David Adam ..... Scottish creative artist ...... author of Wildsketch ..... social realist in Postcard from Brechin
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Wet Steps in Glen Lethnot
We are all married to our birth natures of who we are, and what we are like, and nothing should change that lest the floodgates of discontent be opened. Places have their birth nature too and no matter how much change is wished upon them by man they tend to resort to a natural state given time and peace; the glens of Angus are such places.
My antecedents, in the Gibb family, lived for a time at Waterhead in Glen Lethnot, and mum recalled visits when slithery snakes made bare feet recoil, and heather kows were gathered to light the fire, and neeps were pinched from the farmer's field, and sourocks were picked on the verge to appease a hungry belly, and peesie's eggs were gathered for breakfast; a time sin-syne when folk had a marriage to the land and relied on its good nature to deliver meagre sustenance.
The glen of Lethnot has changed in its earthly nature very little in the years since then, the heath margined road is narrow and twisty with the historical hump-back bridge at Stonyford providing a spectacular crossing over the turbulent West Water. Further on, a stand of Larches and Pines form a backdrop to Hunthill lodge. Until the 1960's Capercaillie occupied the trees where Red Squirrels scurry now, and the lone surviving cock used to stop the Post Office van in the middle of the road as he spoiled for a fight with his ruddy reflection.
Change has nevertheless come and gone when community and people are taken into account. Crofts and homes like Blackhaugh, Flobbit, Redshiel, Corrie, Boggieshallo, Finnoch, Braco, Drumhead, Leadbakie, Millhillock and Mill of Lethnot are ruined and gone; to them the glen is but a ghost of its busy past. I feel a reluctant but familiar bond to the barren aspects of Lethnot; love it or hate it, the glen somehow sleeps within its own nature repelling human efforts to mould it for a livelihood.
The situation exists where only a couple of working hill-farms are left and most glen homes are linked to the shooting estates of Hunthill, Lethnot and Nathro-Ogil, that ultimately own the glen lands. War had a devastating effect on small glen populations and in post war years some never recovered leaving only a skeleton of former communities that nowadays hang on by a thread through incoming elements.
Today, support from estate owners maintains limited employment within the glen to ensure that the letting of vital glen 'blood' is presently stymied, nevertheless, many feel threatened by government legislative actions against them that, ironically, were brought about by themselves. Raptor persecution is a turning point for the future of grouse shoot estates in Scotland and 'live or die' licensing is now a reality for them. One contributing 'black mark' happened here, in the glen, when 'Fearnan' the young Golden Eagle was poisoned in 2013.
This morning the reality of my dawn hit me squarely in the face as the first steps were taken through a glen darkened by the will of the wild. Wind and sleet threw rattles of vengeance against me and turning my back to the wet onslaught was the only option; my boots were wet all day. Black, whale-back hills were slowly outlined by the solstice rays of daytime revelation, and the call of a Common Buzzard pierced the spaces between droplets of sodden mist as it flapped manically against the dark, enshrouded wind.
The corrie, lipped with mist, revealed nothing but dripping misery, but on its ridge crest a couple of Mountain Hares, dressed for winter snow, scampered around on the bare heath, and a scabby looking Snow Bunting tweeted a lonely ballad to the mists that swirled a rise to reveal a window on the lost land; and I know where now, came to my mind ..... a place that readily encompassed sweet desolation. Anyway, enough waxing and waning over the solstice of doom, and the coming together of the impossible to see Jupiter-Saturn Christmas 'star' ..... Merry Christmas and Hae a Guid New Year a'body!
All text, photographs and sketches done on the 20 December 2020 and subject to copyright - no reproduction.
sourocks - Scots for Sorrel
heather kows - dry stalks of heather
peasie - Lapwing / Peewit
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David Adam Gallery
My new book 'Wildsketch' is available from Blurb bookshop
Income from book sales will form a donation to CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter)
If you are inspired to go out into the hills and glens of Scotland please leave it as you find it, respect the environment, do not litter or discard so called 'biodegradable' fruit and especially if you are a dog walker keep your beast on a lead and do not bag up its waste then chuck it by the wayside. I recently came across one black poo bag neatly hung on a tree branch for someone else to take home and also a bright blue one thrown in the moorland verge .... why?
Moorland birds like Curlew, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Dotterel, Red and Black Grouse, Ptarmigan and many raptors nest on the ground, it is advisable to keep dogs at heel or preferably on leads when walking on the high plateaux of the Cairngorms during summer months.
Please be aware that it is illegal to disturb nesting eagles or other raptors and you may do so inadvertently in your journeys into the highlands. Observe protected species at a respectful distance usually from about 1000 metres and for short periods of time only.
No wildlife was unduly or knowingly disturbed by my presence or for the purposes of this web page other than what would be expected on a normal hill walk. Many geographic names and location recognizable photos have been omitted to prevent persecution or inquisitive disturbance to named species.
Canon camera 200D with optical zoom lens EFS 55-250mm used; please note that the zoom range distance if given is calculated by OS map from subject location to camera.
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