16 July 2018

Outcrops

I love to visit stone outcrops on my rambles. The one above lies to the west of Sheffield, overlooking the A57 road near Hollow Meadows. It is called The Head Stone. Often I wonder what ancient inhabitants of this land would have made of  such an outcrop. I can't help imagining that it if not somehow revered, it must have been a focal point for them. Below you can see The Head Stone from a different angle. The pictures were taken yesterday afternoon.
Before I reached The Head Stone I had climbed up from Wyming Brook Drive and along Reddicar Clough through swathes of bracken, noticing that there were  thousands of bilberries waiting to be picked. I ate a handful and wished I had brought a container to fill.  They would be very nice scattered on one's morning bowl of muesli.

On the slope to my right I noticed a small unnamed stone outcrop and as I scrambled through the bracken I guessed that it would have been good a place for ancient hunters to rest or base themselves in distant times gone by. They would have had a good view of the valley below and the area around the stone would be dry and solid. They could have left or stored things here and might have even made temporary camps.

See the big millstone slab to the left...
I looked underneath it and what I saw was a crude collection of rocks above a secret hollow. The rocks appear to be holding that two ton slab in place. As I say, I have investigated many stone outcrops but have never noticed such an undercarriage before. It crossed my mind that what you see under that great slab is not natural. The rocks may well have been placed there by human beings. Had I stumbled across a burial place? 

It is very possible that this place has never been subject to archaeological investigation. It is a good distance from any passing public footpaths and though I am sure that grouse shooters and other walkers have been there perhaps none of them considered why that slab of stone has a bunch of rocks beneath it.  I am going to refer my questions to The University of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology.

15 July 2018

Carvings

One day, when we were in south west Scotland, we took a detour to Dumtroddan Farm. We left Clint near the farmhouse and walked through a couple of gateways into a  cow field. Near the centre of the field there were two fenced off areas and within them there were low-lying rocky outcrops. There was another fenced off area on the edge of adjacent woodland and within this there was a similar outcrop.

Why the iron fencing? Well it was a means of protecting some very special rock carvings. Though four thousand years may have passed by, you could still make out the patterns left by Bronze Age people. They are known as "cup and ring" carvings and similar patterned stonework can be seen in numerous locations in Scotland, northern England, Wales, Ireland, northern Spain, Brittany in France and indeed much further afield.
 Just wo of the cup and ring carvings at Dumtroddan
Nobody knows why the carvings were made. Did they have some religious significance? Were they about marking territory? Were they connected with rituals or arithmetic? We can only guess though various theories abound.

Back home in Sheffield, I learnt that some very old stone carving has been found on a rock in Ecclesall Woods - about a mile from our house. Archaeological experts have concluded that this rock was also carved during The Bronze Age - perhaps 3500 years ago. Yesterday I went looking for it. 

I knew roughly where to find it though it isn't close to any of the woodland paths. With a bit of guesswork and scrabbling through undergrowth I finally located the little clearing in which this historic rock sits. It was carved long before Jesus Christ, The Lord Buddha or Muhammad were even dreamed of. 

I ran my fingers gently along the lines in the rock and wondered about the men who carved it. They would have had no idea that their handiwork would last so long - nor would they have ever imagined that a 21st century schizoid man would one day pause amidst the trees to think of them.
 In Ecclesall Woods yesterday

14 July 2018

Homeless

Yesterday the centre for the homeless based behind Sheffield Cathedral  were happy to accept my donations. Some day soon a bunch of lucky homeless fellows will be strolling around our city's streets wearing a selection of Yorkshire Pudding underpants. though I expect that these will be hidden from view. At least, I hope so.

Homelessness is not a massive problem in Sheffield but underthe last two Conservative governments headed by David Cameron and Theresa May, we have certainly seen a significant growth in the numbers of rough sleepers. I take my hat off to all the good citizens who give up their time to help the homeless. It can't be easy - what with associated issues such as mental ill-health, drug taking, alcoholism and violence. But there is a crying need out there.

And there but for the grace of God go any of us. It would be very easy to find oneself being thrown from the carousel of life - unable to get back on again. Mental breakdown, a broken relationship, losing one's job, drinking too much, personal financial crisis - these are just five reasons why homelessness might happen.

Of course Sheffield's homeless people all know about the support they can receive at the cathedral so in the daytime a good number of them are magnetised to the area. After I had dropped off my donation I had a bit of a wander and spotted a "down and out" fellow sitting on the doorstep of a Georgian building along an alleyway known as Wheats Lane.

