Dighty Burn Midsummer Meander, Dundee
- Some historical background and related walks
- Midsummer Meander - the walk itself
- a Break at Trottick
- a Detour near Sainsbury's
- Looking Ahead
We've had coverage of some hiking routes alongside the Dighty Burn on Walking Stories for a few years now (see this variation on the Broughty Ferry coastal walk). Many people living in Dundee enjoy walks and cycle rides along various sections of path close to the Dighty, whether for pleasure or on the way to work or shops. Some people take in longer stretches by following the Green Circular, which makes use of the Dighty paths on its northern arc. But probably very few have experienced the contrasting scenery of countryside and town in a single walk.
However, a member of Dighty Connect, Avril Wilkinson, uncovered a story in the Local History Section of Dundee Reference Library and reported that "One author decided to walk the 15 mile length of the Dighty taking 2 days to allow for detours to places of interest. On 19 December 1953 he took with him on the walk a map from 1794 and a sketch book. He describes the walk and also drew sketch maps." Funnily enough, the Secretary of the Sidlaw Path Group, Gillian Zealand, thought that this sounded like the sort of thing her father used to get up to, so she went to investigate: "As I suspected, it was in 'Dundee's Own Christmas Annual', 1953 and it was indeed by my father, Colin Gibson. So thank you for putting me onto it!"
Dighty Connect members also came across a "Dighty Valley Picture Tour" describing a map from 1835 which indicated the location and purpose of 36 mills along the Dighty, which was why Colin Gibson dubbed it "Scotland's hardest working stream". Several of the mills ground meal and flour and a couple were used for threshing, but the majority were plash mills (used in the bleaching process for textile production) and there were two spinning mills down towards the mouth of the burn at Monifieth. Another old map, on display in the "House of Memories in Monifieth", shows 42 industrial sites along the burn from Lundie Mill via a Manure Works to the Tramway Depot at Monifieth.
Most of these industrial premises have been lost since the 19th century, but some evidence remains in a few buildings such as Milton Mill, Monifieth and the Mill o'Mains at Claverhouse, as well as engineering works along the burn itself. Trottick Ponds is the outstanding example, once supplying a mill and bleachworks and now a haven of tranquility and wildlife.
The start of our walk was itself made possible by 19th century industrial development as it followed the route of the old railway from Dundee to Newtyle. As a result of the efforts of the Sidlaw Path Network Group and Angus Council it is now a broad path suitable for pedestrians, cyclists and horseriders, leading from Auchterhouse Station, past Dronley and Templeton farms, to Rosemill - the Dronley Railway Path.
A circuit can be made using waymarked paths beside fields to take in Dronley Wood, and it is also possible to link up with Dundee's Country Parks. Walk south from Rosemill a short distance to the corner of the road, up steps and through a gate, then up a steep slope planted with Christmas trees (best taking a wide zig-zag to right then left) to exit the top left corner of the field and enter Baldragon wood nearby. Turn to the right along the woodland path leading to Clatto Country Park and on to Templeton and Camperdown.
Dighty Connect is an initiative funded by the Voluntary Action Fund to enable volunteers to undertake projects they are interested in, linked to the environmental and cultural elements of the Dighty Burn. Launched at the end of June 2009, it was appropriate to mark the progress made over 12 months by inviting those involved to take part in a "Midsummer Meander" along the length of the Dighty. It was also fitting that, as there had been good co-operation with the Sidlaw Path Network Group over the past year (as well as the Newtyle Group) that several of their members should be able to join the walk.
And so just after 1 pm around 23 of us (plus 3 dogs) assembled in a layby near Templeton Farm on the road to Dronley (map ref 348358), giving access to the Dronley Railway Path. It had been decided that this would be a good place to start, less than 4 miles east of the Dighty's source at Lundie, as sections nearer the source were not easily accessible. The Dighty and Sidlaw group members introduced themselves, final preparations were made, and Ann explained that she would meet us at convenient points along the route to provide refreshments and pick up anyone who might have walked far enough. A group photo was taken with Dronley Wood in the background (see the Gallery).
Then we set out on the walk in the sunshine, along the path bordered by splendid trees, in the midst of peaceful countryside, chatting away. When I was last there a few months earlier, at the end of a long winter, the branches of the trees were stark and bare against a blue sky. This time they were soft and full with leaves hanging down and the verges of the path were splashed with wildflower displays. The path clearance must have required an enormous quantity of vegetation to be cut back and removed but it had been highly effective in creating an attractive avenue bordered by trees.
