Robert and Faye Clerk of Penicuik Estate are an exception to the general rule in that they have been able to quantify the number of public visits to Penicuik Estate in Midlothian.
Penicuik House and Policies are situated on the Western outskirts of the town of Penicuik, about 15 km to the South of Edinburgh. The Estate is situated on the Eastern edge of the Pentland Hills and includes the valley of the North Esk River.
The superbly designed landscape is one of the earliest of its kind and at the centre stands ‘Old’ Penicuik House, one of the finest surviving examples of Palladian architecture in Scotland, now owned by Penicuik House Preservation Trust (PHPT). Built by Sir James Clerk 3rd Bt in 1765 ‘Old’ Penicuik House was destroyed by fire in 1899 and stands today as a consolidated ruin following completion of a major conservation project generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and many charitable organisations and private donors.
Following the consolidation project the public footfall has been monitored over the historic “Knights Law Bridge”, a three arch ashlar stone bridge over the East Burn on the northern driveway to Penicuik House. This route over the bridge provides only one of several entrances to the Estate but the number of people using it and the Estate for recreation is dramatic. Between April 2014 and May 2015 a staggering 83,177 footfall was recorded, this monitoring people entering and/or leaving the Estate via this route.
This huge intensity of public access doesn’t come without cost and Estate has had to deal with everything from dog fowling, worrying of livestock, privacy intrusion for the residents, litter and collateral damage to property.
The Estate has established a Ranger Service for the benefit of the public and this is part funded by SNH. Otherwise costs of maintenance and those arising from the provision of public access are met by the Estate and PHPT. The Estate does not run any commercial activity that seeks to financially capitalise on the public footfall itself and members of the public are able to enjoy their visits to this outstanding Designed Landscape entirely free of charge.
This is a tangible example of public benefit being delivered by a private landowner and is a record that many publically owned assets could struggle to match.