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Problems of a Scottish Provincial Town
Chapter XIII. The Guarding of National Features of a Town's Environment

FROM the historic buildings of Dunfermline, which have been considered in the last chapter, it is natural to turn to those natural beauties of hill and sea and moorland which are within easy reach of the town, for these no less than the civic treasures are threatened with destruction or injury.

The chief and most beautiful walks from the city are those leading to and along the banks of the Forth. These are assets for the town's health and enjoyment which can hardly be overrated, and which become more precious as each year the town itself becomes more crowded, its environs more extensive. Yet, at the present moment, a particularly gross piece of vandalism is being committed upon the shores of the Firth of Forth.

The North British Railway Company succeeded some time ago in obtaining Parliamentary powers for the construction of a railway from Dunfermline to Kincardine. The work is now well advanced, and it is possible to realise at what a cost a wholly unnecessary railway is to be constructed. Running from Dunfermline to the west, the line strikes the coast at Torryburn, four miles from Dunfermline, and thence proceeds along the foreshore to Kincardine, a distance of five miles. To carry the railway from Torryburn to Kincardine a huge embankment is being erected along a part of the coast which was previously under water at high tide. The result of this is, that the view of the Firth of Forth is blotted out from the sight of all the houses and villages between the two places in question, and instead of the glorious ever-varying view of the Firth waters, glistening sometimes as though studded with opals, and at others changing to the wine-dark sea of Homer—a view, too, which once delighted the heart of Turner—the people and visitors to this district have now to be content with a view of a high embankment, crowned at frequent intervals with smoke and steam.

I am not entering any protest against railways or legitimate railway extension, but against a very flagrant misdeed by which the nation itself sustains a great wrong. For to the north of the coast route chosen for this railway there is a second and raised beach which runs behind the various villages and towns on the coast, and which would have been an entirely suitable line for the railway to have taken. It is understood that the original plans for the railway showed this route, and that it was abandoned through the opposition of vested interest.

How can such deeds be prevented in the future? Only by the unsleeping vigilance of the public. At present such schemes as the one mentioned get through Parliament without notice or criticism. Our hope must lie in the education of public opinion and the growth of the spirit of civic responsibility. When this spirit exists in an adequate degree, it will be strong enough to protect the natural beauty of the earth—the common heritage of all men—no less than the memorials in stone of the great days and the great souls of other ages.


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