2 Forth Rail Bridge | Great Senju Bridge
Alec Finlay, 2010
waking for sleep
books & maps
piled up on the bed
Today the journey begins. Crossing the bridge, keeping our eyes on the two paps of Lomond that will mark our journeys north.
approaching The Bridge
my fingers can’t help
feeling for change
crossing into the Kingdom
there’s our first Ben
shrouded in mist
From the road we glimpse The Pinnels and Carlin Maggie’s pinnacle. Arriving at the Pillars of Hercules a little before midday, the soup’s ready and it’s warm enough to sit outside by the polytunnels. A tame chaffie takes oatcake crumbs.
at Pillars of Hercules
are as tame
I speak about QR-code to the shop owner. He’s never heard of QR, wonders at first what we’re trying to sell him, then when he grasps we’re only trading in images, says yes, they’ll be happy to put up a plaque come May 2011. Arriving in Falkland, it’s workman’s lunchtime at the Wee Bakery, opposite the Palace. We make our way along West Loan, past Tom Clark’s hidden place sign, to the Centre for Stewardship, and meet Tess Darwin, author of A Scottish Herbal, and Helen Lawrenson, who it turns out worked, like Ken, for Graeme Murray at the Fruitmarket Gallery, but almost a decade after his time. These fields here will host the Big Tent Festival in July.
torn between applause
and holding hands
in the audience
I leave Eck by the pond, sat on the round bench, which bears another poem of Tom’s:
to flow away continually
to be constantly replenished
– and set off over the Maspie Burn following the path uphill through the trees. This takes me past Onesiphorous Tyndall-Bruce’s House of Falkland (a school now), into Maspie (“mossy”) Den, losing my bearings at times, till I find the path upstream. New plantings on its banks, but gales have felled many older taller trees. “The path goes round the ledge underneath the waterfall” – soft stone under hard – I need to crouch only slightly as I make my way round the damp corridor. This is the Big Yad – “yad” being yarn as it co mes of the bobbin – the weavers are going easy today.
Past the car-park at Craigmead the track leads towards West Lomond – looks a long way off but probably no more than a mile. The hill rises steeply from the moor. Climbing’s labour, but the summit brings elation, a cairn, stones arranged in circles for shelter, and a little metal memorial plaque placed against the trig point. I look back towards East Lomond. Down the south slope, looking on Bishop’s Hill – have I time to reach Glen Vale cave? My dad camped there when he was young (last bus from Kirkcaldy to Falkland, walk to the cave, then down in the morning to Leslie for the bus back). That will be for another day. I’m happy walking; this is a good way to live. Just before Craigmead I leave the path and look north to the knoll where Maiden Castle sits, but there’s not much to see.
2 Bench, Thomas A. Clark
Falkland Palace Orchard
The Orchard was a perfect pair with Ueno. Blossoms beginning, the orchard a gentle bowl under the hill. Ken’s up there. Sharing a flask of hongcha with Sonia, from Spain, who lives in the gardener's cottage and cares for the manicured garden and wilder apples, I recognise some of the names of the new Scottish varieties, from a complete list the arboriculturalist John Butterworth prepared: Early Julyan, Bloody Ploughman, White Paradise. Apple Day is the third Sunday in October. I hope to be there, second in line, for some pippins.
When Maris and I composed a word-map of the glen at Cairnhead, we found a clutch of crab apple near Back Burn, a shepherds leftover hidden in the Forestry plantation.
Why aren’t there apples along every roadside? A couple of years ago Ann-Marie sent me a set of postcards for Abundance, a voluntary project in Sheffield harvesting buckshee fruit from around the city and redistributing to nurserys, community cafes, the family’s of asylum seekers and local charities. It’s successfully grafted in Leeds and Edinburgh. My scion was to give 50 native apple varieties to family’s in a new Sunderland housing estate, with the help of the National Glass Centre and The National Fruit Collection Nursery, Brogdale.
Apple Colour Wheel
Alec Finlay with Jack Lowe, 2010
When I mention Basho’s Yanaka, where people stroll among the graves on weekends and holidays, Sonia leads me down to the Maspie, where the Crichton-Stuart’s little dog cemetry is tucked away in a far corner of the orchard:
SPANIEL AND FRIEND
Sat on my bench, here comes Alodie, from South Africa, waiting on the bus to Newburgh, with a big bundle of comfrey from Pillars of Hercules. I talk fritters, she has the recipe for 3rd degree burns. Here’s Ken, down from his hill.
2 hokku-label (apple)
Alec Finlay, 2010
Kingskettle, High Tea
Off we drive to Kingskettle to visit Ella Wildridge. She was the partner of Tom McGrath, playwright and poet, until Tom’s death just over a year ago. I knew Tom in the late '90s, worked with him for three years in his cluttered office upstairs in the Lyceum in Edinburgh. Sometimes that work was just sitting listening to him talk, about the past, sure – he had great tales of Trocchi in the sixties – but of the present too, his own new work and the younger playwrights he was supporting, looking to the future. I visited him once at Ash Villa, after his stroke, when he seemed as energetic as ever. today Ella is sitting in the spacious front garden, right by the railway line, and serves us a high tea of sandwiches and cake.
if a blackbird
that’ll be Tom
Sharing the Auchentoshan, we go over our day and the days to come, Ella’s Spanish studies at St Andrews, Tom’s poems and bundles of papers she’s still to sort, and her plans to offer residencies for playwrights and translators at the house. Eck outlines his notion of Stonypath, Little Sparta as a place for artists’ residencies, as the truest way to memorialise Ian and Sue. As we go Ella shows us where there was a blackbird’s nest, in a part of the garden Tom had made a little Buddhist shrine.
2 Ella, Ash Villa
Ken Cockburn, 2010
Pillars of Hercules (56°15'37.62"N) (3°13'37.63"W) there is a footpath from here to the Stewardship Centre (56°15'14.90"N) (3°12'27.67"W); continue from there up Maspie Den to East and West Lomond (56°14'42.06"N) (3°17'50.55"W); alternatively walk downhill, to the orchard in the grounds of Falkland Palace (entrance fees apply).
The walk from Pillars of Hercules to the Stewardship Centre passes by the Talking Wall, a series of real and imagined Scots words, carved into a dry-stane dyke by the Scottish Letter Carvers Association
David Chapman and Louise K Wilson, May 29 & 30, 2010
Tess Darwin, The Scots Herbal: The Plant Lore of Scotland (Birlinn)
The Tom McGrath Trust is set up to honour the life and legacy of Tom McGrath, poet, playwright and creative maverick, who died in 2009.