See Springwatchâ€™s Urban Dolphins for yourself Walk the coast without the car Dark secrets at Cove Meet the Jumplings
Discover East Grampian Coast
EDITORIAL Finding boundaries
Stonehaven’s Tolbooth Museum is a place well worth a visit as explained by Andrew Newton.
A mild day at the end of winter and a family walk was just Rob Plumber and the boat builders of Catterline give their account of the creation of a St Annes Skiff that will soon the thing. be entered into the many coastal rowing events that have Having driven over the River North Esk many times I started around Scotland. I hear rumour that they may have often looked over at the old railway bridge but never soon have some local competition. actually taken to time to explore it properly. Starting at a small car park a mile to the south follow the route of the I hope you enjoy this guide and are inspired to get out old railway line until the path splits and follows the road and make the most of our coast. before the magnificent bridge was reached. Ian Hay—Project Manager EGCP Built in 1863 by Blyth and Blyth as part of the Montrose WILD Bervie branch railway linking farms and fishing communities along the coast. It was never busy and even at its St Cyrus National Nature Reserve peak only three trains a day would cover the 13mile route One of the best views in the East of Scotland comes as a in 45minutes. It closed in 1966. big surprise. Park sensibly near St Cyrus church and folThe bridge now crosses one of the best fishing beats on low the small road signposted Beech Road. The view the River North Esk and fishermen can often be seen comes at the end of a short road and is truly spectacular. below whilst a rather more successful fisher can be heard The long sweep of sandy beaches including Montrose claiming its territory. The Dipper is a strange bird looking and Ferryden Lighthouse can be seen to the south before like it should be in the garden, but instead finds food at the headland juts out to the sea. the bottom of very fast flowing rivers, walking in-between Looking down, St Cyrus NNR and its history can be seen the boulders catching insects and small fish. from here. Directly below the remnants of the salmon netFrom the bridge the river passes the ultra-modern new fishing hut before passing a bird hide and entering the North Sea. From here the East Grampian coast can be seen heading north. The East Grampian coast is packed full of places to explore as well as some of the best wildlife sites in Scotland. This guide aims to give a personnel view of some of the highlights that I have discovered and wish to share.
St Cyrus from above ting industry, which ended here only 7 years, ago can be seen with sheds and drying poles set out. A close look on the beach reveals the old anchor points used to attach the nets. Beneath the cliff an area of sandy grasslands holds every species of Grasshopper in Scotland whilst a myriad of flowers such as Lady’s Bedstraw, Rest Harrow and MaidBridge over the North Esk ens Pink can be seen in the spring and summer. In autumn this is a great place to look for Fungi with a wide In addition EGCP’s tourism intern, Suzanne Kovacs, was range of species visible in the dunes, if you struggle set the challenge of finding some enjoyable walks without knowing your Death Cap, from your Chanterelle Scottish needing a car. p13 and 14. Whilst expert local naturalist Natural Heritage, (SNH) run fungal forays in the autumn. Nick Picozzi explored the butterflies you can see and enjoy on a summers visit.p4. Cover Images - Top Left— Footdee Playpark. Centre Common Blue, Fowlsheugh. Right Meadow Pipit on Gorse, Ythan. Main -Mother and Calf Dolphin Aberdeen Bay. All photos © Ian Hay www.creativewildlife unless otherwise stated
resting by these sheltered waters as they had done for at least 600 years. All this changed on a stormy night in 1879 when heavy rain and snowmelt turned the North Esk into a ranging torrent that punched a new route to the sea close to where it is today. However sand moving from the south due to wave action is gradually moving the route of the river north again. The course of the old river is now an area of salt marsh that is still flooded on occasion. Past the Gurkha bridge is the dune system followed by the Beach. Whilst the Tyrie Trail only goes as far as the Kirkyard if you have time carry on to the end of the beach. Here a waterfall hides between the rocks and some of the best rockpools in the area can be found. The high volcanic cliffs that tower above the beach were created by erosion from the sea that once broke at their base. These cliffs are home to Fulmars and if you are lucky you may even see the Peregrines that nest here. Peregrine falcons are the worldâ€™s fastest birds and specialise in hunting other birds in flight. A good tip for seeing them is to go online and search for a recording of their call. Once you know what to listen for, they are much easier to see, especially when young birds have left the nest site but still want food from mum and dad. Between the cliffs and the dunes is an important area of grassland, home to a wide range of plants and insects that are not normally found this far north but benefit from Just to the south is the SNH visitor centre and the main the shelter of the cliffs and the warm south easterly asentrance to the Reserve. As the cliff path is, at the time of pect of the bay writing, closed, you must retrace your steps back to the St Cyrus village and head south on the A 92 until, the The Tyrie Trail leaflet can be picked up on site or downloaded from the www.discovereastgrampiancoast.com. road junction immediately before the road crosses the North Esk. Follow this road until you reach the visitor PLACES centre and its car park. St Cyrus Solitude
Gourdon and Johnshaven
The visitor centre was originally build as a life boat station in the late 19th century. A quick look around will confirm this is a little odd as it is half a mile from the sea separated by a line of high sand dunes. The reason for this will become apparent later.
The fishing communities of Gourdon and Johnshaven are perfect places to sample fresh fish, including lobster and crab. It can be enjoyed at fine restaurants, the fish and chip restaurant, the pub or buy from the fish shop for cooking at home.
The visitor centre contains a wealth of information about The coastal path which runs between Gourdon and the Reserve including a guide to the Tyrie Trail, a 1 mile Johnshaven is bicycle, walker and wheelchair friendly. walk around the lower part of the Reserve. Leaving the visitor centre the first major feature you come to is the Ghurkha Bridge. This is a raised boardwalk crossing an area of wet ground to reach the dunes. Half way across the bridge stop and look back at the visitors centre. 150 years ago this would have been a very different looking place as you would have been standing in the middle of a broad estuary with the waters of the North Esk flowing beneath you. The location of the life boat station now makes sense with easy access to the sea. Fishing boats would have
Gourdon in Winter 3
PLACES Inverbervie. Lost harbours, Tall ships and John Bull!!!!
