Friday, 3 August 2012

Flanders (but no swans)

I had been waiting for a spell of bright sunny weather for this little jaunt, but it had seemed as if  Godot was more likely to turn up first.

However, I  got a text from Estragon last night saying Godot had tweeted that he had been delayed again, and that I should just go ahead and they would catch me up.

As it happened, it was a not unpleasant morning as a pair of Mr. First's  finest charabancs conveyed me to Thornhill. The Stirlingshire one, that is.

What can I say about Thornhill to make it seem interesting for you ?. Apart from the wifeswapping and devil worship, obviously.

Well, Thornhill started as a "planned village" in the late 17th century. It would appear that the "planning" consisted of drawing two intersecting lines and writing "Her be the roads. Build ye hooses along them. And send the feu duties to The Laird, c/o The Boozy Harlot Inn, Pall Mall, London"

They  have Wigwams. Hmmm ! Would you give your holiday money to people who can't tell a tent from a shed ?

And there is a camp site , although no doubt you could get B&B in the village for the cost of a single tent pitch.
Come to think of it you could probably get B&B and a boozy harlot in the village for the cost of a pitch.

If what we are going to see is "before" this is after - flat drained productive farmland.

Here's our destination.

Flanders Moss is a raised bog, raised above the surrounding land by successive growths of sphagnum and it's decomposition to peat.At one point after the sea retreated, all the flat land of the carse was an impenetrable boggy barrier to North-South travel apart from the Long Causeway (Causewayhead) leading to Stirling Bridge. To get at the fertile alluvial land underneath the peat, the landowners offered rent-free plots to displaced highlanders. All they had to do was  strip the peat by hand and then drain and cultivate the land.
The locals laughingly referred to these poor sods (!) as "moss lairds"

The post shows the levels of the peat at various times in the past.
As I was taking this photograph, a couple walked over from the car park. Now, I don't like to stereotype people, but....shaven head, tattoos, calf length shorts , white trainers and Engerland top !!
And the bloke was a bit rough as well. I said good morning, as you do, and from two feet away they studiously ignored me.

Cards on the table. This is not a fun day out for the kids.\it's worth seeing, but you would need to be seriously into natural history/ecology to spend much more than an hour there, although I am sure it is worth visiting at different time of the year.
I'm unsure about the conservation/management of living ecosystems like this. But I don't really know enough about it to express an opinion. (Whadya mean "It's never stopped you before"?)

As I was approaching the footbridge exit, I saw a prone figure in the recovery position witat  rucksack, poles and jacket strewn around him. At last - a chance to use all these years of first aid training! DR ABC was running through my head as I approached, but it was a young fellow with a fancy camera taking a close up photo of some resting lepidoptera. An interesting chat went some way to restoring my faith in the human spirit

All around the air was blue as farmers struggled to make hay in extremely unfavourable conditions.

This had me puzzled for a minute. It's a crop of Salix (willow) presumably for coppicing for biofuel.

And so back to Thornhill, where the populace remained determinedly engaged in their nefarious pursuits  behind firmly closed doors

I had thought, perhaps, something romantic for tonights musical divertissement.

Maybe The Dropkick Murphys' Kiss me - I'm shitfaced"

But instead I settled for an old favourite of mine.


  1. I think they have a Blue fest of sorts in Thornhill these days? Dave Acari played it last year, I think. He's off the wall but entertaining. I saw Spider John play about 5 years ago at Merlefest in NC. Sadly, he seemed to have largely 'lost it' a bit: he was with Glover, at the time, if me memory serves.
    Those bloody butterfly and mothy peeps get everywhere, don't they! Don't suppose you know where to pick up/find tab for 'Mississippi Blues' these days. I seem to have misplaced my old copy and I had an urge to try it again yesterday. God knows if me hands are up to it now, though!

    1. You've got the wrong Thornhill there - Blues fest was at the D&G one.
      Blues Hoots And Hollers was a life enhancing piece of vynil, and I'm very fond of some of the stuff on that album with Willie Murphy - takes awhile but grows on you.
      Can't help with tab, but the Grossman YT clip shows the fingering quite well.Also some ukelele versions !!

  2. I've never given any thought to the term "raised bog" before – merely assumed it was an ordinary bog on a hill. So there you go. I feel quite uplifted. Raised even.
    Alen McF

    1. Glad to see you've been paying attention. In the next post I shall be explaining differential calculus.

  3. Thankyou for this. I keep intending to go and see Flanders Moss because one of my great great grand uncles was a Moss Laird for a few years. He gave an account of the work in a letter:

    “I left Glenlyon two years at Whitsunday last and come to Flanders Moss I payed 100£ for a possession. I bought it from a man of the name of Angus Stewart he went to America and perhaps it would have been better for me to go also for we have sore work in this moss cleaning it with water we have always wet feet but there is a very rich soil under the Moss an acre of this ground when properly manured will produce between 12 and 16 bolls of oats and it is sufficient to bear any kind of crop that grows in Britain it will require a twelve months work of one man to clean half an acre. We have it free of rent the first nineteen years and the second nineteen there is ten shillings the acre to pay. This place lies close to the water of Forth on the north side twelve miles west of Stirling within two miles of the village of Kippen and three miles from Thornhill” (26 Feb 1831 : Alex Stewart to his cousin Donald MacNaughton in Canada.)