Saturday, 24 September 2016

Archaeology Conferences

The Ardnamurchan History & Heritage Association was represented at two archaeology conferences in the early part of this month, the first in Edinburgh, where we celebrated the tenth anniversary of Archaeology Scotland's Adopt a Monument scheme - picture shows our friends, Phil Richardson (in red, right) and Cara Jonas (in pale blue, left) on one of their visits to Ardnamurchan. Thye have been very supportive of our group, so it was great to be there to ccelebrate with them. The second conference was in Oban, which brought together people living on the west coast. It was great to hear what other amateur groups like ours are doing to preserve the nation's heritage, and to meet like-minded people.

One goes to such conferences in the hope of help, particularly with the identification of features like this. It caused some interest to someone from the Isle of Ling who thought they had a similar feature. We think this very well-made pit in the beach near Swordle may be a kelp pit, while the one on Ling, which is shallower and more extensive, may have been used in flax processing.

It was good to be able to describe the repairs that have been done to St Comghan's which should ensure that the south facade is preserved for years to come. Sadly, we also had to report that our work at this beautiful site would probably never end, as....

....part of the boundary wall has recently come down, allowing the neighbouring sheep and cattle to come in. Since the graveyard is a scheduled monument, we have to get permission from Historic Environment Scotland - a lengthy affair - to carry out the repair as well as finding the money to pay a qualified stonemason to rebuild it.

Meeting people from Lismore gave us some ideas as to what might be done to preserve the two fine Iona grave slabs which lie near the front door of St Comghan's. The Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre has lifted, preserved and put on display the grave slabs from Lismore churchyard - story here.

We were also able to describe some of the many previously unrecorded sites we were finding, particularly those associated with ordinary people - like in the clachan area at Camas nan Geall - circled. Here we are finding buildings which might date back into the centuries after the arrival of the Vikings, though we shared the frustration many people felt at our inability to....

....identify and date buildings such as this one, high on a hillside above Bourblaige.

One of the main aims of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant which AHHA has won is to draw people's attention to the rich archaeological heritage of the Ardnamurchan area, and we certainly came away from both conferences feeling that people who might never have heard of the peninsula now have.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Notices, Notices

Yesterday's post suggested that major changes are happening at the CalMac pier. As well as the re-painting of the waiting lanes for cars, a bollard has appeared at the land end of the pier itself, preventing vehicles from accessing it. This must be a blow to the creel fishermen, both local and from the outer isles, since the vans which take their shellfish to market used to drive along it to make transferring the crates from the boats easy.

Along with such changes, CalMac is suffering a bad dose of notice fever, even worse than Highland Council at Corran. As well as their helpful notices, they now have around twenty warning and prohibitive notices like this one, which seems to make it clear that creel fishermen's boats are no longer welcome. There is a rumour in the community that gates are going across the top of the slipway, so it will no longer be possible to launch boats from there. And, just to check, CalMac has installed CCTV cameras.

I have some sympathy with CalMac. In these litigious days, owners of any sort of property are nervous about being sued by people using it for the wrong purposes, but it does seem a great shame that a facility like the slipway is no longer available for use, even if a fee has to be paid.

Other notices have appeared, such as this one for the Kilchoan Hotel, which is in good taste and helpful, and will, perhaps, help to draw aside some of the many cars which are driving straight through the village without stopping. However....

....what should be the most important and warmly welcoming notice refers to the slightly confusing concept of the "UK mainland". Surely the UK mainland has always been called Great Britain?

The Last Lady

There's hardly been a butterfly on the wing in the last few days, so when, on Wednesday, we climbed into the open, windy area to the northeast of Ben Hiant, we didn't expect to find this clinging to a devil's bit scabious flower.

It's a painted lady, and it was so cold and damp that it seemed to welcome the warmth of a finger.

Its colours already faded. The species doesn't hibernate, and few migrate back south - and certainly not against the stiff southeaster that was blowing - so it's likely that this beauty will soon be dead.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

A Wander Through the Village

As so often happens here, some of the best weather of the year is kept for autumn. For anyone taking photographs, this is a wonderful time of year, with clear air and clouds adding interest to the skies. This was sunset at Ardnamurchan Point yesterday evening, picture taken by Kilchoan Early Bird - to whom, once again, many thanks - and....

....this was dawn this morning, a day after the equinox, with the sun breaking the horizon, as seen from our house, over the conical hill just to the south of Ben Hiant called Stellachan Dubha.

It seemed a perfect day to be outdoors, so I set off to walk to the CalMac pier in the full knowledge that it would take time: one of the good things about walking the lanes is that local drivers stop for a chat, though all but one has given up offering a lift.

A group of about twenty swallows were swooping round the roofs of the houses by the shop - this picture is of the Ferry House. These must be migrants from the north, taking a break to replenish their reserves on the insects being blown in on the southeasterly breeze. By the time I returned they had all departed for Africa.

Wrens are supposed to be shy birds but this one, seeking out insects in the crevices of a hawthorn by Ben Hiant croft, seemed only too happy to stay around for a picture - but hadn't learnt the first rule of modelling: stay still for a moment!

This blog carried a picture of the old manse, Meall mo Chridhe, only the other day but, with its warm colour and the way it nestles within its park of trees, here's another.

The leaves on almost all the trees are showing signs of decay, helped by almost continuous southerly breezes over the last few days. On some of the oaks the leaves are shrivelled and look ready to fall.

From Pier Road the whole of Ormsaigbeg is visible, but these are the houses at the township's eastern end, with the shop one of the central building along the waterline. All trace of the heather flowering has gone, but the dying bracken now gives the hillside a rich, coppery colour. The peak at upper right is Beinn na Seilg and the ridge to the left Druim na Gearr Leacainn.

At Mingary Pier the second Tobermory ferry of the day was just arriving. Our usual ferry, the Loch Linnhe, is away, so today's service was provided by her sister ship, the Loch Riddon.

CalMac are making plenty of changes at the ferry terminal, one of which has been to re-mark the lanes for the cars waiting to board: they now read, from left to right, "Fill Lane 1", "Then Lane 2" and "Then Lane 3". That should be clear enough.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Another Weather Site

Close readers of this Diary will know what a huge fan I am of Cameron Beccario's map of the world's winds, but I'm very grateful to Ronnie Barker for sending me a rival for my affections, windyty