Well that was a bit wintry, wasn’t it. I’ve been saving up this latest walk for a weeks now, but there was never a day when I was free & the weather was good enough for photos – until last Saturday! A beautiful pre-spring day, the thermo hit double figure, with 12 degrees feeling like twenty as my body began its thaw from hibernation. Talking of photos, I’ve just got a new camera & its from China & I haven’t quite figured out the instructions, which will explain the certain brightness in some of the shots on an especially bright day.
To get to Oldhamstocks, hit the A1 & head towards England passing Dunbar. When you see the Innerwick turning, take this road, & take an immediate left to Oldhamstocks, which is signposted. This road is now a pleasant drive thro rolling hills until you reach Oldhamstocks village at a T-junction – turn left & creep slowly towards the green, where you can park up anywhere really.
I love Oldhamstocks, me, its got a funky, medieval vibe to it; scattered Portmeirionesque houses surrounding an open green, pierced only by its mercat cross, this is a time capsule of cul-de-sace loveliness hidden deep in the eastern Lammermuirs.
The first port of call is a potter round kirk & kirkyard. The kirk is an impressive whitewashed affair with one very old section, which is the main chapel still. Inside there’s a series of history boards which perhaps need a redoing, a little jaded & faded & parts, but the information on the village is there which will please all history buffs. As a religious centre, the kirk goes way back to at least 1127, when we hear of Adulf, priest of Aldehamstoc.
Out into the kirkyard, you get your first taste of the delicious scenery, including the ridge to the north which we shall be topping in a little while. To get there head out through a gate in the kirkyard wall & turn left.
You are now on a very unbusy road, which drops down into the valley. On reaching a little river, pass through the gate & you’ll soon come to transport hub of sorts – a triangular intersection of three roads. Here head straight forward.
After a wee while a gorgeous glen opens up, the heart of a hilly basin with farmhouses in the distance. To the left is a fenced off field & slopes leading up to the aforementioned ridge. Turn left & head towards a narrow greenway which climbs the slopes, keeping the fenced off field to your right.
Climbing the greenway, in late February we noticed how a smattering of yellow gorse trumpets were showing face – which along with the crocuses & snowdrops mark the coming of Spring.
Surmounting the ridge, avail yourselves of the opportunity to look back towards Oldhamstocks – a stunning view of the kirk with the North Sea shimmering in the distance.
Facing right you will see a gate in the middle distance – head to this, pass through it, then turn right into a field. You will see here that the path forks – take the left one.
A short climb later you will reach the corner of a fenced off field where a tree-stump looks incredibly like a Pictish Stone. At this point you will see a boggy streambed heading down the hill – follow this.
The stream soon dries up at a point where a local farmer must have dug a long drainage ditch – follow this downhill.
You will now come to a a gate at the valley bottom – pass through it & veer right through the field. You will soon come to a cool, man-made stony ford. Cross this & reach the road once again. Its now time for the pleasant amble back to Oldhamstocks along the road.
As we reached the outskirts of the village once more, we passed a sign saying ‘Lammermuir Pipe Organs.’ Such musical instrument makingness reminded me of Oldhamstocks’ most famous son, John Broadwood (1732-1812). From his humble beginnings in the parish school, he would go onto become the piano maker for King George II, with his company, Broadwood and Sons, maintaining the royal appointment right thro’ to King George VI – and still hold the Royal Warrant for piano manufacture.
He inherited his father James Broadwood’s profession, that of a wright or carpenter/joiner, and as a young man walked from Oldhamstocks to London, a distance of almost 400 miles, where he worked for the harpsichord maker Burkat Shudi, & even married his daughter, Barbara. Burkat died in 1773, and John Broadwood took control of the company from his brother-in-law in 1783. Introducing innovations in piano manufacture, & with sales booming, he ceased to manufacture harpsichords in 1793. Innovations in piano manufacture include: adding a separate bridge for the bass notes, patenting the piano pedal in 1783 and expanding the then-standard five octave range upwards by half an octave, in response to a request of Dussek, and then by half an octave downwards.
The Broadwoods have supplied pianos to some of the world’s most recognised musicians such as Chopin & Beethoven. The latter received a six octave Broadwood in 1818, a gift from John’s son, Thomas, which he kept for the rest of his life. Although his impaired hearing may well have prevented him appreciating its tone, he seems to have preferred it to his Erard which had a similar range. Above the company label on the front edge of the pin block the following text can be read: “Hoc Instrumentum est Thomae Broadwood (Londrini) donum propter ingenium illustrissime Beethoven.” [This instrument is a gift from Thomas Broadwood of London in recognition of the most illustrious genius of Beethoven.] As for Chopin, he would play Broadwood instruments whenever in Britain, including at the last concert of his life given at Guildhall, London, in 1848.
So that was our Oldhamstocks walk, one of the finest in the county, with spacious scenery, wonderful vistas, a mixture of terrains & just complete peaceful silence of it all. Hard to find, yes, but well worth the mission. By the way, I’ve decided to return the phone, its camera’s not good enough to capture the county !!
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