WILD Butterflies of the coast
Inverbervie is a small town with a split personality. Take its name. Formally it is the Royal Burgh of Inverbervie, but to its friends it is simply known as Bervie. It is a town that was rooted in the sea but now looks to the land.
There are a few places where it is especially worth keeping a look-out for them. I enjoy a walk on the path across the dunes at the Sands of Forvie NNR to the remains of the old village and the now-demolished salmon fishers’ bothy. Small Heath, Red Admiral, and Green-veined White may be seen here and in the dune slacks, with a bit of luck, the now rather uncommon Grayling. It is easy enough to identify as when it lands the wings are held tightly together over the back and tilted to one side which makes them rather difficult to spot. They favour the yellow flowers of ragwort as do the day-flying Antler moth and the very colourful 6-spot Burnet moth.
by N. Picozzi
Inverbervie was already a well-established fishing town when in 1391 a boat containing King David II and Queen Johanna landed to escape from a dreadful storm. They were given shelter and treated so well that the status of Royal Burgh was awarded. The harbour flourished for over 500 hundred years. However, during the 1800s this came to an end when a shingle ridge blocked the entrance, This forced the fishing industry to move a mile south to Gourdon. The battle with this shingle remains as the River Bervie is a small salmon and sea trout river. In order to allow the fish to progress upstream, the shingle is removed for a period each year.
With the loss of fishing, Inverbervie looked to the land for its living becoming a centre for textiles. It will always be associated with one of the fastest and most famous sailing ships of all time, the Cutty Sark. Hercules Linton, the Common Blue designer of the ship, was born in the town hence the N. Picozzi presence of Nannie, the scantily clad witch from Tam O’Shanter. The full size replica of the ship’s figurehead stands at the end of the Jubilee Bridge. Girdleness can be very interesting for migrant butterflies Another character of note was John Arbuthnot, who as such as Red Admiral and Painted Lady, and one year, well as being a physician and scholar of note he invented two Swallowtails were seen by a surprised and very fortuthe stubborn character ‘John Bull’ who together with his nate birder. There was an unresolved debate as to their Bulldog is the very symbol of Brittishness. This is a sur- origin. I have watched Red Admiral and Painted Lady prise given he was also a prominent Tory (another name come in from the sea, clearly migrants and land to feed as soon as they found a suitable nectaring plant. Their for a Jacobite in the 1700s.) flight is very economical with alternate flaps and glides that makes best use of the up-currents of air over the BBQ at Inverbervie Bay waves. The Painted Lady occasionally arrives in Britain in huge numbers from North Africa taking more than one generation to do so as they cross Europe. Britain’s smallest butterfly, the very delicate Small Blue has been recorded here in the past, but although there are small patches of the larval food plant, Kidney Vetch, there have been no confirmed reports in recent years. They were also previously known at Cove and may be still be present occasionally at St Cyrus. The cliff path at Muchalls is another possibility and I have seen Northern Brown Argus there. Bervie Beach, close to the Leisure Centre is a great place to watch the sun go down. In the summer at high tide this is a good spot to fish for mackerel which cooked on a BBQ on one of the stands that are provided on site, must give the freshest fish possible.
Finding butterflies is very dependent on the weather and the time of year, mainly mid-late summer. A reasonable range of the admittedly rather small number of species present this far north always adds to the enjoyment of a day walking our coastal paths. 4
Catterline Boat Builders Diary by clamp the second garboard to the hog. For the first garboard we used 35 clamps to bond the garboard to the hog. However attaching the second garboard was not so easy as the first garboard was now in the way and the clamps could not fit around it and on to the hog. Hence some ingenuity was required, with wood off cuts used to 30 Jan 2010—Full Speed Ahead for Catterline Rowers apply pressure to the garboard, with ropes from each end The first meeting of the provisionally entitled "Catterline tied to the frame. Then the rope was twisted to tighten Rowing Club" was held at the Creel Inn last Sunday, from and pull the wood off cuts down on to the garboard. the seven people attending, plus offers of support from several others who could not be there on the night, it was 22 Jan 2012 It's Starting To Look Like a Boat... clear that there is enough interest to make the project “Wow it’s starting to look like a boat.”, Brendan Hall, Catviable. Consequently, it was agreed to go ahead and terline boat builder build a boat! 4 March 2012"She Has Lovely Curves" The plan is to start building the boat in Autumn, which Almost exactly six months after the project started, the would hopefully mean that it could be launched in spring Catterline St Ayles skiff was gently rolled over on Sun2011. day. As well as hosting a wonderful view, great seafood and a rich history, Catterline is also the first East Grampian community to join the growing Coastal Rowing movement. Here is the story so far based on Extracts from Coltterline Online Boat Builders Diary.
23 Sept 2010 -Boat Kit Arrives The Catterline Coastal Rowing Club took delivery of the kit to build the St Ayles Skiff last week. The kit, which currently looks more like something you'd get from IKEA than anything recognisably boat shaped, was collected by Rob Plummer and Peter Hales last Friday.
On a glorious sunny day, a crowd of nearly forty people watched or participated in the turning of the hull. The hull was lifted upwards, coming cleanly away from the bed frame. It was then moved sideways and lowered whilst others picked up the bed frame and took it out of the boat shed. The hull was then slowly turned and then gently lowered onto its chocks. With a few gentle taps, the hull frames that had attached themselves to the hull were removed, leaving the hull to be viewed.
11 Sept 2011-Boat Building Begins... sort of Catterline Coastal Rowing Club started boat building on Sunday - 11th September 2011. Boat building might be slightly misleading, but much important discussion on the project took place. Some bits of wood were cut for the support frame. Most effort went into putting up a board on the well, which now has the boat plans pinned on it. This exercise served to prove the requirement to measure three times and cut once rather than measure once and cut three times! All the parts of the kit are now labelled and the components of the support frame were cut.
