Monthly Archives: April 2013

Daffodil time

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My grandson Blair has written a little poem which I woud like to share with you.

Dancing daffodils,
After the rain,
Flowers are growing,
Farmer throw the seeds,
Oh dear,
Don’t trample some flowers,
I have an idea,
Love YOU.

Blair, the poet says Hi in a break from throwing stones into the sea at Whinnyfold

Blair, the poet says Hi in a break from throwing stones into the sea at Whinnyfold

That was enough to send me out to the garden with a water spray and my camera.   I had not been so close up and person with flowers since I photographed the snowdrops!

The colour is wonderful and the daffodils are everywhere.   Here are just a few of the  pictures of daffodils in Cruden Country which I took one April morning.

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Besie Mill Cottages, Hatton

Beside Mill Cottages, Hatton

Beside Mill Cottages, Hatton

Beside Mill Cottages, Hatton

The car park at Hatton Village Hall.

The car park at Hatton Village Hall.

In the field beside Park View, Hatton

In the field beside Park View, Hatton

In the field beside Park View, Hatton

In the field beside Park View, Hatton

On the road to the skips, Hatton

On the road to the skips, Hatton

A little clup of daffodils have survived all the construction work on the new bridge at Hatton

A little clup of daffodils has survived all the construction work on the new bridge at Hatton

 

Beside the Water of Cruden, looking towards the Hatton bridge.

Beside the Water of Cruden, looking towards the Hatton bridge.

 

By the Water of Cruden, Hatton

By the Water of Cruden, Hatton

Peeping through a fence on the auchlethen Road, Hatton

Peeping through a fence on the Auchlethen Road, Hatton

Looking down to Hatton from the Auchlethen ROAD

Looking down to Hatton from the Auchlethen road

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By the Water of Cruden at Port Erroll

 

On the road from Slains Castle down into Cruden Bay

On the road from Slains Castle down into Cruden Bay

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Early morning sun at the Bullers of Buchan car park

 

Whinnyfold

Whinnyfold

Moss Croft, where my father was born.

Moss Croft, where my father was born (Off the Bogbrae to Mains of Leask road)

And by the way, there is another daffodil poem by that other poet, but I like Blair’s one better.   But perhaps I am prejeudiced?

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

William Wordsworth

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A missing burn

The Water of Cruden flows on to enter the sea beaide Port Erroll Harbour

The Water of Cruden flows on to enter the sea beaide Port Erroll Harbour

As I have been exploring the area round Cruden Bay, one question keeps coming into my mind:  did the Water of Cruden always flow into the sea between the beach and the harbour?  Some research with old Ordnance Survey maps (fortunately available on line at the National Library of Scotland Website) always shows the burn flowing along its current line under the Ladies’ Bridge and into the bay.

Is this the Gask burn?  You can see the dillapidated bridge described by Hisgoric Scotland.

Is this the Gask burn? You can see the dillapidated bridge described by Historic Scotland.

The question first occurred to me when I was photographing the bridges which cross the Water of Cruden.  I came across a reference in The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical (edited by Francis H. Groome (1882 to 1885)).  Two burns feeding the Water of Cruden are mentioned:  the Burns of Lacca and Gask.  I have identified Lacca (which is now marked Laeca on the maps) joining the Water of Cruden near Midmill.   But I can find no reference to the Gask burn.  Might the burn which flows through the Castle Woods and down through the gorge to the sea, a little way to the north of Port Erroll harbour be the missing burn?   It certainly flows through Gask, a little to the north-east of Longhaven.   As it flows towards the sea, it has carved a deep gorge into the rocks between the Donnons and the flat cliff top area leading to Port Erroll.  It occurred to me that such a significant feature really ought to have a named burn flowing through it.

Old Water Moo'

Old Water Moo’

An examination of the large scale OS maps told me the gorge did have a name:  Old Water Moo’.  Might the Water of Cruden once have flowed into to the sea through this gorge? The reference to “Old Water Moo'” might indicate a  “former” mouth.  It would not take much to divert the burn at the point where it passes the Congregational Church, through the car park – and you are there!   But what about proof?

A possible route for the Water of Cruden - past what is now the Congregational Church and on through the car park beyond.

