Sunday, 14 February 2010

a country mouse and a country lion

Country Mouse came over all History Detective the other day. I was reading about a fellow blogger's cycling trip during which she came upon the oldest layering yew in Scotland. Intrigued, I Googled it and found it is called the Craigends Yew, is 600 years old and turns out to be fairly close to the mousehole. Now very interested, I kept on with the Googling and soon found that the yew was named after Craigends, the ancestral home of the Cuninghame family for centuries until the family line and money ran out and the site, covered in acres of very ancient woodland, was sold for housing. My husband recalls playing as a boy in the ruins of what they called The Manor, and it turns out that was Craigends. When the money ran out the contents of the house were sold at auction but the house, grounds and woods were just left standing for years until the developer who bought it removed the house's roof, at which point it quickly fell victim to weathering and vandalism before finally being demolished in 1975. My husband remembers walled gardens and a well, and wine cellars and a tower. At the top of the tower, surveying the surrounding countryside, stood the lion in the photograph above. The lion now stands outside a community centre with absolutely nothing to tell of its provenance. It has a very human look about it. Perhaps it was modelled on someone.
I found out lots on a really good website,, set up by someone who grew up in one of the houses built when Craigends was demolished. That's where I learned about the lion, and also about this plaque, above, which stands in the grounds of the kirkyard beside my GP's surgery. Like the lion, I've seen it a hundred times without knowing anything of its provenance. I happened to be at the GP the other day so decided to bring the camera and take myself and Little R on a little history detective trip. I was rapt. She was unimpressed but stoic. According to, there were several of these plaques built into the walls of the house, along with the family coat of arms, below, which now lies mossy and neglected in a damp corner of the last bit of housing to be built, on the exact spot where the actual house once stood. You can just make out the Y on the coat of arms, the same as that held by the lion. Views on preserving heritage have changed a lot in recent years and it's very sad to think that if the house, grounds and woodlands could just have held on another say 20 years, this would never have been allowed to happen.
This arch, below, used to stand in the woods marking a long overgrown carriage way. It was dismantled and reassembled here in the same patch of housing and just looks incongruous. Like the coat of arms, which you can see on a plinth beyond it, there's nothing to say what it is or where it's from. The little housing estate here is named Cunningham Gardens: even the original spelling of Cuninghame has been changed. Some trees from the original woods survive, like the Craigends Yew, and the odd elderly specimen dotted among the suburban gardens, but basically Craigends has been completely erased. This link shows it really well: and there have been even more changes in recent years.

The website also has some fantastic photographs of the people who lived in the house. It had quite a heyday and there must have been plenty of money sloshing around. There are photos of Victorian ladies at a garden party and some photos of the interior of the house in a magazine which seems to have been the equivalent of Country Living. Latterly it was lived in by two old ladies and there are some good stories from the daughter of their chauffeur. It just utterly amazes me that such a substantial, deep rooted and thriving estate could go so quickly from all that to just nothing. All flesh is grass indeed.
On a less existentialist note, you might like to take a look at my current WiP, a laptop bag from the Cath Kidston book, Sew, and get a peek at my 40th birthday present from Granny and Grandado Mouse, my sewing machine. I have been pining for one for years, fantasising about all the wonderful things I could make if only I had one. Little Granny Mouse says she'll give me some tuition so I must arrange that soon as I'm sure I'm shortening my life expectancy every time I gnash my teeth at it. I think I'm following Cath's instructions to the letter but I have found myself in a situation where in order to insert the inner pocket I would have to be sewing through SIX layers of heavy cotton and that can't be right, can it? And the straps are a story in themselves. I like the fabric but I couldn't stretch to Cath I'm afraid so it's Ikea. I loved the folklory birds and flowers and the stripy lining fabric looked good against it. There's a pouch on the front of the bag and there is meant to be a button hole in it but I know my limits.
I'm in the happy position of having a cake cooling in the kitchen as I type. This is the second time I've made this cake and I really want to pass on the recipe as it is easy and relatively healthy, for a cake. The recipe is from and was created by Soupmaker's mum. You butter and flour a 1lb loaf tin and preheat oven to 180deg. Then put 1/4lb chopped dates, 1tbsp butter and 1 cup boiling water in a bowl and stir to dissolve butter. Add 1 tsp bicarb of soda, one egg, one and half cups of self raising flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla essence and a dash of warm milk. Stir it all up, pour into loaf tin and bake for 40-45mins. It has turned out a bit lopsided again but we won't mind about that.
As you may know, I wasn't blogging at all during January so was unable to acknowledge this lovely giveaway I received from Jackie at Button Tree Crafts It was her bloggy birthday and I was lucky enough to win the above festive parcel containing a Santa dishtowel, a kitchen notepad in a jam jar box and yay! some chocolate snowballs, all wrapped up with some tinkly christmas bells. Thanks, Jackie. Hope you get your house sold soon!


  1. The Craigends website is absolutely fascinating, I think I've just spent about an hour there!
    You must stay close by - we should meet up, in fact, do I know you, haha!
    Thanks for the information and the links, I'm just so sorry we're too late to see the house and surrounds as they were.

  2. Hello You

    I'm back from my weekend in Holland!

    What a lovely post - So interesting to read about Craigends. Will definitely have a go at the cake, sounds scrumptious...

    Thankyou for the advice about my bruised backside, so kind of you! Think I will consider the cushion anyway - I have to drive on some very bumoy roads at times

    Love Lydia xx

  3. Goodness - meant bumpy roads, not bumoy! My backside must be really on my mind!


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