Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Sea kale at Sandhaven

Sea Kale (Crambe Maritima) This striking plant is over 1 metre in diameter.
A solitary monstrous sea kale plant growing in the pebbles on Sandhaven shore. The round seed heads are held above the fleshy leaves, typical of shore plants in being thick, glaucous and bluish-green.  Sea kale, now in decline, is thought to have been the ancestor of cultivated kale and in the 19th century the blanched roots were considered to be a great delicacy. It is said to have been cultivated in Pennan and elsewhere.

The leaves are rapidly being devoured by gorging caterpillars

Sunday, 9 August 2015

New Aberdour - evolving flora

New Aberdour Shore has a shingle beach which provides a habitat for the beautiful oyster plant (Mertensia maritima). A small colony shifts about annually at the west end of the beach. The prostrate bluish grey leaves always reappear each year in  a slightly different position at the top of the beach and are followed by exquisite  flowers - pink at first then turning to blue. The lovely Grass of Parnassus grows in damp places at the eastern end of the bay. It was at Aberdour that in 1840 the first example in the Aberdeenshire of the now ubiquitous Pineapple Weed, (Matricaria matricariodes) a native of north east Asia,  was first recorded. It was thought to have arrived in the NE in a consignment of animal feed, by 1890 it was also growing at Pitsligo Castle and in Pitullie and by 1901 was said to be spreading from the seaports in 5 parishes.

There were a few meadow brown butterflies in the  long grass above the beach.
Delicate blue harebells and hawkweed at the dyke side between the mill and the village - flowers which along with the distant ripening barley fields signal the turning of the year.
In the middle of the  junction of the roads to Aberdour beach and  Pennan  a triangle of waste land has been sown with a 'wild' flower mix and provides a rich profusion of colourful flowers. Sadly in the 15 minutes or so that it took to photograph the patch not a single butterfly visited them.

The mix includes such gems as Corncockle -(Agrstemma githago), Maiden Pink ( Dianthus deltoides) on the extreme left of the picture, Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) and Flax (Linum usitatissimum) all of which are described by Welch as rare, 'probably introduced'.There are also field poppies and a garden form of Toadflax
It will be interesting to see if these species survive and reoccur in the future.


Flax rarely occurs locally but is a relic of the once important linen trade in the area.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Ythsie: Prop and Stone Circle

The curious  Prop of Ythsie, a sort of stone hybrid  between a giant chess piece and a giant pepper mill, situated about a mile to the west of Tarves, is a conspicuous landmark for miles around. I first paid attention to it when walking the Formartine and Buchan Way. 

The Prop is approached by a clear but fairly uninspiring footpath leading from a car park signed from the Tarves to Pitmedden road (B999). After muddily passing through some trees the track follows  field margins and there is a fairly steep ascent towards the Prop. The upper sections of the track are lined with dog roses, hawthorn  and enormous spear thistles. The bluebells which betoken the turning point of the year are just starting to flower.

The red granite Prop was built in 1861 by the grateful tenants of the Haddo Estate in commemoration of George Hamilton Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen. A Tory peer, Hamilton Gordon served as Prime Minister from 1852 until his resignation in 1855 over the involvement of Britain in the Crimean War. He was said to have been instrumental in persuading Queen Victoria to buy Balmoral.

There are spectacular views from the Prop, here Tarves nestles in rolling fields with Bennachie in the distance.

The Prop viewed through Scots pines near South Ythsie stone circle.
South Ythsie stone circle is situated about half a mile to the south of the Prop in low lying land on the opposite side of the B999 - an area known as Chapel Fauld, possibly alluding to the old belief that such monuments were 'Druid Temples'. Missing a turning in the track on the way down from the Prop serendipitously led us to a sign pointing to the circle.
This small circle consists of six stones on a raised circular platform, at this time of year partly concealed by long grasses. The surrounding fields form peaceful amphitheatre round the circle.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Saturday, 4 April 2015

'And these also are Spring'

A huddle of snails still hibernating in the crevices of  a south facing dyke
The bright ribbon of dykeside whins 
Clumps of daffodils
The first flowers of coltsfoot

Celandines reflecting the sunlight
The strange mysterious flowers of butterbur

And the gradual greening of Pitfour

Friday, 3 April 2015

Old St Peter's Kirkyard Peterhead

The kirkyard is situated on a steep slope overlooking Peterhead Bay. It is dominated by the bell tower, seen here behind the remains of the chancel of the mediaeval St Peter's Church.

The chancel arch and fragments of the walls are all that remains of the early church of St Peter's which is thought to date from as early as the 13th century. It was demolished around 1806 when it was found to be suffering from subsidence and the present St Peter's Parish Church was built.

 The western bell tower was a later addition - probably dating from about 1647 and has been carefully maintained. During the 19th century it was used as a watch tower by relatives of the recently deceased who guarded their graves against 'resurrectionists'. These were frequently medical students or professional grave robbers who raided graves in order to steal fresh corpses which were used for dissection. 

Writing in  'A History of Peterhead' Findlay chillingly describes how,  'the relatives of the dead mounted guard over newly buried bodies, and many times at the dead of night has the frenzied clangour of the old bell awakened the inhabitants  of the town to tell them that the grave openers were at their horrible work again.'  

There is  a great variety of interesting graves spanning several centuries and reflecting changing attitudes to death and human significance as well as the occupations and aspirations of the inhabitants of Peterhead. Several of the stones commemorate whaling and fishing families, soldiers and farmers,

A beautifully carved gravestone dating from 1814,  a reminder of the fragility of childhood before the advent of immunisation and antibiotics.

Imposing Victorian stones reflected the status of the deceased.

 An usual disc shaped stone - unfortunately badly eroded.

Amongst the more usual fish curers, merchants and farmers is this tinsmith.

The war memorial is at the bottom of the kirkyard

Monday, 22 December 2014

Hope, Inverallochy's resident dolphin

 Hope the dolphin, designed by marine biologist Alice Doyle as part of Aberdeen's recent Wild Dolphins charity project has taken up residence on  a drying green near Inverallochy Golf Course. Inspired by the beauty of the scenery and wildlife of the North East, Hope is currently seasonably bedecked in Christmas fairy lights as he looks out over the stormy North Sea.