A possible route for the Water of Cruden – past what is now the Congregational Church and on through the car park beyond.

Well here is my evidence.

First.  Historic Scotland lists the bridge at Castle Road, at Bridge House (B Listed Building) in these words:

SLAINS CASTLE DRIVE, BRIDGE OVER WATER OF CRUDEN AT BRIDGE HOUSE – Early 18th century or possibly earlier. Long approaches with 4 arched recesses each side on S. Single arch with dressed and chamfered voussoirs. Coursed granite rubble. In poor condition. Parapet at N. decayed.

Just in case you did not know what a voussoir is!

Just in case you did not know what a voussoir is!

The burn crossed by the bridge is certainly not the Water of Cruden, but did this burn once flow into it?

Second:  Rev Alexander Cock, writing in the First Statistical Account (1791-99) said:

If the small brook previously mentioned [Water of Cruden] could be carried into the sea at Ward [the area now called Port Erroll] and a harbour made out, that could receive small vessels which might lie in safety at all seasons (of which there appears to be the highest degree of probability) a  flourishing village would be the certain consequence………were the Earl of Errol to employ a small sum annually in carrying forward such improvements as the situation of the parish points out……….he would not only have the glory of improving and beautifying a large tract of country but the satisfaction of being proprietor of one of the finest pieces of property in the North of Scotland.

So it seems that the main flow of the Water of Cruden up to the 1790s did not follow the present route into the bay.

Clearly this matter was very much in Mr Cock’s mind as he penned his article for the Statistical Account.   He comes back to the same subject again:

It appears very probable that a tolerable harbour could be made out at Ward………..If a small brook which passes along the S. end of the Earl of Errol’s gardens were introduced into the sea at the end of the beach, next the Ward there is every reason to believe that a very safe landing place could be made for boats or larger vessels and perhaps it might be the means of forming a very valuable salmon fishing.

(University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow. (1999) The Statistical Accounts of Scotland 1791-1799. Available from: http://edina.ac.uk/statacc/ )

1868 OS 25 inch plan showing the Casgle Woods, the bridge and the akked garden.

1868 OS 25 inch plan showing the Castle Woods, the bridge and the walled garden.

The walled garden is there, and where the burn flows through the woods and under the bridge, the old maps indicate gardens too. (Incidentally I love the arched bridge features at either end of the Garden wall through which flows the burn. A most unusual arrangement.)

Looking under the bridge near Bridge House.  You can see the arch in the Walled Garden wall through which the burn flows.

Looking under the bridge near Bridge House. You can see the arch in the Walled Garden wall through which the burn flows.

This must be what Mr Cock is talking about. The south end of the garden would put it about where the Port Erroll car park now stands. I can imagine the Water of Cruden turning to the left about where the Congregational Church is now situated, being joined by the Gask burn which flowed through the garden, and from there on to the sea at the Old Water Moo’.

The burn flows out of the south side of the walled grden

The burn flows out of the south side of the walled grden

The present Port Erroll Harbour was built with a contribution of £14,000 from William Harry Hay the 19th Earl of Erroll in 1875.  Clearly the pleas of Mr Cock were heard, although it was nearly a hundred years for the harbour to be completed.  [Read more about the Port Erroll Harbour]  I am assuming that at some time in the early part of the 19th Century the Water of Cruden was rerouted.

Port Erroll Harbour

Port Erroll Harbour

Third:  the 1868 and 1899 surveys of the area by the Ordnance Survey show the burn flowing along its present route.  This gives us 1868 as the cut off date.

1820 Map showing the old route of the Water of Cruden

1820 Map showing the old route of the Water of Cruden

However an earlier map (James Robertson, Topographical and Military Map of the Counties of Aberdeenshire Banffshire and Kincardineshire 1822) tells a different story.  The main channel of the Water of Cruden flows out through the Old Water Moo’;  the Gask Burn joins it. A small stream is shown flowing out of the Water of Cruden and on to the sands along the current route.  Thomson’s Map of 1820 shows the same.  Just what Mr Cock described.

(All the old maps I consulted are available on the National Library of Scotland Website.)

