Tuesday, 19 April 2011
There are some large and impressive stone walls on the island. I am not sure when they were built but it seems likely that they appeared after the 16Th and 17Th century village that lay next to the priory and were more likely built as a way of occupying lighthouse keepers after the Mainlight was built in 1816. Looking at them there are a few mysteries as there are gateways that seem to lead to steep rock faces and over elaborate gate posts and some are of an impressive height far higher than was needed for cattle and sheep. The field names are not much help, one is called tennis court. It would be fascinating to know their history, why they were made, where all the stone came from, who made them and what was the reasoning behind the layout.
As for today they give a ancient, formal look to that end of the island but the years haven't been kind to them and up until a few years back there were many gaping holes caused by collapses. But they should be kept not just as historic features that illustrate a chapters of island life but offer cover to today's wildlife on an island where there isn't much cover. Migrant birds often use them to get away from the incessant wind, the resident pied wagtails nest in the dark cavities and lichens and thrift crust and colour them. So as a number of volunteer groups have over the last few years our fantastic team of BTCV set to to repair some of the damage and lead by skilled wallers they turned a ragged hole and a pile of rumble to a majestic length of wall. Every person laid their hands on stone and contributed and their hard graft created a restored part of island history that they can put their name to. And maybe they got a feel down through time of what the lighthouse keepers must have felt at the end of the day when they first built them.