Wednesday, 31 December 2014
One of the benefits and joys of living in Strathearn is its wonderful choice of walks . Walks to suit all participants . Hill walkers can access the peaks above Loch Turret with ease whilst those older members of the community can choose from a superb variety of pleasant but non demanding rambles in some of Scotland’s most beautiful countryside . Recognised paths are clearly sign posted and rights of way are protected under the auspices of the local Council . The last few decades have seen a network of long distance walks and paths established across Scotland – the best known in all probability being the West Highland Way stretching from Milngavie ( pronounced Mul – guy !! ) just north of Glasgow , all the way to Fort William at the fooft of Ben Nevis , our highest peak .Local writer , publisher and out door enthusiast Felicity Martin wrote recently in Facebook :
“ Super walk today from St Fillans on Loch Earn in Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park to Comrie. We were checking the route for the Three Saints Way, a pilgrim route planned from Killin (and eventually Iona) to St Andrews. Today's walk largely followed Day 6 of the Clan Ring, which I researched and wrote up earlier in 2014 for Breadalbane Tourism Co-operative”
There are a number of useful web sites which describe and evaluate the many walks in and around Strathearn . The annual Drovers Tryst ( pronounced Try-st not Trist ) lists the many walking and social events that this annual Crieff based festival arranges in the month of October . The Walk Highland will list the suitability level for a wide variety of walks in this area . Last but certainly not least is Martin Forsyth’s Crieff based Wandern Schottland which provides outdoor holidays for Germans wishing to visit Scotland .
The heron has been around the wilds of Scotland for many centuries . In the far off Middle Ages the bird came close to extinction .Our ancestors regarded the heron as a bird of sport and it was pursued relentlessly by huntsmen with hawk or falcon . This majestic bird was oft regarded as a fine delicacy and many a laird of the day offered his guests this bird on a plate . We know from history that the conservation policies of the Scottish Parliament were not the born of the “ Green Revolution “ but existed a way back over four centuries ago . In 1600 ,at the instigation of James VI ( James I of Great Britain ) , they passed an Act which stated :
“ The slaughter of herons having been so frequent and common these diverse years within the Carse of Gowrie , Fife , Strathearn and other places thereabout , that few or none are left in the said bounds . A small number have begun to build their nests in the King’s park of Falkland and his Majesty being desirous to have them increase and multiply has ordered that the slaughter of these birds be forbidden in all the countryside adjacent . To this end , there is an Order to inhibit all persons from shooting, slaying or taking any herons from the bounds of Fife , Kinross shire , the Carse of Gowrie , Strathearn from Comrie east upon the Earn and at Kilbuck ( Kinbuck ) east upon the Allan for a period of three years after the date thereof . This under pain of imprisonment for one year for the first offence and banishment from the country for the second fault “
Sunday, 14 December 2014
The 19th century in Strathearn was one in which industry grew and expanded . Auchterarder was a thriving power and hand loom weaving centre for cotton fabric . Crieff housed a multiplicity of new and expanding enterprises including brewing , distilling ,paper making ,tanning , rope making, oil mills weaving and dying !
What is oft forgotten is that in the early 19th century , in common with so many other areas not that far distant , there were incredible efforts by entrepreneurs , individuals and corporate bodies , to explore , discover and develop the vast coal resources that lay under Scottish soil . Here in Strathearn , we were no different from our neighbouring contemporaries in Stirlingshire ,Clackmannan and Fife .
The story of the efforts made locally are well documented by Porteous in his “ The History of Crieff “ and I replicate a few of these tales of yesteryear . It was in 1819 , just after the Napoleonic Wars that things began in earnest. Trial sinkings were carried out at Cultoquhey some 3 miles east of Crieff. The journal of a local worthy recounts the following :
Friday 31st December 1819 : Went up the Ferntower Road with the intention of going on to Gilmerton to look at the place they are digging for coals , but poor Major got quite lame with the snow and the intensity of the frost , in pity to him I turned .
