A discovery in the woods…

By Russell & Laura Hogg

You wouldn’t think to look at it but there is a junction on the A97 (approximately half way between Dinnet and Ordie) that takes you on a marvellous adventure! Following a narrow tarred road past a quaint Victorian granite cottage and it’s eery, dilapidated outbuildings. A dense forest of Caledonian pines soon towers over each side of the track, encapsulating you and transporting you far from the everyday world..

As you round one particular bend, the sight of a strange partial stone structure draws your attention. Focus on this for too long however and you’ll drive straight past one of Deeside’s more unusual secrets…

On the opposite side of the road, slightly obscured by trees, sits an old ramshackle building. This isn’t any old derelict farmhouse or keeper’s cottage though. It’s like something straight out of a film set. The entire frontage of this wood & corrugated metal structure is missing – like some post-apocalyptic doll’s house. You can see straight into the two front rooms, complete with plaster walls, peeling paint and old wood paneling. To the rear of the building is a window looking into a smaller room, complete with tattered curtains and peeling wallpaper.

The name of this site is “Kieselguhr” and it certainly stands out when you see it written on a map. It’s not one of the oft-seen names usually associated with this part of Scotland.

Kieselguhr (or Diatomaceous Earth) happens to be the name of the substance that was once collected from this area back in the late 19th / early 20th century. It was dug out of the peat bogs on the surrounding hills, kiln dried and sent to North Ayrshire to be included in the manufacture of dynamite. Alfred Nobel discovered it to be highly effective in absorbing nitroglycerine – making it an ideal medium for safely handling this otherwise volatile substance.

Quite what the purpose of this house-like structure was remains a mystery however. Perhaps temporary shelter for the work site or for the housing of a caretaker? Lots of information can be found about the area’s links to the harvesting of Kieselguhr. But very little detail can be discovered about the actual buildings on the site itself save for a few references to it by name alone.

As if this derelict building wasn’t an odd enough sight to come across. What lies behind it was perhaps more surprising… At some point  in the past, some bamboo was planted or discarded. In the years that followed this has grown and spread considerably. Now standing at over 8 feet high and spread over the size of an average back garden, bamboo has engulfed the area to the rear of the property. Needless to say this was the last thing we ever imagined coming across on a stroll through a simple pine forest in the heart of Deeside.

It’s just one of the many reasons we love this area of the world we call home. It never ceases to amaze us with spectacular scenery round every corner and countless mysterious glimpses into a time long-forgotten.

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