Cairnspotting

At the hostel I meet a man who has climbed Lochnagar on his eightieth birthday . He is struggling to apply plasters to his cut toes around the limitations of his arthritis. He went up there to get the serial number of the Trig point. He is my first cairnspotter.. He has checked off over four thousand around the British Isles .. ‘There’s no point to it, but it gets me out there’,  he says ( I’d like to save that as the leitmotif for psychogeography).

‘ I started it because when I had a rest at a summit I noticed that everyone who came up touched the trig point’

The trig points are no longer in use – surveying now happening from satellites.. They are crumbling, being tough nuts to crack for vandals, or finding other uses.. One in the Pennines was adopted some time ago as a memorial to two fellwalking brothers who fell in the the first world war. He tells me another story about a trip to a trig on a Gloucestershire farm where the farmer would only allow his visit if he accompanied him the short way down the track in his RangeRover.. Beside the point were the graves of the farmer’s parents –

‘Like a Neolithic burial site at the highest point of their land…I had the feeling the chap was going to be next’

There are another two thousand to go – although some of them are on classified sites and he’s not sure if they ll still be there.

‘I hope I can make it to Shetland though’

Me too.

Landscape Areas

Landscape Areas

Around the time I started the blog I became aware of an East Lothian Council on-line consultation about ‘Special Landscape Areas ‘. My local authority has a matchless record of giving people a chance to make comments and then either ignoring them or losing them..

I discovered that the initiative behind this comes from Scottish Natural Heritage , and has the following rationale..

At the local authority level, landscapes should also be valued

because of the contribution they can make to sense of place and local

identity. Such landscapes may typically provide the setting of

key settlements, or are judged to be strongly representative of, and distinctive

to, the area (Guidance on local Landscape Designation, SNH, 2006)

(at least on P18 of 32 it does..)

I had decided to ignore this even before I read it – attempting to define intrinsic value of natural features has a long and dubious history ( I did a course in Countryside Planning at Uni). To summarise beauty IS in the eye of the beholder,  but if you are educated,  and you can use words like ‘intrinsic’ and ‘heritage’ with confidence that eye is much more likely to be yours..

So in the spirit of the NME Indy chart (which we followed in the 1980s because we knew the official chart was rigged) here are my own Landscape Areas for East Lothian.

I’ve picked them for their capacity for submerging into ‘profane illumination’ (see Triangulations post),  and of course to annoy the Council planners – which means quite a lot of them sit in the Edgelands of East Lothian – the unofficial countryside, which is unrecognised and usually zoned for some other activity.

My  list also mainly avoids areas which already have some kind of environmental designation (or at least one that actively protects its development.. In the tag line I’ve tried to imagine how I might one day advertise these on TripAdvisor..

..

Bramble patch, fields below Wedderburn Drive, Inveresk (NT347716)

I pick brambles for jam here each autumn. What could be more important about a landscape than gleaning?

The Gloup, Canty Bay(NT 584853)

A tiny (and only occasionally) active blowhole – acoustically wonderful if you catch it

Reedbed, Blindwells (NT425737)

A unique and surprising survivor amongst the open cast renovations. I am hoping to disembargo a piece about Blindwells soon – classic edgeland site

Little Ox, Morrisons Haven (NT368738)

Seal basking site betwixt the Pans.

Sedge marsh, Pencaitland railway walk, nr Cousland (NT378692)

Home to sedge warblers and reed buntings

Yew tree, Saltoun Big Wood (NT468664)

Where you can hide under the overhanging foliage – as per photo at top of article

Fairy Glen,Oldhamstocks(NT698694)

The Badlands of East Lothian. See the video ..

Sandy Hirst, Tyninghame(NT636797)

Sand spit out into the bay. ‘The Zone’ of East Lothian , if you’ve seen Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’

The Mount, Yellowcraigs (NT517857)

A tiny and overgrown sylvan volcanic stump

Fossil beach, Kilspindie foreshore (NT450804)

Find the creatures of an ancient ocean

Gullane Point (NT463831)

A place to look out to see.. (Rafts of scoters).

The Council have promised to publish their findings in June – I am not holding my breath. In the time since I submitted my suggestions the Sedge Marsh and the Reed Bed have both been denuded by development , and although Fairy Glen is an SSSI – as you will see from our video – when last visited was being eroded by a herd of cows. This is often the fate of edgelands sites .

