|Dreamtime in Stronach Wood – 14 October 2010
I grabbed a couple of hours during the afternoon while Junior and my OH played with the latest consumer purchase – Arran Monopoly. While they were racing around buying up the likes of Catacol and Lochranza and vying for control of Arran Aromatics, I parked up on the String Road just at the pull-in, up from the stalkers path and headed into Stronach Wood.
I could hear shooting going on up in the hills and on Monday we'd watched and heard stags at the rut in the corrie high above Corrie, from the North Goatfell Ridge and all the way back down the mountain. There were fresh quad tracks on the stalker's path all the way to the carvings. The carvings are about half a mile along the path and actually are the path. This is a shameful state of affairs. For the want of a few felled trees, some fenceposts and a hundred yards of fencing wire, foot and quad traffic could be diverted off these beautiful panels. It wouldn't stop the interested folks getting as close as they wished but it might stop the wear and tear of unintentional damage from the through traffic.
I photographed the panels and checked out some triangular pointy peaks on the panel slightly above the birds I'd noticed during the summer's visits. They appeared to mirror the view to the pyramidical peaks of North Arran (Goatfell, Cir Mhor and Beinn Tarsuinn).
With the forestry plantation still surrounding the panels, photographing them with the back drop of the peaks wasn't possible – but it will be one day! The illustrations from Coles (1901) nearly show the orientation (it would be slightly more turned to the right).
The panels in the Kilmartin Valley haven't suffered by being displayed well. This site could easily be cleaned back and should be properly examined. Without a doubt, there is much more art to be found around the three exposed panels. I was looking for some more…
You see, I'd had a wee plan to seek out the lost panel (panel K) reported to be 80 yards to the West back in 1901. It hasn't been seen since and was thought to be buried by bulldozer action in the dense forestry plantation. I paced and measured. I measured and paced. I retraced my steps and thanked my lucky stars it was October and the midges were all dead. After a while and right on the eighty yard mark I came across the edge of an eight foot slab buried in soil, pine needles and peat. It was right where it should be and had a plantation tree growing on top of it. I had no spade, trowel, GPS or axe. I photographed it.
From my memory the exposed edge looked rather like the top edge of the slab shown in the very poor 1901 photograph here
I was kicking myself for not bringing at least a wee trowel, so I promised myself yet another trip over to Arran later this year - this time properly equipped to shift some of the soil off this likely slab. It didn't look like anything worse (or more) than the peaty spoil from the drainage ditch between the planting lines for the trees had been heaped up on top of the slab. Then the trees had been planted and had been patiently dropping sixty years of pine needles on top of that. So maybe I'd found panel K? A winter trip was definitely on!
With myself exhausted and the camera battery dying, I headed out of the forestry, onto the top of the Stronach Ridge and wound my way along a rocky crag-edge on the lower slopes of Muileann Gaoithe heading towards the Parking Area and cairn at Allt Mor at the bend halfway up the String Road. At one point below me, a large slab of rock at the side of the ridge-crag formed a great-looking rock shelter enclosing a squarish area the size of my living room. I checked my map (I aint got no GPS) and it was at NR 995 360. I climbed down carefully to have a look and nearly put my foot down on a BIG Adder.
It hadn't sensed or seen me. It lay dozing, coiled in a considerable heap in the last warmth of the afternoon in the rock shelter. I leaned down as close as I dared and snapped a picture. It woke and slid very quickly into the long grass. It was between three and a half and four feet long. A BIG Adder! I legged it out of the shelter pronto. I'll have to go back in winter for a photo of the rock shelter too.
I got back to the road and decided to forgo the cairn at Allt Mor and head down the hill to my car. I'd had enough excitement for one day. Stronach Wood... it's the gift that just keeps giving. Go get some I say.
Posted by Howburn Digger
27th October 2010ce
Edited 29th March 2011ce