Paxton House and Berwick-upon-Tweed

Welcome to England

Because of the way the border runs, when we travelled from our holiday home in Lower Burnmouth to Paxton House we crossed into England and back into Scotland again. Here I am on the way down crossing into the country, and indeed the county (Northumberland), of my birth.

Paxton House was designed by John and James Adam in 1758 and built between then and 1766. The National Gallery of Scotland describes it as “perhaps the finest example of an eighteenth-century Palladian country house in Britain”. It has extensive interiors (c1773) by Robert Adam, as well as furniture by Thomas Chippendale. In 1811, the Edinburgh architect Robert Reid added the largest purpose-built picture gallery in a Scottish country house which today contains paintings from the National Galleries. Visiting is by guided tour only and no photography is allowed.

However, there is plenty to photograph outside with 80 acres of grounds, gardens, riverside and woodland.

The engineer enjoyed visiting the old waterworks.

I preferred the children’s Fairy Trail …

… and the sculpture by Julia Hilton – Entrances, inspired by the stages of an opening bud.

Paxton has a good café in the old stables which we used for morning coffee and lunch. When we had exhausted its delights we decided to stop off in the Northumbrian town of Berwick-upon-Tweed on the way back to Burnmouth. We liked the sign on the wall of the carpark wall, showing that it had originally been the cattle market, and this rather less than pleasant street name.

Berwick was founded by Anglo-Saxons and for hundreds of years was affected by border wars between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland. Possession of Berwick changed hands several times until 1482 when Richard of Gloucester retook it for England. It’s a traditional market town and also has some notable architectural features, in particular its medieval town walls, its Georgian Town Hall, its Elizabethan ramparts, and Britain’s earliest barracks buildings, which Nicholas Hawksmoor built (1717–21) for the Board of Ordnance. We set off to walk the walls and ramparts. Here are some highlights.

Part way round, we spotted this lovely little car. Such a pretty colour – and two days later we would spot it again.

Having stopped at the English border on the way out, we had to stop on the other side of the road as we returned. Welcome back to Scotland!

 

The Hirsel and Bughtrig Garden

River Tweed at Coldstream

This 9km walk starts in Coldstream from which you can look across the River Tweed into England. To start with, we walked along the river through the Lees Estate stopping to admire Lees House and Lees Temple, an octagonal 18th century gazebo.

After a while, the other side of the path was lined with wheatfields. When we reached the farm track at Fireburnmill, we headed back up to the road.

Crossing the road, we entered another estate, The Hirsel. This has been the seat of the Earls of Home (pronounced Hume) since the 17th century and the earliest parts of the house (not open to the public) date from then.

When the 11th Duke married Lady Lucy Elizabeth Montague Douglas in 1832, his estate was amalgamated with that of the Douglas family. The present Earl is the son of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the 14th Earl, who gave up the title in 1963 to serve as Prime Minister. I can just about remember that.

There are 500 acres of park to explore, including a lake and a small river, the Leet Water. The Cow Arch provided access to the riverside pastures for the Hirsel herd of cows.

Some of the out-buildings have been made into a small visitor centre and café where we had a good lunch. We then made our way back to Coldstream where our car was parked in this pretty square.

There was still a lot of afternoon left, so we decided to visit nearby Bughtrig Garden as well. Bughtrig, which means farm on a ridge, has belonged to only three families in its traceable history from the 14th century: the Dicksons, the Franks and, since 1938, the Ramsays. The present house was built for the Franks in the late 18th century – it and its surrounding lawns are not open to visitors.

The formal garden, however, is a delight and we spent some time wandering about, as well as relaxing on these rather unusual loungers (which were quite tricky to get off).

The owners, William and Natasha Ramsay, have also started a sculpture garden, beginning with a bronze statue of William’s grandfather, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who commanded the evacuation from Dunkirk and was subsequently killed on active service in January 1945. I recently read that plans have been approved for a small museum to the Admiral at Bughtrig.

Unfortunately, I didn’t note what this sculpture was or who it was by.

