Craigievar Castle (National Trust)

It was time for me (Morag) to have another stint of national service (ie. Scottish National Trust) volunteering, so i signed up for the Craigievar Castle week from
Saturday 27th March and back on Easter Saturday – 2nd April.  The collection point had been arranged from Aberdeen train station at 4pm, so i jumped a train up
there for the 2&1/2 hour trip and managed to find the minibus waiting at the station.  A few other people were coming in on other trains – including a lady who had trained up from southern England (she’d been up since 5am), and we headed off to our base for the week.  It was ‘deluxe’ accommodation according to the brochure, and actually…. it was quite nice – Glen Tanar.

We were delayed for a couple of hours getting there, as we stopped in Banchory at the supermarket to get the alcoholic supplies. On throwing open the door of the minivan, it fell off!!  so we had to wait for the AA man to come and do some minor repairs to it.  After a few days of very careful opening, someone from the Edinburgh office drove up with a replacement van and drove the dodgy one back for major repair.

We were a party of 10 – 2 male leaders, and 4 ladies & 4 fellas as the participants.  We were working with the head gardener (Diana) from Drum Castle – who also did the gardens at Craigievar Castle … and both properties were about 40 minutes drive away from our base camp.  Our first 2 days were at Craigievar – primarily repairing a drystone wall at the back of the castle.  It was hefty work and i managed to bruise my hand on the first day with the heavy lifting of the stones.  The gardener had extra clothing – overalls and jackets – so a few of us were well and truly fitted out to keep the north wind out!  By the time all the kit was on, and fleece hat and safety goggles i was unrecognisable.

On Tuesday we all headed across to Drum Castle to help out there – as they were opening for the year on Good Friday (in 3 days) and there was lots of gardening to
do.  It was a foul day – wet & windy – so when the jobs got divvied out, us girls voted for helping inside the castle with the shop and building a shelving unit for the education room.  The lads were outside getting very wet with barrowing wood chips into a forest to make a path and building bonfires etc with all the fallen wood from over the winter.

By the time Wednesday morning came — we’d had a foot of snow overnight and were snowed in at our accommodation…. so we took that as our day off for the week.  It was a beautiful day with not much wind, and the trees were very heavy with snow.  We stayed around the base for most of the day and had plans to build a huge igloo — which turned into a tiny pizza oven!  Stuart, Kenny & i went for a 5km walk in the afternoon along the Ballater to Aberdeen cycle path — it used to be the train line that Queen Victoria used to get to Balmoral.

The huge fall of snow had meant that we couldn’t actually get up the drive to Craigievar at all, so our next days were spent back at Drum.  Us girls volunteered
for the woodchip wheelbarrowing and we all helped with clearing fallen wood up the main drive on the Thursday. By Friday we were needing sunglasses and sunblock in the rose garden at Drum – for our day of willow weaving.  The walled garden was needing some barriers for the garden beds so we managed to put a couple of them up in the sunshine.  Up at base camp the snow was still 6″ deep, but there was hardly any at Drum.

It was a lovely week of ‘national service’….  with everyone helping prepare the meals and then an evening of eating and drinking and games of scrabble and Jenga  in the loungeroom, with the log fire blazing.  Mind you — the leader who bought supplies for the week needs some lessons in cooking.  One night for dessert he brought out hot cross buns and a jug of custard!!  NOT my idea of dessert.  One of the fellow workers was a fabby cook, and over the week he cooked – sticky toffee pudding, chocolate bread & butter pudding and for our last night we had a fabulous apple & bramble crumble (despite the leader saying there were packaged apple pies in the cupboard).

So — have a look at the photies… most of them are taken on the Wednesday — the day of the snow-in.  The other link is a collection of photies from other participants.

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