Amisfield

Its off to the county capital of East Lothian for this latest walk, & a lovely delve into the forgotten landscape of Amisfield Park, elegant home in the modern-day to the Haddington Golf Club.

The best place to park the car is in the vicinity of St Martin’s Kirk, a robust Romanesque ruin on the edges of the Haddington’s oldest quarter. Tho John Knox might have attended services in St Martin’s as a boy, the church’s chancel was destroyed during the Protestant Reformation in 1560, of which Knox was the primary architect.

But let’s not try such a large digression at such an early part of the walk. Instead head towards the football courts & skatepark area, beyond which to the left is a footbridge over the River Tyne.

Once over the water turn right, where beyondthe playpark is a footpath that shoots straight as an arrow by the side of the Tyne. Take this.

You are now coming to a fine bridge which you must surmount. To do this head left & up onto the road, heading right. At this point on the left is Abbeymill Farm, which is roughly the location of the original Cistercian abbey founded in 1139 by Countess Ada of Northumberland, who married Prince Henry, heir of David I, & received the lands as a wedding gift from the King of Scotland.

Following the tarmac in the direction of the Lammermuirs, you soon reach some estate walls to the right, & a little after an old lodge house & the entrance to Amisfield.

Through the entrance & a little to the left rise the epic fortifices of the Amisfield Wall’d Garden, where we shall be wandering for a wee while. You’ll always find this vast walled garden, with its four sprectacular circular corner pavilions, buzzing with those green-fingered, lottery-funded volunteers who have in the past few years transformed the garden from an overgrown wasteland to a vibrant horticultural paradise selling its own produce & educating the community. If you want to volunteer yourself, contact: volunteers@amisfield.org.uk.

The garden is a true relic of Amisfield’s once glorious & noble past, a forgotten landscape pleasant parkland now home to Haddington golf club. Following four centuries of Cisterican singing, the abbey declined with the Reformation & the lands disposed of in 1560.

The first known house on the site was Newmills, built in 1681 together with a mill on the River Tyne. Its owner was Englishman, Colonel James Stanfield, a relic of the Cromwellian assault on Scotland & eventual MP for East Lothian in the Scots parliament. By 1686 Stanfield found himself in some financial difficulty due to the extravagance of his wayward son Philip and was preparing to sell off assets to pay the debts when he suddenly met an untimely death, that set the scene for a terrible trial for murder. Phillip was the clear candidate, having recently been disinherited for his debauchery, with Amisfield being willed to the second son, John Stansfield. Philip Stansfield drunkenly declared he would cut his father’s throat, and lo & behold thats just what happened to James, discovered in his bed with blood spurting out of the side of his neck. An Edinburgh jury found the prisoner guilty of all the facts laid in the indictment —- viz. of treason, cursing his father, and being accessory to his murder. with the Lords of Justiciary ordering him to be hanged on the 15th of February, 1688 at the Cross of Edinburgh, and his tongue to be cut out for cursing his father, and his right hand to be cut off for the parricide, and his head to be put upon the East Port of Haddington, as nearest to the place of murder, and his body to be hung up in chains betwixt Leith and Edinburgh, and his lands and goods to be confiscated for the treason.

Next into Newmills & with it the change of name to Amisfield, Francis Charteris. He’d named it Amisfield after the ancestral family estate, near Dumfries. He was a womanising, duelling, professional gambler who amassed a vast fortune by tricking the wealthy out of money & lending back at exorbitant interest. He is said to have bewitch’d £3000 from the Duchess of Queensberry using mirrors. He was also accused of raping a woman servant, convicted & sent to Newgate. Fog’s Weekly Journal of 14 March 1730 reported ‘We hear no Rapes have been committed for three Weeks past. Colonel Francis Charteris is still in Newgate.’
As a convicted felon, his property should have been forfeit under the doctrine of attainder, but he petitioned the King for its return. In composition (fine) for his offence, he paid substantial sums to the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex. He was also suspected of having given substantial gifts to various important individuals. Jonathan Swift commented on Charteris in several poems. In Lines on the Death of Dr. Swift (1731), he explains “Chartres” as, “a most infamous, vile scoundrel, grown from a foot-boy, or worse, to a prodigious fortune both in England and Scotland: he had a way of insinuating himself into all Ministers under every change, either as pimp, flatterer, or informer. He was tried at seventy for a rape, and came off by sacrificing a great part of his fortune.”

Charteris was the inspiration for characters in William Hogarth’s paintings, A Rake’s Progress and A Harlot’s Progress (where he is represented as the fat lecher in the first plate), and in Fanny Hill. He was condemned by Alexander Pope in his Moral Essay III, written in 1733. Parallels were drawn between Charteris’ sexual excesses and the greed of politicians such as Robert Walpole.

His son was a much better man – another Francis – who commission’d English palladian architect, Isaac Ware, to Amisfield House in 1755 for and extensively remodelled the landscape. Built in red coloured Garvald freestone, the mansion house had a seven-bayed frontage & ionic portico, & it is a true loss to the people of Haddington & beyond.
This Francis, the 7th Earl of Wemyss through marriage, built eight acre the walled garden, which started off life off cultivating tropical fruits including pineapples. This ‘called pinery-vinery’ meant the consumption of vast resources such as a constant source of heat.

The Earl then moved to Gosford near Longniddry, but kept Amisfield going. During the 19th century the parkland played host to the Tyneside Games held annually for 20 years from 1833. Up to 6000 spectators would gather to watch ‘sports’ between all classes of locals – including gentry – such as quoiting, putting the balls, sack races, & the great final race – a run along the river Tyne for a mile & back the other side. The race finish’d by runn thro the river then up a slope of a 100 yards to winning post. A contemprary account describes the final frantic dash.

IN they rushed, the water being so deep as to cover them to the shoulders, & pressing through the stream, happy was he who put his foot upon the side, & came in winner amidst the shouts of the assembled multitude.

