Category Archives: People & Products

Homemade Food & Seed Swap Event at Whitmuir Farm – 25th Feb

We love going to Whitmuir Farm and this looks like a great event – not that we need an excuse to pop over – hopefully see a few of you there…


This FREE event has been organised by Food Communities & Whitmuir Community Farm. Everyone is very welcome to come along and you don’t have to bring something to swap, so please tell your friends! Bring your favourite homemade dishes, bakes, sweets, preserves etc and also any seeds to swap amongst the group.

We will meet in the 2000m² polytunnel at 4pm on Sunday 25th Feb for a tour of the 2000m² Project, showcasing the growing, composting and cooking activities that the project has been undertaking this year as part of its Food for a Better Climate project. At around 5pm we will go to the Whitmuir Organics Cafe where we will have our homemade food and seeds swap and a pickling and preserving workshop. Hot food will be provided free in the cafe by the 2000m² Project. The event will finish at around 6.30pm.


What can I bring to swap at the event?

You can bring any homemade food you think will be of interest to other swappers (e.g. your best bread, tastiest soup, yummiest cake). This is an opportunity to showcase your cooking talents and try the food of other people in your community. We will also be swapping seeds.

Will we be eating the homemade food we swap at the event?

No. You should bring containers (e.g. tupperwares) to take your items home with you. We are not permitted to have homemade food consumed in the cafe.

How should I bring my homemade food to the event?

You should bring your food divided into small portions so that lots of people can sample it. Please also bring a printed list of ingredients to accompany your food in the interest of other swappers with dietary requirements.

Is there anything else I should bring with me?

If you can, it would be good to bring one or two empty and clean glass jars for the pickling and preserving workshop. Don’t worry if you don’t have any handy though, as there will be spares available.

Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?

This is family friendly event however we would ask that any child under the age of 16 is accompanied by an adult as this is a working farm.

What are my transport/parking options for getting to and from the event?

There is no public transport to the event but we would encourage car sharing. Please get in touch if you would like to provide or accept a lift.


Power To The People!

After an amazing week of support from people and organisations who were also concerned about the impact of the proposed outdoor activity centre here in Nine Mile Burn the developer has decided to withdraw their planning application.

I guess as the numbers of objections were steadily rising and the number of relevant organisations getting involved were also increasing they realised that this was not a battle they were likely to win.

The email we received, however, did indicate that they may be regrouping and putting in another, better thought-out, application that addresses some of the concerns raised – I know that electric quad bikes were mooted, along with laser clays. I guess by pulling this application before it gets rejected it simply negates all the objections raised so far and a new application won’t have any rejection legacy hanging over it. A well known tactic used by developers I’m led to believe. But, for now, we’ve managed to stop it – hurray!!!!!


If the developer continues with their plans to run these activities on the Pentland Hills rather than on more suitable private land (of which they do have options and to which they are better suited IMHO), I can only see another battle ahead. When that may be, however, remains to be seen…

What I will be doing in the meantime is asking some questions at the planning department – how can it be allowed for a planning application to be posted under a different location so that it can’t be found under the area of the development either by name or postcode – that is seriously flawed. It was only pure luck that someone picked this up otherwise it could all have gone through without any of us knowing – which is frightening! I don’t know how these things work but I’m going to be finding out.

Once again, thank you, every single objection made this happen!

Please Help Save Our Beautiful Hills From Development

One of the main attractions of moving to the hamlet of Nine Mile Burn was it’s peaceful location at the quieter end of The Pentland Hills Regional Park. We’re lucky to be part of a wonderful small community in an area of historical importance (we live along an old Roman Road) and undisputed natural beauty that is much enjoyed by ourselves and regular visitors and hill walkers seeking the tranquility that is on offer just on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Sadly, it’s currently under threat of development by a local landowner who wishes to host quad biking, 4×4 off-roading, clay pigeon shooting, archery and Highland Games for stag/hen parties and corporate events for a large part of the year.

Naturally we are horrified at the thought of the degradation to the environment, the landscape and wildlife, let alone the noise pollution and the effects to our quiet community and those that seek the peace that these hills provide.

We also very strongly believe this proposal to be the very tip of the iceberg in terms of what the applicant is planning and that by starting on a smaller scale they hope to more easily gain approval for further plans. (they are property developers and know their onions!)

So, now we’re taking a leaf out of the applicant’s own book (they’ve been asking family and friends to post comments in favour of their application, regardless of whether they live in the community, or even this country for that matter)!

