Housing group plans to preserve historic trenches

The Dreghorn trenches.  Picture: Ian Rutherford

The Dreghorn trenches. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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A HOUSING firm has taken over an area of woodland containing First World War trenches and is set to launch a project to preserve the historic site.

An Evening News-backed campaign secured the future of the trenches on Dreghorn training estate last year.

They had been lying largely forgotten in an area of MoD-owned woodland, known locally as Covenanters Wood, until historian Lynne Gladstone-Millar, brought them to the Ministry of Defence’s attention. Her father, William Ewart Gladstone-Millar, was trained in the network prior to the Battle of the Somme.

The site has now been handed over to developer Miller Homes Ltd and Taylor Wimpey, who have bought the land.

They have drafted a management plan for the trenches under planning arrangements for a nearby part of the Dreghorn Barracks site, known as the Polo Fields, which has been sold for housing.

Last year, a £6500 survey was commissioned by the city council which uncovered two sets of trenches to the north and south of Bonaly Burn.

Those trenches to the north of the burn were different to those on the south and some of them may have been dug in the run up to the Second World War or even later.

There were concerns about large trees overgrowing the trenches and rising levels of silt.

Miller Homes Ltd – which has appointed a project manager for the site – said its first steps would include the treatment of invasive species and the removal of trees and shrubs which may cause further damage to the trenches. Mrs Gladstone-Millar, who has written a book on her father’s wartime experiences, said: “I’m delighted that the management plan is being carried out, and the sooner the better.

“I’m very happy. It can’t come too soon. The trenches are getting worse all the time.”

“I am delighted that they’re getting on with it. It’s so muddy - they should do something about the state of the paths as well.”

She said the site was “very personal” to her, adding: “I have photographs of them in the 1980s, and when you see them now it’s obvious that nothing’s been done with them since then. It’s extraordinary.” Her father was one of only two students from his final year at university to survive the Great War.

She recalls him telling her the training troopers would “march each day to the Dreghorn Woods and the Pentland Hills to learn the craft of trench warfare”. She remembers her father saying: “It always seemed to be raining and, day in day out, we had to plunge in and out of these trenches, getting soggier and soggier. And then there was the march back to Mortonhall.”

More than 50,000 trees will be planted to create new native woodland at the MoD base in Dreghorn.