Missing Arran!

One of our favourite views from the terrace of the Pier Head tavern in Lamlash

Now that we are back home in Leeds, after spending almost 6 months on the marvellous island of Arran living in our Classic Hymer motor-home, we are having serious withdrawal problems.

Our Hymer in situ on Lochranza campsite

Friends were amazed that living in such tight, close proximity to each other for 6 months that we didn’t fall out and that neither of us sustained or inflicted upon the other a serious injury. Especially as even at the best of times we are a rather argumentative if not combatative couple and are well known for squabbling about the slightest thing.

Blissful moment for us both
on Blackwater beach

‘Tis true that I did complain about Gary’s insistence upon having the electric cool box in the van and about having to shift the bloody thing up and down, off the dinette, to under the table and then drag it down to under the drop down bed. Just so he could keep copious quantities of beer and wine cool for our many visitors. But, as Jamie pointed out, if having that kept him happy why be so mean as to quibble about it…..After all he was using it for the greater good. Also , to be fair, Gary did not moan much about the huge quantity of wool I had stashed about the van so that I could undertake almost any crochet project that took my fancy whilst we were away from the mother lode stash of yarn I have squatted in our cellar.

Peacock and rooster free grazing in the grounds of a deserted cottage on the road to Machrie.

We miss Arran; its fabulous , ever changing landscapes, wildlife, beaches and fresh , clear air and we miss living in our cosy , snug van. It seems we have our best nights sleep in the van. Whether that is down to the bed or to the fact that we can seal the windows and skylights up so that hardly a speck of daylight can disturb our slumbers we do not know.

Lochranza Castle in the Spring

Now we are back in Leeds again my asthma is slowly worsening and breathlessness is returning. The air, here in Headingley is very polluted and we live close to one of the busiest roads into the city. The traffic along Headingley Lane was at a complete standstill this evening and the congestion stretched right from Hyde Park out to West Park….about 3 miles. Oh for the open roads of Arran. Travelling back from a night out in Brodick to Lochranza we only saw one car for the whole of the 15 miles! Although we did end up chasing a lone deer that got trapped in the glare of our headlights.

Goatfell from Brodick

Once again Gary is struggling to sleep at night and is lucky if he gets 6 hours. In times gone past we could have blamed noisy students….or the “Stupids”…..as Gary prefers to call them. We are surrounded by hordes of them living both directly opposite in halls of residence and next door to us in a family house which has been converted into 3 flats which now accommodates 10 students! However, since our return in October they have largely been quiescent and apart from the occasional unreasonableness have been fairly quiet after the midnight hour.

Late July evening at Lochranza….after 11pm.

We are missing North West Scotland and ache to return. In the meantime we have had to make “do” with trips away in the van to Bruges, Sheffield, Eastleigh, Skipton, Borrowdale, York, Howden and Penrith. Later this week we are off to a campsite at Hipperholme, Halifax. All wonderful places…..but not Arran!

October evening sun at Seal Shore, Kildonan

What's in a name?

Lovely Laura has set me a puzzle.

As Grannyhood races towards me she has asked what I would prefer to be called post birth. This is most thoughtful of her. I had rather presumed that my future nomenclature would be presented to me by my descendants. I had never dreamed that I should be given a choice in the matter.After all I have never had a say in my name before.

Well, I suppose that that is not strictly true. I did choose to take my husband’s surname when we married. But it was a rather pretty name….Lovelace…with historical connections…..some more salubrious than others.

This small conundrum has led me down the path of our family history. My mother, Laura’s grandma didn’t have a choice in the matter of her grandma title. My brother Bob had given her the nickname of Bat , shortened from The Old Bat, so as a matter of course she became Grandma Bat. She relished her nickname and would answer the telephone saying “Bat Cave here, Old Bat speaking”. Like me she used sweeteners in her tea and referred to these as her “Bat Droppings”. Sadly she died just before Laura’s second birthday, so Laura now, has no memories of her but I well remember that two of the first words she ever spoke were ……Grandma Bat.

Grandma Bat

Laura’s other grandma, to distinguish her from my mother, was called Grandma Joan with her husband who was Laura’s stepfather as Grandad Jackson. Thinking about it there does seem to be a theme here of the use of the title of Grandma.

A very poor picture of Grandma Joan

This was also true of my own grandmothers. My father’s mother was a wonderful, warm, tall rather statuesque lady……whom we called Big Grandma, for obvious reasons.

Grandad, Robert ( aka Bob), myself and Big Grandma in the front room at Grangeville, Knotttingley.

