The Ponies of the Law

February 4, 2018


                                                                                           The boys resting by the pond



Are these guys cute, or what?   I call them the "Seven Dwarves" Exmoor ponies that are tasked with the job of conservation grazing on the North Berwick Law, which is exactly 1/2 mile from my home.   I've visited this troop several times now since moving here to Scotland, but now I'm excited that I will actually be going to visit them "officially".  I'm volunteering through the East Lothian Council to be one of the people who check up on the ponies on a daily basis to make sure all is well with them.   I will now be able to visit them to take photos, and to assess their well being at the same time.  


I haven't learned who is who yet, (I can recognise a couple of them, but need to get with it so I can ID them all ), but their names are:  Sherlock, Fir, Morse, Inspector Gadget, Artemis, Rebel and Oberon.  They were introduced to the Law in 2013, and have been doing a great job taking care of the grasses and gorse since then.


Their habitat is gorgeous and quite varied.  An added bonus to volunteering to check on these boys is that I will get in a lot of hiking to find them...........mostly straight up and down!


                                                                  Looking down on North Berwick from about 2/3rd of the way up




                                                                                         Looking up from the north/east side



                                                                                          Pretty clouds from part way up the hill



                                                                     One of the many people/horse trails on the side of the hill




                                                                       Walking along the south/east edge of the hill looking out at Bass Rock




The ponies aren't often up at the top of the Law (about 600+ feet) but the other day I went up there looking for them because I couldn't find them in the places I was used to finding them.   I was the only one up there, (as they weren't!), and it was absolutely spectacular.  Windy, yes, but what a gorgeous day..........and yes, I can come here ANY TIME I WANT TO!   There are several things to see once you're up at the top:


Berwick Law was originally owned by the Cistercian Convent and used as a look out to warn of approaching enemies. It was told that a nun lit a beacon on the summit in 1544 when English ships entered the Firth of Forth. This stone building at the summit was erected in 1803 as a signal station during the Napoleonic Wars.  Lieutenant Leyden was in command with a party of Naval Ratings who were instructed to light a beacon on the sight of enemy forces which would then start a chain of fires on high points across the country, providing an early warning system.  Reminds me of scenes form "Return of the King", the last of "The Lord of the Rings"!

                                                                           This is the back side of that same building.


                                                                                    Looking through the building to Bass Rock.




Another building up at the top is an old bunker/observation post used during WWI and WWII.  From here one could observe ships going into and out of the Firth of Forth.





Probably the most recognisable icon of the Law are the "Whalebones" at the top.  There has been a whale's jaw bone erected at the top of Berwick Law since 1709 as a land mark to guide the sailors home safely. According to Francis Grose in his Antiquities of Scotland published in 1797 the original jaw bones were replaced around 1789. They were renewed in the 1850s by landowner Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple from an old Dunbar whale ship. In 1933 they were blown down and replaced two years later by a jaw bone taken from an Antartic whale, gifted by John Dunlop, the son of a North Berwick Town Councillor. In 1935 the jaw bone was brought to the town by railway wagon when it still had whale meat hanging from it. James Mitchell the farmer at Bonnington attached the bone by chain to his Clydesdale horses and dragged it up the hill. After years of buffeting by the wind, the jawbone became unsafe and was taken down on Monday 20th June 2005.  A new whale bone made from fiberglass was lifted into position by helicopter on 26th June 2008.







Another benefit of climbing to the top of the Law is to see our house - outlined in the photo below:




Since the ponies weren't at the top, I made my way back down, and finally found them in a part of the Law I hadn't been to before.  They were snoozing away, enjoying the day's sunshine.










These little guys have won my heart, and I look forward to spending many hours with them, as well as continuing to learn more about the history of the land in which I now live.  If you want to see many more photos of them, you can go to my photo site.  

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