The palladian mansion house was demolished a century ago – the site is now occupied by Haddington Golf Club’s clubhouse – tho’ the avenue of ancient lime trees & rococo summerhouse still remain.
Amisfield also saw service during the wars as both a miltary camp a POW camp. The grounds of Amisfield House were first used as a military training camp for the Lothian and Borders Horse Regiment in the First World War. The house was used as accommodation for the officers, and wooden huts were constructed in the park for the soldiers. Football fields and parades grounds were provide on the low ground by the river. A large practice trench system was also built by the river.

During the Second World War units including the Sherwood Foresters and the Polish 10th Mounted Rifles were accommodated at the camp. Part or all of the camp may have been adapted to the Prisoner of War camp in 1944, from where Karl Lasar, aged forty-four, escaped from a working party in Haddington in 1945. PC Erskine related the details in his report:

“On Sunday, 18th April 1948, about 4.20pm, the skeleton of a human being was found on the west banking of the disused quarry situated about 200 yards east from the Birk Hedges Road, in the parish of Haddington, and the remains are suspected to be those of No A989611 Karl Lasar, (44), PoW, who was an inmate of No 16A Prisoner of War Camp, Amisfield Park, Haddington, who went missing from a working party employed at Dovecot Farm, Haddington, on 7th September, 1945. The cause of death is not certified.”

It’s more than likely that Karl took his own life as Willie Downey, one of the three young boys who made the unpleasant discovery, described in 1998. He described how the boys were looking for frog spawn in the Spring of 1948 when one of them kicked what he thought was a sheep’s head in the water. A closer look led to the realisation that it was a human skull with the remains of boots and a uniform with patches nearby. Willie noticed a length of hemp rope hanging from a nearby tree which overhung the quarry and remembered that identity discs were discovered along with a watch.

So there we have it – lots & lots of history for Amisfield Park. As for the rest of the walk, return to the entrance to the Walled Garden & turn left, then left again keeping the wall to your left.You’ve now entered a bit of woodland. If you want to see the summerhouse, at a fork in the path turn right, follow the trail to the tarmac path, then cross it & drop down througmore woods to the summerhouse. After checking it out then follow the gold fourse edge a few metres then turn left up onto the tarmac & return the way you came.

Back at the woodland fork, keep the wall to your left & follow it all the way round to the fourth corner. Here you’ll see a path heading left – take this.

After a while you’ll come to an opening in the estate wall, & a little further a pedestrian gate. The gate leads onto a fairly quiet road which you can follow back to the car, or alternatively skirt the golf course to its main road, turn left, & reach the area where across the green lies St Martin’s Kirk.

Currock – Denton Holme – Dalston

Currock House Community Centre – begin the walk near here

Hows it gan?

The first English walk for Walk UK takes place just over the border in Carlisle. Its chief essence is a meander with pals beside the gorgeous flow of the River Caldew. It begins at a district of Carlisle call’d Currock, whose stately community centre lies at the junction of Lediard Avenue & Lund Crescent. Park up in the vicinity & ready yourselves for a lovely yomp.

My wonderful Cumbrian hosts – the younger of which contributed many of the photographs

Our walk begins by crossing over the railway via a footbridge. My wonderful hosts for the walk commented on how the bridge is only a couple of years ago & that in the past they approached the bridge with a certain nervousness. ‘”Frankly terrifying!” was one comment about the high noon showdowns with certain members of the teenage section of society in the gaze of flaking graffiti. All good in 2021, tho, & we were soon enough safely over in pristine condition.

We will be over there in a bit
This is THE JUNCTION where you will come to from the direction the couple are walking towards

We were now in Denton Holme, a slightly edgier side of Carlisle, tho harmless really. “The other day,” remarked my middle-aged literary professor of a friend, “a kid on a bike passed him & warned me that the police were in the area.”

Back on the walk, after passing some houses on the right, you’ll come to the bridge over the River Caldew. Its a great place to be this, as far off in the distance rise the profligate northern reaches of the Lake District, where Carrock Fell & High Pike, absolutely glorious among the English mountains.

An Old Bowling Green

As we enter the terraced paradise of Denton Holme’s old industrial centre, my friend regaled me with tales of the good old days, of when the factory owners lived like feudal lords. Then came World War One & the UK government’s decision to chose Carlisle as the testing ground for the ‘State Pub Management Scheme.’ This family-orientated social scheme also saw every pub with a bowling green – there was an old one turned into a wee park in the photo below – & the sport was massive for many years in the city.

Before reform, the general state of public houses throughout the country was far from satisfactory. Most were cramped, overcrowded and unhygienic. The Carlisle experiment was an important moment in the progressive reform of the Victorian pub, with the Scheme being an “experimental laboratory and microcosm of the entire industry” which provided “a tested blueprint for post-­war reconstruction” (David Gutzke in his book, Pubs and Progressives). Carlisle provided the opportunity to experiment in this field. Nearly half the existing public houses were closed, while the rest were radically ‘improved’. There were some initial complaint about the removal of ‘snug’ bars, but the general consensus was that, after a decade, the Carlisle drinkers were satisfied with their regime.

The future of public houses was to lie in commercial exploitation of the pub as a leisure facility with as much profit coming from non-alcoholic ancillaries such as soft drinks, food and games as from alcohol. The pattern was already set, even though it was only as late as the 1960s that it became universal all over the country. Then, in 1973, came the end of the scheme – driven by a Conservative government totally opposed to any forms of nationalisation – & the dawn of the profit-hungry breweries taking over pubs like drunken Tescos.

“All we have to do at the moment is to give the Government such powers as are necessary for the specified purposes for which they ask for them. They ask for them in order to regulate the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor in any area where they think it should be controlled by the State, on the ground that War material is being made, or loaded, or unloaded, or dealt with in transit. That is the primary and the great ground of necessity put forward. It is really in connection with the supply of munitions of war that this Bill is introduced. When the War comes to an end that special necessity will come, to an end; the real reason for the Bill will be at an end, and the sooner we can stop our liabilities in the matter the better it will be.”
Extract from Hansard 5th November 1915

Back to the walk, you are now in the industrial fiefdom of the Ferguson Brothers, loads of lovely houses & factories, whose textile works were opened way back in 1824 & lasted until 1991. One can imagine the now overgrown landscaped gardens were full of workers catching a moments natural beauty & peace away from the ear-splitting roar of the machine floor.

