Conasg

As t-samhradh bidh mi ag obair mar neach-iùil luchd-turais, a‘ mhòr-chuid dhiubh às a’ Ghearmailt. Nuair a bhios sinn air a’ bhus aig an àm seo den bhliadhna, air an t-slighe bhon loidhnear ann an Inbhir Ghòrdain gu ceann-ùidhe turasachd air choreigin, leithid Loch Nis, bidh iad uile a’ cur an aon cheist – dè an stuth buidhe sin? Chan fhaca iad riamh conasg, agus cuiridh e dìreach annas orra, gu h-àraidh an uimhir dheth agus an dath làidir.   Tha iad eòlach air bealaidh, ach a rèir coltais chan eil conasg sa Ghearmailt, no co-dhiù chan eil e cho cumanta ‘s a dh’aithnicheadh iad e.

Agus gun teagamh sam bith ‘s e sealladh drùidteach a th‘ ann, a thogas cridhe, an dùthaich làn de bhuidhe agus de dh’fhàileadh chnò-chòco.  Tha àitichean ann a tha ainmeil air a shon, mar an cnoc air cùlaibh Bhun Ilidh, no an rathad sìos gu Eurabol, ach tha conasg gu lèòr againn ann am Machair Rois cuideachd, m.e. air an leitir ri taobh Clach Baile a’ Chnuic.

Bun Illidh / Helmsdale

Ach àlainn ‘s mar a tha e, faodaidh conasg a bhith cunnartach cuideachd.  B’ àbhaist do dh’fhuineadairean conasg a chleachadh san àmhainn mar chonnadh fìor èifeachdach, agus  bidh e a’ losgadh a cheart cho math agus cho luath air a’ chnoc, a’ cur togalaichean, daoine agus stoc ann an cunnart. Chunnaic sinn seo shìos fo Chathabol mìos air ais. Tha cuimhne agam gun robh sinn a’ cleachdadh pìosan conaisg thioraim gus na teintean-campa againn a lasadh nuair a bha mi anns na Guides. Tha an luaithre luachmhor mar mhathachas-talmhainn cuideachd – ‘s dòcha gur e sin an adhbhar air an ath-shlànachadh luath aige às dèidh theintean fiadhaich.

Ach tha cunnart eile ann – na drisean. Air preasan abaich tha iad fada, cruaidh agus cho geur ri ràsar, cnap-starra èifeachdach do dhaoine agus bheathaichean. Mar sin tha an conasg driseach feumail do dh’eòin beaga a thogas an nid ann, m.e. an gocan-conaisg agus an gealbhonn. Ach tha conasg feumail do thuathanaich cuideachd – nuair a tha na drisean air am bruanadh ann am muileann- brùthaidh, ‘s e fodar beathachail a th’ ann.

Whins (and heron), Portmahomack

Chuireadh daoine conasg gu feum ann an dòighean eile cuideachd.  Rachadh plangaidean fliuch an sgaoileadh air na preasan – chumadh na drisean iad sìos sa ghaoith agus gheibheadh an nigheadaireachd fàileadh a’ bhlàith. Rinn iad sin aig an allt ann am Baile a’ Chnuic aig àm mo sheanmhar.  Rinn daoine stuth-dathaidh às na flùrain cuideachd, agus thèid an cleachdadh an-diugh fhathast gus fìon, tì agus sailead a dhèanamh.

Agus tha aon fheart inntinneach eile aig a’ chonasg – ged a tha am blàth aig àirde tron earrach agus tron t-samhradh thrath, faodaidh flùrain a bhith air tron bhliadhna gu lèir. ‘S ann air an adhbhar sin a tha an seanfhacal ag ràdh:  “When gorse is out of bloom kissing is out of season.”

Mar sin, fhad ‘s a bhios sibh a’ mealadh sealladh a’ chonaisg bhuidhe ghlòrmhoir, faodaidh sibh a bhith a’ smaoineachadh cuideachd dè cho inntinneach agus feumail ‘s a tha am preas àlainn seo.

***************************************************************

Whins

Ullapool

In the summer I work as a tour guide on the buses from the liners in Invergordon, and most of my passengers are Germans. When we’re driving to our tourist destinations, such as Loch Ness, they all ask the same question: What’s that yellow stuff? They’re never seen whins, and it really amazes them, especially the sheer amount and the intense colour.  They’re familiar with broom, but apparently they don’t have whins in Germany, or at least it’s not common enough for them to recognise it.

And without a doubt it’s an impressive sight, one that lifts the heart, the countryside full of yellow and the scent of coconut. There are places that are famous for it, such as the hill behind Helmsdale, or the road down to Embo, but we have plenty of whins here in Easter Ross too, such as the hillside beside the Hilton Stone.

Whin fires, Cadboll

But lovely though they are, whins can be dangerous too. Bakers used to heat their ovens with whins as it was a very effective fuel, and it burns just as well and as quickly out on the hill, endangering buildings, people and livestock, as we saw down below Cadboll a month ago. I remember that we used pieces of dry whin to light our campfires when I was in the Guides. The ashes are valuable as soil-dressing too – maybe that’s the reason for the whins’  fast recovery after wildfires.

But there’s another danger – the thorns. On a mature plant they are long, hard and as sharp as a razor, an effective barrier to man and beast. Whins are therefore useful to the small birds who build their nests there, e.g. the whinchat and the linnet. But whins are useful to farmers too – when the thorns are crushed in a crushing-mill, they make nutritious fodder.

Chapel,Hilton

 

People would make use of whins in other ways too.  Wet blankets would be spread on the bushes – the thorns would hold them down in the wind, and the washing would get the scent of the blossom. They did that at the burn in Hilton in my grandmother’s day. People also made dye from the blossoms, and they are still used today to make wine, tea and salad.

And whin has one other interesting feature – although the blossom is at its best in spring and early summer, it can have blossoms on it throughout the year. That’s the reason for the saying: “When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season.”

So while you’re next enjoying the glorious yellow whins, you can be thinking too about how interesting and useful this beautiful bush is.