Clashnettie Arts Centre

A Residential Arts Centre for Visual Artists, Writers and Musicians
in Rural Aberdeenshire.

Clashnettie is a restored house and steading set on a hillside in Deskryside, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. Remote in its location it is quiet by day, dark by night and filled with wildlife all year long.

It is home to artist Helen Denerley who lives and works there in one of the buildings. She welcomes artists of all disciplines to come and share the creative spirit of this unique and inspiring place.

The Arts Centre is a three bedroomed house with a large studio sitting room downstairs filled with light and suitable for many art forms. Looking across to Morven and down to the Deskry water, the views from every window are stunning There is also a purpose built painting studio on the premises.

Throughout the years Clashnettie has played host to many artists, poets and musicians.


for Helen Denerley


I have just arrived and hesitate between

Water-sounds and your metallic menagerie.

I am lost among the pheasants’ heather stands.

A kestrel stoops as though you put him there

With the buzzards high on their thermals criss-

Crossing. Translations, Helen, metaphors.

The mare and stag you made from scrap metal

Are moving in slow motion across your land.

You filled the mare with air and the millennium.

The stag that flashes antlers and pizzle

Was conceived once you spotted in your heap

A tongue for him, a cobbler’s last: his tail

Is another cobbler’s last.  Clashnettie means

(You think) the hollow of the juniper tree.


Among the pourers of the molten iron

Were the threatened and bereaved, disguised

In helmets and leather aprons, balancing

Buckets of terror as the furnace roared.

The Deskry’s meander does not require

An iron bridge: you and your friends put up

A black rainbow, a darkbow to reflect

The moonbow that shone the January night

A neighbour’s two boys were burnt alive,

A whitebow of snow and frost and moonlight

Supporting your cast-iron fourteen-foot span

Across the shallow water, snow water,

From soggy pasture to where rainbow ends,

Just there, among ragged robin and harebells.


You wanted the kiln to look like a cairn,

A hikers’ and lovers’ accumulation,

But inside is a clay-lined, bottle-shaped

Emptiness, a hole for the rainwater

And our pebbles.  Can you hear them falling?

Whereabouts in your workshop at Clashnettie

Are the leather aprons ad gaitors, the boots

With steel toecaps that glint in the moonlight?

Fire splashing over into Deskry Water

Made pocketfuls of accidental scupture

For children from the glen.  Smoke and steam.

You have left a scrap-iron golden eagle

On a boulder up the slopes of Morven

Where he rests in gales near a picnic hut.


You pictured a heron feeding her mate

Or sipping at her own reflection, two

Heads, the bridges’ arc, a rainbow’s template.

It took ten tappings from the sparky kiln.

I picture a heron beneath the bridge

Or, where the boys lie buried, a motionless

Graveside sentinel waiting for ever

To regurgitate field-mouse and water-vole.

What bits and pieces would make a heron?

You put to use for the golden eagle’s wings

Tines from a harrow so rusted away

A horse drew it once, or the first tractor.

I am looking for a heron’s feather,

A crown-feather preferably, a black one.


You take me to someone else’s barbecue,

Strangers gazing at a bonfire, catherine

Wheels and roman candles among the pines

And, as though I am remembering it,

The scent of woodruff under woodsmoke.

Are there people here who are not your friends?

A mother who doesn’t understand, a sister?

I am with you. From among the shadowy

Mystifying voices I pick out yours.

We have to imagine one another

Quickly, and then go home, I to the town,

Clothes reeking of smoke and uneasiness,

You to your acre, the dark plantation,

The stream, the dipper bobbing on his stone.

Michael Longley

For more information email:

Website by nanoweb