There were nods of approval from those familiar with Iain Oughtred’s designs. Others expressed surprise at the size of the boat and comments such as “She has lovely curves” came from others. Then tea and cake were served and the moment was enjoyed.
27 May 2012 - Painting Midweek, there had been work on shaping the gunwales and fitting the kabes on the port side. We are starting to get close to the painting stage (6 coats It was agreed to meet on Sunday afternoons at 2ish and on both sides). The are some more kabes to prepare, on Friday mornings at 10. finish the cox’s seat and there is quite a bit of work on the Next Tasks: floor boards still to do. The cumulative hours spent working on the boat has now Build support frame. 700 hours with effort from 30 people and of Cut out frames, moulds and clamps from plywood passed course, P6/7 of Catterline Primary School. sheets Prepare frames June 3, 2013 - The Spirit of Catterline Make a decision on type of wood for hog, keel and stems At last! After finishing off some final details, Spirit of Catterline is now ready to be launched! and acquire if necessary. 5 Dec 2011 Hot Spanish Lassies Massive thanks to all of everyone who has worked on the So what has been going on in the boatshed, with a title boat, whether for one or a hundred hours, and also those like that, you ask. who have supported the project. Without you all, we would have never got so far. Well, the wood burning stove went red, not in embarrassment, but due to the amount of heat it was throwing If you and your village are up to the challenge more inforout. Off cuts of plywood burn well. The Spanish lassies mation is available at www.scottishcoastalrowing.org refers to a number of Spanish windlasses that are used to the attach the second garboard (Plank #1) to the hog. By Rob Plumbercatterline.org/coastalRowing These traditional techniques proved the best way to 5
WILD Fowlsheugh—meet the Jumplings Fowlsheugh, is the second largest city in the North East of Scotland. It is a crowded place with 130,000 high-rise inhabitants. It has dramas that would make any soap opera seem tame, from theft to murder and some seriously dysfunctional families. Never heard of it? That is because the city dwellers are birds.. Late evening and the ferry sails into the late summer sun, fulmars skirt across the waves and a sound catches the ear. It is three squawks then a gap, then another three squawks, this repeats about 20 times. Over the next hour this noise can be heard coming from all over the sea. To understand what is making the sound and what it means a return must be made to the coast, Fowlsheugh much earlier in the year. March and a spell of good weather brings a myriad of sea birds. Puffins take the penthouse flats and des-res rabbit holes at the very top of the cliff. At the base Shags make a very dodgy home just above the waves. In between is a sheer cliff with terrifying drops and tiny ledges, home of the Guillemots.. The cliff seems a strange place to make your home. However it is safe from a great range of animals that would love a tasty egg or chick for lunch, although this Guilliemot– Father and Son safety needs some special adaptations. Firstly having eggs that are safe from predators is not much good if they keep rolling into the sea. The solution, is eggs that forces the chick to join him, with flap of its wings take off are pointed so that way if they start to roll they just go and ……… plummets into the sea below, hence the around in a tight circle. name Jumpling, (young puffins are called Pufflings). Once hatched the young Guillemot has to learn fast, obviGuillemots are tough birds and it makes sense to leave ously staying still and away from the edge is a must. The the nest early, you can now swim with dad to where the predator free world has its limitations and baby Guillemot fish are and save your single parent from a long commute is a perfect sized meal for a hungry Gull. Mum and dad however the world is still a scary place so best stay close have two things that are useful in defence, a sharp beak to Dad. and lots of friends, Guillemot’s like to live together with 10s of thousands crammed on the cliffs at Fowlsheugh Late summer and you are swimming far out to sea when providing a mass of pecking beaks. a huge boat appears in the evening sun. With a good supply of fish the chicks will soon grow, in fact Guillemots are important to make sure that all the local seabirds get a meal. Just off the coast a small shoal of fish have been spotted. They are too deep for most of the gulls and Kittiwakes to reach. However the Guillemots don’t dive into the water, as they can swim powerfully under the shoal, possibly reaching a depth of 150metres, forcing the fish closer to the surface making it easier for all the birds, but bad news for the fish!!
‘Where is he?…….Dad…….Dad…. there you are Dad’ ‘Yes son’ ‘Dad….Dad…..Dad’ ‘Yes son’ ‘Dad…Dad…..Dad’
Some say Gulliemots evolved their great underwater swimming ability to find food, as the father of a four year As the weeks pass the chicks grow until the day comes to old I say it was to get some peace and quiet!!! leave the nest. The hints to leave come fast, firstly mum To reach Fowlsheugh follow the A92 until you see a sign leaves forever, never to be seen again. Dad still feeds for Crawton. Follow this tiny road until you reach the the chick, but it has to be said even he is being a bit odd. RSPB car park. From here follow the marked footpath One day instead of bringing food to you he lands on the north. . water at the base of the cliff and calls. Eventually hunger 6
the beauty of choosing the recipe that is good for you. Please try our local langoustine, mackerel and squid in the summer and for the more adventurous skate cheeks Seafood is one of the greatest stars of the East Grampi- are an alternative to scallops. an coast. We have the largest white fish and shellfish Direct from the boat port in Europe as well as tasty crab and lobster landed at For lovers of crab and lobster the best way to get them is nearly every small harbour. direct from the boats. Simply ask a dealer who is off loadThere is a problem with local celebrities, they tend to for- ing the catch and some may be willing to sell direct. Exget were they came from. Indeed our seafood is just the pect to pay about £7 for a live lobster and between about same staring in some of the best sushi bars in Japan, £2 and £3.50 for a brown crab. high-class restaurants in Paris and the fish markets of Spain but it would be good to keep more at home for us If your preference is to buy ready cooked Lobster and Crab ask your fishmonger. However do ask where it to enjoy.. came from. Most lobster in the supermarket is flown in This is a bit simplistic however the fact is Scotland export from North America whilst just down the road local lob85%+ of our seafood and import 60% of what Scotland sters are being transported live to Europe. actually eat. In order to understand this and eventually try to change this mismatch EGCP is working with others on Seafood shacks by the harbour a seafood trail and promoting seafood champions. One of the nicest meals I had was a pint glass full of lanSeafood champions will be restaurants, fishmongers, goustine tails (Fraserburgh being the No 1 port for this) cafes, hotels and fishermen that sell good quality local served with a chunky piece of brown bread and some seafood. Whilst the full list of champions is still being Marie Rose Sauce, it was served outside overlooking a harbour and it was so good it was worthy of a photography. Sadly this was on the west coast of Scotland, so this is a challenge to our local business community. We have the market for good rustic seafood. Why not have a go? Money is there to be made.
