High Bonnybridge

( Approximately 3 miles (5 kilometres).

          Our walk begins at Bonnybridge Community Centre where an ancient graveyard was still in existence in the 1960s. Before the construction of a bridge over the Bonny the settlement was known as Bonnywater. in distinction from Water of Bonny which lay on the north side of the stream. The land here was called the ‘Chapelcroft’ and, in the nineteenth century it was in the possession of the Turnpike Road Trustees; hence the present day name of Bonnybridge Toll.

          Crossing the road we see Bonny Mill immediately on the left. It is now a garage but was formerly the baronial corn-mill of the lands of Seabegs. The earliest recovered record for the mill dates from 1506. From the mill the old road runs into ‘The Pend‘ allowing both pedestrians and wheeled vehicles to pass to the south side of the Forth & Clyde Canal. This is the earliest surviving tunnel in Scotland and dates to a little later than 1786. The restricted passage it affords was one of the principal reasons for the cattle trysts being removed from Roughcastle to Stenhousemuir.  A plaque above the north entry declares this to be the ‘Radical Pend’ linking the passage to the celebrated radical rising of 1820 and the Battle of Bonnymuir.

          Emerging on the other side, we can see the remains of long lost industrial activity. On the right hand side was a whisky distillery and chemical works, later absorbed into one of the many iron foundries which abounded in the area. It was, of course,  the canal that encouraged the presence of these industries. On the left an inclined wagon way runs upwards to a wharf on the canal. This is the western slope of Cowden Hill and it was while the wagon way was being constructed that a gold armlet dating from the Bronze Age was discovered.

          Bonnyside Road continues southwards and along it we have views of Cowdenhill on the left with High Bonnybridge over to the right. Bonnyside Farm has a nice late eighteenth or early nineteenth century house and on the opposite side of the road is the now defunct Chattan Iron Foundry. A bridge crosses the Carlisle to Perth railway line. This was opened in 1845 as the Scottish Central Railway before being absorbed into the Caledonian Railway and then the LMS. Having walked just over 1 kilometre, we cross the bridge and see Bonnyside House, once the home of Henry Salmon. a long serving member of the Feuars of Falkirk. In 1912 Edward Martin Stewart. firebrick manufacturer, was the resident: his profession reflects an important industry of the surrounding area. The Antonine Wall runs through the grounds of the house and crosses the road. A fine section of the ditch can he seen on the west side.

          The road deflects eastwards and runs parallel to the wall. In a short distance an opening in the dyke allows us to walk along the remains of the frontier. Eventually the line is cut by a small valley through which runs the Rowantree Burn: the boundary between the baronies of Callendar and Seabegs. Just over 2 kilometres from the start of the walk we cross the stream and climb up to Roughcastle Fort.

          Retracing our steps almost to Bonnyside House, we enter  the ‘loch park‘ surmounted by the Elf Hill. Tradition holds that it was here that the eponymous Graham broke through the Roman wall. The military associations of the hill continued into the twentieth century as it was used by the railway Home Guard for training. Dominating the area is an industrial dam used to supply the industries noted on the south side of the Pend. Following round the south western corner of the dam we approach another railway line: this one opened as the Glasgow Edinburgh Railway in 1838 before being absorbed firstly into the North British Railway Company and then the LNER. Passing close to the site of High Bonnybridge Station, we continue round to view St Helen’s Church.

          Descending Broomhill Road on the east side is the Co-operative, now closed, and next to it the site of Broomhill Primary School. If we look to the left as we approach the railway bridge we see the site of a large Roman temporary camp probably used during the construction of the Antonine Wall. Passing through the bridge we see St Josephs Church standing on the summit of Broomhill. Some little way further down stands Antonine Primary School in the grounds of which is the Motte of Seabegs. Early antiquarians confused this with a Roman fortlet and named the place as Chapel Hill.

          Returning to Broomhill Road we continue to Foundry Corner where the Offices of Smith & Wellstood are all that remain of that significant enterprise. We cross the canal and descend the Canal Brae to return to the car park.

John Reid 2005