Edinburgh WWI trenches suffer flood defence damage

David Bewsey at the site of the WWI trenches. Picture: Joey Kelly
David Bewsey at the site of the WWI trenches. Picture: Joey Kelly
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PART of the Capital’s historic First World War trenches have been damaged by botched flood defence works.

A channel was dug through one of the training trenches at Redford Woods in Colinton to provide an outlet for water from a nearby stream.

The works also saw a manhole covered up, resulting in the blocked drain discharging into the Braid Burn against SEPA regulations.

It comes amid a campaign backed by the Evening News to see the nearby Dreghorn trenches, which are part of the same network, preserved. Among those supporting the drive are military historian Andrew Robertshaw and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.

Colinton resident David Bewsey said: “This has been a botch-up. Water from the spring was going through the path into the gardens of people in Colinton Mains Road.

“Lots of people who walk their dog near the error think this is absolutely atrocious.

“In trying to get this problem fixed the developers have covered up part of the walls of the old trenches and dug a channel through one of them to let out water. It’s an awful mess.

“There’s a good case for protecting things like this. These trenches are part of Colinton’s history.”

Experts began a major survey of the trenches at Dreghorn earlier this month.

The network of trenches has been described as a “monument of national significance”.

The survey work comes after Edinburgh City Council awarded £3500 to enable it to take place following months of campaigning by writer and historian Lynne Gladstone-Millar and the News.

The 16th Battalion The Royal Scots dug the Colinton and Dreghorn trenches before they made their way to France.

Colinton councillor Jason Rust said: “At least there is now an awareness amongst the council departments that these trenches exist and work should not be carried out on them without prior consultation.

“I understand the scale of the impact is now being assessed and have been given a guarantee that no further work should be undertaken around the trenches without archaeological mitigation being first agreed.”

Ms Gladstone-Millar, whose father, William, was trained in the trenches, said: “It’s very sad if the trenches have been damaged. I hope they can be repaired.”

Environment convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “Landscaping was carried out in the area last year and included drainage improvements. It has recently been brought to our attention that some damage has been caused to a section of land that may include unconfirmed First World War trenches and we will now investigate this matter.”

Mucking in

September 2012: A campaign is launched to save the trenches at Dreghorn, which are at risk of disappearing as they fill up with silt and leaves.

October 2012: Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart calls for the trenches to be preserved as the Prime Minister announces more than £50 million is to be spent commemorating the centenary of the Great War.

November 2012: Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and military historian Andrew Robertshaw, who was an adviser on Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, lend their support to the campaign.

December 2012: Funding is announced to carry out a survey of the site.

February 2013: Experts carry out the first of two surveys on the Dreghorn site.