Star Moss

this sunday we went for a long walk around Markinch, near Glenrothes, a forty-minute drive from here.

it started with a stiff hill

into a wood at the top

with the brisk southerly wind blowing leaves up the path in front of us

once out of the wood we could see misty views of the Firth of Forth from Cuinin hill,

big rolling countryside, walking on lanes and tracks, and into the village of Star

then we arrived at Star Moss after a bit more road and track.

this is a raised bog, now wooded, which was extensively cut for peat in the past.

on its edges there are conifer plantations and arable fields, but most is reserved as a site of special scientific interest. I hope there’s not agricultural chemical run-off.

it occupies a shallow depression 2 km north of Markinch,

and it is of importance as the largest area of naturally vegetated peat in central Fife with a wide diversity of habitats, principally birch woodland, fen and grassland.

its centre is wet birch woodland (downy birch Betula pubescens and silver birch B. pendula) with a carpet of sphagnum mosses and soft rush Juncus effusus swamp around a small pool. the information sheet I found does not mention which of the 12 sorts of Sphagnum grow here, sadly.

woodland understorey species include narrow buckler-fern Dryopteris carthusiana, common cotton-grass Eriophorum
angustifolium, white sedge Carex curta, and marsh violet Viola palustris.

the north and south of the Moss has drier birch woodland present.

Locally abundant species representative of the woodland understorey here include chickweed wintergreen Trientalis europaea, patches of raspberry Rubus idaeus, heath bedstraw Galium saxatile, sheep’s sorrel Rumex acetosella, sweet vernal grass Anthoxanthum odoratum and scattered narrow buckler-fern.

the eastern and western edges of the Moss support neutral grassland and fen with stands of willow carr.  as well as its scientific status, it’s one of those places which invites me to see it as a thin place, where the real and the unreal are close together. especially as we walked there on November 1st, All Souls Day.

then our route master took us through muddy tracks and larch and pine woods

all edged with stone walls, we walked through Lochmuir woods and over the mainline railway

and Emmet was very excited to find a pile of carrots, trundled off with one to eat. Bims never eats while walking.

we ended up in a big estate, Balburnie Park, avoiding carrot tractors.

and passed a small stone circle

the route master said, somewhat dismissively

“there are masses of stone circles in Scotland”

but this was my first,

I thought it pretty exciting.

the walk then took us through wooded parkland, in front of the golf club,

with a tumbling burn

and more steep slopes

gorgeous beech trees

up and over Moot Hill, the original Dalginch, or Island of Thorns, where in medieval times there would have been out door courts and fair days.

a six-mile hike, including some fair hills.

some procrastinating and cogitating and poem-writing later I made these drawings

they might be the start for some paintings later, when I get my studio.

I hope I’ll get the keys to the new house at the end of this month, but will have to have some work done – nothing serious, changes of flooring and decorating, and the garage lined out for the studio – before I move in.


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