Landscape archaeology is something that, once learnt, is impossible to lose. What was previously an undulation or bump becomes something more, a story of our species’ past, written across the land itself. Dots are joined, pieces of the jigsaw rotated and fit into place.
Documentary resources, or word of mouth, can fill in the gaps — here, I have learnt, a young girl minding the goats high up on the mountain discovered a heavy rock, which she carried back to her master. It turned out to be pure silver and, within a short time, a mine was dug.
The stream, which flows through our village and which I hear burbling as I type this, has her source near the old silver mines, now long abandoned and reburied. There is also gold here, and I am sure I will teach Ailsa how to pan, how to find the best places and sift and sieve. Gold panning, much like fishing, is a good reason or excuse to be out in nature, the process a form of meditation. Of course, it is exciting to see those flecks of gold (or other heavy stones or minerals) in the bottom of the pan, but it is not the reason I do it.
Wild mountain streams, carving through forested slopes, are places of thought, places which carry a song as much as they carry precious metals, the air seems scented with green, it is alive with woodland birdsong, butterflies shoaling, gathering in flurries, the animals carefully picking their way to the water’s edge to drink. For there are hunters here, and not all carry guns — some work together, as a family, as a pack.
I have much to share of this corner of the world. And share it, I shall.