Tag Archives: Galloway

A Lamb’s Tale…

After posting yesterday’s bout of self-pitying neepery, I switched off the comp and went outside to take in the evening.
There’s a field outside our door, where sheep graze. It’s just one of several linked fields they spend their days wandering in and out of, following the grazing; it has a couple of pens in it where shearing, dipping and the other arcane rituals of sheep-care are performed.
Last night the field was almost empty except for a ewe, with a lamb alongside her, bleating loudly; she was answering an even louder bleating from a second lamb, inside one of the pens. Going into the field, I went to the pen; the lamb inside stopped bleating and looked at me with mixed hope and fear in its black button eyes.
It obviously couldn’t get out. And for the life of me, I couldn’t see how it had got into the pen in the first place – the gate was latched shut. However, there were a couple of gaps in the fencing. In previous years, I’ve seen lambs squeeze themselves through improbably small fence openings in order to reach fresh grass, and the pen’s lush, ungrazed grass must have been incredibly tempting to a herbivore.
I did consider that it was being kept in the pen deliberately. But separating out one animal from a herd like that takes people and a dog or two, and I hadn’t seen anybody working in the field. Plus the lamb looked perfectly healthy and didn’t have any spray-paint markings that would distinguish it from the others in the herd. So it had clearly got itself into the pen and couldn’t get itself out.
Now, I’m describing it as a ‘lamb’ , so you probably have a picture of a cute little feather-light scrap that an old granny like me could hoick over a waist-heigh fence with one hand. Actually, these lambs are all seven or eight weeks old, which makes them hulking great teenagers in sheep terms. This particular ‘scrap’ probably weighed at least a couple of stone. So lifting it out was a no-no.
I unlatched the gate and wedged it open, then stood at outside the pen flapping my arms and shouting. This had the effect of convincing the lamb that I was a huge horrible lamb-eating monster; it panicked and started racing around, completely missing the open gate. So i had to go inside the pen and try to frighten it out from there. This very nearly ended in disaster – the frantic creature tried to get out through one of the fence gaps and jammed itself. I had got myself ready to pull it free (and anticipating getting kicked), when it freed itself, dodged around me and finally found the open gate.
Which it shot through so fast that it ended up going through the open gate of the adjoining pen. Where it stopped, quivering and panting. So I had to get around to the far end of that pen and do the arm-flapping business all over again.
Finally, it dashed out into the open field and made a beeline for Mum (or, to be accurate, her udder). All this time, she had stayed in the furthest corner with her other lamb, unwilling to leave her trapped offspring but determined that the huge horrible lamb-eating monster would not have her remaining child as well.
For about thirty seconds the ewe bestowed a world-weary gaze on me, then moved off to join the rest of the herd. And that was that.
The evening went on, silence returned. And I went back indoors, having done my bit of good for the day.

The Forest….

Loch Grannoch 2006

Loch Grannoch 2006

….so we went for another drive yesterday, through a section of the Galloway Forest we’d last visted three years ago. What a difference!
Much of the trees have recently been logged; so instead of dark brooding masses of conifers, there was moonscapes of bare trashed ground. Since the Galloway Forest is primarily an industrial-scale tree-growing operation, this didn’t shock us – everywhere we go in the Forest, there are logged-out clearings, along with newly-planted and young-growth plantations. It was just the comparison with that we remembered from out previous visit that jarred. Before, we had driven for miles along almost-tunnels of firs that blocked out the sun; now the empty landscape, littered with branches, rooted-out rocks and tractor ruts stretched all around.
We were heading for the remote Loch Grannoch. It’s pretty well unvisited – except by fishermen, mainly – and you get to it along about ten miles of rough forest track. The last part of the road – thankfully unlogged – runs through trees and comes out along the lip of a near-vertical cliff for a several hundred yards. Then you see the loch stretch gloriously out in front of you. On this occasion, we disturbed a herd of wild goats, looking ferociously shaggy and huge-horned.
Like many of the ancient lochs around here, it has beaches of coarse white sand, produced by millennia of weathering on the granite that underlies this part of Scotland. On a sunny day, you can nearly imagine you’re at the seaside. It was sunny when we got there yesterday, but getting late – we didn’t want to be caught out in the dark, so after a short walk along the beach, we started driving back, this time disturbing a solitary red deer as we bumped along over the ruts and rocks.
“I can remember” said B “there was a time when we’d say ‘Look! A real deer!’ Now it’s just ‘Oh, another deer'”.
A while later, he exclaimed “What! Is that a hare?” while I cried at the same time “Look, a buzzard, really low!” For a few more seconds we saw the hare leap along the road in front of us while the buzzard swooped in low; then the hare leapt into the grass and the buzzard wheeled away, disappointed.

