Karen (aswanargent) wrote,

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Karen and Tavi's Scotland Travel Adventures Chapter 03: Fetteresso Part II

Previous Chapters of the Travel Diary:
Chapter One: Stonehaven
Chapter Two: Fetteresso Part I

Here is Chapter 3, the second part of Wednesday's photos from Fetteresso, where we walk up the lane where Tavi used to live.

Teaser Preview Pics:

Tavi: This was my favourite place. I don't know what else to say here; you can hear my explanations about this place on the commentary. Assuming you can actually make what I'm saying out; it's windy, and I'm actually leaping about over rabbit holes and the like while making it, so sorry for the shaky camera. Oh, I should also explain about the bone part: on the "cliff" edge, I once found part of a pot sticking out. I brushed and dug away more soil to uncover more of it. I did think once of digging it out but never got round to it. That was probably a good thing: someone living at the Castle eventually found it and called Aberdeen's archaeological museum: it turned out to be a Bronze Age pot containing human bones. They believe Kitten HQ is one large burial mound. Before this, there were other rumours about why there is this huge mound in the middle of a flat field in front of the castle. Some guessed it was built to obscure the view of Stonehaven's "Gallows Hill" in the distance.

The most interesting and widely believed theory for a long time was that this is King Malcolm's burial mound. He died in battle nearby in about the year 954, but his tomb has never been discovered. Historians are convinced it is in the area; we even have a street on the edge of Stonehaven named "Malcolm's Mount." My Kitten HQ was long thought a good possible area, but the Bronze Age bones would indicate the mound was built long before Malcolm's death.

Karen: The shaky camera work makes me think of the Blair Witch Project! I was very happy to stay put. And now that I hear it was human bones found there, am doubly glad.

Tavi: This path leads from Fetteresso Castle into its old, former grounds. I should probably explain what Fetteresso really is. Our old address would be "Gardener's Cottage, Fetteresso Castle, Fetteresso," but it's not a village; that title belongs to "Kirktown of Fetteresso", which is on the way, somewhere between Fetteresso and Stonehaven. Maybe you could call it a hamlet. But really it's just fields and forests, with maybe five or so houses spread out over a long distance. I should probably look into the history of the name. I do know that the large forest is known as "Fetteresso Forest" and goes on for miles. Interestingly, there's also the odd street with Fetteresso in its name in Stonehaven, and the middle of Stonehaven is curiously the location of Fetteresso Church.

Up this path are more forests and houses that were once on the old castle estate, such as The Stables, which, you won't be surprised to learn, quartered the castle's horses. My old house, Gardener's Cottage, as well as the North Lodge, the old northern gate for the estate, are two minutes walk from here. First, however, you have to pass through the castle's old iron gates at the top of this path. When the castle was turned into flats, we, and the few other people living nearby, certainly did not want the Castle People coming up and down our lane. One man, Sandy, living at the Stables, took his hostility a little too far and actually closed the old gates shut and padlocked them together! This was quite a nuisance if you ever wanted to go for a walk or drive that way. The padlock wasn't actually keyed shut, but it held a chain wrapped around the gates, and if you were on the non-castle side, with a bit of patience, you could unwrap it and open the gates. Whenever we drove from the castle that way, I had to get out of the car, climb through a gap in the gate's broken railings (the gates were likely as old as the castle), unwrap the chain and open the gates for my mother's car. One day, she was so fed up with this that she took the padlock and threw it into the bushes you can see at the top of the photo.

Karen: Tavi also told me that when her family lived here there were lots of deer to be seen. One doe liked a spot near those padlocked gates, and she could be found there every year with her new fawn.

Tavi: There are deer in the forest all around here. One time a full-grown stag, antlers and all, found its way into our garden by accident and clattered about scaring us.

Tavi: For years I would often skip up the steps and jump down from the top, and I can still remember the feel of the stones under my feet, but I never realized once what this was supposed to be!

