Not a walk in the Park!

Archaeology takes many forms- something I am becoming more aware of since joining NOSAS (North of Scotland Archaeology Society). Last weekend we ventured to the area around Helmsdale to investigate some archaeological sites. One of which was a hill fort on top of Ben Griam Beg. At less than 2000 feet a mere pimple on the Highland landscape.

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Yes that’s the wee pimple up behind the cottage. From where we left the cars to the top it was 6km ‘as the crow flies’, and there was definitely a few times I wished I could have sprouted wings!

The walk to the cottage was pretty easy going and covered about half the distance. It was a beautiful day and a perfect place to stop to refresh ourselves before the ‘push’ to the top.

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The cottage was uninhabited but is used by various people employed by the estate and also as a holiday cottage from time to time. Inside one of the outbuildings there was an interesting record of some of shepherds and workers who had been there.

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Refreshed with coffee and chocolate we started the second, more demanding stage. Before too long we had broken into 3 groups. The super-fit mountain goats, the fit folk and the ‘OMG what on earth gave me the idea to sign up for this’ group. I was in the last group and it was a definite wake up call to do something about my lack of fitness especially as most of the people in the other groups were older than me!

After a lot of huffing and puffing and catching our breath stops, we reached the top!

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and joined the others for lunch.

The purpose for the climb was to examine the wall structures. Although, Ben Griam Beg is listed as the highest hill-fort in Scotland there is some debate about whether it really is a hill-fort. We, especially the more knowledgeable archaeologists among us, were to look at the evidence and put forward our opinions on the matter.

There were definitely a lot of stone walls to consider

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and an interesting stone in one of the walls which definitely looked like it had been used to  grind meal (?) in.

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After a good look around and much discussion the ‘jury was still out’ on whether it had been a fort but most people doubted it. However, no-one could come up with a satisfactory explanation for all the wall structures. More information about the supposed hill-fort can be found at http://canmore.org.uk/event/651911

 

Although it had been a slog to get to the top it had been worth it. It is definitely an interesting site whatever it is.  I was also blessed with a close viewing of a female ptarmigan with 2 chicks and a hare- both now in their summer colours. Some lovely flowers were also starting to bloom in the rocky, heather landscape.

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Yes, it might not have been a ‘walk in the park’ to climb Ben Griam Beg but I’m so glad I didn’t give up and made it to the top. That evening I really felt I had earned my large portion of chips and battered stuffed jalapeño peppers at the well-known La Mirage restaurant in Helmsdale. Washed down with a glass of wine, of course!

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Interesting light in La Mirage restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

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In my garden

Even after living here for many years I’m never totally confident about when to successfully plant seeds and get results. This morning I tended my little herb/veg patch with the hope that in a few weeks I might have some fresh salad leaves to pick. This would be very welcome as apart from long lettuce, very occasionally iceberg lettuce and sometimes rocket there isn’t much choice in the salad leaf department to be had in the supermarket.
Whilst preparing my small patch for planting I dug up some insect larvae. I’m not exactly sure what they are- beetle things maybe? Any suggestions welcome:)

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When I went to get some potting compost I remembered the tiny gecko eggs I’d found there a few months ago. Here is what I found.

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🙂 they’d hatched. I was so pleased that I hadn’t caused them any harm last time. When I moved the canvas covering the potting compost bag this gecko ran out.

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Perhaps it was one of the hatchlings? It looked a bit big, but then I don’t know how quickly they grow.
My garlic chives are flowering at the moment and are proving to be very popular with the bees.

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As well as a beetle that I haven’t noticed before.

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Although it’s still 35 deg C here it’s lovely to find a shady spot and enjoy a little time noticing the wonderful nature that exists here.

School visitor!

Look what visited us in school today!

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And it was alive!
One of the teachers spotted this scorpion crawling up the outside wall of the building this morning. She fetched another teacher to catch it in a jug- brave, foolhardy people!
All the classes had a visit from it and in my class we had a great nature & keeping safe lesson from the experience. I was pleased to hear from the 5 and 6 year old children just how much they were aware about the dangers of some of the wildlife here and how to keep themselves safe.
For the adults I think it definitely made us think how close we are living to nature even although we don’t encounter it very often on our concrete walled in compound!
After we all had a good look, and no doubt planted an image that may well be the source of a few nightmares, the headmaster took it outside the compound and released it on some waste ground. Lets hope it will live happily ever after there and not feel the need to revisit us again!

Fish in the desert?

Yesterday, I went exploring in the desert with some friends. It was a bit hot but the area we went to had lots of high rocks so we were able to find some good shady spots for our coffee and lunch stops- very important! 🙂

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We hadn’t been to this exact area before so were pleased to find some new rock art panels, interesting rock formations and a purpose built water storage tank. Obviously, sited in an area that collected the runoff from the rocks, apart from a grid and a small access hole, it was completely covered in to prevent evaporation. We were delighted to see it was full of water. There was a hosepipe to remove water to fill a trough at the front- I should think to water animals and when we looked closely there were the expected mosquito larvae, some red thread worms and what we hadn’t expected some tiny fish!! Well that’s what they looked and swam like!

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Small fish creatures in the water.

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Quite a large lizard kept us entertained at lunchtime on the rocks nearby.

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Tired of posing it makes its escape.

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A wheatear feeding it chick with a tasty locust.
Talking of locusts- a few weeks ago there was talk of Saudi getting a plague of them – well on the drive back into town one area of road was covered in small yellow locusts hopping across the road. Many hadn’t made it and there were lots of yellow splodges on the road. Perhaps there won’t be quite the plague as they were predicting!
That’s the great thing about our trips in the desert- we just never know what we’ll see or find and no two trips are ever exactly the same:)

Spiders!

Today I took my class (yes , in my other life here I am a primary school teacher!) to see some spider webs in a garden near the school. For nearly 2 years we’ve had a spider web frame in our school garden and its failed to attract a single spider to spin a web for us to observe. One of the mothers knowing about this had noticed lots of webs in her neighbours garden so arranged for us to walk over and take a look.
Now although I am very keen on nature and encouraging a love of it into my class spiders just aren’t my thing- I tell a lie – there are one small jumping type that we get here that I think are quite cute and don’t fill me with panic like most if the others.

Our visit was very successful, I don’t think I showed any fear at all to the children! The only spider I saw was quite small and delicate and in fact I was so fascinated watching it wrap up its prey and then squirrel it off to its ‘spider cupboard’ to the back of the plant that I didn’t really think about feeling anxious at all.
Some of the children were a bit uncertain about getting close to the webs or spider but although I was happy for them to overcome their fear I was also keen that they remember that some of the spiders they may encounter may do them harm.

The red back spider is one of the spiders that is most likely to cause injury. Many have been found in people’s gardens and luckily no-one has been bitten. Interestingly, some of the children at school have been the ones to spot them and warn others- including some adults who were unaware of the danger lurking in their garden!
The infamous camel spider- which isn’t technically a true spider, aren’t that dangerous- they just look threatening, can be as big as a hand and totally freak me out! They’re nocturnal so unless I’m out in the garden after dark there’s little chance of an encounter, thankfully.

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The dreaded camel spider!

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20130522-234733.jpgthe cute little jumping spider.