Campsies

 

 

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bulletCampsie Fells
bulletJasper
bulletFilm and TV appearance
bulletMountaineer
bulletMichael Faraday
bulletHang Gliding
bulletCaledonian Forts
bulletThe Meikle Reive
bulletThe Maiden Castle
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Campsie Fells

The 'Campsies' are a range of hills, formed of volcanic rock, stretching east to west, from south Stirlingshire, to east Dunbartonshire. The highest peak in the range is Earls Seat, which rises to 1890 feet above sea level (578m).

Erosion along the line of a geological fault known as the 'Campsie Fault' has left tiers of rock representing some 30 lava flows, which date from the Carboniferous period. Rocks here include, coal, oil shale, limestone. These relatively soft rocks, have been cut in places by volcanic intrusions to create small areas of hilly land such as is seen in the Fells.

The area combines diverse scenery, a rich mixture of open moorland, wide varieties of flora and fauna, steep sided glens, fast flowing burns, lush woodlands and peaks. The landscape presents a complex mixture of man's influence on interlinked geological and ecological systems. This has resulted in rich and diverse habitats of wetland, grassland, peat land, woodland, hedgerows, rivers, streams and lochs.

The Campsies provide a very scenic, rugged and spectacular  backdrop to the village, and have different, sometimes quite sensational attractions in different seasons and different lights. The villagers are familiar with particular areas of the Fells, for example, 'The Shovel' and 'The Three Steps'.

see: Crichton's Cairn Craw Road

Jasper

Jasper is an opaque variety of quartz that occurs in a range of colours. The colour is due to the presence of impurities. Red, Yellow and Brown are the most common colours, and are mainly due to inclusions of iron oxides such as hematite and goethite.

Jasper was widely used from the earliest times, for religious and medicinal purposes, but nowadays, is used mainly as a decorative stone. Like many other highly coloured stones, Jasper was ascribed certain mythical and curative properties among which were that red Jasper was capable of stemming haemorrhages, or snake bites, and green Jasper could induce rain.

In his book, "The Minerology of Scotland", the Scottish mineralogist, Professor Matthew Forster Heddle (1828-97) listed over twenty sites where Jasper is found. One of the most famous being the Campsie Fells.

Jasper from the Campsies' is generally blood red, or yellow and has been prized by lapidaries (alternative spelling? lapidarists) because of it's fine grain.

To commemorate the 1986 Commonwealth games in Edinburgh, the jeweller, Michael Laing, created a gold and silver baton to carry a message for the queen. At the end of the baton, a piece of polished Jasper from the Campsies' was inserted.

In 1996, staff from the Department of Geology, National Museums of Scotland, revisited the site to organize several collecting trips. One large boulder, and several small pieces were recovered. Later, they had some of the pieces carved to form small ornaments.

Jasper pieces.jpg (47955 bytes)

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Film and TV appearances

The Campsies appeared as South Africa in Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life". Stars of the film included, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and John Clees, and was directed by Terry Jones.

One episode of Taggert was also filmed in the Campsies.

Mountaineer

William Wilson Naismith (1856-1935), a founder member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC), was not only a very competent and energetic mountaineer, but also a pioneer in Scottish skiing. He made the first recorded expedition on skis in Scotland in 1890, tackling the Campsie Fells, using heavy Nordic-style wooden planks.

A man of many talents, he was a member not only of the Scottish Ski Club, founded in 1907, and a member of the Alpine Club in 1893, but in 1895, during the great freeze, he was the first man to explore Loch Lomond on skate, managing to get as far as Rowardennan. He tried boxing, canoeing and horse riding. Not content with the mountaineering and the above sports, he made a balloon ascent over Glasgow on September 2nd, 1901, reaching a height of 5,350 feet (1,630m).

He married when he was 69 years old, and his wife accompanied him on walks, and they continued to scramble over the Campsie Fells almost until the end of his life.

In May 1892, Naismith made a solo walk taking in Cruach Ardrain, Stob Binnein and Ben More, three of the Crianlarich Munros. From this, he devised a simple arithmetical rule allowing a walker to calculate the time required for a walk. This has now been been hallowed by time, and is called Naismith's Rule.

Naismith's Rule is said to be a simple rule, which allows the averagely fit walker to calculate the time of a walk. In old Imperial measure, it is based on three miles per hour as measured horizontally, plus 2000ft per hour of the ascent. In the metric system, this approximates as 4.5Km per hour, and one minute per 10m of ascent.

