The Window. Through a glass darkly.
8th March 2019
(Above) The ‘view’ eastwards from the top of The Window, the bealach high above the Inner Coire of Coire Ardair. Imperfectly named given today’s visibility. Still large areas of exposed rocks and boulders at the top of, and approach to, this high watershed.
(Above) This line of old iron fence posts at high point of The Window marks a boundary between two estates, and is possibly even a continuation of the Moy Wall (demarcates the ancient boundary between Badenoch and Lochaber) which peters out a short distance from Creag Meagaidh’s summit. Here at The Window there are still some remnants of a long since collapsed wall, too. The rime on the nearest fence post is on the east-facing side and will have built up (into the wind) yesterday. Contradictory local winds winds here today: direction over summits was pretty much Southerly but the wind through The Window was a moderate strength Easterly at 1pm.
(Above) Shooting cracks on a steep Southerly aspect. There’s a interesting soft crust with a weak layer above it buried beneath a few centimetres of new slabby snow. Instability and snow depth are quite variable by aspect but only above 950m and on steeper ground. Overall snow cover remains pretty modest at the time of reporting and is confined to favoured hollows and the top of some recent lee slopes.
(Above) A minor cascade of icicles on the south-facing side of the approach to The Window. Ice is beginning to reform in the colder conditions but overall build up is still very limited indeed.
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8th March 2019 10:27 pm
Seeing as you are talking about walls etc can I ask about ‘Mad Meg’s’ cairn, or to be pc, mentally unwell Meg’s cairn? How did the cairn come to be called this? I’ve never been able to find out much about it.
9th March 2019 8:56 am
(Above) The approach to Mad Meg’s cairn from above The Window. Often mistaken for the summit of Creag Meagaidh by visitors.
The simple answer to your question, Mary, is that the name appears to derive from local oral history. According to local legend it is the burial mound (or cist) of a suicide victim, constructed by the victim’s family. Burial in consecrated ground for a person who took their own life would not have been allowed back in the day. It’s also located very close indeed to a significant local boundary, possibly also a parish boundary. Perhaps the local church insisted on a burial outwith the parish/region?
However, the mound/cairn/ruin could also have been a remote shieling, an area of summer grazing sometimes with a very basic seasonally occupied dwelling. There’s some good recent research on subsistence transhumance in Badenoch carried out by Dr David Taylor, a local historian (who coincidentally taught History to all my children), which is quite revealing about the role of upland pasture in 18th century subsistence pastoralism. There’s good evidence to suggest our high and rolling upland pastures above 900m were much more intensively used than had been previously credited. See here (pages 73 – 90): https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/portal/files/3078042/David_Taylor_PhD_Thesis_full_text.pdf
There was a significant agricultural settlement at Aberarder in the 18th C. which may help support the idea of this area being a summer pasture. Upland dwellings/shelters are not unheard of in our area: the ruin of some sort of hut can be found tucked into the top of the Min Window (Uinneag Min Choire) 2kms west of Carn Liath summit. The remains of old stove pipe can still be found there. I guess the Min Window example may have been a stalker’s hut, dating from the 19th C.?
(Above) Mad Meg’s cairn. Old collapsed walls, or a burial cist? It appears to have quite a lot of gravelly infill which, I speculate, is unlikely to have appeared there by natural processes.
(Above) Taken at approximately 950m: a summer photo of upper Coire Ardair. Not too difficult to imagine that this upland could have supported some rough summer grazing for cattle, sheep or goats, albeit quite limited.
All speculation, of course, so other opinions welcome!
10th March 2019 11:58 pm
Very interesting, many thanks.