St Peter’s Walking Group

A new St Peter’s Walking Group has been formed, and the first two walks have been much enjoyed by those who attended. Below are summaries of the walks that have occurred. If you would like to join the Walking Group, please just email the office! office@stpetersedinburgh.org

Craiglockhart and Colinton Dell: Wednesday 19th May, 2021

By Ian Gillespie: Leader of the walk

An eager crew of 7 upstanding souls met outside Ian’s house in spite of the grey clouds. Everyone was on time – an unexpected and excellent start! We set off to descend into the bowels of Craiglockhart Dell and discussed a little history of the estate as we headed down to the water of Leith.

Craiglockhart estate was owned by the Monro family from 1773 for 128 years . Alexander Monro primus was the first Professor of Anatomy in the Edinburgh School of Medicine and co-founder with the Lord Provost of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He passed his role seamlessly to his son Alexander secundus when he was only 22yrs old and had not yet graduated in medicine – aye those were the days!! However such was his quality as a teacher that he eventually outshone his father and the reputation of the medical school blossomed throughout the world attracting many students and considerable revenue. He also did much to improve the beauty of the estate planting many trees to form ‘a pleasure ground with winding paths and shady bowers’ for the benefit of local residents. Unfortunately Alexander tertius also inherited the Chair of Anatomy and proved to be a dismal failure and eventually he resigned – a huge wave of relief to the University. One of his rivals was Dr Robert Knox, also an anatomist, whose association with the notorious bodysnatchers Burke and Hare resulted in his downfall!

We crossed one of the intact bridges over the Water of Leith to the pathway outside Redhall walled garden (there were no takers for plants) and along beside the water’s edge keeping eyes open for otters and kingfishers, but they must have seen us coming! I was disappointed to be unable to persuade anyone to join me in paddling in one of the more accessible stretches of water – perhaps it was the warning from me that St Peter’s could not be held responsible for any member of the group subsequently found floating in Leith docks! Onwards and upwards onto the old railway pathway looking down on the weir and adjacent bridge, still awaiting repair by the City Council.

The group as a whole showed no signs of flagging up the incline to Colinton tunnel and were suitably impressed by the spendid mural completed by lead artist Chris Rutterford and a team of professional and volunteer artists with local sponsorship. It illustrates the Robert Louis Stevenson poem ‘From a Railway Carriage’ (A Child’s Garden of Verses) which I still remember reading to my children at bedtime!

Stevenson had family connections with Colinton as his maternal grandfather, Revd Lewis Balfour, was minister at Colinton church – his grave is in the churchyard.

There was limited enthusiasm to detour down to the churchyard where James Gillespie is also buried, so we marched on to Spylaw Park to view the house of James Gillespie. He was a clever businessman who made much of his fortune selling snuff and tobacco and built a mill next to his house. In fact there were many mills along the water of Leith from Balerno to Slateford and a number of stations which encouraged the development of villages along the route such as Balerno, Currie, Juniper Green, etc. The special trains built for the route were called the ‘Balerno Pugs’ and were very popular with tourists and locals until the railway closed in 1967. It is now a very popular route for cyclists and joggers.

At this point we all agreed to return the way we had come, as it was mostly downhill, and took a shortcut through the old Heriot Watt playing fields on the way back to our back garden, where Morag served us all with birthday refreshments and coffee cake. John gave a short oration and toasted my birthday – much to my embarrassment!! Everyone seemed to enjoy the afternoon and it is a great way to get to know people that you might not necessarily chat to over coffee on Sunday morning.

The First Walk of St Peter’s Walking Group:

Herriot Watt Riccarton Campus, Currie: 10th, 11th & 12th May, 2021

By John Smith: Leader of the walk

John Smith was the leader for the first of the new walking group treks.  This was an easy one to start with a gentle walk of just over 3 miles round the perimeter of the Heriot Watt University and Research Park at Riccarton close to John’s home in Currie. John was joined that day by Pat, David, Ian and Morag, all of whom enjoyed the delights of a circular path through mature trees, and with the smells of wild garlic and bluebells awakening the senses. 

While the university is quite new and the buildings modern, they blend into the countryside.  Much of the campus comprises trees, some agricultural land, playing fields and landscaped gardens giving the university a very welcoming feel to it.  The research park is far from being fully developed with a large number of technical and scientific firms with strong connections to the university based there.  In the past few years, companies such as Scottish Water and the Scottish Blood Transfusion Centre have also set up their headquarters, bringing employment to the area.

Our walk started and finished at the Oriam (which is Gaelic for ‘gold’) Sports complex.  This is a performance centre for several international squads and John often sees the Scottish mens and ladies rugby players, the Scottish football squads and Hearts teams all training here.  It is a massive building housing a full size football pitch as well as games halls, squash courts, gyms, swimming pool and a café, which supplied everyone with hot drinks to finish off our walk. These were enjoyed sitting on picnic benches outside the complex. 

While not all our walkers could manage on the 11th, John suggested that he could repeat the walk a couple of times that week as he has walked this route most days since lockdown.  Alex joined John on the Tuesday and Liz on the Wednesday. Except for a small shower on the Monday, the weather stayed dry and hopefully this will be a good omen for future walks.