Saturday, 30 August 2014

Summer snapshots - home

The last of my Summer Snapshots posts - home.  I'm not sure that any of us feel as if we're properly home yet.  We definitely love our house even with the squish and the squeeze (currently the boys are sharing a small single bedroom*), and I'm very confident that it will feel like home but at the moment it is all too new - the house, the schools, the activities, even the scenery and surroundings.  It will just take time.

The wild flowers were picked for my new vase, which was a gift from some of our summer visitors.  Do you know Anta?  They design and make wonderful homewares (all materials are sourced and made in this country).  I have coveted their stoneware for quite some time so I couldn't quite believe my luck when I unwrapped the vase. The Anta workshop is not far from here and I'm itching for an opportunity to visit.

John took Finn off for a big boy weekend part way through the holidays.  One day the rest of us collected beach stones, washed and then painted them.  It was a great wee project for us all........apparently the finished stones look very 'pretty' arranged along the wall of the house and Katie takes pride in showing her 'bunnies' to anyone who comes round.

Last but not least I had a little time to do some sewing.  The first for months.  I still have a fair bit to go on this quilt top but it was very satisfying just to sit down and lose myself in the fabric - the patterns, colours, textures - and the planning........ so much planning goes on while I sew!

Katie and I have picked brambles most mornings this week.  Or should I say that I have picked brambles while Katie has eaten them.  She has shared a fair few with the dog too, Susie loves fruit. I'm finding it a really relaxing way to begin the day........wave off the school bus, wander down a footpath to the shore picking as we go, throw some stones or run in the sand and then make our way back home - to remember all the jobs that need doing!  We've eaten brambles most nights through the week and have frozen a few bags too.  I do love free food! Have you had a chance to pick any berries so far this year? 

* There's only space for a small desk between the two beds (each has half of it) and the door doesn't open fully because the room isn't designed for two beds.  They are coping remarkably well especially given that Finn is very messy and disorganised and Angus is the opposite. Finn's hamster, Sporty, is on the floor between the two beds as well.......and that's it, no more space.  We have plans, though, to convert the garage which will give us a fourth bedroom and separate rooms for the boys.  We may also be able to add on a fifth bedroom if we're able to stretch our money and then the girls wouldn't have to share either.  I know that plenty children have to share rooms all through their childhood and if the girls have to carry on sharing that would be fine too, and isn't in any sense a judgement on families who do so - we fully understand the predicament, we have always had at least two of ours sharing!  If we can manage a fifth bedroom it would feel like such a luxury and really help with overnight visitors. 

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Summer snapshots - a daytrip to the west coast

Falls of Measach, Corrieshalloch Gorge
I think this was one of our favourite days in the summer.  We can't quite believe that we can visit such special places as Ullapool so easily - less than an hour in the car.  John has been planning for us to make a day trip since we first knew we would be moving!

The suspension bridge
 First stop was Corrieshalloch Gorge, meaning Ugly Hollow in Gaelic but I think it is pretty stunning.  I think we all did.  It is a National Trust for Scotland site and they maintain the suspension bridge, which was built in 1874 by Sir John Fowler (one of the chief engineers involved in the Forth Bridge), and the viewing platform.  The gorge itself was cut by glacial meltwater 2.5 million years ago.

I have visited in the past, the last time around 20 years ago when I was on a student hillwalking trip (I wasn't a cool and trendy student!)....but I think I found it far more impressive this time.  Perhaps having children to keep an eye on had something to do with my sense of perspective!

Viewing platform

Looking from the viewing platform to the suspension bridge

Next stop was Ullapool itself.  It is a real picture perfect little highland town, it couldn't really be in a more beautiful spot.  It was designed in 1788 by Thomas Telford for the British Fisheries Society when fishing became an organised industry at the height of the herring boom*.  It still operates as a small fishing harbour, and the main ferry point for Stornaway in the Outer Hebrides, but nowadays tourism is very important.

Normally we are religious about taking a picnic lunch with us, it costs a lot to buy lunch for us all.  But because this was John's special day we had fish and chips as a treat.  It was delicious, helped no doubt by the view of the harbour and the fresh sea air.
Cul Beag, Stac Pollaidh and Cul Mor

 Next stop was Knockan Crag.  This National Nature Reserve has some of the oldest rocks in Europe and the excellent interpretation tells the story of the role this site played in our understanding of key geological points - such as how rocks move from where they were formed and how older rocks can lie above younger ones.

The Moine Thrust is internationally famous - at Knockan Crag you can clearly see the much older and darker Moine schist lying above the lighter and younger Durness limestone.  Peach and Horne were the two mappers for the Geological Survey of Scotland who, in the early 1900s, worked out that tectonic movement explained the conundrum.

Yellow mountain saxifrage at home on a patch of limestone

Big steps for small legs

I'm sure we'll have many more trips west to this special part of our country.  I would love to explore some of the other sites in the North West Highland Geopark and the hills are some of the most dramatic you could hope to see and walk.  The main hills shown in the photos above are Cul Beag, Cul Mor and Stac Pollaidh.

I hadn't intended to write so much but I truly loved this trip and the places we visited and I found myself sharing lots more than planned.  I would most definitely urge you to visit if you ever get the chance!

* I don't know nearly as much as I should about the story of the herring industry in Scotland.  The boom in the early 1800s was fuelled by a government bounty of £3 per tonne to every owner of a boat of more than 60 tonnes and a further bounty for fish sold overseas.  Much of the industry was based in east coast towns and further north it offered hope for those suffering from the Highland Clearances.  I'm planning to re-read Neil Gunn's The Silver Darlings - a novel set in a north east fishing village and told through Finn and his mother Catriona. 

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Monday, 25 August 2014

Summer snapshots - cycling to Rosemarkie beach

Cycling to Rosemarkie Beach - another summer snapshot.  It takes us only five minutes or so to get there......along quiet roads, past the golf course and campsite, with the sea in view all the way. 

Our silly Susie hasn't taken to running alongside the bike very readily.  She started off pretty convinced that the bike was out to attack her.  But after several more trips, and some patience and encouragement, she is steadily relaxing and beginning to enjoy the run.....and I can stop gritting my teeth.  I don't find it at all relaxing to have a reluctant dog beside me given that I'm shepherding the three older children and desperately trying to make sure I don't topple my bike with Katie on the back!  I think the perseverance is paying off though and I can see us making this trip often.  Katie and I walk along too Rosemarkie too, after the others have been safely escorted onto the school bus, but I think we'll cycle sometimes especially if we have less time and want to be sure that Susie has had a good run.

In other news, the sun has returned.  Not with quite so much heat behind it but it is certainly very welcome!  I hope you are enjoying a sunny Monday morning too!

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