Wednesday, 8 February 2012

East Lothian Walks: Seton Collegiate Church, Gifford, Preston Mill and Old Railway Walk

Update: 1/9/12

The weather at the end of August 2012 was mixed.  One day sunny followed by a wet and windy day. This is ideal for walking with extra sounds and atmospheric sensations of various sorts.  At one point, for a week we were subjected to smells from muck spreading, harvesting and corn lice and the noise of branches swaying in the breeze.  I have revisited some old sites and with a camera on me have filled out this post with photos of Bolton (Burns connections, graveyard and interesting dovecot and former steading development). 

East Linton is well worth walking around and the River Tyne can be heard over the Linn on the bridge.  The railway bridge carrying the London Edinburgh line can be viewed from here as the line crosses the River Tyne. 

Hailes was as charming as ever and I clambered down to the confluence of a burn and the River Tyne, a great soundscape with some bird song and the sound of the harvest being gathered in.  The approach road seems to be better drained this year though is narrow.  The grounds are beautifully kept by Historic Scotland and there are discreet information boards at odd locations which a sighted friend can read out. 

Preston Mill was as bright and shiny as ever.  The floods of early July 2012 had caused little damage to the mill itself though the silt and detritus from the River Tyne had to be removed.  I spoke to the volunteers who said the flooding in the Haddington area had been unexpected and the shop at the mill had some stock losses.  This is a fantastic location as my post from last year showed.  I took some of the pictures myself of the kiln, water wheel and the environs.

Update:  12/2/12

Two links of interest regarding Seton House:

and more details on Yester House, for those with an interest in architecture:

** end of update

East Lothian lies to the east of Edinburgh and some of the attractions were described under Newhailes, Prestonpans and North Berwick.  The Lothian coalfield stretched into East Lothian and the county still has the feel of an industrial past in the towns of Prestonpans, Musselburgh and Tranent.  Fishing and agriculture are still important as the leisure business with golf courses and marinas along the coast. The founder of the US National Parks was John Muir from Dunbar and it is fitting that a coastal path is named after him from the outskirts of Edinburgh at Fisherrow along the coast.  The River Tyne drains the county and flows into the North Sea just to the north of Dunbar. 

East Lothian has an excellent library service based in Haddington and there are many books for sale.  A useful source of information is the Statistical Accounts of Scotland.  The first series was started in the latter part of the 18th Century and it can be accessed on the web though the archaic typeface and fonts will challenge a screenreader.  Some amusing renderings of words have resulted in laughter in my Jaws version.  In the 1790s ministers were responsible for gathering in statistics of the parish.  Some were diligent in collecting hard data and some were more inclined to berate the morals of their parishioners.  Cut and paste was a sin committed by the Church of Scotland ministers who compiled these accounts of their parishes. The 2nd series appears in the middle of the 19th Century and some local authorities have updated and involved communities in doing these and I have the 3rd series and 4th series of some areas.  The Statistical Accounts add greatly to our understanding of the times and make a walk in some areas much more interesting. 

Many landowners made a fortune from the minerals in their land and some of the younger sons made a fortune in the colonies and many of the estates have remained in the original family or at least the family name has endured.  Some of the estates can be visited at set times, some of them on open days or as part of a function.  Grounds are seldom restricted though if a house is marked strictly private some local advice ought to be sought. 

3 August 2011  Seton Collegiate Church

Seton Collegiate Church
© Professor Whitestick

The church is under the guardianship of Historic Scotland and like Crichton Collegiate Church has influential Scottish family connections.  The Setons are said to be a family of Flemish or Flanders origins. 

From the car park off the main road there is a walk through the woods to the collegiate church.  There is a lot to do in the church which has gradually been restored and is more covered over from my first visits there in the 1960s. Some of the effigies and architectural features can be touched.  The grounds of the church have been immaculately maintained and the custodian on duty is as helpful as they get.  A small stock of local books is kept. 

Further walks around the church can be made and the House can be viewed over the wall. The house is a Robert Adam design and is in private ownership.  It had been in the hands of the Charteris family (Wemyss and March) owners of Gosforth House near Aberlady.  

Seton House
© Professor Whitestick

27th August 2011 Gifford

Many of the villages and small towns are accessible by public transport from major centres in East Lothian such as Haddington.  If a friend’s car is available then some interesting walks in the country can be made along the tributaries of the Tyne. A cross county trip can be made connecting the A68 with the A1 taking in the villages of Fala Dam, Humbie, Gifford, Bolton, Pencaitland, Ormiston and Haddington. 

Bolton Church, East Lothian, Scotland
The church graveyard has graves of Robert Burns's family
who farmed in the area

Walks can be made in the foothills of the Lammermuir Hills and stout boots and sticks are advised.  Garvald is a popular starting point for hill walking.  A more leisurely set of walks can be made from the village of Gifford which is just far enough from Edinburgh to remain outside dormitory village status.    

A lime tree avenue extends from the centre of the village to Yester House.  There are orientation maps which someone can read to you, giving the history of the village which was a model village when the agricultural land was improved.  Many of the houses retain original features. 

Lime Avenue

When we visited it had stopped raining and the wind and sounds from the streams could be heard.  Although Yester House is not open to the public one can walk as far as the approach to the house itself which is at right angles to the drive along the tree lined avenue.  Some of the lime trees were planted 300 years ago and an inspection of the tree trunks illustrates the trunk and roots of these old trees.  The wrought iron railings on the gate can be rattled with a cane or stick and as usual it helps if some Scottish heraldry is known as there are coats of arms all over the estate and in Yester Kirk.  The Hay family were the historical landowners with a titled Marquis of Tweeddale being the superior.

