This weekend saw the first of our series of joint outings with the Friends of the Pentlands to build a memorial to Donald Graham, one of their former members who died recently while walking in the Pentland Hills, in the form of a dry stone seat, to be sited on the hillside above the picture-postcard-perfect village of Swanston (a favourite haunt of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson, as I may have previously mentioned in this blog). And very pretty it is too, on a sunny June morning.
The site had already been cleared and levelled for us, with some stone (from a demolished farm house) delivered.
The first task was to decide what, exactly, to build. There were two basic options: a round seat (as per our programme notes, and possibly somewhat similar to our previous project with the FotP sited not much further up the hill - see below, and blog entries for 1st August and 7th and 17th September last year); or a square one. Various factors were considered - the type and shape of the stone, the size and shape of the site, and the views down the hill and over Edinburgh and East Lothian to the Firth of Forth and Fife beyond.
While this discussion was going on, my children (dragged out once again by their father on a dyke-building exercise) gathered bucketfulls of small stones to use as hearting.
Eventually a square-based, or rather more L-shaped, solution was decided upon, where people could either sit facing North across the city or out to the East, and be sheltered (in the words of Ivor Cutler) from the worst of the effects of the fresh air.
Once we'd decided what to build, and how big it should be, and measured this out and marked it with strings, we could start putting in the stone. As it had come from a building most of it was fairly large blocks, more or less rectangular. The ground had been packed fairly hard by the excavation work, so we decided not to dig out for the foundation at all but just levelled site at the back where there was an obvious gradient.
And once we'd got the big stones in, Sam and Emily could fill up the gaps with their little ones - traditionally the "children's" job, I believe.
The morning had been mostly bright, but there had always been threatening clouds, and after lunch the rain came on - fortunately only a fairly brief shower.
By this time my children's enthusiasm for piling up stones was beginning to wane, so me and mine headed off. When we left the first course was up, and the second had been started on - our next visit is scheduled for two weeks' time, so I'll bring you up to date with progress then.
While I was in the vicinity, I took the opportunity to have a look at the seat we built previously, now somewhat damaged by marauding cattle. However, I was pleased to see that it was just the back which had been damaged and that the seat was still in good condition, and with a bit of work (and perhaps a stone, rather than turf, cope) it should be possible to restore it fully.
This blog, and the rest of the site, are produced by Donald McInnes, treasurer of the SES DSWA (I'm the baldy one, sometimes in a saltire hat).