Beyond the factory you enter a wide expanse of space call’d the Holme, with a cemetary climbing up to the right beyond woods full of wild garlic. My hosts explained that from the wild garlic pesto they make they can flavour two months worth of spag bol soup. In the distance, beyond the Holme you will see the famous Pirelli tyre manufacturing plant – head in this direction.

Making a slight detour to check out the wild garlic – better to keep left tho’
Take this Gate

Its now time for a lovely long amble by the River Calder. Watch out for the anglers in their green, rather classy ‘uniforms.’ The journey itself offers various views & vibes, including possible sightings of eegrots – a rare Russian bird -, lucky & edible ‘elf cup’ mushrooms – where water gathers for the fairies – & a seasonal ranarium – a place to rear frogs – which sees one side of the path bubbling with spawn & then later on the same path full of frogs hopping off to the Caldew

Along the walk which my hosts offer’d their own views on living in Carlisle. I know of the town, I studied at the College there in the 1990s – where I met my elder host – & have visited numerous times since – where I’ve met my host’s son. To them Carlisle is a village just like that of Asterix the Gaul – i.e. with no idea of the outside world. From the said outside looking in, Carlisle is a beautiful industrial town cobbl’d onto a romano-medieval city. It is also the biggest railway hub in the world – with lines heading of to Dumfries, Edinburgh/Glasgow, Newcastle, Lancaster/Preston & the famous line to Leeds through the Yorkshire Dales known as the Settle to Carlisle railway.

“Whenever you leave Cumbria,” quipp’d my host, “you really feel it – Wimbledon’s like Bangladesh & London’s like Jupiter!”
“Cumbria’s the Shire & we are its Hobbits” added the son of my host before taking another wicked photograph.

Eventually you will come to a small bridge area over the river. This is an important point of juncture. Crossing & turning left will take you lazily back along the Caldew to the very place you crossed the river early on in the walk. Those of a fitter bent, however, you could continue along the riverside paths to the deligthful time capsule that is Dalston.

Simply follow the riverside path to THE JUNCTION
The old Train Station
Grabbing lunch at Dalston churchyard

After a good mile or so you’ll reach Dalston & enter the village via the graveyard. Beyond the stones lies the village centre where shops & pubs & cafes offer fine Cumbrian nourishment for the eager Walk Uk-er.

This is a locally popular promenading spot, a most beautiful place to walk. For us, cross the Millenium era bridge back over the Caldew & a step back in time to when the Dalston Factory was a real hub of life. Today is a wee Valley of the Kings of industrial memories, & an extremely wonderful place to visit & wander. On the conclusion of which, simply head back the way you came along the Caldew, remembering to take that little bridge about half way back, & return along the opposite bank of the Caldew.

Mauchline

I seem to be one sent into the world to see, & observe… the joy of my heart is to ‘study men & their manners, & their ways.’
Robert Burns

As an eventual fan of Rabbie Burns – it took me a few years to penetrate the Lowland Scots, upon which moment I found myself amazed by his beuaty & genius – I was very much looking forward to a walk around Mauchline. As the childhood home of my Glasgow friend – who’d recently guided me about her city’s West End – she’d very kindly offer’d to take me on a ‘wee donner’ about the place.

There’s a really handy carpark in the centre of Mauchline, surrounded by trees, at the corner of which is a signpost pointing to the ‘Burns House Museum’. Take this passageway, which will lead you by a gloomy, 15th century castle house called Abbot Hunter’s Tower.

Abbot Hunter’s Tower

You are now in pure Burns country, connected to the period of life when a poet is in his mid-twenties, when his mojo is raging & his muse is booming. Mauchline has the honour to be the domicile of Burns during this period, one in which he’d meet his soul mate, Jean Armour. The actual site of this is mark’d out by one of the cool blue plaques scatter’d about the heart of Mauchline, like the one marking the house of Gavin Hamilton, right beside ‘Abbot Hunter’s Tower.’

Burns’ house is centre left

After the Hamilton house there’s a plaque marking the site of ‘Ronald’s Ballroom’ where Burns first met Jean, then a little later on a lovely timeless cobbl’d village scene which show’d the the now married couple’s first home, which lies just across the road from an old village old pub call’d Nanse Tannock’s. It was so evocative of the period & easy to imagine Rabbie staggering the several footsteps home after a night singing songs in the inn.

Here are a few verses of my own, composed in Standard Hubbie in 2009 – the Homecoming year – which form part of a biography in verse of Rabbie Burns you can read in totality here. Unfortunately the Jean-Mauchline rhyme doesn’t quite work, but when I composed the poem in 2009 I’d never even heard of Mauchline, let alone understood its phonetics

Bless Rabbie’s sparks of nature’s fire,
All twas the learning he’d desire
& tho’ he drudg’d thro dub & mire
With ploughs & carts,
His muse, tho’ hamely in attire
Touch’d people’s hearts.

He wove his rhymes through thankless work,
Or blanking out the Sunday kirk,
Or in romantic woodland walk
By Aire & Doon;
His style; fourth verse, fourth prose, fourth talk,
Fourth lover’s croon.

Tis said all poets need a muse
To lead their souls to finer views
Of love & life, so they can lose
Dull minds in beauty;
Far prettier than psalmic pews
On solemn duty.

Now Rabbie with a lass does clash,
His wee dog cross her wash does dash,
On them did CUPID lightning flash
For young amour;
Pretending not to gie ane fash
This both ignore.

They met again that Halloween,
“Hello, I’m Rab,” “Hello, I’m Jean,”
The loveliest in all Mauchline,
Leggy gazelle;
With tempting lips & rougish een
& breasted well!

