To Cairn, or not to Cairn?

I am not sure that ‘cairn’ was ever intending to be used as a verb, but in an age where people now habitually ‘source’ and ‘message’ and ‘google’, I think that I can be allowed a little bit of liberty with language.

Cairning.  Personally, I love a bit of cairning.  Although, I am conscious that it is an activity not without its naysayers.  In the Lofoten islands it is frowned upon; positively discouraged; considered detrimental to the natural environment.  However, in other parts of the world, cairning––or rock balancing, if you will––has become something of an art-form.

I had been told about a beach on St. Agnes, in the Isles of Scilly, where stacking stones proliferated.

Given St. Agnes’ relatively small size, it took quite a long time to discover the whereabouts of the beach in question (it is slightly south west of the Troy Town turf maze).  Partly it was because it lay a tiny distance from the main track, but partly it was because it was initially difficult to discern the stone cairns amidst all the other boulders on the rocky shore.  Until suddenly you did.  And then you couldn’t stop seeing them.

400 cairns st agnes

There were towering sculptures of rocks, twenty or so high; some tapering to spindly, delicate summits.  There were less ambitious piles of two or three stones piled on top of one another; there were towers in unfeasible––seemingly inaccessible––locations, on rock promontories, or on top of huge boulders; and there were stacks topped with natural ornamentation––a shell; a strand of seaweed; an unusual-looking piece of driftwood.

I added to the stackery, of course.  I couldn’t help myself.  But was I adding to the destruction of a natural landscape or creating a beautiful new one?

© E. C. Glendenny


E. C. Glendenny finds herself in something of an environmental quandary. What do you think?

 Check out some more of E. C. Glendenny’s travel writing in Easy Come, Easy Go.

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