Secretly, I took a couple of pictures of him then slightly nervously I approached him and asked him if he minded. He really appeared "out of it" - on a distant planet and didn't seem to get the gist of what I was saying. Thin-faced and glassy-eyed, he gave me the impression that he had been out on the streets for years. I gave him a couple of pound coins then went on my way, leaving him sitting there with the rest of his life ahead of him.

The western world is wealthy enough to make sure that all of our people have somewhere safe and warm to sleep at night. There really shouldn't be any homelessness. Who is to blame? Personally, I wouldn't say it was the homeless themselves. You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one...

13 July 2018

Drizzle

Millstone boulder on Higger Tor
I was about to drive Clint down to Sheffield Cathedral to donate some shoes, underpants and shirts to the homeless charity that is based there. However, by the time I was ready to go something weird started to happen outside. It began to rain!

We haven't seen any rain since May and at first I was confused. Mind you this wasn't proper English rain. Not teaspoon sized raindrops filling ankle-deep puddles. This rain was so fine it felt like a gossamer spray - so fine it hardly wetted the pavement before evaporating.

Why am I talking in past tenses when the almost invisible rain shower is happening right now? As I look out of our window, I can see it settling on Clint's bonnet (American - hood) and Clint is breathing  huge sighs of relief having endured so many hot days, standing out in the open. The thin rain is bringing him some welcome relief.

As well as visiting the homeless charity, I was planning to go rambling on the moors west of The Derwent Valley today but that expedition has now been postponed. Perhaps I will go tomorrow.  My walks are always photograph opportunities and for that hobby I prefer the illumination that direct sunshine brings. What would have been dull, grey scenes are almost always enlivened by sunlight.

Earlier this week I did manage a little constitutional walk up on Higger Tor which is a millstone plateau three miles from here, close to Stanage Edge. There were several school parties out and about. Some were scrambling up the rocks and all seemed to be wearing helmets. Teachers and outdoor leaders were shepherding them like flocks of sheep. After all, you never know what dangers you might encounter in the countryside!

And still the fine rain drifts down from on high. Clint even looks as though he has broken into a sweat. Perhaps he spotted one of those sexy little Fiats driving up the hill! South Korean cars are so hot-blooded.
On Higger Tor looking to Stanage Edge

12 July 2018

England

England's World Cup team ahead of last night's semi-final
Last evening I sat on my backside for two and a half hours staring at our television set. England were playing Croatia in the second World Cup semi-final. The match was beamed live from Moscow.

There was such hope, such expectation and our young team had gradually won the nation's hearts. These lads were proud to be English, proud to represent their country and they were together - a proper team led by our dignified and articulate manager - Gareth Southgate.

Gareth lives in North Yorkshire and the back line of our defence consisted of  three Yorkshiremen. Shirley used to work with Kyle Walker's mother and I met him at her wedding when he was about ten years old. He was a little devil. Harry Maguire, who spent two seasons at Hull City, is from Mosbrough in Sheffield's southern suburbs and John Stones is from Hoylandswaine near Barnsley.

When asked about this Yorkshireness in England's defence, Harry Maguire smiled and said, "We might not have much skill in Yorkshire but we're hard!"

Anyway, the first half of the semi-final was dominated by England. Kieran Trippier - from Bury, Lancashire - scored a superb goal from a direct free kick. However, our dominance meant that at halftime we should have been going in two or three up, not just one-nil. I have learnt that in football you must take your chances when you are on top or the other team will come back to bite you.

Croatia equalised in the 68th minute and the game headed into extra time. With the teams tiring we gave away a sloppy goal with ten minutes to go and soon it was all over. Football was not coming home after all. In place of elation there was a hollow feeling but like most true football supporters I feel proud of  England's performance in this World Cup. They played with passion and pride and gave it their all. You cannot ask for more but next time, next time... perhaps the manager will pick eleven Yorkshiremen and not just the three in defence.

11 July 2018

Forgotten

What a very heart-warming story! The Wild Boars boys' football team have been rescued from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system in Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand. It is a tale of international co-operation, determination, bravery and caving skills. The whole world has been watching and collectively we let out a huge "hurrah" when we learnt that all of the boys were finally out. It was the best of humanity.

But what of Yemen? There are children there too. They may not be trapped in a treacherous cave system and the fickle media, like the U.N. may have turned its back on them but their lives are also endangered. In fact, countless children have already died there - from Saudi Arabian bombing, starvation and cholera. 

