Field Trip Found Art Happenstance Observation Poetry Psychogeography

Glow / \ Black

W. J. Watson has suggested that this is a Pictish water-word, cognate with OW gloiu ‘liquid’, W gloyw ‘shiny’ (1926, 470), while Jacob King prefers a Celtic root *gleiwo- ‘gleaming, clear’.

Place Names of Fife (2006)

A Saturday in late April 2018. It feels like the first day of the year that the sun has risen with intent. Early morning fingers of buttery light offer the promise of holding the heat of the day and by mid-morning, a welcome blanket of ambient warmth has wrapped itself around the locality. After a run of grey skies and persistent rain, it seems like an opportune day to head a few miles north of Dunfermline, into the Cleish Hills, with a rough plan to have a look and wander around two lochs: the enticingly named Loch Glow and the more enigmatic sounding Black Loch.

As usually happens, idea takes precedence over planning and I completely fail to establish an actual starting point to begin the walk. I end up driving up the narrow back road to Cleish looking for some sign to indicate that it will lead to the lochs. A Forestry Commission entrance with a few parked cars looks fairly promising so decide to give it a shot.

Within minutes, I’m walking through tall pine trees on either side of the track. To the south, clearly an older part of the wood. A tangle of lichen encrusted branches with hanging tufted beards. As if a gaggle of small green ghosts had been snagged floating through.

To the north, clear evidence that this is a working forestry plantation with a winding wall of large pinewood trunks stacked well above human height.

A wall of time

Seasons circles



The track eventually veers around to the right and I finally begin to sense that this will lead to the loch side. A small stream trickles by pooling in certain places where pine needles have fallen on the surface:


under the pines

a scattered fall

asemic writing

tree, sky and slow

slow water


Eventually, I reach the eastern side of Loch Glow and hadn’t expected to encounter an almost carnivalesque atmosphere taking place along the immediate south bank. People fishing, drinking beers, smoking, having picnics. It turns out that Rosyth Angling Club operate a well stocked fishery, where you can buy a day permit, and it’s easy to see why it is a popular spot today as the sun is now fully up in the sky. Some fisher folk sit holding their rods in zen like contemplation whilst larger groups are more up for a party. Some rods are cast, but rest unattended at the side of the water whilst tins are shared around and the crack and laughs open up. A bunch of Polish men, with much gesticulation, appear to debate a strategy for ensuring a good catch.

It doesn’t take long to walk beyond the core huddle of fishers and within minutes even the sound of human voices has completely dissolved under the blue sky in the shimmering waters. A solitary Christmas tree looks strangely out-of-place on the loch side.

I sit for a bit to look at the sky, clouds form into Rorschach shapes whilst surface patterns on water shift imperceptibly.


Another aspect that I hadn’t quite envisaged was just how boggy the land would be around the loch. No surprise really as I pass numerous small streams draining into it but it means that on a few occasions, I misjudge the solidity of the ground underfoot and I’m almost up to my knees in muddy slime. Reaching the western end of the loch, I head in the direction which I think will lead to Black Loch. A dry stane dyke looks like a reasonable marker to follow and the ground is a bit firmer underfoot.

I find a peacock butterfly also out enjoying the sun and try to imagine the story behind a lone glove snagged on a barbed wire fence. Is it a deliberate sign? a direction marker?

Even an absent hand casts a shadow …

As I move to some higher ground there is a clear sense of being watched. The sentinels of Knock Hill. A familiar landmark which can be observed from all directions around the West Fife landscape:

I descend towards Black Loch which is certainly defying its name today, instead a blue sheen nestles under the rocky outcrop of Dumglow.

I take a rest to watch several buzzards circling overhead. A silent tussle occurs when a crow takes exception to a buzzard flying too close. The elegant bird of prey, unconcerned, simply chooses to bank higher and ascend into the blue.

A trio of clouds scud along the summit of Dumglow

Cloud Summit

Listening for sound, it strikes me that this is a perhaps as close to the ‘idea of silence’ as it is possible to get. There is a stillness under the sun which blankets out any obvious noise, other than the occasional low hum of a passing insect. No planes in the sky, no distant traffic, strangely no bird song. Yet to look around, there are all the lines and layers of human marks on the landscape. The drystane dyke, the forest plantation, the fencing that runs up and disappears over the hill.

Looking away from the loch, I’m intrigued by a hermit tree, solitary in the landscape.

Down by the loch side, patterns of reeds pin overhead clouds to water, creating  a myriad of chiaroscuro effects:


spectrum wave of  unsounded

sound                    quiet  colour

cadence of reeds              break

arc of surface             fade

fade                 fades

the ambivalence of water


Two white dots on Black Loch.  As I move closer to the water’s edge, they drift through the reed beds. An illusion of hovering over land rather than drifting through water. Such elegant creatures, as if visitors from another realm. Two white swans on Black Loch.

