An Autumn Walk

Just over a week ago we were in Aberdeenshire, visiting Fyvie Castle and remarking on how hot it was for the time of year. It turned out that it was 18 celsius at Fyvie and I know that because that night the weather man on the BBC said that Fyvie Castle had been the hottest part of Britain that day – amazing for late October. Just a week later and back home in Fife we had our first frost of the season. There was a time when we used to have a proper autumn which lasted for weeks but those days seem to have gone.

Anyway on one of my recent autumn walks I took some photos of the surroundings on the edges of the Balbirnie estate, get your flat shoes on and come with me!
path south

I’d like to know who put this hill here, it’s just a wee bit too steep to be enjoyable, until you get used to it!
hill near Balbirnie, Fife

Phew – we’ve reached the top and it’s downhill for a while now.
looking south from hill
So called civilisation with a road in the background, but the cars don’t seem to bother the horses in the field which you should be able to see – just.
horses

If you look carefully below you should be able to see an orange and black beetle, near the centre of the photo below, it’s a Burying beetle, that’s only the second one that I’ve seen and I saw my first one just a month previously as it was in the act of burying a shrew’s carcass – life must go on I suppose, for the beetle anyway.

Burying beetle

path west
Through some trees.
woodland path
In the winter the ground here is usually really boggy, it doesn’t help that mountain bikers use it too.
woodland path

woodland path

Back on to the gravel path, there’s a busy road to the left of this path but trees and a stone wall hides the traffic. You might think that it looks like the photos were taken on different days as the sky goes from bright blue to whitish grey – but that’s our constantly changing weather!

gravel path south
The berries below are on Viburnums or Guelder rose.
Viburnum berries

They’re so bright and shiny they almost look like plastic.

Viburnum berries

I love the roots of the tree below, look closely and you’ll be able to see a short blue nylon rope hanging from the left of the tree. Local kids are obviously using it as a rope swing and you can also see that they’ve been making stepping stones over the burn. I’ve never seen anyone playing there but I’m so happy that kids are still doing things like that and aren’t always glued to some electronic gadget.
tree roots

I also love the fact that people have been working and living around this area for thousands of years, well about 5,000 years anyway, and below is the evidence they left behind in the shape of standing stones and burial areas.

standing stones 2

Well, that should have burned off a few calories, so it’s a good excuse to put the kettle on, put your feet up and have some tea/coffee and biscuits. That’s what I did next anyway.

Collessie, Fife

One beautiful day last week we decided to visit a nearby estate garden which is open to the public. We had never been before but the address in books was given as Collessie, so we drove to that small village, a place we had never been before despite it being just a few miles from where we live. We never did find the estate garden that day as it’s actually on the rode to another village. I was enchanted by Collessie though so we spent an hour or so walking around the very historic village. Below is a photo of what had been the post office and is now someone’s home. Post Offices have been closed down all over the country which is a tragedy as they were often the hub of a village. In fact this place has no shops or anything, just a church and a community hall.

Old Post Office, Collessie

It’s like stepping back into a sort of Brigadoon. I’ve only seen a few thatched houses in Scotland, they’re much nore common in the south of England, so I was amazed to see several of them in Collessie. The village apparently has the most thatched roofs of anywhere in Scotland.

Thatched Cottage
They look lovely but we have friends who lived in a thatched cottage down south and they said that as soon as the weather turned a bit cold – all of the local ‘skittering’ wildlife moved into the roof for warmth, not my idea of fun. Especially as they didn’t stay in the thatch but made forays into the house.
Thatched cottage
Of course not all of the cottages have thatched roofs, but the street below is still amazingly quaint looking. It looks like nothing has changed for a couple of hundred years.
street in Collessie
I think that the road in the photo below must have been the main road leading to St Andrews which was of course a popular place for pilgrims to walk to in the days of the early Christian church. You can see the church beyond the thatched roof, it has been extended a lot over the years but the original part of it dates from before 1243 which is when it was consecrated by the Bishop of St Andrews.
Thatched Cottage

Considering the size of the village this church is enormous. I think that over the years the population must have decreased a lot.
Collessie Church

The village is a bit of a dead end as it has been by-passed by a larger road which is why we had never been there before, but it’s definitely worth making a detour off the main road to step back in time to Collessie. I’ll put a few more photos of it up tomorrow.

