Friday
May112012

10 - Bell's Mill

This is my favourite spot along the river – listen, all you can hear is bird song and running water, yet we are close to the centre of the city. Across this footbridge and up the steep steps you can access the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art – open daily. The galleries influence has spread to the river at this point with a number of works of art and memorials along the wall and most obviously the Statue by Antony Gormley standing in the pool at the back of the weir.

The Haugh or meadow land next to the river at this point is managed by the Water of Leith Conservation Trust and has recently been the focus of volunteer effort to improve it for wildlife. Hundreds of wildflowers have been planted and a meadow cutting regime put in place – what wildflowers can you spot? In Summer look out for oxeye daisy, st johns wort, meadow cranesbill, yarrow and the tall purple bellflowers.

The weir and lade cottage across the water marks the beginning of the Bell’s Mills complex, one of the oldest milling sites on the river dating from the 11th Century. The pool above the large oblique weir is ominously known as the cauldron. The lade still flows into the land to the north of the river, now home to the Edinburgh sports club and a modern housing development. Only the mill owners house and the granary survive and today form part of the Hotel you will pass as you continue downstream. Bells Mills was the last mill to operate under the power of water and was owned by the Walker family. In 1972 it was grinding wood flour to make linoleum when it exploded in spectacular fashion destroying the mill and injuring many mill workers including Lawrence Walker the owner. The next audio point is near the footbridge in Dean Village.