Friday, 29 July 2011

A Walk in the Woods : The Merlin

Merlin Falcon : 19th century illustration : image source,Wikipedia.
The male bird is in the foreground with female and juveniles behind.

 The night before my Rosslyn walk,a female Merlin (our smallest bird of prey) appeared in my dreams. Merlins were favourite hunting birds of noblemen in the Middle Ages. I didn't notice the significance of this until the following day.

Looking back towards the chapel.

A short distance from the chapel is Rosslyn Castle,built by the St Clair family in the early 14th century,the building has remained habitable throughout it's long and turbulent history. The more modern looking French style house behind the ruined entrance was built as part of extensive alterations around 1600. This part of the castle descends on 5 floors to ground level. The upper floors are at present let as holiday accomodation.

Jousting : image source,Wikipedia.

By the end of the Medieval Age tournaments had become massive theatrical events, accompanied by feasting,music and dancing. Knights and their entourage travelled around Europe to take part in these.

A kitchen in the late Middle Ages.

The kitchens would have been located on the ground floor of the castle.Food found on medieval tables  included a variety of meats,poultry,fish,fruit and vegetables.It was often seasoned with herbs and spices and sweetened with honey. At one time the castle gardens stretched down to the river's edge and a large orchard was located between the castle and the chapel.

Ancient castle foundations.

Beneath the castle, path to the river.

Young birch and hawthorn trees have self-seeded under the mature tree canopy.

The river through the trees.

River North Esk, below the castle.

The Falconers : Image source Wikipedia.

In the Middle Ages,ownership of bird's of prey was considered a symbol of status and a rich nobleman would  keep a falconry.  Falcons were very valuable and the job of head falconer was a position requiring great expertise and knowledge.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A Walk in the Woods


Last week my son's springer spaniel Louis was staying with us. He likes a lot of exercise,so I took this opportunity to revisit  the woods at Rosslyn, a few miles outside Edinburgh.

The Chapel

First we pass 15th century Rosslyn Chapel,featured in the film The Da Vinci Code.Over the past 15 years the building has been undergoing extensive renovations which are due to be completed later this year.At present  it's surrounded by a high perimeter fence and although the interior is open to the public they operate a no photos policy.  However photos,history of the St Clair family who have owned it for over 500 years and much more can be seen on the excellent website.

The main doorway.

  From the studio of George Washington Wilson (1823-1893),Scottish pioneer photographer.

Chapel interior : The famous Apprentice Pillar : Postcard circa 1900.

The beautiful and intricate carvings must have looked amazing in candlelight.
The interior architecture and decoration has a Moorish look,which is not surprising given the St Clair connection with the crusades and the Templar Knights.

View of the woods from the Chapel

Off to the woods.

Louis and my dog Maddy,a springer spaniel cross.......they are not related!

 An old beech tree hosts new life.

Path to the woods.

This is an ancient mixed deciduous woodland,mainly oak,ash,elm and beech,supporting a diverse
variety of plants and wildlife.

Hawking Party with water spaniels, 16th century : image source Wikipedia.

For centuries spaniels have been used as retrieving dogs,today they are also popular household pets.
The 16th century spaniels are likely to have been white with reddish brown spots.

To be continued................................

Friday, 15 July 2011

Childhood Memories

The Poet Reclining by Marc Chagall (1915)

Chagall painted this work remembering the Russian countryside where he and his wife Bella spent their honeymoon.  Whenever I look at this painting I'm immediately transported to my grandparent's farm,where until the age of seven, I spent many happy and carefree holidays. The field where Tommy the horse lived looked much like this,behind
the farm buildings and backing on to a wood of fir, birch and rowan.

   The farmland as it is now. These photos were taken when I visited the area in June.

Click to enlarge

Looking towards the hills.

Birch trees beside the trout burn.

The farmhouse, as I like to remember it.

In front of the house is the sole surviving tree of a copper beech plantation which housed a rookery.

The old hump back bridge over the nearby river. It was originally built to carry horse drawn traffic, but went out of use
 with the introduction of heavy motor transport and is now in a state of disrepair.

Wildflower meadow, glowing with buttercups and clover.

Click to enlarge

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