Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Beachcombing on Arran

1. Sannox beach
Beachcombing and rock pooling are great to pass an hour or two regardless of the weather.  It goes without saying the Arran has some beautiful beaches and plenty of them - being an Island! But not having an hour or two and in need of something for my blog, I challenged myself to photograph 10 different things, on the beach, in 15 minutes.  Setting photographic challenges for myself are good practice and loads of fun.
2. Driftwood
Beautiful sandy beaches can be found at Kildonan, Machrie, Sannox, Brodick, Blackwaterfoot and Kilmory (to name a few) but predominantly the beaches are pebble. Sannox just happened to be my port of call for these photo's - possibly not my best choice (sand and cameras are not very compatible) but that was my location so off I set, parking in the lay-by and using the stepping stones to access the beach (3 minutes gone already!)
3. Bivalve seashell (unknown type)
Sand or pebble all have tides which leave debris on the high tide mark, perfect for a bit of extra scrutiny. It's easy just to walk along the tide line and not really see what's under our feet - or maybe we're distracted by the sea birds and scenery?
4. Periwinkle
The day was really quite pleasant, a little breezy with the sun poking out every now and again.  The beach was deserted - not unusual for Arran! Most of the debris looked fairly routine, limpets, razor clam and mussel shells, seaweed, nylon fishing net and bits of drift wood. And I have to say, not a lot of plastic.

5. Whelks and limpets
But then the bright yellow periwinkles caught my eye and some whelks. Periwinkles come in a range of colours from white to orange with red stripes.
6. Seaweed, probably a type of wrack.
On picking through a patch of seaweed I noticed the fine detail on the leaf, which I think are called 'blades'.  Seaweed is a fascinating plant, it can survive extremely saltly water, being submerged for hours in freezing temperatures, drying out in baking sunshine, being battered by storms and feet and manages to survive! The seaweed on the shore varies and the ones found nearer the upper and middle shore have longer blades and often have 'bubbles' or floats.  Those nearer the lower shore have broader blades, but this is a big generalisation! The seaweed I looked at was a type of wrack, but I don't know which one.

7. Worm casts on shell
A bit more digging and I found the remains of a crab.

8. Eye socket of crab shell
Then a dried out starfish with only 4 legs left.
9. Remains of a starfish
And it was back to the seaweed.  This is part of the root system known as a hold fast.  But I'm not duplicating a photo of seaweed here.  I draw your attention to the fine white bone like chains entwined within.  I've no idea what they are but that was photo 10. Challenge complete and within the 15 minutes! Even though I got distracted with some duplicates (see more below).

10. Fine bone like structure entwined in seaweed holdfast.
3a. The beautiful shiny inside of the shell
4a. A white periwinkle
8a.  A crabs claw

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Ancient historical carvings on Arran

Some of the rings

Arran is seeped in history and I've previously done a blog on the carvings at Kings Cave which proved popular so here's another site that is less well known.  Just outside of Brodick near the start of the string road I've seen the cups and rings marked on the map and heard the odd mention of them but despite driving past the area most days there is no sign post, unlike other historical sites on Arran.  

More of the rings and a cup
So it wasn't with much expectation that I set out on a rainy day to see if I could find them (yes it was a few weeks ago, as we've not had rain for ages, and then I got distracted and did a blog on the snow).

This figure appears to walk with sticks
I had a map location but nothing more, the track is off the String Road on the left, not long after passing the grave yard.  Twenty yards up the track there is space for 2 – 3 cars to park before a barrier and I continued on foot.  Eyes peeled for anything that may look interesting I continued along the churned up muddy track for about ¼ mile.  The track turns to a small path and within 30 yards the flat stone is reached.

Is this a person with a horse (similar to Kings Caves)?

No fear of missing it, its huge! About 25 foot by 12 foot or more, some of the carvings are several feet tall.  The rock slab is in two main parts both covered in carvings, too many to describe and show photographs of, so only a few to give a taste of the site are shown.

The cups - are these indentations where tools were sharpened?
Although it is difficult to imagine the carvings were done well before the forestry arrived and they actually stand on Stronach Ridge, with views that would have been across the Beinn Nuis and the Goatfell range.

There is something a little phallic about these!

There are several guesses as to the relevance of the carvings, from sun dials to maps and it is believed they originate in the Bronze Age (c 4000 years ago).

This bird like carving is on the side of the rock and previously was covered with vegetation

They are described as cups and rings, but some look like people, and some that have only recently started to be described in texts, are like birds.  I found one that looks like a foot long dragonfly – and I can’t find this described anywhere else, so maybe its recently been uncovered; it is clear that the ground has had some clearance work done.
My 'dragonfly' 

 There even seems to be some rune or Pictish like markings towards the left side of the main rock slab.

Are these Pictish markings?

The carvings were recorded in great detail by Coles in 1901 with descriptions, drawings and some photographic plates (no trees in these!) but there are areas which were still filled with peat and vegetation.  Some of this has now been removed revealing the birds and other carvings.  This description also notes two other carved rocks a short distance away but these are now well under forest plantation.

To me this looks like a row of people, including a horse.

This is a great place to go when its wet as the water highlights the marks (but still easily seen when dry), if visiting in summer take midge repellent, and stick to the path during the stalking season!

The main slab
I have doubts on these which have recently been uncovered - are they Iron Age graffiti? 
There are no preservation measures in place for the rocks, or definitive answers to what they are, so use your imagination and leave the site as you find it.