TIME: Approx 3 Hours
Symbols handed out to: George (wolf), Iain (snake) and Annie (pictish beast)
Key features: Geology of the river, topography of North Aberdeen, industrial heritage including railways, waterways, roadways, factories and ongoing transformation of land.
Want to find out more about: the Marching Stones, the loupin’ Stane, Industrial heritage, Dyce Community Garden and Persley’s hidden garden.
Observations: Anne’s journey started from Woodhill House, North Anderson Drive, Aberdeen. As you can see it’s not until you start walking around that you realise that there are hills and if somewhere is called Hilton it is usually for a reason. The road names showing glimpses of what existed before estates and businesses moved in; OldCroft and Castleton perhaps indicating what was demolished to make way for the new community. As she descended North Anderson drive she reported that she could see, in the distance, the aircraft landing in Dyce, on a short plateau at Kirkhill, North West of Aberdeen.
The area of Stockethill is an established community about a couple of miles north of the city centre of Aberdeen. Most buildings were established in late 1940s as post war housing. The area houses the region’s main hospital complex and the Council Buildings of Aberdeenshire Council. A quarter of the population are over the age of 65 and a third under 35. People were happy to chat as she walked past and the smell of cut grass and hedges being trimmed filled the air, allowing her the potential to forget the main A96 running beside her.
It’s great to see stones still being used today, there is still evidence of them in the landscape. When walking through Woodside and Hilton keep an eye out for the March Stones of Aberdeen. Sixty seven stones placed around the perimeter of Aberdeen after Robert the Bruce granted Aberdeen various rights to lands around the city. On this route you will come across three or four of them; 53, 52, 51 and 49. Watch out they are quite sneeky and could be mistaken for mile markers or may be hidden or flat on the ground. There are a couple of trail maps available from the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums website look for the Bridge of Don Trails and March Stones.
When the route crossed Great Northern Road, apparently it is like stepping back in time. You move away from the main road and busyness of the main routes through Aberdeen down into the valley of the River Don to a quiet tranquil and interesting landscape of industrial heritage. I’m sure that it wouldn’t have been like that in the 19th Century, there would have been the lint mills, paper, calico, bleaching, kids running around, wheels turning, a busy waterway, bells, clunking of machines and people going to and from work.
But now it is a quiet place to walk the dog and imagine how the role of the River Don and its fortune over the centuries has changed since the Picts travelled through the area.
The river walk ends at the Persley Bridge, what now is called Persley Castle (currently used by a nursing home) where there used to be what some called the barracks or if they knew the history a children’s home (which used to house children who were the sweat shop-labour in a calico-printing business nearby), there is also what looks like a ruined church. The memorial to those who have fallen whilst working in industry, starkly reminds you of sacrifices that have been made over hundreds of years for people of the 21st Century to have the things they have now. The gardens are beautifully looked after but it wasn’t possible to find out more infomation about its history or who looks after it now.
Where the route moves onto the roadside, look out for the sign post at the roundabout and follow it into what is an area in transition. The route takes you through Mugiemoss, an area that for over 200 years was filled with the sounds and smells of a paper mill and later chicken, milk and cheese processing. The area is in the process of being transformed from an area of production to one of consumption. Hundreds of houses, still being built, have been sold already. A strange concept to me as a pict; I find it difficult to understand what the purpose is? houses with no jobs seems to be strange and disconnected. You can’t even see or get to the river anymore. I’d give it a ‘watching brief’ as the archaeologists say.
Arriving in Dyce the signage is quite clear, there is a choice either to follow the Formartine and Buchan way, which used to be the railway lines north to the coast, or follow the route towards the river again and the Riverside park. Both routes meet up where the main road north crosses the River Don and where the next update will start.
Anne’s feet are holding up and I’m looking forward to updates from the rest of the journey.