A look into the past around Polmont

Millfield House
Millfield House

They say a brisk winter walk is good for your circulation so here’s a way to combine healthy exercise with a look back at the past.

The Polmont area is full of history and the place to start is the Beancross car park. There are several fine early farm buildings here including a converted ring mill once used for grinding corn by horse or cattle power.

We are not far from the Antonine Wall with the site of the big Roman cavalry fort of Mumrills just across the road. Make your way through the underpass and Grandsable Cemetery is on the left. The rising ground opposite might be the site of the 1298 Battle of Falkirk with the army of Wallace drawn up to face the English advancing from beyond the Westquarter Burn to the east.

The cemetery which opened in 1901 takes its name from cottages which stood here in the 19th century. It is a beautiful place where many brave young pilots from all over the world are buried near where they died during training at Grangemouth aerodrome.

From the top gate we cross the main road (with care!) to the grounds of Parkhill past the old lodge. The drive leads up to the fine mansion house which was converted into flats a few years ago. It was built in 1790 for James Cheape of Sauchie though there had been a big house here for centuries. For most of the last century it was the home of the famous Gray-Buchanan family.

The site of the mansion of Millfield is next which we approach across the parklands to the west. The steep-sided valley of the Polmont Burn provided a fantastic setting for the Victorian garden with waterfalls, bridges, ponds, a bowling green, a bleaching green and a sun dial. The house was a fine villa with an outlook tower built for John Millar secretary of the North British Railway. Later it was home to the Stein family before demolition in the 1960s. Sadly the fine arched bridge over the burn is in a poor state of repair.

Millfield Drive and Marchmont Avenue lead down to the celebrated Black Bull; cross the road and go down the Kirk Entry passing the former manse now called Kinneil House.

The Parish Church designed by John Tait dates from 1844. It replaced the picturesque ruin in the graveyard built in 1733 as the first local place of worship after Polmont parish separated from Falkirk. There are some marvellous early gravestones here including two rare ones depicting Adam and Eve. The south wall has several gun loops used by the Home Guard as one of the lines of defence for the airfield.

Back on the main street and heading west, we pass the site of the Polmont Bank Hotel now a supermarket and, further on, the church hall from the 1890s. Beyond that is the little community hall which once housed a girls’ school. Ivy Bank Care Home across the road was not long ago a famous dairy and, even earlier, another school. Polmont Park which lay on the right was the home of the Griffiths family and disappeared in the 1970s.

A short walk takes us to Cassels Bridge where we turn right down the footpath through the ‘Fairy Glen’ beside the Polmont Burn. During the war there was a plan to evacuate people from Grangemouth if the docks were attacked by leading them up this path to Parkhill and the other mansions. The path emerges alongside the Klondyke Garden Centre and we are not far from the underpass and the Beancross car park.