Posts Tagged ‘fetternear


Friends of Grampian Stones Candlemas newsletter 2005 Vol.XVI-1

February 2005: Candlemas Vol. XVI-1
Celebrating Life
Our readers will forgive us if we take time in this issue, time out from our personal and prehistoric preoccupations, to pay respect and show our admiration for a fellow stone-lover, nay, fellow earth-lover, and supporter of our cause — to raise awareness to our unique environment — the ancient landscape of NE Scotland.

It is with sadness that we say farewell to Ann Tweedy Savage, stones-supporter, tree-planter, philanthropist and naturalist who died prematurely in a fall in January 2005. For over 30 years, she contributed both personally and financially to restoring the natural environment, community and fen shui (‘sense of place’) of Bennachie, on whose northeastern shoulder she lived, and where (Harthill) she is now buried. In addition to her support of many local projects and enterprises, she chose to give generously to FOGS through the Brownington Foundation, and for those past annual donations — sometimes when we were in most need — we will always be grateful to her. We know of at least one other archaeological charity, the Scottish Episcopal Palaces Project at Fetternear, which also benefited from her generosity.

President of Friends of Grampian Stones, David R Paton, with friend and benefactrix Ann Tweedy

Her lively interest in her surroundings and enthusiasm for restoring the landscape she so loved will not long be forgotten. One place closest to her heart was Bennachie, a lone mountain sentinel in an otherwise flat, fertile plain. One of its honorary Baillies, she refused to give up when commercial interests threatened (and still threaten) to invade this mountain wilderness. She saw Bennachie, as do many of us, as an ancient, sacred place, and, at night, almost the last bastion of darkness (and therefore wildness) in what has become a sea of light in the Garioch. It was her wish that this wild habitat should not be threatened; should be allowed to return to its natural state. She felt its trees, heather and scrub should be supported to maintain their own unique environment, species of plants and animals, until the human race becomes wise enough to give it the respect it deserves.

There are qualities our friend embodied — amid joy and laughter — which allowed her to accomplish so much in a short life: if some of us were to emulate, we might similarly achieve great things: they are — in no particular order: generosity and the avoidance of waste, love-of-life, perseverance and determination.
Thank you, Ann, you are sorely missed.

Standing Still
Solstice marks the apparent standstill of the sun twice annually. After disappearing into the shortest night, a sight that Northeast FOGS from our elevated latitude can claim a special privilege, sunsets wend their way southward along the horizon. Six months later sunset reaches 223º, SSW — a legendary point on the compass captured within the earliest recumbent stone circles.

Motion of the moon too, apparently wild, nevertheless has a cycle, calculated by Meton (432BC), returning to the same place once in 18.6 years, or after 235 lunations. Major lunar standstill occurs on that occasion when the full moon closest to midsummer only barely rises above the S horizon, grazes it and sets, all within an arc of just over 45º.

A non-event, you might think; yet at the Arctic circle, the summer full moon does not appear at all.

So it is notable that early (largest) RSCs are often cupmarked, clustering on a stone in the SSW arc where the lunar standstill could be witnessed: Balquhain’s W flanker & the recumbents of Sunhoney, Cothiemuir and Rothiemay have cupmarks oriented SSW: 232, 230, 200 & 226 degrees respectively. At Cothiemuir, NJ617 198, in 2006 maximum summer full moon will seem to set right into the recumbent’s western edge.

Full moonrise closest to winter solstice, from the stone circle at Kirkton of Bourtie. Midwinter standstill moon acts like a 'midnight sun', barely setting in 24 hours.

Also in a major standstill year, the full moon closest to midwinter performs an incredible feat, swinging higher in the sky from a rising point farther N than any other in its 18.6-year cycle and setting farther N than at any other time: the full moon seen at Aberdeen/Moray latitude, 57º30′, behaves almost like the lunar equivalent of a ‘midnight sun’, rising and setting in the North, (at 27ºNNE and 333ºNNW to be precise)and spending the longest time in the sky of any appearance in its metonic cycle. In astronomical circles (and prehistoric ones) excitement is already building towards the major lunar standstill which peaks in 2006, when full summer moonrise and set reach their farthest possible southern limit and briefest appearance: at Easter Aquhorthies, NJ733 208, the full summer moon will rise at 151ºSSE and set at 208ºSSW, and, while there are no cupmarks at this RSC to show its ‘maximum’, it should be spectacular.

Equally, in the run-up to this maximum, the full winter moon can be seen from as early as November 2005 to show a huge ‘wobble’, rising and setting farther North than at any other time, swinging highest and longest in the winter night sky.