At first Rab thought her wee young thing,
But then he heard an angel sing,
Watching her nimble, sma’ feet spring
To beat & fiddle,
So up he join’d her in a fling,
Arms flung a-middle.

Rab woos his Jean with course romance,
Delighted by his staggish dance,
Excited by his countenance,
& dark complexion;
When clapping snapp’d the cailedh-trance
Lips made connection

A stone’s throw from the Burns museum is Mauchline Parish Kirk & its graveyard brimming with the mortal remains of many of the very real people who appear’d in Rabbie’s poetry, including Mary Morrison, whose gravestone reads; “In memory of Adjutant John Morison, etc., etc.; also his daughter – the poet’s bonnie Mary Morison – who died 29th June, 1791, aged 20; and his second spouse etc.”

‘Mary Morison’ was the finest of his early songs, written prior to The Kilmarnock Volume, but not included and only sent to George Thomson on 20 March 1793.

“O Mary, at thy window be,It is the wish’d, the trysted hour!Those smiles and glances let me see,That make the miser’s treasure poor.How blythely wad I bide the stoure,A weary slave frae sun to sun,Could I the rich reward secure,The lovely Mary Morison.
Four of Burns’ children are buried in the kirkyard

The kirk was also behind the Gestapo like sessions, where Burns paid off his ‘irregular marriage’ by donating a guinea to the poor of the Parish, & Gavin Hamilton got told off for digging potatoes on a Sunday.


Its now time to continue with our walk, beginning by stepping out onto the main road from the kirkyard. Directly across the way is Poosie Nancies, a drinking establishment from Burns’ time, with one room kept just as Burns would have seen it. Its also the place where my friend’s dad, Matthew Welsh, would take up residence at the bar every weekend ordering vodka mixed with soft drinks, & having a wee bet. Its also the scene of Burns’ Jolly Beggars cantata.

Facing Poosie Nancies, turn right & follow the road a while until on the right hand side you come to a natural spring drinking fountain, rendered ‘unsuitable’ after centuries of use by a health-mad council. It tasted alright for me! At this point, take the left turn – ie the road which the fountain faces. This will take you passed KAY’S, the only curling stone makers in Scotland.

From Kays keep following the bending road through houses. At one point a great expanse of green opens on the left. The road the drops downhill & passes under a railway bridge. Just after this you’ll see an entrance on your left to Mauchline’s modern graveyard. Its up to you if you want to explore it. We did as my friend’s dad, Matthew, had only recently passed away & was buried there last year.

I’ve reviewed Matthew’s poetry for The Mumble, & was deeply moved by collection of a couple of hundred poems he’d been working on in the twilight of his life. He had intended to sell this poetry collection locally, to raise money for a local charity. Sadly, he passed away, but his family have distributed his book across Scotland, fanning his first flames of a posthumous fame that are kindling fires of appreciation in those who love both poetry & Scotland. Here’s one of the poems;

Live Long & Prosper

A hiv mind when we wis younger men,
We went pub-crawlin’ now an’ then.
Aff tae the dancin’, we wid go,
We wis quite hansome, I’ll huv ye know.

We wis always winchin, a bonny lass,
Dancin’ roon the hall, wi’ a wee bit class.
We’d arrange a date, fur Saturday comin’,
But wance again, we wid get, the blin!

Noo we’re aulder, retired folk,
In a basin, oor feet, we off’in soak,
Then tae a pub, fur a seat an’ a heat,
An’ a blether wi’ mates, we sometimes meet.

O’ times gon past oor memories tell,
Man, auld age disnae come itsel’.
Good lifes tae you, long may you live,
As good a life, as your life can give.

An’ so this poem comes tae an end,
Tae Mauchline folk, awe the best, I send.
An drink wi’ me, tae times gon past,
Us Mauchline folk are here tae last.

Back on the main road, keep going downhill a while until another road peels off to the right – take this. Altho’ not now at Mossgeil Farm – which Burns & his brother tenanted on the move to Mossgeil – there is still a certain timelessness to the fields which inspired one of Burns’ most famous poems, To A Mouse, & its immortal first two stanzas;

Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

Follow the road a while as it left turns & rights turns. You’ll eventually see the main road ahead. At this point enter your field to your right & aim for the tope left hand corner of the field where you will reach the main road. Alternatively stick to the roads, tho the traffic’s a bit fast.

Looking back the way you should have come

Passing under the railway bridge brings you to a pallet gate on your left – take this & enter another big field. If you aim in the direction of the Burns National monument – the tall building which stands sentinel over the area – you’ll come to a fence at something of a play park. Hop over the fence.

The National Burns monument

For the final leg of the walk follow the path left from the park until you reach some kind of fenced off waterworks hole. Immediately to the right of this is a short, steep path which takes you into delightful woodland. Now simply follow the paths back to the carpark.

Turn right here & you’re nearly at the car park

Nine Stone Rig

The Easter Holidays are here, so its time for a really fun, adventurous walk to entertain the kids & the kids inside us all. This walk is also the first one I’ll be putting up on my Walk UK site – to be honest I’m running out of walks in East Lothian so my natural drive is to go further afield. Of course I’ll always be returning to the mothership as this walk reveals. Put your boots or wellies on, by the way, cos there will be a boggy bit.

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It begins at Johnscleugh – an lovely open, level green space on the winding & often windy road between Garvald & Whiteadder. Its a great place to park & even camp up overnight if you so wish.

Our walk begins by heading to the little bridge over the stream & turning right.

After a wee while of valley bottom floating you’ll come to a gate. You can continue through it in the direction of Spartleton, a lovely walk we’ve done almost three years ago; but for us its a right turn, a hop over the stream & an ascent to the road. Marvellous fun.

The ascent up to the road

At the road turn left, head uphill a little way, then take the track in the photograph below.

