“ The Meadows is a large public park in Edinburgh, Scotland, just to the south of the city centre. It consists mostly of open grassland crossed by tree-lined paths, but is also home to children's playgrounds, a croquet club and tennis courts. In the summer, it is one of the host venues for the Edinburgh Festival, such as the annual Fringe Sunday. Being one of the few flat stretches of open land in the central area of the city, it is occasionally host to public protests and rallies, including the 225,000-strong Make Poverty History march on July 2, 2005. Circuses frequently visit the meadows too. In the 1870s it became an important venue in the early development of association football in Edinburgh. Amongst the numerous fledgling teams using the Meadows were Heart of Midlothian F.C. and Hibernian F.C., later to prove the city's preeminent sides, and the first Derby match between them was staged there on 25 December 1875. Although a modern plaque has been placed near the whalebone arch to commemorate the event, the main pitch was actually on the eastern fringe of the park, running from east to west, parallel with the Boroughloch Brewery. „
The Meadows is a public park that nestles beautifully in the centre of Edinburgh and unlike parks in many other cities throughout the UK it has a positive and family friendly reputation. Overlooked by the famous Edinburgh Castle to the North, Bruntsfield and the churches of Tollcross to the South and Causewayside and Nicholson Street to the West it is very accessible and provides a welcome stretch of breathing space when strolling through the city.
Encompassing a fairly broad area The Meadows is home to a variety of different pursuits there is room for various different cricket matches (these are still played on a weekly basis in full cricketing whites!) as well as extreme frisbee games, 5-a side football and there is even an amateur golf course that sprawls onto the adjoining park - Bruntsfield Links. Despite these various sporting pursuits there are still plenty of opportunities to source an oak tree along one of the many tree-lined paths that sprawl throughout the park and find a quite spot to have a good read on a dry day.
Having spent the last 3 years living in Edinburgh as a student it became clear that as soon as there was even a hint of sunshine there would be an influx of fellow students to the Meadows adorning 12 packs of cider, a disposable BBQ and on occasion - a boules set. However, despite the potential for widespread chaos when thousands of students are gathered together in any one place and alcohol is added to the mix, there is rarely any sort of bother or disquiet and people are able to meet friends, play music and generally enjoy themselves in a relaxed and safe environment.
On Saturdays the Meadows are home to a huge number of recreational groups that range from 'slackliners' who practice tightrope walking between the trees and performers honing their art whether that be juggling or later in the evenings the Beltane (a local Edinburgh Fire Festival) group bravely and impressively throwing flaming torches and fire balls.
During the 1960s there were plans to build a huge 'fly-over' trunk road through the middle of this park and I'm pleased to say that such plans were forcibly resisted and we're lucky to have had such a beautiful place preserved.
It was always a pleasure to walk through the Meadows, whether that would be on my way home from work in the evenings, on my way to the National Library of Scotland first thing in the morning or just going for a leisurely jog on a Sunday afternoon. It is a space that provides an opportunity for everyone to enjoy green open spaces whilst it serves as a constant reminder of how Edinburgh is a city that never fails to surprise and delight.
**** What are the meadows? ****
The meadows is basically the name given to a large park on the south side of the centre of Edinburgh. It is a large flat open area of grass and is popular with all age-groups. It extends for approximately 58.4 acres and is less than a mile away from the centre of town.
The meadows backs on to what used to be the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh which was Edinburghs main and oldest hospital. This has now been moved to an area on the outskirts of town and the hospital is undergoing redevelopment as Quartermile a development of upmarket apartments. Some of these will have a wonderful outlook over the meadows.
**** The History of the Meadows ****
The Meadows were originally the site of Borough-Loch which was one of the main water supplies for the Edinburghs Old Town. Over the years the Loch changed names it was the Borough Loch, South Loch and also Strations Loch.
Long ago the loch was used for washing animals and also used by many people for dumping goods in the water despite it being a water supply (some things never change!) Then in 1722 the Loch was rented by Thomas Hope and the loch was drained, walkways made and rows of trees planted on each side of the walkways.
