DAYS at DUNGLASS

DAYS at DUNGLASS

Perhaps the most unusual land features here are the deans, 'deep gorges clothed by forests, watched by castles' and cut by streams which flow to the sea.   . . .
This area is also of great geological interest, revealed along the cliffs and especially at Siccar Point.   . . .
Dunglass Dean, at the narrowest part of the coastal route from the Merse into Lothian, has marked the boundary since medieval times.
Sally Smith,  COCKBURNSPATH, A History of a People and a Place
ISBN 0 9535409 1 X

A water mill on the lower stretch of Dunglass burn was recorded in 1648, but the building we knew in the '60s and '70s was built about 1900.  A man who looked after the printers in the Edinburgh Regional Computing Centre told us that he remembered his father going there to get his oatmeal ground during the first World War.  In 1918, it was converted into a power house to generate electricity for the Dunglass estate.  Mains electricity came in 1953, and the semi-derelict building was soon sold to the mother of three talented people - a weaver, a potter and a composer - who had recently become our friends.  In the mid '60s, Ruth inherited the mill and spent a lot of time there with her children, sleeping in the upper part where her mother had spent every summer.  The ground floor was turned over, complete with old machinery beds, to a group of friends.  We used it frequently until about 1977 when Ruth's daughter took over and transformed it into a very desirable residence, later sold to Sally Smith, author of the book quoted above.

Ruth        Joan         Bobby

Dunglass Mill, autumn 1973
Dunglass Mill in 1973
Sheer east bank of Dunglass burn behind the mill, 1974 Dick on the path down the west side of the burn, 1972












We still enjoy the memory of a day in June, 1974, when Physics 4 joined us at the mill.  Two cod, of a size you never see nowadays, had been ordered from the Dunbar fishmonger.  Wrapped in clay dug from the shore by the advance party (Joan, Carol, Malcolm and Neil), they baked to perfection in the bonfire:

Class of '74 : barbecue at Dunglass
Dick and (a few of) the class of '74
In case of accident, we brought out an ancient hip-bath that we had found in the attic of our George Square flat when we first went there in December, 1950, and filled it with water.  But it wasn't needed, except for dish-washing.  Later, we presented it to the Edinburgh Students' Physical Society, on condition that it be used in the Charities Day parade every nth year.  I wonder where it is now!
Burnfoot cottage, midwinter 1973-74
The first time we ever went to Dunglass was in 1957, when we travelled by bus from Edinburgh with a tent, to camp beside Burnfoot Cottage where Ruth's brother was spending the summer with his family.  Dick and our son helped to mend the chimney!

Burnfoot cottage, with work in progress on chimney
Dick and Hillary at chimney Bobby and Dick at chimney
Dick and Hillary on roof Judy, Hillary, Elliot, with dachshund puppies


the cottage
 Needless to say, it rained so much one night that we ended up sleeping on the kitchen floor for the rest of the week.  
One day, when we went down to the shore, we met Ruth's mother for the first time.  She was sitting on a rock the height of a big wellieboot, at the foot of the cliffs on the Berwickshire side of the burn.  Delightedly, she showed us that the rock was the shape of a tree-stump with roots spreading out from it - a fossil tree.
In those days it was easy to walk beyond the cottage to the shore.  The path ran along a wide strip of grass, closely cropped by rabbits, until it reached a place where the burn could be forded as it ran through a shingle bed to the sea.
mouth of burn
This, we were told, was part of the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh before the high bridge behind the mill was built at the start of the 17th century.  A stony beach faced east, between the cliffs and a spacious grassy promontory.  Ten years later, the promontory had all but disappeared, and the only trace of the fossil tree was a large smooth flat stone, visible at low tide to those who knew where to look.  But in 1974 there was still a band of clay under the rocks where the promontory had been.

rocky shore    Looking past Reed Point and Cove Harbour to Fast Castle Head 

There was now another fossil tree stump above the tideline, in among boulders which had fallen from the cliff.  Over the years it too would disappear into the sea and, as the cliff crumbled in winter storms, fresh trees would appear, but none so impressive as that first one.
fossil forest
In fact, there was a whole forest of tree-like stones embedded in the base layer of the cliff. As the sea washed out the softer material around them, one could see more appearing every year, in the depths of the dark slot in the above picture.
Click on pictures to see close-ups

fossil tree

Over time, too, the path became overgrown with thorn after rabbits were almost wiped out with myxomatosis, while the back of the beach got closer and closer to the burn; one of these days, the burn will find a new way to the sea.

Shore east of Dunglass burn
Looking from the shadow of the cliff towards the burn mouth

Except where otherwise stated, all photos on this site are copyright WS/RMS, 1957-2003

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