Monthly Archives: March 2013

My grandad lived here

One of the projects I have set myself do do over the next few months is to sort out a huge collection of family photographs which I have inherited from various members of the family.  Among the pictures I came across this fascinating little card.

AlexSmith_1917_medical certificate_1_1000AlexSmith_1917_medical certificate_2_1000Alex Smith, my grandfather, aged 29 and married with young children had been summoned for a medical by the army in August 1917.  Parliament passed the Military Service Act on  27th January 1916 and ever man between the ages of 18 and 41, if unmarried, was “deemed to have enlisted”. However, On 25th May married men too were “deemed” to have done the same.

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Alexander and Georgina Smith (my grandparents)

I wonder what Alex and his young wife Ina (Georgina) were feeling as he made his way to he Castlehill Barracks in Aberdeen.  In the end he was catagorised C ii which I have discovered means that he was passed fit for “Labour Service at Home Camps”, but not to be sent with the Gordons to the Western Front. .  What that actually meant in practice, I have no idea. There was certainly never any mention in  the family  of Grandad doing military service.

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Alex and Ina in the late 1950s

What was even more interesting fo me from that tiny crumpled piece of yellowing card, was where the family was living at the time, Tarsets.  I knew that the early part of his working life had been as a farm servant in Aberdeenshire.  But I had no idea that every day when I drove to and from Aberdeen when I was working in the hospital, that I was driving past the very house where the family were probably living at the time.   My own mother would have lived there as  a little girl.

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Tarsets, near Ellon

Tarsets farm was right beside the main road from Ellon to Aberdeen, not far from Ellon. After the dual carriageway near Ellon was built, that part of the road was been bypassed, but there are certainly two cotter houses there and I wonder if one of them was theirs.

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Alex shows off his Clydesdales to the photographer

You can see that he looks quite small beside the big Clydesdale horses – 5ft 5¾ins the army measured him at.  I have no idea of when or where this picture was taken but it does give a flavour of life at the time.

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Tarsets

No horses at Tarsets now – but a few cattle in the steading took an interest in me as I took the photographs.   I wonder what Grandad would have made of them with their yellow ear tags.   How farming has changed in the nearly 100 years since he faced conscription into the army during the First World War.

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Tarsets

 

Three months on….that Hatton Bridge again

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It was on Sunday 23 December 2012 that the floods damaged that bridge in Hatton beyond repair.   Now three months on, on Sunday 24 March 2013 we see that progress is being made on creating a temporary bridge to allow vehicles to cross the burn again.

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When you see the extent of the earth works involved, it is no wonder it has taken a long time, with so much necessary preparatory work needing to be done by for gas, electricity and water.

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But the burn is now bridged, though it will be some time before the cars make the journey to hatton Farm Road and behond.

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A walk on Gallows Hill

Thursday was a beautiful day, a pleasant brake from the March snow and the winds blowing in from Siberia.  The sun was shining and white fluffy clouds were scudding in from the sea on the easterly wind.  The air was clear – just the sort of day to get the boots on and camera out.

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Looking down towards Cruden Old Church with Cruden Bay and the sea beyond

Lily and I went for a walk on Gallows Hill, just to the west of  Cruden Old Church up above Ardiffery.  I had been intrigued by the names which I had noticed on the maps when I was researching the bridges over the Water of Cruden:  Gallows Hill and Hangman’s Brae. From the hill I had a wonderful view down over the church with Cruden Bay, Slains Castle and the sea in the distance.  But you needed patience to take the picture.  Watching the shadow of clouds making its way over the landscape, you had to wait for the moment when the whole scene was in sunlight.

A quiet peaceful place now, but not always. Near where I was standing the site of Moat (or Moot) Hill is marked on the map. This would have been an artificial mound (now long gone) used as a meeting place for the administration of justice in days gone by.  And justice would have been fierce in those days.

It was enacted at the parliament assembled in Forfar in 1057 by King Malcolm Canmore that every baron should erect a gibbet for the execution of male criminals, and sink a well or pit, for the drowning of females.  So nearby the Moot Hill, would stand the gallows on Gallows Hill, and Hangman’s Brae up which the executioner would have made his way.  It is recorded that human skeletons have been found near here and there is a deep pool in the Water of Cruden opposite where  women would have been drowned, perhaps accused of being witches. Is this the Witch’s Pot marked on the maps beside Uppermill Farm?  I wonder if  the the two wind turbines which have recently appeared on the hillside mark the place of the Moot Hill and the gibbet?

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Do wind turbines now mark the place of the Moothill and the gallows

It gave me a strange feeling, standing there looking down over the steep Aad Braes to the burn below, thinking about how things used to be.  (Incidentally it has been suggested that name Aad is derived from the Gaelic aod, a brae. this would make it one of these repetitive place names – Brae Braes.)

