Cairnsmore of Fleet is a National Nature Reserve covering just under 2,000 hectares of south-west Scotland.
Made up of wild and open heather moorland, Cairnsmore itself is a large granite ‘hill’ (2331 feet/711 metres) that rises unforested from river valley to summit; yet as one enters the Reserve it is the rugged ‘escarpment’ of the Clints of Dromore to one’s left that dominates the landscape.
The Reserve has a Visitor Centre where information regarding all the flora and fauna of the region is presented: visually – on large beautifully illustrated boards; kinaesthetically – with actual size jigsaws including one of a Golden Eagle that has a wingspan of more than 2 metres; and aurally – where with the press of a button sounds of the environment, such as the frogs and bird calls, can be heard.
I was lucky enough to meet Kevin Carter, the Reserve Manager, who enthusiastically inspired me to search out not only the fabulous flora and fauna on the Reserve but also, to keep an eye out for the series of sculptures that artist Matt Baker has installed, which accompanies poems by Mary Smith.
He gave me 5 cards showing photos of the installations, along with a clue for each on the back – But no hint of what order I might spy them, or how far off the track I may have to venture to find them
He also gave me a leaflet with a map called the Inbyre Walk ~ Can’t resist a map…
But I was sorely dissapointed that that was the only one I found, not realizing I’d have to veer off the path to find the others
So, a few days later I returned for a second try!
It was the most beautiful day so following the clue …’over the stile, venture up where the ravens call and look down upon the inbyre’ I returned to the only stile on the walk and ventured off the beaten track up the rocky cliff face…
shared with the local inhabitants…
Looking back down to the Visitor Centre during the climb
And on the top of one of the cliffs this is what I found…
No one was here when lands crashed together,
no one to witness volcanic flames erupt
in fevered dance, nor see in hot lava tears,
this landscape’s beginnings.
When glaciers scoured rock faces,
carved mountains, opened rivers and lochs,
no one felt the icy touch
of their slow slide to the sea.
Except the wind, which still carries stories
of what once was, and how things came to be.
But the why of it lies deep
beneath its whisper,
in a silence with power
to unlock mysteries.
On the descent the viaduct, situated beyond the Visitor centre came into view ~ Built in 1860 (now no longer in use) it carried ammunition trains during the war.
And is famous as featuring in the 1935 film version of John Buchan’s novel ‘The 39 Steps’.
Once back down (across tuffty grass and mossy bog) I found ‘Heart’ with the clue – ‘twixt viaduct and forestry, we lived here once’
and ‘Scene Shifters’ with the clue ‘before the river is bridged, don’t get your feet wet!’
With another 2 hour walk required for the final sculpture ‘Erratic’…
that will have to wait for another day