Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Bannockburn and the forgotten Lime Industry

Mention the name Bannockburn and everyone remembers that Robert the Bruce fought a great battle there. Most people will also remember that he fought the English there and he won the battle. Some people will remember the date was June 1314 especially if they have been to the Bannockburn Heritage Centre which documents the battle.

But few people seem to remember the thriving Lime Industry which was built around the Bannock burn, North Third and Cambusbarron Area. It lasted until the 1920's. The Lime was mined and then heated in Lime Kilns to turn it into Calcium oxide which was then turned into Calcium Hydroxide in slating pits. It was for agricultural use. The soil around the Stirling area is heavy clay and very acidic so it was spread on the fields in great quantities to reduce the acidity thus making the soil more fertile for crops.

Three Lime workings were around the Bannockburn. Craigend Lime works, Murrayshall Lime works, and Gillies Hill Lime works. It was hard dangerous work, the lime could burn or blind the people who worked it. Vagrants and poor folks often slept in or near the kilns during the cold winter months, as they were a source of heat, but the lime took its toll on them too.

When I was walking around the North Third Reservoir I decided to explore some of the remote woods to see what I could find. I couldn't help notice the damage caused by the recent storms. Hundreds of trees have been blown down all over the place. Many of the paths and walkways have been shut until the fallen trees are made safe.

I ignored the warning signs and headed deep into the woods. I was going north to the old Ash tree woods on the Bannockburn banks. Sadly, there was a lot of trees down here as well. The winds after Hurricane Bawbag have created a lot of damage around this area.

After a mile or so I came to the Bannockburn which is not very wide or deep at this point.

Then I came to a clearing and saw the Craigend Lime Kilns. They were huge compared to the smaller ones I visited on the Island of Lismore last summer.

Someone had been cutting trees and vegetation off the old stone walls, so perhaps there are some that remember the industry from years gone by and want to preserve its history.

I went deeper into the woods. It was hard going, climbing over fallen trees, trying to cross marshy ground, there was not much of a path to follow, but I was on a mission. I was looking for more relics of the industry. I came across another set of smaller kilns so I knew I was getting close.

I then headed through the undergrowth towards the Quarts Dolemite cliffs of Sauchie Craigs and eventually found what I was searching for. The lime was mined from deep under the craigs. I had found one of the old mines.

The walls looked in a very dangerous state. Bricks had fallen out and soil was oozing through the gaps. The floor was covered in a foot of water. I knew the atmosphere in there could kill me within seconds if the oxygen content was to low. I could see the mine disappearing round a corner around 50m from the entrance. I knew it would go a long way further in.

I thought of a movie on TV that I couldn't watch over the holiday period. It was a true story called 127 Hours. I turned it off when a lone walker got his arm trapped by a boulder while he was in the wilderness. He had to cut his arm off with his pen knife to free himself so he could get back to civilisation and help. The movie was too near the knuckle for me. I know I could not cut my arm off even if it was to save the rest of me. I love exploring on my own ..but the mine in the middle of nowhere was just a bit too much.

I headed for home happy knowing I had remembered some history about the Bannockburn.

1 comment:

Robert Murray said...

Fantastic and quite right about not going into the mine. I've wandered along the burn south of the reservoir where their is the remains of burning pits.