1822 Map showing the Water of Cruden entering the sea at the Old Water Moo'

1822 Map showing the Water of Cruden entering the sea at the Old Water Moo’

So have I found the missing Gask Burn?  Did the Water of Cruden once flow through what is now the car park and out to the sea a Old Water Moo’?  Did some significant civil engineering take place in the early part of the 19th Century  (before 1820) to reroute the Water of Cruden and help the eventual development of Port Erroll Harbour?   I am not able to find any direct reference to this, but I am fairly sure of my conclusion from an examination of the evidence.

Did the Wagter of Cruden once turn left here and flow through what is now the car park?

Did the Water of Cruden once turn left here and flow through what is now the car park?

Did the Water of Cruden once flow through the car park to join the Gask Burn in the trees?

Did the Water of Cruden once flow through the car park to join the Gask Burn in the trees?

Is this perhaps the line that once taken by the Water of Cruden?  You can see a blue car parked in the car park at the end of the path/

Is this perhaps the line that once taken by the Water of Cruden? You can see a blue car parked in the car park at the end of the path.

Can anyone tell me more?   Am I right or is there is a different story to tell?   I do hope that someone has some information, or is able to point me to someone who knows the answer.

All shapes and sizes

Now that the temporary bridge is open you can see all shapes and sizes of vehicles crossing.  How wonderful it is to be able to drive between Main Street and the Hatton Farm area again.

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The temporary foot-bridge is now away.  The scaffolders completed the work this afternoon

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The boys with the black stuff

IMG_5579There is something primal about hot black asphalt, watching as the boys with the black stuff lay down the roadway amidst clouds of smoke and the all-pervasive smell of hot tar.

IMG_5576There is an added air of excitement in Hatton tonight as folk begin to believe that the bridge will soon open.

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As I watched the workmen for a while this morning – yes, there still is something of the little boy in me, fascinated at the tar laying! –  I thought what a pale imitation was the little road roller which they were using.  I thought back to the great big steaming, smoking monsters of my youth.  Steam rollers were something to behold!.   They were so big – or so it seemed in those days.  The noise was awesome;  the big flywheel spinning round, and the great beast spewing smoke out through its mighty lum.  Was there not always a bucket and a shovel handing at the back?  Maybe the modern rollers are easier to use, but they don’t have the magic of the monsters of my youth.

IMG_5569I remember that we juvenine spectators always seemed to get tar on our clothes or our bodies somewhere, much to the displeasure of our mothers.   Butter seemed to be the magic potion to remove tar, but I remember a lot of scrubbing too.

I kept well back this morning and I returned home free of tar!IMG_5574

The Bridge – a closer look

As we crossed over the temporary footbridge beside the Hatton Inn last night,  Mary commented on how strange it was that the lovely little burn flowing beneath us could have brought the devastation that it did.  How could a such a small stream tear away the structures of the road and the bridge?  But it did.

IMG_0470My mind went back to a time when we were driving through the Negev desert in Israel, heading south from the Dead Sea.   How surprised I was to to see warning signs for floods.

It is hard to believe this is a flood rs area.

It is hard to believe this is a flood risk area.

The landscape was parched dry, the sun was blazing  down and it was only an air-conditioned car that made it tolerable for pale skinned Scots like us.

Driving in the Negev desert.

Driving in the Negev desert.

And it was not just the familiar triangular warning road signs, but there were poles at the side of the road as it crossed the bone dry wadis, like the snow poles we see in Scotland.   If the water is up to this level – don’t drive any further!   But there was no water in sight.

But water can come very quickly and when it does rain, the dried up watercourses can become raging torrents very, very quickly.   I saw it for myself in Oman some years later when Tropical Cyclone Gonu struck and large parts of the city of Muscat were damaged and many roads in the countryside were washed away by the flood waters.   It is the flood waters, even in dry desert places that do the damage.

And you thought Hatton had probems with a bridge!   The floods washed away the road bridge along the sea front in Muscayt, Oman.

And you thought Hatton had problems with a bridge! The floods washed away the road bridge along the sea front in Muscat, Oman.

Cycrone Gonu brought floods which  caused a great deal of destruction in Oamn.

