North of Kirkhill – Slacks, Gouk Stone, St Meddan’s Kirk

I was back up at Kirkhill Saturday afternoon again for another MTBSkilz training session. This week was about brake free cornering technique, something I clearly need to improve as I managed to come off twice. I think I need a chunkier set of tyres, schwalbe black jack are a good solution for the kind of 50% hard pack/ 50% off road journeys I do where you want a balance between speed /grip, but not much cop when pressing in the loam.

Helmet took a wee dunt – without it I’d have probably had a scrape on the face, and a lump. There are opinionated folk out there that are anti-helmet, but they’re plain wrong, sure they might not make much difference in a serious high speed smash but in smaller tumbles they can be the difference between getting up as if nothing happened, and taking a count and slapping on a bandage.

MTBSkilz at Kirkhill

MTBSkilz at Kirkhill

Saw a couple new trails. This one is short but steep with both rocks n roots, I crept down it trying to avoid another off.

Downhill

Downhill

Afterwards I thought I’d stick around and get a bit of exercise in. Had a crack at the ‘carpark to tappie’ strava segment which climbs the entire hill, got 9th overall which was not bad for a first attempt on a well contested route. Without stopping for a breather, what goes up must go down, via the short rock ladder at the back..

Down from Tappie

Down from Tappie

I’d forgot to stick my seat back down and sure enough came off near the bottom. Same as last time, jumped back on in a ‘save a fast strava’ attempt.. came off again. Still got my best :-/

One day I’ll clean it and do a reasonable time. It’s not really one for hard tails.

Fixing a snake bite

Fixing a snake bite

The last few yards were rippling on a pinch flat, tube properly ripped. While fixing, I noticed bits of broken tyre levers, valve rings, tube packaging. A veritable graveyard of cursing puncture repair. There has definitely been swearing, and probably some bleeding, here.

Jaggy rocks

Jaggy rocks

Picked up a bouquet from the verge

Helmet does it's job

Helmet does it’s job

That’s enough MTB bouldering for the day, I’ll have a few bruises tomorrow. I decide to head North-West towards Hatton of Fintray for a bit of exploration.

View North West

View North West

 

Tweeter

Tweeter

 

Swooper

Swooper

There a couple quiet trails heading down off Kirkhill that whizz through East Woods ending up at on some back roads.

Slacks entrance

Slacks entrance

This looks worth a look.

Slacks junction

Slacks junction

Left follows the edge of the woods, right goes through them

Along the wood's edge

Along the wood’s edge

Broom-tastic

Deer at the edge

Deer at the edge

This fellow wasn’t shy, thanks for staying for the snap

Looking uphill

Looking uphill

 

Hidden deer

Hidden deer

Halted before heading back through the wood, pumped up the front which seemed a bit soft, a slow puncture?

Back into the woods

Back into the woods

OS maps have a track at the back. It’s barely passable, churned up mud, and then blocked by gorse. I have to busk it through a field fortunately with no livestock or crops.

Out the back

Out the back

Heading towards the bridge the road runs alongside the Black Burn. OS Map shows a standing stone in the field to the East, and I park up to have a look

Along the Black Burn

Along the Black Burn

I think I can see it’s tip. Another empty field beckons me to climb

Climbing up to the stone

Climbing up to the stone

There it is.

There it is

There it is

It’s quite a size, perhaps 9 or 10 feet.

Gowk Stone 1

Gowk Stone 1

 

Gowk Stone up close

Gowk Stone up close

Best view from the dyke

Gowk Stone and dyke

Gowk Stone and dyke

 

Gowk Stone and pylons

Gowk Stone and pylons

The other side has pylons near by

Gowk Stone 2

Gowk Stone 2

There’s small hillock with some rocks out of view here to the left, I should have climbed it for another photographic perspective. Back down at the road a tyre has entirely flatted. Beginning to work up a sweat, wish I’d taken my filter with me, almost out of water

Fishers at Hatton Bridge

Fishers at Hatton Bridge

Fixed, back on my way. Brief conflab with a fly fisher. He’d caught one trout. Probably a bit bright. Water was high and brown, I thought it might have been more AWPR run off (they were shut down recently for a week by SEPA due to the silting they’re causing) but we’re upstream of their machinations

Hatton of Fintray war memorial

Hatton of Fintray war memorial

At Hatton of Fintray I decide to follow the river instead of checking out the village.

