The Shieling Project

I try to share as much recent work on here as possible – mainly because I’m terrible for updating my folio website – but also because it’s always nice to write up a project with a bit of a story along side it so the blog is a good forum for that. I’ve just finished up work on a commission for The Shieling Project  who are based near Beauly (Scottish Highlands) in Glen Strathfarrar. If you get a chance to visit it’s such a beautiful spot and the work they are doing in outdoor education is fantastic – I’m very jealous of Sam and Karen who live on location and run school visits and residentials, training camps, craft days and even an outdoor nursery for wee ones.

The first time I visited I was given instructions to turn off the road at the red phone box in Struy, park/abandon my vehicle at the farm and hoof it a mile or so up the glen to the project’s base – a collection of communal wooden buildings overlooked by an old stone house. Each time I visit I’m given a very enthusiastic welcome by a ginger dot on the horizon who gets bigger and blurrier as I approach before collapsing on the ground for a belly rub! The second time I visited there were two ginger blurs to greet me, this place just keeps getting better!

Aspen and Kelpie on hand to offer very important drone assistance to Kieran should it be required.


Low altitude drone photograph at Allt Mòraig focussing on Structure B which provided the clearest ground plan to reconstruct from. (Photo by Kieran Baxter)

Sam set me a brief to create three images to be used as a teaching aid for visiting groups of children who may or may not take the hike further up the glen to the historic shieling site at Allt Mòraig. The site would have been occupied around the mid 18th Century – a rough date estimated by the recovery of redware ceramic fragments when the site was excavated by AOC Archaeology in 2016. Each image was designed to demonstrate certain aspects of the interpretation, so in the exterior view we have the turf-walled Structure B with surrounding vegetation re-painted to show lush grazing, with muddy well manured patches round the structure itself. This was based on the presence of small dry-stone-walled structures around the site which were likely to have been pens to keep calves in at night so the cows would stay close to the shieling, meaning the ground would be well trodden. And of course the Shieling Project’s small herd of 3 cows had to make a cameo appearance!


Feeding the Shieling Project’s lovely coos with Karen during our last visit.


Exterior reconstruction (joint copyright The Forestry Commission and The Shieling Project).

I had a lot of fun working up the interior reconstruction, I wanted it to feel cosy but cramped, emphasised by heaps of objects piled up around the room. I used the strong light from the doorway to guide the viewer’s eye, landing first on the young woman who is using a drop spindle like the ones Sam will be using to teach during the Project’s summer craft workshops. The character was kindly posed for by my pal Slava, who was my most youthfully fresh-faced friend who fit the brief and did very well to sit still while she was scanned to then be re-dressed in period-appropriate clothing and incorporated into the 3D scene.


Interior reconstruction (joint copyright The Forestry Commission and The Shieling Project).

The final image shows cattle being led up to Allt Mòraig, visible in the distance as a few scattered structures. Kieran and I decided to place this shot with the stream in the foreground which is a defining feature of the journey up to the site and together with the hills in the background provides a visual anchor in the present day.


A distance shot showing cattle being brought to the shieling site in spring (joint copyright The Forestry Commission and The Shieling Project).

Again in this image the heather and bracken had to be painted away and replaced with areas of grass more appropriate to the time when this landscape would have been managed for grazing.

Another brilliant project to have worked on and as I say if you get the chance to visit the Shieling Project for a workshop or a craft day it comes highly recommended, and you’ll get to see the reconstructions on their home turf…maybe you’ll even meet the cows in person, if they’re not too famous from their new found reconstruction fame!



One comment

  1. Thanks for the post, I like the visualisations and what an interesting organisation the Shieling Project is. We have been surveying and planning some very similar structures here in the Cumbrian Fells so it chimes nicely with our work too.

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