2021 Oot an Aboot

Old Kinord 27 May

Members gathered at the the Old Kinord settlement

Fifteen members gathered on a fine sunny evening to visit the Iron Age settlement at Old Kinord. What remains at the site are the footings of a number of circular houses dating back to between 100BC and 100AD.

The site was excavated in 2016 by Professor Richard Bradley’s team and three of our group members, Nigel Healey, Veronica Ross and Irvine Ross, were part of that team. The excavation report was published in 2021 so we now have the radiocarbon dates. This meant we were able to look in detail at the dates and the sequence of construction of the various buildings.  We were also able to trace how the methods of construction varied over time and how the souterrains (underground storage chambers) came  into use and were then abandoned and built over  by the next building in the succession.

This was a fine start to our summer programme of Oot an Aboot excursions and we hope all the other visits are as successful.

Glen Tanar 24 June

At the ruined croft house

A dozen CHG members met at Braeloine Visitor Centre on a fine sunny morning to look at changes in the landscape over the last 200 years and to investigate some parts of Glen Tanar that are less obvious to the visitor. Our walk was led by both of the Glen Tanar Rangers, Eric Baird and Mike Martin.

The visit commenced with a look around St Lesmo’s Chapel and we were lucky to go inside to see the building as it is now and the obvious evidence that it once was a farmhouse.  The house was converted into an Anglican church in 1871 by Sir William Cunliffe Brooks shortly after he leased the estate from the Marquis of Huntly in 1869. The building was extended by the construction of the vestry sometime before 1898 but exactly when is not recorded.

From the chapel we went eastwards, along the South Drive. From there it is possible to see the locations of the four main farms that occupied the glen in 1865. Each of these farms had anything between six and twelve sub-tenants so there something like 30 smallholdings at that time. All of these were swept away and replaced by a single home farm by 1900. We visited the ruins of one of the small cottages that had been home to one family of sub-tenants. The contrast in size and style between this and the converted farmhouse that is now the chapel is notable.

At St Lesmo's Chapel

Finally we visited another set of ruins, these are what is left of the farm of Boreland. The tacksman of Borleland in 1745 was John Stewart and he and his three sons were out in Jacobite uprising of that year. They all fought at Culloden and afterwards the sons were reported to be hiding from the Hanovarians in the forest of Glen Tanar. Some 10 years later the Earl of Aboyne took the farm back in hand and planted it all with trees. Most of it still remains as woodland.

Our thanks go to Eric and Mike for  an interesting and enjoyable walk.

Migvie Kirk  7 July

Fifteen members gathered at Migvie Kirk on a fine summers evening to be met by Paul and Shona Anderson who are now the custodians of the Kirk building. The surrounding graveyard is still the responsibility of the council. Paul pointed out the Pictish cross slab which indicates that the site has been considered sacred for many centuries. There is evidence of a circular ditch surrounding the site and the Archaeology Department from the University of Aberdeen plan to carry out a small excavation in the field below the Kirk to establish if there are any early graves in the field and to look for dating evidence.

The Kirk building has been deconsecrated and the interior was imaginatively restored in 2001 with the assistance of local artist Peter Goodfellow. It is now used as a place for quiet contemplation or meditation and occasionally used for music recitals. Paul and Shona’s plans for the future are to maintain the building in its present state and to organise a series of regular monthly concerts, at least during the summer months. We wish them every success.

Cambus o’May 1 September

Twelve members gathered at the Forest and Land Scotland (what we used to call  The Forestry Commission) car park at Cambus o’May on a glorious sunny day. Our guide was the inimitable Peter Craig and he explained the complexities of the formation of the landscape we see today. Starting at 450 million years ago he took us through the formation of the granite bedrock that forms the main mass of the higher hills that surround Deeside. We then walked through the forest where the land form has been shaped by glacial action and by the torrents of water that were the result of the glaciers melting. Kettle holes and eskers were added to our vocabulary as Peter brought the land shaping process to life for us.

We then started to climb up Tomnakeist hill and the first stop was the gunpowder magazine where the explosives for the quarry was stored. Peter explained that there was a special siding at Cambus o’May railway station where the shaped granite blocks could be loaded onto the train and where the gunpowder could be unloaded. We discussed the problem of sparks from iron-rimed cart wheels and iron shod horses when transporting explosives. Did the gunpowder arrive ready mixed or were the components mixed on site?

We then climbed up to the quarry where one of the old spoil heaps provided a magnificent vantage point for lunch.

After lunch we then walked into the earth, as Peter put it. Once in the quarry the structure of the granite stone becomes visible with all its fracture planes caused by the shrinkage of the cooling stone and percolation of water.

There were several quarry faces cut into the hill at various times. The spoil heaps from the larger quarries further up the hill now obscure the openings of the smaller quarry faces below. Around 35 men were employed in the quarries. The main period of activity was the century from 1800 to 1900 when the demand for stone for houses in the expanding villages, new improved farm steadings and rail and road bridges was at its peak. By around 1935 most of the small country quarries had closed down and production had moved to the larger, more efficient quarries like Kemnay or Rubislaw. Our thanks go to Peter for being such and enthusiastic and knowledgable guide.