Today was one of those (supposedly) rare occasions, a sunny bank holiday. By way of celebration we decided to make uses of our Historic Scotland membership and visit one of their properties. One of the great things about living in Edinburgh is that there is so much to do within easy pedalling range, for today’s wee outing we chose Seton Collegiate Church, which we had not visited before.

Rather than join the tin box bampots, who seem to love sitting (fuming) in long stationary lines of traffic, we chose to follow much of the newly opened John Muir Way, mostly along off road paths, listening to the bird song. On reaching Musselburgh, we were please to find that the Electric Bridge was open (it being a race day) ,so we didn’t have the faff of negotiating the barriers at either end of the footbridge. For those confused by this statement, maybe I should give a brief explanation: the Electric Bridge was built in the 1960′s a few hundred metres north of the “New Bridge” built in 1806 (to replace the old bridge built by the Romans on their short holiday in Scotland, c. AD 71 to AD 213). The Electric Bridge was built was to allow transport of the turbines to Cockenzie power station. Having used it once and installed the turbines the Central Electricity Generation Board (CEGB) then offered the bridge to the Town Council for a nominal sum, but the offer was declined. As a result, gates were installed and the bridge is only opened on race days to allow access to the local racecourse. However, with the recent closure of Cockenzie power station (in March 2013), there is uncertainty about the future of the Electric Bridge.

The River Esk safely crossed, we headed down stream to the confluence of the Esk and the Forth, where we paused to look back to Edinburgh and take a few photos (note today I only had my phone with me and not the usual SLR).

View from the mouth of the Esk, looking west to Edinburgh

Had I had the SLR with me, I could have zoomed into the National Disgrace on Carlton Hill which was clearly visible. But I hadn’t, so we carried on around the coast past the former ash lagoons, now grassed over, to Prestonpans where we rejoined the road. From Prestonpans through Cockenzie to Port Seton, this was the least pleasant part of the ride, as you have to ride along a busy main road engineered to generate conflict. However, today the majority of motorists were tolerant (I have had bad experiences here in the past). Having survived this, we pulled off the road to look at the map and were passed by a smiling, waving Chris Oliver, AKA the Cycling Surgeon. The first time I met Chris we were viewing an x-ray of my clavicle, but that is another story.

The map consulted, we knew that just before the caravan park there is a wee path running up through the woods to the Seton Collegiate Church. We were greeted by Linda (?) of Historic Scotland who was very friendly and told us to leave our bikes along side her wee hut/office, as there is no cycle parking provided. She then gave us a brief history of the site and suggested the best way to view it, basically go left to the remains of the of priests’ accommodation, then peek over the gate at Seton House Castle (you are not allowed to go in, but peeking over the gate is free), and then enter the church through the west door. History wise, the original church was built in 1242 to serve the parishioners of Seton. Over time it was extended and adapted, it also became the private place of worship and burial vault of the Seton family. In 1470 the 1st Lord Seton introduced a college of priests, whose primary role was to pray for the souls of their benefactor, his wife, and his family. Evidently the Seton family had a lot of sins to atone for, as the “college” consisted of a provost, six priests, a clerk and two choir boys.

Over the years the church suffered damage during the various troubled periods of Scottish history, for instance during the Rough Wooing by the English army under the Earl of Hertford. They looted and stripped the vestments, communion vessels and stole the bells and organ, before setting fire to the timber work. Lady Janet, widow of the 3rd Lord Seton, did her best to repair the damage, demolishing the earlier chapel built by Lady Katherine St Clair (to house the tomb of her late husband, Sir John Seton) and building the present transepts and bell tower. A bell, cast in Holland in 1577, was installed, but the steeple was never completed. The church was further damaged around 1668 during the Scottish Reformation, with a number of the carvings being defaced by a mob of zealous Covenanters. Also at this time its role as a Collegiate Church came to an end, and for a short time it served as the parish church for Seton, until Seton was joined with the parish of Tranent and therefore was no longer needed.