A Few Hints on Standstill
FOGS inspired by lunar antics may be daunted by the profusion of information on the Web at sites such as run by Victor Reijs who is encouraging world-wide moon-watching and gives azimuth, declination and degree at several sites with breathtaking accuracy.

So it is with gratitude that we give FOGS stalwart Trevor Allcott’s advice:
‘I think Victor is trying to measure astronomical variables to an eye-watering degree… However, if you simply extend your arm fully in front of you, with the thumb upright, the width of your thumbnail is approximately one degree. The fourth decimal place is 1/10,000. See Hawkins: Stonehenge Decoded, 1965.
©FOGS occasional newsletter updates


Friends of Grampian Stones Autumn Equinox newsletter 2002 Vol.XIII #3


Venus Pillars and Solar Dogs

Archaeoastrononomical Sunset into a horizon 'notch'

Sunset in Northeast Scotland, at equinox due West; at solstice at NNW

EQUINOX is traditionally the season for getting back to the time-old occupation of watching sunset, full-moonrise and the autumn heavens. It is onset of the aurora season when for some inexplicable reason there is more geomagnetic actiivity (related to solar flares) and, it seems, the time for other celestial phenomena. These include nacreous clouds – those wonderful ephemeral patches of rainbow light which appear and as suddenly disappear around the edges of evening cirrus. There have been seen lately a lot of what in American terminology are called sun-pillars and sun-dogs (in the case of Venus, Venus-dogs!) where the pillar describes a shaft of light extending vertically from the light body and the dog a similar extension of light in a lateral direction. With the gradual brightening of Venus, the chance of seeing this phenomenon becomes more likely.

full moonrise occurs at NNE opposite the setting sun (SSW) on winter solstice

midwinter full moonrise in the north-north-east at latitude 57ºN

Sun-pillars are a regular feature of sunset around autumn equinox, even lingering as a great shining after the sun has set. With the continuation of our spell of ‘Indian summer’ and exceptional clarity of light, we aren’t surprised to find a phalanx of photographers most evenings at the well-known recumbent circles in the Northeast and some even at those lesser-known.

On equinox night, a magnificent solar ‘roll-down’ occurred, as seen from Shieldon (non-recumbent) circle at NJ 823 249 near Whiterashes, due west to the Buck of the Cabrach where a little before 7pm (BST) the flaming orb of an equinoctial sun did its primeval tumble down the northern slope, setting into a notch of the Cabrach (Alexander Thom eat your heart out!) and flooding the Garioch with an almost ethereal light. It is no wonder that FOGS who were considered ‘fringe’ 20 years ago are now being joined by a growing number of sky-watchers: all meeting by chance in the stone circles of Aberdeenshire, Kincardine and Banffshire to witness such autumnal glory.

We think the practice is catching on!

Crop Circle but not a Crop Circle

winter solstice 2002, shadows of a stone/crop circle

Hybrid stone/crop circle at winter solstice 2002

CIRCLE-watchers may have noticed a sudden straw bale sculpture appearing as if by the wave of a cosmic wand on the Garioch-dominating plateau at Kirkton of Bourtie, NJ 801 249. However, unlike the crop circle which appeared mid-morning on an August day in 1995 in a wheat crop on a Culsalmond farm, the circular structure at Bourtie is decidedly man-made. It is the inspiration of sculptor Keiji Nagahiro, combined with dowser Peter Donaldson and farmer Ian Peddie, who with broad grin from tractor cab manipulated bulky but beautiful round bales into position (no mean feat) while the ideas men looked on and directed the final shape in an attempt to replicate the circle’s original alignment. Its ultimate position – a recumbent circle in straw – is all things to all men – or at least to these three: to one it is a fleeting glimpse of what might have been, created in rustic splendour to last no more than a single season; to another, it was something fun to do after harvest but before the ‘back end’ dictates when everything is brought in; to the dowser it is a physical shape superimposed on an energy signal received by the dowsing rod. It has been a fascinating exercise in people-watching: on the day it was created – one week before equinox – two Californians strolled up the slope, utterly unsurprised by the manifestation. BBC Radio Scotland was quick to send a researcher who was transported by the site, its structure and its vista. Others have followed, often spotting the sculpture from the road and screeching to a halt, entranced. Our members have only a little time to see it in its present glory as the farming year and equinoctial gales (so far, amazingly absent) will soon dictate its being or non-being. We recommend it, if only for the presence it brings to this ancient place, in a way regenerating in the imagination how the circle must have looked to its early architects 5000 years ago. To FOGS who follow shadow casts (especially good at equinox), the bales add another dimension to shadow outlines in barley stubble while low sunlight highlights cropmarks of an avenue approaching the circle, peppered with quartz pebbles, a hallmark of NE circle design. The imagination soars.

