Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A September Septet

Often I post a blog of odds and ends when I've worked my way through all those in the pipeline and seen what has been missed out because it doesn't really fit into one post or another or just missed by accident. Today I still have a good many blogs to come but it feels a good time for the odds and ends blog now. It is seven little bloggets so to speak, some are very small, some perhaps should be two and to be honest, not all are from September. But before I start, here's a sunrise. Not things I see very often in Summer. Not that I'm a late riser but by the time I've had a cup of tea or two the sun is usually high in the sky. This was taken while I was camping, when the slightest hint of the day streams through the canvas and morning tea is taken in the wild open spaces.

Jester in Stratford upon Avon

How did I miss this fellow out when I was covering my wanders around Stratford. It is the Jester by James Butler and was unveiled in 1994. It has jester related quotes from Shakespear on the four sides of the plinth, like this one from As You Like It,

"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool"

Lady Godiva

Legend has it that Lady Godiva was the wife of an 11th century nobleman who imposed harsh taxes on the local people. Lady Godiva begged him not to and he said that he would lift the taxes if she rode through Coventry naked. She did so on the grounds that all the townsfolk would stay indoors and not look. The only person that looked was Peeping Tom who was struck blind for his trouble. Lady Godiva's husband kept his word and lifted the taxes.

To remind them of the event, the fine people of Coventry have this fine statue to look upon, made in 1949 by Sir William Reid Dick. She seems to have been decorated with some blue plastic ribbons today.

Vintage Cars in Kirkcudbright

Here we are briefly back in August with a display of vintage cars in the Harbour Square in Kirkcudbright. This year there were more than ever (it happens annually at the same time as the duck race - no race coverage this year I'm afraid) and they spilled onto the grassy mound at the harbour. I had to change camera memory cards that day and the bulk of my pictures are there currently about 400 miles away from me on the old card, but these ones are from near the end of the day. In an effort at continuity with Lady Godiva, this car is a Lea-Francis who made cars in Coventry

If I'd had access to my other pictures, I could have confirmed this but I'm pretty sure that this is a 3 wheeled Morgan making it's way home.

This  old Rover seems to have been left all on it's own.

Antiquities at Lacock Abbey

Mr William Henry Fox Talbot, lived in the 19th century at Lacock Abbey but more of that at a later date. In a small museum there, there are a small number of ancient artifacts that may have been collected by WHFT on his travels - the labeling doesn't make it clear and two of the objects at least seem now to be owned by the British Library. They are great example of hyroglyphics which he taught himself to read. This is an Egyptian Funerary Tablet, perhaps from Abydos, in the 18th dynasty (around 1570 - 1293 BC)

According to the label, also from the 18th dynasty but this time dated from 2040-1782 BC.  This is what wikipedia has to say about the 18th dynasty - somebody is wrong about the dates (I suspect the label)

Nothing wrong about the information I present for this stone as I have none.

If not quite bang up to date, this bowl from Greece is much more recent, dating from the 6th century BC.

An Iron Owl

Spotted on a doorstep in Lacock.

Spiffing Topiary

When you pass the time wandering around stately homes and castle gardens you see bushes trimmed into all sorts of shape. I caught a glimpse of this over a wall which may be the neatest I've ever seen.

On further investigation it was even more impressive.

This may be the shapeliest piece of topiary I've seen.

Tealing Earthhouse and Dovecot

Just north of Dundee is the village of Tealing. The Megabus behind me on the main road seemed rather put out by the fact that I wasn't prepared to attempt to 90 degree turn onto the Tealing road at 70 mph but settled for an angry toot of the horn rather than driving over the top of me. Tealing is doing rather well for a village it's size for it has two Historic Scotland properties. The one below it the Tealing Dovecot. You may rmember that a few weeks ago I saw in side the dovecot at Crossragual Abbey, and now, never having been inside one before only a month ago, I get a look inside another.

