So here we are at last, the final leg of the circuit of the Gododdin Heritage Trail. Its been quite the thirteen months, reigniting my interest in the Gododdin, then slowly applying it to a golden circle of pathways around the heart of the county.
We were last at the edge of the Colstoun Estate, ready to turn left along the tarmac road. This takes you by a the main gates to Colstoun on the left & alonside a tall wall on the right, beyond which lies the Lennoxlove Estate. After a hundred more metres or so, at the edge of the Lennoxlove woodland, a road splits off to the right in the direction of some cottages. Take this.
Beyond the cottages the road drives forward towards Lennoxlove House. About half way there you come to a bridge, where if you peel off to the right you begin what I have called the Lennoxlove Loop, which I’ll detail more at the end of this post.
Carrying on along the Heritage Trail, you will eventually reach the grounds of Lennoxlove House, keeping left of it until you come to a fork in the road. Turn left at this point.
But before you do, its nice to bask in the open glory of magnificence-clothed Lennoxlove, communing with the ghosts who flitted down from the abandon’d their 15th century tower, to whisper in my ear of the past (via wikipedia). Lennoxlove House is built around the original 15th century tower house of ‘Lethington,’ which the estate was once call’d. It is now the seat of the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, but were in the hands of the Mailtand family for many centuries after its acquisition by Robert Maitland of Thirlestane in 1345. Among his descendents is a quality poet, Richard Maitland (1496–1586), quite unknown these days, but positively worth transliterating out of Old Scots into modern English.
After his father had died at Flodden, the young Richard made the fateful decision to obtain a formal education and attend university in Paris. This set him up for a career in the Law, & he would become both a councillor for Mary, Queen of Scots & one of the top judges in Scotland as a Lord of the Privy Seal. As a poet, like all the best bards he went blind, but unfortunately I couldn’t actually find any of his poetry online. This forced me to pop up to the Rare Books section of the National Library in Edinburgh for a wee peruse. It turns out the guy was really, really good – his set pieces are intense with canny observation & wordplay. I find some of the old makar stuff of say, Dunbar & Henryson, a little too formulaic, too courtly – but Maitland has a genuine & funky poetic voice.
After the Maitlands, the house passed through several hands before finally ending up in the possession of the Dukes of Hamilton. The 14th Duke bought it in 1946, & not long after clositer’d the fascinating relics of his bizarre brush with Rudolf Hess, the Reich number 2 & the guy who transcribed Mein Kampf while Hitler dictated it during the fledgeling Fuhrer’s imprisonment at Landsberg prison in 1924. Almost twenty years later, their worldscape was very different, embroiled in a fatal war which would eventually kill 55 million people including Hitler himself.
Perhaps envisioning all this, Hess flew on his own to Britain on May 10, 1941, in a desperate attempt to broker a peace between Britain & Nazi Germany. He was heading for the Duke of Hamilton, & crash-landing in a field south of Glasgow was picked up by a pitchfork wielding farmer, & then the army. Hitler was furious, Churchill simply ignored him, & Hess went on to lead a solitary life as the only prisoner at Spandau Prison in Berlin until his death in 1987, more than four decades after his ill-fated flying mission. The relics at Lennoxlove include the map & compass found in Hess’s possession & a bit of fuselage from the plane.
Back on the Heritage Trail, the road runs through the estate, passing cottages, farm buildings & really cool petrol thingy, before reaching the main road to Haddington.
Crossing the road brings you to a pleasant roadside path. Turn left here BUT, if you want to check out the site of Gilbert Burns’ cottage – that is to say Rabbie Burns’ brother – if you turn left & bob along a couple of hundred metres you’ll see some interesting memorial stuff. The following is an extract from a walk that never made it to the final W.E.L….
Gilbert Burns Country
The walk begins in a wee carpark off the 6137 (between Haddington & Bolton), in the vicinity of the long-swept away cottages in which members of Rabbie Burns’ close family were to spend the closing decades of their lives.