Post scriptum on above article: Google Earth continues to display this sculptural-stroke-agricultural-energetic phenomenon: as the aerial photo used in their GoogleEarth page for Kirkton on Bourtie will show. This clearly dates GoogleEarth’s map coverage of Aberdeenshire to the autumn and winter of 2002.

Untimely death

IT IS with sadness that we have to announce the untimely death of Dr Nick Bogdan, one of the leaders of the Fetternear Episcopal Palaces Project this autumn. He will be greatly missed. At this time it is difficult to predict how the work in which he was involved will continue, but his partner and fellow archaeologist, Dr Penny Dransart has our blessing and condolences. We wish her well in continuing the work they both began and will report when future plans are further developed.

Druidsfield Saved

FOGS might be forgiven for thinking our efforts often go unseen or, more colloquially, that we spit in the wind; but occasionally, a success is eeked out through perseverence. Such is the case with the Druidsfield (known to Historic Scotland as Broomend of Crichie) ritual henge, avenue entrance and Pictish carved stone at Port Elphinstone, Inverurie NJ779 191-6. We added our voice to local opposition to a plan for development of a certain hamburger chain to adjoin the circle and ditch – visions of half-eaten buns and related waste floating in a prehistoric context made more than FOGS’ hair curl, it seems. Thanks in great part to Inverurie businessman Bob Minto and his supporters, the burger meisters will find another site and the Druidsfield will continue to provide pleasure for local walkers. It has been reported that this very field has been acquired by Aberdeenshire Council, for unknown purpose and for an undisclosed sum. Locals are again on the warpath. We shall confirm.

FOGS Dowsing Day & AGM

MIDWAY through a week of solid rain, FOGS’ AGM turned out to be one of brilliant sunshine with not a cloud in sight. Dowsers – new and experienced – were seen lurking, bending, pacing, doing all the bodily antics that dowsers do among remnant woodland near Midmar Kirk. Visitors were drawn from Dundee, Glasgow and Inverness, along with a full complement of regular FOGS who seemed to enjoy every minute. Results not all yet in, but preliminary consensus would have it that the Midmar Kirk recumbent circle may be a later progression, with its operative stones moved a few metres downslope from an original site focused on the Balblair monolith nearby. A visiting Dundee lecturer in architecture specializing for his Ph.D. in geomancy [yes] said he came because the grid between latitudes 56º and 58ºN are considered ‘most sacred and most proliferated with stone circles in the world’ (his quote) and he wanted to feel it for himself. We are grateful to Phyllis Goodall and Peter Donaldson for leading the dowsing and encouraging so many newbies. More meetings of the like were enthusiastically recommended. Printouts of the dowsed circle will no doubt appear in due course but, as our scientist-dowser is now our new membership sec, please give the man a chance! In the meantime, his consummate dowsing and mapping of recumbent stone circle and Bronze Age cemetery at Loanhead of Daviot is here.


Friends of Grampian Stones Spring Equinox 2002 newsletter vol.XII #2


Episcopal Palaces Project 2005 Fetternear

Bishop's Palace, Fetternear; heritage project under threat

Heritage Manipulation
March 21, 2001 THE Scottish Executive has announced it will tidy up QUANGOS in a bill affecting 60 quasi-autonomous non-Governmental organizations, 28 national health service trusts and 15 health boards. A diverse bunch, it includes the Rowett Research & Macaulay Institutes, Aberdeen, the Scottish Arts Council, the Deer Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage, National Museums of Scotland, the National Galleries and the Scottish Tourist Board (‘Visit Scotland’), along with Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, but not Grampian Enterprise (?) Among them is the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland.

QUANGOS are non-Governmental, but the Executive seems to have become ‘responsible’ for them, as non-departmental public bodies (NDPB)- a different animal altogether.

This issue deals almost exclusively with this matter because it would appear ministers have not initiated adequate consultation within professional and academic groups whose opinion is of supreme importance. If bureaucratic systems are implemented wholesale, the work of generations of fine minds may be relegated to the bin in a ‘baby-with-bathwater’ attempt at civil service rationale. We may not wish to comment on internal Parole Board workings or how the Royal Botanic Garden educates the planet. It is relevant to FOGS, however, that some of our greatest institutions with documentary evidence of our heritage collected over centuries, may be under immense threat.

Wishing to go further, the Executive is now looking at all Scots public bodies and the ‘role they play in delivering Ministers’ policies’. Overall aim is to modernise infrastructure by reduction or initiating appropriate systems, to ensure appointments are ‘suitable’ and that ‘public bodies are properly accountable to Ministers and Parliament.’

