Tuesday, December 06, 2016

A Curling Pond 'Visitation'

I'm near Johnstonebridge on a sunny December day, heading along this old trackway.

This ditch at the field's edge does suggest that winter hereabouts is not always so dry!

This old beech tree has taken a bit of a battering!

We've not had a real storm this winter (yet), and some leaves are still clinging to the branches.

This is the Plucktree Burn, which will eventually join the Annan. It may not look much, but is of significance to today's story.

The old OS 6in map, surveyed in 1857 and published in 1861, shows an area near Johnstonebridge as 'Used as Curling Pond'. The Historical Curling Places website (here) shows places where curling was played in times past - on lochs and artificial curling ponds of various kinds. Sometimes an area of flooded field was pressed into use, but such sites are rarely recorded on old maps. The Johnstonebridge place, with its description 'Used as Curling Pond', is unusual to see on an old map.

The area is crossed by the Plucktree Burn, and it does not take much imagination to see how the burn could be dammed to make a low lying area of field into a temporary pond, and on freezing this would become a safe place to curl.

The area as it is today, looking down from the north west.

A closer view from the west. A fenced off area today is still very wet, the hollow draining the surrounding sloping fields, and crossed by the Plucktree Burn.

The 'curling pond' lies just to the north of Skemrigghead Farm at Johnstonebridge. One can find references to play there in the middle of the nineteenth century, such as this one from 1845 which describes an inter-parish match on 'Skimrigg Loch'. The place is referred to elsewhere as 'Skemrigg Loch' and 'the loch at Skemrigghead'.

The curling pond is not marked on later OS maps. Visiting the site this month, it was fun to imagine the contests that had taken place there on winter days more than 170 years ago!

The differences that 170 years make in the evolution of a sport - the European Curling Championships at the Braehead Arena last month!

Photos © Skip Cottage. Other images courtesy of the National Library of Scotland maps website, here, and the British Newspaper Archive, here.

1 comment:

  1. I've never curled Bob, but I remember the rink next to Lockerbie Academy well . .

    Anyway, another brilliant bit of detective work and thank you - I find it fascinating to imagine the lives of these residents of Annandale. I knew a few of the old folk when we moved up: Willie Fraser and his wife and Mrs Hunter both at Orchard (their homes crushed by the motorway); the Turnbulls and Hetheringtons from the environs of Lochwood - all dead or moved away now. Numerous more who I have forgotten, but all friendly and kind to a young English lad who was trying to fit in as a 'local'.

    Keep up the good work - it is wonderful.