Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Taking the Long Way

I ventured up to Aberdeen last weekend, and I got an early start home on Monday to avoid the rush hour traffic. In my hillwalking days I spent some happy times in the Angus glens, and so, as the sun came up near Brechin, I turned of the main road, drove through Edzell, and headed up Glen Esk. Lovely country. As you can see from the above, the weather was changeable. Indeed I had to prop myself against a tree to take this shot, such was the blustery wind.

Tarfside was my destination with its two old churches. This is the Maule Memorial Church which dates from 1857, see here.

This is the Water of Tarf which feeds into the North Esk just south of Tarfside.

I had hoped to find the outdoor curling pond near Tarfside, and, thanks to a local farmer, I did. The Glenesk curlers have played at this spot for more than a hundred and twenty years. The rink was renovated recently and the lighting installed. The wooden bridge and gate spans a little burn that runs past the rink, and supplies the water. There's certainly been a lot of that recently, but not much ice. There's been no play on the pond this winter. But you can see it in use here.

So, having made a bit of a detour, I headed home to Skip just ahead of the worst of Storm Henry.

Photos © Skip Cottage. 'Taking the Long Way' was released in 2006, as all Dixie Chicks fans will know!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

January blues

The 'monsoon season' continues. This from the foot of the garden yesterday.

But this little rainbow brought a smile to my face as I drove into Moffat yesterday afternoon. This photo was taken from a bridge over the M74 near Beattock, looking north.

And snowdrops in bloom brought out another smile. I should really start thinking about the garden again. But winter has still aways to run.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Footprints in the snow

The weather forecast was good. There had been snow overnight on high ground, although not at Skip itself, and it seemed a good opportunity for the first walk of the year.

So, the question was, "Where to go?" I decided that it had to be somewhere that offered a simple walk, with some snow on the ground, that was not too far away, and was easy to get to.

I decided to visit the Black Esk Reservoir again. Last time I was there, more than five years ago, it was in the middle of a drought, see here, but this time I knew the reservoir would be full!

The day didn't start out perfectly, because I didn't pay enough attention to the 'easy to get to' part of the plan. You see the shortest way to get where I wanted to go is to take the little road from Wamphray that goes over to Boreland and there joins the main Lockerbie - Eskdalemuir road. Ice, hard packed snow, and various gradients made the back road quite exciting! But soon enough I was parked at the small community at Sandyford, between Boreland and Eskdalemuir, and ready to get walking!

My aim was to walk round the reservoir. I hadn't been along the forestry roads on the east side before. The white feature in the centre is where I was headed. That's the back of the reservoir dam.

It has been windy this winter!

It was a cold day, with a fair bit of wind early in my walk. A couple of years living in the USA in the 1970s taught me a fair bit about 'wind chill factor', and I was well enough prepared.

I found myself somewhat out of practice though as far as longish walks are concerned, and I did wonder on a couple of occasions if perhaps I had been too optimistic with my plan to circumvent the reservoir. Slow and steady was the way to go. And the circuit of the Black Esk Reservoir is a straightforward walk.

The reservoir comes into view behind the dam.

I couldn't figure out what this was at first.

This is Kilburn Hill Quarry, which my map says is no longer in use, and it was rather impressive, as quarries go!

You will have realised, as I did this morning, that I was experiencing a rare weather event for this part of Scotland - a blue sky. One really appreciates the sun when it has been mostly hidden for what seems like months!

Nearly at the furthest point of my walk, at the northernmost end of the reservoir.

Almost the whole way on my walk I seemed to be following tracks like these. Fox, most likely. Here it has encountered something!

I didn't see much actual wildlife - some great tits paid little attention to me. But the snow is great for seeing what has passed by. One type of prints I can identify are those made by human walking boots, and, somewhat surprisingly, it seems I had the reservoir walk all to myself today!

Nothing had been along some of the forestry roads. It would have been a good day for the cross-country skis!

I'm on familiar territory now, heading south along the west bank of the Black Esk.

This is where the river enters the top end of the reservoir.

I could see a change in the weather ahead, but in fact it came to nothing.

This is the overflow at the dam, and it was very much in use today. It looks quite different from a previous visit in 2009, see here. Since then, the height of the dam has been raised, and the spillway rebuilt. See how it was done here. The reservoir can now store more water than before. But I'm thinking that we won't be running short of water this year, not like 2010!

This is the Black Esk below the dam. It seems to be living up to its name in this pic.

Nearly back at the car. What a perfect day it was. It was still below freezing at mid afternoon, and the sky was still blue!

It may be winter, but back at Skip there are signs of the seasons ahead, as the snowdrops are pushing their way though the leaf litter.

