Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Voyage of the Betsey and the Scottish National Trail

One of my summer projects is the creation of some teaching materials for a project that I have blogged about previously.
The Betsey was a ship used by Hugh Miller on a voyage through the Hebrides in 1844.

This year, the Royal Scottish Geographical Society is recreating the voyage on a boat called 'Leader'. I was invited aboard, but will be otherwise engaged with the start of a new school term, so sadly can't be there in person.

In the latest issue of the RSGS journal: 'The Geographer', there was a feature on the voyage and the work that myself, Sallie Harkness, Joyce Gilbert and others are involved with at the moment.

All will be revealed in a few months time, and you'll hear the latest news on LivingGeography of course.

While on the theme of Scotland, I also just came across a piece that I wrote for the TES back in 2012, which ended up on the cutting room floor

I thought I might as well reproduce it here instead:

Every step you take
Walking through history

On the 30th of October 2012, Alex Salmond officially opened a new long distance footpath called the Scottish National Trail. It starts at Kirk Yetholm, the end of the Pennine Way and carries on, for almost 500 miles, up to Cape Wrath, one of the most northerly points in the British Isles. It has been designed and developed by the author and broadcaster Cameron McNeish to connect a range of landscapes.

It connects the walker with significant historical events, which include raids and skirmishes in the Borders, the steady industrialisation and later decline of the cities in the Central belt of Scotland, the paths walked by the early Saints, routes walked by cattle drovers and landscapes which were the inspiration for famous poets. There are also encounters with settlements which were subject to the Highland clearances.

Walking through a landscape is an opportunity to engage with it at a pace which allows the history to reveal itself. Students could be asked to create visitor guides, design interpretive signs or write the publicity for companies offering historical walking tours, possibly themed around a particular era. Just as archaeologists use field walking to uncover useful finds, historians can use a walk through an area to discover the past. Every footstep forward could also be a step backwards in time.

We might introduce the students to the term ‘palimpsest’. This is used to refer to documents written on materials such as vellum in medieval times. The surface of the material could be scraped clean and then written on again. Over the years, all landscapes have seen the marks of human activity, and in the case of the Clearances, the removal of previous patterns of settlement. Historical change forms part of this continual process.

Walkers passing through the Great Glen will also be able to engage with a Cultural Olympiad project called DiscoverExplore which offers activities for families and connects them with events at places such as Culloden Battlefield and Urquhart Castle.

The new Scottish walking route has a particular resonance given the current campaigning for Scottish independence. It could also be a useful context for exploring local and regional history. Work with the students to create a walking route which connects local landscapes and historical events. Identify a chronology, or recurring themes which are perhaps visible in the present-day landscape but have their origins in previous centuries. Many students living in cities may walk past a number of public statues and never think to enquire as to who is being depicted, and what they did to make them worthy of such lasting tribute.

Website Links

Discover Explore: http://www.discoverexplore.co.uk - activities that have been created to aid exploration of a number of historical sites in Scotland


A project which superimposes images from the Second World War onto present day pictures of the same location is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hab3045/collections/72157629378669812/ - could students try something similar in their own town ?

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