However, I can tell you that these are Godwin and Bernard. Godwin is a 14ft Rastafarian “a monument to cool” by Araba Ocran. Bernard is a life size camel by Josh Gluckstein. He bears a notice saying “Please forgive the state of poor Bernard. He prefers the desert and has suffered in the Scottish climate! He will be back all patched together in due course.”

By this time, the weather was cooling and our stomachs were rumbling, so it was time to head back to our cosy holiday cottage for some dinner.

Duns Law

Duns, Berwickshire

This is a short circular walk (7km) from Duns, the historic county town of Berwickshire. We had a quick look round the marketplace before we set off and found the Mercat Cross, a statue to Wojtek the Soldier Bear, and a nicely preserved ghost sign. Wojtek’s statue was gifted to the town by the people of Zagan in Poland in 2016. The Syrian brown bear was adopted by the Polish Army in 1942 in Iran. During the battle of Monte Cassino in 1944 he helped carry shells to the guns, as shown here, then at the end of WW2 he stayed with the Polish Army at Winfield in Berwickshire. Wojtek moved to Edinburgh Zoo in 1947, where he died in 1963.

From the centre of Duns, we made our way to the archway at the entrance to the grounds of Duns Castle.

Just inside, a woodland path led up to the 218m summit of Duns Law. As we climbed, we could see the castle gateway below us with the Cheviot Hills behind it.

On the hill’s flat summit is a Covenanters’ Stone, which marks the spot where General Alexander Leslie raised the Covenanters’ standard in 1639 in defiance of King Charles I’s imposition of Episcopalianism on his Scottish subjects.We descended part-way, then struck off across the flank of the hill where we passed a stone on the site of the old town of Dunse (sic), destroyed in the border raids of 1588. We could also see the castle peeking through the trees below us.

We tried to make our way down to the grounds of the castle, which we did with some difficulty. We formed the impression that not many people did this walk – the path was very overgrown and we felt we were hacking our way through at times. Once we got down, the walk through the castle’s woods was very muddy and not especially picturesque. However, we saw some lovely swans and the Neo-Gothic castle itself definitely was picturesque.

From the castle, we headed down the drive and through a different archway to the road, from which it was a short walk back to our car in the marketplace.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.

Eyemouth

Eyemouth beach

We visited Eyemouth three times while staying nearby in Lower Burnmouth. The first time we arrived late one afternoon, after walking elsewhere, to restock at the local Co-Op. We were in time to see seals being fed in the harbour (with the gulls looking on with a beady eye in case they missed anything).

The Harbour itself was a colourful area – with the fishermen making their feelings for the EU rather clear.

We stopped short looking across at Gunsgreen House because the bridge across to it was closed and it would have been a long detour via the road. Gunsgreen was built around 1753 for local merchant John Nisbet, who was also suspected to be a smuggler. The house was rumoured to have secret passages and huge cellars large enough to hold hundreds of kegs of smuggled brandy. It is now a museum.

Back in the town market place we saw a statue of Willie Spears (1812-1855) who, at great personal risk, led a revolt against the tithes on fish levied by the Church of Scotland. After a 20 year battle, during which Spears served time in jail, the fishermen were allowed to buy out the tithe for £2,000. Spears was not at sea during the great fishing disaster of 1881, but watched from land. Nearby is the monument to that disaster, which I wrote about in a previous post.

Our second visit was the day we walked along the coastal path to Eyemouth, as described in my last post. This brought us in behind Gunsgreen House, so we were looking at the harbour from the other side. Nisbet’s Tower, the building with red painted door, is a renovated 18th century doocot (dovecote), now a holiday let. I want to stay there next time! There’s a rather inanimate workman on the bridge which is being repaired – his notice says “Bridge over the River Queye – eventually”. At least his mate has managed to catch a fish – in someone’s garden?

More colourful tiles etc – and a rather scary marker for the flood of 1948.

On this occasion, we had lunch in a bar called Oblò.

