We parked at the village hall at Letham and proceeded on a gentle incline up 'the Row' where the entire street of houses were all attached and all on the same side. We passed the Old Post Office, now a house, and Letham primary school right at the top of the hill. At that point we tucked our trousers into our socks, heeding the warning that this walk would be glaury. We walked towards Nisbetfield Farm, then a dogleg turn took us between fields back to Monimail Road. A little way along this road we came on Monimail church, a handsome building in well kept condition. Just beyond there we turned off to the right where we came across a perfectly peaceful little cemetery where one of our members stopped to remember her grandparents. We moved on, avoiding the muddy parts where possible, and enjoying the lovely countryside views and smells. At a crossroads, there was some debate about which way to turn. The practice walk had taken two of our members through a forest where the trees had been felled so required a level of fitness to negotiate, straddle and hurdle over. Not wishing to lead the group on this assault course we chose to take the safe route pointing back to Monimail. We had planned a visit to the Monimail Tower Project (scottish charity sco 01481) and surrounding grounds and orchard, the upkeep of which is undertaken by volunteers, trustees of the charity and people who simply choose to live there and live off the land and the forest.
We were met by Sam who was new to the project having only lived there since August. Currently there are only three people living at the community house but there is room for eight plus accommodation for volunteers who come for a few days at a time. The community was working in the allotments when we arrived turning over the ground ready for onions to be planted. Sam took us to the Tower and we stood on the roof from where we had a 360° view of the walled gardens and the orchard all dating back to 15th century. Clearly, there is far too much work here for a few volunteers but it is good that their work is able to preserve the lime-washed Tower as well as provide an alternative lifestyle to those who choose. Occasionally there are open days when traditional woodcrafts and skills are on display. We saw an example of willow weaving which was really beautiful.
The orchard produces apples, pears, greengages and berries all used by those who live there and used to make jams etc to sell and barter. The apples proved irresistible to some of our group who shall remain nameless. The latrine was a source of amusement, though very civilised with convenience of a candle, bowl and pitcher and floral display.
Unfortunately we did mean to see Melville House, a magnificent stately home just through the trees from the MTP but as the sign on the gate dissuaded us from entering, only a couple of us went to have a closer look. From the 1960s to 1990s the building was a school for boys who did not cope with meanstream education. Isobel recalled her first job there as a cook when she was only 17.