Coun­try Mouse

Rock of ages

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

THE old­est rocks in Bri­tain, the Lewisian Gneiss, are al­most 3,000 mil­lion years old and they are among the old­est rocks any­where on the planet. As their name sug­gests, they are found in the Outer He­brides and, last week, they were re­ceiv­ing a bat­ter­ing from wind and rain as fe­ro­cious as any lo­cal could re­mem­ber in Septem­ber. The burns were slic­ing into the rock like a steel knife into a rib of beef; a day later and the start of Oc­to­ber saw the re­turn of our In­dian sum­mer, with millpond con­di­tions.

The change was scarcely be­liev­able—from the top of the is­land of Taransay, just off Har­ris, we could see St Kilda, 50 miles away. De­spite St Kilda’s lone­li­ness, it had, un­til the last cen­tury, been in­hab­ited for two mil­len­nia.

Liv­ing on the West­ern Isles was once a ter­ri­ble, repet­i­tive hard­ship—but, con­trast­ingly, in what I re­gard as the most beau­ti­ful land­scape on earth. A liv­ing was scratched from the thin soils, raised painfully into par­al­lel ridges called lazy beds, on which pota­toes and oats were grown. The weather con­trolled daily life just as much as the ab­sen­tee land­lords, but it also sculpted a mas­ter­piece of to­pog­ra­phy, which, today, is there for all of us to en­joy. MH

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