Category Archives: Cruden Country

People places and topics in and about Cruden country in NE Aberdeenshire

Silent upon a peak in Darien

Well I know it’s not Darien – it’s the little hill at St Catherine’s Dub at Collieston.  But these words from John Keats’ poem, On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer came to my mind when I looked at this picture.   Poppy is unusually still, staring out to sea ‘like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes  he star’d at the Pacific’.

When I try to pose Poppy in a picture she will often choose to look to the side rather than straight to camera. If I call to her, she will move towards me away from the carefully placed position I have chosen for the picture.   And getting two dogs to look at me at the same time…..well more work needed I think.


On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
By John Keats

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Trying out the van

Maisie our grandaughter was excited when she saw our new motorhome.  What better way to try it out than go for a picnic to Collieston beach.   She loved sitting at the table in the van as we made our way there, delighted that her booster seat let he see quite clearly out of the side window.

Lunch was great, but the sun was out and the sand was calling.   I don’t think we have been here at low tide in the sunshine before. We have been more used to stones than sand.  Maisie loved it, running on the sand with the dogs, climbing up the rocks with granny, drawing and writing in the sand, and of course climbing up to the look-out point where you could clearly see the multi-storey flats in Aberdeen on the horizon.

A great trip in the van.

On Stirling Hill

There is a wonderful network of paths all over Stirling Hill, thanks to the hard work of the Boddam Community Association.  I often stop there with the dogs on the way to and from Peterhead.  We weave our way through the remains of the quarry workings where once Peterhead convicts were put to hard labour.  But for us it is the glimpses of the sea, the sun on the heather, the gorse,  the sparkling pink granite and the views over Peterhead and the Buchan coast that is our focus.

Despite the strong wind we explored a little further than our usual circuit of the hill.  Lily and Poppy dutifully posed for me on the granite bench by the viewpoint.


Then it was off down a long straight path towards the site of the RAF Buchan radar station, with its distinctive golf ball “Radome” which can be seen from all around.

The hill has sprouted masts of all sorts, not just the military, Mobile phone providers have found this a useful place for their transmitters.

We explored down a track we had never visited before.  Poppy loved it, darting here and there, but always keeping an eye on where I was.  The track took us to another quarry working that I had never visited before.  It was full of water, and was fenced off, with not the usual warning sign of steep cliffs, but to take care because this pool is very deep and is used by divers.   There was a long length of rope there, and the rubber hood of a diving suit mounted on a fence post to confirm the signs.

Once home I read up about this site which is a favourite with divers because of its relative safety for training dives.  It goes down to a depth of 24 metres, and proudly boasts a submerged burger van to explore.

It is amazing what is there to discover on Stirling Hill, including highland cattle!

Nature walk

The internet is a wonderful thing:  you can find out about almost anything you want.  I have passed that gate countless times as I drive to and from Peterhead along the main road, but it was only when  I was looking up information about the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve at  Longhaven Cliffs that I discovered there was now a parking place for visitors close to the village.   The new parking area has recently been created and the road to the old quarry where visitors used to park has been closed off by a locked gate because of people dumping rubbish up at the quarry.

A great place for a walk with the dogs.  So I followed the road up to the quarry and then onto the cliff top path.  The dogs loved it, despite the wetness of the ground.  Poppy particularly loved exploring.  She seems to have no hint of vertigo,   There was quite some swell, and waves were crashing on the rocks below.  The light was quite good, not the blue sky and sea that I had experienced last week, but still sunny and good enough for some pictures.

My big surprise was when I spied a group of grey seals resting on the rocks in a sea cave.  It was really an arch, with both ends open to the sea, forming a curve so that you could not really see through it.  There was just the hint of some waves at the sea end, while the seals were resting on the rocks now exposed by the receding tide in the gully below me.

Further on it was some Fulmars which got my attention as they  circled over the cliff top.  I managed a few pictures, and as I look at them, it always seemed to be the same bird I caught with my camera.  A broken wing feather marked him out quite distinctly.

 

Too early yet for many flowers, but I did see one primrose in bloom, and the promise of some daffodils later.  But it was the patch of snowdrops sheltered among the prink granite rocks that took my attention as we returned to the car.

You can see the pictures I took on my Flickr Page.

On the cliff top

In a few weeks time the cliff tops at Longhaven will be a blaze of colour as the Thrift and the Red Campion come into bloom.  No flowers today, though, just a bright blue sea and sky.  Just a hundred yards or so from the busy A90 Peterhead road and you are in a different world.