The prospect of continuing around Black Loch and up over Dumglow is appealing but looks like that would take a few more hours. Instead, I retrace the route back to Loch Glow and walk back around the north side. Once again, it is pretty much deserted until I reach the eastern side where fishing and associated activities remain in full flow. I’m also reminded that this is a functional reservoir, supplying drinking water for Cowdenbeath and the surrounding area. How often do we associate what comes out of our taps with a place like this? I’m reminded of Patrick Geddes: “it takes a whole region to make the city”. A simple reminder to question where and how our food, water and energy come from and how they are used. Basic questions presently exposing political failure as environmental crises manifest around the globe such as the poisoned water scandal in Flint Michigan and the Cape Town water shortage.

North side looking West
North side looking South

Looking back up the loch it is evident that Loch Glow is living up to its name this afternoon.

Liquid                     Shiny

Gleaming               Clear

From Knock Hill, the sentinels watch and approve.

And as I head back up the track, patterns of sinking sunlight dapple the time stacked wall.

The grain of the wood, the violence of the saw.




Now playing: Kim Mhyr – You | Me


Simon Taylor; Gilbert Markus The Place-names of Fife: West Fife Between Leven and Forth v. 1 (Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2006).

Happenstance Observation Psychogeography rag-pickings

Haar Gothic

Haar gothic

Graveyard off limits

No herald angels sing today


Dunfermline Abbey 21.12.17

Now playing: Erik Satie (played by Philip Corner) – ‘The Gothic Dances’ from Satie Slowly

Encounters Happenstance Observation Signs and Signifiers Sounds of Spaces and Places

Score of Silence


score of silence



with grace notes



Now playing: Eva-Maria Houben – Piano Music (performed by R. Andrew Lee).

Found Art Happenstance Language of Objects Observation rag-pickings Signs and Signifiers Sounds of Spaces and Places

When a wall whispers: Not I


When a wall whispers: Not I



Caesura || Sentry






Now playing: Morton Feldman (Ensemble Modern) – For Samuel Beckett

Collaborations Encounters Field Trip Folk-Lore Found Art Observation Poetry Psychogeography Signs and Signifiers

Following Ben Jonson: From Culross to Dunfermline

To begin the journey, we congregate almost four hundred years after Jonson. In front of the Palace walls, a set of variations in muted ochre, the orange pantile roof catches weak strands of sunlight on this September morning …


Tales for Travellers and Travellers Tales … walking in the footsteps of Ben Jonson

It was a delight to be part of this wonderful project where we took Ben Jonson out for a walk in September.

Rebecca Crowther has documented the activities of all who took part in a new website which records our nine mile social walk from Culross to Dunfermline. Here you’ll find some background to the project, photographs, a short video, sound recordings of our interactive stops along the way and our own contribution from Murdo Eason.

Some extracts below:











In a quiet place

I watch the sky

fall to earth.


A few leaves

cast adrift, circle

as clouds and trees

slip silently below

the skin of water


The sock & coulter symbol of the plough. A farmer’s life, turning soil, slowly returning to the land



You can find it all here:

Tales for Travellers and Travellers Tales … walking in the footsteps of Ben Jonson


Found Art Observation Psychogeography rag-pickings Signs and Signifiers Symbol

The All Seeing Eye


How many time have I walked down Dunfermline High Street and never noticed this all-seeing eye? (Thanks to my daughter for spotting it).


It’s located at the top of the current Clydesdale Bank building.

Another set of Masonic symbols can be found over the entrance to the abandoned Masonic Lodge in the New Row, Dunfermline.









The eyes are even seeping out into the streets.

A piece of graffiti found in Inverkeithing:


Now playing: Kayo Dot – Choirs of the Eye.

Encounters Field Trip Observation Poetry Psychogeography

Three Colours









The blind owl

sees no shadows

but feels the sun




the sun-bleached



A chorus

of fire music.

Now playing: Alice Coltrane – Saved from the Fire: The Ashram Tapes of Alice Coltrane, Mix for RBMA Radio by Frosty

From a walk to Dunfermline via Pattiesmuir, under a baking sun, 18th June 2016.

Field Trip Found Art Observation Poetry Psychogeography Quote Signs and Signifiers

Memories of Water: Glen Bridge Car Park, Dunfermline




arriving at a fall

it becomes useful

in turning five mills




Thomas Pennant,  A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides, 1772, Volume 2 (London: B.White, 1776).

Now playing: This Heat – ‘A New Kind of Water’ from Deceit

Found Art Observation Poetry Psychogeography rag-pickings

Found Art: Andre / Mondrian / Scully

How many times have we walked up Free School Close, a narrow pedestrian thoroughfare that connects Canmore Street to Dunfermline High Street?

Perhaps it was the way the sun reflected off the pinks and greys.

Possibly we were more attuned to notice                                   this

chance framing of brickwork, stone and harling.

