Residency Day Five – Mosses, Stone circles and monuments

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I made my way North towards Portlethen to join Ken Watson at Portlethen Moss.  Ken is a keen photographer and has an interest in the Natural Heritage of the area including supporting the development of the Portlethen Moss.  A Moss seems to be a curious combination of Geology and Biology, with every chance that they have been in existence since the Ice Age!  Archaeobotany cores, taken in 2014, may release more of it’s history and development.  What we do know is that the Moss has been shrinking, due to a combination of Man and Environment.

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Red -Moss in 1868 Blue – Current extent (Ken Watson)

The local Portlethen Moss Conservation Group have been active in supporting, developing and protecting Portlethen Moss, which is now classed as a Local Nature Conservation Site. Mainly run by volunteers, it is a haven for wildlife and a great spot for exploring a habitat often not easily accessible to the public.  Part of the area is accessible by cyclists, wheelchairs, walkers and prams  (but NOT Mini-Moto-Bikes).  The extended loop and path system is only really suitable for walkers and dependent on weather.  Today wasn’t a suitable day, or rather I didn’t have suitable shoes!

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midday on the Moss

Having recently returned from a residency in the Cairngorms, and  working with the community in Rhynie, I was struck by the similarity of some of the plants on the moss and the absence of others such as Juniper and Blaeberry.  It reminded me to meet the local Aberdeenshire Council Ranger to explore the natural heritage further.

The light was fading fast; North Kincardine is almost exactly at 57 degrees North which means that we only have on average 6 hours of daylight a day in December balanced in summer by over 18!

It is easy to understand why daylight, the passage of the moon and sun were so important to the northern neolithic inhabitants of the area.  Aquhorthies Stone Circle (not to be confused with another Stone Circle near Inverurie Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle) is a stunning although incomplete Stone Circle with a recumbent stone sadly missing one flanker.  These man made structures, unique to the North East of Scotland, date back to the Neolithic age (4000 – 2500 BC).  The Flankers are stunning grainy gray granite with Quartz and the other stones in the various rings are pink granite.  Its position, about 105m above sea level, offers a clear view of the sun’s passage through the sky.  Certainly somewhere to visit on the solstice.  For more information check out Historic Scotland.

It was only just after midday yet the sun was quickly fading and we’d need to get a move on if we wanted to get around the next Moss area – Red Moss of Netherley – SSSI site and Wildlife Reserve run by Scottish Wildlife Trust.

As our shadows grew longer we walked around the Red Moss.  A well hidden oasis of calm and colour.  Even though it is approaching the start of Winter there are still plants and wildlife to be seen – bog cotton, sphagnum moss, heather and stunning grasses.  As with The Portlethen Moss, stewardship is required and there were signs that new dykes had been built to retain water and maintain the delicate balance between water, plants and peat.

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Today was the last day of the Residency, next phase creating a structure for the map and identifying potential routes.  And as for Ken’s favourite view – he’s still trying to narrow it down!

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