‘The hill road to Roberton’s a steep road to climb, but where your foot has crushed it you can smell the scented thyme,’ begins a famous Border poem.
Written by Will Ogilvie, the lines from The Road to Roberton have long since immortalised the scenic high pass between Ashkirk and Roberton, where Ogilvie spent much of his life and where now stands his memorial cairn.
But these days, there are complaints that it is not so much the smell of scented thyme that assails the nostrils of visitors to the cairn, but rather the alleged stench from fertiliser pellets piled along the nearby roadside while waiting to be spread on fields belonging to Shielswood Farm, run by Robert Nosworthy for the last 12 years.
Local community councillors say the heaps of black pellets – which are manufactured from dried sewage cake – and their associated smell have made a footpath unpassable and rendered any visit to the Ogilvie memorial an “unpleasant” experience.
Local Scottish Borders councillor Vicky Davidson agrees the pellets have a terrible smell, while Ian Landles, chair of the Will H. Ogilvie Memorial Trust, is also unhappy.
But Mr Nosworthy is now so fed up with the “grief” he has been getting over the pellets, that this week saw him threaten that, if it continues, he will demolish the cairn.
“This is the first time I’ve had any pellets – which after a couple of days have no smell and are not cheap to buy – for two years. I only get access to them when the plants, like cement factories which normally use them, break down,” Mr Nosworthy told us.
“The lay-by where the pellets are piled is on my land. However, I must’ve shifted about 300 or 400 tons in the last few weeks and the rest would have been gone by now if it wasn’t for the weather holding things up.”
Mr Nosworthy also feels the flak he is getting is particularly unfair, as he says without his permission there would have been no car park, no stone seat and no Ogilvie memorial cairn in the first place.
He said: “It was me who created the car park for visitors to the cairn and I’ve since actually extended it.
“I also took the gate off to make access easier and it was actually me who gave the original permission for the cairn and stone seat to be erected.
“There are no houses near this except mine and SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) has checked everything and there’s no problem.
“But if this hassle keeps up, I’ll just pull the monument down and close the car park.”
And SEPA yesterday confirmed it has found no problems with the storing or spreading of the pellets.