Wrecked hut

Wrecked hut

Probably not a great choice, the path is barely passable, very overgrown and pitty. This hut was probably demolished by the floods earlier this year. Aerial maps still have it intact

Along the Don

Along the Don

The train track to Inverurie is on the other side.

Tree hedge

Tree hedge

Eventually the riverside clumping finishes to some fields. Nice tree partition

Tree hedge up close

Tree hedge up close

 

Tree hedge other side

Tree hedge other side

No idea why a lot of farmers just bang in a barren barbed wire fence when they can have nice nature-friendly and sheltering edges like this. Is it because they prefer visibility or are trying to squeeze every last foot from their acres?

Don meandering

Don meandering

I don’t mind windfarms, but I can see why folk can hate them. These pylons also kinda spoil the view down by the river

More meandering

More meandering

A couple of km back I could see pink patches, now I can see what they are

Pink patch

Pink patch

If black cats are lucky, are rabbits? Seem to quite a few going about. Not the best camouflage

Lucky rabbit

Lucky rabbit

I’d be out nibbling at night if i was a black rabbit. Stealth ninja rabbit

And off

And off

 

Tree alone

Tree alone

The pink continues along this lane for a few 100m

Rhododendrons 1

Rhododendrons 1

Pretty high growth. A pink wall

Rhododendrons 2

Rhododendrons 2

Pretty

Rhododendrons 3

Rhododendrons 3

Back on to the roads. I can’t see Mimrikins Clump, but through another clump..

Liddell's monument through Berry Hillock

Liddell’s monument through Berry Hillock

Is Liddell’s monument. Poor old Liddell should have something commemorative back on the Old Aberdeen University campus really. Not many will notice this isolated memorial, I guess the odd train commuter passing must wonder.

Zooming into Liddell's monument through Berry Hillock

Zooming into Liddell’s monument through Berry Hillock

Back down some winding lanes, last target of the day – St Meddan’s Church and graveyard, dating back to medieval times, reckoned to be over 900 years old. A rusty gate beckons..

Path to St Meddan's Kirk

Path to St Meddan’s Kirk

Into the dark overgrown shade. Old graves are peeping from the undergrowth

Entering St Meddan's Kirk

Entering St Meddan’s Kirk

Walls have trees and ivy

Kirk ruins

Kirk ruins

Some of the graves are slowly being surrounded by growth

Overgrown grave

Overgrown grave

The entrance is guarded by an army of nettles. This is definitely one to visit in the spring.

Outside an entrance

Outside an entrance

There are graves worn over aeons, others more recent. A lot from 18-early 1900s

Old grave

Old grave

The oldest date I can read is in the 1700s, when the church fell into disuse. There are some too worn to read. The newest I saw was 2014 which was surprising

Symbols n hole

Symbols n hole

This ancient aumbry/sacrement house has some barely visible carvings

Inside the walls

Inside the walls

 

Snails

Snails

This grave is one of three really ancient, the other 2 being recumbant. Is it related to the Templars?

Ancient grave

Ancient grave

 

Spooky tree

Spooky tree

 

Old roots

Old roots

A buzzard mews in the tree above to add to the eery atmosphere

Buzzard's lair

Buzzard’s lair

 

Back out into the daylight

Back out into the daylight

 

Old gate

Old gate

Back along the Don home. No otters today, just some horses

Horse by The Don

Horse by The Don

 

Shiny Don

Shiny Don

Benholm’s lodge. No news on it being revamped as a community cafe

Benholm's Lodge

Benholm’s Lodge

Downie’s Cairn

Downie's Cairn

Downie’s Cairn

 

 

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