Some sites you just have to visit twice. Unexpected hail and snow blizzards when surveying are just part of the course, but add strong winds to that, and coldness that freezes your fingers so you can’t even hold a handlens up to the lichens you’re trying to identify and the will to battle on dwindles.
It seems though that even my first visit to this busy high street venue made an impression as on my return I was excitedly recognised by a regular in the pub outside which was a tree I was surveying. Several other regulars in the pub look my way and nod their acknowledgement or glance at me enquiringly.
Take Two, and my visit to St John’s Road coincides with gloriously sunny spring-like weather. I re-visit the four trees I’d picked out on my first visit (to finish my air quality lichen surveying as part of the Edinburgh Living Landscape Initiative) – three outside a kitchen shop and one, the pride of a pub…a 50 year old oak tree which stands on the pavement marking the entrance to the appropriately named The Oak Inn. Having asked the permission of the somewhat bemused but very welcoming landlord to stare intently at his oak tree and make my scientific measurements, I set out identifying the surprising large array of tiny lichens.
I am hampered in my identification slightly by the metal protective fence around the tree which puts me in mind of a poem by Felix Dennis in his book ‘Tales from the Woods’,
These trees, which men humiliate,
Stand patiently in secret joy.
Their brothers wait beyond the gate –
And where is Carthage?
Where is Troy?
At intervals the pub regulars come to the doorway and stand interestedly disinterested smoking and sending occassional sideways glances or blatantly stare in my direction. On my first visit the landlord himself pops out for a closer inspection – I hand him a lens, point out a few hidden-to-the-naked-eye lichens, we talk about the pollution from the cars passing by, and the lovely canopy the oak tree has in summer.
A big thank you to the pub owner.