Collisdean House

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Most high rise blocks put up in the 1960’s suffer from an image problem. Too often they are tainted from being neglected and poorly maintained, and allowed to depreciate to the point that they are fit only to be blown up – to the delight of crowds of cheering school-children bussed in for the photo-shoot.

Some however are a surprise, like for instance Collisdean House.
At first blush you probably wouldn’t give it a second glance. It sits almost at the edge of Edinburgh on the sea coast road to Musselburgh. It’s eleven stories tall and has mixed tenure of 41 flats some owned by their residents and others by Social Housing.

And it’s a gem.

Build in 1966 by Wimpy’s it has retained something of the optimism that came with the times. The entrance hall is small certainly, poky almost, but still pristine. The original tiling is still perfect and intact and the fixings, the varnished and glazed boxes for the notice boards take a pride of place. Even the notices catch a different era with their slightly officious and bossy tone.

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Externally the views are quite superb and amongst the best in the city. Sadly for me there is some upgrading work ongoing and my photo has elements of the scaffolding in the way. At eleven stories high the top flats are not yet too high, too divorced from the community on the ground and the sight of the carefully swept expanse of beach even in December is inviting. Maybe I will come back in summer to see if I can better it!

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Collisdean House is built on the site of an earlier Collisdean House that had a small claim to fame as the occupation of Mrs Grieve one of Edinburgh’s suffragettes. An active WSPU member Mrs Grieve had been imprisoned in London and afterwards was prominent in giving others the shelter of her home as a sort of safe house during the time of the Cat & Mouse Act. In 1913 she refused to pay her taxes and some of her goods were sold off in an auction.

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There are few photographs of the property then but those that survive show us another of those idiosyncratic dwellings Edinburgh once boasted. Looking at it reminds one of “Rockcliffe” in Merchiston which also survived into the 1960’s.

Copyright David Macadam 2015

Christian Path, Portobello

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This surely must fit the bill for unregarded! Christian Path is a small obscure pathway, now part of the Edinburgh cycleway that runs in a wobbly line from Brighton Place at the side of the railway bridge through to Windsor Place.

Nowadays it is called Christian Path, though it seems to have been universally known as Jobby Lane by generations of Portobello children. Named, so it is said, because Major Sir Hugh Henry Christian JP, and twice Provost of Portobello back in the 1880’s had needed a path made to offer himself a short cut to the station.

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But just walking down this path feels older, much much older. A vast ancient plum tree adorns the banking and must be a delight in spring and summer. Rich dank vegetation clambers up the steep embankment as the path eases its way round the backs of houses, twisting its way west.

Certainly Sir Hugh did upgrade the path in 1886, and he put in a subway entrance to the station, still visible but now bricked up, but he did not make the path itself. Some have seen the path in boundary maps of the 1850’s where it was being used as a short cut from the railway to Sandford Street (nowadays called Sandford Gardens) and others claim it was the boundary of a chapel of ease as far back as 1818.

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However it is even more venerable than that. Christian Path – or whatever it was known as before the Major’s day, was a medieval track along a sluggish slow burn (leche) that marked a boundary of the lands called Figgate. Figgate itself is thought to be a Norse term for a cow pasture which if right might take our little path back a thousand years or more.

Unregarded certainly, worth a detour- definitely!

Copyright David Macadam 2015

Back Green Summer

20150715_095900[1]Too often one can find that an Edinburgh tenement back green at this time of year is a riot of rank grass and wild buddlia.

Not so in Meadowbank Crescent where one back gree stands as a tranquil oasis in the very heart of the city, and shows what can be done with a bit of imagination and a load of work.

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20150715_100006[1]This jewel is the product of twenty-seven years and has become a little wildlife sanctuary.

Would there were more.

Copyright David Macadam 2015