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Below Aad Braes, the Water of Cruden makes its way towards the Midmill railway viaduct.

Looking over towards the main A90 road I could see the the railway viaduct crossing the Water of Cruden. I had photographed the other side of it earlier.  I have a soft spot for steam engines and I tried to imagine how it must have looked in the early part of last century, with a train making its way from Hatton Station along the embankment and the viaduct, heading towards the sea at Cruden Bay.  Perhaps not as spectacular as the Glenfinnan Viaduct, now famous because of the Harry Potter films, but still a site to conjure with.  The railway disappears at the other side of the viaduct, the line now ploughed up.  But if you look at aerial photographs which are so easy to access on the Internet. you can just about see the line that the track had once followed through the fields.
[This link will take you to the Ordnance Survey Get a Map Site.  Then select the “Aerial” option at the top left.]

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The Water of Cruden flows towards the Bishop;s Bridge on its journey to the sea. Cruden Old Church can just be seen in the trees on the right.

If you cast your eyes in the other direction, down the Aad Braes you can see the Water of Cruden making its way towards the Bishop’s Bridge, past Bridgend Farm.  You can just see the towers of Cruden Old Church popping up from the trees on the right hand side of the picture.

The countryside round here has changed through the years, not to mention the administration of justice.  But there is one thing that I am sure has not changed.  As I was making my way home from my walk on Gallows Hill,  I came across a lone fisherman trying his luck by the Bishops’s Bridge.  He told me he was after brown trout, but he was having no luck, too early in the season yet, he said.   I wonder how many folk through the years from Cruden Parish have tried their luck in that same burn?

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The fisheman tries his luck near the Bishop’s Bridge.

 

Scotland has a litter problem

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There is lots of rubbish thrown about in the Hatton car park

Perhaps not Hatton at its most beautiful!   Three things came together today. First I visited  the car park beside the Hatton Hall, looking for the ideal spot to take a picture of the earthworks in progress for the temporary road bridge which will reunite Hatton.  In the end the best picture was take paparazzi style, holding my camera at full stretch above my head to reach over the fence.  The work does seem to be progressing well.

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The earthworks have reached the burn.

But back to the car park. While I was there I spotted how much litter was lying around.  Worse than usual, I feel.  That on the day when Richard Lochhead MSP, the Scottish Environment Secretary indicated that the Scottish Government is considering raising the £50 fix penalty notices for dropping litter. This is one of the ideas under consideration for Scotland’s first national litter strategy with proposals due for consultation in the summer.  He drew attention to how much local authorities transport providers and other businesses have to pay to clean up all the rubbish that is left lying around.   The Hatton car park should not be a place for litter.   There are bins right there.  But it needs a change in mindset:  put your litter in a bin, or take it home.

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Just one corner of Hatton with its litter problem

The third thing that happened today was that someone posted on the HARA Facebook Page asking about the annual clean up.  She wrote: “Is there a date yet for the Hatton Litterpick? Looking forward to it, as we thoroughly enjoyed it last time.”   The HARA page on Facebook  I read in the Spring Hara Newsletter that the date will be 13th April – and not before time.  Well done HARA for organising this annual clean up.

But it is not just Hatton.  When I was out and about photographing the bridges over the Water of Cruden I climbed down the bank from the lay-by on the Mintlaw Road to take a picture of the bridge. I was really quite shocked at the amount of rubbish scattered all along the bank – and you can see there is a green bin there, ready and waiting.

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Rubbish on the lay-by bank not in the bin.

The Scottish Government will do its part;  community groups like HARA will do their part;  but the answer must surely be in personal responsibility.  I will not walk past the discarded drinks can again.   I will pick it up.  I hope others will do the same.

 

Let it snow!

We certainly got a false sense of security  couple of weeks ago when we thought that Spring had really arrived.   But today we are right back to winter.  The snow has not been as severe as we were promised and it is the wet and messy sort.

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By the Water of Cruden at Hatton

So out I went with the camera.   The skeletons of winter trees attract me.  I have been spotting a few that I would like to photograph when the light is right and if I can get myself into the right position, probably in the middle of a field with wellies on.   But that is for the future.   Today it is trees and snow.   Unfortunately they sun would just not come out so the snow lacks the sparkle that I had hoped for.

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The Water of Cruden near Hatton Bridge

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The Water of Cruden near Hatton Bridge

While I was taking pictures on the banks of the  the Water of Cruden at the Hatton bridge, I turned round and spotting this picture.   Again, how nice it would have been had the sun chose that moment to come out.  But still I have managed to add another bridge picture to my collection.

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Looking under Hatton Bridge

I am aware that the pictures I have in my collection of Cruden Old Church are in summer sunshine, with blue skies.

