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Thursday, 14 February 2013

Something old, something new

I thought you might like to see this photo of our new toilets cabin arriving on the campsite (made by Wintech Ltd and very nice indeed). I wonder what the eagles made of it all. In this wild and natural part of the world, life often throws up such strange juxtapositions of old and new. Recently, I visited Dumbarton Castle which is situated on a fortress rock in the Clyde. Nowadays its parapets overlook Dumbarton’s football pitch- and prove useful to those who’ve left it too late to buy a ticket.

In the three years I have lived in Lochranza my perception of time has undergone a paradigm shift. This may be because of all the exciting geology in the area which confronts you in measures of millions of years, such as the footprint trail of the giant millipede across the rocks at Laggan from 250 million years ago. The past is here in the present.

Of course we are all living in exciting times of scientific discovery about the entire universe, and when Brian Cox presents new theories they come in trillions of years. No wonder that when the 500 year old skeleton of England’s Richard the Third was found, it seemed as if his final battle was a recent event and we almost knew him! Another exciting debate of our time is that regarding Scottish Independence. Applying geological time to this matter tells us that it’s a mere 700 years or so since the Scottish/ English border was defined (roughly the age of Lochranza Castle) and only a few thousand since the island of Britain did not exist but was joined to mainland Europe. The 300 years since the United Kingdom was formed is less than ten generations away.

As fast as new discoveries are made, old theories are demolished. For example, experts now say that Britain was actually never covered in woods which were quickly cleared by humans. In fact, careful human management of the forested areas by such practices as coppicing helped them to survive. Most of the landscapes we celebrate for their apparent wildness look as they do due to the activities of humans and their grazing by farm animals. Around Lochranza, black cattle used to tread the hillsides keeping intrusive vegetation at bay, crofters dug a network of lades to drain the boggy ground, and also built dry stane dykes. It all helped to create varieties of habitat which in turn attracted more varieties of wildlife, and shaped our favourite landscapes.

It’s good to keep moving so here’s to new theories – and the next time that you feel the earth under your feet shift a little just remember that it’s quite possible in Lochranza.

Here’s the enduring face of the Sleeping Warrior, sentinel of the north end of Arran, weathering the frost and ice…… at least for the time being.