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The Caithness Biodiversity Collection
Photographs Of Landscapes and Nature In Caithness
29 June 05
The full colour posters and postcards have been produced by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to raise awareness of the different types of landscapes in the county. An accompanying Landscape schools activity pack prepared by the Highland Environmental Network will also be available for all schools in Caithness.
The poster and postcards include quotes from local people on how they feel about their landscapes. The schools activity pack provides guidance on fieldwork relating to landscape, and pointers on how to identify key landscape features. It also invites feedback from children on what they think about their landscapes.
Eight-year-old John Bain, a pupil of Dunbeath Primary School unveiled the poster electronically. Pat Buchanan of Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise gave a brief explanation about how important landscapes are to tourism across the Highlands.
Cllr David Flear, area convener for Caithness said: “This excellent new material will add to the sense of pride that we all have in our beautiful county. I am delighted that Scottish Natural Heritage has taken this initiative and The Highland Council is pleased to be associated with it.”
Frances Thin Lanscape Advisor for SNH left her technical hat behind to describe Caithness landscapes in, in a rather more anthropomorphic way than she might get away with at work where one of the tools she use is the process and outputs of something called Landscape Character Assessment. In Landscape Character Assessment the focus is on the objective aspects of landscape so that organisations can analyse and understand landscapes and help to guide change.
The photographs were taken over a 12 month period. The photographers were Ken Crossan and Iain Sarjeant who drew the project together. Sue Scott contributed underwater photographs and Keith Ringland a few to fill in gaps. A 2004 Calendar was also produced by the Caithness and Sutherland Wildlife Tourism Group and limited copies are available on the basis of one per household in Caithness only as there are limited supplies.
Frances Thin, Landscape Adviser, Scottish Natural
From a distance we register a person from their shape and form, from their outline, edge and profile. Caithness is no different. From a distance, Caithness is rugged and crenellated at its edges and smooth and rolling in its centre.
Edge is important in defining shape and giving form. Caithness’s coastal edges provide some of its most characteristic features. The cliffs of Duncansby, Holburn Head and Dunnet, the wave-cut platforms and rocky coastline of the north coast and the raised beaches of the east, the sweeping beaches of Sandside, Dunnet and Keiss, Stacks at Duncansby and Lybster. The ice scoured this landscape and plucked at its edges. In the interior, edges are less clear - more important here are the outline and profile of the (well-kent) landforms of Morvern and the Scarabens , Ben Ratha and many hills of lesser height but no less stature.
Outline and profile are phenomenally powerful in the way we experience our surroundings. As babes in arms we recognise the profile of our mother's face within days of birth. As residents and visitors to Caithness we recognise these significant natural landmarks.
Landmarks emphasise familiarity, influence sense of place, and provide the strings that fix things in the memory.
Though more prominent in the way we experience the shape of
the land, outlines and profiles don't just go up ... the lochs of Calder,
Watten and St John's Loch occupy the slight hollows in the landscape,
creating one of the most stunning edges between land and sky. A horizon so
low that light and space dominate.
But let's zoom in a little on this character called Caithness. Past the prominent surface features, we find the simple shapes and outlines softened by vegetation, coarsened by rock, chequered by patterns of land use centuries old, and the forever changing expressions of the coastline. Woodlands, rivers, mosses, lichens and rocks, patterns overlaid on the gentle ups and downs of this vast landscape. You could travel through Caithness and take away only the impression of sky and space, but if you look and feel this land you'll find its gems. Nooks and crannies, shelter and calm. This is the scale at which a child experiences a landscape, inside looking out, touching.
Where rocks and trees become real. Secret places, a mysterious cave. Stories and images wrapped around nature, enduring memories, to give some sanity to their futures.
Generations have taken this sweeping and vast character, used it, hunted across it, tamed it, farmed it, fished it, left their footprint in a landscape poc-marked with cairns, brochs and standing stones, and quarries, criss-crossed with dykes and flag fences spotted with croft houses and farms, castles, mills, harbours and icehouses, and settlements that fit into and around the shape of the land. Giving this character a 'skin' so experienced, time worn, and rich in the cultural heritage.
And if we zoom in still further, close enough to touch and
hear and smell, as well as see, we will find that there is movement upon
the care-worn surface of this character, Caithness.
Here we have a living landscape, scars, warts and all. Not a view through a window, or a captured image.
A rich and varied inheritance to treasure, to enjoy and use, but always to nurture and never deplete.
When it comes to the notion of landscape, there are some commonly held constructs, some basic premises, and shared tools and approaches, but we each value the landscape through our own eyes, and coloured by our own experience. What is one person's glory can be another person's desecration.
Whilst multiple perspectives make it difficult to gain agreement, this is part and parcel of what makes the very concept of landscape so valuable.
The first time I came to Caithness my husband had just accepted a job here. It was March, it was cold and there was sand in air rasping at my face. But by May I was dazzled by long days and birdsong, by June I was hooked and the next winter wasn't so bad.
I shall finish today with one man's words on Caithness. As a son of Caithness, Neil Gunn captures the uncapturable. "…you walk out upon Caithness, and at once experience an austerity in the flat clean wind swept lands that affects the mind almost with a sense of shock. There is something more in it than contrast. It is a movement of the spirit that finds in the austerity, because strength is there also, a final serenity. I know of no other landscape in Scotland that achieves this harmony, that, in the very moment of purging the mind of its dramatic grandeur, leaves it free and ennobled."
Frances Thin 28 June 2005
For A Full Listing Of Each Set Of Pictures Click Here