As a matter of interest the applicant received £46,000 in subsidies from the EU/UK in 2015 (in the top 15% for the area). Supporters state that the applicant has planted trees and created ponds to encourage wildlife and that it takes money to maintain the landscape – arguably that is precisely why this funding was provided. This new proposal can only lead to the destruction of the land, fragile ecosystems and wildlife habitats for the benefit of a few thrill-seeking individuals and at the expense of everyone else.

If you care in any way about protecting our environment from commercial enterprises such as this for ourselves and generations to come then please take 2 minutes to copy and paste the objection text highlighted in bold below and register it here:

(You will need to create a log-in but it will only take a minute) Of course you’re very welcome to write you’re own but we just thought we’d help out with all the salient points as to where the proposal contravenes the Midlothian Development Guidelines and the aims of the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

Please, please help us to prevent this! Together we can, hopefully, prevent this awful proposal going ahead and creating a precedent in other regional parks and green spaces. The thought of which doesn’t bear thinking about.


Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to register an objection to Application 18/00001/DPP under the grounds that the proposed development is not in accordance with the aims of the PHRP or the Midlothian Local Development Plan 2017.

The Pentland Hills Regional Park is an important recreational and environmental asset to the area and the nearby city of Edinburgh and is enjoyed by many for it’s tranquility and natural beauty. The PHRP is a designated non-motorised region.

The aims of the PHRP as set out on its website are:

– To retain the essential character of the hills as a place for the peaceful enjoyment of the countryside

– Caring for the hills so that the landscape and the habitat is protected and enhanced

– Within this caring framework to encourage responsible public enjoyment of the hills

– Coordination of these aims so that they can co-exist with farming and other land uses within the park. 

Appendix 6 to the Midlothian Council Development Plan adopted in November 2017, sets out a range of specific planning policy considerations applying within its boundary. Paragraphs 1, 2 (a), (b) and (c), 7 & 8 (and responses to each point below)  state:

“1. The Special Landscape Area designation affecting the Pentland Hills Regional Park will be the overriding factor when considering proposals which may be acceptable under other MLDP policies.”

In considering this application regard must be had to the designation criteria for SLA/Local Landscape Area status and in particular:

“-help to protect a landscape from inappropriate development

– may encourage positive landscape management

– play an important role in developing an awareness of the landscape qualities that make particular areas distinctive

– promote a community’s sense of pride in its surroundings”

 This application does not achieve or address any of these objectives.

“2. Development, redevelopment and the conversion of existing buildings within the Regional Park will not be permitted unless essential for the purposes of agriculture (including farm-related diversification), forestry, outdoor recreation, tourism or other rural activities compatible with the aims of the Regional Park.”

Use of the word “essential” imposes a very high threshold for permissible development within the Park. The material submitted in support of the application makes no attempt to justify the development as “essential”. Mere economic advantage to a landowner/developer does not render a development “essential”. In the absence of any evidence to satisfy the Council’s specific policy on this point the application must, as a matter of law, fall to be refused.

“Any such development proposal will be considered against the following criteria:

a) it should make a positive contribution to the amenity of the Park in terms of design and landscaping;”

The contribution of the proposed development to the amenity of the Park is entirely negative. The area proposed for 4 x 4/Quad bike activity is highly visible from the hills above. It will involve unsightly scarring of the surface with the formation of tracks and will generate a great deal of noise. This activity is essentially inappropriate within the Park. The proposed car park for 15 cars and the proposed use of “metal containers” and portaloos will represent an eyesore and will detract materially from the amenity of the Park and the approach to it through Spittal Farm. It should be a requirement of any grant of consent in terms of this application (a) that any new buildings be of traditional construction in line with the existing farm and other buildings and (b) that any such new buildings and the proposed car park should be appropriately screened to minimise their impact on the amenity of the Park.

“b) it should not be visually obtrusive or necessitate visually obtrusive constructions;”

As set out above the area proposed for 4 x 4/Quad bike activity and the metal containers, portaloos and car parking area will all be visually obtrusive. While screening of the containers and car parking might be possible there is no practicable way in which the 4 x 4 area can be screened to reduce visual and/or noise related impact.

“c) it should be compatible with existing adjoining and neighbouring developments and uses;”

The proposed development is incompatible with the current non-motorised recreational use of the PHRP and in particular is incompatible with the quality of peacefulness which is a major attraction of the Park.

“7. Intrusive tourist developments, including static and transit caravan and camping sites, will not be permitted within the Regional Park.”

The proposed development represents an “intrusive tourist development”. As such this policy consideration requires refusal of consent.

“8. Public car parks will be provided only on the periphery of the Regional Park. They must be related to specific recreational opportunities and will be designed to integrate with the landscape and character of each particular location.”