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Cruden Old Church

The production of a Christmas card (yes, it is only March) for Cruden Parish Church is under consideration.  I wondered if today’s snow would have produced an attractive winter picture. In the end, grey skies and not enough snow prevented what might have been the right sort of Christmasy picture.

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Cruden Old Church

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Cruden Old Church

What do you think?   Are any of these pictures right for a Christmas card?

While I was up at the church I spotted another tree picture with the spire of St James’ Chruch peeping through.  I have produced it in black and white as something different.

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Winter trees, Cruden

The radio news today has been drawing attention to the problems that gardeners are having with this unseasonably cold March weather, when they are thinking of getting going in preparation for the growing season.   My dwarf daffodils which have ventured to bloom in the shelter of my apple tree tell the story.

Dwarf daffodils, hatton

Dwarf daffodils, Hatton

And the birds that are now nesting, thinking spring was really here must be wondering what has happened.   My giant robin certainly does!  (This is the easiest bird photograph I have ever taken.)

Big Robin Redbreast

Big Robin Redbreast

 

The Bridges of Cruden Country

The collapsed bridge in Hatton has reminded me of how important bridges are to communities. History shows that places will often grow round river crossings. That is what happened in Brechin where I was brought up. Brechin has old mediaeval bridge which allowed people to cross the River South Esk, and the Cathedral City of Brechin grew up as a consequence.

I cross the Hatton bridge every morning to get my paper. The Water of Cruden is only a couple of minutes walk from my house. But if that bridge were not there…..?

This set my mind running and I decided to do a little bit of research. I discovered that there are 19 bridges which cross the Water of Cruden as it flows roughly east to west across the 7½ miles or so of the Parish of Cruden.

View Water of Cruden in a larger map

But where does the Water of Cruden actually start?  I have traced it to the most westerly corner of the parish, near Dudwick.

Old bridge at Den of Auldmaling, near Dudwick

Old bridge at Den of Auldmaling, near Dudwick

There is a very old bridge there near the track to Mosstown of Dudwick.  To the NW of this bridge the Maling Burn flows through the attractive wooded Den of Auldmaling.  Very close by is a newer bridge on the road from Upper Hawkshillock to Mains of Dudwick. It looks as if there have been road improvements here and a new bridge built.  To the SE the burn flows past Hawkshillock farm and is now marked Water of Cruden on the maps.   This area is technically just across the border in the the Parish of Old Deer, but I am taking this as the starting point of my journey.

This road bridge near Dudwick marks the beginning of the Water of Cruden

This road bridge near Dudwick marks the beginning of the Water of Cruden

The next port of call is where the main A952 road from Toll of Birness to Mintlaw crosses the burn.  There have been road improvements here too, and the old road now serves as a lay-by with the original bridge still in place.

The lay-by now crosses the old bridge near Hawkhillock.  This once carried the main A952 road to Minlaw

The lay-by now crosses the old bridge near Hawkhillock. This once carried the main A952 road to Minlaw

If you look between the lay-by and the new road, you can see the burn flowing into a new and much less attractive bridge, emerging at the other side near Waulkmill Croft.

The burn is visible in the gap between the lay-by and the new road near Hawkhillock and Waulkmill Croft

The burn is visible in the gap between the lay-by and the new road near Hawkhillock and Waulkmill Croft

 

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A lorry crossing the new bridge, heading towards Toll of Birness

Everytime I drive along the road which leads westwards out of Hatton towards the A952, I marvel that the next little bridge is still standing.  Over the past few years I have noticed that there is a major deterioration, with both parapets now in trouble.

Tractor crosses the little bridge on the road to Aulton of Auquharney

Tractor crosses the little bridge on the road to Aulton of Auquharney

As I walked along to the road to photograph this bridge I just noticed a big tractor and trailer crossing.   “Better him than me!” I thought.

The narrow bridge ob the road to Aulton of Auquharney is in a bad state of repair.

The narrow bridge on the road to Aulton of Auquharney is in a bad state of repair.

Soon the Water of Cruden swings to the south past Mains of Aquharney, but there are no roads and bridges to worry about in this section.  But first, the road to Hatton has to be crossed near Mill of Auchleuchries.

Near Mill of Auchleuchries

Near Mill of Auchleuchries

Published in the 1880s, The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome records that the current of Water of Cruden “has been utilised to drive a wool-mill at Auquharney and several meal-mills lower down.”  Rev Alexander Philip, the minister of Cruden wrote in 1840, in the New Statistical Account of Scotland: “The thread manufactories, which were so flourishing in the beginning of my day, and employed so many people, are now completely gone. A carding and spinning-mill was lately erected on the estate of Aquaharney, and carries on business to a considerable extent.”

