Trenches boost as company expresses interest in tours

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The campaign to save Edinburgh’s First World War trenches has been given a boost after a major tour company said it wanted to take groups to the site.

The crumbling network of trenches at Dreghorn Woods in Colinton, which were used to train soldiers before they headed to the battlefield, are at risk of disappearing as they become overgrown by trees.

The Evening News-backed campaign to save them, which it is estimated would come at a cost of around £10,000, is being led by writer and historian Lynne Gladstone-Millar, whose father, William Ewart Gladstone-Millar, was trained in the trenches.

Des Brogan, director of Mercat Tours, said today he wanted to include the trenches in his firm’s First World War tours aimed at schoolchildren and believes there will be renewed interest as the centenary of the outbreak of war is commemorated in two years’ time.

He said: “All different parts of the puzzle are coming together.

“I’m already taking bookings for the 2014 centenary and I’m planning a major three-day event with the Belgian government – we will even recreate the Christmas Day football match.

“The tours help these kids get back in to the past.”

Mr Brogan took groups of children to visit the Dreghorn trenches in the 1970s and 80s while working as a history teacher at Holy Rood High.

His Mercat international tours see children from comprehensive and private schools across Scotland visit sites of historical importance at home and abroad.

Mr Brogan said: “I do think we will find many people who are interested in visiting.”

The 16th Battalion The Royal Scots dug trenches in the Colinton and Dreghorn area which, at the time of the First World War, was countryside, before they made their way to France.

The area of Dreghorn Woods where the trenches lie is open to the public and is owned by the MoD.

Representatives from Historic Scotland, the MoD and the city council have been in talks to discuss how the trenches could be preserved.

Efforts are now under way to secure enough money to carry out a survey of the site, although the MoD said today that no further progress has been made.

Ms Gladstone-Millar described Mr Brogan’s backing as “tremendous”. She said: “The fact that Mercat Tours are interested is a great thing.”

“But to really feel that we are going forward we need the MoD to be able to say they are going to survey them.”

The Ministry of Defence is currently investigating possible future uses for the site.

A spokesman said: “The MoD, in partnership with Edinburgh City Council, is looking to commission a survey at Dreghorn Trenches to identify the condition and extent of the 
trenches.”