FEATURE East Grampian Seafood
Are you a seafood hero? If not, do you know one? Please let us know. The Partnership’s Seafood reports can be found at www.egcp.org.uk.
worked on here are a few places to try;Restaurants Classic venues such as The Creel Inn at Catterline, the Tollbooth at Stonehaven and The Silver Darling in Aberdeen are well known seafood specialists. A new specialist is café at the National Lighthouse Museum in Fraserburgh which will be opening as a seafood restaurant on certain evenings Hotels The Tufted Duck at St Coombs near Fraserburgh, the Buchan Braes at Boddam and many hotels in Aberdeen all serve great local seafood to residents and non- residents Fishmongers Cooking your own fish can be quick, simple and very tasty, or can be slow and fiddly and need real skill, that is 7
the popular children’s film.
FEATURE Hiding the Crown Jewels
According to a recent poll Dunnotter Castle was put forward as candidate for the 8th Wonder of the World.
Following what is known as the English Civil War, although Scotland had a major part to play, Oliver Cromwell PLACES took over as Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland plunging the country into a period of harsh dicta- Stonehaven torship. A fun seaside town with lots to do, Stonehaven is a great One of his decisions was to destroy all the symbols of place to be on a summer’s day. power which included melting the English Crown Jewels and selling the gold and gem stones. He then turned his attention to the symbols of Royal power in Scotland, the Honours. Fortunately they were kept in the famously impenetrable fortress of Dunnotter Castle. An army was dispatched to seize them and a siege ensued.
Looking at the picturesque harbour today, it is hard to believe that a 17th century captain described it as a ‘stinking hive, only for pirates and picaroons’. With a good beach, it is a nice place to have a truly spectacular ice cream from Betty’s, or to look out from one of the seaside cafes. The harbour’s colourful history includes landings from both sides during the Jacobite rebellion.
It was obvious that the castle could not hold out, so the Jewels were smuggled away by Mrs Granger the wife of the local minister, and buried within the confines of Kineff church. They were kept well, being dug up every three months to clean and dry them. However the Sword was a bit too big so had to be broken into two.
A coastal boardwalk from the town can take you north to the village of Cowie, where you can see the greens used to dry fishing nets.
You can continue beyond the end of the road to the Highland Boundary Fault where the fossil of the world’s oldest air breathing creature was found and where, geologically, The Honours stayed hidden until the Restoration brought the highlands meet the lowlands. King Charles II to the throne. The crown is still used to Stonehaven Outdoor pool is well worth a visit in summer represent the Scottish crown each year at the state open- alongside the excellent play park ing of the Scottish Parliament. The Sceptre and the sword remain in Edinburgh castle as they are too fragile FEATURE to be used.
NEOS – Discovering an Artistic Side
Running in early September the North East Open stStudios is a celebration of the areas artistic side with over 300 artists taking part annually it offers visitors the chance to Set on a stunning outcrop Dunnotter castle is a must visit meet the artists and view their work. location whatever the weather or time of the year. The There is also a strong coast theme with Peterhead, castle has plenty to entertain all the family from a grizzly Stonehaven and Inverbervie all hosting a number of history to jaw dropping views and a connection to ‘Brave’, events and exhibitions of local artists.
PLACES Dunnotter Castle
Stonehaven from Above 8
one of them. The local community launched a vigorous campaign to re-open the museum and since May 2011 the museum has operated under community management and staffed by volunteers. It is now the second Nestling on the Old Pier at Stonehaven’s harbour is the most popular museum/heritage centre in the Council’s town’s oldest building which was erected in the late 16th portfolio. century as a store for materials ,when the nearby DunThe museum is packed with displays that showcase the nottar Castle was being constructed. building’s turbulent past and Stonehaven’s rich history In 1600 an Act of Parliament gave the building greater with something for every interest. You can watch a video prominence as the Act established the building as a Tol- about the famous Fireballs ceremony which occurs in the booth, i.e. the seat of local government and tax gather- harbour area on Hogmanay; let the children play the diing. A further change came in 1624 when administration nosaur quiz; examine the model of the Earth’s oldest air was restricted to the upper floor whilst the ground floor breathing animal ever found; reminisce over past domesbecame the local prison. These were dark days. The tic life, or study the local geology. Children can even be Black Book of Kincardineshire records many of the crimi- locked into the replica jail cell although it is insisted that nal trials held at the Tolbooth during the 17th and 18th are taken away when leaveingthe museum!
FEATURE The Tollbooth Museum By Andrew Newton
centuries. For example – George Ker was found guilty of stealing a peck and a half of pease and was sentenced to be scourged through the town and banished from theshire; James Elmsly was found guilty of stealing 3 milking cows and was duly hung on the nearby Gallow Hill; John Reid was convicted of stealing linen left out for bleaching and his punishment was many fold. He was branded on the right shoulder blade, tied to a condemned man, ordered to watch the hanging, bury the corpse and finally receive a kicking from the executioner! Dark days indeed!
