Friday, 6 November 2015

Strollers Walk No. 199 - Wednesday 18th November 2015, Musselburgh Circle

Walk No. 199:   Musselburgh Circle - New Hailes, Esk Valley Way
Date:                 Wednesday 18th November 2015
Start Time:        11:00
Distance:          6 miles approximately
Never trust a weather forecast. Having gone from being on the verge of cancelling the walk as the forecast was dire, and then going ahead because the forecast had changed to be fine for the time we were due to start, twenty hardy Strollers turned up for the walk. The rain did eventually stop and blue sky appeared, just a tad later than the forecast suggested. It’s what waterproofs are for! Meeting at Musselburgh’s Fisherrow Harbour we made our way up for a brief look at Newhailes House, a National Trust Property gifted to them in 1997 by the Dalrymple Family. The original house dates from 1686, called Whitehill, but was extensively remodelled in the 18th Century and renamed as New Hailes. There are lots of things to see in the grounds but it was not a good day to loiter.

We crossed the road over into the small industrial estate and worked our way on the path running parallel with the main Edinburgh to London railway line. At Musselburgh station we paused to look at Queen Margaret University, which moved here from its site at Clerwood to a purpose built series of building with the emphasis on ‘green environment’ for which it has won many awards. From there we followed the cycle route down to Monktonhall Golf Course, now used as an Open qualifying course, admiring a nearby house already decked out in Christmas decorations. At least you won’t get lost on a dark night in that street. Following the cycle route down to the River Esk, we crossed the bridge to make our way back down to Musselburgh, catching sight of a heron as we walked down to Eskmills, which is now rejuvenated as offices from its original use as mills.
Colonel James Paterson, a local to Musselburgh, invented and patented in 1812 the first machine capable of tying knots for the manufacture of fishing nets. When he died his company was bought, along with the patents for the knot tying machines, by J. W. Stuart who established a new factory for the manufacture of fishing nets on the banks of the River Esk and expanded the business into a world leader with sales and repair facilities in North America, Europe and Australia. At its height Stuart’s mills employed over 800 people in cotton processing and rope manufacturing. Throughout the World, “Scotch Weave Nets” became the generic name for machine produced nets. The mill’s domination of the market faltered when newer man-made materials were introduced namely nylon and terylene (Dacron). They were late in adopting the stronger and cheaper materials, handing  their competitors a considerable advantage, so the Esk Net Mills slowly declined.
We crossed the main road and then the Old ‘Roman Bridge’. Although the current bridge dates from the 16th Century it has been the site of many bridges before which have been used by the various armies invading Scotland. Continuing down the river, past the geese and swans, down Eskside West and the Category B listed Gazebo in Eskside West House dating from 1776, we made our way in the sunshine back to Musselburgh Harbour.

Thanks to Drew for organising an excellent and interesting walk on firm paths, great for this time of year. We are now looking forward to the lunch, where hopefully we won’t need waterproofs while inside, although a few years back we slipped and slithered in frozen snow down the street to the venue.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Strollers Walk No. 198 - Tuesday 20th October 2015, Dirleton to North Berwick

Walk No. 198:    Dirleton to North Berwick
Date:                 Tuesday 20th October 2015
Meet at:            Castle Inn, Dirleton
Finish at:          Church Road, North Berwick
Twenty six Strollers met up at Dirleton to walk the John Muir Way to North Berwick. Ian had managed to arrange refreshments in the Castle Inn before the walk and, what was even better, a gloriously sunny Autumn day with very little wind.
The picturesque village of Dirleton is home to the ruins of the castle first built around 1100 and expanded by the de Vaux family in the 12th century. Being in the path of the English armies marching on Edinburgh the castle was besieged several times and finally left in its current state by Cromwell’s army in 1650. The Kirk dates from 1512 when Dirleton had a bigger population than Gullane.
Making our way from Dirleton past Yellowcraigs to join up with the John Muir Way. Named in memory of John Muir who was born in Dunbar but moved to America at an early age and was instrumental in setting up the National Parks there including Yosemite and Sequoia. The path has now been extended so you can walk from Dunbar all the way to Helensburgh. Joining the path we had a good sight of Fidra lighthouse built by Thomas Stevenson father of Robert who wrote Treasure Island which is though to be inspired by Fidra. Making our way along the path to North Berwick, Berwick meaning ‘barley farmstead’. ‘Bere’ meaning barley and ‘wic’ meaning farmstead from Old English.
We followed the edge of North Berwick West golf course founded in 1832, though local Kirk records show golf was played here in 1611 when two gentlemen were brought to task for playing on a Sunday. Passing the big mansions that were built for the wealthy in the 19th century when the visit of Edward Prince of Wales in 1859 boosted the popularity of the town we made our way towards the harbour area. The harbour was built around 1200, though evidence suggests there may have been a harbour from the 8th century. For over 500 years the harbour operated a ferry across to Earlsferry near Elie in Fife. This year a new ferry service was started to Anstruther over the summer.
We’d like to thank Ian for arranging the walk and such a beautiful day.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Strollers Walk No. 197 - Monday 21st September 2015, Tanfield - Leith - Newhaven - Tanfield

