Thursday 18 March 2021

A Local Exploration


Like many people I’ve spent much of the last year walking from home and finding out much more about the local area. My most recent excursion was my partner’s idea. Some thirty years ago she and one of our daughters had come across a ruined farmhouse. Then five years ago she thought she’d go and see what had happened to it. But she couldn’t find it. Since then she’s been out another eight or nine times, a couple of them with me, without success. It clearly wasn’t where she thought it had been. Recently, when looking at the 1:25,000 OS map of the area she noticed two buildings that were in the right area but much further from the nearest road than she remembered. So off we went to see if one of them was the ruin.

Getting there involved crossing some boggy ground on a track that was barely there (Denise sensibly wore wellies, I was in walking boots), climbing a few fences, and wandering through woods and rough pasture where a GPS location kept us on the right line. I couldn’t remember coming this way before and enjoyed looking at familiar vistas, including the distant Cairngorms, from different angles.

Eventually a house appeared, a ruined house with a battered porch and the glass long gone from the windows. Was this it? The aspect was as Denise remembered. We approached. “This is it! There’s the big old holly I remember”. In one corner a magnificent thick-trunked holly tree rose right next to the wall, a holly tree part-hidden by a half-collapsed larch.  Denise was delighted.

Given that the house had been abandoned and in a poor state thirty years ago we were impressed at how well it had survived all those years. The heavily rusted corrugated roof was intact, though the skylights had no glass in them. Inside the plaster was peeling from the walls. Most fittings had gone, only heavy items remaining. A sink, a gas cooker. In a few places wallpaper picturing pot plants, including cacti. Denise remembered it from her first visit. I could see why. It was strange, incongruous. A flight of stairs led up into the attic rooms. Denise remembered going up them but this time decided they didn’t look safe. Looking up at a hole in a ceiling I agreed.

Who lived here, I wondered. When was it abandoned. Denise reckoned the wallpaper had a 1960s look. From C.J.Halliday’s useful book Place Names Around Grantown-on-Spey we later found it dated back to at least 1810. To how many generations had it been home? Who lived here? Why was it abandoned? It was a sizable building and there were low walls showing there’d been other buildings nearby, probably barns or cattle sheds. The sense of abandonment was enhanced by the lonely situation. The house lies about a kilometre from the nearest road. The faint track we’d followed was the only one on the map and it hadn’t been used for a very long while. The second building on the map, some hundred metres away was no more than low walls. The area all around was boggy moorland, a mass of tussocks, springs and little burns. It looked as though no-one ever came here.

Not far away lay the edge of a fenced plantation that was mostly felled over twenty years ago and which is now a regenerating forest of birch and pine. Leaving the ruined house we crossed the boggy ground to follow the edge of the wood round to a track and back to the road in our little glen as the first colours of dusk started to lace the sky. We’d never been much more than two kilometres in a straight line from home but it felt like a much bigger trip, one of exploration and discovery. 


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