The Absent Trees of Granton

The walks took place, in-person and virtually, on 4 / 5 August 2022, 1pm

At Chestnut Street, Granton Harbour, Edinburgh, walking to Waterfront Avenue. (The exact meeting place was What 3 Words: ///talent.dads.dots and  co-ordinates: 55.983248,-3.229066) and around the world.

This was a 4WCoP 2022 event

The Absent Trees of Granton cordially invited you to walk without them.

Your presence was requested on a walk from the reclaimed wastelands of Middle Harbour, Edinburgh (“Million Tree City”[1]) where trees grew before development, to the building site of Waterfront Avenue where trees have been felled for housing. We Wish We Were Here. We are in spirit. Or are we?

Once it was water then a hive of industrial and human activity. Cargo was shipped in from all over the globe, and transported out by rail to the city, Lothians and beyond
Our in-person route

I co-led with Charlotte Rooney and group activities focused on the touch, smell and taste of trees.

Charlotte Rooney

In her blog (see link above) Charlotte wrote about:

  • Symbiosis
  • Reciprocity
  • Listening

“My breath feels grubby today, a bit noxious, and it’s uncomfortable, until I remember that this is exactly what the tree needs. My breath is a treasure.”  

Charlotte Rooney
Looking back towards the harbour – Waterfront Avenue

What happens when you change the name of a place?

Posing questions about the importance of naming and local history in ‘belonging’, we walked streets that had other names before now. Their new ones come from the City Council’s list, so Chestnut Street has no relationship to Chesnut (sic) Rock which is shown on the old maps, and Granton Station is not where it once was; its name has been given to a different building entirely, thoroughly confusing local people  who once played there as children.

Exactly how much earth is needed?

We asked how much earth we all need to thrive on, and this question brought about tension between the need for new housing and the necessity of trees. 20 per cent of the new Harbour development is planned to be affordable, but the rest includes a 4 star spa hotel and luxury flats with free dog washing facilities. Is that a good balance? Architectural plans show that new trees will be planted in pots, and a development which took place 10 years ago now sports rows of quite established Limes and substantial manicured hedges. The trees which have been ripped up against local people’s wishes have left raw land behind the new Granton Station. Is all this enough – for repairing the environment, for our need of a little ‘wildness’, for the psychogeographer’s bent towards some chaos in an otherwise geometrical world?


Artists from Scotland, Australia and England RSVP-ed

Deborah Roberts, Sophie Cunningham Dawe, and Richard Keating posted or sent me images

Deborah Roberts – New shoots growing from a felled ash
Richard Keating

what happens in the mysterious space/place between gaze and subject of gaze, observer/participant?

Richard Keating

Your project offered me a simple way to spend time with my mother’s beautiful tree… I am grateful for the drawings I made, simple gestures/ memento artefacts, a gentle marking of a significant time/place/memory

Sophie Cunningham Dawe, Melbourne, Australia
But where are the Chestnut Trees?
Quite a contrast from this chestnut tree in a leafy Kentish village

This was a community event with Tamsin Grainger and guests, and we were happy to have Ruthe, Arboricultural Officer at the City of Edinburgh Council with us to hear our concerns and offer her expertise. No-one from the new Granton Development answered the invitation.

From….to…

Disorientating, shocking, disrespectful

Now we were here, now we are not
Ffrom one minute to the next, such immense changes, such age and service, uprooted overnight

[1] https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/12729/edinburgh-2030-a-million-tree-city Jan 2020

2 thoughts on “Granton Community Walk

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