Perth Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium

We stayed at the hotel in Ypres for a couple of nights and during the day we mainly travelled around visiting World War 1 cemeteries. This one is Perth Cemetery near Ypres (Ieper) so called because most of the soldiers around this area came from Perth in Scotland.

Gates and Cross
They’re well looked after by the War Graves Commission and most of the time the smaller ones are very peaceful places, they’re mainly surrounded by farmland.
graves 1
In this one we disturbed a beautiful hare who was sunning himself amongst the flowers, far too fast to photograph of course, but I had to admire the choice of place to relax as the plants were particularly lovely here.
Perth cemetery from road

As you can see these cemeteries are very much part of the scenery with roads and people’s houses right next to them.

Perth Cemetery near Ypres

St Athernase Church in Leuchars, Fife

Leuchars in Fife is a village just five or so miles from the far bigger and better known town of St Andrews, and probably that’s why we had never been there before, as St Andrews is my favourite place in Fife and by the time we’ve had an afternoon out there I’m usually tired and just want to get home.
St Athernase

Last Wednesday we planned to visit Leuchars at last, mainly to see St Athernase Church, we had seen an information leaflet about it, aimed at tourists I suppose but you know what it’s like – you rarely visit the places on your own doorstep. The really ancient part is the rounded area with the tower. Until recently I had assumed that all these old churches had originally been Roman Catholic but of course there was a Celtic church originally and at some point the RCs took over.

St Athernase

There has been a church on that site since around 1225 and although quite a lot of the church from that date is still surviving it was damaged during the Reformation, so there has been some rebuilding done over the years and the main part of the kirk which houses the congregation was built around 1745. It’s the really old bit that has the most charm for me though. I love the gargoyle-like faces on the wall which is where the original altar would have been. To me they don’t look at all Christian, more Viking or Celtic.
St Athernase

The next day was Maundy Thursday and although I’m not at all into organised religion it seemed apt to visit an ancient church around Easter. I think all of those really old churches, or kirks as we call them in Scotland, were built on the highest land in the settlement they were located in. So you have to walk through a gate and up quite a few steps to reach the churchyard. Almost as soon as we got into the churchyard a man approached us and asked us if we were documenting the graves, we aren’t of course. He was thinking of doing it if nobody else is, and I can’t find any evidence that it has already been done, I hope he takes on the task.

St Athernase

We were just looking around the churchyard, never thinking that the church would actually be open, but the minister – Rev. John C Duncan – hailed us and asked us if we would like to look around the inside – and so he ended up giving us a very interesting guided tour. I’m usually quite wary of ministers but this one couldn’t have been nicer, perhaps his previous experience of being a minister in the army made the difference. He was awarded an MBE for his service.

Luckily it seems that the Christian fundamentalists (the equivalent of those maniacs destroying everything they don’t approve of in the Middle East) didn’t spend too much time trying to destroy St Athernase because they were probably in such a hurry to march on to the more important St Andrews Cathedral – and they certainly well and truly smashed that.

If you’re interested have a look at the images of Leuchars here. There used to be an RAF station there but recently the army took over from them.

St Athernase

St Mungo’s Churchyard Penicuik, Midlothian

We were driving through Penicuik a couple of weeks ago when I spotted a Commonwealth War Graves sign on some old churchyard gates. There was a car park just across the road so we were able to stop for a mooch around the graveyard which is a really old one and has the remains of an ancient church in the middle of it, as well as the large replacement Victorian church which is still in use.

Penicuik St Mungo's

Penicuik St Mungo's

Penicuik St Mungo's 7

The photos above are all of the original St Mungo’s. The photo below shows part of the Victorian replacement.

Penicuik St Mungo's 4

Some of the gravestones are really ancient. There are the usual warning signs of danger from unsafe stones.

Penicuik St Mungo's 6

This is one from the sixteenth century, back and front – the best I’ve ever seen of that type.

Penicuik St Mungo's

Penicuik St Mungo's

From what I can make out it’s of Annie Melrose, spouse of John Hodge. In Scotland women are (or were) reverted to their maiden name after death. It makes sense because often men went through three or four wives what with women dying in childbirth or whatever.

St Mungo – or St Kentigern as he is sometimes called – is patron saint of Glasgow but was apparently born Culross which is not far from us in Fife.