You are now in shooting country – that despicable humiliation & mass murder of innocent animals branded as ‘sport’ by the same degenerate minds that thought it was OK to build empires on the ancient lands of disparate peoples across the world. The status of shooting in Scotland at the moment reminds me of when I first came to Scotland in the Naughties & was shocked to discover that female bagpipers had been banned by the patriarchy who ran bagpiping. Its the same for shooting – there’s only so many bribes, bungs & old boys’ slap on the backs before the whole house of genocidal cards comes crashing down & the vast swathes of shooting moorland in Scotland – about 15 percent of the total landmass – be used for agriculture, farming, public parks or housing – rather than for the grotesque fun of a tiny minority.

Whenever you see heather being burnt in the hills – its called muirburn – the idea is that the grouse that are shipped in Auswich style every summer from their nursery pens will be feeding on the green shoots from the regrowing heather. There’s also the untold suffering of thousands of animals that are trapped, snared and killed to protect grouse shooting for the pleasure of rather sick groups of individuals. The scale of the suffering for Scotland’s wildlife is simply shocking. For those interested in participating in or watching the decline of Scotland’s worst criminals, here’s a link to REVIVE, a group committed to to transforming the face of Scotland for the better.

That’s my rant over, but if you do do this walk later in this year, at least – hopefully there wont be many more years of this monstrosity of the human condition – be aware of birds in the heather & if you’re dogs a chaser be prepared for a guy in tweed & a landrover turning up as if by magic to tell you off – its a case of ‘excuse me your dog is disturbing the birds that we want to kill with mindless abandon.’

So, back to the walk, & we’re now going to try & track down two extremely ancient sites. Follow the track for a wee while til you come to a fork. Take the right prong, pass beyond the avenue of ‘Grouse Butts’ which peel off for the right, & head for a good distance til another small avenue again peels off to the right.

The view back to Spartleton
The track to the ‘Nine Stones’

Just a few meters along this new track you’ll come to the Nine Stones themselves which give a name to the ‘rig’ or open hill which slopes gently above us. The Nine Stones are a rough circle of nine low boulders a little over 6 metres across and the stones are generally under a metre tall and under two metres in length. For me this, & other stone circles, are agricultural calendars, when sunrises & moonrise, etc, dictate when to plant or harvest kindathing.

An intriguing entry taken from a Name Book of 1853 says: “A circle of nine stones. It is believed that some treasure is hidden beneath these stones and various attempts, all unsuccessful, have been made to find it.” This treasure hunting leads us to 1980, when Canmore tells us: “These stones once stood on the perimeter of a ring about 6.4m in diameter … The uneven interior suggests digging has taken place here.”

Nine Stone Rig from the air – the circle is centre left, slightly down
The two gullies in the flanks of the hill – the left hand one is in the centre of the photo, the right hand one over Grouse Butt number 9

It is now time to find our second ancient set of stones, which are a veritable stone’s throw away (if he have a Byzantine trebuchet that is). To get there involves muddying those boots if its been wet recently. If you face west you will see two small ravines in the far distant hill. At the bottom of the left one lie the Craw Stones, while the other is where a stream call’d ‘South Grain’ begins.

Back on the track

To get to the stones, go back to the track & follow it for a while as it veers to the right. Then when you get to the rough point in photo below, its time to head across the heather.

Time to cross the heather

After crossing Crow Moss, East Lothian’s version of Tolkien’s Dead Marshes – keep to the heather remember, they are dry – you will come to the Crow Stones. They are a little irregular for a circle, & were probably an oval, but a series of four low stones, 5ft apart diagonally, may be related to the Four-Posters of central Scotland.

It is now time to head back to Johnscleugh – if you do an about face you’ll see in the directions of the wind turbines a narrow valley in the distance, to the left of Nine Stone Rig hill. The idea is to head towards this while slowly veering left towards the ‘South Grain’. There’ll be seas of heather, bits of bogs & simply stunning open spaces, so enjoy the yomp. Aim for a track above the Grain along which you’ll see a white pole. Then after crossing the South Grain head up the track to the white pole.

The South Grain is hidden in the grasses

It’s now time for the lollop back to the car. Up & over the hill you’ll come to another stream, over which you’ll turn immediately right & take the gentle streamside amble back to Johnscleugh – it really is a charming end to the whole, walk by the end of which you’ll be well buzzing about your trip to one the most ancient sites of East Lothian.

The stream is at the foot of the hill – turn right once over it
Me & Daisy heading back
Approaching the car…

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Glasgow Green

After the opening ‘Walk-UK’ meander around Glasgow’s West End, I thought I’d stay in the city a little longer & check out the other side of the centre, where the famous Glasgow Green offers a healthy & history-laden hike to residents & visitors alike. You start at a place called the Saltmarket – just a stone’s throw from the central ‘Tron’ building or the Clydeside River walk, its definitely easily accessible. The actual launch for the walk commences opposite the High Court, underneath the Mcclennan Arch.

This miniature ‘Arc de Triumphe’ sets the tone for our journey through the Trojan layers of Glasgow Green. Back in the 18th century, when Glasgow was consider’d to be, ‘one of the most beautiful small towns in Europe,’ the arch had been erected orginally as part of the 1796 Assembly Rooms, built on the north side of Ingram Street. When the building was demolished in about 1892 to make way for the new General Post Office, the arch was preserved and moved first to Greendyke Street and then in 1922, to Glasgow Green.

Once through the arch, the first item on the itinerary is a fountain of Sir William Collins a Scottish publisher, who served as Glasgow’s Lord Provost between 1877 and 1880. He was the first fully abstaining Lord Provost of Glasgow, gaining the nickname Water Willie, & in 1880 was knighted by Queen Victoria chiefly for his sobriety. In 1881 supporters of the temperance movement erected a fountain in his name, in Glasgow Green.

“Erected by temperance reformers in recognition of valuable services rendered to the temperance cause by Sir William Collins, Lord Provost of the City of Glasgow 1877-1880. 29 October 1881.”

Just after the fountain is what I believe to be an uncrackable circular maze marked out on the floor. I mean I’m right good at sudoko & stuff, & I spent a good ten minutes trying to solve the puzzle, but to an avail. It was time to carry on my walk.

