Thursday, 23 February 2012
The Bings of West Lothian
This is a recent photo that I took of that part of the County of West Lothian that I can see from the western side of Edinburgh, where I have lived most of my life. However, I was born in West Lothian and as a child I can remember passing these monuments to the industrial history of the region when, as a family, we made visits to my Father's relations in Linlithgow. My memories of these man made hills are that they were once a bright deep orange. However, much of that colour has diminished with the ravages of time, the growing of vegetation and the general wear and tear caused by the weather and the atmosphere, much the same as has happened to your writer.
These Bings were the result of the spoil from the mining and extracting of oil from the shale rock and this region had some of the first commercial shale oil refineries in the world. If you are interested in such industrial history, apart from the Bings themselves, it is still possible to find other remains of that once great business, although most have been reclaimed by nature or built over with industrial estates. Many years ago, there were attempts to have these 'blots on the landscape' removed, particularity after the Aberfan disaster in Wales when a coal spoil heap collapsed on a school and houses in the village. Then it was discovered that the shale spoil could be used in road building but despite this, the Bings are still there and I would assume there would be an outcry if a decision was made to remove them. They remain, as a monument to the men and women who worked, often in terrible conditions, to provide the beginnings of a world wide industry on which we all now depend.
A little research has confirmed that they will still be there long after I have gone. They evidently are sites of significant importance to the flora and fauna of the area and the UK. The ecology and biodiversity of Bings means that they offer refuge for rare species of both animals and plants and as the Bings only exist in West Lothian, this gives a unique significance to the area. They are also the location for some of the UK's scarce lichen and moss species and one provides a site for a SWT nature reserve. Add the recreation value for walkers, with dogs or not and motorcyclists and you have an interesting, important and in a strange way, beautiful landscape.
I am determined to climb and explore some of the 19 sites, taking my camera with me to record every aspect of these unique and interesting remains from our industrial past. Forget Munro Bagging, I shall not rest until I have bagged all 19 Bings.
Bing Bagging, I like the sound of that!
Until the next time.....