There are still traces of various mills in place names (Uppermill, Midmill, Nethermill, to mention but three)  and there are still traces of mill lades and even mill wheels.  My own house (Ladebank) stood beside the mill lade which once provided power for the Hatton Mill.  Clearly the Water of Cruden was a major source of power in those days gone by.  (Someone has suggested the mills of the Water of Cruden as a topic for a future blog. I would be glad if anyone can provide me with informations about mills etc.)

Near Nook on the Bogbrae road.

Near Nook on the Bogbrae road.

The next crossing is near Nook on the Bogbrae to Auchquharney road.  From here the burn swings roughly west and flows beside the old railway line to Hatton where we find the next bridge which carries Station Road over towards Hatton Mill and Main Street, and allows me to get my morning paper.

Hatton Bridge which carries Station Road over the Water of Cruden towards Main Street

Hatton Bridge which carries Station Road over the Water of Cruden towards Main Street

If you look at maps you will find interesting names as the burn flows through a little gorge past Uppermill and Midmill farms.  There is a “Witches Pot” and a “Fairy Hillock” . A little further on the burn flows beneath Gallow’s Hill near Bridgend Farm where I read that executions once took place.   There must be stories here, if only we but knew them.

The old  Midmill bridge originally carried the main A90 Peterhead road at the Hatton Bends

The old Midmill bridge originally carried the main A90 Peterhead road at the Hatton Bends

Now we have a cluster of 3 bridges.  There is the old Midmill bridge (1811) which carried the original A90 road towards Peterhead.

the new bridge at the Hatton Bends improvments.  with the old Midmill bridge beyond.

the new bridge at the Hatton Bends improvments with the old Midmill bridge beyond.

In 2007 the Hatton Bends Impovements resulted in the construction of a magnificent new bridge for the realigned main road.  A granite plaque near Bridgend records that the the Improvements were opened by the then Transport Minister, Tavish Scott MSP on 12 February 2007.

The railway bridge through the new bridge on the A90 near Midmill

The railway bridge seen  through the new bridge on the A90 near Midmill

In stark contrast, stands the bridge which carried the Ellon to Boddam Great North of Scotland Railway line across the Water of Cruden.  it is a bridge which leads nowhere!

Railway bridge near Midmill and Bridgend

Railway bridge near Midmill and Bridgend

Much of this line between Hatton and Cruden Bay has been ploughed up and the embankment which carried the trains making their way towards the coast has been removed, leaving only this viaduct and its approach from the west.

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The Bishop’s Bridge near Cruden Old Church

The next crossing is near Cruden Old Church: the narrow  Bishop’s Bridge with its awkward twists (at least for modern cars).  It was built originally in 1697 by James Drumond, at one time the Bishop of Brechin, to make it easier for people to go to the church.  The good Bishop had been caught up in the ecclesiastical turmoil at the end of the 17th Century and had been displaced as Bishop by the Presbyterians who were in the ascendancy in the Church of Scotland.  He was living with the Earl of Errol in Slaines Castle at the time. This lovely little bridge bears the arms of the Bishop and the Earl on its south  side, now badly weathered and barely visible.  It was rebuilt in 1763 by the Earl of Errol.

The railway bridge at Nethermill

The railway bridge at Nethermill

Although just a couple of miles now from the sea, the Water of Cruden will still flow under quite a number of bridges.  The railway line appears again and crosses the burn, only to disappear as quickly on the other side.

The Old Nethermill Bridge

The Old Nethermill Bridge

The road from Bridgend to Cruden Bay passes through Nethermill. Here the burn flows through a little gorge, one of the most attractive locations in its journey to the sea.

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Nethermill

The old Nethermill bridge with its semi-circular arch (built in 1818) crosses the gorge itself.  From here you can see the buildings of the mill and other traces of Victorian industry below.

The new Netermill Bridge

The new Nethermill Bridge

The new Nethermill bridge at the east end of the settlement  was opened in 1895, as recorded on a plaque on the outside of the bridge, though few may have noticed it.

Inscription on the new Nethermill Bridge

Inscription on the new Nethermill Bridge

Little trace is now left of the railway which was so important for the development of Cruden Bay.  The railway brought grandeur, but not lasting prosperity, to Cruden Bay. The branch line from Ellon to Boddam was opened in 1897, along with the golf course and the 55-bedroom Cruden Bay Hotel two years later. The Cruden Bay Hotel Tramway was added, linking the station and the  hotel. The Great North of Scotland Railway Company promoted Cruden Bay as a Brighton of the North, only twelve hours from London and an ideal escape for gentry and nouveau riche. However, despite initial enthusiasm, neither railway nor hotel prospered. The railway was closed to passengers in 1932, and in 1939 the hotel was requisitioned as an army hospital, and never re-opened after the war.