Coat of Arms, Entrance Gate
Yester House

There are landmark/features to bear in mind such as the High Street, Main Street, the Mercat Cross, Bleachfield, Lime Tree Avenue (The Avenue), Yester House and Yester Kirk.

2 Sept 2011 Preston Mill, East Linton and River Tyne

East Linton is a small country town in East Lothian.  The A1 now passes by the village altogether so it is now a backwater. The village is attractive and there are a lot of sites within reach.  Hailes Castle lies on the other side of the River Tyne which flows to the south of the village and there is a series of waterfalls on the river which can be viewed and heard from an old bridge.  The Scots word for a waterfall is linn so linton is a name in the area for “settlement by the falls”.  This area of Scotland has a mix of Anglian, Northumbrian and Ancient British (Welsh) place names. Tyningham, Traprain, Tranent and Pencaitland are a few examples.

The rapids on the River Tyne are best experienced after a downpour, though check that the roads are open as local flooding can block the A1 from time to time.  The main East Coast Railway Line passes by on the edge of the village and a fast train adds to the sound of the waterfall as there is a railway bridge upstream of the old road bridge. Electrified tracks carry 125 mph trains nearby. 

River Tyne crossing at East Linton in East Lothian
The railway bridge carrying the East Coast Mainline is at the top of the picture
The River Tyne forms a Linn, which can be heard below the old bridge in the village

The town has many attractive buildings and there are shops, pubs and restaurants and hotel accommodation.  If you have some peripheral vision it might be possible to make out the Bass Rock, Traprain Law and North Berwick Law as they are important landmarks.  Dirleton Castle, Tantallon Castle and many Scottish Kirks such as those of Preston and Whitekirk are a short distance away.

Preston Mill

Preston Mill, East Linton, East Lothian
showing the Dutch styled kiln
photograph taken by Prof Whitestick
26 August 2012

Preston  Mill lies a short way from East Linton and is a water mill which used to mill oats and was one of many on the River Tyne. The mill is powered by water with a channel taken from the River Tyne.  The Waterwheel has paddles which turn the wheel which in turn is linked to the series of cogs, wheels, belts and hoists in the mill itself.

Preston Mill and waterwheel which makes a wonderful
soundscape as the water from the River Tyne flows into the wheel paddles
providing power for the mill

The site is prone to flooding and there are marks showing the flood levels in previous floods.  I always think of Preston Mill whenever I hear a traffic report on flooding on the A1 in the Haddington area.

The adjacent kiln has a cowl and “hand of friendship.”  The tiles are the orange-red pantiles which are typical of the East Coast of Scotland.  These pantiles were brought to Scotland as ballast from the 17th Century as the Scots traded with the Low Countries, Germany and the Baltic.

There is quite a lot to touch in the mill, kiln and exhibition area: kiln floor tiles, mill stones, some of the cogs made of apple and pear wood.  The guide explained the importance of apple and pear wood as the wooden cogs as they are robust and self lubricate in use.  The mill is shown with many of the working parts in operation so there is quite a lot of sound, sense of moving parts and vibrations. At times the guide has to shout above the various rattling, cranking and water noises.  The belts move the millstones and elevators for milling of oats. 

You may have to mind your head but you get a lot from the tour from the noise of the mill mechanism in action.  There are many ladders to climb and clamber over so care has to be taken and you will be notified of any obstacle in the way as well as being encouraged to touch some of the non moving objects such as the tiles kiln lining and millstone.  

I have been visiting this site for years from childhood and it never ceases to amaze.  The setting is attractive and it is possible to walk around the mill stream and visit a dovecote (doocot in Scots) known as Phantassie Dovecote.  At one time I can remember geese and ducks being on the site, but due to foxes they no longer have them.  Still there are postcards of the mill showing the ducks and geese reminiscent of a Dutch or Flemish painting.  

This tour had 8-10 people, all Scots.  This kept some of the Scottish words and translation of idioms to a minimum.  Tales were exchanged about oatmeal and types of porridge available in the past and the current popularity of porridge outside Scotland.  The origins of the term “piece” was discussed with Anna Young, the tour guide. 

In the visitor centre there is a wide selection of NTS gifts, books and souvenirs.  Next door, there is a permanent exhibition of millstones to touch as well as a collection of oral history in the form of audio memories and recounts of former millers.

Old Railway Walk

Information Board
Ormiston, Old Railway Walk

We started this walk near the village of Ormiston.  This formed part of a branch line and the image shows a board with information on the railway.  On a walk along this railway line we came across some people on horseback.  This is a popular bridle path as well as being used by walkers (and cyclists, though there were none about when we visited). 

The information board in the photograph describes it as follows:

“This 12 kilometre (7 ½ miles) route follows the old line of the Gifford and Garvald Light Railway.  The track has been replaced by an easily accessible, well-surfaced path with many links to other path networks.”

It has what it calls ‘memory stations’ along its route and describes these as “From mischievous childhood tales to a hard day’s slog with the maintenance squad, local people have a lot to say about this line in its heyday.  As you come across each memory station, pause and imagine what it was like to live and work alongside this once busy railway.”

In addition, there are “mine markers” where you can read about the mines that formed an important part of the local economy.   There are also three large oak sculptures along the route and which were designed by local artists.

The history of the branch line can be found in:

The Haddington, Macmerry and Gifford Branch Lines by Andrew M Hajducki , The Oakwood Press 1994