The dogs loved it, freedom to roam and explore.  I took the opportunity to practice the sit, stay manoeuvre with them and they seemed to get the message, though they did misinterpret it when I put my camera up to my face…surely that was the sign to run to me and get a treat?

There may have been no flowers out today, but there is a whole row of fence posts with some spectacular lichen.  The sharp eyed among you will perhaps notice traces of lorries and cars passing by, along the horizon.  It shows how close  this nature reserve is to the the main road.

I have marked down a place to come back for a photograph.  I noticed a clump of daffodils appearing on the cliff top just above a spectacular cove below.  In a wee while they will be in bloom and all I have to do is wait for the sunshine, and make sure that I visit about the middle of the day when the sun will be in the right place.

Spring sunshine

The weather forecasters on the television have been telling us that yesterday (1 March) was meteorological spring.  This afternoon it certainly felt like it, with a pleasant, light breeze and lovely sunshine.  It has been a long time since we walked along the sands at Cruden Bay.  We used to be regulars there, but Poppy’s nervous nature and her reaction to other dogs have led us to seek more lonely spots for walks.

I’m glad we took our courage in both hands and paws today, and set off over the Ladies’ Bridge onto the sands.  The tide was about at its highest with the waves just a few feet from the dunes, but it was gradually retreating.  I remember one day long ago nearly being caught by a high tide there, and having to cling onto the steep sides of the dunes to make our way back to the bridge.

I’m a big dog!

As we made our way along the beach I remembered the other reason that beach walks are not so much in favour now – Lily absolutely adores barking at the waves.   But today, she seemed to know that was not required, despite the fact that there were white-crested waves rolling in.

To bark, or not to bark?

After passing just one lady with her two dogs who was heading back to the bridge, we had the beach all to ourselves.  Can you imagine it, a whole beach, spring sunshine, and not too much wind.  Idyllic!!

Crazy legs

Enticement

I decided to stick with the wide-angle lens which was attached to my Canon.  The wind and the sand and the spray could get into the works of the camera if I tried to change the lens on the beach.  The set of pictures I have came back with show the broad sweep of the bay;  no close ups of dogs today, just carefully placed canine props in the foreground of the photographs.

You can see my set of pictures on my Flickr Page.

Sit, stay!

Afterglow

Sunset at Cruden Bay

We have enjoyed some spectacular sunsets here in Buchan recently.   After the sun has gone down, for a while there is a wonderful colourful light that transforms the countryside into something quite different and mysterious.

Photography experts refer to the time just before sunrise and just after sunset as the “magic hour” when you can get some stunning pictures.   I have been taking advantage of the early December sunsets – about 3.30 pm here – to go chasing for the afterglow,

The sheep quietly grazing across the road from the layby on the main Peterhead road at the Longhaven cliffs is one example of the transformation that the afterglow can make to a picture – pink sheep!

My mind went back to earlier this year when Dana, a friend from Latvia, commented that my picture of sheep and snow which I had posted on Facebook, reminded her of a Joseph Farquherson picture.  [Click here to read my original post]  But the light he saw in the countryside at Finzean on Deeside is a warm gold. No pink sheep for him.

“Beneath The Snow Encumbered Branches” by Joseph Farquharson

By the way, the word afterglow came to me from the title that Farquharson gave to another of his pictures, depicting rabbits in snow among the trees in the Forest of Birse at Finzean.   This was painted in the tranquil days of 1912 before the lives of so many people would be turned upside down by war.   Earlier this year I stood beside the War Memorial at Birse, reflecting how the Great War would have transformed that little rural community which the Laird of Finzean had illustrated in his paintings.

Joseph Farquharson:  Afterglow.     Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums

The light of the afterglow this week has been pink, orange and even red, much more dramatic than the gentle warm golds of that Edwardian winter more than  100 years ago.

Cruden Bay

Cruden Bay

You can see some more of my red and orange sunset pictures here.

 

 

Showing a light


I was walking along the seashore road at Roanheads in Peterhead the other day.  My eye had been drawn to the spray flying off the waves, with the oil supply ships beyond.  Then I heard the gull screaming from a chimney pot.  He posed rather nicely, even staying put, so that I could get him in silhouette.


