The Rhynie Man Way – Part One – Woodhill House to Dyce

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DISTANCE: 11.5Km

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.

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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.

March Stones

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Rhynie Man Way – Part One – Woodhill House to Dyce

She’s on her way…Rhynie here we come!

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Well, Anne’s started the journey home.  I wished her well and clear roads ahead.  She reminded me of messengers and Pilgrims with their staffs, alms and bags that I used to see sharing news and stories in communities up and down the country.  I’ve heard that there are quite a wide range of long distance walks around Scotland and the world.  One person who has recently set off on one of these is artist Anthony Schrag who is walking from Huntly to Venice.  It seems fitting that she started on the same day as Anthony reached day 55 of his walk, exactly half way through (in days) his epic 2500km walk.  Hopefully it won’t take Anne that long and her staff gets to Rhynie in one piece. She has to get to Rhynie in time to meet the archaeologists next weekend!

Wooden Etches 6 symbols

Pilgrims often walked without money and little else, using local hospitality and the good will of communities.  In fact, words such as ‘hostel’, ‘hospital’ and ‘hospitality’ all derive from their connection to the services, protection and care given to pilgrims on their way (often to Rome).

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Pilgrims would often expect alms, tokens, food or money, as a way of sustaining their journey with the notion that the giver gets a positive feeling or positive status from their charity.  Anne decided that she wished to share my story so instead of expecting something of the people she meets, she wondered if she gave them something, in effect ‘paying it forward’, that they may look at the object again and are reminded of the story, want to share my story or do something similar for others in the future. Some of the laser etched and cut symbols made at MAKEAberdeen will be given away to people she shares my story with on the route.
6th July 2015 (1)A walking storyteller sharing stories would be lacking something if they didn’t have a staff.  So with some help from my 21st Century lookie-likie, Jake, he found her a couple of potential staffs in the Clashindarroch (Clais an darach means the furrow or the valley of the oaks in Gaelic), a wood outside Rhynie and one of the largest in Aberdeenshire.  As he couldn’t find any Oak, he choose a sycamore and a cherry wood from which Anne choose the cherry due to it being a native tree with a fascinating story in itself (more of that later).  Not afraid to whittle and make something Anne spent July debarking, whittling, fine tuning, drying, sanding and oiling the wood and creating the beautiful staff that has so much depth to it, it makes me want to do the walk myself. P1100163

Having everything organise the only thing left is to put one foot in front of the other and pose for a photo with me before she heads off on the 50Km which is about 30ish miles, quite a lot for her little legs, but she says she’s up for it.  Wish her luck, I’m looking forward to hearing what has happened in the Aberdeen City and Shire landscape in the past 38 years since I moved to Woodhill House.

She’s on her way…Rhynie here we come!

Throwback Thursday : Valentines News

senior school cards and poetry

I introduced Anne to Bruce Mann, Aberdeenshire Council’s Archaeologist for Moray, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Angus.  Bruce and his small but perfectly formed team are responsible for making sure I’m well looked after.  They are based at Woodhill House but their jobs take them all over the four Local Authorities.  They are involved in a lot of different things, from planning applications to working out how best to care for buildings, sites and monuments under their care.  As I mentioned before, they are the ones to contact if you have found anything that falls into the category of Treasure Trove.

Bruce and his team received my valentines on my behalf, I think Bruce was a little taken a back, and possibly a little envious that I received more valentines than he did this year.

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The cards were then arranged and carefully curated by Claire and Bruce into an exhibition for the employees, volunteers and visitors to Woodhill House to visit on their way to the canteen.

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An introduction to the exhibit was placed beside it as well.aberdeenshire-council-exhibition-information-001I’d like to thank Claire and Bruce for taking such good care of the children’s cards and for sharing them with everyone in the building, it means a lot to me to hear from my friends in Rhynie and that they still think of me fondly.  If you want to see more information and lots of lovely photos of their travels around the north east then follow their twitter feeds (sometimes I feature in their tweets as well) at @chh_bck and @diggermann17

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I couldn’t let the children think I hadn’t got the cards so I (ok, with a  little help from Bruce) sent them through something for them to work on. Can you work it out?

rhynie man ogham

Throwback Thursday : Valentines News

Behind the scenes on Valentine’s Day!

I was moved to Woodhill House almost 40 years ago; enough time for some people to have not met or even heard of me!  So I’m told that at the beginning of February Anne and Rhynie Woman went into Rhynie Primary school to tell the local children, teachers and helpers a little bit about my good looks and to find out how romantic they were all feeling.

When you arrive at Rhynie Primary you are greeted by a Minion, two penguins and Rhynie Man
When you arrive at Rhynie Primary you are greeted by a Minion, two penguins and Me!!!

When they arrived at the school they realised that perhaps the teachers and children had heard of me as there is a large cast of me sitting at the doorway.  The cast was created from a mould that Museum of Scotland took of me in 1978 when I was in Barflats.  Can you see any of the Sheep hoof marks Gavin Alston was talking about in his 1988 interview?

Debbi and Anne introducing that activities for the day

Debbi and Anne told the children about the story of Rhynie Man and why Rhynie Woman would like him to return to Rhynie. They also talked about symbols and how we still use them at festival times such as St Valentine’s.

The children were delighted to help and worked hard on their poetry and card making.  Anne and Rhynie Woman enjoyed visiting the school, talking about Rhynie Man and meeting the creative children, teachers and helpers in Rhynie.  A great day!  and special thanks to the Head Teacher for making it happen and Hayley Keane for the photography.

Behind the scenes on Valentine’s Day!