Battle Trust as Farmers ... our next steps

£4,030 proffered not 'Above £5,000' as asked

East Lothian Council invited Applications to Lease some 45.49 acres of battlefield for Seasonal Cropping - offering April to September 2019. As all will know, the Trust has ever since 2006 anticipated the day will arrive when it can do precisely that on a regular basis into the foreseeable future. So there was never any doubt we'd submit our own tender.

We'd made sure we were ready even at short notice by working consistently these past 5 years with local farmers experienced with procurement, growing and marketing for such cropping. With the best professional advices our tender was submitted on February 22nd.

Why less than the asking guide price then?

We started willing for strategic reasons to meet ELC's expectations and offer £5001 for the Lease. But close inspection reveals some significant problems. First the good news … then critique.

Fields 1 and 2 of the site are ready to go. We'll grow Spring Sown Barley and harvest either for livestock feed or to produce malted barley for use in traditional Scottish whisky distilling. They constitute 21.45 acres lease payable September 2019. The harvest should be gathered in by September 21st, as it was in 1745, although this year using modern rather than 18th century methods! More of that later.

Field 3, Thorntree Field is nowhere near as straightforward. It has physical access issues for farm machinery and it's very close to urban development. There are recently cleared saplings and self set trees but lately removed. Local Panners have become accustomed to enjoying the area as an open space for walking and motor cycle riding that could well be detrimental to our farming.

As its name suggests, Thorntree Field 3 is of great significance for the Trust. It was home to the iconic Thorntree beneath which the mortally wounded Colonel Gardiner fell. More than likely it also includes one of the burial areas for nigh on 500 who died in battle in 1745 and were buried on The Prince's command by local Panners.

Field 4 is showing a considerable burden of the grass weed Rack [colloquially Couch Grass] which is very persistent and likely to choke out any cereal planted in Spring. It should have been treated last Summer. As such our ability to produce a crop by September is severely compromised. Correct and prudent procedure would now be to clean up this summer and allow to lie fallow. Additionally 2 of its acres are interrupted by concrete blocks, scrap metal and large stones that will damage cultivating machinery. Adverse access levels will also require mechanical shifting at extra cost.

The Trust awaits ELC's decision, optimistically

This opportunity was one the Trust could not miss. We wish to demonstrate that as an integral element of the Cockenzie Master Plan, the battlesite can become a green lung for the benefit and enjoyment of the community at the same time as it honours our heritage.

The outcome is awaited.

Published Date: Monday, February 25, 2019

The Prestonpans Tapestry created by Prestoungrange Arts Festival and the Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Heritage Trust in support of the campaign for a Living History Centre in Prestonpans.
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