Many towns and villages in Fife owe their existence to coal mining. Others, however, were lost and, in some cases, completely erased from the landscape as the industry advanced.
The neighbouring communities of Fairfield, Lassodie and New Rows – known collectively as Lassodie – were established in the 1860s to house miners and their families drawn to the area by rapidly expanding pits exploiting rich seams of coal.
The trio of hamlets grew to house some 2000 people at the peak of production during the early years of the 20th century and included a church, two co-operative shops, a tavern and school. However, when the colliery closed in 1931 most of the workers were forced to leave. The last houses were demolished in the 1940s when the remaining tenants were moved to nearby Kelty.
Ordinarily one might expect to find some clues on the ground to the existence of this once thriving community. However, other than the remnants of a short stretch of disused and overgrown road and an intriguing reference to Lassodie on online aerial mapping, there is nothing.
In the 1960s whatever physical traces may have remained of Fairfield, Lassodie and New Rows were completely consumed when the St Ninians open cast mine entered production, excavators transforming the landscape beyond recognition.
From what was a gently sloping hillside bordering the M90 motorway, a mammoth amount of material was carved out, leaving an unworldly and desolate landscape behind. When mining ended in 2016, an ambitious land art project was going to reclaim the vast site, but it stalled.
Two spiralling hills of spoil were completed and, on top of one of them, trees sprout from stacks of dumper truck tyres, there is a map of Europe set in stone and an avenue of assorted bits of mining equipment. Old mapping suggests this hill stands where Lassodie once did.
Across the rest of the site, with mining buildings removed and the scarred black earth coated in topsoil, nature is slowly taking hold, an artificial loch formed in a deep hollow below attracting flocks of birds, and the surrounding paths popular with walkers. The long-term future of the land, however, remains uncertain (see update below).
The site can be accessed on foot from Kingseat, to the south, via Loch Fitty, by following the new waymarked Fife Pilgrim Way, which runs along the eastern edge of the former open cast mine, or from the B914, to the north.
Update: In May 2021 site owner Hargreaves Land sold the 930-acres of land at St Ninians to National Pride, a social interest community interest company that plans to develop an Eco-Therapy Wellness Park there.
For a more detailed history of Lassodie, click here.
For a walking route around the site, click here.