All that is left of the viaduct which carried the railwayline fro Cruden Bay Station towards Bullers of Buchan, Longhaven and Boddam

All that is left of the viaduct which carried the railwayline fro Cruden Bay Station towards Bullers of Buchan, Longhaven and Boddam

Now all that is visible of the railway station is the old Station Master’s House and the piers of the viaduct which crossed the Water of Cruden as the line headed out towards Bullers of Buchan, Longhaven and Boddam.   Even the embankment which would have carried the line over the wide flood plain of the burn has been removed and the cutting beyond the bridge filled in.  But there are plenty railways enthusiasts out there on the Internet, and those who are interested can read accounts of the line and see pictures.

A new bridge has been constructed at Morrison Place, Cruden Bay

A new bridge has been constructed at Morrison Place, Cruden Bay

As the Water of Cruden winds its way towards the houses of Cruden Bay we encounter a very new bridge.  A low lying span takes Morrison Place over the water, up from Aulton Road.

Bridge carrying the main road through Cruden Bay

Bridge carrying the main road through Cruden Bay

From there the burn flows past the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel and under an uninspired bridge which carries the main road through the village. The burn then flows between the sand dunes which hide the golf course and the houses of Port Erroll, then  under the Ladies’ Bridge.   This is perhaps the best known of the bridges over the Water of Cruden.  It is named in honour of the ladies who raised funds to construct a footbridge to allow access to the magnificent sands of Cruden Bay.  Now the bridge is in need of major repair.  It was recently closed for a while after storm damage, but now reopened, providing a vital access to the beach.   It is well photographed and even appears on the cover of the local Landranger Ordnance Survey Map (Sheet 30).

The ladies' Bridge, Port Erroll

The Ladies’ Bridge, Port Erroll

Its journey nearly done, the Water of Cruden flows into the North Sea beside Port Erroll harbour.

19 Bridges in 7½ miles. Not bad going for the litle Water of Cruden!

For those wishing more information:

Agile Dogs

Over the winter months Mary, my wife has been attending Dog Agility training classes with Lily our dog. Springfields Equestrian Centre at Hardslacks, up in the wilds of Hatton Moss was the venue.   Denise of Vynor Dog Training is a wonderful teacher – encouraging her novice handlers and their dogs with her gentile, cando attitude.

 

Springfields at Hardslacks where the training classes were held

Springfields at Hardslacks where the training classes were held

And now we see it has all be worthwhile.  On Saturday we attended a Fun Agility Competition at the Waulkmill Show Cenre just outside Ellon.  Mary had no plans to compete but she was encouraged to have a go – and how well Lily and she did.  They both loved it!

Mary and Lily's first agility competition

Mary and Lily’s first agility competition

Lily did not manage to win her class but was awarded a Judge’s Special Rosette.  How proud she looks!

Lily was awarded a special rosette by the judges

Lily was awarded a special rosette by the judges

Two other members of the class entered and distinguished themselves wonderfully well, taking home their rosettes.

Fiona is very proud for Gillie her dog.

Fiona is very proud of Gillie her dog.

Gillie is a young farm collie which Fiona brought back from Ireland. He just loves to jump and of course, to get a cuddle, proudly showing off his rosette.

Jacqui and Lexi in full "flight"

Jacqui and Lexi in full “flight”

Lexi the spaniel is the fastest thing on four legs.  I wonder if she uses her ears for extra lift?  I don’t know how Jacqui, her adoring owner manages to keep up with her.  They had a clear round and won a first place rosette not to mention a seventh place in another class.

I went along to the competition with camera in hand. Not ideal photographic conditions, since the light was very poor as the rain poured down outside.  Then the  dogs (and their handlers) went so fast that some of the pictures are a bit fuzzy.  Never the less I did  manage to get some photographs of the dogs in action.

Both are putting everything into it

Both are putting everything into it

By the way, I see that the Springfields Equestrian Centre is up for sale.   Anyone interested?

Back to that Bridge….but not to the field.

There has been some frantic activity again round about the collapsed Hatton bridge.   The other day I counted 6 “yellow coats” all standing in a little huddle round a hole.  To be fair,  most of the holes are now filled in.   Something is clearly about to happen…a portaloo has arrived!

A portaloo has arrived.  Things must be hotting up!

A portaloo has arrived. Things must be hotting up!

But today the whole site is deserted, though  a large triangle of the field is now fenced off, ready for action – if not dog walkers.

A large triangle of the field is now fenced off

A large triangle of the field is now fenced off

Poor Lily, she could not understand why we could not go in by our usual gate for her morning scamper round the field, but had to take our life in our hands and slither down the muddy steps beside the disreputable green shed.

Not the safest steps to negotiate.

Not the safest steps to negotiate.

And when we arrived at the field side of the fence, again poor Lily was quite perplexed.

Lily is quie confused about why she can't go her usual way.

Lily is quie confused about why she can’t go her usual way.