Walk No. 197:     Tanfield - Leith - Newhaven - Tanfield Circle
Date:                   Monday 21st September 2015
Start Time:          11:00
Distance:            4.0 miles approximately
Duration:             3 hours approximately
Start / Finish at:  Bus stop in front of Tanfield (opposite what was the Northern Bar)
We shall do this circular walk following some of the old railway lines to Leith, Newhaven and back. There are several places where walkers can leave for a bus if they don't want to complete the whole walk.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Theatre Group - Bookings for Christmas Pantomime

This year’s Christmas Pantomime at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We have made a provisional booking for the Matinee Performance at 2.00pm on Thursday 10 December 2015. Details of this, including how to book, have been emailed to members who are part of our Theatre Group.
If you would like to go, please complete the booking form attached to your email and return it
together with your cheque
as instructed in the form, to arrive no later than 17 September 2015.
Note: If you want to sit beside your friends, it would be easier for us to administer if you could all get together and send back a single form for the group of you.
If you are not registered as part of the Theatre Group, but would like more information on this, please reply to and we will add you to the theatre group distribution list.

Outing to Glenturret Distillery and Drummond Gardens, Crieff - Tuesday 8th September 2015

Our fifth and final coach outing of the summer took place on Tuesday 8th September 2015, when we visited the Famous Grouse Centre at Glenturret Distillery, just outside Crieff. On the way there, we stopped for morning coffee and some retail therapy at Dobbies garden Centre near Stirling. In the afternoon we visited the beautiful Drummond Gardens, south of Crieff.
Around 80 attended this outing, requiring the usual 57-seater coach plus an additional minibus. We enjoyed high tea in the Queen's Hotel in Perth before returning to Edinburgh.

Many thanks to all involved in arranging our five outings this summer and to all who supported us by attending.

Strollers Walk No. 196 - Thursday 20th August 2015, Duns / Manderston Circle

Walk No:     196
Date:           Thursday 20th August 2015
Start Time:   11:00
Distance:     4.6 miles approximately
Duration:      2 hours approximately

On a surprisingly dry and very warm day fifteen Strollers met in Duns for the August walk to see the sights and sounds of the Manderston estate. From Market Square we headed up Castle Street over the road at Newtown Street and past the Horn Inn following the road towards Grantshouse and Cranshaws. Stopping to admire Christ Church, this Scottish Episcopal Church was built by Mr Hay of Duns Castle in 1857 to a design based upon a Romanesque style church which he had viewed on the banks of the Rhine. Looking over the cemetery to the right we had lovely views over the Merse, which means marsh but it was drained in the 18th century. Turning right for Johnsfield and Broomhouse we followed the road and then the track, avoiding stepping on the slightly flat frogs that seemed to be dotted about, taking us between the fields towards Buxley and past the entrance to the Manderston Cricket Ground founded in 1899.

Buxley has some interesting “A” listed historic buildings, and was built from 1897 to 1900 as the “Home” farm for Manderston. Here we met one of residents who works in the shop at Manderston House and did her best to try and entice us to visit the house  Continuing on we entered the grounds of Manderston House, the home of The Palmer family of Huntley and Palmer biscuit fame. Manderston is the supreme country house of Edwardian Scotland and was completely rebuilt from 1901 to 1903; the swan-song of its era. A house on which no expense was spared, with opulent staterooms, the only silver-staircase in the world, and extensive "downstairs" domestic quarters. It stands in 56 acres of formal gardens, with magnificent stables and a stunning marble dairy. We stopped off at the stables to have a chat with the horses and admire the stables with the horse names on the wall that all began with M.

We then made our way back to Duns along the edge of the A6105 following the wide grass verge that runs along the side of the road. Why is it all these roads seem to get busier just as we are walking along? Most Borders drivers think they are all Louise Aitken Walker and by “planning” we pass the Aitken Walker garage founded by her and her husband as we walk back to Duns. Louise's career began in 1979 when she was entered in Ford's 'Find a Lady Rally Driver' competition, without her knowledge, by her two brothers and was a winner from 2000 entrants. It spanned fourteen years up to 1993 when she retired to have a family. During those years she was the first woman to win a National Rally outright, survived a horrific crash in Portugal and became the first, ever British driver to win a world title - FIA Ladies World Rally Champion. Passing the garage we walked back into Duns down Bridgend returning to the Square and time for the Strollers to replace the calories burnt off on the walk.