We liked it so much that we returned there for breakfast on our final day, the occasion of our last visit to Eyemouth. After breakfast, we visited the town’s museum which I’ve already written something about in my Great Fishing Disaster post. However, there was more to see than that. I spotted an old picture of our cottage in the days when it was, literally, a lobster house, and there was a small display about local suffragettes, always of interest to me.

And they had a very good interactive 3D recreation of Eyemouth’s 16th century fort. Seen here is a shot of the 3D fort and an aerial view of it in real life.

We decided to walk out there next. It was a beautiful morning and the sea was stunning.

You wouldn’t really have known you were in a fort, apart from a few cannons here and there. It was originally built in 1547 as an English fort, part of the “Rough Wooing” campaign to marry Henry VIII’s son Edward to the infant Mary Queen of Scots. Three years later it was abandoned, then rebuilt in 1557 to house French troops, Scotland and France being allies against England. This was also short lived, and it was demolished again in 1559 – so it’s not surprising there is little left.

Finally, a picture that didn’t fit into any of the galleries, but I thought The Old Bakehouse was too pretty to leave out.

This third visit to Eyemouth may have ended our holiday, but there are several gaps still to fill in. There’s much more information about this part of Scotland to come.

Burnmouth to Eyemouth

Lobster fisherman heading out

We visited Eyemouth several times during our stay in Lower Burnmouth last summer – it’s a pretty little town in itself, but is also the nearest place to buy provisions. One morning, we set out to walk there (and back) on the Berwickshire Coastal Path. As we left, the local lobster fisherman was heading out of the harbour.

The path led us steeply out of Lower Burnmouth towards the clifftops. As we went, we could see our little cottage, The Old Lobster House, retreat further into the distance below us. It’s the little white building opposite the row of coloured houses.

The path reached the road at the upper part of Burnmouth. As the old sign tells us, it’s 6 miles to Berwick and 52 to Edinburgh. The pub is The First and Last – the first or last in Scotland, depending on your direction of travel.

I liked this house’s quirky gate and name sign.

Before moving on, we stopped for a while to read an information board telling us how Burnmouth used to be a hotbed of smuggling in the 18th century. One notorious family was the Lyalls who organised a raid on the Customs Warehouse in Eyemouth in 1780. John Lyall later moved to Sussex where he became a respected resident, operating ships out of London. His five sons showed how quickly and effectively the family distanced itself from its criminal past: they included a Conservative MP and a Dean of Canterbury. Clearly a talented family on whichever side of the law they operated.

The path then led us down the side of the Village Hall and back on to the cliffs. Burnmouth Harbour and our little house were still in view!

The clifftops were lined with fields of crops, mainly barley, and wildflowers.

We wondered what this brown crop was, and only identified it later. Had we been earlier in the year, these fields would have been bright yellow – it’s oilseed rape. 

This was the first, but not the last, day we noticed an abundance of painted lady butterflies. Apparently, last summer was a once in a decade mass emergence when weather conditions and food sources provided ideal conditions for the species to thrive.

Looking out to sea, we admired the folds in the rocks. Geology writ large.

Then Eyemouth came into view, and we were almost there.

After spending the afternoon in Eyemouth we had to walk back. Remember The First and Last in Burnmouth? We naturally stopped for a beer and some good pub grub. I liked the way it was decorated with old advertising boards.

Then it was down the hill again, home to The Old Lobster House. Next time, I’ll show you round Eyemouth itself.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.

The East Coast Fishing Disaster of 1881

East Coast Fishing Disaster Memorial, Burnmouth

On Friday the 14th of October, 1881, hurricane Euroclydon struck the south-eastern coast of Scotland. Nineteen fishing boats were lost and 189 men did not return, leaving 73 widows and 263 fatherless children. Until our visit to Burnmouth last summer, we had never heard of what some locals still call Black Friday. When we strolled round the village on our first evening, we wondered what this sculpture on the harbour wall commemorated.

A few years ago, Jill Watson was commissioned by the people of Berwickshire to create memorials representing the exact numbers of surviving widows and children in four of the communities affected. These tiny figures represent those of Burnmouth.