Its now time to head along a treelined pathway in the direcion of the huge coloumn. Half-way along you’ll reach a giant, multi-colour’d ‘G’ which reminded me of the symbol for Granda Television I saw so many times in my Lancastrian boyhood. Its actually the symbol of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which were held in Glasgow & through which a few cool walks & artistic set-pieces were infused into the city, to its cultural enbetterment.

This whole area of Glasgow Green is a bit like masonic Washington D.V., especially with the extremely tall & noble monument to Nelson rising 144 feet above the level ground. It was built in 1806, the year following Nelson’s victory & martyrdom at the Battle of Trafalgar. The name is one of three battles inscribed into the base of the coloumn, the other being the naval victories at Copenhagen & Aboukir in Egypt. The three combined basically destroyed Napoleon’s quest for an empire beyond continental Europe, which eventually led to his downfall. Fascinatingly, when Napoleon was at the height of his power in 1810, the column was struck by lightning!

Glasgow Green has been a shared Weegie wonderland since 1450, when James II, via Bishop Turnbull, gifted these common lands to the people of Glasgow. Initially it was used for washing, bleaching linen, grazing, drying fishing nets and for swimming. The Green’s verdant spaciousness is a great place to meditate away from the hustle bustle of Scotland’s largest city. In 1765, James Watt was walking on the Green when he suddenly epiphanized just how a steam engine might work.

The Stone Roses on Glasgow Green, June 1990

Over the centutries the Green has also develeoped a reputation for live concerts – in recent years TRNSMT has moved in with loads of top quality bands. But there’s one band who has graced the Green I’m particularly interestd in. As a massive Stone Roses fan, visiting Glasgow Green for me was a quasi-spiritual experience – a bit like a pilgrim visiting Jeruslaem during the Crusades – I’d missed the actual event, but the happy phantoms still flew overhead.

Back in 1990, just before they Roses went off the radar for four long years, they play’d what many say was their finest live gig ever, a n electric charge of a triump in a massive marquee into which 8,000 happy Roses fan flooded.

The gig was on the 9th June, after the crowd sang along to the opening bassline of I Wanna Be Adored, the gig lasted 70 euphoric minutes or so, through the following tunes; I Wanna Be Adored / Elephant Stone / She Bangs The Drums / Shoot You Down / One Love / Sally Cinnamon / Sugar Spun Sister / Standing Here / Fools Gold / Where Angels Play / Waterfall / Made Of Stone / Elizabeth My Dear / I Am The Resurrection. The last two tunes are a great listen, with the audience singing along to Elizabeth My Dear, bursting into riotous applause, and then the drum beat for Resurrection kicks in. A classic moment.

The gig was not long after Spike Island, which was let down by poor sound & weird vibes, but Glasgow Green was a brilliant comeback. Bassplayer Mani has said in interviews since that this was their favourite ever gig – “When we were on stage that day, we all looked at each other, and then just went up another level”. As it turned out, this was the last Roses gig for five years, & the Roses then seemed to die a death in ’95. However, the Tweenies saw their ‘Ressurection’ so to speak, & a return to Glasgow Green in 2013 which, perhaps not as triumphant as the 1990 gig, was full of grown men crying with their kids over the return of those messianic Mancs.

A few of us, pals from school, had come through from Alloa in a hired mini-bus. Driving across the central belt, listening to the Happy Mondays. Kincardine, Cumbernauld, Stepps; Wrote For Luck, Lazyitis, Hallelujah. We talked, as the motorway blurred by, about Manchester, Madchester, with the loud authority of ignorance, as if we knew something about it. The Hacienda, Afflecks Palace. These were just words to us, words we had learned through the NME. But it felt exciting to say them, and to make plans (never realised) to go there one day and see these places. Peter Ross

Back in 2021, its now time to have a wee look at the Irish and Highland famine memorial, in the grounds of the Winter Gardens building, ie the giant greenhouse on the Green. Its essentially an upturned boat & some interesting information boards, which are well worth a read, tho’ beat needs a spruce.

It is part of a garden area called the ‘Commonwealth Hub Park,’ which features plants and stones native to Ireland and the north of Scotland. They are metaphors for the grand exodus to Glasgow from the same famine-ravish’d parts of the British Isles which saw great swathes of immigrants sail to America for a better life. Of the million who left Ireland, 100,000 arrived in Glasgow.

170 years on, we are privileged to be able to say Glasgow remains home to one of the world’s great Irish diaspora – and a city proud to be home to more Scots Gaelic speakers than anywhere else in the country
David McDonald

Leaving the Hub Park, aim front left towards the famous, wrought iron, blue ‘St Andrews’ suspension bridge. It was built in 1854-55 to replace the busy ferry that carried workers from Halton & Hutchesontown.

The entrance to the Green is called the Ben & Sarah Parsonage Gate, the former of the two being a rescuer of folk from the Tyne. On his death in 1979, the Daily Record obiturized him as;

A shy unassuming boatman who singlehandedly rescued more people from drowning than any other in Britain

We’re now at the River Clyde Walkway. Keeping the river to you right, as you follow its course you’ll find yourself in rowing club world. Rowing on the Clyde was a once massive affair. In the decades before organised football took a grip of the city, one of the main sporting events of the time was rowing. Each shipyard on the Clyde back then had their own Rowing Club, with regattas on the Clyde could attracting massive crowds of up to 100,000. Things are different today – you’ll pass yourself the Glasgow Schools Rowing Club, organised by Strathclyde University, & across the waters you’ll see the civilian Glasgow Rowing Club.