Thanks Moira for organising this walk. Lets hope the weather stays as nice for September.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Strollers Walk No.195 - Tuesday 21st July 2015, Peebles to Lyne Water

Walk No. 195:   Peebles to Lyne Water Circular Walk
Date:                 Tuesday 21st July 2015

Start Time:       11:00
Distance:         7.0 miles approximately
Meet at:   Kingsmeadows car Park (just over the Tweed Bridge in Peebles)

Twenty Strollers met up for the July walk from Peebles to Lyne Station done in a figure of eight out and back along the Tweed via Manor Bridge. Starting off from the Kingsmeadows car park and following the path along the River Tweed and turning south at Fotheringham Bridge to go through the field and skirt the South Wood to the viewpoint above the Manor Bridge. Who works out these puff factors? From the viewpoint down and over the Old Manor Brig dating from 1702. Crossing the Manor Bridge itself to join the old Symington, Biggar and Broughton railway line, where contrary to the forecast it began to rain quite heavily. Not sure about the definition of drizzle to heavy drizzle. Following the railway line and sheltering from the rain under the trees we reached the bridge at Lyne Station where we stopped for lunch in relatively dry conditions trying to work out what type of birds were sitting on the telephone wires beside us.
From here it was over the footbridge and past Barns Tower, dating from the 16th century and Barns House dating from the 18th century to re-join the river and work our way back to the Manor Bridge. Crossing over to create our figure of eight we re-joined the railway line back to the Neidpath Viaduct, where the option of going over it and through the tunnel didn’t have an enthusiastic response. So instead we opted to follow the river below Neidpath Castle, now owned by the Wemyss family. It has had many famous visitors including Mary Queen of Scots, James the VI and poets like William Wordsworh. Following the river into Hay Lodge Park and across the Fotheringham Bridge and back to the car park in Peebles.
Apart from the rain, and Moira discovering that wearing walking shoes after going round in sandals for a long time was not a good move (big blisters), it was a nice walk.
Many thanks to Drew yet again for organising our walks. Here’s to next walk in hopefully a drier August.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Outing to Ayr Flower Show - Friday 7th August 2015

The fourth outing of 2015 took place on Friday 7 August, when we had a full day trip to Ayr Flower Show. Once again we had a full coach for this outing, but we managed to fit in everyone who wanted to attend with no waiting list, so no one was disappointed this time.
We left a sunny Edinburgh at 09:00 - earlier than usual but no one was late. Our coffee stop was at the MacKinnon Mills near Coatbridge. This stop was not long enough for some people to have a good look around, although someone managed to buy three pairs of shoes! Then we continued on to Ayr and the Flower Show, where the weather continued to be kind to us with sunshine all day. When it was time to board the coach to leave there were a few extra packages, as some people had bought plants or clothing at the various stalls around the Show.
Our high tea was at the Dumfries Arms Hotel, Cumnock. The information on its website says it is an “upscale Boutique Hotel, housed in an 18th-century stone building” and it was true. It was a lovely building and the interior had been renovated five years before. The meals were very nice. The only hiccup was some had almost finished their meal before the people having fish were served. However it was compensated by the lovely the home made cakes and scones available. Staff even brought an extra plate of scones to the tables.
The coach driver brought us back by the scenic route although it was a bit too twisty for one, who was sick. We were later than normal getting back but it was a very enjoyable long day. Some people were lucky and were dropped off on the way into Waterloo Place and those living in the east side got dropped off before the driver headed back to Earlston.
Many thanks to Moira for organising this outing and to others who helped with any of the arrangements.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Outing to Abbotsford House - Monday 13th July 2015

Our third outing of 2015 took place on Monday 13th July, with a full day trip to Abbotsford House near Melrose. It was dry as we gathered in Waterloo Place to await our coach. We had a full coach load again, with some pensioners having to be disappointed (in advance) at not getting a place on this outing. After a couple of phone calls, the bus set off almost on time heading for Peebles without one passenger who had got the date wrong, however Christine quickly rectified her mistake and caught up with us in Peebles. It stayed dry while we were in there and we wandered the town, the tea-rooms and the shops until it was time to meet the coach again.

We then headed for Abbotsford House and dropped Sandra off to get the entrance tickets for us. By the time we were all unloading from the bus the rain was just starting and unfortunately got heavier as we split into two groups and headed for our conducted tour of the house. Sir Walter Scot was certainly an avid collector, including books of course but he also had an amoury of weapons and many other artifacts. The rain eased off as we came out of the house, in time for a short wander in the gardens before returning to the coach.

Our next stop was in Melrose town for a wander round the shops, or a quick refreshement for some, before we headed to
the Carfraemill Hotel, near Lauder, for our high tea. We then returned to Edinburgh via convenient places to drop people off for their bus home.

Many thanks to Sandra and everyone else involved in organising the day.


Friday, 5 June 2015

Strollers Walk No. 194 - Wednesday 24th June 2015, Colinton to Bonaly and Torphin

Walk No. 194:      Colinton Village to Bonaly and Torphin
Date:                    Wednesday 24th June 2015

Start Time:           11:00
Distance:              6 miles
Once again the reality seemed to differ from the weather forecast. Twenty three Strollers gathered in Colinton Village, dressed in waterproof jackets expecting the worst and wondering if they should really start out at all. However, it turned out a lovely day for a walk, slightly overcast but the day got warmer as we strolled round the Pentlands, or was the heat just due to there being a few more slopes to traverse than the coordinator had stated. The slopes were nothing to a man of Alex’s calibre, who had warmed up by walking up and down the ‘Lang Steps’ in the village. The path had been part of the ‘drovers’ road from the Pentlands into Edinburgh via a ford across the Water of Leith.