The End of All Things…..

Ruin in a Galloway forest

The rain stopped this morning, for a brief time, and me & B took advantage and drove out into a nearby forest.
A couple of weeks ago, Son had been to a small outdoor rave there. It was a beautiful spot, he told us, by a loch, surrounded by forest. It sounded attractive, so we decided to have a look at the place for ourselves.
Son was right. It was wild and remote, a flat meadow on the edge of a loch that was a mile up a forest track that was itself off a little-used rural road. Some small rowboats were chained to a landing stage nearby, but that was the only sign of civilisation.
Except for, off to one side, some ruins half-hidden in a beech grove; I love exploring ruins, so I went over for a look. My first thought was that it was an ancient ruined kirk; it was built in the old style, with rough granite walls. Moreover, it had a semi-circular gable-end. But inside there were two smallish rooms with fireplaces and chimmneys – it was clearly a cottage.
Or rather, had been a cottage – it was completely roofless. There were other building behind, all similarly roofless. One was clearly another cottage – again two rooms, both with fireplaces. A third building, with five rooms, seemed to have been storerooms or stabling – there wasn’t any fireplaces, or a chimney.
The buildings were clearly old, but bore signs of relatively recent occupation. A couple of exterior walls were pebbledashed and held hooks for guttering; the chimneys had been modernised, with metal flashing showing where they had adjoined the roof; one fireplace had been rebuilt with modern bricks. Finally, at the front of the first cottage, a tyre hung from a tree by a length of old blue plastic twine; at some point within the last couple of decades, a child had been playing here.
I started wondering about the history of the place; the two cottages could have been shepherds’ or crofters’ cottages. They could equally well have been a pair of Victorian hunting lodges – common enough all over Scotland. And the modern renovations? Perhaps a group of 70s hippies, come here to pursue a dream of self-sufficiency? I walked around to the garden area and looked for signs of vegetable gardening.
There was none – no overgrown fruit bushes, no plot outlines, no greenhouse base, no shelterbelt shrubbery. Moreover, the stone wall surrounding the place was only about three feet high; barely high enough to keep out sheep, let alone deter hungry deer. So – no self-sufficient communards, then. More likely, somebody’s holiday home.
There was something nagging at me – I went back to look at one of the buildings and saw it. Or, rather, didn’t see it – there was no sign at all of whatever roofs had once been there. No fallen beams, no jutting props, no roofing tiles, clean edging on the tops of the pebbledashed walls; at some point, all the roofing had been deliberately removed. Had the owners made the place uninhabitable after evicting squatters? Or had they simply decided that it wasn’t worth paying council tax and maintainence costs on a place that they never used?
Aty that point, B found me – he too had been exploring and and wondering and visualising. But where I had been deep in the past, he had been to the future.
“Over here” he said, and led me to a stream – small, but fast and deep. “perfect for a water turbine, wouldn’t you say? Especially if you put in a little dam about here…”
I smiled – “What we would do if we won the lottery” was something that we often indulged in. Now it was “What we would do if we won the lottery, bought this place and rebuilt it”. We walked back to the buildings.
B continued. “We could turn this building into bedrooms and a bathroom; this one could be a kitchen; we’d join it all up of course, with covered walkways…” To the building with the curved gable end: “This could be the main living room – that would be a splendid view….”
I joined in, seeing it all. “This bit outside could be a big conservatory – just think of sitting here on summer evenings watching the skies change colour over the water…”
“And we could put a wind turbine on the hill out there, cover the place with solar panels, have a diesel genny for backup in that space outside the kitchen, a wood store in the room alongside, wave bye-bye to the bloody power companies…. ”
“Some trees would have to go – that conifer is already leaning and I’m surprised that that beech hasn’t lifted that wall….”
“‘Course, we’d need a bloody big 4-track to get to and from town, even just to get up and down the track in winter weather – doubt if the postie would come down this far, so we’d have to have a postbox at the gate…. a caterpillar-track would be useful, if we were getting our wood from the forest…”
We stood there a while more, dreaming, and seeing what might be. Then the rain started spattering down and we ran for the car.
And went back home…..