A guest post by Stuart McMillan, Community Development Manager, Venture Trust
Venture Trust, National Museums Scotland and young carers groups in Glasgow have joined forces to enable 12 young people with caring responsibilities to explore changing land use triggered by Scotland’s silent revolution, the Lowland Clearances. You can find out more about the project in this previous post. During their heritage journey the Venture Trust group set out to experience some of the hardships that cottiers cleared off the land would have encountered as they made their way towards the cities and New Towns in the 1700s. They travelled across Southern Scotland, visiting historical sites and gathering information for their project on Scotland’s Lowland Clearances. Along the way they had to overcome torrential rain, gale force winds, a mountain rescue and leaky plates! The following account is based on the group’s daily journal and outlines their thoughts and feelings each day.
We all met up in George Square at around 4:30, where we met up with all the staff that were taking us on the trip. We discussed a rough plan of what the trip would look like. We got on the minibus ready to go on the road trip. We were on the road for about an hour or so when we stopped at Abington services for a break. Then we took another wee while to arrive at Wiston Lodge, where we got our backpacks, clothing, and sleeping bags, and discussed sleeping arrangements. We had dinner and a hot drink, we had a wee meeting in the tipi and went through the social contract we had to all sign, then headed to bed.
After a cold wet and windy night we were woken up around 8am where we got freshened up, had a hot drink and some breakfast and headed to the kitchen where we went over our plans for the day.
Our plan for the day was to climb a hill so that we could see the land in the area and the different types of farming and land use that we could see. We then went and picked our foods for the weekend, got our trangeas (cookers) and packed them in our bag packs along with our tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag. At around noon we headed off on our journey up to Glentrool and arrived there at around 2:30pm, where we then fastened up our waterproof jackets and helped one another put rucksacks on. When everyone was kitted up we started our walk. It was wet and windy but the walk was enjoyable because everyone was having a laugh and helping each other when the hill got tough and slippy. Half way up the hill Danielle slipped and injured her knee and we had to stop. As a group we came to the decision to come back down rather than split the group. Danielle was helped off the hill by Mountain Rescue and taken to hospital. At the bottom of the hill we used our trangeas for the first time and cooked some dinner – some people were better at cooking than others! After a long drive back to Wiston Lodge we were given nice hot cabins to sleep in for the night because the weather had got a lot worse. It was a difficult day and we all felt bad because Danielle hurt her leg but we learned how to cope with set-backs and prioritise things and to re-think our plans due to circumstances.
After having had a stressful night on Saturday the staff allowed us to have an extra hour’s sleep, we got up and asked Simon and Gee how Danielle was and was told she dislocated her right knee and was picked up by her dad during the night. We had a hot drink, breakfast and went into our support sessions for about an hour where we reviewed the previous day and set our goals for the day ahead, then we had a group meeting and discussed the plan for the day. We then put our lunch into our bags, got ready and headed off to a local wax museum to see if it had any relevant exhibits, Robbie Burns was the only wax work who was involved in the clearances but it did have a dry stane dyke exhibit which we found out was how many of the farms were enclosed. We took loads of pictures too.
We then headed off to New Lanark and the Falls of Clyde to see a mill where some of those who were cleared off the land moved to work. When we got to New Lanark we played a few games whilst walking up to the Falls – one of which was called the Land of Confusion. We looked around the museum and saw the mill and machinery and the houses people lived in. It was interesting to see how people lived at this time and some of those cleared off the land probably had a better quality of life here because the owner looked after his employees. We took some pictures of the exhibit’s historical things and of the waterfalls, which were mesmerising. When we got back to Wiston Lodge we had a communal dinner and a group chat, then went into the tipi and played a few games, had a hot drink then headed to bed.
After a nice hot bed to sleep in everybody woke up feeling refreshed, happy and raring to go with the day plan. At around 8:30 we got our trangeas out, made breakfast, had hot drinks and went into our group support sessions for 45 minutes then went over and got our bag packs sorted out and headed off on our journey to Tinto Hill!
We arrived at our destination at around 11:30am where we got our kit on, our walking poles and helped each other with our bag packs. Walking up Tinto Hill was such a great experience and I’d do it all over again if I got the chance. There was times when it was quite tough but the encouragement you got off the other members of the team was great and really inspiring, the sights we saw and the pictures we took from walking up the hill were magnificent. We stopped off half way up the hill and had a spot of lunch in the bothy and had a nice wee group chat about our journey so far. After lunch we started walking up the second part of the hill where we took more pictures and had a bit of fun playing in the snow. We took a few wee stops as we were walking because a few people were quite tired and sore but we finally reached the top of the hill and it was such an amazing and proud feeling knowing you pushed yourself to do that and the view from the top was mind-blowing.
Simon pointed out lots of the landmarks and we discussed how the scene might have looked before the clearances. It was hard to imagine small crofts and villages instead of the massive farms and forestry we could see. It was a real challenge to climb the hill but it felt great and we all made it together.
We arrived back at Wiston Lodge about quarter past four and were to told to be back in the kitchen area around half five to six for dinner, so some people went and got cleaned up and had a shower. Abbie, Dahna and Lauren helped prepare the food for the night’s dinner by cutting and chopping the vegetables and chicken and adding spices and herbs into the big pot, and around half six we all sat down and had dinner as one big group. Dinner was delicious but we used plates that leaked and most of us ended up covered in gravy! After dinner we headed into the tipi and played some fun games including King of the Jungle where we had to do different animal voices and actions. After a few hours of playing games and chatting in the tipi we then had a wee chat and hot drink and headed off to bed.
Woke up on Tuesday morning and Abbie had to get her left foot bandaged because she had hurt it during the night. Fraser, one of the boys from the group, had left with one of the workers because there was an opportunity for him to volunteer at Wiston Lodge for two weeks as a cook, which was a great chance for him. We got into our support group sessions and spoke about what we would be taking home from this course i.e; experience, maturity and confidence. Dahna was awesome as per usual. We discussed meeting up the following week to sort our photos and start work on our presentation. Fraser was offered a work placement which he wants to do J
The next instalment will detail the follow-up weekend, where the group reviews their experience, sorts through the huge pile of photographs, compiles a slideshow and tries their hand at rock climbing to push their comfort zone even further!