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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

Environment

Environment | Land ownership | Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction

The climate of the parish, influenced by its proximity to the coast, meant that extremes of weather were rare. Wildlife abounds in Gladsmuir; otters are seen in the ponds at Woodside, and there is a badger sett in the pond area with another two setts about half a mile away. Over the period, there was a slight decline in foxes, but a definite increase in rats and frogs. Herons, buzzards, mistle thrushes, fieldfares, long-tailed tits, crows, wood pigeons, and seagulls have all increased in number, while curlews, skylarks, partridges and house sparrows all decreased. There was a big increase in red admiral butterflies, and a general decline in wild flowers; many elm trees succumbed to Dutch elm disease. Ferns, nettles, hogweed, ivy, honeysuckle and moss all increased.

The eventual nature reserve of Butterdean wood, an area of mixed woodland surrounding the site of the demolished Butterdean house between Gladsmuir and Hodges farm, changed hands several times. The Forestry Commission bought it in 1947 and, by the late 1960s much of the area had been cleared of broadleaved trees and planted with conifers. In 1982 the Ogilvy family, earlier owners of the woodland, repurchased it and some of the trees were sold as Christmas trees. The local authority put on a tree preservation order to prevent felling for agricultural use.

In 1988 the Woodland Trust, with financial assistance from the local council, bought the wood. They have since carried out extensive thinning and opened up coniferous areas, thus releasing any existing broadleaves, and allowing for natural regeneration. In the broadleaved areas, the conifers have been removed. Since the Woodland Trust has been responsible for Butterdean, provision has been made for public access. There is a surfaced track at the northern end of the wood, signposts and explanation boards and within the wood itself, an extensive network of paths; there are three asserted and one confirmed public right of way, which connected to and /or passed through the wood; the wood is used regularly by local people for dog walking and so on. The quality of the woodland as a habitat for wildlife, much diminished as a result of the conifer planting, was gradually improving by 2000.

The proximity of the railway and the A1 road has meant continuing pressure on land in the parish for development. So far, both industrial and housing development have been restricted largely to the village of Macmerry, where 32 acres of land at the eastern end were zoned for industrial development in the early 1960s. The first industrial unit opened there in 1966; by the 1990s all the land was occupied and an extension was being planned.

Also in the 1990s, there were proposals for a large housing development at Greendykes, but these were resisted successfully.

Land Ownership

By 2000, much of the land in the parish was in private hands or belonged to the local council. The large estates - St Germains, Lamington, and Elvingston - had been sold and broken up into smaller units. In 1947 the trustees of Charles Stewart Parker Tennant sold St Germains estate in lots. James Rennie, the farmer at Greendykes, bought three lots. On Lord Lamington's death in 1954, the farms of Gladsmuir, Hoprig, Hoprigmains, Penston and Westbank were sold to the tenant farmers. Many subsequently changed hands again.

The Elvingston estate had been owned by the Ainslie family since 1836; it was bought by Sir David Lowe in 1944 and was sold off in lots in the 1980s after his death. The last remaining 30 acres, along with the mansion house of Elvingston, were bought by Dr David Simpson and his wife Janice in 1987. Dr Simpson established a Science Park (1998) in the grounds (see Economy).

Development in the different parts of the parish of Gladsmuir/ Macmerry during this period was quite varied. The village of Gladsmuir changed relatively little. Macmerry expanded, with growth both in the areas zoned for industry and in housing, but still remained a self-contained and active working village rather than simply a dormitory suburb for Edinburgh. In the surrounding rural areas, farming continued, with some restoration and extension of former farm buildings into private homes. The airfield was decommissioned in 1955; since then the site has been used partly for agriculture and partly for industry.

Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction

Both the current parish church in Gladsmuir (originally built in 1839 and rebuilt after a fire in 1886) and the ruins of the earlier church (dated 1695), are B listed, as are the Elvingston house and lodges, and an 18th century doocot at Elvingston. The doocot was restored by Sir David Lowe, and contains 764 nesting boxes: Dr and Mrs Simpson have restored the house. From 1947, J. E. Rennie owned the mansion house of St Germains (originally part of Seton estate); he sold it to J. N. Toothill, who divided it into flats in the 1950s.

Small areas of parkland surrounding the mansion houses of St Germains and Elvingston have been retained; Stephen Adamson carried out some restoration work on the Elvingston garden.

Aerial view of Gladsmuir village

Aerial view of Gladsmuir village

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