Water of Leith Conservation Trust win Community Group of the Year 2021

The Hit Squad is the regular weekday volunteer group of the Water of Leith Conservation Trust who care for the 13 mile walkway on the 26 mile river.

Water of Leith Conservation Trust - Hit Squad

The Hit Squad volunteer group has been running for many years and before the Covid restrictions regularly attracted 20 members each session to improve the river and 13 miles of walkway. 

Depending on the season, jobs ranged from trimming back vegetation, raking up leaves, caring for wildflower meadows, removing invasive species and clearing litter both in and out of the river.

Like most activities, the group came to an abrupt halt when the lockdown first hit to protect the safety of the volunteers.

Project officer Johnny Wells said:

While our volunteers stayed safe, the walkway became the busiest it’s ever been as a vital green space for Edinburgh residents to escape, meet up and exercise in during lockdown.

This huge footfall had an impact on the state of the walkway with erosion of the verges as people socially distanced leading to the walkway becoming muddier, increases in littering, erosion of river banks from dogs and the good summer meant vegetation shot up.

As lockdown restrictions relaxed, the group started working again with staff, at first just two volunteers at a time and then increasing as the months progressed with more tasks happening weekly to allow for smaller groups. 

Since April 2021 to date, the group has have completed 105 sessions equating to over 2000 hours of practical conservation and teamwork.

Johnny explained:

Our volunteers' dedication to being outdoors in all weathers doing something practical for the river and walkway is amazing. Over the last year they’ve accepted and adapted to many changes including us stopping the communal biscuit barrel. 

Without their effort I’d hate to think of how much harder lockdown would have been for the public without this green space. This award is a brilliant acknowledgement for the volunteer’s hard work and dedication.

Watch their video below.

Find out more about the Trust online.

The Hit Squad was among 11 winners at Paths for All's 12th annual Volunteers Awards. You can find out about the rest of the winners here.