Michael Faraday

It is reported in 'The Angry Corrie' 43: Oct - Nov 1999, that in 1841 Michael Faraday spent 36 hours lost on the upper slopes of Campsies, during which time he came up with the theory of electromagnetic induction and developed his lifelong fondness for sheep.

 The Angry Corrie 43: Oct-Nov 1999 TAC: 43 Index

The Angry Corrie is a  'Fanzine' or short magazine designed for mountaineers.

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Hang Gliding

John Forrest's often repeated 'truism'; 'Flying is the safest means of travel, but is unforgiving if a mistake is made', was said through experience and more than a touch of courage. 

A report in the Glasgow Herald in the Autumn of 1974 tells of Mr. John Forrest's crash after launching himself off the Campsie Fells in a hang-glider. His leg was broken when he misjudged the flight and unfortunately, crash landed heavily in Crosshouse Road between Strathblane and Lennoxtown.

Mr. Forrest, of Dumbarton was taken to Stobhill Hospital, then later transferred to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where his condition was later reported to be 'fair'. He was the first casualty in the Campsies since the sport of hang-gliding - riding the air currents clinging to giant kites - caught on in Scotland a few months prior to the accident.

This photograph comes from the photographic record (project 134), of the 'Quality of Life Experiment, a Government Initiative to improve urban life with a budget of 250,000 for Dumbarton District, where 163 projects were assisted over its duration - February 1974 - August 1976.'

Hang-glider in the Campsies.jpg (64129 bytes)

Caledonian Forts

In his Statistical account of Scotland, published in 1795. the Rev. Lapslie, who was minister in the parish, stated that there were only two antiquities in the district which merited description - 2 Caledonian Forts. He noted these mounds were perfectly circular, with regular fosses (ditches or moats dug for fortification). One of the mounds, the 'Meikle Reive', was about 100 yds in diameter, and the other the 'Maiden Castle', about 20 yds in diameter.

Since Lapslie wrote this account there has been considerable controversy over the use of the word 'Reive' which he cited as synonymous with Caledonian Fort.

Jamieson's Scottish Dictionary suggests a possible meaning for the word Reive could be a large enclosure for stock. However, Horace Fairhurst writes in his book 'The Meikle Reive', that the site did  not suggest a stock enclosure, since even then ,when he surveyed the site, cattle wandered around unhindered by stockades, and it bore no resemblance to an old sheepfold higher up the hill.

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The Meikle Reive

The Meikle Reive is a small hill fort situated on the south face of the Campsies, 1100 yds north east of Bencloich Mains farmhouse, and at a height of little over 700 ft. It is an elaborate system of circular defensive embankments. The knoll which it occupies  protrudes from the face of the hillside and may be overlooked from the north. 

The fort has two entrances, the larger probably being the main entrance. About 100 ft east of the east entrance there is a circular depression, 30ft in diameter, which is often full of water; it may have been a pond used by the occupants. There is clear evidence that radical alterations were made inside the main enclosure. A modern cairn stands on the north east arc of the wall.

The Fort appears to be a conventional early Iron Age fort, and the small finds from excavations seem to confirm this. They include a number of pieces of hand-made pottery, a stone ball, a sandstone disc, a fragment of a shale armlet and a stone ring. 

Although little dateable material was found, an initial early Iron Age occupation during the 1st Century AD can be postulated.

Meikle Reive 2.jpg (228429 bytes)                       Fort Meikle Reive.jpg (79582 bytes)                    Area of Meikle Reive.jpg (96558 bytes)

Maiden Castle

 The site of the motte-and-bailey Maiden Castle, is in the Campsies, high above Glorat House, but its history according to Nimmo 'is lost in the mists.' Nevertheless, some details are available to us.

The Maiden Castle consists of a steep-side hillock with a flattened top measuring 16 yards (some reports say 20yards), by 10 yards. There is a deep gorge on the eastern side, and a ditch runs like a horseshoe round the foot of it. The 'upcast' - section of strata which has been forced upwards- turns outward to form a low rampart which becomes multiple on the upper northern side. The site is suggestive of a Mediaeval motte (natural man-made mound on which a castle was erected).

It was thought that some of the stones from this building were used in the construction of Bencloich Mains Farmhouse, but there is no proof of this available at time of writing.

 

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