· Country parks - Visitors have enjoyed the glorious weather across West Lothian and the country parks have been a favourite destination for many. Hot weather recently interspersed by rain has resulted in summer getting an early boost. Wildflowers are in full bloom, many butterflies have taken to the wing earlier than usual, birds have already fledged their first broods, many animals have had their young earlier than in previous years and the meadows are festooned in flowers. A whole range of visitors have made great use of the park facilities - horse-riders, cyclists, walkers, families, caravan and campers, runners, dog walkers, Duke of Edinburgh Award participants, all making great use of their outdoors. Each of the country parks has a visitor centre where staff can recommend walking routes and things to do. Refreshments are available at Almondell & Calderwood Visitor Centre - confectionary, hot and cold drinks, ice creams and snacks. There's a café available at Polkemmet and the brand new Beecraigs Visitor Centre Hideaway Café is now open. All Country Park visitor centres are now on summer opening times. Beecraigs Country Park and Almondell & Calderwood Country Park have been recognized with 2017 Certificates of Excellence, based on the consistently great reviews earned on TripAdvisor.
· Beecraigs -The park continues to be busy as visitors enjoy woodland walks and trails, the play area, the skills area and mountain bike trails, the animal attraction and a good all-round outdoor experience. Call in to the new visitor centre and admire views across the Forth to Fife, north to the Ochils and Fife and south to the Pentlands, Edinburgh and East Lothian. Look around the new interpretation area and shop or pop into the Hideaway Café for a hot drink and something tasty to eat. Demolition of the old Beecraigs Visitor Centre is scheduled to start in July. The new Waymarked trails are now in place at Beecraigs. Maps are available from the visitor centre and online and show the three routes of varying lengths - green 6.2km, orange 6.8km and purple 3.8km and can be linked to create a longer walking route taking you across the whole park all the way from Hillhouse to Cockleroy, the Southern Boundary and the Loch. The permanent orienteering course at Beecraigs is currently being reinstated in partnership with Forth Valley Orienteering Club. The east side of the park has been re-mapped and some new markers added. It is hoped to have the new maps available online in the near future. Beecraigs Country Park is a 4 Star Visitor Attraction awarded by VisitScotland. Please note that the Beecraigs Visitor Centre telephone number has changed to 01506 284516.
· Beecraigs caravan and camping Site - is open throughout the year to touring caravans, motorhomes and trailer tents. The camping site is open until 29 October. In addition there are "Little Lodges" available for those looking to 'glamp' with the convenience of warm, dry and cosy breaks (without having to bring your tent!) - find out more about the 4 berth or 6 berth Little Lodges at www.beecraigs.com. There is also a range of special offers. The site has been extremely busy with the start of the main tourist season. In particular motorhomes have been regular visitors to Beecraigs, as West Lothian is often a "first and last stop" for visitors who have collected their hire motorhome after arriving at Edinburgh Airport. Beecraigs is also well placed with its central location for a longer term holiday - easy access through to Edinburgh, Stirling, Glasgow and central Scotland with excellent day trips to attractions such as Kelpies, Falkirk Wheel, Forth Bridges, Edinburgh attractions, etc. Beecraigs caravan and camping site is graded by VisitScotland as a 4 Star Touring Park and was awarded the 4 Pennant Gold Award by the AA.
· Beecraigs Animal Attraction- The Red Deer hinds started calving a bit earlier than usual this year. Currently there are around 45 calves, with many more to follow. They will be difficult to see at this time, becoming more obvious as they grow in confidence and size. If you are lucky enough to see one, please don't touch them through the fence but enjoy looking at their lovely spotted coats. The Hebridean sheep and Highland Cattle have all finished calving and lambing, and some can be seen from the Sutherland Walkway and view bridge. Scottish Blackface and Shetland sheep can also be seen at the Animal Attraction.
· Almondell and Calderwood - The good weather over the last month has catapulted Almondell into summer. The rhododendron flowering may be over but wildflowers are abundant and the formal garden provides a bright burst of colour. Look out for fledgling birds being looked after by their parents and for the flight of bats active in the hour before sunset as they feed on insects. A new exhibition by Artlink will feature in the exhibition room throughout July and August. The exhibition is the culmination of their two-year collaborations and will feature the story of the project and the people and communities involved, together with some of the works produced. A celebration event will be held at the end of the exhibition to recognise and share the project journey. A photographic exhibition by students from West Lothian College, in partnership with the 'Riverlife' Almond / Avon Project, is now on display in the information / interpretation room in the Visitor Centre. This exciting exhibition features a selection of photographs taken by NC photography students to highlight the River Almond and features works from wildlife to shopping trolleys and riverside art. The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) are hosting an Open Day in Almondell for Syrian Families to celebrate the end of Ramadan and ongoing conservation and wildlife projects across West Lothian. An orienteering map of Almondell is now available from the visitor centre with a permanent course being planned for the future in partnership with Edinburgh Interlooper Orienteerers. Almondell & Calderwood Country Park is a 4 Star Visitor Attraction awarded by VisitScotland.