The museum frequently conducts educational tours for local schools and is also available for private hire. Recently a night was dedicated to paranormal investigations (read the results on our website). The museum also has a small gift shop where souvenirs can be bought as a reminder of your visit to Stonehaven. The Tolbooth museum is a hidden gem which, in the last 2 years, has been ’discovered’ by over 30,000 visitors. Treat yourself, your friends and family by paying us a visit; we will be delighted to see you. Entry is free and during April to September the museum is open 1.30 to 4.30 every day except Tuesday. During the winter it opens on Saturdays and Sundays only. Check us out on www.stonehaventolbooth.co.uk
PLACES Muchalls Interestingly, this village is effectively New Muchalls, as the original village was a located ¾ of a mile to the south. Once a prosperous fishing community, two fishing disasTollbooth Musium A Newton ters in a short period of time led to the abandonment of The Tolbooth continued to function as the courthouse old Muchalls and the fishing boats moving south to and prison until new local government buildings were Stonehaven. established in1767, the old building then reverted to a store, used by local fishermen and merchants. But the Charles Dickens visited Muchalls in the mid-nineteenth years took their toll and by 1914 it was sadly dilapidated century and described the village as ‘a remarkably beauand underused. Matters were made worse in 1944 when tiful place’. We hope you will agree. a German mine floated into the harbour, exploded and seriously damaged the roof. Fortunately the local council Things to see and do had the foresight to restore the Tolbooth and in 1963 the Take a walk down to Dunnyfell cave and the waterfall it is Queen Mother re-opened the renovated building. In 1972 a steep up and down but worth the effort the ground floor opened as a museum but in 2010 the financial recession hit Aberdeenshire Council and it decided to close eight local museums, the Tolbooth being 9
Aberdeen—A wild City A still, clear summer day with a flat calm sea, everything claim to be the best city in Europe for watching whales looks peaceful….. and then they arrive. and dolphins, as well as the near daily sightings of Bottlenose Dolphins at the harbour. With a bit of luck, time and First to be seen is a massive male, 4 meters in length . a calm sea, Risso’s Dolphin, White Beaked Dolphin, He is just about the perfect hunter, speed and power Minkie Whale and Harbour Porpoise can be seen. During combine with senses that can only be imagined 2011 Aberdeen Bay also hosted a couple of giants with Soon the rest of the pod come charging into view, fe- Humpbacked Whales being present between Aberdeen males, youngsters and even the near white new-born ba- and the picture perfect village of Collieston for at least 7 bies race towards the hunt. The surface of the water is months. alive with 20 Dolphins. A large male leaps 3 meters into Bottlenose Dolphin are by far the easiest to see by simply the air as second slaps the surface of the water then evedriving to the Torry Battery. It is possible also to walk or rything goes quiet. The stillness is back, but not for long cycle from the city centre or take a taxi. Once at the Batas a mighty tail sweeps through the water in a stunning tery, a defensive fort that was placed to protect the city display of power, followed by second eruption as a large during the time of Napoleon, look between the North and salmon is thrown far into the air. South breakwaters, the dolphins may also be as far up The rest of the pod is also on the hunt with other victims river at the Harbour’s gleaming new control tower. being caught unseen. At last the frenzy is over, Fun time! This is also the best view of the city with the magnificent In a display of grace, dolphin after dolphin leaps high into bay sweeping north and the colour and industry of the the air or simply raise their heads above the surface to harbour giving way to the city and the distant mountains. have a look around at the land. The new-borns seem to be having most fun leaping repeatedly whilst being con- This is wildlife watching for all. No equipment is needed. , stantly shadowed by a watchful mum Even if you have little time, many locals sneak to the Torry Battery to have a quick sandwich lunch whilst watching This display is not a one off when a group of nomadic this true wildlife drama. Dolphins may even be seen from creatures appears and disappears, This drama is possibly the train on the way south from the city as it passes along happening as you read this article and in a place you may the coast towards stonehaven. not expect, less than 10 miles from Aberdeen Airport, only 2 miles from the city centre at the entrance to Aberdeen For the more dedicated, Aberdeen Harbour Cruises are Harbour. running boat trips, between April and September, to see this and our other wonderful wildlife that is at home in AbAmong its many energy related accolades Aberdeen can erdeen Bay.
WILD Cove â€“ strange goings on a warm summer night 11pm and the road that descends steeply to Cove harbour lights up with the glare of car headlamps. A few minutes later and another couple of vehicles join the nocturnal procession. Soon 20 people are gathered with the ringleader setting up a series of nets along the harbour wall. Then a strange but wonderful sound fills the air, positively spooky. Like a gang of wreckers this group are setting a trap for unsuspecting seagoers. However, this is not for murderous criminal profit. This is science. Storm and Leachâ€™s Petrels are strange birds. Very similar in appearance and size to a House Martin they spend most of their life out at sea apparently walking on water picking tiny food morsels from the surface. Being specialist seagoers they are poorly prepared for the dangers faced close to land with Gulls being a major threat. To deal with this they only come to land at night
Storm Petrel it to remind the bird that I was not a tree. Eventually it took the hint and flew into the night.
A bird in the hand
FEATURE Bus Walk 1 Cove to Aberdeen by Suzanne Kovacs
breeding on remote islands. To attract them to land and During 2013 we set our Intern the challenge of finding into the nets they are played the sound of; another petrel some great walk that could be done via public transport. in the mood for love. After this long and harsh winter the weather forecast preAs soon as a bird flies into the net it is caught, measured dicted one whole sunny day. I decided to make the most and ringed. This provides valuable data on these secreof this opportunity to discover the coastal path between tive birds that are almost impossible to track in any other Cove to Aberdeen. I had heard about it for a long time way. and always was curious to try it. This walk is called the On my first visit to a ringing session I was given the hon- Aberdeen Coastal Path and it is part of the North Sea our of releasing the first bird. Cupping the small ball of Trail, a long walk along the coast from Norway to Swefeathers in my hand I reach out and slowly open my den, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, England and finalhand, seeing its chance to escape the Storm Petral, it walked up to the top of my outstretched fingers and sat, ly Scotland. quite happily. Silhouetted in the moon light it curiously looked around and spent a bit of time sorting its feathers. The big international walk will need to wait for a longer holidays, some smaller parts can be easily enjoyed in the What it was thinking I will never know, maybe it was curi- area for some two hours or longer. This walk from Cove ous after what can only be described as an alien abduction, what I did know is that after what seemed like an up to Aberdeen, for example, took me only two and a half age my arm was getting tired so I slowly started shaking hours that morning to cover the 6miles/9,6km. 12
At about 8.30am on Guild Street, Aberdeen, I took the bus (First, number 3 in direction of Cove). 20 minutes later I was in Cove, a small sloping village with, visible over the roofs, the sea which was so blue that day under the sun.
the calm waves of the sea.