In the middle ages, the keeping of doves and pigeons was encouraged by an act of Parliament, which meant that many such buildings were built up and down the country. This one was built in 1595 by Sir David Maxwell of Tealing. By the 17th century, pigeons were becoming far to numerous and something of a pest, so their numbers had to be restricted.

From the edge of the field, the Tealing Earth house doesn't look like anything much. By the time you reach the enclosure you start to see a curve ditch bricked up at the sides with dry stone walling.

It was discovered in 1871 and much pottery and Romans glass fragments were excavated from it as well as some bronze rings. It has been dated to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. It would have been roofed and used as cellar space rather than anyone actually living down here. The associated dwelling would have been a round hut which would have fitted into the curve of the cellar and an access would have been available from the hut. 

This diagram from the information board gives a good idea of the hut and cellar arrangments.

Built into the wall by the entrance is this very clear cup and ring marking. Cup and ring markings predate the cellar by thousands of years and it would seem likely that the builders have used a stone that already had the marking on it in their construction. Perhaps they used the stone because it had the marking on it.

There ends my little septumverate of bloglettes. Starting with a sunrise, it seems sensible to end on a sunset. This one over the Dee estuary at Kirkcudbright. When the tide's out, it's just a sea of mud and the river seems very insignificant as it sneeks down a small channel in the mud. Still, a sunset can make all sorts of things look nice.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Easter Aquhorthies and Loanhead of Daviot Stone Circles

On either side of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire there are two superb stone circles. The first of these is the Easter Aquhorthies stone circle. It's around 5000 years old but at some point inbetween, the dyke has been built around the outside of the circle. It has been suggested that this site had a spiritual significance long after the original builders and their purpose had been forgotten, for then name Aquothorthies is thought to come from the Gaelic for Prayer field. These sites of course still have a great spiritual significance for a lot of people today, so why not at any other point in the past.

There is a special feature of both the circles appearing here today that only appear in the North East of Scotland and that is the large flat stone lying on it's side. It is flanked by two uprights. There are 99 circle sites identified (some no longer existing) in the area dating to around 3000BC which are thought to exhibit this feature. The recumbent stones are always to be found in the South West parts of the circles and they seems to particularly well positioned for observations of the moon.

Most of the stones in the circle are of grey and pink granite but this one is a red jasper stone.

The Loanhead of Daviot stone circles are a short drive to the other side of Inverurie. There are two circles right next door to each other in this field -  one is a stone circle, much like the East Aquhorthies circle featuring the large recumbent stone in the South West and the other is an enclosed burial site.

In the centre of the stone circle is a circle of rough pavement (it is 5000 years old after all) There is a circular gap in the middle of it - the grey area in this picture (it looks to be fine gritty kind of material and can't possibly be the same age as the rest of the circle). A couple of years ago I visited the Kilmartin area (which it appears I have very negligently not blogged - I'll attend to that some time in the future when I'm back home) and saw the Temple Woods Stone Circles which this reminded me of. There were two of those too but both were definitely stone circles. At temple woods the circles are also paved though the stones in them are much looser, extend beyond the standing stones and look as if they may have been a cairn at some point - though perhaps that is the case here at Daviot and the stones have been taken away for building use. There is also a stone cist at Temple woods which contained cremated remains and it strikes me that this may also have been what originally occupied the grey area in the middle of the circle.


In the circle next to the stone circle, the low wall of stones you see are actually the fill of an ancient ditch. This seems to have been a cremation cemetery. In the centre of the circle was found the partially cremated remains of a man clutching a pendant and the remains of a further 31 people have been found including 8 children between 3 and 6 years old. These date to about 1500BC some time after the stone circle. Eleven of the cremations were discovered in pottery urns. Around 500BC, the site was used for metal working.

The large recumbent stone in this circle has been cleaved in two, perhaps this had some religious significance to the builders or perhaps at some point in the last 5000 years the frost has got into it and halved it.

There is a single boulder sitting a few yards from the circle, which may have some significance.

Just to give you an idea of the size of the stones. It's very nice to be found in the car park - not having to balance my camera on a rock to take my picture, sat nav navigation between circles, and company was greatly appreciated.