Melville Drive (the street that runs alongside the south side of the Meadows) was opened in 1859 and this brought many people especially at weekends in their carriages to walk in the Meadows or picnic with their families. It was the place to see and be seen.
As Edinburgh began to grow and grow an act was passed to ensure the safety of the Meadows against any building and this remains to the present day.
Over the years the Meadows has been used for a variety of sporting pursuits including football, tennis, bowling, cricket, croquet and archery. There also used to bandstand concerts, sadly the bandstands no longer exist. In 1842 they tried to build a racecourse but this was turned down.
The Meadows also was the site of many different exhibitions. In 1886 it hosted the International Exhibition of Industry, Science and Art. In the west section of the Meadows there is the Prince Albert Sundial which commemorates the opening of the exhibition.
Also at the west end of the Meadows are commemorative octagonal stone pillars again for the exhibition. These are 26 feet high and have unicorns on the top with shields and coats of arms.
My favourite however is the large whales jawbone arch at the beginning of the walkway known as Jawbone Walk. These were originally part of the Shetland and Fair Isles Knitters stand at the exhibition and were presented to the town council after the exhibition and placed at the gateway. So many people just past through them and dont stop to look at them or wonder why they are there.
**** The Meadows Today ****
The meadows changes with the seasons. In winter it is much quieter with the occasional dog walker and people passing through on their way to/from town.
Spring is my favourite time to visit the meadows. There are crocuses which just grow up through the ground and add bursts of colour everywhere. But the best bit is the beautiful pink and white cherry blossom of the trees which line the paths which intersect the meadows, it looks just lovely.
Summer brings the people out from the surrounding tenements to make the most of the sunshine. Students lie on the grass, studying books or just sitting chatting or sunbathing. Cricketers come in the early evening to play on the cricket pitch. Here and there various groups of people are playing touch rugby, football or frisbee. On a Saturday younger children are practising football training. Young families take their children to the playgrounds or just for walks. Dog owners are out and about walking their dogs. Cyclists are passing through on the cycle lanes in to and out of town. The meadows has a buzz in summer and its a nice area to wander around with everyone enjoying being out in the sunshine.
Summer in Edinburgh also brings the festival and the meadows is host to some of the attractions. Each year usually brings the circus and the Lady Boys (neither of which I have been interested in seeing but both of which draw in great crowds year after year). Within the last month there has also been the Channel 4 Taste of Edinburgh event which took place in the Meadows and the Moonwalk in aid of Breast Cancer.
**** What facilities are available? ****
The main attraction at the moment is that a new childrens playpark has been built on the East side of the meadows, replacing the older playpark which was there. This is a pretty amazing park, there are your usual swings and roundabouts but there are also climbing walls, death slides, big swings that you lie on and loads of things to keep children of all sizes amused. Its a very popular place at the moment and seems to be busy most of the day. A little hint is that if you are going with kids and want to just go on the swings, the nearby park just a few hundred yards to the west is still there and is really quiet these days so no need to queue for the swings!
There is a jogging path around the outside of the meadows and this is very popular with the fit people!
For the sports enthusiast there are tennis courts, croquet lawn, bowls, pitch and putt and a cricket pitch.
The bowls cost £2 an hour for an individual and another £1 if you need to hire the bowls. The pitch and putt is free if you bring your own clubs and golf balls.
At the cricket pavilion there are toilets and a small café. For the dog walker there are various bins located around the place where you can put your dog poo, but no bags so dont forget to bring your own.
There are dedicated cycle paths however many cyclists do still cycle on the pavements where it clearly states No Cycling, this can be annoying as many of them cycle quite fast on these paths which is dangerous.
Barbecues are not allowed on the meadows, however from time to time you do see people occassionally with their disposable barbecues.
**** Safety Warning ****
I would advise if you are visiting the park not to walk alone late at night (personally I would avoid cutting through the park at all at night) as there have been a few muggings in the past. However I think this advice really goes for any park in any city as when it is dark and quiet you never know who is there.
**** Summary ****
For me the meadows is a lovely area of town, its like a little bit of the country in the middle of the city. Many of the tenements that are situated near the Meadows dont have gardens so for them this is their garden which doesnt need them to maintain they can just sit back and enjoy.