Wednesday, 18 August 2010

March Stones 21 to 25 ABD - Beans Hill and Silver Burn - The Bypass Lands

Continuing our exploration of the border of the medieval burgh of Aberdeen "The Marches" (march=border) we find ourselves at Beans Hill, between Countesswells and Peterculter. The border is marked by 67 'March Stones'

There's plenty information available online about the March Stones. Aberdeen City Council have a leaflet which details a couple of walking trails. You can download a PDF here. (Health warning - there are a couple of errors on the leaflet).

The Leopard mag has an excellent article about the history of the March Stones which we recommend.

Anyhow; Beans Hill. It's a picturesque and serene area, but won't stay that way for long as this where the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route will skirt the city on its way from Peterculter to Kingswells.

We recommend a visit if you can, before the character of the area is changed forever. Bone up on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (PDF), get some old clothes and sturdy shoes on and off you go!

We left off last time with Stone 20 near Westfield Lodge, which is a very strange place.

Stone 21 is in the middle of a field, which, unfortunately on the day we visited was hosting an herd of bullocks. As we were, ahem, quite brightly dressed in our mountain bike gear, we didn't fancy our chances intruding on their space, so we'll have to make do with this telephoto and digitally zoomed image of the back of the stone. Let's say that this is a placeholder image, and we'll return for a proper photologging of the stone when we can. A bit disappointing.


Here it is - no bullocks in the way this time:

Stone 22 is actually in the same field, but the bullocks were a couple of hundred metres away, over a rise and out of line-of-sight, so we vaulted the dry stane dyke for this shot. You can see that the bullocks have been licking the stone. As they do.

From there, it's a bit of a trudge up Beans Hill. Looking back to the south-west down the route of the march-line:

That photo was taken from a site which will become the western embankment of the AWPR - where it intersects the greenery in the centre of this drawing.

Stone 23 is at the summit of Beans Hill. Unfortunately you have to negotiate this labyrinth of barbed wire and gorse to get there. Gloves are a really good idea.

We were looking forward to finding stone 23, as it is described as having a 'saucer-marked' stone next to it. These ancient stones are part of the natural geography of the landscape and are prominent features, so it was natural for those setting land borders to use them, along with water-courses and other features, as markers which helped define the border. The 'saucers' are depressions carved or ground into the natural stone. No-one's really sure what their function was, but some speculate that they were filled with molten lead into which the city's coat-of-arms was impressed.

Here's Stone 23 at the summit. It looks like that's the more ancient 'saucer-marked' stone beneath the ABD marked stone. A previous visitor has peeled back some moss to reveal more of the stone, but we can't see a saucer mark here.

Hold on, what's this?

The saucer-mark is about four feet from the ABD stone. It's covered with a thick coat of moss, which is beginning to form a topsoil layer which grass has colonised.

The saucer stone is really quite large. The biggest we've come across so far. It came as a surprise to discover that we'd been standing on it for some time.

Stone 24 is over the summit of Beans Hill and down the slope towards the Silver Burn. It's close by North Westfield house. The couple who live there were delighted to chat.

Stone 25 is accessed from East Brotherfield farm. Again, the farmer was delighted to chat and pass the time discussing the stones and the dreaded coming of the bypass. It really is a delightful area, and we can't help but feel for the residents who's tranquility will be shattered and life changed forever by the building of the new road.

Stone 25 is on a hillock in a field of cows. Young heifers this time, so nothing to fear. But if you go there - please be sure to speak with the farmer first. Very important.

Unlike at stone 23, where it's covered in moss and not at first apparent, the saucer stone at 25 is prominent and rather obvious.

Can you see the saucer-hole?

Behind the saucer stone, we find a poignant memorial to an earlier march-tramper.

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