The Woods and the Words

The stories are still told

of a time before the water.

When the earth lay heaped,

black and smouldering.

It is said that they tunnelled

u

n

d

e

                                      g          r          o          u          n          d

for black diamonds

to burn for warmth.

A structure survived

the darkest of

the dark days -

although, now, no one

is quite sure

what it was used for

Now.

now to simply be

amongst our co-dwellers

in this healing place.

If you remain still

for long enough

they become curious

and congregate,

silently swaying

with the wind.

A few season-cycles ago

the visitors started to return.

We listen for their arrival

always the calling first.

despite

bluebell

all that happened

stitchwort

the woods and the words

wild hyacinth

at least

oak

some of the words

hazel

and some of the woods

dog mercury

survive

And the thin

bleached light

of a pale sun

continues to shine

on  the white tree

of Harran Hill Wood.

♦                    ♦

This little field trip, possibly sent from another point in time (?), was inspired by frequent visits to a favorite place in Central Fife: Lochore Meadows or The Meedies as it is known locally.

The Meedies opened as a Country Park in 1976 following one of the largest and most ambitious industrial landscape renovation projects in Europe. This included the reclamation of 600ha of heavily contaminated land comprising six redundant coal mine sites, colliery buildings, mineral railways, refuse tipping, areas of subsidence and the towering pit bings (most of them burning) which rose to 60m over the surrounding countryside and settlements.

The Meedies is now a major centre for outdoor and environmental education with Loch Ore the largest area of standing water in Fife. It is an important habitat for wildfowl with significant numbers both over-wintering and breeding.  Otters, bats, water voles and even ospreys have been recorded within the park boundary. The acid grasslands of Clune Craig are botanically rich and also bear traces of hut-circles and enclosures from a Bronze age settlement.

The ‘structure’ in the photographs above is the reinforced concrete headframe of the ‘Big Mary’ No. 2 pit shaft, sunk in 1923.  It is one of only two such surviving structures in Fife and a monument to the Kingdom’s mining heritage. (The other is The Frances in Dysart). You can gain some impression of how the area looked when mining was in operation from this photograph:

The pit head is in the distance and the smouldering pit bings in the foreground. This photograph is from the fabulous web resource on the Fife Pits by Michael Martin which can be accessed here.

The original Loch Ore was drained in the 1790s when the landowner, Captain Parks, attempted to reclaim the land for cattle grazing. The project was a commercial failure and the land formerly occupied by the loch remained boggy. Parks was declared bankrupt in 1798. The loch gradually returned in the mid 20th century, when coal mining flourished and the mineral railway serving the pithead became an embankment surrounded by water. The return of the loch was mainly due to subsidence caused by mining, and the ‘new’ loch now occupies a different footprint to the original. The loch is now stabilised but its depth still fluctuates. The islands in the loch are the remains of the former railway embankment.

To the north west lies Harran Hill Wood which sits on a rocky ledge between Loch Ore and Benarty Hill.  Botanical studies indicate a strong possibility that this site may have been wooded since shortly after the last Ice Age c. 10,000 years ago.

Whilst writing this, I’m listening to a composed piece called After The Rain by Barry Guy, perhaps better known as a free improviser.  I don’t think I had ever read the sleeve notes before but was intrigued to learn that it was partly inspired by the Max Ernst painting Europe After the Rain. As Guy says in the sleeve notes:

“The canvas portrays four large masses of tortuous baroque-like remains as if left after some unfathomable catastrophe…these images invite the viewer to speculate on the nature of the events. Here in Europe After the Rain could be the apotheosis of anxiety and destruction or the emergence of new life from the ruins. I am drawn to the latter…”

Now Playing: Barry Guy and City of London Sinfonia – After the Rain

Reference:

Fife Council Lochore Meadows Country Park Development Plan, November 2008.

Michael Martin, Fife Pits and Memorial Book, http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/mmartin/fifepits/

Miles K Oglethorpe, (2006), Scottish Collieries: An Inventory of the Scottish Coal Industry in the Nationalised Era (Edinburgh, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland).

About fifepsychogeography

Wandering from hill to sea.
This entry was posted in Field Trip, Observation, Poetry, Psychogeography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Woods and the Words

  1. Leigh Wright says:

    As fascinating as ever – I love how the pics and poetry flow together!

  2. Bobby Seal says:

    Superb piece of work. I love how these old industrial sites merge back into the landscape. We stumbled on Lochore Meadows by accident this summer on a brief visit to Fife. Great facility for local people.

  3. dianajhale says:

    You have excelled yourself with the typography here!
    This piece really shows the importance of creating places like this, or allowing them to be.

    • Thanks Diana. Appreciated. The other interesting development in Fife that is work in progress at the moment is an open cast mining land reclamation project designed by Charles Jencks. Looks like it will be quite spectacular when opened.

  4. Great mix of genres here Fifepsy – lovely swooping between now and then; nature and humanscapes; deep time and transcience; image and text. Felt I was there. Excellent – you’re on a roll with your recent post-industrial ruminations.

  5. Thanks Luke. Always enjoy your perceptive comments.

  6. aubrey says:

    Adoration. What an understanding of nature and history, and how they link to create the most delightful type of DNA.

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