The Water of Leith Conservation Trust visitor centre.

A greener future: The Water of Leith Conservation Trust

By Megan Purves on 06 December 2023

Nestled in the heart of Edinburgh, the Water of Leith is a remarkable natural gem, meandering through the city, and providing a tranquil escape from the bustling urban environment. The Water of Leith Conservation Trust is an organisation dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of this precious resource.

The Water of Leith is a river that flows through the city of Edinburgh, from its source in the Pentland Hills to the port of Leith on the Firth of Forth. Its history dates back centuries, with the river having played a significant role in the city’s development and industry. However, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, industrialisation and urbanisation led to pollution and neglect of the river, causing considerable environmental damage.

The Water of Leith Conservation Trust was founded in 1988 to address these issues. Over the years, the trust has worked tirelessly to restore and conserve the river and its surrounding environment, turning it into a valuable natural and recreational asset for the city and its residents. We spoke with Johnny Wells, a Project Officer at the Trust who said,


“It’s about creating a healthy river, for now, for the future, and for generations to come, that’s cared for by the community itself.”

Johnny Wells
Project Officer

Conservation and Restoration Efforts

The trust’s primary mission is to conserve and safeguard the Water of Leith and its surrounding areas. This is achieved through a combination of initiatives, which include:

  • River Clean-up: The trust organises regular clean-up events to remove litter and debris from the river and its bank. This helps maintain the river’s natural beauty and ensures a clean environment for wildlife and visitors.
  • Habitat Restoration: Efforts are made to restore and protect the river’s habitat, promoting the growth of native flora and fauna. The trust collaborates with volunteers and other organisations to undertake various projects for this purpose.
  • Education and Engagement: The trust believes in the power of education and community involvement. They offer educational programs and events that teach people about the river’s ecology and history, fostering a deeper connection to this natural treasure.

Community Benefits

The Water of Leith Conservation Trust’s work extends far beyond preserving the river itself. The organisation has a profound impact on the local community and Edinburgh as a whole:

  • Recreation and Wellbeing: The Water of Leith Walkway is a 13-mile trail along the river, providing an excellent opportunity for residents and visitors to enjoy nature, exercise, and unwind from the stresses of city life.
  • Educational Opportunities: The trust’s educational programs reach out to schools, community groups, and families, instilling a sense of environmental responsibility and appreciation for nature.
  • Cultural Enrichment: The river and its surroundings have historical significance, and the trust’s efforts to maintain the area enhance the cultural heritage of Edinburgh.
  • Environmental Stewardship: By conserving the Water of Leith, the trust contributes to the city’s biodiversity and promotes sustainable urban living.

Supporting the Trust

The Water of Leith Conservation Trust relies on the support of volunteers, donors, and partnerships to continue its essential work. In 2022, volunteers recorded 10,000 hours of work, including controlling invasive non-native species like Japanese knotweed, biodiversity planning, planting of trees and wildflowers, river and walkway clean-ups, and much more.


“The trust was founded back in 1988 by a friendship group, it was born from volunteers.”

Johnny Wells
Project Officer

At Firefly, one of our core values is being a climate-positive company. We take actions to help protect our planet, and one of the ways we do this is by volunteering with conservation charities. We’ve really enjoyed volunteering with The Water of Leith Conservation Trust and could not recommend it enough. You can get involved by volunteering your time, making a donation, or becoming a member of the trust. Visit to learn more about how you can support and contribute to their initiatives.

Volunteers helping The Water of Leith Conservation Trust on a litter pick.

The Water of Leith Conservation Trust is a shining example of how dedicated individuals and organisations can make a profound impact on their local environment. Through their tireless work, this once-neglected river has become a thriving urban oasis, enriching the lives of those who call Edinburgh home. The trust’s commitment to preserving and enhancing the Water of Leith is not only an investment in the city’s ecological health but also a gift to the community and a testament to the power of environmental stewardship.

To find out more about the Water of Leith Conservation Trust visit

We are also committed to volunteering with the Borders Forest Trust where we support with tree planting and land maintenance. You can learn more in our Digging Deeper with the Borders Forest Trust journal article.

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