They are not sitting on a ledge in the darkness. After all, how could such a ledge accommodate literally thousands of Yemeni children? And as I say, the media are not waiting on the edges of bombed out towns and villages to bring the latest news. There are no "live updates".

Far more than 10,000 civilians have already died in Yemen and in November of 2017, the Save the Children organisation estimated that 130 Yemeni children were dying every day as a direct result of the conflict. Not thirteen - like the cave group in Thailand - but 130 - per day! The secrecy surrounding the conflict in Yemen goes on just as the western world continues to supply Saudi Arabia with the military hardware it needs to force its will upon the beleaguered Yemeni people.

The background to the conflict is complicated but the simple reality is that children are dying. So yes - let's cheer for the Thai boys that the media chose to bring to our television screens - but please spare a thought for the forgotten children of Yemen for they are also human beings.

10 July 2018

Supplementary

Above - we were visiting  the Drurmroddan Cup and Ring Stones when we were surrounded by a herd of young cows and guess who their leader was? Yes, it was that damned Penelope again! See that vulgar tongue she extended in my direction! Disgusting!

Below - with St Ninian's Cave ahead, I paused on the beach to stack stones. I think I have a talent for this harmless activity as my hands are so steady, I am patient and I enjoy seeing the end result. It is an art form that anyone can attempt if there are stones around. Next time you are on a beach why not give it a go? It is most satisfying.
Above - an oystercatcher on the harbour wall at Drummore and below three standing stones at Drumtroddan. Two of them have fallen down but they were all erected by a community of Ancient Britons around 4000 years ago.. Nobody knows for sure why a group of our ancestors went to such trouble. Was the project linked with some sort of pagan belief system?  We may never know for sure but mystery can often be far more delicious than truth.
Below the bronze statue of a random mariner looking out from the seafront at Port William to The Mull of Galloway. In front of him is an inscribed rock which reads, "What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare?" It is indeed a good question, courtesy of the Welsh poet W.H.Davies.
On our last night in south western Scotland we went to a concert in Newton Stewart. It heralded the beginning of the little town's fifth annual folk festival. One of the performers was Hannah Rarity - a talented singer with the voice of an angel. Hannah recently became BBC Radio Scotland's Young Traditional Musician of the Year...
 And here she is singing "Land o' the Leal":-
I'm wearin' awa', Jean
Like snaw-wreaths in thaw, Jean
I'm wearin' awa'
To the land o' the leal
There 's nae sorrow there, Jean
There 's neither cauld nor care, Jean
The day is aye fair
In the land o' the leal...

Hannah is singing in a Scottish dialect. "Leal" means faithful or loyal and in this song "The Land o' The Leal" is the place where the dead reside. 

9 July 2018

Pass

Hello. It's me again. Back home in sun-baked Sheffield. The lawn looks as though it belongs in the south of France - parched and yellowy. By the way, if you are thinking that that's a picture of me above you are wrong. It's just a random old fellow holding his bus pass.

Before we headed up to equally sun-baked Scotland our garden received a damned good watering and fortunately the vegetables survived seven sunny days without Farmer Pudding's intervention. Our potato plants are just about ready to dig up though I am expecting tiny tubers because we have had six weeks now without a  drop of rain. The courgettes, runner beans and French beans are all doing well but Lord knows what has happened to the peas. It's as if they haven't flowered.

The raspberry bushes in the top corner have borne hundreds of raspberries but their growth has been stunted owing to these drought conditions. We went to a fruit farm near Holmesfield yesterday afternoon but their raspberries were very sparse. When we went last year you could pick a punnet of plump and juicy raspberries in ten minutes or so. Not this year.

There was an envelope waiting for me when I got home. It contained my "senior" bus pass which means that I am now officially an old git! Now you can understand why I posted that photograph at the top of this post. The pass will entitle me to travel anywhere in England on public buses free of charge. After working at Oxfam on Wednesdays I usually catch a bus back home. Normally that ride cost me £1.20 - or £62 a year. Now that money will be saved. Strangely I won't be able to use the pass in Scotland though Scottish "seniors" can use their passes in England. Most unfair. Seniors are also not allowed to use their passes before 9.30am which suits me just fine.

If you think you have seen the last of my pictures from south west Scotland, think again. This blogpost is just a delaying tactic. More pictures for your edification tomorrow.

