Spring is well under way and now is the perfect time to take a walk round Dalzell Estate in the North Lodge area of Motherwell. Our journey begins in the car park at Barons Haugh, an RSPB bird sanctury in Motherwell. The main entrance to the Haugh is off North Lodge Ave and is well signposted. We walk down a narrow road and turn left towards Dalzell House.
The trees are in full bloom and the air is filled with the scent of blossom as we walk along a shady path. The Estate is an interesting place to visit and is popular with ornithologists who come to observe the many different birds in the area.
Our first port of call is Dalzell House, which dates from the 1400’s and has been extended and modified throughout the centuries. It fell into disrepair in the 1960’s, but was restored in the 1980’s and is now a series of small apartments which are privately owned.
As we make our way to Dalzell House, we walk down a road with a high wall on one side. We are on the White Walk which was a sunken roadway created so that miners making their way to work each day didn’t spoil the view from the house!
The House is a picturesque assortment of buildings built around a 15th
century tower house, which is still largely intact. This tower is enclosed by a rectangular wall (curtain) and is surrounded by a dry moat. The Castle was extended and remodeled by its owner, Captain Hamilton of Dalzell in 1857.
As we enter into the courtyard, we see the evidence of the remodelling work throughout the ages. We admire the skill of the designers and stonemasons who have created a wonderful building. A well sits to our left and excites our curiosity. We conclude that it must date from the Victorian era.
The Prince of Wales Feathers are engraved on another wall, showing evidence of a Royal Warrant. Members of the British Royal Family have been frequent visitors to the House throughout the centuries.
We are informed that, like all old houses, Dalzell has ghosts – three ladies who live in different parts of the building. These are known as the Green, White and Grey Lady. We listen eagerly are told about each of them and decide to keep an open mind about such supernatural beings.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Hamlet: Act 1 Scene V
We retreat to the terraced gardens to bring us back to reality. Here we see the work of Alexander Hamilton, who designed many of the gardens around the house. It also gives us a chance to view the outside of the house from the side.
As we proceed on our walk through the grounds, we pass an old oak tree on our left. This is the Covenanters Oak which is about 1000 years old. Unfortunately, age has finally caught up with this once magnificent tree and it now suffers the indignity of having to be supported by two steel poles. The tree is called after the Covenanters who received permission to hold religious services under the shade of its branches. This was because King Charles I introduced the Book of Common Prayer to Scotland in 1637 causing considerable resentment.
Opposition to this was treason and Ministers with Covenanting sympathies were unable to preach in churches causing many of them to preach at “conventicles” in the open air or in barns and houses.
These Covenanters were those people in Scotland who signed the National Covenant in 1638 to confirm their opposition to the interference in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church by the Stuart kings. The Stuart kings believed in the Divine Right of the Monarch and that God wished them to be the infallible rulers of their kingdom including leading the Church of Scotland. This was not be accepted by the Scots who believed that only Jesus Christ could be spiritual head of a Christian church.
There followed a period of very severe repression. Ministers with Covenanting sympathies were “outed” from their churches by the authorities, and had to leave their parishes. Many continued to preach at “conventicles” in the open air or in barns and houses. This became an offence punishable by death. Citizens who did not attend their local churches (which were now in the charge of Episcopalian “curates”) could be heavily fined, and such offenders were regarded as rebels, who could be questioned, even under torture.
Continuing on, we come to the recently restored Japanese Gardens. The
original gardens were created in the 1920’s and are one of the most exotic landscaping features found anywhere in Motherwell. It is modelled on a traditional Japanese garden and include exotic Japanese maple trees which have beautiful crimson foliage in autumn. The gardens add a tranquil and spiritual dimension to Dalzell.
This is Lord Gavin’s Temple and was built as a summer house for Lord Gavin Hamilton, who would spent his time here reading and looking down on his wife’s grave.
The small well to the right is the St. Patrick’s well whose water was regarded through the centuries as having healing properties. It rebuilt in the 1990’s.
The building ahead of us is the the family mausoleum and the garden wall. Some of the gravestones date back to the 18th century and there is also a cemetery for the Hamilton family pets nearby. We stop to look at the mausoleum and graves.
The next part of our walk takes us along the Clyde Walkway and Baron’s Haugh nature reserve. This is an area popular with bird watchers and is maintained by the RSPB. Many species of birds are to be found here including whooper swans and wintering wildfowl including wigeons, teals and goldeneyes. Sparrowhawks and buzzards can also be seen on sunny, late winter mornings.
As we walk along, we look and listen for the the different birds in the area. The path is well used and there are many people looking through binoculars and scopes. We stop and have a chat with the various people we meet to find out what birds they have spotted and which one to look out for.
There are four hides in the Haugh for observing the birds and we go to into one of them to look at the birds in their natural habitat. There are a few bird watchers in the hide watching the whooper swans feeding on the flooded meadows and the various species of ducks going about their daily business. Everything is so peaceful and the only sounds are the ones coming from the birds.
We leave the hide and continue on our way. We are now nearing the end of the walk, but there is still the opportunity to observe more birds before completing it. We see a flock of fieldfare on a field and a sparrowhawk is seen flying fast and low in pursuit of prey. Someone points out a treecreeper as it travels up the trunk of a tree and and we watch this very active bird for a while.
Dalzell House can be seen in the distance and our walk is almost complete. As we approach the House we reflect on our enjoyable day and look forward to spending another day here in the future.