By Tim's Porteus

BARA Loch lies in a quiet corner of East Lothian, between Gifford and Garvald, and we set off at the weekend to discover it. It’s in such a beautiful part of our county that the journey there was an adventure in itself.

The loch is hidden, surrounded by a wood which embraces its secrets. I’d never visited it before, but I’d been told how magical this place is and that it has a story attached to it.

Finding an appropriate place to park was our first challenge. There is no direct access to the loch and no car park with signposts, so care is needed in finding a suitable place. A private farm road that takes you to the entrance gate is not an option, so initially I struggled to find a suitable place, but some kind advice from a friendly farmer helped us out.

It’s a perfect time of year for such an adventure. The woods are fully clothed and still echoing with birdsong. I like to explore new places initially without a map or guide. It adds to the adventure, as we had to decide which way to go and initially wondered if we’d taken the wrong route. But there is a circular walk around the loch, so once the path is discovered there isn’t a wrong way.

It is a beautiful and tranquil place, and as we wandered along the tree-lined loch I thought about the story of the man responsible for its creation.

That man was Harry Younger, of the well-known brewing family. His ancestor, William Younger, had been the man who had built up the famous brewing business which produced Younger’s Ale. A huge chunk of the Canongate in Edinburgh was taken over by their Holyrood brewery, including the site where the Scottish Parliament now sits.

When William Younger died in 1769, he was a hugely wealthy and successful businessman but also, it seems, exhausted and overworked. The empire he left was continued by the family but eventually in 1931, the Younger enterprise was merged with rivals McEwan’s, to form Scottish Brewers Ltd.

This merger, the reasons for which are another story, meant the Younger family branched out into other ventures. In the 1930s, Harry Younger, the then head of the family, bought the land at Baro and began transforming it into the haven of nature it now is.

Harry led an interesting and privileged life. He was an internationally known curler who regularly competed and won trophies. His intention was to create a new home amid the beauty of this area of East Lothian. He set about building a house, but also developed Bara Loch as it now exists and surrounded it with an embrace of trees.

But the dark clouds of the Second World War intervened in his plans to enjoy this paradise. He had attended Sandhurst in his earlier years and seen the last months of the First World War. He remained involved in the Territorial Army and in January 1940 he was sent to France as commander of a mechanised unit.

It is recorded that he was killed in action on June 12 at St Valery-en-Caux. His unit, the Lothian and Border Horse, had been part of the brave and ferocious defence of the Dunkirk beaches. Anyone with knowledge of this action will understand the hell and desperation of that defence, and the supreme courage and sacrifice of the defenders.

Harry died on the day these brave defenders had to finally surrender, after over 300,000 had been evacuated from the beaches. How he died, what horrors he witnessed, we can only guess. He lies buried in the St Valery-en-Caux Franco-British Cemetery.

And so this is the story attached to this beautiful place. The man who began its creation never got the chance to enjoy it.

In our walk, we arrived at a stone seat overlooking the loch. It had a worn inscription on it. We could make out the words ‘in memory’ or ‘memorial’ and ‘Younger’, but the rest was too worn.

But I knew this must be a memorial to Harry Younger, which was later confirmed when I found a wonderful blog called Walking East Lothian in which the author explained he had traced the inscription to reveal Harry’s name and the date 1939, the year of the loch’s creation.

I sat on the seat and watched my kids play in the wood. The trees on the north side arch over the waterline to catch the sunlight, creating a canopy which dips into the loch. The serene tranquillity and beauty of the place is no doubt what Harry intended.

But that in a sense is part of the magic of this place. As the pioneer Nelson Henderson once said to his son: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

It was these words I was reflecting on as I watched my children play. Harry was of course wealthy but we can all plant trees, either real ones or metaphorical ones, as a legacy for others.

The recent death of a fellow storyteller and all-round wonderful woman, Ros Parkyn, was also on my mind. I had spoken about this place to her and of my intention to visit it. She loved nature too and would have gladly come along with me. But I sadly left it too late.

Ros encapsulated all that was good and compassionate about humanity and she also planted many trees, some in the ground for she was a nature lover, but even more were planted in the hearts of those who knew her. They all now will grown as part of her wonderful legacy.

As we left the wood, butterflies and blue dragonflies accompanied me, along with thoughts of my friend Ros and a man I didn’t know but whose trees shaded us.

I will return in autumn to see the colours and pay quiet homage to those who leave this world having made a positive difference.