Friday, 26 April 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury

Right, I said there was a little more to the Glendevon adventure...

We were fairly amazed, getting back to the car, to discover that it was 8pm! It was still light, but we'd been out walking for about five hours.

A unanimous decision was made that fish and chips were required, so we headed off home.

Part-way there, we passed a weird structure in a field by the road.

There was a lay-by, so I pulled over and we went exploring.

Turned out to be a random, and severely overgrown, graveyard.

There was a very big tree in the middle and a single flowering blackcurrant covered in bumblebees.

Most of the graves were from the 1800s. Just as we were leaving, I pulled back the branched of a conifer to read the back of one of the stones, and I found this!


Also in memory of Archibald Campbell Tait
For 12 years Bishop of London
and 14 years Archbishop of Canterbury
Born 21st Dec 1811, died at Addington 3rd Dec 1882
and was laid there beside his wife and son

Funny that the memorial place of a former Archbishop of Canterbury should go so neglected.

It's reputed in Wiki that: "...although the work of his life was all done in England, he remained a Scotsman to the end."

File:Archibald Campbell Tait 2.jpg
Archibald Campbell Tait
The moon was rising large and bright as we took our leave. We did indeed find a fish and chip shop, and Vimto, which had been a surprise topic on our walk! Mostly how we hadn't seen it in years, and how it was oddly a favourite in Sierra Leone, believe it or not. Mighty fine drink indeed.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Glendevon's Maiden

Warning: This post contains photos of dead animals that some people may find upsetting.


My body is broken.

Went into Alloa yesterday. Paul needed to pop to his bank, and I desperately needed a tuna melt and a cup of coffee at D'nisi. We followed that up with more coffee and cake!

Cup cake and ginger cake.
Perfect start to the day.
The plan was to head home, only the weather was spectacular: blue skies, sunshine. I had my walking boots in the back, so we decided to make for The Maiden's Well in Glendevon.

It started out as a fairly relaxed amble up a tarmac road, ending at a wooden bridge.


Here, I gave my first squee of delight. We found frogspawn! I haven't seen this since I was a kid. We used to collect it in jam jars and watch them turn into frogs, but it's getting rarer and rarer to find due to the destruction of the environment and use of pesticides.

This turned out to be just the beginning. Glendevon is a water valley. There are waterfalls and streams running all over it, and frogs, toads, and newts have turned it into a slippery mating ground.

Sad to see the ones that had laid in shallow puddles, because they will die when the sun evaporates the water. Most had managed to find a proper pool, though.



 We walked along the side of the reservoir towards the Maiden's Castle, an old faery mound.


Faery Mound Straight Ahead
En route, we passed a small waterfall, and then a large one, which we needed to cross via a bridge.

Small Fall

Large Fall
Dam by Large Fall
I've taken a short video of the larger fall. We crossed it to begin with, then ended up coming down the gully on our way back.

You can find more clips of waterfalls in an older post. The first part of the video above is taken from the top of the Maiden's Castle.


What is interesting is that, if you watch the video, from the top of this mound looking to the opposite bank, it appears to be flat, with a strange circular shape in the grass. However, from the man-made ridge near the forest, if you look up, you can see that there's actually a second mound opposite. You can see it in this panoramic I took.

Maiden's Castle, left. Second mound, right.
(click here to enlarge)

On the other side of the Castle is the Maiden's Well, a natural spring next to a stream. Paul spent a bit of time tidying it up, whilst I went for an amble up the track.

Maiden's Well

Paul Tidying the Well

I found a very dead sheep. Welcome to nature...


Paul and I spent a good ten minutes staring at a blade of grass creating a stream of tiny bubbles in a puddle. I find this equally as fascinating. Life and death right next to each other on a sunny spring day. Nice to be alive.

On the other side of the fence to the Maiden's Well is a thick pine forest. I sat on the bank watching the water for a while.


The opposite bank seemed far more magical, but I wasn't sure whether to cross at first.

Soft, green moss, but prickly pine needles beneath. It looked for all the world like the Witche's Hill at Castle Campbell. The same steep banks and big old boulders. Paul joined me in the woods a while later and explained that it was part of the same escarpment, and that the Witche's Hill was about a mile down the road!

It was hard work getting to the top because the damp mud below the pine needles kept giving way, and the drop was steep.


After the woods, we walked up the opposite bank looking for some cup and ring stones. I was a bit tired so I waited by the river, and made this unfortunate discovery.


Thought it might have been alive at first, but sadly not. Such as death. Not a lucky day for sheep. Still, plenty of sprightly little limmikins bouncing about the hillside. More make it than don't.

We climbed back down the waterfall and found a gorgeous green gorge. it'll be perfect for swimming in the summer, but ice-cold at the moment.


Also saw blankets of coltsfoot and cowslip (once represented in a cryptic crossword as: a bovine accident). Also found a funny stone which I'll call the Hare Stone, because it had a shadow like  a squatting hare. I suppose it could also be the Frog Stone, because it looks like a squatting frog from the back, plus all that frogspawn we found... might be better. 

There's a little more to this adventure, but I'll post it later.

Hare or Frog Stone

Monday, 22 April 2013

Wedding Bells

Sorry for the silence everyone! It's been a busy week.

I was in Edinburgh for my best mate's wedding. Arrived late Tuesday night via the airport, where I picked up the groom-to-be, Ruairí. 

Arrived to find that my lovely dad, who has never met Martine or Ruairí before, had sent a beautiful bunch of flowers up!