The proposed 15 car parking area will be available for use by such members of the public as may use the proposed recreational facility. As such this policy consideration applies to it. No steps, such as landscaping or screening, are proposed to achieve the required integration with the landscape and character of the location.

To summarise – the key policies relating to this application are RD1: Development in the Countryside and RD3: PHRP

RD1 states that development in the countryside must be:

“of a scale and character appropriate to the rural area and well integrated into the rural landscape”

It can be clearly seen that this proposal does not meet these requirements

RD1 also states that the amenity must be

“capable of being serviced with an adequate and appropriate access”

The Old Roman Road is a single track pavementless road of historical significance that faces degradation from a significant upturn in traffic to the area. The increase of traffic also presents a risk to residents, children, pets and hill walkers alike.

Additionally, RD1 states that it must be

“capable of being provided with drainage and a public water supply at reasonable cost, or an acceptable private water supply. Development must protect and where appropriate improve the water environment, avoiding unacceptable and unnecessary surface and foul water discharges to Watercourses”

There is no mention in this proposal of water supply/discharge despite the application for an onsite canteen. There is also no mention of fuel storage and the health and safety factors associated with this.

4. “accessible by public transport and services (where appropriate), either within 1,600 metres (1 mile) of a settlement or a bus route with a frequency of at least 1 bus per hour.​”

The Stagecoach 101/102 bus that services Nine Mile Burn does not run at the frequency required of a least one bus per hour throughout the day. There are only four buses running in total on a Sunday. As such this does not meet the requirements.

On all of these grounds I object to this application and urge you to reject it in accordance with MLDP 2017 Policy.

Yours Faithfully



The New Food Writing: an evening with Caroline Eden & Louise Gray

Louise has become a friend of mine this past year, since attending her book launch of The Ethical Carnivore and sharing a weekend of processing geese for Christmas on a small farm in Angus – I’m very much looking forward to this event on Wednesday. Thought it might also be of interest to other foodie writer with a concern for the environment and ethical production and consumption issues…

Golden Hare Books are welcoming two fantastic local authors to their Edinburgh shop on Wednesday 8th November. Caroline Eden and Louise Gray, both culinary experts who use food writing to exemplify both the issues and wonders of our world. Caroline, a travel journalist and co-author of Samarkand: Recipes and Stories from Central Asia uses food to portray places and people across the world, and Louise writes about food to highlight damage to the shared environment and the importance of more ethical lifestyles.

What makes good food writing? Should it have a purpose beyond showing off tasty food?

Caroline and Louise will be in conversation at the Golden Hare to discuss these questions and the uses and future of food writing. Both winners of the Guild of Food Writers Awards, this is a very special opportunity to see two of the country’s most talented food writers talk about what they know and love best.

Snacks and wine will be served.

Tickets cost £3 each to help cover costs of putting on this fantastic event – the ticket price is fully redeemable against any book in the shop on the evening of 8th October.

To book tickets please follow the link below, or don’t hesitate to pop into the shop, email or phone 0131 629 1396 with any questions.

Time: 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Venue: Golden Hare Books, 68 St Stephen Street, EdinburghEH3 5AQ

The Growth of ‘GYO’ in the UK

I’ve recently completed my MSc Gastronomy dissertation in which I studied GYO bloggers in the UK and looked at their GYO and GYO blogging in terms of food activism – it was a really interesting study and my findings led to the conclusion that there is a groundswell in grow your own and that it is very clearly linked with motives aligned with those in regular food activism discourse – the environment, economics and health were found to be the key motivators .

Compost Direct have just compiled a report on the growth of GYO and the UK’s changing food trends and it makes for interesting reading (see below).

Although I believe an interest in healthier lifestyles is a factor for these changing trends (the conclusion from this report), I also believe, from my own study, that there is a greater understanding of our environmental impact and the response to this is a trend in more sustainable ways of producing, purchasing and consuming food. There’s also a greater understanding and genuine mistrust of the ££ multi-million corporations controlling our food chain, from the biotech giants controlling our seed to those exploiting others at every point of the food system to reap unprecedented profits. By shortening the food chain we can all do our bit to take back control of what we consume and it seems that we are.

The rise in organic food sales

In recent years, global interest in stocking cupboards with organic food has risen. The market is worth an outstanding £2.09million and experienced a growth of 7.1% throughout 2016. In fact, organic food and drink now represents a 1.5% share of the total UK market, according to the 2017 Organic Market Report. On a global scale, the UK’s organic market makes up 4% of the $81 billion worldwide organic sales.

The rise in organic purchases has been explained by the growing awareness of organic produce and its benefits. Overall, 80% of consumers said they had knowledge of organic food, with 39% buying it on a weekly basis.