Making our way from the village we passed Laverockdale House, designed for the Edinburgh Financier James Ivory, by architect Robert Lorimer around 1912, who designed quite a lot of the houses in Colinton Village including the ‘Rustic Cottage’. Continuing on through the ‘Polo Fields’ with its new and long contested housing development, following the Bonaly Burn where we crossed over a small bridge into Bonaly estate, just short of the roar of the bypass, and worked our way through the houses to emerge at Bonaly Primary School. From here we wandered up past Bonaly Tower, once home to Lord Cockburn but now converted to flats, into Bonaly Country Park where we stopped for a welcome lunch break with lovely views down over the city and the Forth. Here we were joined by a dalmatian which seemed to think there was something good on offer and didn’t continue its walk with its owner.

Then it was time to continue, minus dalmatian, and go over the dam at Torduff Reservoir, built in 1848 to provide water to Edinburgh, and walk on a nice flat road. Well it was flat until the short stretch from Torduff up to Clubbiedean Reservoir built in 1850, where we passed fishermen and horses out enjoying the nice weather. Continuing on down to Easter Kinleith farm where we turned and headed back via the path along the side of Warklaw Hill, site of a decoy station during World War II. The fields were full of calves and lambs. On down past the old Torphin Quarry and past Torphin Golf Club which no longer exists. The old clubhouse and area surrounding it have been taken over by Tiphereth, part of the Camphill Movement, which is a charity aimed at helping vulnerable children and adults with learning difficulties. From there we headed back down to Colinton Village and the end of the walk except for Alex, who decided a bus waiting at the terminus was better than walking back into the village, claiming that walking up and down the steps earlier was equivalent to walking back to the start.

Many thanks again to Drew for coordinating our walks. Here’s to the next walk in July.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Outing to Falkland Palace - Wednesday 17th June 2015

Our second outing of the summer was oversubscribed, so it was a very full coach that left a cold and overcast Edinburgh.  Our coffee stop was at Dobbies Dunfermline and then on to Falkland Palace where the driver had to park on double yellow lines to let us off. Falkland Palace was built by two Scottish kings - James IV and V – between 1450 and 1541. It was the Stuart monarch’s country residence for 200 years – and a favourite place of Mary Queen of Scots, who probably played tennis in the grounds which are home to the oldest Real or Royal tennis court in Britain, built for King James the V. Some restoration work was undertaken by the 3rd Marquis of Bute, in Victorian times, but Falkland Palace remains an atmospheric and lovely Renaissance building.
We were asked to split into two groups with one group going round the Palace and the other the grounds.
The grounds also include ruins of the 12th century Castle of Falkland, extensive gardens designed by Percy Cane and an ancient Orchard with a wild flower meadow. Part of the Palace is in ruins but the original and reconstructed rooms are packed with 17th-century Flemish tapestries, elaborate painted ceilings and antique furnishings. The guides in the rooms were very informative with many interesting tales. For those not aware, the skirting in the old library did not have dust on it. The skirting and the dust were painted on.
After our tour, by which time the sun was shining, we set off for St Andrews where we had time to wander around the town before heading on to the Old Manor Hotel in Lundin Links for a very enjoyable High Tea. On leaving the hotel we had to board the bus quicker than expected as the driver had difficulty parking the coach due to cars being incorrectly parked. He had to stop the coach on the main road which had only two lanes and ended up directing traffic around it.
Once back in Edinburgh we were dropped off and made our way home. For those who got of the coach early the driver ended up having to take the bus back to Earlston so those living to the south of Edinburgh could have been dropped off nearer home if they had waited.
Many thanks to Joan for organising the outing and all those that assisted with bookings, arrangements, etc.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Strollers Walk No. 193 - Monday 18th May 2014, Penicuik Estate

Date:                Monday 18th May 2014
Start Time:        11:00
Distance:          6km 
Start / Finish:    At Penicuik Town Centre (pedestrianised area)
Summary of the walk:

Standing in Penicuik shopping precinct sheltering from the rain and trying to be optimistic about the forecast when the sky looked as if it was going to stay grey and bleak forever. Suddenly a patch of blue sky appeared and it was decided to brave the last of the rain and walk down to the start of the walk beside South Kirk.
Passing Park End houses which were originally built in the 19th century by the Cowan family, who owned one of the paper mills, for single female employees. Hence it’s nickname of the ‘the nunnery’. The houses were designed by the same architect as for the South Kirk, T.F. Pilkington. By then it had got a lot brighter and so the 18 brave, or foolhardy, souls who had ventured out for the walk decided to carry on. Passing the Penicuik South Kirk built in the 1860’s, though a much scaled down version of the original designs it is still a very interesting building with the ornate carvings and stonework. From here we made our way up the slope, or small stream as it was by then, past the site of the landslip and on to the ruins of Ravensneuk Castle. A 16th Century fortified laird’s house it was mostly picked to bits in the 18th century to provide stone for a new park wall. From here we had wonderful views of the Pentland Hills and our first glimpse of Penicuik House. Walking on a bit, or skipping over the puddles and mud, we then stopped to look down to the ‘Roman Bridge’ currently under reconstruction. This was built in the 18th Century so not really that old! Above the bridge we had a view of the house with a ‘Chinese Gate’ framing the avenue whilst behind us was the monument built to honour Alan Ramsay the painter. Continuing on down the hill we came to ‘Low Pond’, which depending on where you read was the site of the first curling match between North and South in 1847 and still used today when there is a good freeze. (Some site’s quote the ‘High Pond’ which is beside the house as the venue for the first match.)
Passing the walled garden which is now a community garden with hens and pigs roaming around on up the hill to the house where we stopped for lunch. We were able to shelter under the main entrance to the house as it began to drizzle just as we arrived. We then had time to take in the renovations made to the balustrade, arches and alcoves within the house itself. Nearby were the stables which were converted to house the family after the fire of 1895 destroyed the house. The sun then came back out and we continued the walk taking an alternative route back through the woods and over a field to Penicuik. Given the rain the path by the river would have been very wet and not much fun.
Many thanks to Ron for coming up with that route and the other information he passed on about Penicuik while we went along.
Here’s to next walk in June.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Outing to Alnwick Gardens - Thursday 14th May 2015

