – constant movement, a buzz, a smile or two. Kids under 5 lifted to the top of Stonehenge followed by parents. Not noisy, but concentrated on the new skills being practised, bikes going in order round the skate course. A few over-keen descended into the SUDS pond, we hope never to repeat the muddy experience.

SUDS, skates, sky

The Treverlen Park has been handed over to the Parks department and we have yet to hear what they will make of it. We know that for some time yet there will be a mild hysteria of exploration and invention. Kids will do unexpected things, get into scrapes, fall, hurt, cry – but that’s what we did too, surely? And sedate saunters in the sun for the rest.

Gates open

The Pace Picks Up

Close up provided by NASA

It has been quiet in Treverlen but now the Hi-Viz jackets are back and a skate facility is well under construction. So much so that the wee Lego people doing the work have taken to arriving at 7.30am on a Saturday and Sunday morning so it may not be long before the final skate structure can be seen.

Seen already, of course, by the many kids who now scale the barriers and lark about in the Park, evenings, Friday afternoons and weekends. An early morning recce revealed quantities of lager cans, broken bottles, broken mobile phones which is possibly a guide to the kind of user we can expect if the moderating influence of parents with toddlers, dog walkers, leg limberers and so on is not admitted soon. Opening at the end of October still looks possible, just.

We hear that the original contractor for the skate facility was so cheesed off by Council dithering that he abandoned the project and the new contractor is building something different to what we grudgingly saw from the Council back in the early months of the year.

Whiplash? Weather? – the bottle may be a clue

The whole area is now covered in a flowering meadow, with flowers. It won’t have a municipal look and it might take a bit of getting used to. A good number of the trees planted seem to have died as has a substantial portion of the beech hedges – they might recover over the winter. Many of the equivalents at Portobello High School have also died and been vandalised with no sign of replacement – it may be that the community will have to take matters into its own hands (and why not?). Any new garden needs nurture and, if the Council can’t do it, we could and should.

Why does this look like Donald Trump?

Green, So Very Green

We can now see the Park as it will be – a green, green space, punctuated with crescents of evergreen and deciduous trees. It is a real surprise to people who don’t pass it every day – you see them turn a corner and just stop, amazed at the open view and the potential for pleasure.


There is little going on at the moment, the perimeter has been tidied and secured, awaiting the skate zone contractors.

The Council aim is to avoid that manicured, municipal look but many also wish to see some colour and shape beyond the two kinds of tree: diversity and surprise, and discussions are beginning on the potential. Let us know if you have thoughts – we’ve had the mass arrival of the Painted Lady – what else can we do to encourage wildlife to re-colonise the site?

Who designed Treverlen?

As the Park approaches completion, people are asking who designed it. At the first level, it might be said that it was the community (at many levels) which, through the debates on schools replacement ended up with primary legislation in the Scottish Parliament. The concluding piece of the jigsaw was to replace the public land used for the new Portobello High School with a similar area where the old High School (and St John’s Primary School) had been. So the site was settled.

There were public consultations, meetings and so on which guided Holmes Miller (the architects for both the new St John’s and the Park). Holmes Miller, in turn, contracted MBLA design Ltd to produce designs for the Park. The construction of those designs is now approaching completion. The design process is not quite complete as the skate facility is still under discussion.

The Park is expected to open in October. Let The Keeper know if there are things you would like to know or suggest.

Sphere (for climbing) and site for skate facility


Well, not quite. The grass seed has germinated and tiny blades peep up from the soil. There are weeds but nothing like what you would get in your garden in today’s warm, wet weather. The park soil is probably not much of a treat for the new grass – except along the edges of the paths where a vigorous strip is emerging.

We are still not quite sure what happens next – it must be snagging and so on. It looks good now and will improve day by day.

A shimmer of green?

Grass seed was spread on Treverlen on 4-5 July, it has been warm and now wet, so it cannot be long before the first shimmer of green shoots appears. The shoots will be soft and fragile, needing to be left to mature before cutting to make the growth thicken out.

Look out for those first shoots (not the weeds which are already up).


It’s what we have been looking for in the park – it will make the place look like a park. For the last 3 of 4 weeks a vast manual raking of the areas to be grassed has been underway and should be completed this week. Today, one of the Graham crew grassed on his employer, saying that no seed has yet been sown but that should start in the next few days. It then takes about 10 days for the first green shimmer to appear.