Continuing along the riverside, passing under the above bridge, this section of the Green is given over to sports – there’s a hockey stadium & a few football pitches. The sporting tradition gores back to at least 1787, when Glasgow’s first golf course was opened here, while 85 years later, in 1872, Rangers FC were formed on the Green. The story goes that while waiting for a boat by the Clyde, four lads first witnessed the game of football being played, which was a rapidly growing sport at that time. A ball was soon acquired, a fellow call’d Moses chose the name Rangers from a sports book of the time, & the rest is a rather successful history, including this year’s title which halted Celtic’s bid for 10 in a row. The funny thing is both Celtic & Rangers have both had nine-in-a-row sequences, & the past decade was Celtic’s second of those sequences – its the ‘Little League of Glasgow’ on a completely cosmic level. Talking of which, here’s one of my sonnets on the same subject;

OLD FIRM

To Celtic Park, vast stadium of green,
Two famous football teams have come to play
Tricolors answering “God Save The Queen!”
Both urging laddies on into the fray
To happy cheers & gestures of dismay
Those twenty-two young lions give their all
As the swirling winds of a winter’s day
Whip up a frantic phrenzie round the ball,
Lord of a contest far too close to call!
Both “Come on the Hoops!” & “Come on the ‘Gers!”
Loudly resound til found the precious goal
When little lads & leaping managers
Become part of the great soul-stirring show
That settles the little league of Glasgow.

We are now at our last 200m of our sortie by the Clyde. You’ll come to some steps, which you’ll climb & then turn left & head for the park surrounded by railings. Inside I was greeted by a flutter of daffodils & a fabulous stone time spiral which tells the chronological story of Glasgow Green – absolutely fascinating!

Back into the park, head for the Winter Gardens – its quite a way but quite a straight shot. Take the paths to your right as the lap round the Gardens & you’ll see two cool buildings. Just on the edge of the park is Templeton On The Green, a former carpet factory based on the Doges Palace in Venice. In front of it on the Green you can still see the drying poles which were once full of Glasgow’s washing.

Templeton On The Green

The other building is the famous People’s Palace, which cost £32,000 to build which was paid for partly by Caledonian Railway who had tunnelled under the Green. On its opening in 1898, Lord Rosebery stated: “A palace of pleasure and imagination around which the people may place their affections and which may give them a home on which their memory may rest”. He declared the building, “open to the people for ever and ever”. Over a century later its still well-loved by the Weegies, housing a cool museum & stuff.

The final item on our tour of the Green is the wonderful Doulton Fountain. At 46 feet high and 70 feet across at its base, it is the largest terracotta fountain in the world. It was originally gifted to the city in 1888 after the International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry by Sir Henry Doulton to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and is decorated with a figure of the Queen and groups from Canada, Australia, India and South Africa representing Britain’s Empire.

From here its just a wee hop, skip & a jump back to the arch at the start of the walk, where the epic cultural Xanadu of Glasgowland awaits.


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Glasgow’s West End

Welcome to the first ever post of Walk UK, by myself, double-epic poet, Damian Beeson Bullen. I’m a Burnley boy who fell for a Doonhamer many years ago, & have remain’d in Scotland ever since. As an ardent lover of the great outdoors & historical tit-bits, for the past three years I have design’d & photographed over fifty walks in the Scottish county of East Lothian, near Edinburgh. Slowly running out of new walks to do, I thought I’d take my feet, my love of history & my new camera island-wide & see what other stunning walks I could find.

My initial walkabouts will be in Glasgow, & the very first around its delightful West End. A friend of mine, Teri, moved there from Edinburgh two years ago, & is well chuffed she did. Teri has gladly agreed to be my guide, altho’ her local knowledge stretch’d as far as;

The initial belts of greenerie by Claremont Gardens are actually private, but this soon changes when you’ll reach the main entrance to Kelvingrove Park by the big purple recycling bins.

Back in 2021, once in the park head along the straight walkway towards the fabulous fountain in the distance. This is a really cool relic of Victorian, civic respect remembering the late Lord Provost Robert Stewart. This fella was instrumental in establishing a freshwater link to Loch Katrine for the thirsty citizens of an ever-booming Glasgow. This flamboyant piece of art decor was built in 1872 to a design by James Sellars, cost £2000, & features imagery inspir’d by Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake, the lady of whom tops the central cluster’d column.

Leaving the fountain, head towards the River Kelvin, keeping it directly to your left, & follow the waterside footpaths. Our route now hugs the side of the Kelvin, a grandiose Glaswegian river that reflects the city’s own hard-built identity. I mean, Glasgow is a very fine city indeed, an architectural series of gems on all sides. Its also a cultural cauldron – so much theatre, music, comedy, art – its like a permanent fringe festival without the chaos, there’s so much going on on all sides!

The path along the river is pleasant, passing under a series of splendid bridges, the first of which had a small swamp underneath on the footpath, so popular must be its thoroughfare with the walk-loving citizens of Glasgow. According to Teri, the ‘Weegie’ is a wonderful being, marked by a truthful realness, bouncing sense of humour &  are all bound together by a sense of compassion in the community. A fine example would be Teri & her 80 year-old neighbour who seem to be in a battle of who can give each other the nicest gifts . 

The next bridge we come to is just pass’d Inn Deep, a popular bar own’d by the William Bros. Brewing Company, whose fine beers in recent years have taken the drinking pallets of the Scots & beyond by storm. I’m a fan of Caasar Augustus myself, a proper tasty blend of lager & IPA!

After the above couple of bridges, you will come to the ruins of North Woodside Flint Mill. It totally reminded me of the Minoan ruins I explored in Crete, where just the low-set wall-blocks mark’d out the buildings.

A weir & a bridge later we approach’d the moment where we’d be leaving the river at a delightful low blue bridge. Carrying on at this point would lead to the fine Dawsholm Park, but for us, once over the river its a quick climb up some sheer steps to emerge in Glasgow’s Botanical Gardens.

For our walk, the Gardens have a toilet facilities very close to where we enter, & the chance to buy coffees & stuff at the Lily & Rose. All this is cluster’d close to the wrought iron-framed glasshouses, given the grandiose name of Kibble Palace – its a bit calling a big shed a castle!

Leaving the Botanical Gardens we reach the end of Byres Road, in which direction we’ll be heading. Crossing the road, the church on your left is actually the Oran Mor – a brilliant venue whose Play, a Pie & a Pint series is just wonderful. I‘ve review’d quite a number of these in my incarnation as a reviewer for the Mumble, loving that they are on at lunchtime, & are always well written & well produced. The PPP are a wonderful asset to the Glasgow culturescape & if you are doing this walk in the week & at lunchtime, I thoroughly recommend a visit.