Along side them is an older memorial which lists all the men drowned.

Around the village are planters representing each boat lost: Alice, Christina, Excellent, Guiding Star, and Transcendent. We only found the first three.

Throughout our week in Burnmouth, we went in search of the other Jill Watson sculptures. This is Cove:

And St Abbs:

And by far the biggest is in Eyemouth, the main town of the area:

On a hill overlooking Eyemouth Harbour, there is also a commemorative wall, built in 2017, with each lost man represented by a pebble at the base.

The town’s small museum has more information and displays about the disaster. (These are all fairly terrible pictures because of reflections in the glass cases.) The poster below has a quote from Alex Burgon, Skipper of the Ariel Gazelle – “We’ll not see Eyemoth today boys”. The men clearly knew what was coming. Pickit Men by Emma Mackenzie (2010) has a figure for each of the 129 Eyemouth men lost, standing together in their crews. Pickit is a Scots word meaning plucked. “Ye wad juist think that they had been pickit” was a frequent comment made about the men at the time.

A remembrance plaque and mourning artefacts:

The Eyemouth Tapestry telling the story of the disaster is displayed in a small, narrow room. It is thus very difficult to photograph, but I hope you can get a small impression below of this wonderful work. Hand crafted by 24 local women, it took two years to complete. I foolishly didn’t note when it was made, and neither the leaflet I took away nor the museum’s online information tells me. However, I recall that it was long enough ago for most of the women who worked on it to be no longer with us.

Poignant facts gleaned from other parts of the museum: during the great storm, there is no record of the lifeboat having been launched. As the lifeboat was manned by the fishermen, it must be assumed that its crew were out there fighting for their lives already. In any case, the wind was so strong and the sea so rough that the boat would have been unlikely to get out of the harbour. The Census of 1881 was taken just before the disaster when Eyemouth’s population was 2935. The town went into decline, and it was almost 100 years (1976) before it reached that level again. Today, the population is about 3420.

We were very glad to learn about this disaster through Jill Watson’s sculptures which led us on to find other commemorations. I hope many more people are made aware of it as we have been. Eyemouth today is a relatively unspoilt town which combines being a working fishing port with tourism. I’ll tell you more about it in my next couple of posts.

Lower Burnmouth and The Old Lobster House

Burnmouth is the last village on Scotland’s east coast before crossing the border into England. It’s also one of those divided villages with a steep, winding road down to the harbour. We booked a cottage in Lower Burnmouth for a week last July / August, and I was surprised to find that the small settlement around the harbour actually counts as four villages!

If you turn left at the bottom of the road, you end up in Partanhall.

Ahead is Burnmouth Harbour.

To the right is Lower Burnmouth (and beyond that, Ross and Cowdrait of which we have no pictures). The colourful 3 storey houses, numbers 14-20 Lower Burnmouth, were designed by the architect Basil Spence in the 1950s. The lower floors were intended to be net stores, but now serve as garages. The little white building to their left in the view from the harbour is The Old Lobster House, our home for the week, a cottage converted from an old lobster holding pen.

Here are some closer views of the exterior:

And the interior:

But what had really sold us on this cottage when we saw it online was this view from the main bedroom window:However, when we arrived we were very disappointed to find that it looked like this:

It would be some days before high tide was at a suitable time for us to see it, i.e. not while we were out during the day or while we slept. However, we found the view endlessly fascinating and have many pictures in different conditions of weather and tide. Here’s more from the main bedroom:

From bedroom 2:

And from downstairs:

We had a wonderful week in this cottage, and did far more than just gaze at the sea, mesmerising though that was. And we learned something too. Strolling round the harbour on our first evening, we came across this sculpture:

It’s one part of a memorial to the East Coast Fishing Disaster of 1881, of which we’d never heard, and we made it our mission to track down the other three sculptures. The whole of my next post will be dedicated to the disaster.

