Its Daisy’s 3rd birthday (in dog years) & I thought it a good time for her to do her first semi-urban walk. Thus so, it was time for the legendary swagger that is the potter around Inveresk village. To get the lungs pumping, its best to start this walk from a wee side-road just off the A1. Coming off at the Wallyford junction, one heads north along Salter’s Road (the A6094), when just beyond the motorway there is an immediate left-turn. This road drops your down past a monument & into a cul-de-sac of sorts. You can park up anywhere along the road really, at the bottom of which the walk to Inveresk is sign-posted, whose houses you can see in the distance, over the fields.
The path skirts the motorway to its left for a while, before veering off towards the houses & crossing a great sweep of fielderie. Soon enough one rises & drops over the railway where Virgin Trains hurtle to and from London in a mad dash to beat the times of the budget airlines. At the bridge, if one turns around for a moment, there is a board to read which gives details of the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, fought on the 10th September 1547 as part of the conflict known as the Rough Wooing meant to convince Mary Queen of Scots to marry Henry VIII’s only son, Edward.
Fought upon the untouched fields before us, the field has been excellently preserved for the battle-imagination from unscrupulous property developers. Not far away the Prestonpans battlefield is not so lucky & is under serious threat from greedy money-thugs who simply ignore our universal historical inheritance in pursuit of a quick buck. But by Pinkie Clough there is enough of an open expanse to imagine the massed phalanxes of pikemen advancing to the thudding tune of cannonshot & battleshout.
The last pitched battle to be fought between English and Scottish armies, Pinkie was a bit of a bloodbath really, where 10,000 of 30,000 Scots were slaughtered, & the day’s events long remembered as ‘Black Saturday.’ Not wanting to linger too long in such an eerie place of death I continued north from the railway bridge, reaching the pretty outskirts of Inveresk. The final fields before the village were filled either side with cohorts of marching brussels sprouts, as if these were in fact the two armies at Pinkie, just about to close in battle. An excellent description of Scots-in-Arms was made by William Patten, an officer on the English side.
They cum to the felde well furnished all with jak and skull, dagger, buckler, and swoordes, all notably brode and thin, of excedinge good temper, and universally good to slice. hereto everie man hi spyke, their array towrads joining with the enemy they cling & thrust so nere in the front rank shoulder to shoulder together, with their pykes over their foregoers’ shouldersthat no force can well withstand them
As the path turned into the tarmac’d Crookston Road, we reached Inveresk, Scotland’s oldest continuously inhabited settlement. Two hundred years ago, while writing his book on Edinburgh, William Maitland breathed out thro’ his pen; ‘the beautiful village of Inveresk, which from its Situation, Houses, & Salubrity of Air, is justly reckoned the finest Village & most healthy place in Scotland.’ Stuffed full of lovely old buildings of the 17th/18th centuries, the Portmeirioin of the north is a secret to most of the Lothians, but belove us this wee enclave of serenity is well worth a visit. Me & Daisy really dug the vibes; a quiet convalescenty place that sat well with my lack-of-lead-use. I only had to carry Daisy a couple of times on the entire walk, & we were there a while.
We had arrived at the the Shepherd House, just one of the numerous buildings bubbling with character. My blog is too short to rattle on about them all, so I’ll just highlight this one & leave the others to future walkers of East Lothian. Built in the old Scottish style, with high pitched rooves & crowdstepped gable, the house looks sincerely superb. Its gardens are also open to the public, but the most curious part of the house is a padded room used for lunatics, with the house possibly being used as a private asylum. Indeed the equally pretty White House nearby kept a long & elaborate list of the lunatics & their symptoms who stayed in the residence.
With the Shepherd House & its garden on our left, we turned right up Double Dykes. Allotments soon appeared on our right as we traversed a tarmac’d path to the widely-swathed Lewisvale Park & its Musselburgh Cricket Club. Daisy loves such open spaces & began to pirouette madly about me in some kind of psychedelic orbit as I strode across the flat field.
A smallish hut-thing caught my eye & I went to investigate. It turned out to be a lovely old gentleman called Tony Saunders, fixing a bike or three. He was from Barking originally, but after a 25 year stint in the airforce, & marrying a Clydebank nurse, a job came up in Musselburgh in the 70s & he has been here since. Becoming a person of a certain age, he revels in a local scheme which gets similar-aged people out & about riding bikes donated, in the main, by local university students after their three year tenure in the nearby campus.
At the top of the cricket field, we reach an eroding monument to the time that the Duke of Somerset used the cricket field (before cricket was invented, mind) just before the Battle of Pinkie. It was situated overlooked a chicaning path that led us down into the rest of Lewisvale Park, a most splendid place indeed. Turning left, the path took us into a series of sites – like the stations of the cross – including a bandstand around which babymothers were jogging their figures back, & a Heritage Lottery funded aviary of all things, full of colourful chirping birds.
