Green and creative Edinburgh city break

Location: Edinburgh
Travel Dates: 29.09 – 2.10
Walking distance: ~50 km/30 miles

The first time I travelled to Edinburgh was nearly a decade ago and with a friend, in the heart of winter. It was cold and dark most of the time, but it was also beautiful and I remember many visits to pubs and cafes, which was nice when it drizzled outside. This time I was on my own, which meant less socialising and more attention to the city itself. As I am on the mission to take many green urban walks, this was also a great opportunity to revisit some of the walked paths and find few new ones.

I was also interested in checking out couple of museums I missed last time, visiting a gallery or two and looking up Edinburgh Printmakers – a cultural centre in old boot factory. But overall I just wanted a nice break with lot of walking and some new green and creative inspiration.

Day 1 – Marchmont, Royal Mile, Calton Hill, City Centre, Grassmarket (19 km – 28 332 steps)

Taking a tram from airport to city centre – a new & sustainable transport option
Made it to top of Calton Hill – bit wild-eyed from taking all the steps
Foliage on Calton Hill with Castle Rock and city centre in the background
View towards Leith, rain clouds coming in from North Sea
Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park on the left
Scott Monument and Princes Street Gardens from St David street
Edinburgh Castle in twilight with west of Princes Street Gardens in foreground
Buzzing Haymarket square at night

Day 2 – Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat (nearly), National Museum of Scotland (14 km – 21 734 steps)

Holyrood Park road entrance with Salisbury Crags in the background
Right. All set for some modest ‘urban mountaineering’
Taking an easy route.. looks great so far!
From this view who would guess it’s in a city park?
Beautiful views all around..
‘Highway’ to Arthur’s Seat summit. Looks busy on the top..
I could keep going..
.. or I could just sit here with views of my own.
Tranquility and a cup of tea.. not a bad finish for the urban climb!

Day 3 – Edinburgh Printmakers, National Gallery of Modern Art, Water of Leith Walkway, Botanical Gardens (18 km – 26 655 steps) (My favourite day!)

Edinburgh Printmakers studios and galleries in old shoe factory
An interesting concept.. Plants meet Coffee
Scottish National Gallery Modern Two
Dean Village and the Water of Leith
Water of Leith Walkway
With some lush views
St George’s Well garden
Chinese Hillside garden walk in Botanical Gardens
East Gate entrance to Botanical Gardens
Greyfriars Bobby

Conclusion: Edinburgh is extremely walkable city with amazing views popping up on every corner. The pathways of Royal Mile are fascinating to explore, but it’s also a tourist trap.. For the best of Edinburgh I’d head further away from the crowds. The parks of Edinburgh are stunning with Holyrood topping others with amazing views over the city. I wish I had more time to explore the Leith area, other peaks of the city, Union canal and Edinburgh creative scene.

Next: I’d plan couple of week’s stay in Edinburgh with more city walking and some day trips further away. Edinburgh should be on every urban walker’s list.. especially when the sun is out!

Common Tree Leaves hand-illustrated graphic

Ruskin said (and I’m not sure I would have liked the man himself if we had met, but he had some good points) that drawing makes us understand the world around us more. Only through drawing person can really get into core of things and if there is a one skill I like to master – it’s drawing.

I’ve always loved watercolour as a medium and as I was yearning for a break from screens, initially decided to use it for the initial sketch. But as I enjoyed the whole process so much I decided to take a leap and make the whole graphic with watercolour illustrations! 🙌

My next step was to draw and paint the leaves in a notebook. I used the internet as reference for my secondary research. It’s also a quicker method than going out and finding all the leaves.. although this would make a great project! Drawing and sketching 25 leaves from reference took me a day.

I also decided not to take an easy route and use a digital font, but to handwrite tree names in the notebook as well. As I rarely write any more I had to do some practice runs, but quite happy with the final result.

