Last week we featured the Royal Burgh of Dysart and from there you can
walk via the Fife Coastal Path through West Wemyss to this week's
destination East Wemyss. The village is well-known as the birthplace of
Captain George Moodie, captain of the tea-clipper Cutty Sark, and
world-renowned Scottish Country Dance Band Leader Sir Jimmy Shand but
our journey takes us back many, many centuries. Around 6000-7000 BC the
sea started forming caves in the sandstone on the shores of the Forth
and the name of Wemyss is derived from the Celtic word UAMH which means
cave (weem in Scots). Evidence shows that the Wemyss Caves have been
used by many people over thousands of years for a variety of purposes -
from early cave dwellers, The Picts, early Christians, Norsemen and
smugglers to name a few. The Caves are famous for their markings which
can be grouped under three headings :
1. Pre-Christian (mainly Pictish)
3. Viking (including a splendid Viking ship in Jonathan's Cave)
The Wemyss Caves can claim to have more markings than all the other
caves in Britain put together. And after last weekend that number has
been added to.
Thanks to the activity of SWACS - Save Wemyss Ancient Caves Society -
Channel Four's Team Team were invited to do a programme on the Caves and
their three-day archaeological dig took place last weekend. The dig,
which costs Time Team some £100,000 a day to produce, was declared to be
an archaeological success. Concentrating on the Well Caves, Jonathan's
Cave and the Sloping Cave, with various trenches in full public view of
the many visitors who obtained a fascinating glimpse of how the
programme is compiled.Time Team presenter Tony Robinson and all those
taking part readily gave autographs and details of progress to the many
fans of the programme in attendence.
Discoveries included the actual Well in the Well Caves, whose water was,
in Pictish and medieval times, supposed to have healing powers. The
water from the cave would have been a local water supply for the village
of East Wemyss and in more recent times the Well Cave was the venue for
young people from the village as part of their Hansel Monday
celebrations. Hansel Monday was the first Monday after the New Year.
There was a torchlight parade by the young folk to the cave, where
everyone sang hymns and songs around the Well. Cake and wine was then
enjoyed by all and finally everyone enjoyed a drink of the water from
the Well which it was hoped would protect them from ill health during
the coming year.
The Caves are already famous for having the largest group of Pictish
carvings and Time Team uncovered more as well as discovering 12/13th
century pottery remains. In the trench near the beach embankment, a
symbolic upright stone and a metal ring were found near the spot
where two Pictish graves were found last century. Archaeologist Phil
Harding rarely ventured from the Sloping Cave, but his determination
was rewarded on the third day when he discovered a man-made floor
beneath the soil.
The new Time Team series starts in January 2005, and the Wemyss Caves
programme is expected to be on air in late February or early March. A
programme not to be missed.
The three-day dig enjoyed excellent weather and all those taking part
would have enjoyed this week's recipe - a touch of cool refreshment for
a hot summer's day - Ice-cream a la Lemon Meringue. Next week we will
take a further look at East Wemyss and the work of SWACS.
Ice-cream a la Lemon Meringue
Ingredients : 100 g ready-made meringue; 300-350 g jar lemon curd; 200
ml creme fraiche; 75-100 ml natural yoghurt; 1 large punnet of
strawberries, hulled; 1 x 15 ml sp icing sugar; knob of unsalted butter
Lightly crush the meringue into small pieces and mix thoroughly with the
lemon curd, creme fraiche and yoghurt. Transfer into a plastic
container, cover and place in the freezer. Stir regularly until the
mixture is firm. Alternatively, use an ice-cream making machine if you
have one. Next, toss the strawberries in the icing sugar. Heat the
butter in a pan until beginning to bubble. Add the strawberries and move
around the pan for a few minutes until they have just started to soften
on the outside. Serve immediately with the ice-cream.
Tip : For a richer ice-cream, use a tin of ready-made custard instead of
the yoghurt and mix with 150 ml creme fraiche. Use marshmallow pieces as
an alternative to meringue.