Given the ELC plan to build large numbers of houses in the West of the county and/or along the A1 amenity areas are going to be increasingly prized – which I suppose can justify the consultation exercise.

The point I want to make is that encounters with wildness are more likely to happen in the edgeland areas close to home and where people do things , and that that is where a sense of belonging and cherishing which make up ‘value’ is most likely to develop.

 

.

 

Bluebells, Carstramon Wood

Bluebells, Carstramon Wood

Id never realised I could be overpowered by flowers.. A blue throbbing glow entered my head and hangs around like a tune you can’t get rid off. But why would you want to ? Its kind of addictive..

Carstramon Wood,  morning after rain , light waking slowly, May fading, and, late this year, the green fuse drives the flower.

Lime green shade , and then from below an insistent blue uplight.

The level or stage or shire of colour they make angling in the air a foot above the grass, and a notable glare the eye may abstract and sever from the blue colour/ of light beating up from so many glassy heads, which like water is good to float their deeper instress in upon the mind.. (Gerard Manley Hopkins, Journals 11 May 1873, Hodder Wood)

Classic bluebell poetry, I read later, is full of similes about water and flow, but in Manley Hopkins there is also a sense of intoxication , floating – which might come from the false ceiling a few inches above the ground. Tempting to lose focus, hard to focus on one point, merge it all into mid distance wash. That colour!

The other plant which can do this is gorse, in bright light yellow. But we are careful with gorse, we do not plunge. The alternate name , furze, old English, gets the quality.. Curiously I cant find a dialect alternate for blue bell that does that – maybe the felt sense is simply BLUE. The plant defines that experience, that colour, and humbles us to be bystanders at the power that rolls silently on around us.

Sheen, glimmer, haze

Small blue flowers chuck

motes into the eye

of the beholder

References for Robert wedderburn article

I have no idea who may one day find the RW piece – I hope the serendipity  that led me to him via Inveresk Lodge might bring someone else  to him this way.. So I have put down academic references here as well as the links in the article..  In truth its a great opportunity to display some  of his rhetorical style (page references refer to  McCalman, Ian  ed, 1991,  The Horrors of Slavery and Other Writings, )

(1) Truth Self Supported ; A Refutation of Certain Doctrinal Errors (1802) (p66)

(2) The Horrors Of Slavery (1824) (p60)

(4) The Axe Laid to the Root or A Fatal Blow to Oppressors ; Being An Address to the Planters and Negroes of the Island of Jamaica , No 1 (1817) (p82)

(7) Axe Laid to the Root, No 1(p83) (8) The Axe Laid to the Root , No2, (1817), (p89)

(9) Cast Iron Parsons or Hints to the Public and the Legislature on Political Economy (1820) (p150)

(12) Cast Iron Parsons (op cit) (p151)

(17) The Horrors of Slavery (op cit) (p58-9).


Other sources referred to ( and linked to ) in the text  ( I’ve left out the publishers – this isn’t a university essay)

(6)Morris, Michael (2011) Robert Wedderburn ; Race,Religion and Revolution , International Socialism, 132.

(10)Rediker, Marcus and Linebaugh, Peter   (2001) The Many headed Hydra; Sailors , Slaves and Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic

(8) Said, Edward ( 1994) ‘Jane Austen and Empire’ in Culture and Imperialism

(13) Hochschild , Adam (2005) Bury the Chains – The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery, p347. At two forums I’ve been at historians from the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies have suggested the per capita figure for Scotland would be much higher than this- can’t find a citation though..

(14) Morris, op cit.

(15)I thought I d come up with this myself – and then read this

nations and peoples are largely the stories they feed themselves. If they tell themselves stories that are lies they will suffer the future consequences of those lies . If they tell themselves stories that face their own truths they will free their history for future flowering

It’s by Ben Okri, Birds of Heaven(1995)  and is quoted both by James Robertson in Joseph Knight (2003), his excellent novel about Scotland’s slaving past, and by Michael Morris  in Scotland and the Carribean , c1740- 1835  (forthcoming, 2015,Routledge. Atlantic Archipelagos)

(16)Rice , Alan (2010) Creating Memorials, Building Identities; The Politics of Memory in  the Black Atlantic

(18) Henderson, Hamish (1960) Freedom Come All Ye