Saturday, 1 February 2014

Fields of Desperation

This is Glendrian, a crofting township finally abandoned in the early 1940s after its people had spent generations working a living from its indifferent soils.  The township's arable lands are surrounded by a stone wall, the head dyke, which can be seen snaking across the picture from bottom left towards centre right, and away into the distance towards top left.  The way Glendrian was organised, most of its dwellings and other buildings were arranged along the head dyke though, being built of local stone, it's difficult enough to see them in this picture.

If you look carefully, however, there's a story to be told in the bottom right of the picture because more arable fields, distinguished by their striped, 'lazy-bed' pattern, can be seen spilling across the head dyke.

This photo continues the previous one towards the right, so the township's head dyke can just be seen at the left of the picture.  Each patch of bright green is grass occupying the fields which were opened up beyond the head dyke.

These fields can only have been brought into production at a time when Glendrian's population couldn't be fed from the land within the head dyke.  They were, if you like, fields of desperation, because they must have been bitterly hard to work.

Towards centre right of the picture can be seen a small waterfall.  The next picture....

....looks downstream from the waterfall, so the worked land lies to the right.  The arable fields here, at the very edge of the worked land, some now covered with dead bracken, are mere depressions in the landscape, with miserably thin soil.  How an annual crop was raised from them is beyond imagining, particularly as the one rich fertilizer - seaweed from the beaches - is some five kilometres away along a rough, rocky and boggy track.

There is no evidence, from censuses and other documents, that Glendrian's population was unusually high any time back into the 18th century, so it is possible that these fields are much older.

A history of the clachan of Glendrian is here.
Towards the bottom of the history are two fascinating papers by Andy Carter.
Andy's family lived in Glendrian for hundreds of years.

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