Monday, 2 August 2010

March Stones 16 to 20 ABD - Murtle Den and Westfield

Time to go off-road in search of more March Stones. Having skulked around Cults and Bieldside, becoming alienated with suburban ennui in search of stones 12 to 15, we were glad to get off the beaten track in search of those stones which are in undeveloped areas.

Here's the histobunk bit:
The March Stones mark the boundaries of the 'Freedom Lands of Aberdeen'. It is said that once Robert the Bruce had cleared the royal forests surrounding the city of all the interesting and valuable/tasty game, having no further use for the hunting grounds, he 'gifted' them to the Burghers of Aberdeen. For a yearly rent. The Leopard Magazine will tell you more about this. Read it here.

If you're going to go looking for these stones 16 to 20, you do so at your own risk. You will get wet and dirty, your feet will sink into bogs, you will tear your clothes (and possibly your skin) on barbed wire. You will find yourself clambering over consumption dykes and rubble cairns and you will become mentally and physically exhausted from the search. A moderate level of fitness (at least) is required.

Having said all that, you will gain a sense of achievement, and see some of the more ancient 'saucer-marked' stones. So bone up on the Scottish outdoor access code (PDF), get on some sturdy shoes and old clothes and off you go! We used XC hardtail mountain bikes to access some of the sites. Be warned, they are totally inaccessible by car. Do not try.

We were given a bum steer by the council's leaflet "Aberdeen's March Stones Trail" (PDF) with regard to the location for access to stone 16 ABD. So, ignore the leaflet and use an Ordnance Survey map (Explorer Sheet 406) instead, where the location is accurately plotted and best access to it is obvious. Contractors were digging a swimming pool(!) in the garden of the large house closest to the access to the boggy ground where the stone lies, so we had a word with them, just so they knew we weren't up to anything nefarious. The gaffer knew what we were on about, and was delighted to wish us good luck on our search.

We got lucky. We didn't have to search the boggy ground where the stone lies at all, we walked directly to it. Just luck.

The ABD marked stone sits adjacent to a 'saucer-marked' stone. These are 'first generation' boundary markers - natural features such burns, glacial erratic stones and outcrops were supplemented by cairns. The stone which survives next to the 16 ABD marker is one of these erratics, and has been marked with a 'saucer'. Some archaeologists speculate that the 'saucer' would have been filled with lead, and then the city's seal impressed into the lead.

The saucer is full of moss.

Stone 17 ABD is in an area full of granite rubble, at the confluence of two burns. Very boggy. Very difficult to access. Again, we were lucky to find the stone quickly.

Stone 18 ABD. Inside a field of barley, close to the den of the Murtle Burn. Sharp eyes required to spot the location.

It's close to the western end of this consumption dyke.

Having the saucer stone next to the ABD marked stone, the location is accurately marked on the Ordnance Survey map.

The site had been recently visited. The crop immediately around the stone had been tramped flat in an anti-clockwise direction all round the site. And the saucer-hole was filled with a buff-coloured chalk-like substance.

What's that all about, then?

Stones 19 ABD and 20 ABD are on the southern boundaries of fields immediately south of Westfield Lodge.

Westfield Lodge is weird.

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