We first saw the Dighty itself when we reached a wooden bridge and John Brush, Chairman of the Sidlaw Group, explained the story of the older bridge just a few yards away on the south side. This was the first of numerous crossings of the burn (around 15). It was just over a mile to the end of the path at Rosemill, a small collection of buildings beside a minor country road. It has always surprised me to think that this attractive settlement is barely 4 miles from the busy centre of Dundee.
The railway line once went straight through here, but it's not yet been converted into a path due to difficulties of access at the eastern end, even though most of it would be passable with some clearance work. Instead we walked along the quiet road leading the three-quarters of a mile straight to Bridgefoot, with the line of the Dighty just about visible running through the field on our left. Away beyond we could see the Sidlaw tops - Auchterhouse Hill with the ancient hillfort and larch trees, and Craigowl a bit higher to the right, topped by communications masts.
We had become a bit of a straggle by the time we reached Bridgefoot but it was fine to take a break and lean on the stone parapet of the bridge looking down at the ducks paddling around in the water below. There was obviously some renovation work under way on the mill wheel which could be seen downstream. Memories of past days when the Craig Mill was still active were shared. Once everyone had gathered again and had time for a rest we set off again, taking the Craigmill Road on the north side of the burn which passed an attractive row of old cottages, with the kirkyard opposite. (A minor road leads north-east from here, uphill to Hillhouses, joining an off-road route which can be followed from South Fallows in the west, through to Gallowhill, then via Hillhouses to join another road near Emmock.)
Our route continued east, past the estate of Strathmartine Hospital, now largely abandoned. Just beyond, a minor road led off to the right past Pitempton Farm, down over the Dighty and then up towards the houses on the edge of town. As we stopped to take in the view a heron rose up and drifted away past the trees.
Staying on the Craigmill Road we continued to enjoy good views south over the Dighty towards Dundee, before the road sloped down to another bridge at Baldovan. Time for another breather to look down towards a well-kept garden in one direction, and back up into the countryside in the other direction.
Now we were in Dundee; we turned left along the Harestane Road and walked along for half a mile past the houses. Then we reached the first stretch of the Dighty where we could walk close to the banks, at first high up past beech trees lining the grassy ridge. Walking or driving along Harestane Road you would have no idea what lay just over this little ridge. Down below, across the burn, was an old bridge and mill buildings at Balmuirfield. After crossing a minor access road to Balmuirfield we walked into an impressive stand of beech trees with an informal path leading through, then found our way out onto the grass verge again (this isn't an "official" path but is well used).
We had reached the junction with the road up Emmock Brae. On the other side was the first information board we had seen for the Green Circular, on the edge of Trottick. Now a tarmac cycle path led ahead between the wooded ridge above the burn on the left, and new houses on the right. The path sloped down to run close by the burn before crossing a footbridge and entering the verdant area of Trottick Ponds. A track led up to the left around the edge of fields below Balmuir House. We followed the main Green Circular path round to the right, rejoining the bank of the Dighty and then past a sluice gate controlling the flow of water into a lade which maintains the water level in the ponds to the left.
A family with young children were feeding swans as we walked past, then we emerged (crossing another footbridge) to find that Ann had the minibus parked and was beginning to provide tea and biscuits to the early arrivals. We'd been on the go for just over 2 hours, so it was a welcome break. Unfortunately the nearby pub had been closed for business for a couple of years, but on a sunny Sunday afternoon we were happy enough to relax on the grass. Afterwards Adrian, from the Sidlaws Group, who had brought his bike, bade farewell and set out to pedal back home.
There was still plenty of walking to be done for the rest of us though, so we got started again after 20 minutes' break. The Green Circular took us back across the Dighty and into Claverhouse Park, rather than through Caird Park which stretches uphill to the south from Claverhouse Road. We had to turn up left to cross a footbridge over the busy Forfar Road before descending into Finlathen Park, crossing the Dighty again as we did so. This large park is well-used for local football matches but was quiet by 4 pm on a Sunday afternoon. There was a short detour to take in a crossing of the former aqueduct which now provides a raised path over the park, then a stretch beside the burn before crossing it once again and heading over to Longhaugh.