8 July 2018

McKerlie

It's funny how one thing can lead to another. Going back to the old and forgotten church at Kirkmadrine - I snapped a couple of pictures there - of a gravestone still secured to one of the church's ruinous walls. Last night I deciphered the various inscriptions. This is what it said:-

This stone was erected
By
Captain John McKerlie Royal Navy
In grateful remembrance
of his parents
Who lie interred here
John McKerlie and Catherine
his Spouse
Also his twin Sister
Who died in infancy
And two brothers John & Alexander
Who also died very young
The above
Rear Admiral John McKerlie, died
September 12th 1846, aged 74 years
Harriet McKerlie, widow of the above
Rear Admiral John McKerlie
Died June 25th 1872, aged 88 years
Blessed are the dead who die
In THE LORD - Revelations

Clearly Captain McKerlie of the Royal Navy had done pretty well for himself. After erecting a memorial to his parents he went on to reach the exalted rank of a Rear Admiral.

Though I have not been able to track down an image of John McKerlie, I have discovered several things about him. He was a national hero and a close colleague of Lord Nelson. McKerlie fought at The Battle of Trafalgar and in an earlier military skirmish off the coast of Brittany he was aboard "The Indefatigable" when successfully assaulting the French ship "Les Droits de l'Homme". A painting of this event is displayed in the Brest Museum of Art in France:-
Though losing his right arm in this bloody encounter, McKerlie carried on his illustrious career and retired to Garlieston where he became involved in merchant shipping. He married Harriet and they had one daughter, Lillias, who wrote to "The Spectator" in 1914:-
Another interesting thing I have found out about McKerlie is that a memorial brooch was produced in his memory - containing a lock of his hair. Perhaps it was worn by his wife, Harriet and maybe Lillias inherited it. Anyway, it was sold fairly recently by The Armoury of St James's.

In his time, John McKerlie was a significant national figure. It is a little sad to think of him lying in that forgotten churchyard visited only by crows and occasional wood pigeons. No more the cries of men in pain nor waves battering the bows of "The Indefatigable" nor cannonballs booming. Now all is quiet. 
John McKerlie - Memorial brooch

6 July 2018

Kirkmadrine

You don't have to be mad to work here but it helps.

After our evening meal on Thursday, Shirley just wished to lounge around reading after putting a few items of laundry in Slipway Cottage's washing machine. On the other hand, I still wanted to be out there in the evening sunshine.

On my Ordnance Survey map I had spotted the site of an abandoned church about a mile north of here. In Old English style lettering the site was marked as "Kirkmadrine - Remains of". Intriguing. And the site was a good distance from any lane or path with no houses nearby. Why would anyone build a church there? 

Perhaps there was a community there long ago. Perhaps there were tracks that led from surrounding farmsteads and crofts - long disappeared. Perhaps the rising ground on which Kirkmadrine was built was a place of pre-Christian significance. By the way, this Kirkmadrine should not be confused with any other Kirkmadrine in the region. It is not the only one.

Aerial imagery and Google Streetview helped me to plan my evening adventure. I  parked Clint in a gateway on the lane that leads to Innerwell. I had hoped to stroll across the adjacent field but it had been sown with wheat so I had to skirt round it. 

Then I had a barbed wire fence to negotiate before following a wide green track that nobody walks. Galloway cattle came sprinting up to the fence to see me led by my bovine stalker - Penelope who is standing in the middle of the group. 
Two hundred yards further on there was another fence to climb over. Ouch! And then I was into a recently mown wide meadow  that had been sprayed with manure. It was easy to walk across and there ahead was the site of Kirkmadrine Church.

I didn't know what I might find amidst those trees. There was no roof and the primitive building had largely tumbled down but there was a doorway with a stone lintel above and there were some gravestones too. One was the grave of a naval captain and there was a date upon it - 1876 - not so long ago.
Before heading back to Clint, I lingered a while in that ancient place and tried to imagine how it would have been long ago before the defunct parish of Kirkmadrine merged with the parish of Sorbie and became largely forgotten. Plodding back across the fields I felt rather elated to have spotted that remote site and to have actually been there and seen it with my own eyes. Bloody marvellous!

5 July 2018

Ditto

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse
Like yesterday, I am afraid I haven't got the time this morning to sit around blogging so instead I shall share some more pictures with you. These were taken on our trip aboard Silver Clint over to The Mull of Galloway  which is Scotland's most southerly point. It was another grand day out in gorgeous weather. We also visited the famed Logan Botanical Gardens.
A corner of Logan Botanical Gardens
Drummore Harbbour
Lion above the door of The Queen's Hotel in Drummore
Yesterday's picnic spot - East Tarbet Bay
Yesterday evening back at Garlieston