Friday 3rd March 1820 : Met young Christy coming out at the door to see if I would go east to Cultoquhey to see the boring for coals . Spoke in with Jessy . We all set out together and a cold blast we got . Went the Old Perth Road thinking it would be warmer . Took us much further about .After having to jump over dykes , hedges and palings got it at last .Five men busy working in the way of boring. Had a great deal of conversation with the projector . Wretched looking men altogether “ .
Despite the failure to find any coal deposits in the vicinity of Gilmerton , searching continued in other parts of the Strath . In 1839 it was thought that coals could be found about Tullibardine , between Muthill and Auchterarder . A Committee was formed to consider the best plan to be adopted to carry out a trial bore in that area . On 14th February 1837 they published and circulated a pamphlet outlining their proposals :
Proposal for Sinking a Coal Shaft in Strathearn
The Tenants of the Estates of Strathallan ,Drummond Castle and a number of the Inhabitants of Auchterarder and adjoining villages met at the Boohall ( Hall of the Home Farm ) Strathallan on the 14th Current, and took into consideration a report which had long prevailed in the country , that there is a seam of coal lying in the Farm of Peddie’s –fauld, on the Estate of Tullibardine. They examined several witnesses who remembered the traditionary account of a bed of coal being found there , but which was then concealed from the Public for some reason now unknown .They were also informed that there is a continued stream of water flowing from the remains of an old coal bore , which leaves a sediment of a dark and glutinous nature resembling the slime of a coal pit , and mixed with small particles of black matter which when ignited , burn like the best coal “ .
The result of this pamphlet saw a sum of money raised locally to fund the project . Accounts of this state a total figure of some £661 of which Crieff and Parish contributed £ 129 . The representatives of the town were Mr Robert McIlvride ,Mr William Kemp and Mr William Taylor of Cornton . The Committee met on the 27th April 1837 in the house of Mr McIlvride in Crieff and appointed William Brown , writer ( solicitor ) as Secretary . They agreed to proceed to advertise for contractors to undertake the works . As a result of this a Mr James Snaden of Saline in Fife was appointed and an agreement was signed with him on the 15th June 1837 .It was not a very well structured arrangement as it transpired that Snaden did not have the necessary plant and equipment to commence operations at Peddie’s –fauld. The Contract was terminated before work had commenced !Undeterred , the Committee now headed to South Sauchie ( near Alloa ) and approached a miner their by the name of Adamson and obtained a suitable estimate for the sinking of the shaft .
To quote Porteous : “ Shafts were sunk at the appointed places , but no coal was found . The whole undertaking came to a conclusion with a battle royal between the Contractor and the Committee . It is well that there are no coal strata in Strathearn and that the sylvan beauties of the vale have been preserved “ .
Wednesday, 3 December 2014
Lady Mary’s Walk
Lady Mary’s Walk is one of Crieff and Strathearn’s most popular and enjoyable of walks . It was formed in 1815 by Sir Patrick Murray of Ochtertyre and being a favourite walk of his daughter Lady Mary Murray , became known by her name . Lady Mary’s runs for about a mile along the banks of the Earn from what is known as Ling- a –wing . Miss Margaret Wright in her journal mentions that on 12th May 1815 she “ went a little on the new walk by the water side , made by Sir Patrick . It must be delightful “ . Miss Wright in these last words expresses feelings confirmed by every native and visitor to Crieff in the last 200 years . In the account of Lady Mary’s walk in Porteous “ The History of Crieff “ , it states ( and this was written in the first decade of the 20th Century ) that : “ It is , however to be regretted , that the peaceful amenity of the walk has been somewhat spoilt by the close proximity of the Comrie Railway which runs parallel to it and the jarring rattle of the occasional train detracts from the true enjoyment of the peaceful surroundings erstwhile broken only by the gentle murmour of the river . “
The railway , sadly is long since gone . I have always regretted not having been able to enjoy that quite serene passage through what is surely our most picturesque landscape . Much still remains of the old line but sadly it is no more and Strathearn is the loser . The River Earn is the superb back drop . I remember that, for a number of years , the former Oakbank Inn sponsored a raft race from Comrie to Crieff . A fantastic spectacle battling man against nature , Again – sadly no more !
All that remains of the railway viaduct across the Turret on the path down to the Walk