The church finally left the control of the Seton family after the Jacobite Rising of 1715. The Setons were supporters of the Old Pretender (the self-styled James the 3rd and 8th), who caught a cold (or was it man flu) after the Battle of Sheriffmuir and beetled off back to France, leaving it to his son, the Italian coward Young Pretender to carry on the family tradition of romantic (or romanticised) failed rebellions. Anyway, I digress, back to the story, the kirk was desecrated, this time by the Lothian Militia in search of “hidden treasure”. Following this, the estates of the Setons passed to the Earls of Wemyss, who partially restored the kirk and used it as a burial place of deceased members of their family, until 1946 when they gave it to the Scottish people (probably in lieu of death duties). Enough writing, time for a few photos:

The Seton Collegiate Kirk
Seton Collegiate Church

The wee hoose next door
Seton Castle

Some of the Carvings
Carvings at Seton Collegiate Church

Carvings at Seton Collegiate Church

Effigies of an unknown knight and his lady (possibly Sir John Seton and Lady Katherine)
Effigies of an unknown knight and his lady

And a final carving, this one of Lady Janet Seton.
Lady Janet Seton, Seton Collegiate Church

The bell. The kirk’s original bell was stolen along with the organ by the English Army in the 1544. This bell was cast for the 5th Lord Seton in 1577 by the Dutch.
Seton Collegiate Church bell

There were an number of Peacock butterflies (Aglais io) flying about the place, and this one dead on the floor
Peacock butterfly (Aglais io)

After an enjoyable hour or so wandering about the place, we decided it was time to head in to Longniddry to find a spot of lunch. Ulli suggested that we should go to the Summer House which has a wee café. The building was gifted to the village of Longniddry as a Reading Room in 1890 by the Countess of Wemyss and March. Its other claim to fame is that the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute held its first meeting there in 1917. There is a seating area outside where it would have been very pleasant to sit in the sun and eat, if it hadn’t been for the traffic noise which blights the village.

We returned to Edinburgh by much the same way as we had come.

On the way back to Edinburgh

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On a day when a man in his 50s has been killed while riding a bicycle in Angus and a 10 year old boy has been airlifted to hospital after being knocked off his bike by a van driver in Aberdeenshire, I feel the need to write about why we need #PoP2014 more than ever.

First off, I should explain that #PoP2014 is short hand for the Pedal on Parliament (PoP) protest ride which will be taking place on the 26th April this year. The first PoP took place in 2012, and when we started planning it we thought that it would be a one-off event, but things didn’t work out that way. When we were planning the 1st PoP, we didn’t think that many people would actually turn up, how wrong we were. We were far from alone at being worried how vulnerable road users are treated and wanting this to change.

The PoP Manifesto takes an evidence based approach, inspired by the idea that a great city is not one that has highways, but one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can go everywhere safely (Enrique Peñalosa). Active travel is a great idea, as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, it is good for developing the sustainable local economies which much of Scotland needs, and it is healthy. Yet we have a Government which ignores all the evidence, which talks about making Scotland a modern Nordic nation, but then does the opposite. Far from learning from the Nordic Nations, such as Denmark’s green economy and Finland’s turn-around from being the sickest country in Europe (a title Scotland now holds) to being one of the most healthy. Successive Scottish (and British) administrations have treated roads deaths as being something beyond their control and refuse to take simple actions which could reduce the death rate. For this reason we have to stand up and make our voices heard, tell our elected representatives that it DOESN’T have to be this way. There are countries just across the North Sea which show that change is possible, and that this can lead to a better quality of life for all.

Please join us on the 26th April and show you care!

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This evening I saw the first bat of 2014, it was probably Pipistrellus pipistrellus or Pipistrellus pygmaeus (based on previous identifications). Interestingly this sighting is later than in the last two years, it was 26th March 2012 and 30th March 2009. Maybe I haven’t been looking out enough.

I take the bat sighting as a sign of the coming summer, a couple of times recently I thought I heard swifts overhead, but have yet to see any, so I can’t confirm their presence just yet.

Update 19-4-2014: Noticed today the swift calls I have been hearing aren’t actually from swifts, they were from starlings mimicking swifts, which is a new one on me. I have heard starlings mimicking a range of other sounds before, including a car alarm.

