|26/04/2011||Filled under Carradale, Kintyre, Scotland|
If we are to believe all that we read in the news and watch on television then every living human being should, at this moment, be getting themselves wildly excited about the wedding of two particular members of our species. One would think, from all the fuss, that this is the first time that any member of our Royal Family has ever been married (perish the thought). So, resisting the urge to voice my own opinions regarding the event I shall limit myself to including this charming picture of one of the many entries for ‘Scarecrow Sunday’, an annual event which takes place down in Southend, the most southerly village on the Kintyre peninsula. The occasion is often used as an opportunity to pass comment on both local and national events, through the medium of the scarecrow, so to speak. The winning entry was a biting social statement on the state of the roads hereabouts (one of several on this theme), the scarecrow being dressed as a road worker but lying on a sun lounger beside the very road which, presumably, he should have been repairing.
Since arriving in Carradale we have experienced what everyone assures us is ‘very unusual weather’ – lots of sunshine and warmth with only the occasional drop of rain. Even the winds have been mostly light. As I write, every piece of vegetation is doing its best to burst into leaf or flower, emerging from the long winter. We walk about and keep getting bursts of scent from the masses of gorse which is now in full bloom (I have often wondered whether it is gorse that smells like coconut or the reverse) and everywhere we go there is colour where previously there was none. Even up amongst the few remaining stones of Carradale’s strategically placed Aird’s Castle, overlooking Kilbrannan Sound, there are splashes of Scottish bluebells dotted about and bright yellow celandines too. Clearly the wild goats don’t get up here very often. We are still exploring around our village but recently we have discovered paths we never knew existed which meander their way around the back of the main street and give us a completely different view of the place. We now have our own ‘secret’ wooded route which leads down to the sea; we make a round trip so we can deposit glass in the recycling bins at the harbour and check on what yachts are sailing in the Sound. Only a few weeks ago we would be out and about almost alone and the few people we met were local residents. Now suddenly, it being holiday time, there is a new population in the village and many of the previously empty cottages are opened up. These second homes are occupied so their owners can frantically tidy and prune their gardens to get things back into shape for the season. The noise of lawnmowers and the buzzing of strimmers is all around us.
The sunshine even tempted us to dig out our bikes from their hiding places and pump the tyres for a ride along the single track road which runs north, roughly following the eastern shoreline of Kintyre. We rapidly discovered that there are only two modes of cycling hereabouts: flat out downhill barely in control and praying the brakes will slow you down enough to negotiate the next hairpin bend, or walking up hills too steep to ride. There is nothing that is flat – it just does not exist. Whoever built this road had some enormous challenges to overcome so I suppose we should expect this. The mountainous spine of the peninsula lies close to the eastern shore and is cut by deep valleys which means the road has to descend to sea level every so often to bridge one of the many burns which flow into the Sound. On the way back we stopped for a long chat with Tony and Margaret, the only full time residents in the settlement of four houses that is Grogport, where the River Sunadale makes its way into the sea. They have forged a productive garden out of the wilderness to make themselves completely self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables – the Good Life. Later we took to the forest roads, constructed for lorry traffic and rather more level but rough on the bikes, and our bottoms. In drainage channels alongside the track there were clouds of tadpoles, despite the fully grown newts who share the same pool and prey on them. Such abundance of life is inspiring. From our living room window now I gaze up at buzzards high above the ridge engaging in courting acrobatics when a much larger bird appears, soaring lower over the trees on enormous wings. Can this really be a Golden Eagle?