Our first outing of 2015 took place on Thursday 14th May with 83 people in two coaches. The coffee stop was at Ord Garden Centre in Berwick where the staff were ready to cope with our numbers, as they had the upstairs section open for us. Here a mixture of bacon rolls, scones and lots of other cakes were on offer. What they had not prepared for was another bus load from Bonnyrigg, who had not booked but luckily came in after us!
We then had a lovely drive down to Alnwick Gardens where the staff were waiting for us with tickets, maps and discount vouchers for their shop. The gardens are in a lovely setting with a terraced fountain on show from the entrance. The weather was kind as it did not rain although there was a cool breeze and very little sun. The highlight for some was the Poison Garden and the interesting stories the guides had to tell. (Don't keep your daffodils bulbs beside your onions in the green house, as one family found out at Christmas when the bulbs were used in the dinner instead of the onions and all ended up in A&E in Newcastle).
High Tea (a two course meal) was at the Victoria Hotel in Bamburgh. All agreed that it was one of the nicest meals we have had.
As usual the drivers went out of their way to make sure most people were dropped off along the coach routes to Waterloo Place if near to home or transport.
Many thanks to the event organisers, Liz, Moira, Carol, etc. and to Austin Travel.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Summer Outings 2015 - Dates and Venues

The committee has now finalised bookings for the Summer Outings.
Here is what we are planning (and note correction to Septemebr date):-

  • Thursday 14th May - Visit to Alnwick Gardens (Northumberland)
  • Wednesday 17th June - Visit to Falkland Palace (Fife), then time in St Andrews
  • Monday 13th July - Morning stop in Peebles, then visit Abbotsford House
  • Friday 7th August - Ayr Flower Show in Rozelle Park, Ayr
  • Tuesday 8th September - The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret Distillery (near Crieff) then visit Drummond Gardens (also near Crieff)
Each outing will be an all-day coach trip, with High Tea somewhere on the journey back.
Full details of the outings, including costs, timings and booking form will be issued to members in due course.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Strollers Walk No. 192 - Thursday 23rd April 2015, Union Canal and Water of Leith

Date:             Thursday 23rd April 2015
Start Time:    11:00
Distance:       6 miles
Duration:       2.5 hours
Start at:         Haymarket Station, Edinburgh
What happened to those April showers? With temperatures of 19C forty strollers met for a walk along the Union Canal then circling back to Haymarket via the Water of Leith footpath.
Making our way from Haymarket Station up Morrison Street and along Gardner’s Crescent with its newly renovated gardens and passing Rosemount Cottages, an example of the 2 up 2 down houses in Edinburgh. On to Edinburgh Quay which is now the end of the canal in Edinburgh. There used to be link to Lochrin Basin and the brewery there, as well as the main dock where the Odeon Cinema is now. Then passing the ‘hole-in-the-ground’ that was meant to be the Bank of Scotland Headquarters and wondering if it will lie like that for as long as the site of the old Pooles Cinema in Castle Terrace did. We passed the Leamington Lift Bridge which needs to be raised for canal boats to go by, while on our right was the building site for the new Boroughmuir Secondary School next to the new student accommodation built in the wonderful mix of colours as required by the town planning. Continuing on past Harrison Park and Polwarth Parish Church with its fine pulpit carved by William Beveridge in 1903 and on to the Edinburgh Canal Society Boathouse recently restored with Heritage funding. Next was Meggetland which in 1890 was home to a major exhibition of Science Art in Industry with stations being built specially to bring visitors to it. The area is now home to Boroughmuir Rugby Club and playing fields as well as to the St Andrews Rowing Club which is the oldest rowing club in Scotland dating from 1846. It was then on to the Water of Leith Centre and a stop for some refreshments taking the lady in charge by surprise but she coped well with the sudden rush.
Heading down river along the Water of Leith path, under the railway and canal we had just walked along. As we continued along the path we saw allotmenteers beavering away in an extensive area of allotments while on the other side of the river was Saughton Prison, which working with Stirling University, has developed an International reputation for fish breeding.

