Roslin Heritage Society Projects

Conservation Projects

Until recently, Roslin Heritage Society had a very active group of Conservation Volunteers. In 1988, George R Campbell, the Chairman, was advised by UK 2000 Keep Scotland Beautiful of a Clean-up Forth proposal which captured his imagination to such an extent that he invited active participation from all the local organisations. His appeal was met with enthusiasm and over one hundred volunteers assembled and picked up 10 tons of litter and scrap, Roslin being the only village in Midlothian to accept the challenge. For a number of years this litter pick became an annual Spring Clean event with a huge turn-out of local groups, young and old.

The Boys' Brigade and Brownies set off Litter Picking

During the preliminary surveys for this operation, it was noted that many of the paths were badly overgrown and a small band of mainly retired volunteers was recruited as a work force. The first project to be tackled was the rehabilitation of Jacob's Ladder which had been originally constructed by local Boy Scouts in 1913 as a series of 72 wooden steps up a steep incline from the River North Esk to a footpath along the top of an adjacent wood. They had been maintained until the carpet factory closed in 1968 and were now in a serious state of disrepair. Work continued every Saturday morning until 129 steps were built, mostly recycled concrete kerbstones which were lowered by ropes down the incline to their final positions. The ladder was completed using recycled railway sleepers.

Mr Breslin on Jacob's Ladder in 1913

Jacob's Ladder under reconstruction in 1989

Roslin Boy Scouts who completed Jacob's Ladder

The new pavement connecting the paths just before the barrier was installed

After completion of Jacob's Ladder, a path, now known as Minstrel Walk, was tackled. Legend has it that this path had been used by the minstrels who performed in Roslin Castle and who were accommodated in a house on Powdermill Brae known as Harper's Hall. There remained a dangerous gap between the southern end of Minstrel Walk and the top of Jacob's Ladder but the Highways Department of the council was persuaded to provided a pavement between the two points together with a protective barrier. The volunteers then turned their attention to renewing and extending the wooden steps down from the entrance to Roslin Castle to the footbridge over the river.

Minstrel Walk

Looking along Minstrel Walk

The work done so far had proved to be so successful that the volunteers started on the ancient right-of-way along the river between Roslin and Polton. This had originally been registered as a RoW in 1847 but had long been neglected and was impassable. During the early part of this project, the chairman applied for a grant from the Shell Better Britain Campaign. The Society was awarded £500 for the purchase of tools and materials and work progressed. In 1991, officials from the campaign visited the glen to see how their money had been spent and soon afterwards, the volunteers were amazed to learn that they had been awarded first prize for the best project in Scotland. Representatives of the team were then invited to Birmingham to meet the other nine regional finalists and it was announced that Roslin had won first prize as Shell Best of Great Britain winners out of over 500 entries.

Work in progress on the Right-of-Way

Shell Better Britain Scotland Award

Work continued along the right-of-way for many years until the Conservation Team, by now depleted in numbers, finally 'hung up their shovels' and retired. Keeping this path open is an on-going battle against the elements, landslides, fallen trees, blocked drains and the very wet weather of recent years. Work continues on parts of this path, at the Roslin end by a new group of volunteers called the Friends of Roslin Glen and further downstream at the Hewan Wood by members of the Esk Valley Trust, allowing local residents and a constant stream of visitors to enjoy the scenic beauty of Roslin Glen in all its rural tranquillity, as they have done for hundreds of years.

River View over 100 years ago

River View now

Other projects have included the repair of the sign at Rosslyn Castle Station, now a picnic area on the Penicuik to Musselburgh footpath and cycle way where recently a wildflower meadow has been planted. A lengthy section of disused railway track with a spur siding leading to the Moat Pit was cleared opening up the opportunity for more walks around the village. The Moat closed in 1969 and in 1990, a huge rehabilitation plan for the area was implemented by the council, the bing was levelled and 33,590 trees and shrubs were planted.

Painting the sign at Rosslyn Castle Station

Some of the youth team at work

A woodland footpath along the Kill Burn was restored and stepping stones placed in the burn to link paths to create circular walks. The McMillan bridge, part of the old drive to Dryden House, had collapsed some years before and this was replaced with a wooden bridge as a training exercise by the Army. Later the path was extended to connect with other paths in the area leading to Bilston and Loanhead. These projects were greatly helped by youngsters working towards their Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Bluebell Walk along the Kill Burn

New steps near Dryden

McMillan Bridge across the Kill Burn

New Army Bridge

In consultation with other organisations, the former curling pond was cleared of rubbish and a wildlife sanctuary was created. The foundations of the newer clubhouse were cleared and the older clubhouse was restored as a hide for birdwatchers. The repair of the old building offered the opportunity to members of other conservation groups to gain experience in working with traditional lime mortar.

Curling pond with clubrooms in the background

Curling pond after being cleared of rubbish

Clearing the foundations of the 'new' clubhouse

Repairing the roof of the 'old' clubhouse

In 1994, the Society decided that a suitable cairn should be erected to commemorate the Battle of Roslin and a site was chosen at Dryden/Mountmarle where a sepulchral monument once stood to the memory of Count James Lockhart Wishart who died in 1790. The once beautiful monument had become unsafe some time before and had been demolished. The new cairn and surrounding wall were designed and built by Roslin Heritage Society volunteers using stone from the original monument and wall. It was unveiled by Captain George Burnet, Lord Lieutenant of Midlothian. In 2003, the Society organised a service at the cairn to mark the 700th anniversary of the battle and produced a commemorative booklet.

Foundations for the cairn have been laid

A start has been made to the outer wall

The Memorial built to the memory of Count James Lockhart Wishart

Cairn built to commemorate the Battle of Roslin at the unveiling ceremony

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© Roslin Heritage Society 2011