We all know that we live in the most over-governed small country in the world. Within it, nevertheless, are national treasures, resources and a long history of care for heritage and environment independent of bureaucrats. Our voluntary groups and charitable societies rival any in the English-speaking world. There are descendants of Scots in every nation, many of whom despair of our careless disbanding of tradition, value and history, seen in recent government efforts to remake ‘cool Britannia’.

It seems ‘Scottish Ministers want the changes to the framework within which public bodies operate to yield lasting benefits and to command widespread support.’ This initial review will not be the last word. The process of dialogue and consultation invites comment by April 12th 2001 [address below], but will continue beyond May. Every public body which remains will be subject to a ‘modernized, focused rolling review process.’

Annex B of the consultation document states ‘if the case is not made for the QUANGO, we will abolish it.’

One wonders how, for instance, the National Library, legal repository for every work published in Great Britain and Ireland, having an unrivalled Scots collection, will fare.

The Ancient Monuments Board has traditionally advised ministers on the exercise of their functions under the Act of 1979. Do ministers now intend a little rôle reversal to advise the Board on how they should guard monuments?

The Royal Commission (RCAHMS) is under most pressure. How will it fit into the category of ‘what Ministers want’? It has an unparalleled (& efficient) library in Edinburgh which gives members of the public unlimited access to archive material collected since 1908. Its enormously innovative & important Canmore website is an independent project like Monuments on Record on CD-ROM, published to mark its 90th anniversary. ‘Canmore’ database attracted 50,000 searches in its first year on the Internet. Recognised as a charity with the Capital Taxes office [SC026749], able to apply for independent funding via Heritage Lottery Fund, the Commission provides a niche for high-profile, irreplaceable archives; but just as NASA and JPL are dependent on amateur astronomers for unusual material, RCAHMS has accepted personal photographic and documentary historical research donated over the years by amateurs. The present much-needed ‘Strath Don’ survey of Aberdeenshire is possible only because RCAHMS technicians are single-minded, dedicated professionals; not a blade of grass is left unturned nor a single mound unexamined. Instead of this remarkable heritage, are we to receive short shrift from a civil servant with a budget to watch? Will our ancient land once again become amalgamated and manipulated to suit some jargon-filled programme?
We invite you to write in support of RCAHMS before April 12th (2001) to:
Scottish Executive, Public Bodies Review Team,
Room 318,16 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh EH1 3DN
Fax: 0131 244 5077

Resources Relevant to RCAHMS
MANY FOGS members will know that the English equivalent of Historic Scotland currently wants to pass through the Lords the Culture and Recreation Bill (H.L.) which would give English Heritage extraordinarily sweeping intellectual property rights relating to ancient monuments and historic buildings, including ‘any other intangible assets’ – wording of a clause which it seeks to insert into 1983’s National Heritage Act. If exercised, such rights could significantly undermine work of independent charities, freelance professionals and owners of such properties. As drafted, it could infringe authors’, illustrators’ and photographers’ rights and undermine legitimate arrangements on intellectual property and other rights.

When moved for a second time on 18-01-2001, Lord Scott of Foscote, a Law Lord, observed that it seemed to contravene the Human Rights Act, pointing out: ‘it surely could not have been intended that the exploitation of intellectual property rights (relating to monuments and historic buildings) should be privately owned rights’. Prehistorians and archaeologists are alarmed that a similar situation might follow north of the border, if the present Scottish Executive Review of Public Bodies succeeds.

Among correspondence we have received, Dr PZ Dransart who works within both legislatures, gives a most succinct comparison:
‘Part V of the Culture and Recreation Bill (H.L.) is analogous to the Scottish Executive review. It intends ‘to remove anomalies which hamper efficient/effective delivery of public services’. Three new bodies are proposed, designed to be reconstituted as statutory bodies to ‘provide the Secretary of State with a basis for making grants’. It also makes changes to the way people are appointed to governing bodies of different museums.

‘As you mentioned, all these issues are interconnected. Independence and organisation of our national museums, libraries and RCAHMS is under threat from such proposals. It will dilute professionalism and make bodies less professionally accountable.

‘At present advertisements are placed in the press to invite applications for people to serve on the executive and advisory NDPBs. Paradoxically, the proposals may not even save money, as the Scottish Executive will have to appoint more civil servants to replace people who sit on those bodies.’
P.Z.Dransart, Univ. of Wales at Lampeter; archaeologist Episcopal Palaces project Fetternear, Aberdeenshire.


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