4 July 2018

Forgiveness

Grey heron at Wigtown
Please forgive me. All I have for you today is more pictures from south western Scotland. The weather remains beautiful and soon we will  be driving along The Rhins of  Galloway down to the Mull of Galloway so I haven't got time to be sitting here a-bloggin'. These pictures were taken yesterday - July 3rd... 
A bookshop in Wigtown, Can you see the orange circle?
It's the "Bosh!" cookbook!
St Ninian's Cave on the southern tip of The Machars.
Here St Ninian would come to meditate - according to legend.
St Ninian's Chapel at The Isle of Whithorn.
Pilgrims often arrived in boats and would tarry here a while
before continuing their journeys to the shrine at Whithorn
Enjoying thr sunshine in Wigtown Town Gardens

3 July 2018

Monday

Window in Whithorn
The outside world may have its problems but we are on The Machars of south west Scotland having a spiffing time. Did I just dream Donald Trump? Does Brexit really exist? Is Yemen really dying?

I don't care any more because the sun has come up in another cobalt blue sky. Gulls and fourteen swans are in the bay waiting for the next high tide. Where shall we go today? Perhaps to The Isle of Whithorn which isn't really an island at all. Perhaps to Wigtown - Scotland's book town and once the county town of Wigtownshire - now absorbed into the administrative region of Dumfries and Galloway.
Shirley heading tone of the beaches at Monreith
Yesterday your hardy correspondent donned his swimming shorts and ventured into Luce Bay from Monreith beach. The Rhins of Galloway lay stretched out mistily across the aquatic horizon - twelve sea miles away. I swam for no more than ten minutes. In spite of The Gulf Stream it was chilly man. One's nether regions were shrunken. This wasn't Corfu.

We had spent three hours in Whithorn where the mysterious St Ninian built Scotland's first Christian community in the fifth century. Later he became a medieval cult figure and for many God-fearing Britons, a pilgrimage to his shrine was vital. By visiting it you gained credit on the path to the afterlife and besides - St Ninian was reputed to be a healer - bringing relief to the infirm. Thousands arrived at his shrine from all over Scotland,  Northumbria and beyond. 

It is easy to forget how it was.
Gavin Maxwell Memorial at Monreith
We met Mick at the wickerwork gate that leads along a path to the reconstruction of an Iron Age round house. Its design is based entirely upon archaeological evidence drawn from the site of an actual round house found in a former lake in swampy ground but three miles from Whithorn. Mick was very passionate about Iron Age history. It was as if it had all happened just yesterday.
We also met lovely Rory in the museum which houses several ancient crosses and other carved stones from the early Christian era. Rory clearly suffered from mild cerebral palsy but he had been to The University of Dundee - acquiring a degree in history and politics. He was slightly disconnected from the so-called real world. He thought The Lincolnshire Wife would qualify for a senior's ticket and was extremely apologetic and embarrassed when he realised his error. No problem Rory.
It's almost eight o'clock now. In a moment I shall put the TV news on to see what is happening in the strange world beyond this summer reality. They say that the heatwave will continue for another fortnight. What a wonderful time to be here on The Machars.
This unremarkable crypt once housed the lavish shrine of  St Ninian

2 July 2018

Rambling

At the ruins of Cruggleton Castle
The Lincolnshire  Wife came with me. No car required. We just set off walking from our front door. Along the littoral and into the woods by Galloway House - once home to the Earls of Galloway and their progeny.
Galloway House
The lodge high above the sea
We reached Rigg Bay where the tide was far out revealing rocks and bladder wrack and out there in the lapping waves the remains of a "mulberry harbour" developed in relation to the D-Day landings of World War II. Then up into the woods above Sliddery Point where we found a remote lodge cottage high above the sea with magnificent views to The Lake District hills.

We saw an arch further down the coast and surprisingly The Lincolnshire Wife wanted to push on. Twenty minutes later we arrived at the remains of Cruggleton Castle - a very ancient site above Cruggleton Heights.

Then across farmland to the largely neglected Cruggleton Church where I climbed over the eight foot circling wall but I couldn't get in. The keys are kept at a local farm.
Cruggleton churchyard with the church hidden by trees
A sapphire blue sky above and sunshine on our shoulder. We followed quiet lanes all the way back to Pouton and Home Farm before cutting through the Galloway House estate back to Garlieston for a late lunch in our cottage by the sea.

By now the high tide had returned and previously beached boats bobbed in the water. It was the furthest The Lincolnshire Wife had walked in a long while but she also enjoyed this varied  sunshine walk on the east coast of The Machars... Wish you were here!
In Rigg Bay and all that remains of a Mulberry Harbour prototype