This area is known as Powderhall, a name which is said to have originated from the gunpowder factory which once existed nearby. Some say the name is derived from the old Scots ‘Poldre Haw’, meaning ‘Marshy Haugh’. During the 19th century the stretch of the river covering Cannonmills, Warriston and St Marks Park was known as ‘Puddockie’, a popular area for catching frogs and toads (or puddocks) and tadpoles.
The area was once dominated by an athletics stadium laid out in 1869. It was also the side of the first Scottish Amateur Athletic Association Championship, and in 1922 during the final meeting here both sprint events were won by Eric Liddell, upon whose story the film Chariots of Fire was based. It was used for many years as the home of the professional New Year Powderhall Sprint, but hosted a variety of sporting activities including football, rugby, speedway and greyhound racing before being demolished in 1995 to make way for housing.
If you look into the river at this point you should see another Gormley ‘standing man’ statue in the river. These statues were erected in 2010 and form part of the work of art called “6 Times” by the celebrated artist and sculptor. These are designed to topple over on hinges in severe flood events to prevent the build up of blockages in the river. So if you cannot see it, he must be face down in the water, and has yet to be restored to the vertical!
Continue downstream and you will soon pass under another disused railway line and emerge at Redbraes weir. This weir fed a complex of mills, mainly grain, but included a skin works and also dyeing and bleaching works. Can you guess what was the purpose of the tall chimney? … No, it was not to remove smoke but it served as an air vent for the main sewer – charming!
Keep your eyes and ears open as this is a popular area for catching a surprise of that colourful bird, the Kingfisher, although a flash of electric blue may be all that you will catch.
Beyond the weir, cycleways and the walkway converge an area called ‘steadfast gate’, so be sure to keep to the riverside path. A flight of steps will lead you up onto Newhaven Road, which is still on the official walkway route, and here you will find another audio point No. 17.
Video by Jim Cross, Edinburgh U3A Movie Makers Group