In the past the seabirds birds were considered as a good eating alternative for fishermen in the past? Birds used to be hunted for their flesh or men used to climb the cliffs to take the eggs from the nests. These attempts were very I went down to the small harbour. It is situated in a small dangerous, especially when the cliffs were wet and slipand picturesque bay surrounded by rugged cliffs. The pery. blue, red or white boats, beneath them the traps for crabs and lobsters were piled up next to the posts connected to After 2 hours walking I finally arrived in view of Nigg Bay each other with ropes once used to dry the fishing nets. which felt like a slow return to the civilisation. Ahead, the high buildings of Aberdeen were visible. I was leaving behind the wild and rugged cliffs dropping sheer into the sea, the many bays of all sizes, the thick grass taking the shape of waves under the wind’s pressure, seabirds chirping from their nets, from the air or from the sea… Nevertheless, the Nigg Bay was also an impressive view with its wide beach made of white stones still visible at some places under the clear blue water of the sea. On one side of the bay was the Girdleness Lighthouse while on the south side were now two people enjoying the view from the air, paragliding up the Bay.
Aberdeen’s wild side
I followed the path to the Lighthouse and then to Torry When I went up again to the village, I saw a bench which Battery. I stopped there for a snack while watching the looked down on to the harbour. Just behind that bench harbour’s entrance where dolphins can usually be seen. was a small path going through the grass along the coast The sea was flat and quiet, an infinite blue under the sun. line in the direction I knew I would find the Coastal Path. Sometimes I had the impression of seeing a dorsal fin As I am quite adventurous and always curious to see coming out of a wave, maybe it was only the wave playthings off the beaten track, I followed that small path be- ing with the sunlight. Anyway, the view of the sea, the tween the coast and the fields, over a stream and a small harbour and the boats, the beach and the city of Aberwall. Sometimes I went nearer to the edge of the cliffs so deen, altogether really were gorgeous. It’s not without I could see caves at the bottom, or seabird colonies in regret that I went back to the city. the rocks. Tip: between Cove and Aberdeen, the path gives two After about 10min of walking on this small and totally nat- options; following the coast or going to Doonies Rare ural path, I arrived on the official Coastal Path. I recog- Breeds Farm. It is a big farm of 134 acres, open to visinised it because it was wider and covered with gravel, tors. There can be seen rare and endangered farm aniwhich makes the path easily accessible to people with mals’ species, like the Eriskay Ponies. You can buy in the walking difficulties. This path led me to Aberdeen. Often farm’s shop steaks, bacon, beef, sausages and much there was a bench on the edge of the path, giving a nice more delicious farm food! view over the sea and the cliffs. Birds are present everywhere on the cliffs. Sometimes when I was approaching the edge of the cliffs for a better view and I could hear their chirping growing louder like a warning against me coming too close to their nests. Sometimes seabird colonies were hiding between two cliffs so close to each other that I could only detect them thanks to their chirpings’ echo. Plenty of Kittiwakes could be recognised, on the cliffs, singing “kitti-wake, kittiwake…”, while the Eider Ducks were swimming lazily on 13
PLACES Newburgh – clippers, seals and sticky toffee pudding wars
of the estuary. In the springtime you may also pick out Elvis the King Eider who has been in the area for the last few years.
Lying near the mouth of the Ythan Estuary, Newburgh has a long history as a port serving the nearby town of Ellon and beyond. The wharf now has long been closed, and is now been developed into a set of homes whos distinct design has resulted in a number of awards. The town’s nautical past still can be seen in the names of some of the grand houses including Shanghai House, Santa Cruz and Sydney House highlighted the ports of call that had made the fortune of the original owner.
FEATURE Bus walk 2 - Forvie NNR The bus number 63 was there at 8.20am on stance 11 at the Union Square bus station in Aberdeen, just as www.travelinescotland.com had told me the day before. I boarded the bus and took a return ticket to Newburgh, the closest town to the south entrance to Forvie NNR known as Waterside. Another entrance can be found in the north of the reserve, near Collieston, but the south entrance has recently been refurbished, so worth a try. When the bus arrived in Newburgh, I asked the driver what would be the closer stop to Forvie, because the Waterside entrance is just north of Newburgh, across the bridge. He told me he could stop just in front of the entrance. That’s what he did, and he told me I could also wait at the same point for the bus back to Aberdeen. Only two cars were in Waterside car park that morning. A board at the entrance of the Reserve showed me the map of the site, a selection of walks, the different habitats, beach, dunes or moor, the places where to find picnic tables, ruins or point of views. Only one area in the south of the reserve is closed because of the terns nesting.
Christmas in Newburgh
These little birds are rare and they choose Forvie as breeding place. Terns strangely make their nests on the ground and not in the trees. Nests are hidden in the high grass and are still vulnerable because of foxes and other predators. Terns need to avoid movements and noise to be able to breed, that’s why an area of the reserve is closed to the public to protect the terns from April to August.