Photos © Skip Cottage, and taken with my new wee Rollei camera, on its first big outing! It was a little frustrating not having all the controls I'm used to (must read the manual) and it was 'automatic' throughout, but I think I captured some memories of the day with it successfully. Here's hoping for more days like this in 2016!

Friday, January 08, 2016

The strange yellow thing in the sky

Late in the afternoon January 6, the sun appeared at Skip, albeit only for a few minutes. But what a welcome sight, and what a difference it makes! This view looking south.

Turning the camera around to look east, there was this fabulous rainbow! First of the year. And the first photos with my new tough, waterproof, little Rollei Sportsline 80, purchased to see me through as I save up to replace my DSLR!

The day after the rainbow. Winter has finally arrived!

Not a big accumulation, but I do like the snow - at least it's better than the constant rain.

But here's hoping to see the sun a bit more in 2016.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Enough is enough

Frankly, I don't believe it is a good idea to give these winter storms names. Indeed, I know a 'Frank' and he's a really nice guy. But today's 'Storm Frank' has been particularly mean.

This is the view from the bottom of my garden today, at 3pm. Fortunately Skip stands on top of a wee knoll, so far enough away from the River Annan to say that "If I get flooded by the river, then we are ALL doomed!"

A suitable venue for the Wamphray Model Yacht Club, or, today perhaps, for windsurfing?

Such as been the frequency of floods recently, today I tried to get a different viewpoint for some pics. Here, I've climbed up to the top of the field that rises between the main street of Newton Wamphray village and protects it from the River Annan. Would you believe that the wind was so strong I had difficulty in keeping upright! The village is on the left, and Skip is the white dot in the distance just right of the middle.

Looking in the same direction, that's the Jocksthorn Bridge in the distance.

The river is between the rows of trees.

This is where the Wamphray Water joins the Annan. Not that you would know!

The road towards the Jocksthorn Bridge was impassable. Not the only road in the area to be affected, as I listen to the news on the radio.

Did I mention the wind? The end for this wooden arch in the garden, I'm afraid. Mind you, I never liked it much, and struggled to find something I liked to grow over it. Firewood for next winter. Although if this wind continues, I suspect I won't have to go far to find branches down elsewhere. Hopefully there won't be other damage to find once 'Frank' takes his leave.

Happy New Year everyone. Can I wish for a drier one?

Pix are © Skip Cottage. If anyone is wondering, they were taken with an old Canon Powershot camera, abandoned a couple of years ago because its zoom was knackered, but resurrected this week.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas Everyone

It was somewhat ironic that just after taking this photo of a sunset at Skip the other evening, my trusty camera packed up! A trip to the surgery in Glasgow yesterday saw the worst possible diagnosis. It could be repaired ... but it would be very expensive.

It was all the consequence of me knocking the camera off my desk some months back. I thought then that I had got away with it. But apparently not. Ah well. My New Year's resolution will be to be less clumsy in 2016!

An option of course is to replace the body with a newer model. I still have my lenses. Or perhaps I should go for a cheaper 'pocket' model. Decisions, decisions.

Perhaps too I might win the lottery! In the meantime, for this blog, I could dig out and scan some photos from past adventures. Here's a favourite spot in Thailand, from around 1993.

And just round the corner was a deserted beach with driftwood and bits of coconut shell. No, I'm not going to say where it was!

Or, until I can take photos again, I could 'borrow' photos from other sites, such as this which was the 'Photo of the Day' recently on the Geograph site here. It was taken in 2010 and is © Lewis Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

It's suitably festive, a good shot to finish on, and for me to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Other pix © Skip Cottage 

Monday, December 07, 2015

After the storm

The quiet after the storm gave me the opportunity yesterday to capture some reflections on the flooded fields around Wamphray.

But however beautiful my local pics may look, I do feel awful about the scenes of the flooding in Carlisle, a city I've got to know well since moving to Annandale. Just horrible.

Not a breath of wind.

Many homes in Wamphray were badly flooded some years ago, and initially I thought that we had come off lightly this time. But the water in this field has caused problems to houses in Station Road, getting in under the floorboards.

Efforts to get the water away continue.

Gerry, with Bonnie and Tara, and Diane with Shelly, company on yesterday's walk.

The River Annan is behind the trees.

Beside the river, this fence had acted like a big sieve!

The local wildlife were quick to take advantage of a new lake. 

I had this feeling I was being watched!

The back road under the West Coast Main Line regularly floods here. 'Passable with care' was the advice on Sunday.

Let's hope we will not have more rain before this lot drains away.

Photos © Skip Cottage