Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Doon of May - a fantastic project in the making.


Just recently, we've been spending some time at the Doon of May. It consists of 175 acres of mixed forest and woodlands surrounded by a traditional, dry stone dyke. One side is bordered by Mochrum Loch, but it's what's within the Doon of May that fascinates me: there's an iron age hill fort!



Last weekend, whilst the sun was shining and the day was warm, we headed across there and followed the track to the old fort. Telltale signs still remain from this year's beltane event, which included dancing around a traditional maypole. The hill fort is completely overgrown but the autumn weather is quickly resulting in the bracken to dying back. Wellies on (you never know what snakes may be hiding amongst the undergrowth of Galloway), cameras in hand, we set off to climb the fort and see what views it had to offer from the top. It was well worth it!

  

Doon of May is located between Kirkcowan and Port William. Travelling from Newton Stewart direction means a fairly lengthy 15 mile drive, much of it along single track through Mochrum Estate. You can tell by the cattle grids what to expect, as sheep and cattle graze the surrounding countryside, wandering wherever they like. This includes the road, so please drive slowly and carefully and don't risk getting out of the car with your camera if you're between a cow and her calf.

Likewise, don't wander around with your dogs, as the livestock see them as predators if they get too close. All that aside, it's a lovely drive. I can only imagine how great it would be on horseback if we were guaranteed there were no tactical low flying exercises incorporating fast military jets and helicopters.


  


The old hill fort is about 20 minutes walk from the main gates. With luck, there will be someone about to point you in the right direction. If not, be careful not to get lost. for the benefit of those who may not get the chance to visit this place, the view from the top is quite spectacular. You can easily pick out the Mull of Galloway with its lighthouse and, on a clear day, you can see across to Ireland. I'm told that being up there after dark gives you the orange glow of the streetlamps that light up Belfast.


The Doon of May is privately owned but set up to operate as a base for workers' co-operatives interested in reforestation, food production, wildlife preservation and an exciting array of woodland crafts. I plan on learning a great deal more about Iron Age settlements and the lifestyles back then but also have a keen interest in cultivating willow for sculpting, basket-weaving and, ultimately, as a carbon neutral fuel. Add to this the fact that we enjoy growing fruit, I can see great potential for becoming much more involved in this project in the longterm. Forest art is something else that interests us, and there's already some of that to be found within the forest.

These are just a few of the photos I took last weekend. More will follow if the weather holds for this weekend, when we'll take a look at how we can get some sort of working co-operative together and get path clearing, planting, cultivating, hedging, ditching, dyking and crafting. We need to seek the best possible way to help take the project forward. I'm confident that a few fellow members of GallowayLETS will be interested, especially as it's more about skills sharing and investment of time rather than hard cash. Cree trading to get jobs done sounds alright to me. The best methods of funding future projects can be dealt with at a later date.
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