Braving the road crossings of the A71, we came to Ford Road and into Saughton Park. It was originally laid out in the 17th century on the estate of Saughton House, which was then used as an asylum for wealthy patients, innovatively using the gardens as an early form of horticultural therapy. The council acquired it in the early 1900’s. The rose garden is always a very popular attraction at the park later in the year. In 1908 the Scottish National Exhibition was held here, which was a massively successful undertaking attracting 3.5 million paying visitors who were entertained and educated by an array of exhibitions, attractions, recreations and amusements. The Exhibition left a significant legacy in terms of form, features and recreational demand, financing new park entrances, a footpath network, sporting facilities, a bandstand and a winter garden and botanical garden. There is now a project in place to try and restore some of these elements to the park to renew and re-capture it for a modern park-going population.
Crossing Balgreen Road, we continued along the riverside path passing Murrayfield rugby stadium. The stadium takes its name from Archibald Murray who was the landowner here in the 18th century. It was a polo ground before the stadium in 1925 had been built. In the inaugural match, Scotland beat England 14-11. Those were the days! We then passed Murrayfield Ice Rink which was constructed on the site of Dalry Mill, the first paper mill built on the Water of Leith.
Going on into Roseburn Park which came into the ownership of the old Edinburgh Corporation in two parts: the first acquisition of 10.33 acres, part of the lands of Roseburn, was in 1898 from Edward Balfour, Esq., of Balbirnie and others, on the basis that it would be used for all time as a public park. The later purchase of 5.86 acres was from part of the estate of Damhead from Sir Archibald Campbell of Succoth in 1906. During World War Two, air raid shelters were located in the park and part of it was allocated to allotments. Sighting a Heron in the water it was time for a photostop. At the end of the park we crossed the road and continued along the riverside path and passed under the Coltbridge Viaduct which formed part of the Granton Branch of the Caledonian Railway and is now part of the cycle and walking paths round Edinburgh.
Continuing along to the weir at the exit for Modern Gallery of Art, where we saw another Heron looking for its lunch, we left the path by a steepish slope that somehow had not been mentioned in the puff factor for the walk, and made our way back to Haymarket.
Thanks very much to Ronnie for arranging what was a very interesting walk on a beautiful day. No pressure for the next walk then!

National Trust for Scotland - Car Park Sticker

Are you a member of National Trust for Scotland? If so, like me, you will recently have received their Spring 2015 magazine "Scotland in Trust". Hidden away on page 49 of that magazine you will find the sticker that entitles you to free parking at NTS sites until 31/03/2016. Please don't throw out the magazine without detaching your car park sticker.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Strollers Walk No. 191 - Wednesday 18th March 2015, Dechmont to Bangour Village Hospital (Circular walk)

Walk No: 191       Dechmont to Bangour Village Hospital (Circular walk)
Date:                   Wednesday 18th March 2015                   
Start Time:           11:00 a.m. (Dobbies)

Summary of Walk
March is usually a time of mist, drizzle and generally dreich days. Yes, it was time for Strollers to head off into the wilds of West Lothian to Dechmont for a walk round the site of Bangour Village Hospital. We met at Dobbies, allowing the Strollers to fortify themselves with the full breakfast before the walk and to head back in for the soup, cakes and scones afterwards. A lot of planning goes into this you know, it’s not just a random choice of location.
Luckily the weather changed and it was a nice calm almost bright day for the walk and twenty five Strollers (plus dog) headed out to walk through Dechmont village to the main entrance of what used to be Bangour Village Hospital (see below for some history of the hospital).
As we wandered round the hospital grounds looking at the various derelict buildings, it was interesting to find that some of us on the walk had previous links to the hospital through relatives who worked and stayed at the site. They told us about attending dances and playing badminton in the recreation hall. So it was a shame to see so many of the buildings in a bad state of repair. Also, some of the walkers had different connections to Bangour, being born at the General Hospital or had children born there. Eventually we made our way out of the site and back through Dechmont, ending the walk at Dobbies.
Thanks again to Alistair and Liz for organising a very interesting and informative walk.

