Interface Images
Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2008


The Rite of Spring


I don’t know whether the climate really is changing but recent winters are recalled more by overflowing water butts and rattling roof tiles rather than the cancelled school days spent sledging of my childhood memory. But one thing is constant – winter gives way to spring and I can nearly always pinpoint the transition to a day out in the hills which defines that passage. 

This year it was a short day out on Myreton Hill in the Ochils – a good forecast came to fruition and I parked up in Menstrie at about 9am. The path is popular with dog walkers and two identical cairn terriers eye each other up as their owners exchange pleasantries about the fine day. And fine it is, it feels like the first warm day since last autumn! A farmer on a quad bike laden with hay and a balancing sheepdog overtakes me just before a bend. As I round the turn he is feeding a gaggle of noisy sheep all looking ‘great with child’ the fodder necessary to keep their energy up for lambing.

Sheep & Dumyat

A little further up the track there is a little rock outcrop that offers a pleasant few minutes in easy scrambling on warm rock – it is a game of which holds to leave out to make it more challenging but it is great fun. The way up now leaves the track and wanders up grassy slopes, still in pale winter colour but soon to saturate into new green leaves. The top is soon in sight but also in question for there are two contenders for the high point of this minor eminence in the Ochils – a visit to both is made and at the second a stop for food and to regard the view.

Below me is the wide spread of the Forth valley – the steamy paper mill, the simmering Long Gannet power station and the acres of bonded warehouses. I can see the three crossings, Kincardine, Forth Rail & Forth Road with the new Clackmannan bridge already in evidence but the new Forth road bridge is here only in spirit. There is bustle and business about this scene which contrasts with the silence of Jerah up in the Lossburn valley. The deserted farmstead would in its time have been the hub of this community enterprise with the main valley uncultivated and barren but today it is empty yet the clouds paint shadows to reveal its inherent but derelict beauty.

The descent to the east reveals a spectacular set of walls that provide many photo interpretations – broad sweeps or zig-zag patterns are the main choice. This is a scene for monochrome reproduction – my grey trained eye pre-visualises the result. And then I see a final image of a backlit tree with the dark shadow of the valley below that completes the portfolio. A simple walk back alongside the intake wall through gorse that is just beginning to show yellow completes the outing.

Wall pattern

A week later we have two days of cold weather with snow down in Stirling but it goes quickly – the rite of spring has passed, winter cannot hold on any longer.

© Keith Ratcliffe

April 2008

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