Archives for posts with tag: Historic Scotland

Our corner of Galloway is well populated by ancient monuments with cup and ring mark stones, cairns and castles regularly punctuating the landscape and cluttering up OS maps. We’ve posted before about close encounters with these testaments to human ingenuity thanks to family outings and WWOOFer derring-do.

Veronica coming over all Time Team.

Veronika coming over all Time Team.

Preparing the field for tree planting last week brought Galloway’s ancient history a little closer to home. Our WWOOFer, Veronika, has been helping us to clear the parts of the field that the pigs had only partially turned over. In one of these areas, Matt noticed the pigs had cleared a lot of earth away from a stone and when he went to clear the remaining bracken noticed the stone had several large, circular holes that look man-made. Given our location and the fact there are cup and ring mark stones nearby we thought it might be worth contacting Historic Scotland for advice on what to do next.

A closer look - the shiny object is a 50p piece.

A closer look – the shiny object is a 50p piece.

I assumed Historic Scotland must get loads of emails along those lines every week, so was surprised to find a detailed reply in my inbox first thing on Monday morning, describing our find as “potentially very interesting”. The HS officer’s advice was that the stone could be fragile, having been exposed, and that there could be further archaeology below the ground surface. For the sake of the stone, it’s best not to investigate further and to remove livestock from the area. As the pigs are now in the freezer, there’s not much danger posed from livestock. He also gave us links to records to check whether the stone is already registered.

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A close-up of a couple of the possible cup marks

First port of call for fact-checking is Dumfries and Galloway’s Historic Environment Record. Although there’s lots of archaeology in our area marked, including nearby Plunton Castle, there’s nothing marked on our land. The same goes for the national records at pastmap. I could happily spend hours whiling away the time on either site but for our purposes they don’t tell us more than we already know; there’s no record of an ancient monument on our land already.

Some of the stones have other markings that look man-made. Not ring marks but some sort of carving.

Some of the stones have other markings that look man-made. Not ring marks but some sort of carving.

Having that confirmed, our next contact was the Historic Environment Record Officer for Dumfries and Galloway, Andrew Nicholson. Matt spoke to him this afternoon and it turns out he’s been busy working on the status of nearby Plunton Castle. The castle is both listed and a scheduled ancient monument but, as SAM status provides more protection than listing, HER officers are gradually removing listed status from such structures and taking the opportunity to update records and make sure the SAM guidance is being followed. As with our Historic Scotland contact, he was immediately intrigued by our find and asked us to send him pictures. If he thinks it’s worth looking into, he’s going to come along to take a look later this week.

Veronica is pretty pleased with her afternoon's work.

Veronika is pretty pleased with her afternoon’s work.

I have a suspicion that quite a lot of smallholders would be a bit worried about finding something like this in their field. If it does turn out to be a Neolithic site there could be limits on what we do with the field, especially with regard to livestock, and we may have a procession of history geeks wanting to come and check it out. But I’m odd (and a history geek) so I’m desperate to learn more.

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On Wednesday, while Arthur was at nursery, Kester and I decided to blow away the cobwebs by taking a stroll around Dundrennan Abbey.

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Originally Cistercian – though I think probably adopted and further ornamented by other, less austere, orders later – it was set up by monks from Yorkshire’s Riveaulx Abbey at the behest of a local landowner.

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As well as being a gorgeous ruin, with some surprisingly intact areas, its chief claim to fame is an association with Mary Queen of Scots. Dundrennan is the place where she spent her last few hours in Scotland.

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Amusingly there is a padlock on the elaborate iron gates (it is a Historic Scotland property) but the Abbey is completely open at various points due to its being a ruin, so the padlock is somewhat superfluous!