Its now time for a potter around the West End as we trundle along the Byres Road or its adjoining sidestreets. Lots of shops, & bars & eateries here, so knock yourselves out. Our diversion took us to Cresswell Street’s & its De Courcy’s Arcade,  a longstanding independent shopping institution in the heart of Glasgow’s West End is currently home to a cluster of quirky and curious boutiques, galleries, gift shops, cafes and specialist services. Ground Floor: Cafe Go Go, Art Pistol Gallery, Pink Poodle, Finettchi and S&S Argento. Upper Floor: Janet & John (Scottish arts & crafts), The Cup and Saucer Vintage Tearoom, Jess Taylor (lashes & beauty), Draw Art Store, Ziri and Lovesome Emporium.

Eventually head for the subway station on Byres Road – Hillend – which is an alternate starting point for this walk, btw, From here, follow the road a wee bit further, then hang a left along University Avenue, which begins facing the famous Tennents Bar.

TERI ON GLASGOW

Glasgow is a brilliant city, Foremost, its people are really friendly with great banter and don’t take themselves too seriously, living up to it’s slogan ‘glasgow smiles better’. Secondly, the city itself is vibrant and buzzing. There’s so much going on in the arts, music and theatre scene which is a breathe of fresh air from the bleak efforts of its rival city. The gigs are world class and there’s great venues of all sizes from the SECC and O2 to the basement of Sleazy’s or the backroom of an old folk pub. The city has come a long way from its historic reputation as a dirty industrial city, and has mellowed in its old age with great parks, rivers and canals, impressive art galleries, brilliant architecture and a growing network of cycle routes and pedestrianisation. It has definitely earned the title of a cool hip city, with its ultra trendy hipster districts serving avocado brunch and overpriced donuts, but still holds on to the down to earth unpretentious roots of the shipyards and barras. Its a great place so it is.


You will soon come to the University’s heart. On the left appears the epic, dome-shaped Reading Rooms, & also the Hunter’s Art Gallery. On the right is where we’ll be going, through the stone archway into the grounds of Glasgow’s tradition-reeking hub of highest education. It is also open to the public, which is handy for our walk.

At the far right of here, & at the very last house of of the quadrangle, you’ll see Lord Kelvin’s house. Before he was a lord he was plain William Thomson, tho’ by 1877 he had begun his aristocratic his climb & was already a knight. Over to three extracts from the Popular Science Monthly Volume 10 January 1877 for a contemporary account of the man…


SKETCH OF SIR WILLIAM THOMSON.

THIS distinguished physicist and mathematician was born in Belfast, in June, 1824. His father, Dr. James Thomson, was a man of large capacity and culture, who studied in the Glasgow University, became head-master of the Belfast Academical Institution, and in 1832 was appointed Professor of Mathematics in the University of Glasgow. He made various improvements in mathematics, and wrote books upon education. William passed through the Glasgow University early, and then entered St. Peter’s College, Cambridge, from which he graduated as second wrangler in 1845, and he was immediately elected Fellow of his college. He afterward went to Paris, and worked in the laboratory of Regnault. In 1846, at the early age of twenty-two, he was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Glasgow, a position which he has filled with distinction, and still occupies.

The Younger Kelvin

His electrostatic researches led Thomson to the invention of very beautiful instruments for electrostatic measurement. The subject of electrostatic measurement occupied much of his attention from the very earliest, when he was obliged to call attention to the defects of the electrometers of Snow Harris. His labors in this direction have produced the quadrant electrometer, which is employed for all kinds of electric testing in telegraph construction, and for the registration of atmospheric electricity at Kew Observatory; the portable electrometer, for atmospheric electricity and for other purposes, in which the extreme sensitiveness of the quadrant-electrometer is not required; and the absolute electrometer, which serves for reducing the scale-readings of other instruments to absolute measure, and which was used by Thomson in his measurement of the electrostatic force producible by a Daniell’s battery and in many other investigations. Those who have seen the collection of electrometers in the Loan Collection at South Kensington will not think it too much to say that to Sir W. Thomson is due our present system of practical electrometry.

The Older Kelvin

Sir William Thomson is an enthusiastic yachtsman and a skillful navigator. His recently-published popular lecture on ‘Navigation’ proves this; and, with that bright genius which enriches all with which it comes in contact, his improvements in navigation are of very high importance. The general adoption of Sumner’s method, now made simple for the navigator, would be a reform in navigation almost amounting to a revolution, and is one most highly to be desired. Sir William Thomson has also invented a new form of mariner’s compass of exquisite construction. It possesses many advantages over the best of those in general use, not excluding the Standard Admiralty Compass; but its special feature is that it permits of the practical application of Sir George Airy’s method of correcting compasses for the permanent and temporary magnetism of iron ships. He has also invented an apparatus for deep-sea sounding by piano-forte wire. This apparatus is so simple and easily managed that he has brought up ‘bottom’ from a depth of nearly three nautical miles, sounding from his own yacht, without aid of steam or any of the ordinary requisites for such depths. His method was much employed in taking rapid soundings during the laying of telegraph-cables along the Brazilian coast to the West Indies. It has also been used with great success on the United States Submarine Survey. Recently, while on his way to Philadelphia, Sir W. Thomson himself was able to take flying soundings, reaching the bottom in sixty-eight fathoms, from a Cunard Line steamship going at full speed


Our walk is almost finished. Emerging from the quadrangle turn left & find yourself onto the crest of a valley; to the left rises the gorgeous Uni buildings & across the valley the epic Kelvinbroke Art gallery & Museum gazes back, like two architectural Titans locked in an eternal stare-off.

From here, you can see Kelvingrove Park below, to which you should just gently amble & then retrace your footsteps in the direction of the car. It is also possible, advisable even, for a wee potter around the University where you’ll see them students doing their studenty things. All in all a smashing start to Walk UK!


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