Brief History of Cleanhill Wood

A map of 1799 shows Cleanhill as a barren piece of land with whins on the eastern slope.  By the second half of the 19th Century the hill was planted out in trees, including many of the beeches which line the avenue on the upper level of the eastern side.  By then it also had a network of paths linking it with Auchintoul House, home of the laird, and later with Aberchirder itself.  At that time, stone and gravel were quarried and the most obvious sign of this today is in the area beside the old well.

The minutes of Aberchirder Town Council record that in 1929 it agreed to buy land at Cleanhill Wood, on condition that it would be run by an Amenities Committee which would be appointed at a public meeting.

On 4 June 1930, title to this land was transferred on payment of £110 by Aberchirder Amenities Committee, from James, Jane and Jessie Wilson of Home Farm of Auchintoul to “David Young, Grocer, Aberchirder, the present Provost, William Auchinachie, Merchant, Aberchirder, and John Alexander Stewart, Baker, Aberchirder, the present Bailies of the Burgh of Aberchirder and their successors in the respective offices of Provost and Bailies…as Trustees for the said Amenities Committee.”

Some of the benches which are dotted about the woodland date from that time.  Two on the path nearest South Street still have plaques referring to “Aberchirder Public Park” and “Aberchirder Pleasure Park”.  The Hill has been a popular walk for local people ever since and over the years, the network of paths has been expanded.

During World War Two, the Northeast of Scotland was an area of great RAF activity and the nearby Banff Strike Wing base at Boyndie played a major part in the war.  As part of the local defence system, an observation post, which can still be seen today, was built at the highest point of the Hill.

Observation Post

Pumping station

Nearby is a reservoir, built in the 1960s, to hold water pumped from the River Deveron at Marnoch, to provide Aberchirder with a much-needed increase in its water supply.  Before then there were often shortages in summer when people had to resort to the old wells, three of which have been preserved in the town.

For many years the Amenities Committee arranged for maintenance to be carried out by volunteers.  John Riddell was warden throughout the 1950s and 1960s; he was succeeded in turn by Hugh Youngson, a retired haulage contractor; Alex Duncan, Deacon of St Marnan’s Church and the local Scout leader; and Margaret Scott.

When local government was reorganised in 1975, Aberchirder Town Council was abolished but the Amenities Association continued to look after the Hill.  However, in 1995, the Amenities Association approached Banff & Buchan District Council’s Leisure & Recreation Department with a view to their taking on the maintenance and this agreed arrangement continued under the new Aberdeenshire Council set up in 1996.

In the same year, the newly formed Aberchirder & District Community Association obtained funding under the European Regional Development Fund Objective 5B programme, for a Community Plan which included development of the Hill as an environmental asset.  Information posters were created, walking trails marked out, and a picnic area created at the Old Well.

Since 2000, the Community Association has been working in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council and Scottish Wildlife Trust to implement a management plan drawn up by the Trust.  The aims are to gradually replace non-native species with native ones, control beech and sycamore regeneration and create wildflower areas.  By providing volunteers to undertake some of the maintenance work, local people are once again helping to conserve and develop one of Aberchirder’s prize assets.

Winter afternoon on Cleanhill

In November 2003, the Community Association received from Aberdeenshire Environmental Forum, a Green Butterfly Award which recognises groups and individuals who have made a difference to their local environment.  Although the award was made to the community, it could not have been achieved without considerable input to the work from the other two partners.  The Association also values the contribution made by Aberdeenshire Council’s Ranger Service, which has organised events such as a bat evening and a fungus hunt.

Robert Andrew & Norman Calder at work on the hill


Bat with moth in its mouth (picture by Robert Rennie, Dumfries)

A major development in 2009 was the felling of the 50year-old larch plantation, the proceeds from which were used to buy almost two thousand replacement trees which are a variety of native broad-leaved species. With help from volunteers replanting was completed in Spring 2011.




Copyright © 2002 – ADCA Aberchirder, North East Scotland.