Monthly Archives: August 2016

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

A new look

It is at least a couple of years since the Hatton field has been cut.  Last year I recall a path was cut along the roadside, but this year Philip has gone the whole hog and cut all the wild growing grass in the field.  As I was walking along the roadside verge with the dogs, I gave him a wave as he drove past in his tractor cutting the grass – we did not want to get in his way in the field.

Lost among the June buttercups

Lost among the June buttercups

How different the field now looks and how much more pleasant for dogs with little legs!  They enjoyed a run tonight, and did not get lost in the jungle of long grass and other plants.   It will make winter dog walks easier, and I am sure come spring, the wealth of wild flowers will reappear.

A different looking field in late August

A different looking field in late August

A castle in the wind

The best-laid schemes of mice and men, gang aft agley.  So wrote Robert Burns in his poem To a Mouse.  As for mice, so for photographers it would seem.  It had been blowing a gale all night, but now the sun was out.  Good conditions I hoped for my much awaited photograph of Buchanness Lighthouse in a storm.  But when I got to Boddam, the sea was calm, despite the strong wind blowing from the north west.  Out to sea there were waves in evidence, but here by the shore, the island was sheltered.   No waves breaking over the rocks.  I will have to await another day with the wind from the east, perhaps.

No waves, despite the wind blowing Lily's ear.

No waves, despite the wind blowing Lily’s ear.

But the day was too good to miss, so the dogs and I went to explore the ruins of Boddam Castle, whose silhouette I have often seen from the main road.

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I discovered there was a little car park, and a small board telling about the history of the castle.  It was built by the Keiths of Ludquharn in the late 16th century on a promontory, protected by two deep gullies on either side.  There is not much left of the old stronghold, just a gable end with arch and window, and the low remains of some walls.

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But the sunshine, the clouds and the yellow tansies made for good photographs.  And the dogs loved the romp along the path, and for Poppy at least, a scamper over stones and walls.  Indeed they were both keen to follow the path down to the shore, but the steep slope was not for me in the strong wind, so we turned, to go back to the car.  I am already planning more photographs here, when the light is right.

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About round towers

There are special places in the world that have a particular spiritual feeling to them, Iona is one and if I were to think hard I could probably list a few more.  Glenadlough in County Wicklow in Ireland is one of these. It was way back in 2004 when I visited this ancient site, with its two loughs, the place where St Kevin founded his monastery in the 6th Century. We spent a wonderful afternoon touring the site, guided by an expert who told us the stories of St Kevin and helped us to see Glendlough in all its spiritual splendour, in a wooded valley in the Wicklow Hills.

The round rower at Glendalough

The round rower at Glendalough

I was looking back over some old photographs this morning and came across the picture of the round tower at Glendalough, not that ancient round towers are all that unusual in Ireland – there are about a hundred of them.  Indeed the little St Kevin’s church nearby boasts its own round tower.  These towers where bell towers, where the monks in days gone by would ring their hand bells to summon the  brothers to prayer.  They may well have been used too for storage of treasures, and for protection in violent times.

The Church of St Kevin, Glendalough

The Church of St Kevin, Glendalough

When I took this picture I had another round tower very much in my mind.  Scotland has but two ancient round towers, one in Brechin and the other in Abernethy in Fife.  I recall being told about this during my school days in Brechin where our Round Tower was a familiar sight in the Cathedral City, I could even see it from the front door of my Granny’s house, and indeed read the time on the clock on the adjacent church tower with an old pair of binoculars she had.

Brechin Cathedral and Round Tower

Brechin Cathedral and Round Tower

We were told about the history of the tower, built about 1000 AD, and used as a place of look-out and refuge during the time of Viking raids on the east coast of Scotland.  I now read that this tradition is doubted by the experts who say that the tower would not provide much safety, indeed a fire set by raiders at the wooden door would soon let smoke fill the tower like a chimney and drive these ancient Brechiners out.  However, the very narrow door which was the only access is set well up above ground level and would seem to have been built for defence.

Whatever the experts say, a good story is a good story and a little boy, or indeed an old man can picture the Culdee Monks who founded the religious site at Brechin, peering out from the tower, up the line of the River South Esk towards Montrose Basin some five or six miles away, watching for the sails of the longships and the invading Norsemen.  The Vikings were certainly seen as a threat in Angus, with King William the Lion causing the Red Castle to be build in the late 12th Century to repel Viking raids at the sandy beach at Lunan Bay.

I have never visited the Abernethy tower.  I must do that some day.  However, I recall seeing a round tower in Dunfermline, close by the route we used to take when heading from Dollar to Edinburgh, avoiding the congested town centre.  I think I assumed that this was the second round tower, but did not give it much thought.  While thinking about this piece, I looked it up and found out that it is not an ancient round tower at all, but was built just a little over a hundred years ago at St Leonard’s Church in Dunfermline, but very much inspired by the ancient round towers.

 

Close encounters of the crustacean kind

Our visit to the beach at Whinnyfold took on an entirely new dimension the other day.  When I take the grandchildren there, it is usually to throw stones.  (How they love to do that!)   But Friday resulted in a close encounter of the crustacean kind, thanks to the young man who was delighted to show the grandchildren a big lobster which he had caught in his creel.

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We watched as he prepared his boat which was hauled up on the shingle, and set off to check his creels ,under the watchful eye the seal who makes a regular appearance when we go down there.  Seals love to watch children;  but it seems that the seal was interested in the boat too.

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A little while later he was back on shore and was delighted to show off his catch to the grandchildren, indeed offering them the opportunity to pick up the lobster, after he had safely secured its claws with rubber bands.   Blair was brave enough to have this close encounter.  I am sure he will remember the experience.  He did borrow a glove for the occasion, not that gloves are needed to handle lobsters, we were told.  No, it was protection for the boatman from any jellyfish which may have attached themselves to the rope from creel as he hauled it up into the boat.

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Disappointment at Spey Bay

As we drove down the road from Fochabers towards Spey Bay we tried to remember when last we had visited here.  It was certainly when we were living in Buckie in the 1970s.  It was a place we loved to visit for the vast beach of shingle and of course the river Spey as it flowed into the Moray Firth.

Spey Bay Beach in the 1970s

Spey Bay Beach in the 1970s

We would bring the children here when they were very young.  I remember one glorious summer afternoon watching the salmon fishermen with their drag nets working in the river.   This gave the name to the little community at the end of the road, beside the ice houses Tugnet.

Salmon fishermen at the mouth of the River Spey in the 1970s

Salmon fishermen at the mouth of the River Spey in the 1970s

Mouth of the River Spey July 2016

Mouth of the River Spey July 2016

Other memories we shared were of an ice cream stop on a Christian Aid sponsored walk from Fochabers to Buckie, thanks to Gordon McKay who brought the ice cream in his boat’s van from Buckie.  Then there was the start of the walk which I made with the Buckie ministers in the early 1980s, starting at Spey Bay and ending up at Aberlour.

At the Scottish Dolphin Centre, Spey Bay

At the Scottish Dolphin Centre, Spey Bay

Spey Bay, however is now very much on the tourist route, thanks to the Scottish Dolphin Centre.  How different it was when we drove up to the ice house and found that the car park full, people everywhere, and we had to park on the verge.  What a disappointment it was, when I was expecting the quiet little place of my distant memories.

Traffic jam at Spey Bay

Traffic jam at Spey Bay

I have dug out a  few old slides of these early days, and scanned them in.  The colour is not great, and they are a bit messy and dusty, but they have revived my memories of the old days at Spey Bay.

Looking towards Buckie and the Bin Hill, July 2016

Looking towards Buckie and the Bin Hill, July 2016