The man from Scottish Water who was in the Hatton Shop this morning assured us that things were really starting to happen at last.  We will see what Monday brings.

Springtime in Birdland

The birds certainly think that spring is here, despite the snow.  The rooks are paired off in the trees round Hatton and the snow draws attention to all the sticks they have dropped from nest building.  I thought I would try to catch some of the rooks nesting, but the best I could do today was a pair outside their top floor “flat” while the snow fell.

Rooks in snow, Hatton

Rooks in snow, Hatton

The jackdaws are quite happy to sit on the electricity wires and choose a chimney for their nest.

Jackdaws, Hatton

Jackdaws, Hatton

I am not much of a bird photographer but I thought I would still take my camera as Lily and I walked along the shore at Peterhead Bay.  At low tide you are guaranteed to see a selection of birds, but I do not really have the patience to take good bird photographs.   How glad I was when the eider ducks swam quite close to shore and I was able to take some pictures.  The males were in full breeding plumage and were showing off, lifting up their whole bodies, so it seemed, and breaking into loud “waup” noise.   Spring was certainly in the air.

Eider Duck, Peterhead Bay

Eider Duck, Peterhead Bay

I was delighted to see a few ducks and other shore birds, but a pale imitation in comparison to the display which I photographed in November at Udale Bay, near Jemimaville on the Cromarty Firth.

Oystercatchers and a raft of ducks, Udale Bay on the Cromarty Firth

Oystercatchers and a raft of ducks, Udale Bay on the Cromarty Firth

The other birds you are certain to see on the shore  are Oystercatchers.  They seem to be everywhere these days.  I remember watching them nest on the flat roofs of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary when I worked there.  And one year there was a nest in the border, right by the front door of Aberdeen Crematorium.

Oystercatcher, Peterhead Bay

Oystercatcher, Peterhead Bay

The picture I usually get of the Oystercatchers is them taking off as I try to get closer.   That was what happened to me during a walk along the shore at Portmahomack in Easter Ross.

Oystercatchers, Portmahomack

Oystercatchers, Portmahomack

My most successful session of bird photography by far was in Shetland many years ago.  At first i got excited at puffins, but soon I was taking them for granted.  i remember sitting on the cliffs at Hermaness in Unst and looking round to see a puffin just a few feet away, posing for me.

Puffin, Unst

Puffin, Unst

I am no twitcher, but I do enjoy watching birds.  When we were in Fetlar for a day we decided to see if we could spot the Red-necked Phalarope.  Fetlar is the main breeding place for these delightful little waders.  I had read in Bobby Tulloch’s book about Shetland Birds that the best way to see them was to go to a certain layby beside a little loch, take out your sandwiches and wait.  Sure enough in just a few minutes they swam past, nearly close enough to touch and certainly photograph.   Now that is my sort of bird photography!

Red Necked Phalarope, Fetlar.

Red Necked Phalarope, Fetlar.

Shetland has been very much in my mind these past few days and not just because of the birds.  I have been reading Anne Cleeves’ Shetland Quartet.  I just managed to finish Red Bones a few hours before the screening of the BBC drama “Shetland” which was “based” on the book.   I was looking forward to seeing Whalsay where the book was set.  We had never managed to visit there on our trips to Shetland.  But I discovered that the producers had relocated the story to Bressay, which we had visited and where we were dive-bombed by Bonxies (Great Skuas) as we crossed the moors.  And that was not the only thing wrong with the film.  (Now it is time for a rant!).  They had got the characters wrong, they had totally rewritten the story, the dialogue was stilted, and the person who carried out the murders was different.  Still the Shetland scenery was lovely.

A walk on the banks of the Water of Cruden

Pinkfooted geese over the Water of Cruden

Pink-footed geese over the Water of Cruden

When you have a little dog with short legs you become sensitive to mud when you are out for a walk.  For much of this winter the field beside Park View has just been too muddy for walking with Lily.  And the thought of going any further down the Water of Cruden was not even on the agenda.   Until Monday, that is.   A shower of snow the night before and a hard frost made a longer expedition possible.

As we made our way along the banks of the burn a big skene of Pink-footed Geese flew over.  I always enjoy seeing and hearing geese in flight or feeding in the fields.   I suppose before long they will be making their way back north again.

Wind turbine at Uppermill Farm

Wind turbine at Uppermill Farm

One of my grandsons is fascinated by wind turbines.  He knows every  single one on the road between Aberdeen and Hatton.  He always spots the “Hatton windmill” as he calls it, and knows he is nearly at “Granny’s House”.  So I thought I had better have a closer look at the turbine which has sprouted up at Uppermill Farm.   I wonder how my grandson will react when the windfarm at Hill of Braco arrives.  He has a very different reaction to wind turbines  to Mr Trump.