 

Turning round I tried another shot of a tower with a little flagpole standing at the corner of the road leading up to the harbour, beside the breakwater.   But what was the tower?

Over a year ago I had heard about the planned improvements at the Peterhead Harbour, which included the relocation of an old lighthouse.  I marked it down as a possible photograph but had done nothing about it.

This was the old lighthouse (now in its new position) originally provided in the middle of the 19th century by Thomas Stevenson to mark the harbour entrance after a fishing boat disaster.   I did a bit of digging about on the internet and came across an old picture of the harbour which shows the lighthouse in its original place.  I have no idea what the picture shows, or when it was taken, but it looks like the early 1900s.  You can see the top of the lighthouse quite clearly at the top right of the picture

At that time, and up until the mid 1970s there was a north entrance to Peterhead harbour which is now closed off by a big new breakwater.   This entrance to the North Harbour was where Stevenson’s lighthouse stood proudly, shining its red and white light to guide the boats into harbour.

The current harbour development work meant that it had to go, but it is too important a structure to be lost, so it was moved stone by stone and re-erected in its present position at the end of Alexandra Parade.  You can read the proposal here.   It was officially opened in June 2016.

So that’s another, very different, lighthouse added to my collection.

Red sky at night

There have been some lovely sunsets here in the north east of Scotland over the past few weeks.  The setting sun lights up the underside of the clouds and the whole world seems to turn a range of colours from fiery red, through orange, to pink, while the blue of the clear sky can take on an apricot hue.

It was like that yesterday afternoon.  As I watched the orange ball of the sun sink under the horizon from Peterhead, I knew that there would be spectacular skies as I drove south-westwards, home to Hatton.  And I was not disappointed.   I stopped at the layby at the Longhaven Cliffs and took some pictures.

On the other side of the road the sheep were quietly grazing, lit up with a strange pink light.

Futher on I found a vantage point to capture the silhouette of the wind turbines and masts on Gallows Hill above Ardiffery farm.

Although the sky was getting darker now, I crossed my fingers and headed for Cruden Church.  There was just enough light and a redness in the sky to capture the church looking mysterious, shrouded with the bare branches of the surrounding trees.

Drawn to the light

It was a bright, crisp winter’s day as a drove back from Peterhead.  The sun was catching the colours of Buchanness Lighthouse, making it stand out against the bright blue sea and the cloudless sky.  The storms of yesterday were past.  I had a few minutes spare, so the dogs and I went for a little walk in Boddam down to the stone bench carefully placed on the cliff top to give the best view of the lighthouse.   It’s not a long walk, very short, actually, but Lily and Poppy enjoyed the scamper through he grass, stopping for the occasional sniff.

I was able to persuade the dogs up onto the bench and captured one or two pictures of them in the sunshine. I wish I had taken another lens with me so that I would have squeezed in the lighthouse in the background – but you can’t have everything!

 

Thank you to those who positioned this bench and organised the cutting of the grass path to make it a lovely little walk to the viewpoint.  I suspect it is the Boddam Community Association who have also now organised a network of paths on Stirling Hill.

Round Girdle Ness and family memories

The sun was bright, the sky was blue and I had a few minutes to spare on my way home from a visit to Cove,  so I turned off the main road and drove round Greyhope Road past Girdle Ness Lighthouse.

As I passed the car park at the Bay of Nigg I remembered visits there with my son Donald and his friend Barry who were carrying out a project for Higher Georgraphy (or so they said!) measuring stones and counting them in meter squares.   There was no time to stop there today though, and anyway the car park looked very rough and churned up.  My eyes were on the lighthouse.

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Engineer Robert Stevenson oversaw the building project which was completed in 1833 after an appeal by the shipmaster of Aberdeen requesting that a light be established at Girdle Ness,  following the wreck of a whaling ship called the Oscar in 1813. There were only 2 survivors from a crew of 45.   The adjacent radio masts are part of a network for global positioning of ships at sea.

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I find my camera drawn quite often to lighthouses, but Girdle Ness is not one of my favourites.  I don’t find its shape as pleasing as the more classic shape of the Bell Rock or Buchan Ness.  Still the sun was out and the lighthouse stood out well against the blue sky.

