CUCKOOS AND CAIRNS
Next I wanted to visit the Grey Cairns of Camster. And most interesting they are too.
I travelled across the open rolling moorland with the yellow gorse bushes in full bloom, and came across what I realised I must have glimpsed through the fog earlier and thought were a large group of standing stones on the horizon. It was in fact a huge field of windmills, their tops shrouded in the low cloud, and arms barely moving. The land beneath them looking like something from the apocalypse where it had been cleared – apparently vegetation has an adverse affect on the performance of the windmills. I think it may be allowed to regenerate as bog and heather. I hope so, it looks pretty “un-green” in every sense of the word at present, though if it it was the regimented plantations of pine trees which were cleared then I think that is a good thing. All the dark rows of conifers in Scotland were planted as a result of the government grant system, but owing to the nature of the ground and climate often they only grew very slowly, and produced stunted trees, and I have read that almost nothing lives in pine forests, other than wrens. Though I have hardly ever been in pine plantations apart from once in the Forest of Dean, and I was riding such a frisky horse at the time I am really not in a position to comment. In the more natural and open forests of Royal Berkshire the pine woods there seemed to be masses wildlife, including a huge amount of very ferocious wood ants, and once the dog found a muntjac which had lain completely hidden and still until we were nearly on him, but then vanished in the blink of an eye.
The Cairns at Camster look for all the world like a tump of crush and run, though when you get closer you can see the stones are much larger. The area surrounding them is very boggy and a planked walkway has been constructed to give an easy approach and save damaging the eco-sytem, as the place obviously gets quite a few visitors.
Larger Group of Cairns on hill top
Smaller Single Cairn photoed close up
All of the cairns are open to go in, though some need a short crawl on hands and knees – I went in the largest one, which was a stoop and shuffle then you can stand. The top either collapsed at some point in the past, or someone has deliberately made a covered skylight so tourists can see once inside, instead of being in pitch blackness.
There were two or three cars when I arrived, but by the time I viewed the cairns the place was completely deserted and silent other than the call of the first cuckoo I have heard this year. Quite eerie being able to stand inside there, alone in the dark silence, and wonder what happened in there all those millennia ago.
Close up of Construction of the long cairn
Tunnel into Camster Cairn
Looking into chamber at the end of the tunnel at Camster Cairns
I wonder what this was used for?
Camster Cairn looking out of the main chamber
I was not far from Watten Loch and as the LPG I had bought up on Shetland had long ago run out I wondered if the filling station there might open on Sundays now the year was getting on a bit. In fact it was all closed up, but I stopped for a cup of tea in the layby where I had first seen the Northern Lights. I am not sure if Phoebe recognised it? If she did she wasn’t letting on. She has been in season for a few days now and it always makes her low and unhappy. She is such a tidy girl I didn’t even notice at first, and just thought she was a bit depressed after the last long ferry journey. So as a treat in with the the delivery from Asda ordered lots of chicken thighs which have been cooked and de-boned, and that has got her appetite back a bit, and hopefully the Vitamin tonic will start having an effect soon.
But she had a lovely afternoon, as after Watten we went on to Castletown to see the Flagstone Musuem – I like quirky things anyway, but I was particularly interested in this place as I felt it would solve the mystery of the upright stones used for walling, something I had never come across till going north through Caithness in February. I saw more of them again in Orkney, but mostly in the southern part. Well it turns out that many millennia ago there was a vast lake which ran from the area round Caithness and up to Orkney and the stone laid down there is particularly useful for splitting in this way which explains the upright stone walls nicely, and also the huge roofing stone tiles on Orkney
The museum was shut, though it would have been open had I managed to make it between 2-4pm - the fog of course had put paid to that. We still had a lovely time though, the Flagstone Walk which takes you round the ruins of the vast flagstone works was open and the views across the bay in the late afternoon sunshine were lovely. Phoebe came with me for a stroll. She seems to have given up on running now, but that maybe because I usually call her back, as she is too big really to go running up to other dogs or folk she has not been introduced to. But the best part of her day came when we were back in Thebus, after a really big tea of chicken in lovely jelly and some nice crunchy biscuits she could sit and watch everyone going past
In the late afternoon it was young families and couples going for a stroll and taking advantage of the beautiful day to enjoy the scenery , but as the evening came on it was dog walkers, and we had a fine selection of dogs of all shapes and sizes for Phoebe to enjoy. I shall see if she has lots of running and barking dreams later on when she is asleep.