Trees Felled at Aikey Brae
The dense block of pine trees that partially encircled the stones on Aikey Brae has been felled, leaving the site feeling like a windswept wasteland.
I knew it had happened but it was still a shock when I visited the circle at the weekend.
Originally posted 2020.
This was the first sighting of the stones after walking up the, admittedly, much improved and cleared, track:
Gone is the path through the dark forest.
Gone is the experience of stepping out into the sunlight and the stones.
Traversing the, now rough, ground at the top of the hill, I got a bit closer, the taller uprights coming into better view.
Running to the circle
I ran the last bit of the way, wanting to be within the circle to get my bearings, so the place could feel like it used to. I sought views that would not have changed, having been open to the countryside all along.
Facing the great recumbent:
It still felt different. With no treeline at the side of my eye, everything seemed bright and glaring. I never fully appreciated just how much the trees sheltered the site before, till I was buffeted by wind at every turn. That shelter contributed to the calm feel of the place.
Now it feels stormy.
But I’m going to stop my complaining now. Because… well… things change. I’m sure the circle has looked like this many times during its 4000 year lifespan. Trees will have grown. People will have harvested them. Current thinking is that the surrounding land would have been tree-less when the circle was built.
And improvements have been made to the place. There’s a new path round the hill, boasting benches and a picnic table; a shiny new sign announces this upon arrival. I didn’t explore the path and the views it offers, still being a bit post-pneumonia feeble, but I will go back and walk it later in the year.
I’ve spent so much time at this stone circle, both physically and at my desk while writing, because though the circle in my books is fictional, it’s Aikey Brae it’s based on. The change will take time to settle. I need to notice the new beauty it brings. The light is different, I see that already. There are plans in place to plant indigenous trees; I will enjoy watching those grow large over the coming years.
And, no matter what changes we make around them, the stones still stand tall and majestic against the sky.
Go here to view Aikey with the trees, and in the snow.
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66 Replies to “Aikey Brae: the North Wind Doth Blow”
Loved this.. will share with a field archaeologist friend- and right now, get back to work…
Wish my photos taken inside a souterrain on Bressay had come out better.
Taking photos in dark places is difficult.
Oh no!! What a shame, the trees were part of the mystery and adventure of a visit to the sight. Oh well, like you say, the presence or lack of trees over the 4000 year history of the sight is and will be ever changing. Thanks for the awesome post, I really must read your book!!
Glad to have warned you. It would have been much more of a shock if I hadn’t known!
On our next visit up that way we would like to go visit the white horse, it certainly is a very special region 🙂
That’s a great walk. Good food at the White Horse pub in nearby Strichen too!
Thanks for the photographic tour. It’s a beautiful and haunting place.
It is a special place.
Good, thought-provoking post. (I enjoyed the photos, too!) Change–sometimes good, often not. Your post made me think of the old homeplace where I grew up. For years, it elicited fond memories whenever I returned for a visit. Now the pasture, hay fields, apple orchard, and woodlands are gone. In their place is a subdivision. I can’t fault my dad for selling it to a developer. That was his retirement income. But now it’s no longer the same. Only vague memories. But I’m grateful for the memories. They’re the only thing I have left. (Glad to know that you’re back to writing. Hope you’ve fully recovered from your recent illness.)
It is disorienting when a place so well known, changes. It must be even more so for this to happen to your old home.
This is so lovely. The stones would be my favorite place if I ever get to visit.
They are great places to visit.
I’m very interested in reading your book!
I hope you enjoy it if you do 🙂
As soon as I can buy it for my kindle I’ll let you know what I think! ❤️
It is surprising how improvements and making a site more accessible also have a negative effect for some people. Change is unsettling and the loss of a shelter belt completely changes the approach and the atmosphere. I hope you feel less ‘thrown’ next time you visit. The pictures are lovely and make me wish I could go there and see the place for myself.
I’m sure I’ll get used to it. It’s still the same place really.
So beautiful the words and pictures on your blog, and this last week I have enjoyed the touchstone you’ve written as a story set in time, “The Mermaid and the Bear.” The beauty, even in the darkness of parts of the story stirred my longings for my own ancestral home in Scotland, which surely I will never see with my own eyes.
I’m so glad you enjoyed the book, and hope maybe you will get to fulfill your desire to visit Scotland.
It’s so different without the trees. If that had been my regular place to go to, I think I would take some time adjusting to it. But I can imagine all those years ago as you say, that they probably were not there then.
The difference is quite astonishing.
I would have been shocked I know, if I went to a place that changed like that, without warning.