My Auntie Irene was brought up in the nearby South Kirkhill Farm and I remember stories of regular visits to the farm by the neighbouring lighthouse families, just the other side of the Nigg golf course from the farm.  I also have a vivid memory of my uncle Sandy and Auntie Irene’s Wedding at the Royal Hotel in Aberdeen in November 1956.  Family from Brechin (including me)made the journey in the late afternoon by minibus to Aberdeen.  I remember being impressed by the city lights of Aberdeen as we drove down the hill past Kincorth.  My own children in later years shared that joy of seeing what they thought of as the Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen.  But I digress….

The memory I want to share is of Irene’s father, clearly having enjoyed a few “refreshments” at the wedding saying farewell to family and friends at the end of the celebrations, out on the street.  Clearly lighthouse people were at the wedding and there was Pop Corbett, proudly wearing the uniform cap of a Lighthouse Keeper, singing away as we boarded our bus to return home to Brechin.

Irene and Sandy's Wedding. Pop Corbett is 3d left in the back row. Little Fred is forming a middle row on his own on the right.

Irene and Sandy’s Wedding. Pop Corbett is 3rd left in the back row. Little Fred is forming a middle row on his own on the right.

Pop Corbett with my Granny Georgina Smith outside the family house in Brechin.

Pop Corbett with my Granny Georgina Smith outside the family house in Brechin.

 

The dawn comes us like thunder

I was so focussed yesterday morning trying to capture a picture of the super moon as it was setting that I quite forgot that, as I was facing west, in the east behind me, the sun was about to rise.   The sky to the west was a grey blue colour, but when I turned and looked towards the sea, everything was bright orange, and there was the distinctive spire of the Church of St James the Less silhouetted, on the horizon.

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You can see that spire from all round the area.  Indeed it is said that the Earl of Errol who lived in Slains Castle arranged for the church to be built there at Chapelhill with a spire that would seem more at home on an English village church, to ensure that there was a pleasing view from the castle.

You can certainly see the spire from the castle and you can see it from the high ground in Hatton, at Hobshill and Northfield farm where I stood in awe yesterday as I watched the huge disk of the sun peep over the horizon, beside the church.

I had a big telephoto lens on the camera and I was able to capture a lovely picture of the spire through some branches, just as some geese flew by.  The words of Rudyard Kipling came to mind,  “The dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay.” from his poem,  The Road to Mandalay (Barrack Room Ballads).  We may be far away from Manadalay in  Myanmar, or Burma as we once called it, but I can appreciate his feeling of the dawn coming up like thunder.  It certainly did yesterday outer Curden, ‘crost the Bay.

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Super Moon over Hatton

They said it would be the brightest and biggest moon visible from Earth since 1948.  So along with countless others I got out my camera and waited for moon rise at 4.33 pm.  I have a wonderful little App on my phone called The Photographer’s Ephemeris which shows where the sun and the moon will be at any place and any time.  So I knew where and when to look for moonrise in Hatton.

4.33 came and went….no moon visible just a bank of cloud over the horizon and light cloud cover above.   Just the same happened in September 2015 when we were promised a lunar eclipse in the early hours of the morning.  Having set the alarm clock, I staggered out to the garden in the wee small hours and saw nothing – cloud cover!   Now it seemed that history had repeated itself.  The best view was supposed to be when the moon was rising.  Then it would appear at its biggest and brightest.   Hatton it seems is not the best place for celestial photography.   I remember the same happened when we were waiting for the solar eclipse in March that same year and again the sky was cloud covered.  All we could see was a faint light struggling to penetrate the sky cover.

Solar eclipse March 2015

Solar eclipse March 2015

But I had the whole night.  Every so often I popped out to look for the moon, and bingo!  at 7.58 pm there it was peeping through the light cloud.   Not the greatest picture of the moon and when the sky did eventually clear enough, not even a very spectacular moon.  Much like any other full moon I had seen before in Hatton.  But they did say that the best pictures would be at moonrise and moonset.

First glimpse

First glimpse

8 pm moon peeps through the clouds

8 pm moon peeps through the clouds

8 pm moon

8 pm moon

 

I put this down as another moon shot failure until I drew the curtains at 7.00 am.  Clear sky, and there was the moon at last.  I grabbed the camera, and called for Poppy to come with me and we went moon hunting.  At first I thought it had disappeared again behind a bank of cloud, but with the moon so low in the sky I had to wander about to get a good view of the south-western horizon and there it was.

Blue moon in the morning

Blue moon in the morning

Golden moon in the morning

Golden moon in the morning

Golden moon in the morning

Golden moon in the morning

Perhaps not the most dramatic pictures taken that night of the super moon.   But I have my suspicions about some of the pictures posted on facebook anyway.  A few of them look a bit doctored.   I promise that mine are genuine!