Some argue that the focus on organic food has stemmed from an increased fitness culture in Britain. With the rise of social media, many consumers are exposed to toned (possibly edited) bodies and it is inspiring them to self-improve. Given that organic food is often fresher, containing fewer pesticides and no genetic modifications, it’s the route many people choose as part of living and eating better.

It appears that the foodservice market has reaped the greatest benefits following the trend. Sales of organic food within the UK’s foodservice market rose by 19.1% in 2016 and were estimated to be worth an astonishing £76.6million.

Restaurants, pubs and cafes have recognised the growing trends and are adapting their menus accordingly to their new health-conscious visitors. Many well-known restaurants have made the switch to organic, including Jamie’s Italian, McDonalds and Nando’s.

Of course, as customers eat differently and restaurants cook differently, the wholesalers must too adapt. Between 2015 and 2016, there were almost 25% more licensed organic wholesalers, responding to the growing demand for wholesome food.

In many public services, organic food has been implemented too as schools, universities, hospitals, and workplaces serve more organic food under the Food for Life Catering Mark. The requirement for organic doesn’t seem to be slowing down.


The love for home produce

Following the recession in 2007, many homeowners searched for ways to battle rising food costs. One tactic taken by many was growing their own produce. In 2012, for example, the BBC reported that almost a third of British adults grew their own food. A further 51% said in a survey that they would take to the vegetable patch if food prices were to rise further.

In a recent survey, YouGov investigated the new trend, too. They found that 77% of gardeners listed eating produce that they have grown in their own gardens as the main benefit of gardening. What’s more, 44% grow enough fruit and vegetable to share with their friends and family, while over 25% said that growing their own food was now their hobby.


An interest in recipe boxes

Alongside the new trend of enjoying fresh food, the old lifestyle habits remain — such as our need for any time-saving tips to complement our busy lives. From this, different companies have launched their own recipe boxes. Pioneered by the likes of Hello Fresh and Gousto, these boxes contain all of the ingredients you need to cook tasty meals, along with instructions on how to do it.

The boxes offer organic food at convenience and it comes with no surprise that they’ve been successful. In 2015, the recipe box industry achieved £702 million in worldwide sales. By 2025, predictions estimate that this will grow to £3.8 billion as the market goes from strength-to-strength and more companies emerge.

Recipe boxes also reduce waste as they only contain as much as you need for the meals that you will create for that week. When you look at the UK household wastage — £13 billion of edible food in 2017 — it’s no surprise a lot of people want to get involved. According to analytics by Cardlytics, spending on recipe boxes grew by 64.6% in the first half of 2016, with the volume of orders increasing by 47.6%.

Supermarkets have recognised the threat of these boxes, and Tesco and Waitrose have launched a similar kit within their stores.

With organic food, growing our own and recipe boxes, it’s clear to see that the way we purchase and consume food is changing as we strive for healthier lifestyles.


Making For Home – A Tale of the Scottish Borders (Book Review)

I was recently sent a copy of Alan Tait’s new book – Making For Home – A Tale of the Scottish Borders to review. This is the story of Polmoodie, a decayed sheep farm house in the Moffat valley that was bought by the author in the 1970s and gradually brought back to life as a farm.

Living in the same part of the world and with dreams of one day having my own smallholding I was pretty sure this was a book that I would love. I wasn’t wrong, although not what I was expecting at all – it wasn’t the usual story of someone falling in love with a run down house in a remote area with ensuing tales of getting it in to shape and the locals. Instead, this is a journey from a bleak coastal village on the Solway Firth to the Scottish Borders in search of ‘THE’ house via a Glasgow tenement, all interwoven with a rich history of people, places, the landscape and agriculture through periods of great change.

This is a deeply insightful book that connects the reader to the landscape through its inhabitants over the years. It breathes life into forgotten and difficult times for sheep farmers and how economic and environmental forces beyond their control influenced the rural communities of today. The beautiful photography will transport the reader into Alan’s world as it bring’s it to life. It’ll make you want to grab your coat and head out to the hills, or, if it’s raining, online to search for old run down farmhouses for sale.

I’ve also been inspired to head back to our local auction after reading about the authors collection of paintings, furniture and masonry acquired from various places over the years as he weaves a new and eclectic history into the farm’s story.  I’ve now bought the author’s previous book, ‘A Garden in the Hills’ for some further reading.

Alan is an art historian with a particular interest in the history of landscape. For the last forty years he has lived in the Moffat Water valley in the Borders where he farms and gardens. He’s also the author of The Landscape Garden in Scotland 1735-1835  and A Garden in the Hills.

Making For Home is priced at £30 and is available here on Amazon