The Wrong (Over) Trousers: New Year Residential, Scone Palace, December 2011

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2012/04/01

The artificial mound of Moot Hill in the grounds of Scone Palace is the coronation site of Scottish monarchs such as first king, Kenneth McAlpin, and Robert the Bruce. In Victorian times the Mansfield family built the mansion house of the palace and improved its environs.

Our accommodation was a converted farm courtyard building within walking distance of our work site. The estate staff had kindly provided us with an excellent shepherd's pie for dinner plus some scones - no pun intended - and shortbread.

Our task was to open out a path running along a small rivulet which flows past the palace to the river Tay. We were working with Elspeth from the palace estate team who did a great job of adapting to whatever work was needed on the estate, from co-ordinating gardeners to organizing corporate hospitality. With reinforcements from several day-tripping volunteers, we soon set about felling and burning rhododendron.

The grounds of Scone palace have all of the trappings of a parkland estate for the Victorian nobility. These include walled gardens, ponds, a maze, woodland and a pinetum stocked by David Douglas, a Victorian horticulturist from Old Scone famed for collecting new tree specimens from America, including the eponymous Douglas fir.

Of an evening we were served with fine vegetarian fare from Christine, Sarah McC and Greg Milne. Simon had brought his radio which oscillated between Radio Scotland and Smooth Seventies. At Hogmanay we had the special treat of cranachan for desert and assorted board games.

On our day off we did a local walk up to the top of Murrayshall Hill, near Balcraig. One good vantage point is the folly of McDuff's monument which provided an excellent windbreak for the lunch stop. The high point is crowned with the obelisk of the Lydedoch monument has views of the Perthshire hills to the North. We returned to meander through the Palace grounds and look for the elusive hawfinch while tackling Colin McLean's tree-measuring project. [See separate article — Ed]

The last day brought howling gales in the morning. News reports on the radio revealed that central Scotland had extensive damage with fallen trees on roads [as Louisa and Ian soon discovered on their aborted trip to join us from Edinburgh — Ed.] Working in woodlands was clearly too dangerous in these conditions. Later on the wind subsided and we were able to carry out some tree thinning and woodland management. I had inadvertently picked up the wrong over trousers which were strangely loose. Remembering the LCV proverb - "no one ever loses weight on a resi" — I realised my mistake and they were soon returned to their rightful owner. By this stage the Forth Bridge had been re-opened and we were able to get home.

Many thanks to Elspeth and the Scone estate for their warm welcome, Simon Bonsall for leading, Sarah McConachie for driving and Christine Johnston for organising the catering.