By the way, I was not the only one having difficulties seeing the super moon, Jenny reported there was cloud cover in Clackmannanshire and and George in North Carolina had the same problem!

 

A long time in coming.

The summerhouse is up!   It has been a long time in coming but it is certainly worth it.  Three study joiners erected it yesterday morning in a much shorter time than I would have imagined.

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How different the garden now looks.  When we had our overgrown Leyandii tree cut down in April we were left with a difficult corner of the garden.   It sloped down to the fence, and it was full of tree roots.  Plan A had been to have the area filled in and levelled off, then to build a summer house, but after a chat with Callum from W G Paterson & Son we decided to have them build decking and erect the summer house on top.

 

Farewell Leylandii

Farewell Leylandii

Tikmber!

Timber!

A difficult corner of the garden.

A difficult corner of the garden.

As spring turned into summer we became quite used to our clear space, and the weeds loved it too.

Planning out where the house would go among the weeds

Planning out where the house would go among the weeds

As August turned into September the joiners arrived and put up the decking.  We had to put up some fence panels to make sure the dogs would not get over the now very low fence which protruded above the deck.  Thanks to Hammy our neighbour that job was done very quickly.   But still there was no sign of the summerhouse.

a veri9table forest of posts

a veritable forest of posts

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We became quite used to the decking, and had more than a few cups of tea in our new little corner of the garden.  The dogs loved it too because the decking construction was still to be finished and they could get underneath to greet our neighbours cars and dogs!

Enjoyiung the decking

Enjoying the decking

The final stage happened yesterday, when our long awaited summerhouse arrived and was put up.  It is an interesting shape with a lovely pointed roof.  Now all we need to do is to get in furnished.  Mary has already been looking for material to make cushions for the wickerwork suite which we have for it.

Viewing the garden

Viewing the garden

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Lily and Poppy have given the seats the thumbs (paws?) up.  But they are less sure about the fact that their secret dog run under the decking is no longer accessible.

An interesting roof.

An interesting roof.

www.patersonjoiners.co.uk

Shooting the waves

I have been waiting for some time now for the right weather conditions to try to take some pictures of waves breaking over the rocks at Buchan Ness Lighthouse.  The wind needs to be in the right direction to whip up the sea, the tide needs to be right and the sun needs to be out;  and of course I need to have time and inclination to drive to Boddam.

Yesterday there was a strong wind blowing in Hatton and it was quite bright, so I thought I would take the dogs along and see.  I grew quite hopeful as we passed Stirlinghill Quarry and saw the white rim of breaking waves round the island.  However, the sky by now as quite grey and the light flat.  So not the perfect conditions, yet.

Some of my pictures reflect this flat light, and even when the sun did break through and there was some blue sky amid the wispy clouds, it was not bright enough to make the sea blue enough; and I would really have like the waves crashing on the rocks to be bigger.   There is no satisfying me!

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Very dramatic, however was the view of waves breaking over the little rocky islands that you can see from Harbour Street in Boddam.  I noticed some shags sheltering from the waves there, watching the white churning sea and the white spray of the waves.

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A walk along the coastal path towards Longhaven and Cruden Bay produced a few more pictures to record this stormy day and the ever present lighthouse.

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A delightful little bay

We rediscovered Portsoy last summer when we made our first tentative trip with our motorhome as newbies to the caravan site at Portsoy Links, right down on the shore of the delightful little Links Bay.  During our time in Buckie,  way back in the 1970s we made occasional visits to Portsoy, but then we restricted our visits to the harbour and the Portsoy Marble shop:  we never discovered this lovely beach.

Arriving in sunshine

Arriving in sunshine

We have just returned home after another couple of nights in what is becoming a favourite spot for us. It is great to just open the van door and be right on the beach, be it among the seabirds on the rocks, the shingle and sand at low tide, the waves rolling in when the wind is in the right direction, or the beauty of and early morning or late evening light – a delightful place for man, woman and dogs.  We will be back!

On the beach

On the beach

Redshank

Redshank

It does rain here sometimes!

It does rain here sometimes!

