Monday, 22 July 2013

Glentress Giants (Chapter 2.2)

Here I am sitting, sitting beneath the first of the three Giants in Glentress Forest. After a little more roadside drama (there are several tracks into Glentress, and I took a route that introduced me to most of them), I realised that I was walking past the discreet path that housed the Giants. It was also the area that was marked as 'closed for maintenance.' I won't mention how I made it over the fence, but I do have a slight rip in my trousers.

The Glentress Giants are in a line alongside a small lake - but the signs of the Dark Woods event (a long weave of wood, decorated with wool, some handmade dream-catchers) are evident. The Giants seem more solitary here - they are ignoring each other. The look out over the lake, and are more hidden in the trees. Again, they are still against the movement of the plants.

Glentress is relatively busy for an isolated spot: there's the shouts from the Go-Ape playground just across the lake, and I was passed on the way up here by several mountain bikers. I have started to reflect on my presence as I travel between Giant encampments. I am lazy, slow, happy to get lost, never quite sure where I am going and inappropriately dressed - the spots of rain have been countered with a neon yellow water-proof, a souvenir from an arts festival.

The Giants here seem to suit my misdemeanour: against the SevenStanes mountain bike centre, they seem relaxed enough not to need any fuss. Peebles didn't give the impress of being too fussed about tourists - sure, there was a fancy computer display on the high street, and plenty of those brown road signs that point to features of interest. The Glentress Giants share that savoir-faire. The mountain bike complex - cafe, special showers for cycles, a big wooden entrance, car-parks and holiday housing on the side of a hill - is all about the visitor.

Of course, I am a tourist, but I don't like to admit it - by using my phone for a map instead of OS sheets, I try to preserve the idea of my casual approach. This leads to the getting lost, getting wet and getting no signal. But I feel an affinity with the Giants.

They don't really care whether I turn up or not. They are just there, biding time, waiting for their stories to be told.

The preparations for the Dark Wood event are humble - the tangle of branch and wool is like a supplication - like markings on the side of a road of pilgrimage. That they are incomplete seems right. The Giants aren't giving up their secrets today, but they will, and the suppliants are reading their announcements.

Or to out it more clearly: the rest of Glentress is a good example of how the Scottish countryside is designed for leisure, a modern shaping of nature for visitors who want the fresh air. The Giants are something else - not sinister or rough, like a mountain that doesn't want to be climbed. They are relaxed and for the first time, I relax in to the countryside.

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