We passed the attractive picnic and wildlife area which has been created next to the burn by the Dighty Environmental Group then walked through the stretch of mixed woodland extending over towards the Drumgeith playing fields. From here we could see the wind turbines at Michelin in the distance. The next stretch of the Green Circular went through Drumgeith Meadow where Dighty Connect has been active in recent months planting trees and wild flowering plants, and we spotted some of the small saplings poking out from the other vegetation. Debbie pointed out an orchid flowering just inside one fenced-off area (although I've heard the name several times, I keep forgetting it, but it had a purplish spike of flowers and I'd seen a load of them the previous day near Linlathen, a bit further downstream).
Not far away was a concrete seat which should look magnificent when it is decorated with mosaics which members of Dighty Connect are currently working on at Douglas Community Centre. The Drumgeith section finished past the car breakers yard, the Baldovie waste incinerator and the Michelin factory - not the most scenic stretch, but the Dighty flowed past uncaringly on the other side. We were struck by the sight of lots of giant hogweed plants seemingly trapped between two parallel lines of fencing around Michelin land, the seed heads rising menacingly above our heads.
When we reached the main road opposite Sainsbury's, I asked Debbie about a colony of sand martins which she had mentioned a few days earlier (thinking they were nearby). As a result, we ended up going on a half-hour detour on the path along the north side of the Dighty to where the colony could be seen on the other side of the confluence with the Murroes Burn. A couple of young lads had ridden there on their bikes, and there was a dog as well, trying to paddle across the burn. A dead tree trunk had been laid over to the other side but there was a barbed wire fence in the way and it didn't look like a feasible route for adult hikers!
This is the spot where, eventually, it is hoped that a footbridge will be built to link up with a new path on the other side leading to the historic iron bridges at Linlathen (we could see the closer of the two from where we stood). We had to retrace our steps and then walk round to Sainsbury's car park, where Ann was waiting patiently with further supplies of tea and biscuits. Some walkers took advantage of the other facilities available at the supermarket.
By now the time was running on (it was after 5.30), and my plan to take people around to see the old Linlathen bridges had to be abandoned. Instead we would continue on the Green Circular alongside the A92. A couple of people dropped out here, but most were keen to continue. The Sidlaw section had the option of an early lift back to their starting point but preferred to see the walk through to the end. We set off again, with the sun shining as brightly as ever, and made good progress on the cycle path.
As we approached the Balmossie Bridge, where an old Wishing Well can be seen tucked away down to the left, we turned off the cycle track onto a grass path which led round to the side of the Dighty once again. This quarter-mile stretch had been overgrown with hogweed, but Debbie and I had been along a few days earlier to clear the path. Eventually it is hoped the hogweed will be eradicated. The path leads through to a small grassy area before joining the Balgillo Road, then entering another section of parkland crossed by the Seven Arches Viaduct (which takes a linked cycle and walking path over towards Grange and Ethiebeaton).
We walked under the Seven Arches, across a wide haugh which Angus Council had planted up as part of its Millennium Forest, and down past Grange Primary School to join the main road from Dundee to Monifieth. We turned right, over the Dighty for the last time, then left along a couple more streets and over the railway bridge at Balmossie Station. At this point our route joined the Coastal Path which continues (with some interruptions) all the way round to Norway! We could leave that for another day. Away to the left we could see the Dighty flowing out into the sea and a flotilla of swans massed around the outflow on the lookout for freshwater food. Congratulations all round, final photos, and some farewells as people went off in different directions.
The clock was ticking towards 7 pm - we had been going for about 5 and a half hours, but a determined walker could easily shave an hour or more of this time. A few people were able to stay longer, to mark the Summer Solstice on the foreshore near Barnhill Rock Gardens. For everyone concerned, it seemed it had been a splendid day full of interest and variety and good company.
It would be great to think that others will follow us in the future, perhaps finding some new sections of path to follow, just as we had followed in the steps of Colin Gibson.
Forbes and Niall, two of our Dighty Poets, took part in the walk, and will perhaps have been inspired to produce some new works to entertain us in the future. A drama production is also planned in future months, to be held somewhere along the Dighty, and Elaine had been on the lookout for a suitable location on the way. And so a single walk, characterised by remnants from the past, can be just a part of a much wider unfolding story.
Contributed by Andrew Llanwarne, 4 July 2010< Back to Scotland page for links to other stories
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