Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Roskhill Barn Gate

These days, the garden of the Barn is not properly fenced, though it may have been at one time. There is a tumbled stone wall along the longest side, and some slightly tired stockproof fencing at the other boundaries. This is not really a problem to us - the occasional wandering sheep may get in, but we like our uninterrupted views.  However, at the entrance to our garden and driveway, there is a very elderly iron gate. When we first came here, it was possible to open and close this gate. Inevitably, time and climate have taken their toll, and not only is it no longer possible to move the gate, but the poor thing is also falling to bits…

Our end-of-life gate
Having recently spent a lot of time (and money) restoring and re-inventing our home here, we thought a fitting finalé to our renovations would be to replace the old gate with something special. We searched online for a metalworking artist, and eventually commissioned James Price from East Chiltington, near Lewes, East Sussex, to design and make a new gate for us.

I have recently returned from a trip south, with our new gate stowed in the back of my van. I have to say, we are delighted with it. To most people – it is just a gate. But look closely, and the simple beauty of the hammered curves and hot-forged rivets and tenon joints are there to admire. There are no welds in this gate, and the hand-forged latch mechanism is a joy to behold!

Waiting in the wings...
Now, of course, the new gate and its metal posts have to be installed… This means firstly removing the old wooden posts. The old gate itself is very rusty, but still has enough strength to hang on pretty stubbornly. The original wooden gate posts may have been in place 50 years or more, but they haven’t rotted at all, and are putting up a very good fight against removal....

I may need to enlist some additional labour to complete the job, but we’ll have our beautiful new gate in place soon. More to follow…!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Allotment In June

On 11th May this year, I posted a couple of photos of the almost bare vegetable plots on my allotment. I will re-post one of them below. Just for the record, here are two new photos I have taken today. As you will see - plant life grows fast at this time of year on Skye, when we have about 18 hours per day of good daylight and growth-inducing temperatures and rainfall. Unfortunately, the weeds also grow very fast... but so far, I am just about keeping on top of them!

The allotment on 15th May 2017

The allotment today - just over one month later!

...and from the other end...
Foreground - Brussels sprouts and Kale. Middle left - Onions, Swede and Broccoli (with a little shelter)
Middle right - Potatoes. Far left - strawberries and rhubarb. Far right - more potatoes and carrots.
Distance - Beans (Broad and Runner) and Sugarsnap peas (better seen in the picture above).

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

On The Way To Skye

The vast majority of visitors to Skye who drive here from England will approach Scotland on the M6 and then continue on the A74(M) towards Glasgow after crossing the border just north of Carlisle.

The purpose of this post is to encourage such visitors to consider taking a detour for a day or two. Try turning left off the A74(M) and head west for a bit. The biggest town you'll find is Dumfries (population about 35,000). This historic town is worth a visit, and is the burial place of renowned Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

In Dumfries-shire, you will find mile after mile of green rolling pastureland dotted with patches of majestic trees. There is also some forest (one shares a name with the village with the shortest place-name in the UK - Ae) and to the south, the wide expanse of the Solway Firth is home to many thousands of geese and wetland birds.

Everywhere here is peaceful. Remember - the visitors have all dashed on north on the motorway. There are numerous small, quiet towns and villages - every one of them worthy of a wander-round. Head even further west, and you probably won't want to continue to Skye at all - Galloway has hills, forests, woodland, rivers, castles, beaches... and everywhere there is space to park your car and the eating places are't crowded.

Sue and I have just enjoyed an all too short break, staying just outside Dumfries. I could not claim that the landscape matches Skye for grandeur, but the almost total lack of visitors is refreshing, and there's plenty to see and do while on holiday. We have so many places on our 'must visit' list, but Dumfries and Galloway has not been completely crossed-off the list yet!

Caerlaverock Castle

Ruined - but very explorable!

The castle has a fascinating history of improvement and destruction 

Caerlaverock Castle

The Solway Firth

Wanlockhead - Scotland's highest village
Lead Mine Museum, Wanlockhead - you can pan for gold here
Wanlockhead also has the highest adhesion railway - a narrow-gauge industrial line

Leadhills village, Lowther Hills

Pausing in the Mennock Pass


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Friendly Skye

Visitors often comment on how friendly everyone is on Skye. The cynic in me says that will be because those visitors are spending their money here and providing us with our income, so we need to keep them sweet… But then, thinking about it – we are a pretty friendly community. It is absolutely the ‘done thing’ to say ‘hi’ to everyone you meet, whether you know them or not (unless in a really busy place like the Co-op, and then you only say ‘hi’ to the several people you meet who you know). We smile a lot. We know all our neighbours. We help each other out when someone has a problem.

When I travel to the south of England to connect with friends and family, it is most noticeable (to me) that when strangers pass on an otherwise deserted pavement, the ‘done thing’ is to determinedly avoid any eye contact, and to make no attempt at all at communication. I find it very strange to travel on public transport in the South, and see everyone plugged in to earphones and staring intently at little rectangles of plastic. No-one speaks to another person – heaven forbid!

Now, it is visitor season on Skye again. A couple of our neighbours in Roskhill offer visitor accommodation, so we have strangers wandering past our gate most days, as they explore the immediate neighbourhood. I always say ‘hi’ to anyone I see. Some look a little surprised, but they always say ‘hi’ back – and sometimes even pause for a brief chat.

It’s not so hard to be friendly.