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ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Atop the Lephinkill Chambered CairnA few hundred yards across and about 300 feet up from where I grew up there’s a chambered cairn. Despite having run around in the woods surrounding it rather a lot, and knowing that there was archaeology up there to be found, somehow I never came across it.

I was back home visiting my Mum and sister recently, and happened to come across a map that showed there’s now a marked route to the cairn that didn’t exist when I was wee. Checking there was enough time before dark, my sister and I set out to go up and have a look.

There wasn’t a path, as such, but the way was clearly marked by yellow circles attached to trees along the way. The natural woods just above the village are birch, before giving way to forestry land. Much of the hill is covered in mature conifers, but the cairn is in a clear-felled belt starting just above the birch woods; so much easier to spot from a distance than when I was wee!

I say the birch woods are natural, but given how close they are to the village it’s likely they were managed and coppiced at one time; certainly there are overgrown drystane dykes that suggest the land was once more intensively used. If they were maintained though, it’s long enough ago that it’s not obvious now. Interestingly, birch is generally used for its wood in the UK; there doesn’t seem to be any tradition of the birch syrup that’s made elsewhere birch is common. Having tried Alaskan birch syrup, I can recommend giving it a try; it’s similar to maple syrup, but with a more complex flavour. See the Wikipedia page for other people trying to describe it.

I was peching my way up the hill a bit but was pleasantly surprised my sister (the outdoor instructor) thought I was making good headway. I’m pretty inactive generally, but used to make good speed uphill – a combination of long legs and a knack of not really breaking my stride for inclines when others slow down.

The cairn itself was kind of interesting – not on a world-class prehistoric monument sort-of-a scale, but just because it was plainly something, but difficult for a lay-person to interpret.

Approaching the Chambered Cairn

There’s an obvious mound, as you can see in the approach photo. Once you get closer, there’s obviously structure to it too; but it’s less obvious what the structure is. There are a number of stone-lined pits and what might be walls, but those descriptions make them sound very clear and understandable. This is what the pits looked like:

A stone-lined pitAnother stone-lined pit

In other places, gaps between the stones led into small voids:

Void, with spider guardianInto the Void

It was both interesting to look at, and frustrating because I didn’t really know how to interpret what I was seeing. Are the pits chambers, or cists? Did they have roofs? Were they originally buried? Were they always open (probably not)? Are the bits that are still covered chambers? Is the bit with what might be remnants of a wall a forecourt (probably)? Was the largish white quartz boulder of any particular significance? Well, I dunno.

There are some archaeological notes online, which I didn’t have at the time, and which don’t tally particularly closely with my memory of the site, although the general layout in the description matches. Perhaps if I’d had them with me I would have been able to tie things up better.

On the way back down, we went through the part of the birch woods we spent most time playing in over thirty years ago, and found the last remnants of our aerial runway – a very thin and fragile-looking piece of rope still wrapped around a tree branch, very much the worse for its decades of exposure. On the way back into the Clachan we harvested some brambles.

BramblesBrambles

In some ways, the cairn remains a bit of a mystery, but it’s good to at least have seen it after all these years.

School Days

Oct. 9th, 2012 09:45 pm
ggreig: (Default)

Looks like I’ve been tracked down by the Dunoon Grammar School Mafia! Hi to anyone reading this, long time no see. If you want to get in touch, you can leave a comment here or contact me via my iName (just click the link and follow the instructions).

ggreig: (Default)

Sometime this month, I think I passed the milestone of 20 years of owning a PC.

I wasn’t particularly exposed to computers while I was school, nor even much at university. A friend had a BBC micro, on which I played Elite a few times, and I learned to write S-algol on the University VAXen. The closest I came to a PC was one Physics lab that required me to write a little Basic to control a stepper motor.

Then I did a conversion M.Sc. to Computer Science, and then I was unemployed.

After nearly a year of unemployment, the bright future of work as a programmer I’d hoped for looked like as though it might be escaping from me.

I thought I’d better do something about it, and with a loan from my parents and advice from my friends I bought a PC, to demonstrate that I was serious about these computer things. In particular I was grateful for the advice of [livejournal.com profile] flybynightpress, a Mac enthusiast himself, who advised me not to get a Mac but a PC, because the employment prospects were better. You tend to pay attention to advice like that!

That PC was a Viglen (pre-Lord Sugar), with a 386DX processor, 4MB of RAM, and a 125MB hard drive, with the (then) brand new Windows 3.1.

Sometime in June or July, I had a horrible experience when it stopped working. Completely. My first computer, bought with money I didn’t have, bricked. and with that horrible paranoia that maybe, oh no, maybe it was all my fault!

A technician had to come the hundred and something miles from Edinburgh to the glen where I was living with my parents on the west coast, with me liable for the several-hundred-pound cost of the callout if it really was my fault. That was not a happy wait.

Luckily, the motherboard had died of its own volition, and with a replacement fitted free of charge, that PC served me well for a fair while afterward. And a month or two later, I was employed as a programmer, albeit in a job paying only 65% of the average graduate starting salary of the time, and with the most horrible computer language in the world ever. And on a PDP-11/83, not a PC. Still, I’m sure my PC-ownership helped ;-).

Today, my Raspberry Pi arrived, both more and less powerful than that machine of twenty years ago, depending on how you look at it. Unfortunately a painful ear infection is making the thought of tinkering unappealing for me tonight; but hopefully the Raspberry Pi will be the gateway for others to follow in the career that the PC has let me enjoy.

ggreig: (Default)

Red Squirrel at a bird feeder

ggreig: (Default)
The old phone box in the Clachan of Glendaruel has been fitted with a defibrillator, the first such in Scotland.

This is where I grew up; Mum's house is just out of sight in that second photo.
ggreig: (Blockhead)

Today’s festive photo, taken about an hour and a half ago:

Robin )
ggreig: (Blockhead)

Looking fair for a white Christmas tomorrow here at Mum’s:

Snowy panorama )

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