Yeah I’ll miss the trees too! There was nothing like the trepidation of going through that mini forest blocking out the surrounding fields and even most of the sunlight just so it can open up at the amazing view of the stone circle. I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for Aikey Brae. It was the first time I’d ever felt the pulling force of the stones.
It was the first circle I ever visited. Maybe in twenty years time, the new trees will create a similar effect…
The trees did add a wonderful background, but they’re fir and should regrow rather quickly. I’m sure you’re right about there having been times with no trees – perhaps in the beginning? Where exactly is this stone circle?
Aikey Brae is near the village of Old Deer in Aberdeenshire. It won;t be fir trees they’re going to plant; I’m hoping for beautiful oak and rowan, even though they are slower to grow.
Trees add a lot of life to a spot. They are alive after all, and it’s always tough for me when I lose them from somewhere I walk. I find it difficult to settle in my mind when people cut them down for no good reason, or even sometimes when they have to go for a purpose. I’m glad to hear they’re replanting, and I too hope they may go with oak and/or rowan. That would make the sacrifice of the firs somewhat worth it from my point of view.
They are apparently going with a lovely mix of species (see theluckynun’s comment), so I’m looking forward to seeing the replanting get underway.
What fun to watch a new grove grow!
It will be!
The felling plan lists replacement with Birch, Scots pine, Hazel, Rowan, and Hawthorn. Maybe you could stick an acorn in a few strategic areas to help reforestation along. 😉
The removal of trees made me sad, so I went digging for the reason why. Sounds like those trees were non-native and the plan is to replant native tree species. So someday it will be sheltered again, but it will be quite a few years from now. I’m involved in native plant restoration here in Kansas, so this is something I can get behind. Thank you for sharing these pictures!
Thank you for your research! The new plantings sound lovely, especially the Scots pines; I love those.
I get it.
I suppose its a case of wanting things to remain the same, the sense of comfort that apparent permanence gives us. We feel a tie to places, a sense of belonging and change can threaten that.
The Primary School I attended as a child wasn’t old, but has been demolished and now has a housing estate in its place. I remember buildings, an assembly hall, a small swimming pool, playing fields… now its someone’s kitchen, somebody else’s driveway. The school was behind my parents house, so when I go back to visit or walk my dog around the park nearby, all I see is my past suddenly missing, the familiar replaced by something quite alien. It doesn’t feel right, as if part of me is missing. I suppose its progress.
Sorry, your post has gotten me feeling quite maudlin for some reason….
Change like that can be so disturbing though: I understand your maudlin feelings.
The way the moss creeps up on these stones is beautiful. It feels more organic than Stonehenge, almost like the stones are growing from the earth.
That’s a perfect description!
You’d think, given the times we now live in, that cutting down trees wound be a really, really bad idea.
They were mature pines, closely planted, probably grown as a crop. The replanting will be left to grow forever hopefully.
Ah, I see … I hope so too. 🙂
Trees are good. I can see why you miss them.
The new ones will grow 🙂
A lovely meditation on facing and, ultimately, accepting change.
Thanks for the like and follow on my blog 🙂
You’re welcome 🙂
It’s a pity if the circle has lost its ‘magic’ (as I referred to in my review – thank you for the link to that) in which the surrounding trees played an important part in your book. However, you managed to put back a bit of the magic in your post so I’m still convinced!
The difference will just take a little getting used to!
Beautiful photos. Shame about the trees—I can understand your feelings of loss.
The new ones will be planted soon 🙂
Beautiful atmospheric photos and fascinating old stones – thanks for sharing. Where I live in Ireland people complain about the conifers because we have huge plantations of Sitka spruces which block out the light and don’t give a good habitat for wildlife. You might find a bit more variety creeping into the area for a while until the new trees grow up.
Yes, it will be better in the long run, just a shock at first 🙂
Be well and blessed, Ailish!
Thank you 🙂
The style of writing and the placement of those images are so on point. Great work!
very likely post good watch ,regards
I love your photos. Thank-you for this lovely post. I dream of visiting laces like this and get to, through articles like yours.
Thank you 🙂
Visited this site yesterday. I think it’s now my most favourite short walk. It’s absolutely stunning. Would love to have seen I it before the trees were felled. Do you know if this was due to the past two storms? The whole area suffered massive tree loss which is very sad. Still, I was blown away with the beauty of this place.
P.s. Will be taking your book away with me on holiday!
It is a great walk. The council felled the pines a couple of years ago and replanted with indigenous varieties. It’ll be beautiful in a few years!
Oh, and I hope you enjoy the book 🙂