· Polkemmet - Polkemmet is a great place for the family to visit with attractions such as the Miners Play Area, Golf Course, Driving Range, Bowling Green, paths and trails, Scottish Owl Centre, the Courtyard Café and the Bushcraft Shop - plenty to keep you and your young ones occupied. Whitburn Green Network Project proposals are progressing. The Ranger Service is also contributing to Operation Pinpoint organised by the Police to carry out an Environmental Visual Audit (EVA) to "identify areas of issue in our community and look to find viable solutions and opportunities through partnership working". Date for start expected to be late July / August. Polkemmet Country Park maintains its 3 Star Visitor Attraction awarded by VisitScotland.Golf season tickets are now on sale and available to purchase from the visitor centre. Prices start from just £105 for a year (including driving range tokens). Please phone 01501 743905 beforehand to check availability. At the driving range, you can hit 100 balls for the price of 50 between 6pm and 7pm Monday to Friday. Tee off Monday - Friday before 12 noon and get your second round free. At the golf course, you can play 18 holes for the price of nine before 12noon Monday to Friday. Tee-off times are 7am - 8pm Monday to Friday and 7am - 5pm at the weekend. The driving range is open from 10am - 9.30pm weekdays and between 7am and 7pm at the weekend. The last balls can be purchased 45 minutes before closing. Clubgolf is a fantastic project, aimed at children aged 6-12yrs, which gets straight to the heart of Scottish golf, creating opportunities and access for young people. Having already enjoyed phenomenal success, the programme, supported by numerous partners, continues to grow from strength to strength. Polkemmet Clubgolf sessions are currently running five days a week, and range from stage one for complete beginners, to the more-advanced on-course Junior Development Programme. Coaching costs £35 per child for a 12-week block. For further information, or to book a place, contact the visitor centre on 01501 743905 or email email@example.com
· Ranger Service -The last few months have seen the Ranger Service busy with visiting school groups. These are now drawing to a close as the summer holidays arrive. July is always a busy month for the Ranger Service with the events and activities programme and there's something for everyone to enjoy from fun-packed Wild Wednesdays in local parks across West Lothian, to Ranger Activity Weeks in each of the three country parks. Or bring your toddler along to the Caterpillar Club at Polkemmet and explore nature with outdoor games and crafts. The Ranger Service continues to be out and about patrolling and carrying out maintenance at countryside sites throughout West Lothian.
· Tree and woodland work -The team continue to work across West Lothian carrying out tree inspections works and addressing tree management issues as required.
· Little Boghead - The new dipping platform is scheduled to be constructed shortly and is funded by the Tesco Bags of Help grant received by Friends of Little Boghead at the end of last year. Look out for new signage interpretation and wildflowers later in the year.
· The 'Friends of Beecraigs' - is a constituted group and work alongside the Ranger Service to improve the Park and make it a better place for everyone. If you would like to help improve the environment, your fitness, meet other people or learn more about wildlife and conservation, why not join the Friends of Beecraigs. If you would like to get involved or want further information, please contact Tracey on: 01506 284518 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the 'Friends of Beecraigs' Facebook page.
· The Friends of Almondell - are an active and enthusiastic group of volunteers who meet once a month to carry out practical projects in Almondell & Calderwood Country Park. From tree planting to cutting back, path building and gardening, everyone can make a difference. Please visit Friends of Almondell Facebook page for further information and details of past projects. Their next meeting is on Saturday 8 July when the group will be working on clearing back paths. If you would like to join the group, please contact Kirsty on 01506 882254 or e-mail email@example.com
· Polkemmet Country Park's 'Friends' - are keen to help in developing future plans for the park and to help with conservation and maintenance projects. If you want to get involved please contact Hannah on 01501 743905 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
· District wide - Drainage and access improvement works have been completed on a section of walking road, to the east of Oakbank car park (linking Oakbank Village towards the Lammermuirs). This has been well received by the users who have been struggling with the condition. Rangers are currently dealing with a number of access enquiries across the district including issues such as irresponsible access, access obstruction and conflicts of use.