Monday, May 25, 2015


At the east end of Talla Reservoir near Tweedsmuir is a little track which heads south, following the course of the Games Hope burn.

I had a perfect day for my walk, but this old rail is the remains of a bridge, and is a reminder that, in flood, the burn can be particularly powerful.

Not too far in is Gameshope bothy, and I could see that work was being done there early on Saturday morning, so keeping my feet dry I continued up the glen, with the intention of visiting the bothy later in the day.

If you like waterfalls, then the Gameshope has them in abundance.

Even in a dry spell, the burn was carrying a weight of water, draining the surrounding hills - Great Hill, Cape Law, Din Law and Garlet Dod.

Looking back down the glen.

Looking ahead over Crunklie Moss.

Peat bogs are wonderful places, but you would not want to be wandering around here in poor light! The photo doesn't really show how deep this hole is!

My first destination was Gameshope Loch.

One has to admire the wall builders of yesteryear. This one past its best now. My route was to follow the line of the wall to near the top of Garelet Dod, at 698 metres, my second target for the day.

I was rewarded with this view. Yes, wind farms in the distance, and a weather front moving in from the west.

Big sky country.

On one of my many stops on my way down, I found these smiling faces. No sheep anymore (see below), so hopefully more in the way of natural flora and fauna in the future.

On the map hereabouts is a feature marked as 'Skull Heads'. Well, with a bit of imagination .... !

It was a welcome sight to see the bothy, on the left of the storage shed.

What a wonderful wee bothy, maintained by the MBA, see here.

It's just the one room, and was spotless on my visit. Full marks to Mike, the MO, whom I had seen earlier in the day.

And the bothy is a splendid memorial to Andrew Jensen.

What a setting it has!

For me, it was a great day, with no blocks of conifers in view, and the windfarms still far off in the distance. The good news is that the Gameshope estate was purchased recently by the Borders Forest Trust, see here, and the future of the area is assured. Let's hope so.

The bothy has a wonderful feature ... its own 'moat'! There's no bridge across the burn, just a ford. Whichever way you look at it, it was going to be wet feet. However, with a pair of dry socks in my pack, it was a comfortable walk out!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wamphray's Pyramids

Here's a First Transpennine Express EMU from Manchester Airport passing through Wamphray as it heads north on the West Coast Main Line.

Network Rail has been working on the line hereabouts. I thought I should 'inspect' the work that's been done!

At this point, the line goes through a shallow cutting. The recent work has involved putting in drains to ensure the stability of the embankment on the eastern side of the tracks.

And a very good job has been done too.

Crossing the railway by the bridge I found that the gorse was spectacularly in bloom last week.

On the west side of the cutting is a reminder of when the line was built by the Caledonian Railway in the mid 1840s. (Wamphray Station was opened on September 10, 1847.)

The cutting was excavated with pick and shovel by the navvies building the line. They piled up the spoil in mounds on the western side of the line. JAM Carlyle's 'Parish History of Wamphray', written in 1964 and found here, describes these as a 'series of bings', and calls them 'barrow pits'.

I've always thought of them as 'Wamphray's pyramids'!

Although much overgrown, they remain as a monument to those who built the railway.

Wild flowers on a spring day!

Such beautiful things, and such a contrast to the horror that happened a 100 years ago, some miles south of Wamphray. I wrote a little about Britain's worst railway accident at Quintinshill a year ago (here) and wondered then why this dreadful accident was not particularly well remembered. This has changed. There will be a number of commemoration events, including one attended by the Princess Royal, and even a television programme on BBC Two Scotland at 21.00 tomorrow (Wednesday, May 20). This is to be repeated on Thursday, May 21, at 21.00 on BBC Four.

How the accident happened can be found here, here, and here, and the book by Jack Richards and Adrian Searle (here) has all the details and is a compelling read. I had wondered what happened to the survivors, and my questions were answered in this book by Peter Sain Ley Berry.

One hundred years on, at 06.50 on Friday, I know what I'll be thinking about.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Monday, April 27, 2015

April at Skip

I have a soft spot for Forsythia. I think it was the first garden shrub whose name I learned. This one was here at Skip before I was, and every spring I look forward to its flowers.