She had clearly had a difficult life, her husband , Albert Hargrave had died in 1916 in the First World War and so had never had the chance to see his son, my father, who was born in the October of that year. She had later remarried and had another son and had devoted much of her life to caring for her elderly mother and chronically ill aunt who lived with her. My father always insisted that he had been brought up in a markedly female household and that this accounted for his good nature.

My father and his mother, our Big Grandma.
My father ” tormenting” my big brother by hanging him on the washing line!

My mother’s mother, I remember, as being a tiny, rather particular, prim and proper old lady. Interestingly enough, her maiden name had been Pettit…..so perhaps the family name had had its origins in their physique. Due to her small stature……she was called by us, Little Grandma.

Me, my mother (aka Grandma Bat), Little Grandma, Susan and Auntie Hilda in the garden at Poplar Avenue, Townville.

To be fair, Little Grandma was always very kind and gentle with me but my elder brother and sister report her as being a bit of a tartar. She was an ex,turn of the 20th century, schoolteacher and liked things to be done “properly”. Elbows off the table at mealtimes, children should be seen and not heard etc. Until the ripe old age of 7 or 8 I had to have an afternoon nap….and stay still and quiet as I did so if I happened to be at her house.She was particularly keen that she should be referred to by us in a respectful manner and called either Grandmother or Grandma.

For years I couldn’t understand why she insisted that I was mispronouncing her title and why she would repeatedly reprimand me and insist that I repeat her name correctly. I now realise that as I was speaking with a West Yorkshire accent ……I was actually saying Granma and not GranDma. I just couldn’t hear the difference.

My big brother had a strong will and clashed with Little Grandma. He infuriated her by insisting upon calling her….to her face…Little Grimmie. Many battles were fought between them about that nickname with neither willing to lose face or accept defeat.

Following my remarriage when she was only 4 Laura acquired another set of grandparents, Gary’s mum and dad. Initially she called them Mummy and Daddy Lovelace but once Jamie her younger brother was born those names were dropped in favour of Nannie and Granddad. They were wonderful grandparents for both her and Jamie and are the ones she has the most recent memories of.

Laura and Nannie Lovelace

So what should it be Granny, Grandma or Nanny? My good friend Maggie rather fancied being called Baboushka by her grandchildren but her daughters vetoed that choice and she has remained simply Grandma.

Laura’s little boy will have Iranian heritage on his father’s side. So I checked out what grandma is in Farsi. Apparently it is madar bozorg. Laura suggested that as a mixture of the two and a reference to my own family’s lunatic tendencies that I could be Grandma Berserk.

I think my grandma name will ultimately be in the lap of the gods and will evolve out of whatever my daughter and her partner refer to me as, in my grandsons presence . Hopefully, it wont be too rude!!!

So what do you think? What is your granny name? Any thoughts about what mine should be?

Arran bound no more….. Simply Granny bound…..

In September we had just agreed with the Lochranza Campsite owners, Nigel and Kathy, that we would return the following Spring to resume our wardening duties when our daughter and partner announced they wanted to visit us on the Arran campsite once more.

We were a little surprised, after all it was only about a month before we would be back in Leeds for the winter. Also, we had thought that they were planning on going on holiday somewhere much warmer that month. Nonetheless a visit from them would be lovely, not only are they great company but Arya is a fabulous cook who always insists upon taking on the role of chef, food sourcer, fire stoker and chief bottle washer whenever he visits us.

Arya….yet again serving food for the hungry masses!

I am sure you have guessed the rest. As soon as they arrived at the campsite they shared their wonderful news. Laura was 8 weeks pregnant, the baby was due in early May and they couldn’t wait for our return to Leeds in late October to tell us the good news.

Arya and myself beach coming for driftwood along the shore at Lochranza.

This was something of a bombshell. There was definitely an emotional tear of joy in Gary’s manly eye at the thought of becoming a grandparent! We were thrilled for the young couple. We knew how much Laura wanted a baby and also that she would be a fantastic mother. As for Arya, he was obviously as pleased as punch at the prospect of imminent fatherhood and this was clearly a very special moment for him too. They swore us to secrecy as they didn’t want to broadcast their good news to everyone else before the pregnancy had been confirmed by the 12 week scan

The much prized 12 week scan photo of our future grandchild.

However, this also meant an end to our Arran adventures. The baby is due in Spring and we would be immediately required for grandparent duties! Arya has no immediate family in the UK …..and every young family need as much help as they can get. I remember how difficult those early years had been for me and Gary and how we had struggled as we had no family close by.

So, sadly we were no longer Arran bound……but definitely Granny bound……

Respecting the Ancestors… a memorial to a bronze age princess.

The many different peoples who have inhabited the lands of Arran and mainland Kintyre have left artefacts, monuments and memorials that show the deep respect they had for their ancestors and forebears.

