Watching Brief on a cable route between Coupar Angus and Tullymurdoch Windfarm, Perth & Kinross 

Work was carried out between July and September 2017 to lay an underground electricity cable to connect the sub-station at Coupar Angus with a windfarm under construction at Tullymurdoch, northwest of Alyth. The route also took in a second, separately-owned windfarm at Welton of Creuchies, south of Tullymurdoch- the cable stretched for a total of 19km across country that changed arable land and lush pasture at the southern end to boggy upland rough pasture and heather at the northern terminus. Alder were tasked with monitoring works along this long and varying corridor. 

Typical terrain along the cable route 

Watching the entire route was not required, but several sites along it had been identified via a walkover survey conducted in 2008 by AOC Archaeology Group. The requirement was accordingly to monitor all soil-stripping and excavation in the vicinity of these sites, which included hut circles, boundary dykes, robbed-out cairns, medieval findspots and possible souterrains. Alder also mounted a separate but overlapping operation at Welton of Creuchies, meanwhile, to fence off known sites including early medieval housing remains and monitor works on the site during the erection of four large wind turbines.  

 

Monitoring at Welton of Creuchies

At Site 66, near Coupar Grange roughly mid-way along the main cable route, a cluster of presumed prehistoric settlement features including a souterrain were noted in the NMRS database, close to the River Ericht amid arable fields above a steep drop to the water. The cable route passed near to these remains and monitoring resulted in several cut features being noted in the base of the trench. Work was suspended to permit rapid recording and partial excavation of what appeared to be a group of pits and postholes, in the hope of identifying and dating them.

 

Pits and postholes in the cable trench

Within a 20m stretch of the trench, ten features including a pit, two possible fire settings and seven postholes were recorded. The pit was in fact a complex series of inter-cutting pits forming a U-shape and containing cobbles and fragmented slabs, several cracked, perhaps by heat. This complex may have resulted from repeated re-digging of cooking pits, using stones heated in a nearby shallow fire setting. A quartz core was recovered from within the pit complex, the only find recovered from the site. C14 dating of charcoal from the pits yielded a date range of 360-176 cal BC (95.4% probability), suggesting the remains as a whole represented activity in the late pre-Roman Iron Age. The features may represent part of a building associated with cooking and disposal, in other words a domestic setting.

 

The pit complex, part-excavated

Meanwhile, at Site 100, settlement remains identified via aerial photographs close to Coupar Angus, an isolated pit on a steep, north-facing slope was found to contain a sherd of prehistoric pottery and hazel charcoal dated to 1879-1687 cal BC, placing the activity represented in the Middle Bronze Age.

  Working across barley fields near Site 66

 

A four-poster stone setting near the cable route