Cycrone Gonu brought floods which caused a great deal of destruction in Oman

During the floods in Muscat, it was a little difficult to get to McDonalds.

During the floods in Muscat, it was a little difficult to get to McDonalds.

No one can accuse Hatton of being a dry desert land, but our little burn rose very quickly that night and the damage was done.

By the way, does anyone know what that little burn is called?   It is not marked on the maps and I have not heard anyone using a name.  Do tell me if you know its name.  If it does not have a name, then perhaps we should give it one in honour of all the work that has ensued from the damage of that December night.   Perhaps I will write later with some suggestions for a name.

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With the work on the Bailey bridge progressing, I thought it was time to take a closer look at the intricate structure that soon will be conveying vehicles and pedestrians into the Hatton Farm area.

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Spring clean for Hatton

Congratulations to HARA for organising the Litterpick this morning.   Parts of Hatton have been looking quite messy recently, but now the spring clean has taken place and bags of bottles, cans, carrier bags and general litter – not to mention a few bikes, a satellite aerial and an old vacuum cleaner are now safely deposited where they should be.IMG_0457

Well done to the volunteers who turned out and to those who provided the fine pieces and soup.IMG_0410

 

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Having drawn attention to the mess in the Hatton Hall car park in a previous Blog (21 March 2013:  Scotland has a litter problem) I was delighted to volunteer myself and  thoroughly enjoyed my morning in the lovely spring sunshine.  And I have promised myself that I will not wait for the next HARA Litterpick before I stop and pick up that can or bag that is lying beside the road as I pass by.  I hope others will do the same.

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There was quite a mess in the garden in front of Mill Cottages

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A whole bag of rubbish gathered from in front of Mill Cottages and the Old Smiddy.  Al my own work!!!!

CLICK HERE if you would like to see a few more pictures of the Hatton Litterpick,

 

Cliff top walks and stones to throw.

IMG_0362xWhinnyfold is a wonderful spot.  Lily and I went for a walk south of the village along the narrow cliff top path.   I had read that plans are in hand to upgrade this path from Whinnyfold to Colieston so I thought I would have a look at the current condition of the path.

The first problem was how to find the start of the path.  In the end I eventually found an old post with a worn arrow pointing between some of the houses in the right general direction.   Before long we found a signpost nailed in a most unusual way, but clearly confirming we were on the right path.

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The sign points out the path to Whinnyfold

Work has obviously already been going on because there is a new gate and bridge made out of sleepers.   However further on I spotted two styles, indicating a route across a field.   But there was no fence round the field, so the stiles looked rather lonely!

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The lonely style

 

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Even although the sky was grey and the wind was blowing, the views down to the sea were spectacular with the waves crashing on the rocks and the occasional fulmar soaring up and eyeing us suspiciously.  I really must come here again when the sky is blue and see if I can get some pictures that celebrate the colour of cliffs and sea and sky.  As with all these seascape pictures I will have to make sure that in tide is in, the sun is in the right place,and it is best with a strong wind to whip up the waves.   But that is for the future, and I may even be able to walk on the renovated path.IMG_0378x

My grandsons, Blair and Lochlann love Whinnyfold too.  Not for them a cliff top walk.   No, they love to go down the zig-zag cliff path to the stony beach below and spend hours throwing stones.

 

This is their ideal beach.  And Lily seems to like it too, barking at the splashes when the stones hit the water.

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Lily leads the way down the zig-zag path to the beach

 

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Lochlann plans his next throw while Lily waits expectantly

 

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Blair is ready to throw his stone

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Post boxes can be wonderful photographic subjects.  I am sure that this little box at the entrance toWhinyfold has been photographed thousands of times.   A lovely splash of colour on a grey day.

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On my way back to Hatton I stopped at Bridgend Farm where the lambs agreed to pose for me.

IMG_0352xThough I am not so sure that the ewe was so happy!

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The bridge is here!

Hatton residents have been wondering when the next stage of the bridge building would happen.  There does not seem to have been much action on the site for the past few days.  But today is the day!   From my garden I saw the jib of the enormous green crane towering over the houses in Rowan Terrace and I knew that things were actually happening at last.