Sunset walk

Sunset walk

Morning glow

Morning glow

First light

First light

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Sitting is William’s seat

DSCF2760So there  I was sitting comfortably, contemplating my somewhat disreputable trainers.  I was putting in a few hours in Banchory while our motorhome was being serviced.  I had enjoyed a nice cup of coffee in a café and then set off to walk the short distance to the Bridge of Feugh.

Water of Feugh

Water of Feugh

Water of Feugh

Water of Feugh

I am always drawn to wild water, and the Water of Feugh can be wild indeed. The bridge is a place where people though the years have stood to watch for salmon leaping up the waterfalls. The old bridge itself is very narrow, but there are V shaped indents to allow pedestrians to seek refuge when vehicles are crossing.   So popular is the place that a separate foot bridge has also been built to allow fish watchers a vantage point in safety.  No salmon today, but still the chance to admire the wild water, and to notice that the first signs of autumn are appearing in the trees.

First signs of autumn, Water of Feugh

First signs of autumn, Water of Feugh

Nearby he old Toll House garden was looking good, and my eye was drawn to the old milestone, lurking between two modern road signs.  Just 17 miles to Fettercairn, but what a 17 miles, over the Cairn o’ Mouth.

Old Toll House, Bridge ofr Feugh

Old Toll House, Bridge of Feugh

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It was on my leisurely half mile return journey to Banchory that I noticed William’s seat, and decided I would sit for a while, wondering what the view would have been like when first William Aitchison erected this seat.

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Not much view here.

Not much view here

a seat with (No) view

Aseat with (no) view

Now all you can see over the road are a few trees and bushes.  I hope there was a better view in his day.  Incidentally another seat, just on the Banchory side of the bridge over the River Dee is placed dramatically in front of more vegetation, no view of the bridge or the river to be had.

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But back to William, or was he a Bill or a Willie?  there are often plaques on such seats by the roadsides, but this one caught my interest.  W Aitchison was the Postmaster from 1910 to 1935.  I decided to see if I could find out more about him.  Here is just a little bit of what I found out in a hour or so last night.

William Aitchison was born round about 1847 in England.  He married Ruth Davis in Dublin in 1898 and they went on to have two children there, Irene and James Leslie.  William worked for the GPO in Dublin as a Telegraphist.   Promotion must have come his way and in 1910 he was appointed Postmaster in Banchory.   This coincided with the opening that same year, of the new Post Office and Postmaster’s house in a fine Kemnay  granite building in the High Street.

Daughter Irene worked in the Banchory Post Office too,  as a sorting clerk and telegraphist until her marriage in 1928 (to James Anderson also from Banchory) in the “Tartan Kirkie”, as St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Aberdeen is sometimes called.  Son James was married in Edinburgh shortly after his Father’s retirement in 1936, again to a Banchory girl, Mary Lennie, the daughter of a baker.

William at some point was made a Justice of the Peace and I suspect he was a swell known Banchory character.  He died in 1954 and is buried in the Banchory-Ternan Graveyard, together with his wife Ruth who lived on until 1961.

Banchory Post Office 2016

Banchory Post Office 2016

I wonder what Postmaster Aitchison would have thought of the changes in the Post Office in the 21st Century.  The fine Post Office building (and his house) is now the “Cook and Dine” shop in the High Street.  As I stood waiting for the bus to take me back to collect the van I looked at this shop, across the road, not realising that once the Post Office had been located there.   But I did find the present Post Office, now relegated to a tiny counter at the back of the Co-operative Supermarket.  I needed to buy stamps, and had to fight my way through crowds of white shirted Banchory Academy pupils with their informally tied ties  searching out something “fine” for their lunch.

The castle in the sun

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon yesterday when Lily, Poppy and I went for a walk to Slains Castle. The sky was blue with white fluffy clouds and there was enough of a breeze to keep the temperature at a pleasant level. It has been many years since I have approached the castle down the track from the car park on the Cruden Bay Road near the Bullers of Buchan. My usual route is up the foot path from Cruden Bay. My memory of this road was of potholes and puddles. Not now. It has been levelled off, and was a fine dry walk. Crushed scallop shells seem to have been used and it gives the road an unusual light look.

One problem, however, is that people in cars seem to be using this track to go to the castle and ignoring the car park on the main road.  Although I smiled politely and waved back when I put the dogs on their leads and drew them onto the verge to lets the cars pass, I must admit I did resent their presence a bit.  I remember a couple of years ago having to use Photoshop to remove a car which had parked at the front of the castle when I was trying to get an artistic shot of the Earl of Errol’s mansion erupting from field of oil seed rape.  The blue of the car spoiled the picture.