Karen: Look near the bottom right-hand corner of this picture and you'll see what Tavi's talking about. It looks like a set of child's building blocks placed side by side from tallest to shortest. Given its place next to the stable doors, it has to be a mounting block to help people (ladies probably, with their long skirts sweeping the ground) mount their horses.

Tavi: Here we are outside the field a little bit past my cottage. It...was difficult going back. When we first moved, I would walk out here every weekend just to look at it again. I miss here so much. The new owner showed us around. She explained why so many of our trees have been chopped down. In the east gardens, we had tens of trees. Big proper trees, that have been there for centuries and are so tall you can't see their tops, so wide you can't wrap your arms around them. Apparently they were unsafe and many dying of elm disease. They've chopped down at least six already, my treehouse and "tree swing" being felled with one of them. The raspberry patch similarly caught disease and was converted into some vegetable garden. Our orchard at least is doing well. The trees that we planted there are a lot taller.

It was interesting to see what they have done with the copse outside our gardens. To the east, there is a long woodland area which stretches all the way to the Stables, about two minutes walk. That was part of our estate, and we had a gate that led into it, but the area was so overgrown that we never did anything with it. When we built a huge red fence to keep in my autistic sister, who would often run away, we decided to fence off the wilderness area. But the new owners have lowered the fence and restored the original gate. They've also made some inroads into getting rid of the brambles. The part of our garden around the trees which we never mowed and called "the wild area" has also been mowed. Karen: It's hard for me, looking at things from the outside, to know what to say. We were looking down the lane at the back garden, and Tavi was telling me about living there, but we wouldn't have gone in if Rosemary hadn't been working in her garden with her two black Labs as (Sam and Jemima) as company. The dogs saw us and were at the gate giving mixed signals -- growling while wagging their tales, and she came to see what was going on. She invited us to look around the garden, and when she found out Tavi used to live in the cottage, she took us inside to show us the changes to the downstairs.

I think she and her husband must love the cottage. Everything's well taken care of, and she obviously enjoys the garden and working in it. Of course, it isn't the way Tavi remembers it, and when it's a place you've grown up and been happy in, it's hard to see it change from what you remember.

Anyone who's read Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden will have some idea of what the grounds of Gardener's Cottage are like.

Tavi: Home Farm, I remember, used to belong to our local farmer, Dave Martin. I don't know if he was the one who drained the lake and blew the roof off the castle, or perhaps if it was his father. I only ever saw him from a distance: a terrifying apparition on a tractor that always had to be looked out for when I was climbing on his haybales or through his fields. My parents had closer and less agreeable contact with him. When we put in Katy's fence, he kicked up a huge nasty fuss accusing us of taking an inch off his land. I found out recently he died. In times past, sons would always inherit their fathers' farms and work, but Dave Jnr chose to be our local piano tuner. Since the old man's death, the fields of Fetteresso have been rented our to several different "farmers", who don't live in the area but have still moved into the business. It's silly to put that word in inverted commas because there's no difference in what they do with the land than Old Dave and his ancestors, but it just feels to me that they're not real farmers; it makes me think of businessman buying a new factory, but farming always seemed to me to be something inherited, and not a commercial business. I'm rambling here, and I can't really explain it, but I suppose it's just distaste for newcomers and change. It ought to be good that people can come here and farm the fields, lest they be sold off and houses built upon them. That's probably the only good argument I can think of for the Common Agricultural Policy.

Karen: I can't speak for the rest of the U.S., but in southern California (especially Orange County, south of Los Angeles) the real estate developers have definitely won the day. I went to high school and college in Orange County, and I can remember when there were huge tracts of empty land stretching all the way down to the coastline. It was all part of the old Irvine Ranch (185 sq. miles; 479 sq. kilometres), formed in 1864 out of Mexican and Spanish land grants. The Irvine Company still retains 44,000 acres, but has sold off 50,000 acres to property developers. Now it seems that every time I visit the area, there's another new housing development or shopping mall going up. If it takes non-resident farmers to keep Scotland from going the same way, I'm all for it.