At the end of the park, we reached the main road by Musselburgh Grammar School. Heading left uphill, we were soon at a junction. here we turned right along Inveresk Village Road, soon coming to Saint Michael’s Parish Kirk. There has been a Christian centre here since St Modwenna, & by the Middle Ages had become quite an important ecclesiastical. Of its founder & foundation, John S Stuart-Glennie, in his ‘Arthurian localities,’ writes;
On Dunpeledur also, as likewise on the three fortified rocks of Edinburgh, Stirling, and Dumbarton, at Dundonald, in Ayrshire, and Chilnacase, in Galloway, Saint Monenna (Modwenna) or Darerca of Kilslleibeculean, in Ulster, founded a church, and nunnery. These foundations appear to synchronise with the re-establishment of the Christian Church in these districts by Arthur, who was pre-eminently a Christian hero fighting against pagan Saxons and apostate Picts.
We found the kirk to be deep in stonework, so we simply strolled around the fascinating graveyards, with some of the best views of the Lothians I’ve seen. Observing such excellent vistas inspired the Romans to build a substantial castra (fort) upon the lands which the graveyard stands. Appearing as ‘Evidensca‘ in the Ravenna Cosmography, the fort & its cavalry garrison formed the easternmost outpost of the Antonine Wall in 142 AD. A flourishing vicus civilian settlement of timber strip buildings grew around the present village area, where arial photography & archeology has reveled corncupias of Roman sites & artefacts.
Of the graves checked out by me & Daisy, a few stood out, including quite a number of Napoleonic victims, such as William Norman Ramsay whose body was reinterred in the graveyard from the very fields of Waterloo. A rather interesting grave was that of the anonymous Mary; perhaps the illegitimate sister of a wealthy nobleman. Another was the impressive family tomb of Sir Archilbald Hope, who appears as a portly portrait in John Kay’s ‘Knight of the Turf.’ This classic Scottish Enightenment figure drained and cultivated a marshy piece of land south of Edinburgh – known today as The Meadows, but historically often referred to as Hope Park.
Leaving the graveyard we returned the way we came, but at the War monument, take the path down to the right, which leads to The Grove, a wide green area beside the River Esk. We followed the riverpath to our left, keeping the river on our right, with Musselburgh golf course just over the rushing waterflow.
The path skirts a small estate of sorts, one of many of the noble gardens still intact after the centuries. When the wall on your left finally peters out into nothingness, a house-topped field appears, marking the direction-shift of our walk. One must here turn left & follow the charcoal-coloured path up the field’s steep left.
At the top of the field d, go through the gate & continue left along the road – this was the second timne I picked Daisy up, but there was no traffic to worry about. Crossing the main road, we soon came to the Shepherd House again, where turning right led us along Crookston Road again, back towards the car. As we walk’d across the Pinkie fields, I was on my phone googling details of the battle, one segment of which I could imagine being played out on the Fa’side slopes far before me.
Just before the carnage began, a strange burst of chivalry burst out between the two armies; the death spasm, perhaps, of an age before gunpowder. The Earl of Home led 1,500 Scottish horsemen – mostly Borderes – close to the English encampment and challenged an equal number of English cavalry to fight. With Somerset’s reluctant approval, Lord Grey accepted the challenge and engaged the Scots, who were badly cut up and were pursued west for 3 miles. After this the Scottish cavalry was basically KO’d from the main fighting. William Patten, described the slaughter inflicted on the Scots;
Soon after this notable strewing of their footmen’s weapons, began a pitiful sight of the dead corpses lying dispersed abroad, some their legs off, some but houghed, and left lying half-dead, some thrust quite through the body, others the arms cut off, diverse their necks half asunder, many their heads cloven, of sundry the brains pasht out, some others again their heads quite off, with other many kinds of killing. After that and further in chase, all for the most part killed either in the head or in the neck, for our horsemen could not well reach the lower with their swords. And thus with blood and slaughter of the enemy, this chase was continued five miles in length westward from the place of their standing, which was in the fallow fields of Inveresk until Edinburgh Park and well nigh to the gates of the town itself and unto Leith, and in breadth nigh 4 miles, from the Firth sands up toward Dalkeith southward. In all which space, the dead bodies lay as thick as a man may note cattle grazing in a full replenished pasture. The river ran all red with blood, so that in the same chase were counted, as well by some of our men that somewhat diligently did mark it as by some of them taken prisoners, that very much did lament it, to have been slain about 14 thousand. In all this compass of ground what with weapons, arms, hands, legs, heads, blood and dead bodies, their flight might have been easily tracked to every of their three refuges. And for the smallness of our number and the shortness of the time (which was scant five hours, from one to well nigh six) the mortality was so great, as it was thought, the like aforetime not to have been seen
As for the wooing, the infant Queen Mary was smuggled out of Scotland to France, where she would later marry Francis, Dauphin of France, in 1558. Pinkie was a futile exercise really, & within fifty years, at the Union of the Crowns, the English & Scots put down their weapons & began to hug each other like long-lost, but happily renuited cousins!