Found                               a Tate Modern mash-up:

Carl Andre          Piet Mondrian          Sean Scully …





Now playing: Louis Andriessen – De Stijl

Thanks to @stphn

Field Trip Observation Poetry Psychogeography

Tracing the Cut: On the Path of Sleeping Sleepers


On the path of sleeping sleepers

as it looked

on the last day of 2014.

Time to return

and follow the line.






The small part of the track that we had walked at the end of last year was overgrown but easily passable. The rails and sleepers still intact. We returned a few weeks ago on a day heralding early intimations of another spring to come. That change in light, the soft drone of an awakening insect world and pointillistic bursts of unseen and unidentified bird calls.

The paradox of being off the well-trodden path and yet only following a line to wherever it may eventually lead. We are not sure how far it goes and whether it will be entirely passable.

We almost fail immediately as we soon encounter impenetrable thickets of bramble bushes. (noted for autumn). This leaves no option but to take a slight detour and pick up the line again by sliding down an embankment beside a small road bridge. This looks more promising. The line stretches out ahead. Blue pools trap the sky whilst shadow branches sweep across the cut in the light breeze.


This incision through the landscape is just another example of a history of human activity that leaves its traces and stories embedded in the earth. Field enclosures, drystane dykes, managed woodlands, roads and a network of railways have all left enduring marks on the landscape from the pre-agrarian to the post-industrial.

Prior to construction of this railway line, ox-drawn wagons delivered coal from the Dunfermline pits to the nearest harbour at Brucehaven a distance of around five miles on primitive roads. By the end of the 18th century, growth of the lime industry at Charlestown – which relied on large amounts of coal – led to the construction of the Elgin Wagonway which laid down wooden and then, in 1812, iron rails on which heavy horses pulled coal wagons. By 1852 a fully functioning steam railway carrying freight and passengers connected Dunfermline and Charlestown. Passenger trains continued to run up until 1938 (with a break in continuity between 1863 and 1894). The line was apparently maintained and kept usable to service the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Crombie, if required, but it is clear from our walk that no train has passed this way for a very long time.



Whilst not the smoothest of conditions underfoot, many stretches offer pleasant walking. The iron rails guiding us under abandoned bridges and then on to long straight tracks that disappear into the horizon.




But this is no isolated rural idyll. To the north, the line runs parallel to the A985, one of the busiest trunk roads in Scotland and the white-noise throb of passing traffic is our soundtrack for a mile or so. To the south, the views are over agricultural land, recently ploughed. In the foreground a suggestion of trees:



Occasionally we have to navigate over, under or through some obstacles:





and traverse abandoned level crossings:



Forgotten mileage markers barely stand upright as we walk high over earth-piled embankments:




A rooftop eyrie. What creature could inhabit this green island in an ocean of blue?



We wonder how long it has been since anyone has walked the entire line. You are not actively encouraged to walk it with each entry and exit point fenced off. Not surprisingly we encounter no-one.  Our only constant companions are the buzzards who circle high in the sky and the occasional explosion of displaying pheasants. We guess they are escapees from the nearby Elgin Estate where they are bred and shot by corporate middle managers who like to go ‘hunting’.




Tuning forks

sounding out


of the sun




As the line curves northwards towards Dunfermline, we approach the bridge which crosses the A985:




Echoes of a painted relief by Ben Nicholson?




Shadows and rust:




Old branch line

new branches


Old Branch Line.

Tracing the cut northwards, we become submerged within the landscape as if walking through a post-industrial holloway. A waterlogged, sodden stretch with tumbled trees conjures up visions of Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Our views of the surrounding land obscured as we walk into The Zone, following the rusting red rails.





And when we walk, we stroll alongside retrieved memories but also construct new ones. Small pebbles collected and stored: the sun warmed lichen; that particular apparition of trees; the smell of an emerging spring; laces in boots being shredded by brambles.






The sun reflects from the elegant curve of bleached white bone amongst a bed of grey feathers. Ribs sparkle like some primitive xylophone and still attached to the leg, a small dark hoof.  The sweep of bones and sinew appear to retain some residue of movement; of a life-force that has been so abruptly arrested. Who knows what happened to this (we guess) young deer?

Detached and slightly further away lies the white skull, stripped and pecked clean. The downy feather bed suggests that some of the birds who came to feast on the carcass ended up being part of someone else’s meal.








Fur, feather, rib, bone

Old Nature Writing


We eventually come to the end of the track alongside a well maintained and clearly operational train line. We later find out that this is Elbowend Junction where the track to Charlestown branched off from the Dunfermline and Alloa line.

The connection is now clearly severed.



Another mark, a cut, embedded in the landscape, made by human activity and reflecting the ebb and flow of industry and capital. Slowly merging back into the earth a corridor of memory and potential new futures. An incision slowly being repurposed by nature once again.

Now playing: Andrew Chalk – Blue Eye of the March


Norman Fotheringham, Charlestown, Built on Lime (Charlestown: Charlestown Lime Heritage Trust, 1997).