Friday, 9 July 2010

Inniemore and Auliston - Clearance Villages

Another trip to the romantic-sounding North Atlantic Rainforest. This time I was in Morvern, and having badly damaged my knee playing sport over a month ago was only able to do a short walk. I chose a forest walk to see Inniemore, a village cleared of its tenants in 1824 by the Lowland-based landowner to make way for sheep. Once the tenants were thrown out of their houses by the estate factors, their homes were set on fire so as to become uninhabitable. The tenants, descendants of those who had lived in the village for generations, were left to the mercy of their own raw abilities, without their crops or any goods they could not carry on their backs. The elderly were particularly vulnerable. Those who could headed for the factories of Glasgow, or to become settlers in Britain's colonies.

Ruined foundations at Inniemore:

Long after the village was forcibly cleared, sheep themselves became unprofitable due to competition of cheap wool from Australia and New Zealand, and the land was planted with forestry. In 1994 the trees were felled and the forgotten village rediscovered. There is now a path and a car park in this quiet spot.

In the forest:

As I stepped out of the car there was utter silence, save for birdsong and the wind soughing in the trees and rippling the water. The deeper into the wood I went the deeper the silence, my steps slowing. There were butterflies, foxgloves, the smell of bog myrtle, washing-day whips of rain followed by spotlights of sun. At Inniemore itself there was peace, only a skylark calling the alarm. A curious crowd of cows watched my progress.

Cattle at Inniemore:

Forest light:

I was slightly disappointed at Inniemore. It is the best-known of the clearance villages in this area, but it is not the best. Previously I had been to Auliston - a further walk, in an even more remote spot right at the tip of Morvern - and it is more impressive, a street of houses with rounded walls still standing right up to the door lintels. A plantation of pines stands nearby. These ruined villages scatter the West Highlands, a part of the world that is, almost uniquely in Europe, less densely populated than it was in the past. These sheep-nibbled wildernesses are man-made. Standing amongst the ruins in the wind and rain, I came over all poetical.

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