All my ‘pieces’ ready I digitalised the artwork and put everything together in graphic’s software, trying to keep the colours close to original. It took some fiddling to get it right, but finally here it is – the watercolour illustrated nature graphic of common tree leaves. 🎨

Tree Types of The World map

World map of tree types is crafted from data of more than 60 000 species recorded in the Botanic Gardens Conservation International database of all known tree spaces. The database is fluid and evolves as new information is recorded. I accessed the information on 22/09/2019 and although an attempt is made to include all the species on the graphic, some were excluded to achieve the aesthetic effect.

Working with more than 60 000 entries on the graphic has its own challenges that first involved cleaning up the data and converting it into importable text. Once I had the whopping 260 pages thread text file I placed it into graphics software on top of the contour of the world map and formatted as best as I could.. which was a slow going.

With font size of 12 pt a printed out version of this densely knitted type map would be legible covering about 3 metres by 2,5 metres wall…… Luckily the magic of digital version allows to zoom in the data to look for single entries! 💫

See the Tree Types of The World Map PDF (zoom in to see the data)

BGCI. 2019. GlobalTreeSearch online database.
Botanic Gardens Conservation International. Richmond, UK.
Available at
Accessed on (22/09/2019).

Leafy Southwark Walking Map

Southwark district is not the greenest of the neighbourhoods, but it is very walkable and riverside adds a lot to the area. When I lived in the area I used to walk to Borough Market on Saturdays along the riverbank. This was my weekend treat and making this map has a been another stroll down the memory lane.

I base this map on the previous design so I don’t need to make the full sketch again. Instead I start with planning my route and as I know the area well this part of the process is like ‘a walk in the park’!

Working on this this map is not as phased as previous one -I work simultaneously on all layers, roughly sketching in the map. By the end of the day I have solid base map with some landmarks.

Next morning I’m filling in the rest of the map – finishing the grid, adding street names and adjusting the trail. I’m also adding some street trees by the river to make it ‘leafier’.

And it’s finished! Hope some of you will enjoy this walk as much as I enjoyed making it. 🤞🍃

Green Clerkenwell Walking Map

Since it’s been a while I made a proper walking map I felt it was about a time to get back into map making! I chose Clerkenwell as it used to be inside my lunch radius and I spent many happy hours exploring the area over my lunch breaks. Some of the breaks got longer than intended, but I like to think I made it up by staying late.. on most days. 😉

I am starting the map with a research on internet and making a rough area sketch with some landmarks on my sketch pad. This is a nice task and I’m really enjoying it, spending most of my morning doing this. The area hasn’t changed a lot, but I want to make sure I’m including everything important and my map is up to date.

It’s Saturday so I’m going for a little walk after lunch to a book festival near local park. It’s quite nice and I’m inspired to tackle my next task after I return. I open the Google Maps and roughly sketch out the walking path. It doesn’t have to be accurate at this point as I can always adjust it later.

I continue on Monday. My research done I now need to digitalise the map. After a late start (I’m out of coffee so I need to refuel!) I spend the noon tracing in the base map. I work from Google Maps screenshot and first trace in the green spaces and main streets, then smaller streets. I’m also deciding the colours for the map.

I continue filling in my map on afternoon and it’s going well for couple of hours. I add the walking path and some street names on my base map. I also start adding the landmarks, working on Google maps simultaneously. I decide to expand my path further north and need to work out the extension. At this point I’m also adding the title and it really starts to look like a proper map!

I take a coffee break at four and keep working, adding some icons. At around 8 I compare the map with the earlier version and don’t think it’s going on right direction.. It feels too heavy, so I’m reverting back to 4 o’clock version. I want to keep the map light and airy and to save the day I’m adding lines under landmarks instead. At this point I also decide to add a legend and make the title more prominent. I’m finishing around midnight. 🌙

Next morning I am finalising the map. I’m deciding to add more street names as my map should be actually walkable, not only an illustration. I’m also adjusting the trail and making little fixes here and there.. Finally I’m adding some texture to ‘age’ the map and it’s done! And here’s the final version of the Green Clerkenwell Walking Map.

Street trees type map UPDATE

After posting the first version of Street trees type map I had comments some of the boroughs are missing from the map and suggestions to fill them in. The first map was based on the open data from London tree map project from 2014-2015 and for various reasons the data from some boroughs are yet to be filled.