Some history of Bangour Village Hospital:
By the late 1890s, the growth of cities in Victorian times concentrated the problems of the mentally ill in cities such as Edinburgh. More accommodation was needed, so in 1902 the Edinburgh District Lunacy Board purchased the 960 acre Bangour Estate in West Lothian and set about planning the construction of Bangour Village Hospital. Five temporary buildings were hastily erected. The first one was occupied by patients from The Royal Edinburgh Asylum in June 1904 and five buildings were in use by the end of 1905, housing 200 patients. The new Village was officially opened in October 1906 although several of the permanent buildings were not completed until 1907 and the main hospital building was not opened until June 1908. By 1913 Bangour Village Hospital housed 836 Edinburgh mental patients.
After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, it soon became clear that significant hospital accommodation would be required for war casualties. The War Office decided that a large hospital would be required in Scotland and that Bangour, with its modern facilities, was the ideal site. By the middle of 1915, plans were in place to evacuate the mental patients to other hospitals around the country. The capacity of Bangour was rapidly increased from 800 patients to 1,350 and within three weeks the first casualties arrived. Bangour became the largest military hospital in Scotland. By 1918, with the addition of temporary buildings and marquees, Bangour housed over 3,000 patients. After the Armistice, the number of patients gradually decreased, but it was not until the end of 1921 that Edinburgh War Hospital finally closed and the site handed back for civilian use. Bangour Village again became a mental asylum in 1922, housing 1,000 patients by 1928.
The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 saw Bangour again being requisitioned as a war hospital. Fearing large numbers of casualties from the expected German blitz, the government quickly established thousands of new beds in temporary hospitals, including at Bangour. An Annexe rapidly took shape on the hilltop north-west of the farm to allow for 1400 additional beds. After the war, the Annexe became Bangour General Hospital and part of the National Health Service from 1948 serving West Lothian. The Bangour Village reverted once more to a mental institution. In due course St John’s Hospital in Livingston replaced Bangour General Hospital completely and the Annexe buildings were demolished. Eventually Bangour Village Hospital also closed, but its listed buildings remain, including the beautiful war memorial church completed and opened in 1929 to commemorate the site’s days as a war hospital. The whole site is now for sale for housing development.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Annual General Meeting was held on Thursday 26th February 2015

We held our AGM on Thursday 26th February 2015 at the Royal Over-Seas League in Princes Street, Edinburgh. Around 80 members attended and enjoyed the venue and the afternoon.

Notice of the AGM was sent to all members (either by email or post). This included the Agenda for the meeting and Chairman's Report on 2014. If you did not received notice of the event, please send an email to the mailbox at giving you name and postal code, so that I can check that hold the correct email and postal address information for you, thanks.

Minutes of the meeting have been circulated to committee members and are available to any member via email on request.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Strollers Walk No. 190 - Thursday 19th February 2015, Moray Estate to West End

Walk Number 190:     Historic Walk - West End, Moray Estate to  Stockbridge

On Thursday 19th February, fifty five Strollers met outside West Register House in Charlotte Square for the February History Walk led by our Blue Badge Guides Karen and Helen. It was a bright sunny day with a bit of a wind but thankfully none of the rain that was forecast. West Register House used to be St George’s Church and was a key feature of James Craig’s plan for the west-end of Edinburgh New Town.
We were enlightened on the set up of Charlotte Square and how the perfect symmetry of the new-town plan could not be completed beyond the north-west corner of the square because it bordered on to land owned by the Earl of Moray. We were also reminded about the ‘glass’ tax, not the ‘window’ tax that we tend to assume it was. The extent of the Moray Estate was explained to us and that Lord Moray demolished Drumsheugh House, his home there, because he felt that the ‘New Town’ was encroaching on his space. Something I’m sure the rest of us can only aspire to.
We made our way down to St Colme Street discussing the merits of ‘cobbles’ or ‘sets’ in the road and the pavement being made up of chips of stone from building work at Edinburgh Castle. There we took time to look at the monument to Catherine Sinclair, 4th daughter of Sir John Sinclair, who wrote children's books and did a lot of charitable work. The monument is modelled on Sir Walter Scott’s monument in its Gothic design but is also known as an Eleanor Cross after the crosses erected by Edward I to mark the journey of the body of his wife Eleanor back to London. There are three Eleanor Crosses remaining, the most famous being that at Charing Cross.
From here we made our way down Weymss Place, passing Gloucester Lane, which also used to be know as Kirk Lane as the people from Stockbridge used to come up this way to go to St George’s Church. We then entered the streets that were developed as “The Moray Feu” via Forres Street, arriving at Moray Place. The majority of the streets are either named after the Moray family or places from his country estates, e.g. Forres Street, Doune Terrace and Randolph Place. We went into the private gardens in the centre of Moray Place, which gave us a better perspective to see the size, scale and shape of Moray Place. Our guide had managed to obtain a key to these gardens. We learned that the street is built in the shape of decahedron, having 10 sides and that the plans for the whole estate were drawn up by James Gillespie Graham. The land was sold in plots to different builders but the exterior of each feu had to match that of the plans. The potential purchasers were also strictly vetted for “suitability”. We then had to beat a hasty retreat from the private gardens when one of the members of the Moray Feu management people asked who gave us permission to be there!
The Earl himself lived in number 28 for a few years but then moved out. Some of the buildings were used as hospitals during the Second World War. One of the houses also belongs to the queen, and was presented to her by a former Lord Provost in the 1950’s. Lord Reith who was head of the BBC lived there for a short while until his death in 1971. Today the current Earl of Moray is involved in building a ‘new town’ of 5000 houses called Tornagrain, between Inverness and Nairn.
From Doune Terrace we then went into the gardens below the outside of Moray Place and Ainslie Place to work our way down the Water of Leith. We stopped to look at the series of arches that had to be built after a landslide, in order to keep Ainslie Place from falling down the slope into the river. The arches go for some 30 feet under the gardens of the houses.
We continued down to St Bernard’s Well on the Water of Leith, built in 1760. The well was named after an old legend that St Bernard of Clairvaux once lived in a cave nearby. The waters of the well were held in high repute for their medicinal qualities, and the nobility and gentry took summer quarters in the valley to drink deep draughts of the water and take the country air. In 1788 Lord Gardenstone, a wealthy Court of Session judge who thought he had benefited from the mineral spring, commissioned Alexander Nasmyth to design a new pump room. The builder John Wilson began work in 1789. It is in the shape of a circular Greek temple supported by ten tall Doric order columns with a statue of Hygieia, the Greek goddess of health, in the centre made in 1791 from Coade stone. The wonderful mosaic interior is by Thomas Bonnar. St Bernard's F.C., a once successful Scottish team but now defunct, was named after the famous well and played in Stockbridge.
From there we looked across the river to the houses built by the artist Henry Raeburn including Anne Street named after his wife. We can dream. We ended our walk at Stockbridge.

