Sunday, July 29, 2012
Langland Moss in the Rain, and Strathaven
Entry for 28 July 2012:
Saturday Adventure: We found our way to Langland Moss, a restored bog just outside of East Kilbride, about 20 miles south of Glasgow. It started raining fairly hard just as we arrived, which seemed appropriate. It’s a bog: a soggy place that’s hard to blog about. (But here goes, anyway:) We’ve all read about bogs, and maybe even seen the gruesome preserved bodies of people who were thrown into them, thousands of years ago, like in the National Museum of Ireland. And we’ve read about people cutting and burning peat, which is still used for roasting the barley in making Scottish whiskey. So: What are bogs, and what do they have to do with peat?
Well, it all goes back to the end of the last Ice Age: The retreating glaciers left lakes of melt water behind, which gradually silted up and became filled with dead vegetation, preserved by the acidic conditions, basically tundra, of a spongelike consistency. Spagnum moss could survive under these conditions, cranberry, certain kinds of heather on the drier bits. This happened over thousands of years, then people came along and dug ditches to drain the bog (in other places, climate change and drier conditions eventually prevailed). In some places, they spread lime on the soil to neutralize the acidic pH so that conventional crops could be planted. In other places, they dug out and dried the peat to use for fuel, for example for making whiskey.
At Langland Moss, the bog was drained and a conifer plantation was put in. Starting almost 20 years ago, however, preservationists removed the trees that had been planted as crop and dammed up the ditches to re-new the bog. Today it’s a bog again, once again laying down layers of peat. It’s a lonely place, and the rain seemed appropriate; however, the weather was too miserable for the birds or other animals about today, and it was hard to linger in the wet and cold. In a week, we’ll be in the sultry US, sweating out the month of August; I hope I’ll remember and be cooled by our visit to Langland Moss!
We had some more time after that, so we headed a few miles south to the little town of Strathaven. “Strathaven” means “on the banks or valley of the Avon water (river)”, but it’s pronounced “Straven”, to rhyme with “raven”. I’d been wanting to visit Straven because of the name, and today when I looked at my map, I noticed that there was a museum and a castle. We couldn’t find the museum but we finally spotted the castle. Near the castle was the old Town Mill, which turned out to contain a temporary exhibition gleaned from the museum, which had been closed and sold off for financial reasons by the South Lanarkshire Council last year. The two guys there were very glad to see us, and happily talked at us for quite a while, filling us in on much of the local history: the weaving industry, the churches and pubs, the coach and train lines, the castle. Oh yes, and an earful about the local Council and the museum folks’ hopes for preserving their town’s past one way or another. It’s amazing what you can find in little towns like Tarbolton and Strathaven. For more on Strathaven, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strathaven . Everyplace is full stories!