Our hill, my paths

There’s something special about Corstorphine Hill but it’s actually quite hard to put your finger on just what it is that makes it so magical up there. Is it the walled garden with its iron gates and exquisite planting or the boggy pools near the rocks on the west side? Perhaps it is the stone tower or spotting Zebras through the fence at the zoo or maybe the sledging hills? For many, it is the wildlife, ecosystems and habitats that they find intriguing along with the weather that, depending on whether wet or dry, makes the hill smell earthy or sweet. Finally, who could fail to be inspired by the stunning view across our city from the top of the golf course or, from the Clermiston side, the vista to fife and the mountains beyond. I love all of these things about the hill. I notice them and am ever inspired by the variety of feels and features the hill offers her visitors. But for me, the foremost charm of my hill is her paths.

I grew up in the city, a few miles away from Corstorphine, but only really remember the hill as a hike up the tarmac when visiting the zoo. When I arrived as Head Teacher at St Andrew’s therefore I didn’t know the hill well but I did (even at my head teacher interview in the school building) feel a twinge of excitement at the possibility of working beside a wild space. One of the first things I did when I was appointed was to go off exploring and, like so many who underestimate the space and size of the place, got completely lost! It’s the paths you see, they are completely lined with tress with just a handful of viewing points. They seemed to constantly intersect, often imitating each other under the canopy. This lack of a clear view, coupled with what often felt like a hall of mirrors combined with a maze, was rather disconcerting but it was also exciting and very beautiful.  With practice and patience and expeditions lead by pupils ‘in the know’, I began to develop my mental map of the hill and many of her paths. The gravel roads up to the communication pylons, the smoother surfaces between Balgreen Road and Queensferry Road, the muddy paths made solid and unbreakable by thousands of feet compacting the earth over the years and the steps helping ramblers negotiate the steeper sections gradually became familiar; it seems odd now that I could ever have thought any of these two paths looked even remotely similar.

Discovering these paths and learning their ways was much like my journey, as the new Head Teacher at  St Andrew’s, to learning about the school and its strengths, beauty and complexities. It took a while to know the paths, to figure out where they would lead and how they all joined together. Now, three years on, the paths are clearer and my map is based on my experiences of walking with others. The paths all serve different purposes; some paths are liked whilst some are not favoured. Different walks and routes are therefore needed for different purposes as some paths feel too steep, too over cast, too muddy underfoot or simply just too far. What feels right for one group one day may need to be adjusted the next.

Knowing my hill and her paths, as well as knowing that I most definitely haven’t explored all of them yet, makes me excited. I am excited for the new school year, eager to revisit all that is beautiful, strong and connected in my school community and of course I can’t wait to discover where the next path will take me.

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