A few years after Rab’s death in Dumfries, his mother Agnes, his brother Gilbert, & his sister Isabella, along with multiple spouses & bairns & dogs & stuff, found themselves as the tenants of ‘Grants Braes,‘ with Gilbert running the Lennoxlove farms. Grants Braes stood roughly on the site where the carpark is today, & one may still sense their ghosts huddled around a fiery phantasma, reciting Rabbie’s poetry in the earliest, perhaps purest, versions of the Burns Supper.
After spending a few years in Scotland, by 2009 I had finally managed to penetrate Rabbie’s thick dialect & realised just how good a poet he was. Inspired to eulogize somewhat, I created some stanzas in imitation of his standard hubbie during the year of the Homecoming celebration (2009). There’s a few in particular that would shine a light onto the farming life experienced by the Burns family.
Of poesy & her best of men
I sing, a name that maist must ken,
Its notes still sound through street & glen,
From fame’s flaught horn;
What years are flown, twelve score & ten,
Since Burns was born.
His father toiled thro’ snow & sun,
Crafting an marvellous garden,
Grafting for friendly gentlemen,
Of small estate,
Whose first born, Rab, tho’ poor man’s son,
Was rich in fate.
They settl’d by the gentle Doon,
With kettle-happy Granma’ Broun,
Who whistl’d muckle lip-suck’d tune
While cooking neeps,
Or mutter’d tayles neath bright’ning moon
To frighten sleeps.
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.
So onto the walk. You park the car directly before a monument to the Gilbert Burns-East Lothian connection, behind which you access a woodland trail. Taking the slope down to the right, me & Daisy found ourselves in a leafless wood, coloured only by shocks of bright yellow daffodillies.
After a short while we came to a well, the same one used by Burns’ mother, drawn by the very hands that fed the great poet. After a moments delicate musing, we carried along the undulating path, which eventually reached the main road.
Back on the Heritage Trail, the path eventually bears left at a signpost, in the direction of the River Tyne. Me & Daisy had trodden the very same path early March 2018, in much snowier conditions.
On reaching the bridge, turn left then rigth & head towards the Aubigny Leisure Centre. Across the road from it is the entrance to the very fine Neilson Park.
George Neilson was a Haddington shopkeeper. He died in 1897 and left a sum of money for public beneficence. His trustees purchased an area of ground known as Mylne’s Park for a public park and recreation ground: it was in use by 1910.
From the park, one enters Nielson Park Road & its award winning toilet – then you are the heart of Haddington & the circle is finally complete! For the rest of 2020 me & Daisy will be exploring other parts of this fabulous county – so thanks for your patience & tune in soon.
THE LENNOXLOVE LOOP
At the bridge, on looking east there appears a great surge of woodland, into which the walker must pass via a track that appears on the left, just as you cross over an old bridge above the Colstoun Water. This path leads you pleasantly towards a wee bamboo plantation situated beside a zipline & a derelict bridge, the accoutrements of a Scottish Environmental Protection Agency unit.
Carrying on, to the left of the path are some curious topographical depressions , while everywhere is blankets in leaves, creating a chip-board effect underfoot. Turning right at the troll tree, & keeping an old wall to one’s right the path continues with a veer to the left into spiky dense greenerie. As you head towards a gate in the distance, eventually a path breaks off to the right, which should be taken.
Our new path led us thro’ a gorse tunnel of sorts to a tarmac road. Following this to the left leads to a bigger road’s T-junction, which we took to the right. A hundred meters later we came to a lodge house & the entrance to the Colstoun Estate. Flush with wild garlic & with the moles building a metropolis, its a wild corner of Colstoun, not quite as primly kept as the rest of the estate across the river.. You glimpse it’s manicured acreage thro’ the trees; the agricultural wind-tunnel thingy, the glamorous old house, but for me & Daisy we were heading directly to the far right corner of the woods
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