|27/03/2011||Filled under Carradale, Kintyre, Scotland|
There are several owls that live here in Carradale that hold deep and meaningful conversations for long periods of the night, gently disturbing our sleep and many of our neighbours’ too. At the bus stop one morning this was the main topic of debate, in a pleasant way, not by way of complaint but more spoken of with a quiet smile over our fortune – that we are sharing our world with such creatures. So we are not alone in feeling this way. Then again one of the things we noticed on viewing our house for the first time was that the grass in the back garden was short, but not as if cut, more like as if grazed. So it didn’t greatly surprise us to learn from our immediate neighbours that we can expect rabbits, hares and even the odd deer has been know to wander in from time to time.
As it happens, in our garden there is little enough grass for such creatures as moss has blanketed everything with a pale green sward, to such an extent that it disguises the shape of anything that might lie beneath. One morning I set myself the task of exploring some of the strange rounded hillocks I have been stumbling over and I pulled out a good collection of timber, fencing pieces and posts, long ago abandoned before being overwhelmed by the vegetation. Some pieces were well on their way to becoming part of the soil itself and had to be torn free from stringy roots but here and there I noticed something else, something I hadn’t expected. Beneath the long lost pieces of wood there were paving slabs, in fact a large paved area just in front of the house which had long disappeared completely from view. The physical effort of uncovering this was considerable, such was the depth of the turf layer holding on tenaciously with roots burrowing down into every crack, but two days later the full extent, with paths extending out into the garden towards our shed and again diagonally out beneath our washing line towards our heating oil tank, was revealed. Pat, who lives next door, came out mid way through and told me where to dig, for she has lived there long enough to remember our garden as it was before nature was allowed to overwhelm it. Her memories proved correct too. The paving was dark and damp from being so long hidden from light but it is slowly drying now, the lost colour returning. It may not be pretty but it will enable us to move around outside when it is wet without feeling we are walking on a damp sponge.
We do not object to our moss carpet, however, as it is a testament to the clean air here. Lichen is another organism that thrives best where there is little pollution and it can be found here in prolific quantities. All over Kintyre you will find tree branches dripping with long strands of the stuff and the shoreline rocks are carpeted with many-coloured varieties. Even on the smooth PVC of our house windows, hardly the most ideal of surfaces, there are sprigs of grey-green lichen starting to colonise.
Needing to get away from the chore of unpacking and organising things, Kate and I take our first walk up the hill behind the house. This is known as Deer Hill, or Cnoc nan Gabhar if you prefer, and it delivers splendid views to the south past the tip of Arran towards the Irish Sea. Although we were walking under cloud cover we could see that the Irish had the sunshine until mid afternoon when finally it burst through over Kintyre as well. Higher up the hill we kept finding owl pellets lying by the path, the size of which goes some way to explaining why our sleep is being disturbed. These are packets of fur mixed with pieces of bone and other indigestible material which are disgorged by owls and left lying about. They can be teased apart, so long as you have the stomach for it, to provide evidence of the owl’s diet.
Soon our path was descending into dense forest, a place where little light penetrates the trees and just like in our garden, here the moss covers everything, boulders and fallen branches alike. Where there is a clearing the light blasts down from above to create a magical stage effect, the trees being the actors with gesturing limbs frozen unmoving before their non-existent audience. Leave the path here and you will quickly lose your way as you stumble through the avenues of conifers. The smooth covering of moss is deceptive as despite the lack of other plant growth the ground is almost impossible to walk over. The moss layer is thin and what lies beneath is rough ankle-wrecking stuff, damp and unforgiving, primeval lumps of rock balancing there waiting to ensnare a passing leg, or more.
I now realise that somehow or other I have managed to write over eight hundred words in this blog entry without once mentioning our biggest piece of news. This week, for the first time in nearly three years, we have once again become car owners. The bus service to and from Campbeltown will continue to see our custom but having a car will now enable us to venture out after five pm when the last bus leaves town, it will enable us to carry bulky and awkward loads without risking injury to fellow bus passengers, to stock up our freezer from time to time and in due course to visit Cirrus Cat when she is berthed here. We always knew it would come to this and we have been pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it is to buy what we wanted. The choice of models is very limited here as indeed is colour, so we consider ourselves fortunate indeed to acquire such a brightly conspicuous example. The daffodils in our front garden think so too, seen here craning their long necks in wonder… or is it lust.