Sticky toffee pudding is another source of local pride as the Udny Arms Hotel is reputed to be the home of this ever so sweet dish. However locals in Yorkshire and Cumbria also make the claim. What is certain is that the dessert is always a popular choice. Newburgh is also the gateway to the Ythan Estuary one of the most beautiful places in Scotland with stunning wildlife at any time of the year. At the end of Beach Rd is a small carpark where paths lead up onto the dunes or to the estuary itself. If you head to the estuary you can see around 400 seals haul themselves out on the north side
Marking the way—S. Kovacs 14
I started my walk in Forvie along the path to the Duck nesting area. At the entrance to that area was a carved wood bench showing ducks. From there the path ran along the Ythan river, a bright area of calm water surrounded by sand dunes. Around there, many ducks and eider ducks were making the most of the sunshine, lying on the beach. The path led then me into the dunes. The wind was blowing around the beautiful whitesand giving all sand dunes different shapes, while making waves in the high grass.
The path continued along the cliffs, sometimes with view over a sand beach, sometimes going through grass lands, until I arrived at the north entrance of the National Nature Reserve from where I could see the first houses of Collieston. Instead of going to the village (which really is worth a visit as well) I followed the path to the west, along the side of a small Dune Loch, where could be found several picnic tables.
Just beyond the Loch, the path ran over a small hill to reach Forvie’s visitor centre on the other side. Here faciliI was going from one dune to another when, I saw the ties can be used and an exhibition can be found explainbeach at my feet. I went down to the sea, which was ing, the key habitats, the species and all curiosities that calmly sending waves to the sandy beach. Empty shell- can be found on Forvie NNR. fish and well preserved crab shells could be found there. I took the most beautiful ones I found and kept them in I then retraced my steps back to the start of the walk. my bag as souvenirs, I continued walking along the When I arrived at the south entrance of the Reserve, I beach, going slowly because it was so beautiful and I waited near the road and when the bus arrived, it stopped to pick me up despite that there is no concrete wanted to make this moment last a long time. bus stop at this place yet. I was happy I avoided the rain To the North of the beach were rugged cliffs, while to thr and I even browned a bit, I had my shells in my bag as a south was the long beach going to the Ythan Estuary souvenir and lots of beautiful pictures stored in my and further. I walked north until I found a little river curved memory. into the sand. I stopped there to make pictures while two women walking with their dogs passed by and went back to the dunes, following the track. I followed them.
PLACES Cruden Bay and Port Errol Cruden Bay is a charming seaside village with a beach and a golf course. The Ladies Bridge at Port Errol Harbour leads directly to the beach. Cruden Bay Golf Club has stunning views and welcomes visitors from around the world. The dramatic ruins of Slains Castle perched on a cliff top nearby can be reached by a walk through the woods. Rumoured to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, this can be a spooky place.
The path was going to the remains of a church. On the way there, many signs gave short, clear, information about the way people used to live in Forvie and how archaeologists found proof of an ancient village in Forvie’s dunes.
To the North is the Bullars of Buchan, the best site in the area to see Puffin. Both the Bullars and Slains Castle are perched on high cliffs that can be dangerous in wet or windy weather.
After the remains of the church, the path was going to a bay called Hackley. It was formed of rugged cliffs, and lots of seabirds had decided to use these cliffs as their homes. Further north, I came to another bay which was a beautiful, white and totally clean beach surrounded by cliffs. It was a fantastic view and I was the only one with a few ducks and seabirds to enjoy the place! Bullars of Buchan from the Sea 15
FEATURE Buchan Ness—A family History By Alexander, Marquis of Aberdeen The 4th Earl of Aberdeen, George Gordon, enjoyed a very successful political career. He was Foreign Secretary during the 1820s and 1940s, Colonial Secretary (in the days when it was a very important position) in the 1830s and Prime Minister from 1852 – 1855. He was unfairly
n the late 1850s he spent more time there, particularly in the company of his favourite daughter-in-law, Mary Baillie from Mellerstain who was married to his eldest son who , sadly not not enjoy good health and had to spend long periods abroad for the warmer weather. His eldest grandson, who became the 6th earl in 1864, also visited and it was here that he gained his love of the sea as he watched the ships sail by. On his succession, he journeyed tp Canada where he obtained his Masters Certificate only to be washged overboard and perish in a massive storm whilst on a trip to Australia. The Boddam Estate had been acquired by the Gordon family in the 1730s and was subsequently purchased by the Russell family from Aden outside Mintlaw. Subsequently, Buchan Ness became a hotel but was destroyed be a major fire. The building is now in private ownership. The landward side of the house is restored as a private dwelling and the owner hopes in time to be able to continue with the restoration of the seaward side. The latin instruction is just visible above the door in the private garden. The clifftop garden created by George is now signposted Buchanness Lodge Marine garden, Boddam and due to step sides can only be viewed from the road.
criticised for his handling of the Crimean War as modern historians testify and it was an episode in his life which troubled him greatly up to his death, aged 80, in 1860. George’s main home in Scotland was Haddo House, located some 25 miles south west of Peterhead. However, in 1840, he built a cliff top retreat adjacent to the village of Boddam where he delighted to go for a few days at a time and, in his later life, for longer stays in the summer. Above the front was the latin inscription ‘Procul Negotis Beattus’ which translated means ‘Blessed are those who are far removed from business’. He was certainly far removed from the political life at Westminster but, also, from Haddo which he tended to fill with politicians, artist, actors and musicians along with his family when he stayed there. He found a sheltered spot in one of the ravines where he could create a terraced garden full of unusual plants. He enjoyed sitting out in the evening watching the herring fleets of those days setting sail or returning with their catch. The village, as one would expect of that period was very basic and on hot days would create a deeply unplesent odour. He set about carrying out many improvements including a sewage system and modernising the roads and houses.
PLACES Peterhead First settled by fishermen in 1593, Peterhead is the biggest town in Aberdeenshire and is affectionately known as the ‘Blue Toon’. Today, it is the UK’s largest white and pelagic fishing port, landing over 90,000 tonnes of fish each year. The award winning beach at Peterhead has some of the cleanest bathing waters on this coast. Located next to the marina in Peterhead Bay, this is a great beach for a family day out in summer. The ‘Blue Toon’ hosts a number of events throughout the year. The biggest of which is Peterhead Scottish week
which usually runs in the third week of July.
