This week is National Parks Week in the UK, where we celebrate everything that is unique and wonderful about the country’s 15 National Parks. This year we’ve drawn inspiration from the landscape of Britain’s largest, the Cairngorms National Park.
At 4,528 square kilometres, and comprising 6% of Scotland’s land area, the Cairngorms National Park is the UK’s largest protected landscape. It’s twice the size of the England’s Lake District National Park and bigger than the whole of Luxembourg. It’s perhaps best known for its eponymous mountain plateau of expansive proportions and its interconnected sub-arctic environment. There are no other mountains like them in Britain - massive granite domes with corries and passes scooped out by long departed glaciers and a broad rolling plateau that is more akin to Arctic Scandinavia than Britain.
The National Park also contains the most extensive tracts of Caledonian forest in Britain, comprising of pine, juniper and broadleaved species. Over 300 kilometres square of this woodland has also been identified as being ‘ancient’, which is defined as land that is currently wooded and has been continually wooded since at least 1750.
The area now covered by the National Park was the scene of a number of pivotal events of the Jacobite Risings as well as a number of buildings that saw events unfold. These include:
The National Park is also home to the Highland Folk Museum, which is home to a recreated 18th Century township and is a great place to learn about life in the Scottish Highlands. The museum also puts on events and we have been lucky enough to witness Jacobite and redcoat reenactors demonstrating the ways of 18th century warfare.
This history made the National Park the ideal place on which to base our mode, The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne, and naturally, we built a number of these events and buildings into our model. You can read about these in more detail in our previous and forthcoming blog posts (here and here), but we've decided to go a step further. Creating a landscape that looks anything like the Cairngorms has to pay some respect to its beautiful mountains – so we’ve built up and we’ve built high! The centrepiece of the model is a one metre tall mountain, complete with rocky cliffs, tree lined slopes and snow patches. Of course, this isn’t a scale model of a Cairngorms mountain, if it were it would need to be around 30 metres high, which would put a bit of a limit on our ability to take it to events. But at one metre, this is a big LEGO model by any standards and dwarfs the buildings and Minifigures that surround it. Building the mountain has been tough, with its creator James Pegrum, describing it simply as “...a nightmare”.
A second aspect of the Cairngorms’ landscape we wanted to recreate was its rivers, with the National Park containing the headwaters of three of Scotland’s largest, as well as many smaller ones. We wanted to show some river types that are unusual in other parts of the UK, so rather than choosing one of the big rivers such as the Spey or Dee, we chose some smaller but still famous ones. On one side of our mountain we have created the weaving form of a braided river, inspired by the spectacular landscape of Glen Feshie. On the other we have created a deeply incised gorge, inspired by the River Garry as it flows past Killiecranckie.
Finally, we wished to create some woodlands inspired by those found in the area and in particular those made up of species such as Scots pine and silver birch. Both species are common throughout the National Park and in places dominate its landscape. Because the former is coniferous and the latter deciduous, this meant harnessing a range of different techniques, as shown in the photos below.
We’re big fans of the Cairngorms National Park and thoroughly recommend a visit. It was voted one of the top 20 places to visit in the world by National Geographic Traveller Magazine, having “…everything from castles and distilleries to family attractions and endless outdoor fun”.
Find out more and start planning your trip now:
We’ll be tweeting photos of the National Park all week, follow us at @bricktothepast
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