Field Trip Observation Poetry Psychogeography Sounds of Spaces and Places

Two Spectral Trees – Somewhere North of Devilla Forest

Two Spectral Trees - Somewhere North of Devilla Forest

Looking up to the ridge, over the evergreen crowns, two spectral trees hang mid-air in the limpid heat. A  smoke spiral, all coiled movement, settles to stillness as a Rorschach blot of charcoal smudge bleeds into sun saturated blue. The universe melts into my hands. A sublime stasis cupped and held close.

For how long is not the right question – linear time is of no help to us here.

The “caw caw” of a black craw  – pierces the membrane of this no-time. The moment trickles away, dissolves on the ground, scattering the seeds of its eternal recurrence as memory…


Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which dead cities lie interred.

Walter Benjamin

Just a brief extract from what will eventually develop into a longer piece or a series of shorter pieces. We have made a couple of visits to Devilla Forest, near Kincardine, recently and it is clear that it will take us a good few more trips to really get the measure of this place. Our foray into the heart of the forest last week was an exercise in getting hopelessly lost which coupled with the first intimation of Spring was no bad result.  The overhead sky, was a cloudless colour field of bleached blue and once the sun was up it felt like the last of the winter murk was being cleansed away.  We eventually ended up North of the forest climbing up to a ridge above the tree tops. Here we found the spectral trees and a curious weather mast amongst crumbling drystane dykes.

Mast I

Drystane dykesScot's Pine - Devilla Forest - You Could Feel the SkyDevilla Forest is located just North East of Kincardine and the name is said to come from the Gaelic “dubh” and “eilean” meaning “black island”. The forest is now run as a commercial tree plantation by the Forestry Commission and consists mainly of Scots Pine, Norway Spruce and Larch. However, the area has a long history of land use with Prehistoric coffins, stone circles and Roman urns all found in different parts of the forest.

Devilla Forest

There are also plague graves, a stone which a local legend says is marked by the grooves from a witches apron string and the remains of a World War II explosives research establishment within the forest area. Combine all of that with four lochs/ponds, burns, meadowland and rich wildlife – including red squirrels – and it’s easy to see why this site should we worthy of further investigation.

Oh and there is also a history of Big Black Cat sightings. We may have the chance to record one ourselves in The Nature Report Book.


Unfortunately there were no maps:


“I hunt among stones” – Charles Olson.

Prior to last week, we had made one previous brief visit to the forest on 23rd February. This date coincided with Terminalia, the ancient Roman Festival in honour of the god Terminus who presided over boundaries. Often his statue was merely a post or stone stuck in the ground to mark the boundaries between land.  Aware that some psychogeographers throughout the country were commemorating Terminalia in some fashion, it was perhaps a serendipitous discovery to find some wonderful local examples in the forest:

Meith Stone This is a Meith Stone which has the St Andrews Cross carved in the top. The stones were used to mark land boundaries and sometimes initials were inscribed on each side of the stone denoting land ownership. Apparently five stones have been found along what would have been the old drove road between Kincardine and Culross.

Standard StaneThis enigmatic looking stone is known locally as The Standard Stone, which according to local legend marks the spot where a Danish Army defeated Duncan and his generals Macbeth and Banquo in The Battle of Bordie Moor. (1038). The stone could also have been where the Scots army placed their battle standards, but is more likely to be the base of a medieval stone cross on a parish boundary or a wooden gallows.

From our initial couple of visits, we can feel that Devilla is going to yield up some interesting discoveries if we can manage to avoid getting lost next time.  Then again that may be no bad thing.

The Owl is awaiting our return.



Now Playing: Boards of Canada – ‘You Could Feel the Sky’ from Geogaddi.

11 replies on “Two Spectral Trees – Somewhere North of Devilla Forest”

Didn’t know about Terminalia before – another one to add to the diary. Boundaries are very liminal! I look forward to more of the prose piece. Carmarthenshire is good for big cat sightings too so I hear.

Thanks Diana. I’m not pinning any great hopes on a big cat sighting but am also intrigued how and why these occur on a fairly regular basis. You never know! Also like the idea that some of the historic boundaries and sites in the forest are now almost hidden. All layered underneath what looks like a fairly ‘natural’ forest setting but is a relatively recent human intervention on the landscape.

I love this piece; the words and pictures illustrate a place that is so deliciously cool and green and full of myth and mystery! I can say little else except that I need to know more!

Thank you for the kind words Aubrey and glad that the appetite for more has been whetted. We will certainly be returning and shall endeavour to reveal and share the outcome of our subsequent explorations.

Returning for another read, another glimpse of a fascinating place, wonderfully evoked in your words and images. Looking forward immensely to seeing where your forest travels lead you. Happy trails!

Somewhere south of Devilla Forest….listening to ‘You Could Feel the Sky’ from Geogaddi (which, prosaically, I just bought in the local Oxfam for a quid)….hard to transport myself mentally from the cold and wet streets of London to those blue skies over trees…still, getting lost is always a way of getting somewhere else….

At the moment it seems to be a daily battle against wind, cold and snow. Hard to believe that in February I was walking under these blue skies in a t-shirt…and yes getting lost is always highly recommended. Thanks.

We always get lost in Devilla Forest…find it an eerie place like someone is always watching you…was just saying too my partner I bet it has some history behind it with all the old ruins you come across…certainly wouldn’t like too get stuck in there at night …Thanks for the history lesson…won’t stop us going back though if anything it’s more intriguing….

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