So following a tip on Twitter I approached the tree officers from The London Tree Officers Association in seven boroughs to fill the information gaps on the map. I got very quick and informative responses from most of the boroughs. The remaining I filled based on the information in the reports from the borough websites.

I had some very interesting feedback from the tree officers, overall positive. For example Rupert from Hackney thought the idea is interesting, but also suggested look at the trees based on variety and diversity. Steve Pocock and Paul Wood have developed a very good website TreeTalk, where they feature a Tree Map based on diversity and rarity.

I also received some very useful design feedback! For example Richard from Croydon noted the borough borders are not very visible so I worked the map more to give some more space around the lines. His other great suggestion was to add borough names, which I saved for the future version.

As I noted cherry has become very popular street tree in London I was curious why. Elizabeth from Wandsworth explained in her borough it’s planted because of the beautiful blossom and the small size – it can fit on most streets and even whole streets are now planted with cherries.

Working with the data on the map was interesting, but I really enjoyed this part of the project! The tree officers know best what they do and the data reflects only the fraction of the diversity of their work. And here’s the final map filled with data and personal approach.

Graphic of iconic logo species

I got a little frustrated last time doing research for my species timeline infographic because when I googled ‘apples in London’ I got well.. ‘Apples in London’! Some of the brands just have taken over nature it represents. So this gave me the idea to make a graphic about animal and plant species that have made it to icons and write down some of my thoughts about it. 🤔

It’s quite common to choose an element of nature in a brand. It’s often considered a fresh and effective way to communicate the brand message, even if the company itself has nothing to do with nature.. But should it be like this? Here are some of the examples of companies and organisations using nature in their branding.

Apple. There’s a lot of symbolism related to apples and no wonder it has become one of the most known species ever envisioned over history of company branding. Apple has build a whole industry around apple, although their logo is probably only connection to nature..

Shell. The origin of the Shell is related to company’s seashell business more than century ago. Although a controversial business idea, it was very popular with Victorians and the name remained, when company evolved to one of the a largest oil companies. Still controversial.

Twitter. Twitter Bird is inspired by mountain bluebird living in western North-America. It’s a lovely icon and perfect for a company who has built its success on ‘tweets’, but sometimes it’s just better to switch off and go listen the birds in nature instead!

Penguin. Penguin is a book publisher but penguin icon is a classic, loved by many readers around the world. Unlike apple, googling penguin results a modest company ad not overshadowing the real birds company identity was inspired. This is the way to go!

World Wildlife Fund. Probably the best logo use of nature, where all the elements have perfectly come together. The core idea of the logo is to represent the conservation of endangered species and giant panda is a perfect choice to communicate the message across cultures. Love it!

Air Canada. The maple leaf is a symbol of Canada, representing it’s 10 species of maples and it’s obvious why the company has also adopted it for its planes. But, especially in current climate the air transport and nature just do not connect..

Abercombie & Fitch. Seems the existence of the moose brand has no other reason than to be an alternative to Ralph Lauren’s polo pony. However few years ago the company decided to ditch the logos for American market. Maybe others will follow.

Timberland. Timberland brand is for outdoorsy people, therefore the tree seems to suite rather well. However Timberland means land covered with forest suitable or managed for timber.. so in the light of new environmentalism perhaps not the best use of land.

Jaguar. Jaguars represent speed and durance and are beautiful creatures, perfect icon for a luxury car brand. However, it’s another identity that has pushed nature back on internet with the aim to sell more cars we probably don’t need in the world right now.

Tripadvisor. The goggling owl on the Tripadvisor logo is quite suited for the night owls browsing through the hotel and restaurant reviews. The stylised owl is quite known these days and proudly displayed everywhere to attract unsuspecting pray.

Rainforest Alliance. Another great nature logo use for environmental NGO. The frogs are symbols of healthy natural environment and found nearly everywhere on the planet. Promoting sustainability Rainforest Alliance frog jumps out from all responsible products.

Playboy. Well….

The logos in this artwork are redrawn and for illustrative purposes only