Tavi: This is the large shed belonging to Home Farm. The farm's bullocks would be on the fields in summer, but in winter they would be quartered here. Whenever I used to walk round this way in winter, I would peer in to see them. I didn't expect to see any here today, and so we were surprised to find baby bullocks!

Karen: There were actually two little ones in the barn, but the second one is out of frame. I think they'd have liked to be outside with everyone else, and not stuck in the barn.

Tavi: In the field nearby, we found a mixture of cattle. There were baby bullocks and baby cows, although all bigger than the two hiding in the shed. There were also some larger bullocks, including one huge black one which worryingly still had its horns.

Karen: The grass here must have been more appealing than the grass in the other field, because these bullocks were happy to be hand fed.

Tavi: This is actually a baby cow, and not a bullock, but it was the only one to eat the grass from my hand.

Karen: I don't know why Tavi didn't want to offer grass to that nice big black horned animal...

Karen: The little white sign that you see on the building says "HEADS". All I could think was that this was a sort of outdoor privy for the farm.

Tavi: I hadn't heard of the word being used as Karen says, but I don't have any better idea of what the building is. It would once have been something to do with the farm and perhaps hasn't been used since the days when the farm belonged to the Castle.

Tavi: I should mention that Karen finally learned how to take pictures with her camera round about the beginning of this post, and so we have an abundance of photos of plants which strike her as odd. In particular, the relationship between dock leaves (next to the bramble here) and nettles, which you'll see in the next photo. We've had a hard time deciding on which pictures to post here, so after we've finished, we'll probably put up all the extra ones on flickr.

Karen: What can I say? I live in southern California, where we have palm trees, but no brambles.

Tavi: Nettles! These will sting you if you touch them and make you itchy. My old Doric nanny Sheena taught me that you can use dock leaves to soothe a nettle sting, and that wherever a nettle grows, a dock leaf will always be close by to it. I suppose that's sort of like yin and yang everywhere in the world! Sheena also told me that if you grasp a nettle confidently, it won't sting you. I never dared test that. We did, however, have a type of fake nettle growing in our gardens. They looked just like nettles, but if you touched them, they were all velvety and didn't sting.

Karen: I think you should have asked Sheena to demonstrate!

Tavi: These little things will have grown a lot larger come Autumn. By then, they will have fallen to the ground. I would often walk this way and go hunt for them amongst the grass and brambles. When you crack them open, you will find a conker inside. I always assumed these existed elsewhere, but they were definitely a first experience for Karen. Traditionally, school children in Britain would tie strings to the conkers and wage battles to see whose conker was the toughest.

Karen: I don't know if the Horse-chestnut tree grows in other parts of the U.S., but according to Wikipedia, it grows in various places "provided summers are not too hot". That definitely excludes southern California.

Here's what the conkers look like come autumn.

Tavi: This isn't really tree climbing! If we'd had more time, I could have climbed up and out of the photo frame. I think Karen could have climbed to where I was. The tall grass does make it look less high than it is, but it was only about up to my waist: one simple step up!

Karen: No comment!

Tavi: This sight could easily come from Midsomer Murders. I don't really know why there is a rope hanging from the tree like that, but it has been there for years, and there are other ropes hanging from the odd tree further along the walk. Even stranger sights are two or three old baths somewhere around in the fields, perhaps from when the castle was blown out.

Karen: I told Tavi all we needed to make the scene complete was a few of those mysterious little stick figures from The Blair Witch Project. Can't you just see one of them hanging from this tree?

Tavi: One thing I like about this particular lane is all the very strangely shaped trees. Some have branches that seem to be going upside down, others are half broken as if struck by lightning.

Karen: There were some very strange trees here. I don't think I'd have liked walking past them on a windy night.

Tavi: Here we are back at the beginning of the path we started five hours ago, having gone round in a circle.

Karen: It was a wonderful walk, and well worth braving the barley, bullocks, and brambles!

Coming up next chapter: Karen visits the village and cemetary of Kirkton, and Tavi dances in a ceilidh.
Tags: fetteresso, karen and tavi's scotland adventures, scotland, travel

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