Not any warmer, and more snow on the way. It seems that this year is going to be on the instalment plan, usually if it snows there is a relatively short episode of one or two blizzards followed by a slow melt and that’s about it. I’d expect a few weeks of frosts, usually only giving windscreen and bird feed problems. This time it seems the arctic air had brought low enough temperatures to turn the rain to snow and, while it generally melts over a week or so it hasn’t all gone before the next batch. The village is at 1000 feet, which means the low lying areas nearby are often snow free, but the Pentland Hills and the local fields are and have been white for some time. We can usually expect a fairly accurate forecast from the BBC weather page, if Tarbrax is selected specifically, and I think that’s what the council gritters run by. We see them go past the house once a day at least, and come back again of course as it’s not a ‘through road’, and they don’t come if they are not fairly sure of ice or snow. Overall it’s a good service although heading into West Lothian can be tricky as they are a little less enthusiastic so going over the border can mean going from tarmac to ice. When this happens on a bend or hill top, life becomes interesting for the incautious.
Ignoring the occasional flurry, and getting a little over warm in the sunnier periods I managed to finish the fence in a few days. Fortunately the frost hadn’t penetrated the ground because the snow had insulated it. I had to go from 4’ planks to 5’ and made the posts, or staavs, six inches longer. Now 5’6” as the ground sloped somewhat. It’s a two man job really so I invited a neighbour to join in for the post thumping stage. I usually use a post driver, basically a heavy metal tube with a blind end, but if you want to position the post by the rail length, a mell is better. Now I shall have to decide whether to paint it. I decided against doing the full length of the property as that would be twice as long again. Fortunately the prices of my local supplier of materials, BHC of Carnwath, are very reasonable, the taller lighter coloured section of staves, rails and planks only cost a couple of hundred pounds, although having them put up professionally would have cost a fair bit more. As long as I’m strong enough I’ll do that sort of thing myself though. Very few professionals care enough to do it well, and although unskilled I’ve found I get a better product. Or at least I know who to complain to. Fiona periodically drags me out around the countryside for a bit of fresh air and exercise. There are plenty of tracks and similar left over from when this was an industrial area, and those that carried rails are still quite good for walking, although obviously the rails and sleepers are long gone. Two rail sections have been converted to act as a bridge over the burn, or stream, behind the village, although I suspect they may have been liberated from BR stock as they are rather heavier than Shale shifting rail.
The history of the area, with rail tracks, farm tracks, roads and footpaths provides quite a few walks, we recently had a look at Castle Greg from even further back, which is actually a small roman fort a few miles from the village. Apparently it is in very good condition, although now mostly a ditch and bank which the timber palisade would have stood on. Well north of Hadrian’s wall and south of the Antonine wall and operational in the first century ad, it must have been a bleak posting, and there wouldn’t have been the sheltering trees then.
I confess to finding it slightly irksome that most media based historians consider that the Romans only went as far north as Hadrian's wall, and that it marks the edge of Scotland, beyond which there was 'nothing much of interest' There was no such border then, and they were involved with most of what is now Scotland at some point.
Just opposite the fort Harburnhead windfarm can provide quit a bit of firm pathway in an area largely covered in marsh, bog and mire. It used to be a lime quarry, I think, and is now quite picturesque in my opinion. Lots of wildlife and almost silent turbines. They have developed considerably since the first generation and the new type with egg shaped housings at the top are quite graceful, though no doubt other opinions are available. The only discernible sound comes from blades, now trailing a ‘fringe’ which breaks up the turbulence like the trailing edge of an owl's wing and a small wing-tip similar to the newer passenger aircraft, though what it does exactly is beyond me, further noise reduction I imagine, though frankly the wind blowing past my ears is louder, as is the draft through the trees.
'Bracing' is the word they used to use, though there are others that come to mind when a sudden blast of chilled air turns your ears to ice.