Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Roman History at Balcaskie

In conjunction with Kellie Castle the gardens at Balcaskie were open last Sunday under Scotland's Gardens Scheme. A mini-bus  or tractor-trailer took visitors from Kellie Castle to Balcaskie. The gardens, to the south of the house, are said to have been initially laid out by William Bruce around 1665 and there are three terraces aligned on the Bass Rock. 

There are many classical statues in the garden and I noticed at the back wall of the middle terrace a series of 12 busts. The inscriptions on some of these were almost illegible but Otho and Domitian were clearly readable and I could just make out Octavian and Claudius.  Realised that all 12 were probably of Roman Caesars or Emperors. Prompted me to look up and identify the rest, who they were and when they were in power. From left to right along the wall found out that they are in order of reign - a timeline of Roman history in the 1st Century AD.
Although I couldn't read the inscription because of all the foliage this one has to be Julius Caesar (45 - 44BC). Strictly speaking not an Emperor. His title was Dictator in Perpetuity.
Octavian later called Augustus (31BC - 14AD) great-nephew of Julius Caesar and recognised as the first Emperor of Rome.
Tiberius (14 - 37AD)
Caligula (37 -41AD)
Claudius (41 -54AD)
Nero (54 -68AD). The last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Chaos ensued in Rome and in the following year there were four emperors. 

Galba (68 - 69AD). Galba was the first in 69AD in what was to become known as 'The Year of the Four Emperors'

Otho (69AD)
Vitellius (69AD)

Vespasian (69 - 79AD)
Titus (79 - 89AD)
Domitian (81 - 96AD)

The 12 above are generally grouped together because in 121 AD the roman historian Suetonius wrote a biography of Julius Caesar and the first eleven emperors entitled "The twelve Caesars" which is a primary source on Roman history of that period.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Cranesbill Seed Heads

A pretty cranesbill has seeded itself into the garden. It gets its name from the seed head which does indeed look like a bird's head with a long bill. However, I noticed that one or two  of the seed heads had split apart from the tip so that they looked like miniature candelabra.  There are five seeds arranged around the bottom of the fruit, each inside a tiny capsule connected by a thin filament that eventually dries out detaching from the fruit and springing upwards catapulting the seeds around the garden.
 First the flower, then the cranes bill and then the candelabra.
The seed head once it had split apart, catapulting the seed out of each tiny capsule.

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Haar Rolls In

There's not been a cloud in the sky for days now but morning and evening there has been a sea haar from the east, which usually burns back by mid-morning. Taken from the pier at Lower Largo can see the haar to the east.
In spite of the haar through the gloom can see that the beach at the temple is still very busy.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Fields of Blue

Sting sang about 'Fields of Gold' but it was the intense lavender blue colour in the field adjacent to the Serpentine Walk that caught my attention.

When I got closer I realised that it wasn't lavender but phacelia. It is a useful plant in agriculture because it is a green manure. Once the flowers and foliage die back they are ploughed into the soil and act as a fertiliser. Phacelia can also be planted in strips at the edge of a field as it attracts bees, hoverflies and other pollinators essential for a good crop.

Close up of the flower (Phacelia tanacetifolia)

At the edge of the field there were also other wild flowers, poppies, ox-eye daisies and shepherds purse to name but a few.
Looking down  from the road at Upper Largo across the fields to the coast of East Lothian on the opposite side of the Forth. Can just see North Berwick Law.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Hummingbird Hawk-moth

A hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) feeding on the valerian in my garden.

The first time I saw this moth, I could hardly believe my eyes. It was buzzing like a bee but looked like a tiny bird.
Hummingbird hawk-moths beat their wings at such speed they emit an audible hum. Their name is further derived from their similar feeding patterns to hummingbirds, collecting nectar with their long tongues. A day-flying moth active in both sunny and overcast conditions, hummingbird hawk-moths are strongly attracted to flowers with a plentiful supply of nectar such as honeysuckle, buddleia and as in these photos valerian. 
Difficult to get clear photos because their wings are just a blur.

There were also tortoiseshell butterflies feeding on the valerian, so although somewhat unruly and invasive, it seems a great plant for attracting moths butterflies and other insects such as hoverflies.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Jonathan's Cave - The Boat

All the markings in Jonathan's Cave are on the west wall with the exception of the boat in the above photo which is on the east wall. It is probably the most iconic of all the images in the caves. It is said to be the oldest known drawing of a ship in Scotland.
There is a lot of salt deposit on the wall of the cave and I found it difficult to pick out the outline of the boat in the photo I'd taken. After a bit of manipulation of the photo using Picasa it was a little bit clearer and I was able to trace the outline, although the exact position and length of the oars was still difficult to make out.

Jonathan's Cave interpretation board in East Wemyss.
There is a wealth of information about the carvings and the history of all the caves available, particularly on the Save the Wemyss Ancient Caves Society website and facebook page.

Recently up-to-date digital recording techniques have been used to create a comprehensive  record of Jonathan's Cave ( Weymss Caves 4D) and hopefully in the future this work will be extended to include the other caves.

Guide to the Wemyss Caves by Frank Rankin and published by Save the Wemyss Ancient Caves Society.
www. - the website of Save the Wemyss Ancient Caves Society (S.W.A.C.S.) - digital record of Jonathan's Cave

Friday, 18 July 2014

Jonathan's Cave

Walking east along the foreshore from the Doo Cave one comes to several caves that are known as the Well Caves just beneath McDuff Castle. These are all difficult to access, but further on lies Jonathan's Cave. This cave has two entrances on of which is gated and it contains more markings than all the other existing caves.
It gets its name from Jonathan who was a nailmaker and who lived in the cave with his family.
 A double disc with possibly a bird to the left.
 Another double disc with a square above and possibly a long-necked bird to the left.
 Quite a feint marking possibly a goose or a duck.
 A fish with two cup marks either side of its head.
 A horse with its tail flicked over its back.
Upper and lower photos two tridents.
 Possibly carving of a deer bending to graze.
Towards the back of the cave on a high ledge there are lines which are thought to represent Pictish Ogham Script. Unfortunately, no-one has been able to translate it.
 Looking out of the cave, can see that the floor of the cave is considerably lower than the foreshore.
From ancient to modern. Coming out of Jonathan's cave with its ancient carvings and looking towards Buckhaven with a view of the largest wind turbine in Europe - a new edition to the skyline.

Guide to the Wemyss Caves by Frank Rankin and published by Save the Wemyss Ancient Caves Society.
www. - the website of Save the Wemyss Ancient Caves Society (S.W.A.C.S.)

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Doo Cave

Continuing to walk towards Buckhaven from East Wemyss, the second cave one comes across is the Doo Cave. 
 The entrance to the Doo Cave.
In past times the cave was used as a doocote and there are many pigeon boxes that have been carved out of the wall of the cave.

There are no markings in this cave but there are amazing shades of green on the walls. At one time there were two caves here but unfortunately the west cave which contained a great number of markings collapsed.  

Looking out to sea from the Doo Cave.

Guide to the Wemyss Caves by Frank Rankin and published by Save the Wemyss Ancient Caves Society.
www. - the website of Save the Wemyss Ancient Caves Society (S.W.A.C.S.)