It has been a while since I posted one of these walks – the whole summer in fact – down having relocated to the isle Arran for a while to spend a season or three researching its antiquities.
The photos for this post were taken ages ago, actually, but here I am finally writing the words. This won’t be the last post, btw, I do head back to God’s country / the Shire, etc from time to time & so Walking East Lothian shall continue, for now, but with a certain sense of sporadicness.
This walk begins by parking the car at the Glenkinchie Distillery visitor’s centre. Its free, but the whiskey cocktails aren’t. What a hidden jewel is this Victorian distillery, the Lowland Home of Johnnie Walker where its Edinburgh malt is distill’d. It has a great visitors’ recently renovated & & a fine place to buy refreshments before, or after, this walk.
As for the walk itself its very simple. From the distillery simply walk up the hill by all the lovely old cottages until you reach a farm complex on the right.
You’ll see the gate to a farm track which you’ll hop over & head towards the fields, the distant Lammermuirs crowning the scene, while to the right the plains of Lothian sweep all the way to the capital & the Pentland’s massif,
As you follow the track you’ll realise that Peaston is indeed one of the most pleasant plateaus in the county, whose delightful agricultural setting serves as a suitable tonic to the stresses & vigours of modernity.
It’s a short, uncomplicated, linear, walk is this one – rather like the very first Walking East Lothian post at Fa’side Castle – but you can go there & back, remember, & grab a whiskey cocktail too, remember!
So, after a couple of right angle turns, passing some pretty bungalows & their gardens, you & your party will finally come to the main road & Peaston itself. Now this place is notorious is local folklore. This is a hamlet in upheaval – the cottages are being renovated & looking great as the two before-after photos show.
The place has a long history, with the land being acquired by Baron Nicholas Thompson in 1172, where he built a small farm and enslaved locals from the neighbouring villages as farmhands. So just as the farm began life in human tyranny, so thus it endeth.
Andrew Riddell was a tenant farmer of Peaston, as were father & father’s father, etc. Then the Salvesons turn up with loads of cash, buy loads of land in the locality, & despicably turf him & his family out of livelihood & home. It was a clear case of big wallet-little wallet, & despite Riddell winning land tenure at the first court case a second hearing at the Scottish Supreme Court, after huge swathes of donations & the masonic shakings of greas’d up palms, changed the verdict. Here’s some chat from the news of April 2013.
In the upheld appeal, senior judge Lord Gill ruled that measures put in place to protect tenants in such areas were not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Angus McCall, chairman of the Scottish Tenant Farmers’ Association, of which Mr Riddell was a director, has described his “incredulity” that the SNP Government may not follow up on its plans to appeal the ruling at Britain’s highest court. Mr McCall added that he was shocked and dismayed to hear the Government may not proceed with its appeal. He said it had been indicated a Government legal challenge was certain and his association was even told it had been lodged last April, with the prospect it would be fast-tracked for a hearing next spring. The Herald has now established it is by no means certain this appeal to the UK Supreme Court will take place. A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is currently considering its position following the conclusion of the Salvesen v Riddell court proceedings. Lord Gill’s ruling shocked the Government and the land reform lobby in equal measure as it gave precedence to the right to property under the European Convention on Human Rights over whether a public interest argument was proportionate and compatible. Land campaigner Andy Wightman said he too had been led to assume the ruling would be challenged, saying it would be disgraceful if ministers failed to put up a fight for the will of the Scottish Parliament.
It had been 10 years since he’d received the initial ‘notice to quit’ – a whole decade of stress which ended in double tragedy, with Riddell shooting himself & then the house lying empty to this day, unused & uncar’d for by the swollen Salveson family, just as long as they won the battle of alien pride versus native dignity.
No more would Riddell receive such accolades throughout his arable farming career in the Lothians, twice winning the local Haddington Show ‘farm of the year’ competition and winning spring wheat and barley competitions many times, including the year of his passing. No more would Peaston stand out as a model East Lothian Farm and it was due to Andrew’s ability and drive.
It’s possible to have a little potter about the farm, which has now taken on the phenomena of a haunted house as such. For me it’s testament to backslapping billionaires who care nothing for the traditions of the settlements they barge into.
So not the cheeriest note, I know, to end the first phase of Walking East Lothian – but the story must be told as it had a profound effect on the community & is knitted into the fabric of the Ormistinean psyche – huge numbers of people from far and near, including Riddell’s four children, attended the service of thanksgiving for his life in Yester Parish Church in Gifford.
As for my declaration of ending the first phase of W.E.L., my blog will be lasting as long as my little dog Daisy skips across the topsoil of this planet with her slightly manic eyes, & I’m sure I’ll always be drawn to East Lothian’s poetical beacon of the soul.