Stone covering the burial cist on the island of Inchmarnock

We have had many enjoyable times discovering the remnants of those memorials and burial cairns. Some of which stand out stark against the landscape whilst others are more hidden and remote.

One particularly memorable day involved a trip in Kathy and Nigels rib to the isolated and uninhabited island of Inchmarnock. What a special treat that was!

The islands name comes from the Gaelic, Innis Mhearnaig, meaning island of Marnock (saint). It could be that this refers to a holy man who lived on the island in the 7th century and who established a monastery there. Or it could just be a general reference to the patron saint of the island’s monks,

A burial cist was found on the island by a farmer in the 1950s while he was out ploughing. And, apparently the grave was left open simply covered by a pane of glass for many years before it was covered with the huge stone which now marks its position.

It contained a 4,000 year old skeleton of a female along with a jet necklace and a dagger.

Surprisingly, the archaeologists were able to identify the necklace as being made from Whitby Jet. What a distance those materials had travelled to be worn in both life and death on a tiny, seemingly remote island.

Clearly , these bronze age peoples were more widely travelled and connected than we might have imagined. Travel and trade will most probably have happened by sea and water including rivers and lochs rather than overland.

The plaque on the burial cist

Even more surprisingly they were able to reconstruct her appearance from her skull and even identify elements in her diet.

Reconstruction of her head and the Whitby Jet necklace.

Apparently, she was born in the Cyde Estuary but did not eat seafood even though she lived on a small island.

Clearly, she was regarded as someone of great importance by her peers. Archaeological evidence shows that she had plenty of contemporaries living on the island, however, very few other cist burials have been found . Additionally, she was allowed to keep her precious necklace with her on her journey to the next life despite it being of great value.

Looking back from the burial cist towards the rib

The island itself is serenely beautiful with outstanding views and due to its undisturbed habitat a wide variety of plants.

Since the last inhabitants of the island finally departed the owner of the island, Lord Smith of Kelvin, has farmed the land organically with a herd of highland cattle and so encouraged the native flora and fauna to flourish.

We did spot this rather lovely specimen close to the burial cist.

Is it a Scarlet Pimpernel?

What a fitting floral tribute for an archaeological gem hidden in full sight.

Little Children…

Lochranza in September

As Autumn approaches and the Arran landscape changes colour the type of visitor coming to the campsite has changed accordingly.

With the Autumn weather beginning to bite there are significantly fewer tents pitching up midweek.

The tent field empty except for 2 tents.

As Scottish and English children are all back at school the average age of our campers has increased. Now we have the Baby Boomers sometimes referred to as the Silver Surfers arriving in expensive motorhomes and campervans often bought with retirement, pension lump sums.

Sid, our resident hawklike seagull, prowls the campsite in vain for tasty morsels he can scavange or steal from unsuspecting campers.

Sid surreptitiously looking the other way…

Apparently one year a camper had left his walking boots outside his tent tied up inside a bin bag. A hungry seagull espied the bag and being unable to peck it open did the next best thing and picked the bag up, boots and all, and flew away with them. The site wardens chased the bird shouting and waving their arms  it eventually dropped the bag and boots on the other side of the burn!

Seagulls are not the only scavengers on site! The deer jump the fences and come on during the night searching for better quality grass…they will try to eat anything…..including a backpackers Rice Krispies that he left in a carrier bag outside his tent!

However, back to the rise in the ages of our visitors. There have been no children on site for several weeks. Then last night as we prepared our evening meal in the van we were sure we heard a childs voice. Were we imagining it?

Further signs that children were on site became apparent in the ladies washroom…..an Opal Fruit abandoned in the bottom of a wash basin.

And some flowers on the toilet cistern…..

Yes….there are definitely children on site!

Flood Alert!!!

Friday 9th August dawned dark and grim with persistent, heavy rain pelting down.

It was our morning to be on duty as wardens at Lochranza campsite. We were expecting to be shadowed by Barbara and Colin who had arrived the day before as potential campsite wardens for next season. The previous evening I had arranged to call for Barbara in the morning to join me for my deer pooh collecting round of the campsite.

Nigel and Kathy, the campsite owners joined us in the office at about 8:30 am. Nigel had been watching the water level of the river Gleann Easan Biorach, which bounds the full length of the campsite on one side, all night. He was concerned that the river was going to flood at the bottom of the campsite.

Campsite office.

But there was to be no pooh collection that day!!

The normal level of Gleann Easan Biorach….when in flood it came right up and over the top of both river banks.

Quite rightly, Nigel said that the campers in tents were most vulnerable to a flood. So accordingly, off we all went to warn those in tents in the bottom field to begin to pack up their gear to be ready to move their tents and belongings to higher ground.