Slains Castle

Slains Castle

When we reached the castle I saw that the fencing which had prevented (or tried to prevent!) access to the ruins was no longer there, and indeed a flat space had been levelled out which was being used as an impromptu car park.   We ignored the ruins and followed the path round the cliff top towards the entrance to the spectacular Long Haven gulley.

Long Haven

Long Haven

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The sun was low in the sky behind the castle so pictures did not really work there.   What did work was the bright blue sea with waves breaking on the rocks below as we walked north, admiring the distant view of the Longhaven cliffs with the golf ball of the radar station and the chimney of the Boddam Power Station in view on the horizon.

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Lily seemed quite happy to pose for a picture on the cliff top, glad of a rest, perhaps?  Poppy was more volatile, darting about, and never quite in the place I would have liked for the photograph.  Indeed as I was taking a picture of the castle in the distance, over a field of corn, when we were returning to the car, she popped into the shot unexpectedly…she has learned the art of photo-bombing!

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Strathlene revisied

The last time I visited Strathlene beach at Buckie was in  the winter of 2006.  I was returning home after conducting a funeral at the Moray Crematorium in the Old Enzie Kirk at Broadley.  I decided to pay a quick visit to Buckie to see how the town where we lived for ten years in the 1970s and 80s had changed, and I stopped off at my favourite Buckie beach to eat my sandwiches.  The sun was shining that day, but there was a true Buckie gale blowing and it was bitterly cold, not exactly the weather to explore what remained of the old outdoor swimming pool and the beaches and rocks where the children had played, and where Nero our delinquent Labrador would regularly run off, only to return in his on good time.

There was something else on my mind that day in 2006 too.  Mary was away, visiting Rosie and family  in Oman  We were looking for a house at the time for our planned move from Aberdeen, and while she was away I had found a possible house in Hatton.  I would pay a quick visit there on my way home.  As it turned out that was the house which would become our new home.

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Now nearly ten years later I was at Strathlene again, this time Mary was with me, and Lily and Poppy.  Again I had been at the Moray Crematorium and we had decided to take a quick drive through Buckie, stopping for a while to let the dogs stretch their legs on the beach.   The weather, however was quite different:  this was a still, muggy, late August afternoon.   As we walked along the beach we recalled visits there when the children were small, sometimes with grandparents.   This is the only sandy beach in Buckie, and on the fine summer days it would be a favourite place to visit, paddling in the water, digging in the sand, exploring among the rocks.  And it was here at Strathlene we would hold evening barbecues with the Buckie North Church youth group.

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Looking towards Buckie. The North Church steeple is visible.

I know I have pictures of visits here with the children in the 1970s.  I must look for them.  In the meantime here is a pictures of Mary, Donald and Nero on the beach in 1975, and a delightful picture of little Donald on the same occasion.  The original pictures are now quite orange with age, but it is amazing what you can do with Photoshop!

Mary, Donald and Nero 1975

Mary, Donald and Nero 1975

Donald 1975

Donald 1975

I have also made a scan from an old slide of waves at Strathlene, quite different to the calm still water we found today.  The slide was taken a little father along the coast than we ventured today, towards Findochty.  But the view is essentially the same.

Strathlene, late 1970s

Strathlene, late 1970s

Strathlene August 2016

Strathlene August 2016

Counting the Small Tortoiseshells

It all sort of made sense when I heard on the radio this morning that there is a drastic decline this year of the number of small tortoiseshell butterflies.  Yesterday I was out in the garden lurking beside the buddleia bush trying for a few butterfly pictures in  the morning sunshine.  I had been preparing a slide show for the Peterhead New Senior Ladies Fellowship based on the nature pictures I have been posting on Facebook for the past few months, and I felt I would like a couple of butterfly pictures for the section on the theme “All creatures great and small.”

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Last year there were lots of the tortoiseshells about, although I recalled that I had always though that they were Red Admirals, at least that what I used to call them when I was a boy.  Looking them up I discovered that these butterflies where tortoiseshells. There were a few of the Red Admirals about, but no so many.

Yesterday there was a whole navy  of Red Admirals feeding on the buddleia, but just one or two Tortoiseshells. The decline has obviously affected Hatton too.

I must prune the buddleia which has got a big straggly so that I can do my big to help the butterflies next year.

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Red Admiral