As part of my interest (archaeological, visually and as conceptual metaphor) in upland folds associated with shieling grounds you can discover so much more by looking around the shieling area and approach. There is the landscape of course in which they sit that can be stunning and bleak. Often you can reason their placement but their remoteness reminds of a lifestyle that required long journeys (transhumance) to graze their cattle, something that fascinates me. Often the folds are associated with a shieling hut or two, as I found in Glen Taitneach, occasionally they sit remote, alone and now silent.
I recently went to visit a lone fold (56.776657 -3.299893) that I had't visited for several years up beyond Auchentaple Loch, Glen Isla and near the Cateran Trail that runs close by. What I found was that the heather that covered it previously had at some point had been burnt off, revealing the fold that lies in a dip (unusual) much clearer. A nice surprise and a nicely preserved fold that has a clearly defined narrow entrance. I looked around for any other features but nothing positive nearby, that is until I set off back home and came upon a linear feature (pictured bottom left one and two), obviously part of an enclosure or boundary wall. I followed this and as clear as day I came across a rather nice and sizeable shieling hut (pictured) (56.775806 -3.300502), a few yards away there is yet another but heather covered and unusually long. (I haven't shown the latter as the image is just too vague). So anyway a good and interesting day, plus pictures I can use for my Folds project.
The following week I made another trip, this time with a friend also interested in our heritage, he's a keen dig volunteer and new found skill as an historic researcher, so knows what he's looking at. It was an even more spectacular day of finds and interest.
The first items on our agenda was a hut circle I had come across some time ago (56.774945 -3.314938) (pictured here) and the nearby Golan Well that had a small frog enjoying the spring water.
Going onto the fold and shieling huts of the previous week we also found a few yards from the fold a really well defined (less so on the image to the left but definitely when on the beside it) and sizeable hut circle (56.776356 -3.300308), a nice start to the day. I should add at this point that none of these features mentioned in this entry have been ever recorded or on any maps. Apart from the chapel and farmstead and these are themselves poorly recorded.
We then headed to Auchentaple farmstead (link to the only record) hidden in part of a commercial woodland and near the loch that is contemporary to the farm, the woodland is currently being cleared. The farmstead is interesting and has several unusual features, like the walls that are just a mass of piled stones that are more complex than the linear drawing on an OS map indicates. There was also the feature (pictured), that had a some metal-work attached at some point as there was a single hole with lead fixing on each side. What is it ?? Its not a well we don't think as there are plenty of other water sources nearby.
On now to the chapel (Auchenchapel is 'Field of the Chapel) that is very interesting but what is particularly fascinating and not mentioned on any (?) sources is that at the south end of the knoll upon which the chapel sits is a natural rock outcrop and at the base of the rock outcrop runs a very free flowing spring, marked on the maps as a well but its relationship to the chapel is too coincidental, a holy well (?). Its not regarded as a holy well but perhaps at some point it was. Certainly to the builders of the chapel it was significant. Its interesting that the Golan Well up the hill is regarded on a couple of websites as a holy well, though no sources are mentioned to this being the historic case. And why not the chapel site that would make more sense.On the rock outcrop there is a small 'cup mark' (??) (pictured right), its about the size of 50p coin. Also worth mentioning is that the landowner has put a small fence around the well, perhaps to keep the cattle away and capped another adjacent part of the well.
Up the hill from the Chapel we came across a quarried area that was intriguing and further on a small circular feature (pictured) with a boulder collapsed into it (56.771889 -3.311640), too small for a habitable (?) hut circle but a feature non the less and this was near a linear wall/boundary (56.771955 -3.311381) (pictured bottom right). The linear feature can just be seen on some of the aerial pictures (Apple Maps) A little distance away there is a sizeable very noticeable pile of stones, field clearance (??).
To our final destination; a feature I had come across some time ago while walking over the area and of course its not recorded, (56.774049 -3.315528) Its a dwelling (?) with a rectangular enclosure, very interesting. A good image of it can be found Here along with another fank that is nearby.
This whole area is covered in archaeological features that are worth noting and preserving. Other features include a possible hut circle (56.771025 -3.313551) that might be the feature mentioned by Margaret Stuart (link), plus other linear/wall features. If these aren't recorded then they might be destroyed by the likes of the scrape (pictured), lost then to all.
Yes shielings and hut circles and field systems are found all over Scotland but that doesn't make them less important. Anyone interested in shielings and folds etc will soon find how little they have been studied and I think how under appreciated they are, marking as they do a sizeable population whose culture is now gone. I'll endeavour to have these features properly recorded and hopefully protected. For some bizarre reason the archaeology in Angus is covered by Aberdeen-shire council.
The grid references are from my Viewranger app on my tablet, the OS grid reference I then convert to be readable on Bing maps were I can save them and also double check position. The links (allow a few moments for the pinpoint marker to render) are to Bing maps that are by far the best for aerial imagery and OS maps but I've found Apples Map app (if you have an Apple computer you will have it installed) has crisper/clearer and closer view, plus the most recent aerial imagery, saving specific locations however is tortious.