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The observant may notice that there is a wee banner saying I proudly support Earth Hour, and as I write it tells me that Earth Hour 2014 will start in 7 hours and 5 days. When Earth Hour arrives, between 20:30 – 21:30 (GMT) 29 March 2014, this blog will look something like this:

Earth Hour preview

Why, you might ask, am I doing this? Well the short answer is that I am joining millions of people across the world are switching off lights for one hour – to celebrate their commitment to the planet.

The longer answer is that it is a reminder that together we can make change happen, and it gives us a chance to think about the small things we can do everyday to help create a brighter future. And change is needed, currently we in the Anthropocene a geological epoch in which the human species is have a greater impact on the plant than any other group of organises since the rise of the cyanobacteria which formed the stromatolite about 3.5 billion years ago. They change the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, increasing the oxygen levels and so bringing about the rise of multicellular organisms. However, our current impacts is far less benign and could risk bringing about the collapse of the ecosystems which we all rely upon for life. For this reason we need to move to a more sustainable life styles, these need not be any less comfortable than the ones we currently lead, just different we just need to the drive and imagination to move on to the Sustainocene instead.

Remember Earth Hour is not about sitting, shivering in the dark (that is where we are going if we don’t make the change), it is about thinking about how to make the world a better place for all. For this reason I would urge you to sign up to Earth Hour and do the same.

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I have for some time now been plagued by e-mails claiming to come from Companies House, they generally say that there is a problem with web filing to Companies House. Now, as happens at the time when I first received one of these e-mail I was about the time one of the companies I am a director of was filing it’s annual report with Companies House. At first glance the e-mail looked plausible (there is a sample below) and it had come to an e-mail address which I use for company business, but something just did feel right about it.

First: it doesn’t mention the name of the company which is it supposedly referring to, just a submission number, real e-mails from Companies House always have the name of the company they are about in them.

Second: it had an attached zip file, which is odd because on the Companies House website where you can make your companies annual return by web filing, it says that you can download a pdf of the report. Confirmation e-mails from Companies House never have attachments.

Thirdly: while I am a director, I wasn’t the Company Secretary, and I would expect the Companies House to communicate with the Company Secretary in the first instance.

Fourthly: all the companies of which I am a member of the board, are registered in Scotland. Therefore, I would expect any correspondence in connection with these companies to use Companies House Edinburgh address.

Here is the test of the latest version e-mail, which I received this morning:

The submission number is: 2768706

For more details please check attached file.

Please quote this number in any communications with Companies House.

All Web Filed documents are available to view / download for 10 days after their original submission. However it is not possible to view copies of accounts that were downloaded as templates.

Companies House Executive Agency may use information it holds to prevent and detect fraud. We may also share such information, for the same purpose,
with other Organizations that handle public funds.

If you have any queries please contact the Companies House Contact Centre on +44 (0)303 1234 500 or email enquiries@companies-house.gov.uK

Note: This email was sent from a notification-only email address which cannot accept incoming email. Please do not reply directly to this message.

Companies House
4 Abbey Orchard Street
Westminster
London
SW1P 2HT
Tel +44 (0)303 1234 500

 

My suspicions aroused, I took a look at the full header of the email which immediately confirmed my suspicions, the return address and the message ID which not for Companies House, so it was obviously spam. I then decided to take Companies House advice on dealing with unsolicited/phishing e-mail, forwarding a copy of the offending e-mail to phishing@companieshouse.gov.uk as they suggest. This resulted in an immediate e-mail from my own system telling me that it had “received a message, apparently originating from you, which contains the “Mal/DrodZp-A” virus/malware. This message has not been delivered onwards to the recipients.” This was obviously caused by the attached zip file which had aroused my suspicions in the first place.

The lesson of this story is be wary of unexpected e-mails from Companies House, even if they look genuine, don’t open attachments or follow links in the body of the e-mail until you have checked that it is actually from the sender which claims to have come from. As a last line of defence always make sure that your anti virus software is up to date.

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