Has this been an especially good year for snowdrops?  Or is it that I am just noticing them?  All along the banks of the Water of Cruden you can see them growing wild in little clumps.   One place they are particularly spectacular is at Nethermill on the road to Cruden Bay.

Snowdrops growing wild on the banks of the Water of Cruden

Snowdrops growing wild on the banks of the Water of Cruden

 

 

 

I have been watching them growing on the banks of the burn in the garden of Burnbank, waiting for the light to be right. Every time I cross the bridge I look down and admire them.  I am very grateful to Glenys and Philip for letting me take some pictures there  Incidentally they told me that their house used to be a Bank (hence the name) and latterly was the work place of two seemstresses.  No doubt older Hatton people will remember that.  Whatever, they have a lovely wild garden beside the burn, even though they suffered quite badly with the floods before Christmas.

In the garden of Burnbank, Hatton

In the garden of Burnbank, Hatton

There is always something to see on the banks of the Water of Cruden.  And by the way, Lily got home without too much mud on her tummy!

On the banks of the Water of Cruden

On the banks of the Water of Cruden

 

Spring Snow

When I drew the curtains this morning, what a surprise.   Snow!  But what an opportunity too, for some winter pictures of Hatton. As Lily and I walked up the Auchlethen road the light was wonderful – overcast skies with just a hint of sun breaking through the grey.   The sheep were interested in us and posed quite nicely.

Sheep on the Auchlen road

Sheep on the Auchlen road

Sheep on the Auchlethen road

Sheep on the Auchlethen road

 

My first daffodil of spring

My first daffodil of spring

And when I thought all was grey and white I spied a tiny hint of yellow on the verge.   My first Hatton daffodil.

Since taking pictures last week of the collapsed bridge I have decided to photograph all the bridges over the Water of Cruden.  There are more of them than you might think.   You will have to wait for later to see my efforts.  But to give you a taste, here is a picture of the Hatton bridge guarded over by the rooks. (Sounds a bit pretentious – I think of them as “craws”.)  You do have to be careful making your way to the shops sometimes, they may be waiting for you on the electricity wires.

 

Hatton Bridge

Hatton Bridge

Rookery nook

Rookery nook

Last  summer I took a great picture of the Water of Cruden.  So this morning I thought I would try to take the same view in winter.  By now the snow had started again, but I still like that view with the small clump of trees.

Water of Cruden at Hatton

Water of Cruden at Hatton

My favourite trees by the Water of Cruden

My favourite trees by the Water of Cruden

An of course teasels always make a great picture in the snow.

 

Teasels

Teasels

Up Helly Erroll!

Today’s cold, wet weather has made taking pictures difficult. What better time to remember the warm days of summer (Yes, we did have some!) and in particular that lovely evening on 18 August 2012 when “Vikings” and Scots marched down to Port Erroll Harbour to set fire to a longship. Today I have been editing the pictures which I took that night and reliving the experiences.

A "Viking" watches the lon gship burn.

A “Viking” watches the long ship burn.

In 1012 the Battle of Crochdane between the Scots and the Danes took place the sand dunes of Cruden Bay.  To mark the 1000th anniversary a series of events took place last summer, including the buring of the replica longship.

The dragon's head looks over the dunes at Cruden Bay.

The dragon’s head looks over the dunes at Cruden Bay.

A large crowd of people waited the arrival of the Vikings and the Scots who set about tossing their flaming torches into the replica longship which had been lovingly created by the Port Erroll Harbourmaster, Derek Thompson.   And  what a spectacular sight it was in the gathering dark.

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You can see a few  more pictures of that night on my website.

Cruden Bay looks peaceful now in the growing darkness.

Cruden Bay looks peaceful now in the growing darkness.

 

A bridge too far?

On the 23 December 2012 Hatton woke up to find flooding.  The Water of Cruden had overflowed its banks and flooded the area round about.   Water was rushing down the burn which flows past the Hatton Mill.  I took some quick video of the scene when I was out with the dog early that morning, including standing on the bridge on Hatton Farm Road, watching the water rushing below.    Little did I think that the structure of the bridge had been significantly damaged, including the water, gas and electricity mains which crossed it.  (Nor did the driver of the white car which you can see on the video casually driving past the Hatton Mill and over the bridge.

That morning we had our water cut off and a power cut too.  But worse was to come when the bridge was declared unsafe and closed.  In a few days a temporary foot bridge was erected to allow the people from  the north of the village to walk across and get to the main road, not to mention the shop, the school, the village hall, the doctors, the pub etc.   The only other way round was a 3 mile detour.

The temporary foodbrige can be seen beyond the collapsed road.

The temporary foodbrige can be seen beyond the collapsed road.