Glasgow Gallivanting: April 2020

Hillhead Primary
Hillhead Primary: a smile can travel 2m

I cut short my last Gallivanting post at the point when lockdown began on the grounds that there wouldn’t be anything further to report. Not strictly true! On our one approved daily walk, we look about us even more than usual and notice a lot of things in our own area that are worth documenting.

Rainbows and teddies

In common with other cities in the world, many of Glasgow’s windows have been decorated with rainbows and teddy bears. The rainbows, usually thanking NHS and other key workers, have also strayed onto fences and pavements. Although often created by children for children, I can’t help myself snapping away and now have a huge collection on my phone. Here are some of my favourites. Can you spot Elvis? And the one person who seems not to have got the right memo!

Chalking has also been used for things other than rainbows. We often see messages between those who can’t meet in person, and children seem to have rediscovered hopscotch.

Gartnavel

One of the quietest places to walk is Gartnavel, our local hospital. 1051 GWR is a restaurant on Great Western Road, just before you turn into the hospital grounds. Since it closed to the public it has been raising funds to provide free food to those in need, including NHS staff. So many businesses have transformed themselves during this crisis to provide what is needed, whether food, hand-sanitiser, PPE or hospital scrubs.

The hospital itself is in two parts, Gartnavel General, which comprises undistinguished buildings dating from the 1970s onwards, and Gartnavel Royal, an inpatient psychiatric unit which originated as a 19th century “lunatic asylum”. The Victorian buildings still exist as offices, though some parts are derelict, but patients today are housed in more modern comfort.

Dunard Street

I didn’t realise how colourful some of our schools are. This one in Dunard Street, Maryhill, has a lovely mural and colourful mosaic planters designed by the children on the street outside.

Spring

And, of course, the signs of Spring were everywhere. Nature continues to do what nature does, even if we don’t get the opportunity to appreciate it as much. Unfortunately, the kingfisher is a sad story: a couple of big thumps on one of our back windows and a dead bird on the conservatory roof below. It’s so beautiful, poor thing.

The last bit

So it seems it’s perfectly possibly to create a gallivanting post in lockdown. As the weeks go by, and we walk the same routes again and again on our daily exercise, the number of photographs will inevitably diminish. However, I still have plenty of themes to explore which should keep the gallivanting going. In the meantime, we just have to thole the current circumstances as best we can – thole being my Scottish word of the month. It means to endure patiently, to slog through tough times. I hope you are staying safe and well, everyone! I’ll be back next week with tales of last summer’s trip to Berwickshire.

April Squares: Benbecula

Benbecula is a small island – eight miles by eight miles – squashed between North and South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. It’s generally flat, more loch than rock, with its high point, Rueval, at 406 feet not much of a challenge. Still, we climbed to the top and here I am gazing out at the landscape spread before me. For the full story see Hebridean Hop 14: Benbecula.

Today is the last day of Becky’s April Squares – #SquareTops – so huge thanks to her for running another successful challenge. I’ve enjoyed looking back at some of the tops we have stood on in the past in lieu of being able to revisit them in the current lockdown.

What next? I wondered in March if I would be able to write another Glasgow Gallivanting post, given that I’m not gallivanting anywhere. Turns out I could, so that will be out tomorrow. Also, I’ve finally had time to write up our trip to Berwickshire last summer, so that series will be starting next week. After that, who knows? Perhaps some limited gallivanting will resume. Let’s hope so!

April Squares: extensive views

Today’s post is proof that you might think you will get extensive views when you climb to the top, but it’s not always the case. Above is John at Renish Point in Harris. He’s looking quite happy – probably just as well that there is no picture of me at this point.

And here I am below, taking in the extensive views from the top of the cliffs on Islay’s Mull of Oa. The mist is clearing here, so maybe if you could see my face I’d be smiling.

These images are both from the last couple of years, so I think most of you will have seen them before. Just in case, here are links to the full posts.

Hebridean Hop 6: Rodel

Islay: Mull of Oa and Port Ellen

Linked to Becky’s #SquareTops challenge. Can you believe tomorrow is the last day?