At that point the plants will be tender and the whole area would be at risk if people walked on it. So when will the park open for public use? No hard news on this yet but we have been told that it is to be handed over to the Parks Department soon and they will decide when it is safe to open. Another source said that the techy bit of the skate facility is booked but the contractor will not be available until early autumn. The two stories match – leading to a full opening in, perhaps, October. So summer picnics are off – although the excellent Figgate Burn Park is there for that.

Meanwhile, suspicious excavations appeared not far from the rather odd SUDS pond, making some think that Plan C, D or E was to be implemented – given that the excavation was on behalf of Scottish Water. But no, the digging is to fix a substantial sewerage problem for some houses in Hamilton Terrace. Various ‘oscopies were done identifying a problem half way along the street and after strenuous efforts by some residents, Scottish Water accepted the problem was theirs and fixed it, we hope.

So what happens next? We don’t know – will the park site continue to have messy barriers right through to October? Probably, as the park railings (which are not to be refurbished) will not deter anyone from entering. Guerrilla gardening anyone?

Close, but no grass


Ducks away for a moment

There was an infamous TV artist who used to paint, frequently commenting “Can you see what it is yet?” This is the question in our minds as we watch the final throes of the SUDS system. Over the last couple of weeks, many of the workers on site have been practising their plumber’s suck in the cheeks look as they puzzle how to make a reality of the Master Designer’s plan for draining the site. Council officers have visited, armed to the gills with clipboards, murmuring “something must be done”.

Or so we surmise, as there has not been a peep from the Council nor the contractors. Desultory digging has occupied days, leaving things much as before. The issue is what is the large, sometimes dry, deep lake supposed to do. One theory is that it catches all the water from the once in 200 years storm and holds it while letting it run away into the main surface water drains (made more difficult by Scottish Water’s refusal to allow the water off the site). A different version is that the water is to be held in the lake, while it soaks down into the ground. Now that ain’t going to happen as the lake is deliciously lined in masses of Portobello’ s clay – on which various industries were built. If the Figgate pond doesn’t drain, built on the same clay, why would Treverlen Lake?

Adjustments have been made to the drain emptying the lake – but we believe the outlet is now below the level of the drain at the other side of the site, so we await a “Back to the Future” antigravity machine to make water flow uphill.

The entrance to the anti-gravity machine

The new St John’s paddling pool at the western end of the park is much enjoyed by children, whether in wellies or not. They are joined by half a dozen ducks – ducks, water, what’s not to like? Even so there is a story that someone was worried by the ducks predicament and called the RSPB – who came to inspect! Must be apocryphal, like Noah and the Flood.

All to play for as they say on “Only Connect”.

We think the contractors are due off site next week.

Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it


This week has been so wet that it was surprising to see any work done at all, but doggedly all week vans have been arriving, squeezing into the park gates to deliver – crumbs! Actually the soft rubber crumbs are to cushion falls from the various bits of climbing fun. The climbing rocks are professionally designed to give young people an exciting time without terrifying their entourage with terrible tumbles. There will be falls, bruises, tears but that is what play is about.

The heart of the park

And, quietly, the open spaces are being brought to a tilth, ready to sow grass. The ground is warm and if the rain would let up, the place could be looking green in a couple of weeks.


Last week we mentioned the white Stonehenge that had rolled down from the mountains but this week all changed. It has acquired colour and texture so now resembles a Shar pei dog, all brown folds and wrinkles. Treverlen rocks are here.

In reality, the white blocks have been sprayed with a thick coat of stone-like material to make the kids’ climbing experience all the more real. The work is still under way and other large blocks of faux-stone have appeared.

The Treverlen Heights

The large paths, which we thought were to be laid in hoggin, have been tarmacked. The large flat areas of ground are being tilled and raked, ready for planting of grass seed. The SUDS pond has a new drain at the east end to enable water to run away. Lack of water may be why so many of the new beech hedge plants have not taken growth – unlike those at St John’s which are lushly copper.

Speaking of St John’s – we might copy in Treverlen this excellent willow tunnel in the school playground. The Figgate Park has some.

Let’s make a den!