Slightly disturbing after the blue butterfly dream to notice
blue butterflies on the card!

Awesome yogurt and chocolate shortcake
dessert that Martine made

Spicy pho (pronounced fur) courtesy of Ruirí
We had a really chilled-out day on Wednesday. Then Thursday was wedding day!

Started with a full fried breakfast, again courtesy of Ruirí, who loves to cook.

Perfect way to start a wedding.
Then it was time to get ready...

Haven't seen those since 1993!
Wedding shoes. Cute.
It was one of the best, and certainly fastest, weddings that I've ever been to. Second time I've attended a wedding as one of two witnesses. Only, this time, there were a couple of extra guests: Martine's son, David, Ruirí's Alfred and my Percy.

Alfred is usually seen in an Aussie cork hat, khakis and boots. He donned the full Scottish kilt and sporran for this special event!

Alfred and Percy Officiating
Witnessing Duties
My witnessing counterpart, Ken, cracked open a bottle of champagne whilst we waited for the marriage certificates to be printed. Then it was back home for plenty more bubbly...

Strawberry eats raspberry...nomnomnom

Baklava and Kataifi
My culinary contribution from Cherry's Café

Dubbed 'the best wedding present ever'.
I'd been saving the waragi for months, since a friend smuggled it back from Rwanda in return for a T-shirt delivery I made for an NGO. Kept it for a special occasion, to share with people I knew would appreciate it. Don't think you can get it in the UK?

Martine complimented this with fish food from her mother's favourite chocolatier. In France it's traditional at Easter to eat tiny chocolate fish, and this selection box was absolutely delicious.

Then it was off to the Gurkha Restaurant for the evening meal, by way of the Malt Shovel Inn, where we adjourned to again after the meal. The food was lovely, and we finished up with Nepalese carrot dessert!

Carrots make nommy dessert.
Yes, Martine, anyone would think you just got married!
It was a day of much pleasurable eating, with rolling tides of laughter and good cheer. Martine gave me her magic scarf as a 'thank you'! I had a very big lump in my throat as I laid out my bed for the final time. I've slept many a night on that blue sofa, from Leith to London Road. I shall miss you my old friend...

The next day I hung around, hungover, until late afternoon. We did quick goodbyes. None of us cope very well with those - just throw everything in the boot of the car and go, knowing you'll meet again some day.

Drove back to Alva and hit the pubs with Paul. Good night's drinking. David drove Ruairí and Martine back to Dublin the next day, thus ending the Edinburgh era, though David says I can stop by whenever I like. Think he's planning to turn the place into a party pad whilst he finishes his PhD.

Feeling very bright and happy about things. They're staying in Ireland until the end of the year, then hopefully moving to Laos. Looking forward to visiting both those places. Meanwhile, hanging out in Scotland a little longer to attend a Beltane festival and help Paul move house. 

What a lovely bunch of memories.
The future smells sweet.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Coltsfoot Capers

Interesting day yesterday. Paul and I went for a pootle in the car. 

Drove past the Wizard's Stone en route to Castleton, which is a single standing stone next to an enclosure.

Panoramic, click to enlarge.

It's spring at last, so the limmikins are out. How cute is this - mammy and bairn.

"Look, Mum! It's a standing stone."

Almost as good as my Cow in a Dolmen.

Lot of cup markings on this one.

There was quite a bit off fleece caught on the side, so I gathered it up and made a wee charm for Kitty, to keep Fred company.

Then it was on to Grassmainston Well, which is a little trickle of water in a shallow gully on arable land. 

In a truly fascinating historical case of witchcraft (there was a lot of it in this area according to court and church records), heard in Clackmannan on 16th July, 1700, a certain spring of water, or well, was described, where acts of healing and sympathetic magick were performed and, it would seem, was quite well known to the people cited in the case. 

Fascinating account, but the spring looked as though it had seen better days.

As we stood watching the lapwings performing their backflip aerial display (listen to their calls, quite incredible!), a tractor pulled up and a very sturdy-looking farmer started coming towards us.

Up in Scotland, you have the right to roam, provided you're not causing damage. So we stood our ground. 

Malcolm, the farmer, is an absolutely lovely bloke. Irish, took over the farm a couple of years ago. Within minutes he and Paul were deep in discussion about the origins of the well, and the state of food production in the country. 

Malcolm explained that he'd been trying to locate the source of the spring because it was flooding part of his land. He suspected it to originate from the centre of the field, which had probably been filled in and levelled out many years ago.

Did we want to borrow his dowsing rods? 

"I'll just go get them from the digger..."

Sure enough, he produced a set of dowsing rods from the digger at the bottom of the field, plus a copper set back at the house, which he went to fetch!

Things like this always seem to happen when you're out with Paul.

We spent the next half hour pacing the field for water sources.

Snow-capped Mountains

Paul dowsing - NOT for energy lines! ;)

A day well spent, seeing new sights and making new friends. Mustn't forget to mention the Rumbling Bridge, either. Looks like any normal bridge of this region, until you get out and look down...

You don't really get a sense of scale in a photograph, but it's truly hypnotic.

Also, a small personal triumph! I have finally seen coltsfoot (tussilago farfara) growing in the wild. It's used to make one of my favourite sweets - coltsfoot candy. It's not common down south. I had a friend who used to swear it was everywhere, but when they showed me it was just a type of dandelion. Similar flower, roots make good coffee, but definitely not coltsfoot.

I spotted it as we were walking up to the well. It's a beautiful little thing