Our thanks again to Karen and Helen for all the information we enjoyed during the walk. We may even remember some of it!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Strollers Walk No. 189: Tuesday 20th January 2015, Historic Walk down Royal Mile

Walk No. 189:   Historic Walk - Royal Mile, Edinburgh
Date:                 Tuesday 20th January 2015
Start Time:        10:45 a.m.
On a very cold but bright sunny day with no wind and dry underfoot, sixty Strollers turned out well wrapped up for the January History Walk led by our Blue Badge Guides Karen and Helen. We met outside John Knox’s House in the Royal Mile where we started the walk by hearing a bit about the location of the mistresses of Deacon Brodie (at least 3 plus his wife) and how one led to his downfall. We then sneaked down the Close to the back of the house to hear all about Patrick Geddes. He was born in Ballater, went to school in Perthshire and then came to Edinburgh University to study Botany. He dropped out after a week but continued to study in London and Paris and in 1890 came back to Edinburgh when appointed assistant in Practical Botany for the University based at the Royal Botanics. He promoted the idea of ‘green space’ in towns for the health benefits and you can still see these open spaces and gardens down the closes of Edinburgh today. He also promoted ‘learning by doing’ and arranged for the school children to be involved in growing their own vegetables (sounds familiar). He arranged many exhibitions and travelled extensively promoting his ideas and being involved in planning towns from Jerusalem to Colombo in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He lived in India from 1917 to 1924 when for health reasons he moved to the South of France until his death in 1932.
We then crossed the street to Tweeddale Close where the house of Dame Margaret Kerr was. This subsequently became the Head Office of the British Linen Bank which led to robbery and murder. It then became a printers and home to the Poetry Society. Sheds for Sedan Chairs still exists in Tweeddale Close. It was then off down to Chessels Court, purpose built flats dating from 1748, and where at one time the Customs and Excise had rooms which Deacon Brodie robbed. It was this last robbery which ultimately led to his downfall after fleeing to Flanders. Here we heard about the tale of Andrew Gray, who fled Edinburgh after being sentenced to death for rioting, went to Morocco and returned many years later as a sea-captain. He saved the Lord Provost’s daughter from the plague, later married her and they lived in a house on the Royal Mile near where a statue of
a Moorish man can be seen above the door.
Next we went into Sugarhouse Close, originally a sugar refinery then a brewery but now student accommodation, and then Bakehouse Close to hear about the origins of Bovril. It was time for some warmth, so Karen had arranged access to Old Moray House, dating from 1618 and built for Mary Countess of Home, now part of the University. The interior ceilings and walls still remain as they were intended and were beautiful to look at and admire. The house was also used by Cromwell when in Edinburgh. The balcony overlooking the Royal Mile only had its railing added in 1842 so that no one would fall on Queen Victoria as she passed by in her carriage. It must have been a precarious vantage point before that.
Leaving there we went up to visit the Lodge Canongate Kilwinning number 2 in St John Street where Sandy gave us a talk on the history of the Lodge and its prominent members like Robert Burns. It is the oldest continually used Lodge in the world and one that was built specifically for that purpose in 1735, though the Lodge dates from around 1677. It was a lovely building with some of our attendees getting caught out by the 3D style paintings on the wall, and all were impressed by the Sneltzer Organ dating from 1757 and still powered by hand today. We then had a brief stop outside the Museum of Edinburgh to hear about the number of brothels that used to exist on the Royal Mile (lots), where the age expectancy of the people who worked there was only 30, and to look at the sea shells in the side of the buildings put there to ward off witches. We then crossed over to Dunbar Close to see another example of gardens that Geddes had arranged, and site of a bar that Rabbie Burns used to frequent.
Finally, at the foot of the Royal Mile we heard a story about conspiracy, murder and execution involving a wife, her maid and butler. With a cunning that would please current ‘soap’ writers, the ‘lady’ was beheaded by the ‘maiden’, Edinburgh’s version of the guillotine, while her maid was burnt on the Castle Hill at the same time to divert attention from the other execution. The butler was eventually caught and sentenced to death on the wrack, which was normally only used for interrogations. The judge was obviously a friend of the murdered husband.

Our thanks again to Karen, Helen and Sandy for all the information we enjoyed on the walk.