That was December – and it is only now, at the beginning of March that work is starting to place a temporary bridge to allow vehicles to cross.  I read in the local paper this week that it will be six weeks more until the temporary bridge is open.

The water undermined the road which subsequenly collapsed

The water undermined the road which subsequenly collapsed

News on the streets is that the Hatton shop has seen a marked down turn in trade as a result of the bridge collapse  and now a visit to the Hatton Waste Recycling Centre (aka the skips) to dispose of rubbish seems not worth the bother for those living on the south side of the village.

Hatton residents are waiting desperately for the bridge to open and the village be reunited.   It has taken 4 months for a temporary bridge.  How long for the permanent repair?

Lily the dog admires the work starting to replace the bridge

Lily the dog admires the work starting to replace the bridge

Snowdrops

Anyone driving past Cruden Old Church the other day might have seen a figure lying in the car park. Nothing to worry about: no one had suddenly taken ill. It was all in the cause of photography. I discovered that to see snowdrops at their best you had to get right down and look up at them. That’s quite hard when they grow only a few inches from the ground and hold their beautiful white and green heads down. It was a struggle getting my camera low enough to see them at their best. At times I held the camera upside down, but the most successful position was with me on my side and my cheek pressed on the ground. The result was well worth the effort, I think

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Cruden Old Church car park

Cruden Old Church car park

There seem to be snowdrops everywhere at this time of year, not just in the church car park. Wandering past the former church manse I saw a huge carpet of snowdrops in the garden.

In the garden of the old Mane at Cruden

In the garden of the old Mane at Cruden

And those brave enough to scramble up the banks of the burn below the church stables will find clumps of these lovely white flowers springing from the carpet of dead leaves.

On the bank below the church car park

On the bank below the church car park

It is not just in the countryside that the snowdrops are in bloom.  In Hatton they can be seeen under hedges, among the grass and undergrowth on verges, even on the bank near the Hatton Mill close to the devastation caused by the roadworks at the collapsed bridge.

Beside Stewart Cottages, Hatton

Beside Stewart Cottages, Hatton

An of course you will find them in gardens too.  If the driver who saw me in the car park at Cruden Old Church drove past my house in Hatton, he could be excused for thinking some terrible devistation had hit the area, for there on the garden path was another supine figure -this time with a close-up lesns to capture the little flower in all its glory.

In my garden

In my garden

With the snowdrops in full bloom, Spring must be on the way.

Walking to Crovie Farm

March certainly came in like a lamb this year. A third day of sunshine encouraged us to head out for another walk, heading a little further afield this time. The original plan had been to visit the RSPB Reserve at Troup Head, but since we had never visited the tiny seaside village of Crovie (pronounced Crivie) we ignored the brown RSPB signs and drove down the narrow road as far as we could and parked at the carpark and viewpoint overlooking the village.   High above the village we had spectacular views in the spring sunshine.

The village of Crovie

The village of Crovie

We had read you could walk to Troup Head from the village, but we had not read up carefully enough about how to do it.   In the end Mary, Lily and I had a wonderful walk from the village through Crove Farm high up on the cliffs where we encountered a pen of sheep awaiting transport.

Seep at Crovie Farm

Sheep at Crovie Farm

We rested up on the verge of the road listening to the wonderful sound of silence with the singing of larks on the edge of our hearing.  But it was not silent for long:  how big tractors are today!  A great monster pulling a trailer drove up to the sheep pen and took my photographic models away!

Remembering the  long walk back to the village and the long haul up the hill to the car park we decided to leave Troup Head for another day.

Aberdour Beach

But there was still time for another stop on the way home.   We had visited Aberdour beach nearly 40 years ago with friends who wanted water from St Drostan’s Well there.  They had been told the water was good for their baby who kept being sick.   Unfortunatley when we visited this time, the well was dry.

 

Aberlour beach

Aberdour beach

With the sun low in the sky we headed down to the beach – a magical place with shingle, and sea caves in the sandstone cliffs. We marked it down as a great place to bring the grandchidren the next time they visit us.

I had a wonderful time with my camera trying to catch the spirit of the place with the waves crashing on the shingle and a mystrious mist thrown up by the spray, partly clouding the distant rocks.   Mary found some great pieces of sea glass while Lily enjoyed the more leisurly explore of the tideline – much easier walking than up the steep paths at Crovie.

 

February Sunshine

We don’t expect to have lovely sunny days in February but we have this week.   A crisp frosty morming with bright blues skies and the sun inviting us out to enjoy a walk.  So off we went, Mary, Lily and me, to walk along the banks of the River Ythan at Newburgh in the Forvie Sands Nature Reserve, Then through the dunes to the beach for a winter picnic. From there it as back to the car  via the old village buried in the sand dunes.   A wonderful day!

Mary and Lily on the beach at Forvie

Mary and Lily on the beach at Forvie