Well, Edinburgh honours James Watt with a University which has a statue and his portrait on a blue and white concrete cow. However, like many another Scot, he came South of the Border to learn, to work, to fulfil ambition, win fame and fortune.
His adoptive city of Birmingham, however, has him preside over the entrance to its own University, while in the city centre he is one of the Golden Boys who helped make it the heart of the Industrial Revolution. Here he is between Boulton and Murdoch, his partners.
So what would Scottish independence achieve?
Looking back along the canal from the bridge, only the well-laid path hints at the urban sprawl we started from. Had we continued walking toward that cloudy Western sky, we’d soon have been grateful for the shelter of another bridge, but
our walk away from the waterway passes these stone buildings – I have seen their like in Southern Ontario.
The lane soon meets a main road; we cross it and make for the Lodge.
Quite different in style! This was the entrance to the big estate around which the Heriot Watt University was built.
The woods, with their rhododendrons and foxgloves, hide the buildings where graduands have worked and played for four years. Their families are celebrating and enjoying Scotland, even if they have to wrap up warm to photograph their loved one with the piper.
Our guide led us to a quiet corner of the campus, shared with oystercatchers, busily hunting worms inland. The rain had brought the worms to the surface, and now down it came again! No chance to sit on that inviting bench, so past a wet Watt, and into the hall to await the graduation ceremony. Well done, HDGB!
A few yards from the aqueduct an overbridge marked the end of urban sprawl and the start of a tamed but beautiful stretch of countryside. Not far ahead an orchid was growing at the water’s edge. How long has that been there?
And away from the banks it was not quite roses, roses, all the way, though they were scenting the damp air.
More thistles alongside them; this is Scotland; but also buttercups, forget-me-not, comfrey and more, all thriving in this green corridor.
Half a mile into the walk and the trees have drowned the sound of the road, and all is green.
To the North, framed by the developing haws of the Mayflower, the Hills can be seen through the haze: the rain is holding off.
While it may have been too damp for dragonfly or mayfly to be on the wing, here they are in a blacksmith’s work of art. I like the way the fine lines of stems, ripples and tails add strength as well as beauty and interest to this gate. Near to it, small fry are gathered just below the surface.
Is this our last bridge? We could enjoy extending this walk, but we have a destination, so time to leave the canal and climb up to the road.
So Goodbye to the shops, and there’s green grass around the corner, and a high hedge, partly concealing an ugly fence. That CCTV notice hardly says, ‘Welcome’. Across the road are car show rooms and light industry. Still not sure why
we came this way? Nature? Well, here’s a sight of the Scottish flora – a thistle and a crisp bag.
Moving on, we followed one of those casual paths that people make to cut the corners planned by the planners. Before us, more soul-less buildings. Scrubby elder and willow dominate the track, which suddenly forks into a towpath: the Scottish Union Canal. 5 miles from Edinburgh, and still built-up.
The water looks clean though, apart from floating plastic debris, the flora is more varied, and rain is imminent.Everything is green, after all.
Immediately in front of us was an aqueduct, taking the canal high above the busy main road. We passed and greeted that patient, polite cyclist, waiting for us to go by, then under the bridge; where we left post industrial Scotland to walk along a relic of the Industrial Revolution, made safe for 21st Century walkers and riders. A shame the Brompton stayed at home! Rain in the air.