Tag Archives: rooftops

Doon Dene

Down deep, down into the Dean Village we go today. First, here is the tollhouse that guards the bridge that spans the Dean Gorge, linking the higher city. A plaque on it:

All I can read of this is '1619'

Though the bridge was designed by Thomas Telford, in the 1800s. Here it is from above;

Take a breath here, the air will be different down in the Dean

Mark it; you will see it from below a little later. We take the left turn, hugging Bell’s Brae that runs down the side of the tollhouse, a much taller building than it first appears. Tall and thin, stretching down to the floor of  the valley.


The village of Dean, of the gorge, ground the grain for Edinburgh’s bread. There have been mills here since at least the time of King David the first, in the 12th century. At some point during the hard years of the 20th century, the mills fell silent and the village decayed. Now, the remaining mill buildings have been restored as residential, and the village is prosperous, but as if fallen asleep.

That’s D forging ahead. The yellow building has this above one door:


And this above another, bricked up entrance:

The symbol in the left of the centre of the wreath is a baker's paddle with loaves on it

The Water of Leith, which ran the waterwheels of the mills, now runs smoothly by, a rusted colour that laps over the weir.

On the other side of the village bridge

See those houses at the top of the picture? They are houses of the New Town, on the terraces, looking out. The New Town, if you don’t know the city, was built between 1765 and 1850, and has UNESCO world heritage status. It is stately and steely and rich and cobbled, but does not concern us now.

Let’s explore the village. There are a few people out, walking their dogs, taking pictures. It’s a clear day and windless, though down here, perhaps there is a natural break from the North Sea Easterlies which scour the higher city.

A better view of the stratification of the town

Rooftops above a paved courtyard, where the only signs of life was from the washing on the line, and even that motionless.

Though there is more to see of the village, it feels like a good idea to take a walk by the Water, following the flow towards its mouth – though we won’t reach it today.

There is our bridge...

...and there is our tollhouse, the roots of it reaching into the tangle of undergrowth lashed to the cliff

Pass under the bridge, look back:

The air sweet here, smelling of the soil and growth, and on one tree there are last year’s catkins hanging, still holding their yellow colour. Walk slowly, looking at the ivy-covered walls. Ahead, a cupola:

To a well, we think, to the Lady of Cups and her pet snake. The path continues above a short promenade where others are walking closer to the water. But we are nearly at the opening of the valley, led into Stockbridge, the area that will join us to the New Town again.

There is one last thing: We stand on the last bridge of the day, one we do not need to cross. Just for the looking back. And in the water, a man:

As mysterious as the lady of the cups and snake

But even more ambiguous in his expression and position. Supplicant? Memorialising the long human impact on the Water? Speaking to all of us who get to live with our feet out of the cold river? I’ve made his image older, because I found his expression a little too haunting, and this softens it. I do not want you to go away with a feeling of melancholy. I’m sure he chats to the lady or the snake, from time to time, asking for a sip from the well, and she tells him stories from the time when the millstones turned and carts and horses clattered along her path.

Now it’s time to climb the hill homeward, but you know your own way from here.



Filed under 2012, Edinburgh, Scotland, The Now

Back to the Village

Christmas is over, Boxing Day is done, and the flat is still strewn with tinsel, many surfaces padded with cards, and the fridge full of rich left-overs to be munched when appetite returns.

So, time to resume where I left off, in the beautiful St Mawes.

Looking out over the rooftops, towards the inlet

It is really such a lovely place, cluttered up streets tucking in on themselves, tiny houses tressed in ivy and climbing plants, and those subtropical species that seem to endure quite well on the mild westerly coast of the UK.

A pink cottage with palm trees leaning in close

A thatched house on the road up to the castle

Ye Olde Petrol Pumps

It has been so well preserved I think because of its location, at the tip end of the Roseland peninsula. Hard to get to by car, along those single-track roads (hairpin bends, obscured further by high hedgerows), the quickest way to get there is by special chain-boat ferry.

The Ferry, decked out for Christmas (I love the little man watching over the cars)

The ferry leaves from a small hamlet with the docking point, that wonderfully appears on the map under the name of King Harry Ferry. As you can see, it’s more of a flat platform, and is ported across the river Fal by the use of chains, rather than an engine on the boat itself.

Despite the small difficulties of getting there, the village (or perhaps it is a town) doesn’t feel isolated or in any way dead, even in the depths of winter.

All the cottages have names, some descriptive of those who used to live there, others a bit fanciful (like 'Pirate cottage') and then there was this one

This cottage has a pretty sensible name, considering its location..

...quite close to this, the Holy Well of St Mawes (dating from around the 6th Century, and sadly locked behind this tiny door)

I really wanted to open the door and peer down into the well underneath. A grotto of ferns around a dark, stone pool – or perhaps less impressive, and better imagined than seen.

With all these sights to fire the mind, I plan to start back later today on the draft of The Millennial, hoping to bring something of the spark of the place into Aida’s memories, to wind the ivy and the smell of salt air around her (inland, American) loneliness.


Filed under Planning, The Millenial, The Now