Thursday 13 May 2010

Stone walls - a habitat

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Its a wall, dry stone wall or dyke, but look closer. What else can you see if you look beyond the obvious?

There is always something to be seen if you open your eyes and take it in, as I often say "there is beauty all around you, just open your eyes and see it". Bear in mind I was working at this wall on a wet, windy, day. You could be forgiven for thinking there was nothing to inspire me on such a dreary day, standing in clarts (mud), lifting heavy stones and occasionally taking shelter in the dyke back - not much to be cheery about? Well there was.......
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I was able to enjoy my own private nature ramble. Not only did I have the birds of the countryside for company, I also had the curiosity of some sheep forever hopeful that I may have some cake (sheep food) for them along with the 'pleasures' of the weather. I also opened my eyes and looked closer. Lichens grow all over the walls, a sign of good air quality they seem to thrive on our stone walls, the above always catches my eye, bringing brightness to an otherwise bland background.
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Mosses and lichens grown together, some walls can be covered in moss, usually to be found in a sheltered damp area the moss will soon clothe the stones in a green blanket. Seeds can find themselve blown or deposited by birds in a wall, a small amount of soil is all that is needed to have ferns or sapling trees sprouting from the cracks in the wall
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There is also the unseen. As the back fill settles in a wall tunnels can be found through it, ideal habitat for adders, stoats, mice and voles and even rabbits. The gap I repaired had me delving in the foundations, a nest of grasses was found alongside some sort of mouse droppings, a cosy home.

Over the years I have found some interesting and not so interesting artefacts in a stone wall. Empty bottles and glass can be a favourite. These bottles are often old corked bottles, many of them coloured, some so small I imagine they must have been used for storing some sort of medicine. Fossils are often found in the stones themselves. Once I was fortunate to find a whole fossil, cylindrical and the thickness of my wrist it turned out to be the fossilised remains of bracken type plant and now adorns my office. Skulls and bones of some life long since lost can while away a minute or two as I try to discern what the living version may have been. The worst I've ever found? Has to be adders. A built in human instinct to fear danger causes your heart to stop and an involuntary reaction kicks in which causes me to gasp and jump backwards - never fails!!

The next time you walk past a stone wall, look closer. If you live in a town don't despair, your air quality may not be as good as we have in Tarset but still take time and look. There will be something to catch your eye, even if only the patterns left by bird droppings I'm sure you could find something to marvel at for a second or two.


Emma Anderson said...

How interesting. I was at Falstone for lunch with a friend on Wednesday and we returned via the old road, passing Tarset Station towards Lanehead. I saw some of the Cladonia lichen (like your picture) on a wall as we passed and we spent a good hour finding at a large number of lichen species and mosses, taking lots of pictures. At one point, a farmer came along on his tractor and asked what we were doing with his wall! He seemed satisfied when I said we were only looking at the lichens. Watch my blog for an update.

Emma Anderson said...

Sorry, should have said Falstone Station.

Tarset Shepherd said...

So that's what it is called! And I'm not the only one fascinated by whatever can be found growing on these walls, have to say the patterns can be a pice of art in their own right.

I could believe the farmer would be curious as to your doings, they are easily unnerved if people hang around too long, there's often a doubt creeps into the mind as to what people are up to and where it may lead, very sad but a sign of the times.

Look forward to catching up on your blog.