With my camera in hand – and ignoring the hail showers –  I grabbed a few pictures this afternoon of the workers dropping the side-panels of the Bailey Bridge into place over the burn.  Quite fascinating to watch – a bit like an over-grown version of  the Meccano set which I used to enjoy when I was a boy.

The next stage has started.

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Catching the jump

IMG_0099xI don’t know what it is called, but it is certainly quite spectacular to watch – jumping on a bike, that is. I was enjoying the lovely spring sushine, trying to take yet another picture of my favourite trees in the field beside the Water of Cruden, near Hatton Mill.  All the bridge earth-works were behind me and I was trying to frame the Uppermill wind turbine in the space between the trees and  get a picture of the winter skeleton branches.

IMG_0088x1000I looked over to my right and saw Luke’s head suddenly appear above the bushes, then disappear just as quickly.  Now there was a photo opportunity!   He was glad to cooperate and I managed a few good shots as he made excelent use of the skateboard ramps beside the all-weather pitches.  The fence may be broken a bit and there is some graffiti on the ramps but it all gave the feeling of being “urban”, right there in the middle of Hatton.

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And Luke was good, able to pull off the jumps for my camera and to get himelf  in just the right postion.   I don’t know how he does it.  Thanks Luke!

There are other jumpers I have been trying to photograph on my daily walks, but they are not as cooperative as Luke.  I have been watching the lambs in the field behind the Hatton shop.  I have tried to get them to jump for me, as I waited patiently beside the fence on the Auchlethen road.   But no luck so far.  But then lambs don’t have a Facebook site to post their photographs on, like Luke!

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The lambs are more interested in dinner than posing for the camera

 

 

Slains Castle Churchill connection

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Slains Castle perches on top of the cliffs

Without doubt one of the most photographed sites in Cruden Country is Slains Castle.  Standing there, mysterious and majestic on the very edge of the pink granite cliffs, it is a must for any  landscape photographer.   I am no exception, and two of my pictures of the castle appear in this year’s Cruden Country Calendar.

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Slains Castle

But it is not just the dramatic location that draws people to Slains Castle.   There is the association with Bram Stoker and Dracula. Stoker spent time at Cruden Bay in 1895 as he was writing Dracula and may have used the castle as the inspiration for the vampires abode.  [See the article article in Cruden Community Website]   Associations with vampires always draws people!

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Were the walls of the castle the inspiration for the scene in Dracula where the Vampire crawls down his castle wall by night?

Now I read in today’s P&J that Winston Churchill spent a few days at the castle in 1912 just 3 weeks before his marriage to Clementine Hozier:

On 24 August, just three weeks before his wedding, Churchill took the extraordinary decision to leave his fiancée in London to attend to the nuptial preparations while he sought to soothe the broken heart of his former flame (Violet Asquith, the daughter of the prime minister, Herbert Asquith). He boarded the train at King’s Cross for the 14-hour train journey to Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire, where the prime minister and his family had rented Slains Castle from        the Earl of Erroll. (Stephen McGinity writing in the Scotsman 21 March 2013)

Having discovered a little about the railway which came to Cruden Bay and how the rich and the famous in the days gone by would make the journey to Cruden Bay for the seaside and the golf, it was wonderful to have a record of that journey made by no less than Winston Churchill, not to mention Herbet Asquith,  the prime minister and his family.   There is even an account of Winston and Violet playing a round of golf at Cruden Bay. no doubt admiring the spectacular views of the castle beyond.

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Under the shadow of Slains Castle, modern-day golfers are pictured at Cruden Bay Golf Course where in 1912 Winston and Violet played golf.

For readers of Gothic romantic fiction, what better story could there be than the love-lorn  Violet missing among the cliffs, as her old flame  returns to London to his wedding.  The headline in today’s Daily Mail tells it all:   PM’s daughter ‘jumped off a cliff’ after being ditched by Churchill: Tempestuous love triangle stayed a family secret for 100 years

I suspect Cruden Bay and Slains Castle will see a few more visitors this summer when they read this latest revelation about this incident, revealed in the book just published by Michael Shelden  (a professor at Indiana State University):  “Young Titan: The Making Of Winston Churchill” (Simon & Schuster)