I planted a few new clumps of daffs last autumn. This is Narcissus 'Minnow'. It's a tiny thing, but looks great.

This is Narcissus 'Delibes' which Taylors had as 'new for 2014'. I rather like it.

I'm not a big fan of double flowers, but the one on the left has a certain something. It came in a mixed selection so I'm not sure of its name.

Keeping on top of the weeds is the usual April priority. I have been fighting with the awful ground elder in this bed at the bottom of the garden for a couple of years. This spring I gave up, dug it over completely, twice, and picked out every trace of the weed I could find. I replanted the plants saved from the bed elsewhere in the garden, and decided to give this area a new start.

It really is a nasty weed, see here. I smiled when I found that the Gardeners' World website (here) called it 'virulent'. Apparently though the leaves are edible and were once used as a treatment for gout.

Friends had recommended a good nursery, in the Lesmahagow area, so I searched out the Beeches Cottage Nursery, and went shopping!

What a lovely place, and a great selection of plants.

Everything is well laid out and labelled.

Just a great selection.

The nursery is family run. Margaret Harrison was on hand to advise on my purchases. And the flower pot man was a trigger for lots of 'Watch with Mother' nostalgia. Is this Bill, or is it Ben, I wonder.

(You had to have been there, see here. But don't get confused with the other Flower Pot Men, on their way to San Francisco, here.)

So, home with a variety of perennials I don't have already in the garden!

All planted. I'll just need to keep my eyes open in case I've missed any of the ground elder roots, and it will be interesting to see how these new perennials come away.

Now, with last week's fine weather all but a memory, we're back to cold winds and wintry showers. But it is only April!

Still, the weeks roll by. These 'garden escapees' on the roadside near Skip, which I photographed last week, are already past their best ....

 ... but I'm sure they will be back again next spring.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fife Folk Museum

If you are a curling history enthusiast, this would be the place to live! Sadly the pond to which this road leads is well overgrown, but would have seen many contests in years past. The Ceres Curling Club, in the village of that name, near Cupar in Fife, was founded in 1857, and the pond probably dates from around this time. Its memory lives on in this street name. If you are interested in old curling ponds, then this site is for you!

My reason for being in Ceres yesterday was to visit the Fife Folk Museum. What a wonderful place! So much to see.

I particularly liked the use of mannikins in various places throughout the museum, such as here in the Cottar's kitchen.

... and here in the gaol!

and here.

 Now, this was a fascinating exhibit.

There's a little curling exhibit too, more about which in another place.

Add to this a friendly welcome, knowledgeable volunteers, and a first class tea room, the Fife Folk Museum gets my fullest recommendation. Read about its history here.

Another thing that made my day was seeing this old classic in the car park. It's not a museum exhibit as such, but belongs to a local who lives nearby. I enjoy going to classic car shows, and I always look out to see if anyone has a Triumph Mayflower. Rarely these days do I find one. The car dates from 1949-53. So what a thrill to have this encounter yesterday! You see, one like this was my first car, as a student in 1966. My Mayflower was an old banger then, already fourteen years old, but it holds so many memories. Bought for £30 and sold a year later for £20, it taught me a lot about looking after an old car. It only let me down once. Charities day, in the evening on my way to a party. Suddenly I had no clutch. I looked under the car, and the clutch rod had sheared. Next day I took the two bits into MacHarg, Rennie and Lindsay's parts department, in Partick. I showed them to the guy on the desk. He disappeared into the back, and after what seemed like ages appeared with a brand new rod, saying something like, "I don't know that anyone has needed this part before!" I was mobile again within minutes of getting back to where I had to abandon the car the night before!

I loved it then. I love it now. One's first love is always so special!

James May once called this the 'world's ugliest car', see here. He's quite wrong of course, imo!

Details of the car can be found here, and I was delighted to see there is an owners' club, here. Hopefully this Mayflower will have years of life ahead.

1966 was a good year in my life. Nothing like a good wallow in nostalgia, forty-nine years later!

Photos © Skip Cottage.