WILD Peterhead Harbour Wildllife
Opposite—Main Image Whilst Peterhead is famous as the premier white fish port in Europe many do not realise that is is also a haven for wildlife Insert -Top The women of the village would spend many hours Turnstones travel from Iceland to spend their winwatching the departure of their husbands and sons and, ters in our minder climate. Picking up scraps from for their accommodation, George, in a sheltered nook the quayside is a good way to get food for the hard overlooking the harbour, erected a number of granite times, In addition Peterhead is one of the best placseats for them to do so in greater comfort. He also had es in Britain to look for rare winter gulls erected, under glass and large barometer to assess weather conditions. The fishermen of Boddam paid great Insert Bottom heed to this and, it is said, that on several occasions they As well as being home to large number of eiders Peterstayed in harbour when neighbouring fleets did not, only head is also home to the rare Long tailed Duck which to perish in dreadful storms. winters here is good numbers 16
Loch of Strathbeg A reserve for all seasons
Summer and it is time to head to the beach, following the signs to Rattray and walk in the dunes and out to the lighthouse will always be enjoyable and you may even see an ocean giant as sightings of Basking Shark are increasing in this area. Pick a calm day and look for what appears to a small black hump (the nose), a large triangular flag, (the dorsal fin) and a small triangular flag going crazy at the back, (the tail). From water level basking sharks are funny looking beasts and must account for many tales of sea monsters.
Spring often comes late but with it a flurry of activity with terns and black headed gulls claiming the best breeding places in front of the viewing gallery. Again rarities can also turn up with Cranes being a real possibility, in 2012 and 2013 they indeed managed to breed at a secret location locally.
By late September the Loch of Strathbeg can appear to be a small avian airport as up to 80,000 Pink Footed geese arrive over a 2 week period. After the long haul arrival they soon settle into a daily routine heading out to feed at dawn and returning just after dusk. Be sure to book onto one of the RSPB Goosewatch events as this daily commute can be one of the greatest shows British wildlife has to offer.
Winter can be cold and hard by our standards but for many of the birds that chose to winter here it is an oasis of warmth compared to home, Whooper Swans from the north of Scandinavia meet Pink Footed Geese from Iceland enjoying the generally ice free water, Short Eared Owl from Sweden hunt voles whilst White Tailed Eagle look for larger prey
PLACES Rattray Head Once a royal burgh, the town of Rattray has long disappeared. What remains at Rattray Head today is a beautiful secluded beach, a lighthouse and lots of wildlife and plant life. History of settlement in the area dates back as far as the 15th century AD and in 1563, Mary Queen of Scots made the town a royal burgh. However, dangerous waters in this area have always made fishing difficult and when a sandstorm in 1720 sealed off the sea inlet required by Rattray’s inhabitants, the town was abandoned and its buildings left to crumble. In 2012 a very strange bird made the dunes home. Desert Wheatears do not even come to Britain in the summer preferring the desert of Morocco and Asia. So why one turned up in the far North East of Scotland is hard to
explain. However, he obviously liked our sand dunes as he stayed for the whole of a very harsh winter lasting an incredible 117 days before departing south(I guess).
PLACES Cairnbulg Perhaps the most noticeable feature of Cairnbulg is the remains of the Sovereign, a Banff registered fishing boat that hit the rocks just north of the village in 2005 and has been there ever since The rocky beach close to the wreck is home to a tern colony in the summer. You can also see eider ducks and goldeneye ducks displaying offshore . Maggie’s Hoosie was home to Miss Maggie Duthie, a woman who made her living preparing fish for market. She was not fond of change and shunned comforts such as running water and electricity. Preserved since her death in 1950, Maggie’s Hoosie is open to visitors during the summer.
PLACES Fraserburgh Fraserburgh, or ‘the Broch’ as it is locally known, is situated at the northern limits of the East Grampian coastline. As well as being a busy fishing port which lands over 12,000 tonnes of shellfish each year, Fraserburgh is home to the oldest lighthouse in Scotland and the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses located at Kinnaird Head. Kinnaird Head also offers a spectacular viewpoint for scenery and wildlife. Dolphins and whales can often be spotted here, close to the deep waters of the near-by Southern Trench. Birds come very close to the shore in order to reduce the distance they need to travel. Immediately to the east of the town is one of the best beaches in Scotland: Fraserburgh Bay The waves here are popular with surfers and Fraserburgh featured as a host in the UK Pro Surf Tour 2010.
Three miles east along the coast is Waters of Philorth Local Nature Reserve (LNR). This scenic area is lovely for a walk in the sand dunes. There are great views to Fraserburgh across the bay and the river is a great place to watch for kingfisher. 19
Wild Calendar Species
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Where
White Beaked Dolphins
Aberdeen to Catterline P10/11
Various 90% +
Chance of a sighting in 1 hour in reasonable conditions
Final word—How to find out more.
As part of this work we will be producing an e-newsletter I hope you have enjoyed this brief tour of the Coast. How- focussing on coastal issues. If you wish to receive this please let me know ever to show all the wonders the our coast has to offer would take a large book. For more information we have I would also like to thank Aberdeenshire Council and Visit produced www.discovereastgrampiancoast.co.uk Aberdeen for funding both the Website and this NewsletThis Website has a comprehensive guide to the area and ter and our hosts at Marine Scotland. links to further sources of information. The QR code for the site is displayed on the cover. For up to the minute information we are also on Twitter— @grampian_coast
Lastly, this is the first issue that I have had to design myself, hence the lateness. Until now this work has been done my Pat Carnegie of the James Hutton Institute who I would like to thank having now seen the amount of work As well as our work on Green Tourism EGCP is still heavily involved in the management of the coast and aid- it takes. Ian Hay ing the implementation of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. Project Manager—EGCP East Grampian Coastal Partnership, Room E32, Marine Scotland-Science, Victoria Rd, Torry, AB11 9DB. www.egcp.org.uk All text by Ian Hay unless otherwise stated. firstname.lastname@example.org Tel 01224 295308 Mob 07971 149117