It is snowing again. Not fluffy big flakes, but soggy wet horizontal stuff blown by a strong wind from the North. Spring has been a fragile thing this year, more so since the Snowdrops and all that excitement have faded. Bluebells are not really Spring flowers this far North even though their leaves have been up for weeks. Wild Garlic is everywhere, but that is more of a smell than visual.
Spring has been every bit as unreliable as Arsenal. One moment brilliant, the next on the receiving end of a three goal thrashing. It is hard on the nerves, and I have put away my padded walking trousers twice already. And yet there have been great days and I have enough of a tan for people to be asking if I have been away.
There are several calculations concerning when Spring begins. But as far as I can tell, the one with most validity is the vernal Equinox. The sun has now passed the equator and will spend the next months in our hemisphere. Well hurrah indeed.
We have had two amazing visits to some of the many neolithic sites near to us. One of which was an invitation to visit Cairn Holy chambered Cairns for the setting sun on the evening of the vernal equinox. I looked up the sunset times and off we went.
We were almost late as the significant sunset is when the sun first clips the edge and then disappears behind a hill. Some of the most significant moments are when you have low expectations and this is just a quite small structure and warrants just a 4 car parking place. Our neighbour John was there and so was Joe, so we made a crowd of just four.
Joe is passionate about this place and lives just a quarter of a miles away. He has missed few sunrises here in the nine years he has lived here and is the font of all knowledge on this group of stones. He has the energy and enthusiasm of a spaniel.
The sun touched the crest of the hill. Which is when things became magical as several hundred tons of rock placed by people in the 4th millennium BC came into a perfect alignment. How did they do that? Joe had several answers, the most plausible being ” I don’t know “.
Then it was into the car and up half a mile of sump ripping track to watch the sun set for a second time. What a moment. The Spring weather delivered a perfect clear sky and as the first stars became visible we looked for further alignments back at the cairn.
The second small adventure came about quite by chance. If you go into the search engine called BING and click on maps, you get in the version for the UK – Road, Aerial, Streetside and Ordnance Survey. Few people seem to know that the OS is there. As you zoom in on OS it becomes an exceptionally detailed OS map that we all know and love.
I had it zoomed in putting together bike routes and strayed across a bit of the map – STONE CIRCLE. I asked around and no one knew much about it. Easter is a good time to walk to a stone circle, and so we did.
It is not easy walking, not helped by the path only going half way there. Straight away it is obvious that the whole glen has only recently faded from knowledge. Field patterns and abandoned crofts and forts are scattered across the landscape next to Loch Mannoch. The map shows just a single standing stone, but there are half a dozen or more. We splashed our way across the burn and tried to find the circle.
To get a better view we climbed a small hill. So focused on finding the circle, it was not until the top that we realised we were climbing a man made cairn. Thousands of small melon sized stones had been sourced and piled up. I have no idea if it is a chambered cairn with a tomb or not, but the size and the effort of work is staggering.
We have a wonderful landscape here in Galloway, so often remote – perhaps more now than for thousands of years. History here is touchable an experience just a walk or bike ride away. Anywhere else both of these sites would have hundreds of visitors and here they are waiting for us.