Bottom tent field…..empty of tents….unlike 9th August when it was full!

All the while the rain continued to chuck itself at us. Very soon it was clear that the river level was continuing to rise rapidly. We helped move many tents and personal possessions to higher ground, repegging tents and wheelbarrowing valuables and camping equipment to an already packed Base Camp aka campers lounge. Several other campers came and helped . As for the sky it continued to throw buckets of water at us.

Base Camp….provides a great refuge from bad weather for those camping in tents.

By now the river had breached its lower banks on the golf course and in the bottom of the campsite. As the levels continued to rise we now alerted campers on the top field. And, moved yet again the tents we had only just moved and repegged down!

Alerting campers on the top field and getting them to move their tents wasn’t easy as some folks had already gone out for the day and others were elsewhere on the campsite …..having showers in the toilet block for instance….or watching the fun and games of our struggles to rescue tents and campers personal possessions etc from the safety of the campers lounge !

But the river continued to rise and rise.

Then it became clear that not only tents but also campervans, motorhomes and caravans were also at risk from the encroaching dark waters. Nigel announced that we needed to evacuate the site.

Site almost fully evacuated.

At this point the river broke the banks at the Ballarie Bridge near the distillery,tearing down fences and ripping out gorse bushes, trees and hedges. It bypassed it’s normal course and headed straight for the top of the campsite where it came gushing over a high hedge behind the pods flooding all but the very highest ground. This meant that the road to the campsite was blocked and the fire brigade, whom Kathy had alerted early in the morning, couldn’t reach the campsite to help with the evacuation.

Water gushing over the 4 foot high hedge at the top of the site.

But with great difficulty and much help from some fantastic, public spirited campers we succeeded in safely evacuating the site. Many tents and personal possessions were lost…….but no-one was injured.

As we evacuated the site, we encountered a few problems…such as a broken down vehicle which needed towing out and some caravans that also needed towing.

Tractor linked up to tow the broken down car.
Campers, caravans and motorhomes evacuated to the Stag Pavillion’s car park. As we needed to keep the entrance to the campsite clear we asked, wherever possible, for vehicles to temporarily park in the distillery car park.

The force of the water was so great that it moved not only heavy picnic tables dumping some of them miles away downstream but even wrenched the pods from their concrete moorings. One of the picnic tables made it to the middle of the river outside the Youth Hostel, it soon disappeared from there and was next reported having been spotted by the crew of the Cal Mac Lochranza/Clanaig ferry with its legs in the air floating towards Kintyre! All but one of the golf course bridges were damaged or moved from their positions. Tons of gravel from the hard standings and car park areas were carried away and dumped on the golf course fairways and greens.

The nearest pod was pulled forwards by at least 15 feet. It should be in line with the others.
Another view of the devastation on site!

It is unsurprising that this August 2019 has been one of the wettest recorded on Arran or that on that single morning 25% of the months rain fell…..over 45mm.

And what about Barbara and Colin, the rookie would-be wardens? What a baptism of floodwater they had had. They worked as hard as anyone that morning, moving tents, awnings, camping equipment etc. And, despite my advice after the evacuation to “head for the hills” they stayed for the rest of the week and worked hard helping with the big clean up that was so desperately needed!

What no posts???…..but lots of extreme excuses…..

I have no real excuse for my lack of posts the last month or so! There have, however, been some impediments of varying magnitude which have hindered my posting capacity.

  • Firstly we have been very fortunate to be distracted by a large influx of personal visitors, both good friends and close family. In total, so far, we have had over 22 different visitors with more planning to arrive soon! Altogether they have stayed here for over 40 days and nights. More than Jesus spent wandering
    in the wilderness!

Thalia and Adam came from the furthest away, New Zealand. Here they are enjoying an evening around the campfire.

What with providing food, accommodation, acting as island tour guides as well as working on the campsite little time has been left for blogging. But what fun we all have had and some very memorable days.

Elsa and Steve enjoyed Arran so much that they came twice! Here they are with their lovely doggies as well at the Blackwaterfoot Beer festival.

Said doggies, travel in style when they are out cycling….

  • Secondly, the internet / wifi connection at the campsite is variable and at times it is so saturated with people trying to use it that I cannot upload posts or pictures.
  • Thirdly and by no means least, we have experienced 2 floods on the campsite during August. With the first being of such a cataclysmic/ apocalyptic nature that it caused a great deal of damage and upheaval which in turn meant a huge clean up and reparation of the site was needed. Leaving very little time to even consider posting blogs about it !!!

But more about the floods later…..

In the meantime here is the headline about it from the local paper, the Arran Banner.