Edinburgh church taking part in canal festival

Welcome to the Kirk on the Canal

People are being encouraged to visit unique church gardens in Edinburgh this weekend as part of an annual Canal Festival.

Polwarth Parish Church, which is known as the Kirk on the Canal, is hosting a variety of stalls and providing refreshments to the public on Saturday to celebrate the city’s waterways.

The congregation has teamed up with community groups to create three gardens for the enjoyment of all beside the Union Canal.

Members are taking part in a survey of canal towpath users that day to gauge the amount of footfall between the church and the main festival hub at Edinburgh Quay.

Dawn Whittaker, administrator of The Friends of The Polwarth Canal Garden, explains the background to the project.

Lapping waters

She said: "The Church has always had beautiful grounds tended faithfully by members of the congregation and enjoyed by many.

"In September 2015, the congregation, in close co-operation with Scottish Waterways Trust, Historic Scotland and other partners broke through the wall to establish a second canalside garden on the Union Canal.

"It was sponsored by the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant, The Robertson Trust and many other generous donations and fundraising.

"A patio garden and path leads on to the decking and seating where many adults and children enjoy the peace, quiet and beauty of lapping waters, the wild life, plants and flowers.

Canal Work
Hard at work.

"The Polwarth Canal Garden has active contributors from its Friends Association which numbers 50 individuals and 29 organisations.

"Events are held to develop community activities involving all ages and abilities.

"Money raised on Saturday will be put into the Float Our Boat fund to allow the church to purchase a narrowboat to be sited at the pontoon which Scottish Canals plans to construct alongside our canalside garden later this year.

"The creation of another new garden as part of the partnership with the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant was designed by veteran Ray Howie to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

"It has been named The Tranquility Garden as the word Somme in Celtic means tranquil.

"This unique garden, once completed, will celebrate the respect and fellowship enjoyed by members of Polwarth Church with the armed forces and veterans.


"Planted logos of Polwarth Church and the Ministry Of Defence beside the Wilfred Owen bench will provide a space for tranquility and healing in a busy city.

"Santander Bank sponsored The Tranquility Garden with a grant for a sign which was designed and carved in wood by our friends at Tiphereth.

"Tiphereth is a Camphill Community based in Edinburgh supporting people with learning disabilities and they came recently in the pouring rain to erect the beautiful sign.

"Beautiful gardens do not look after themselves and The Polwarth Canal Shed, which began in February this year, is assisting with work in all three plots by planting, weeding and watering.

Peaceful and serene space

"The Canal Shed is run by Scottish Waterways led by Anna Canning now developing a wide variety of activities led by its members.

"Polwarth Church is leading the way with this pilot Canal Shed which Scottish Waterways will replicate in other canal locations in Scotland.

"Shed members have made bird boxes to hang in the trees near the wind chimes made earlier in the year.

"They are currently making planters to sit beneath the Tranquility Garden.

"There is a keen interest in the bees in the church gardens and recordings here will form part of bee surveys along the Union Canal.

"A bee ceramic has just been completed by Shed members and this will be installed in the canalside garden for all users to enjoy.

Bee ceramic.

"There are currently around a dozen regular members of The Canal Shed who meet every Wednesday in the Drennan Hall between 10am and 1pm.

"The Canal Shed is hosted by Polwarth Church in return for small jobs done in and around the premises and benefits from Big Lottery Funding.

"Members must be eighteen or over to attend and new members are always welcome.”