Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I'm somewhat behind in blogging about recent walks. This was last month, setting out on a cold frosty morning. I had driven over to Boreland, and along a minor road to Waterhead. The plan was a circular walk, along some paths I'd not been over before.

This is the upper valley of the Dryfe Water. Here the river has eroded the bank, and I suspect the old path is soon to disappear.

Pleasant walking along this little used track. This would have been the original route into the farm of Macmaw. Now, with all the forestry roads, there are lots of options. 

High above the Dryfe valley, this is where Macmaw farm would have been. Little trace remains. I was on top of the hill in the distance looking over to here on May 2, 2009. How do I know? The evidence is here on the Geograph website! Where have these five years gone!

Up and down to go forward, into an area of clear fell.

The sun may have been beating down, but it hadn't made any impression on this ice!

This is a the Caple, a tributary of the Dryfe Water. On the map this area is marked as the 'Raven's Nest'. I love the names on the map hereabouts. There's 'Gudewives Hill', 'Seavy Sike', 'Sembletree Burn', and 'Saughty Gutter'. My way led around the side of 'Scoop Hill'!

The ax men have left this remnant.

I had noted this cairn marked on the map, and was delighted to find it still there. The view, roughly north west, gives an impression of what this whole area would have been like before the coming of the trees. Away in the distance - and I hesitate even to mention it - you can indeed see some wind turbines. Such is 'progress'.

It was a great place to stop, have a cup of coffee, and contemplate a fine view, on a splendid day. No extraneous sounds, other than the wind (a cold one - after all this was only the 24th of March), and the birds singing. The cairn is on the north west side of Scoop Hill. It has been there for a while. It is marked on the first Ordnance Survey map of the area, the 6 inch, published in 1861, as 'Shepherd's Cairn'. On the old map, but not on the new, there's another cairn similarly named. There's a story here, I'm sure.

But wait. In the distance there was the growl of a Tigercat working away, making short work of taking these trees down, stripping the branches and chopping the trunks to the required length. Fascinating to watch. Lots of other activity too, with two timber lorries being loaded nearby.

Now, I'm joining a track I've been on before. This is the road in to Finniegill and Dryfehead. I posted some pics of the latter here, and in the comments there was a a note that the derelict building might have a new life ahead of it. I heard recently that the Mountain Bothies Association had taken an interest, and I see that Dryfehead is now on their list, here. That's just brilliant news, and I look forward to walking in soon to see what the volunteers have done.

For me, I was headed in the other direction. This is looking south. The flat top hill away in the distance is Burnswark, with its interesting history.

Looking down to where I was early in the morning!

A little burn meanders down to join the Dryfe Water. And so did I, back to the car and a short drive home. It had been a good day. It was the first longish walk for me this year, and I had no ill effects the following days. So a big thank you again to the Rheumatology Department at Dumfries Royal!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring garden update

The daffodils, on both sides of the wall, have taken a bit of a battering with all the recent rain.

The show in the garden is outclassed by those growing on the roadside opposite the cottage!

I'm not a fan of these doubles.

These with white petals have been at Skip longer than I have! Don't have a name for them.

This is Falconet.

Forsythia was one of the first shrubs I ever learned about. It may be somewhat out of fashion these days, but this old example will always have a special place in the garden.

This unobtrusive little double primrose makes me smile.

My favourite, 'Glory of the Snow'. This little cluster of Chionodoxa has filled out, and looks to be happy in this spot in the garden.

Last autumn a box of these Chionodoxa Forbesii found its way into my trolley at that well known garden centre - a Tesco supermarket! They've done well. I tried some in a container, and was interested to see the colour variation. These will go into the ground somewhere after they go over.

I always look forward to this Clematis Broughton Star giving a good display in June, see here. But the weight of it and the wind this winter has given the supporting trellis a problem. This will need to be cut down completely this year after it's flowered, if I can keep it upright until then.

It started off with just one Hosta that had survived in the neglected garden. I've been expanding my collection each year, keeping them mostly in containers for shady spots around the house. The job at this time of year is to freshen the compost, and divide if necessary.

I bought a drumstick primula in a pot last year. I realised that it had a number of offshoots and could be divided, and now these Primula denticulata var. Alba are coming up all over the garden!

It is always fun to see visitors checking out the garden!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Friday, March 28, 2014

The trams are coming

I had to be in our capital city yesterday, and had my camera at the ready, just in case I would spot any of the Edinburgh trams being tested, prior to the introduction of the regular service from York Place out to the Airport. I was not disappointed, and got a few shots, despite the rain! This is just along from Haymarket.

It's been a long, unhappy saga for the people of Edinburgh. But hopefully the trams will come to be appreciated. This 'tourist' just loved to see them!

The trams were supplied by Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) of Spain who had the successful tender. The twenty-seven trams are numbered from 251 through to 277. These numbers are a continuation from the old tram system in Edinburgh, of which the number 250 was the last running tram. This information, and a lot more besides, from this website.

The driver was practising his stops on Princes Street, although no passengers were being allowed on. I just wanted a wee ride! He did give me a wave though. A driver's eye view of the route can be found here.

The trams have a great bell, if they need to attract attention!

Looking east on Princes Street, with the Scott Monument in the background. Have things changed in Edinburgh in the past hundred years or so?
Recently a friend gave me this old postcard, from the early twentieth century. Right in the middle of the shot is an open top tramcar. "What goes around, comes around." 

The new tram service is set to start running for real by May, if not sooner. The specific launch date has yet to be confirmed, according to the official website here.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Here Come the Daffs

I just love the way that spring quietly creeps along. Earlier this month, as the snowdrops went over, these crocuses brought a smile.

I remember clearly when I moved to Skip in the winter of 2002-03 that a lot of work lay ahead in the garden! I didn't know there were lots of bulbs waiting to come up. That was a wonderful surprise. In the first few years in the garden it was an encouragement every March to get on with the 'ten year plan'. I now look forward every year to the coming of the daffodils as they bring back happy memories of my first years in Annandale.

Actually, the first splash of yellow this year was not in the garden itself. The clump above are escapees into an ajoining field!  

In the garden itself, these were the first to flower this year.

These 'Tete-a-tete' are looking good in a container. Always reliable.

I planted a few bulbs in my new shrubbery too, and elsewhere in the garden. Narcissus 'Jetfire' from Taylors, bought as a pack of 30 bulbs for £5.99, with 'XL Value' on the packaging. And I think they have lived up to that. And hopefully these will bulk up and do well in the years to come.

I planted some other types too for next month. More pics to follow, hopefully.

With the usual optimism, seeds are going in and plugs are growing on. What sort of summer lies ahead, I wonder?

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wamphray Glen: Part 1

A favourite walk which is almost on my doorstep is that up Wamphray Glen. It begins here, where the road over to Boreland heads east from Wamphray.

This was an early spring day, in March, with the sun shining. This is the Wamphray Water at the bottom of the glen.

There's nothing difficult about this walk. I did wonder, after all the rain, whether it would be a bit muddy. The original Wamphray Glen footpath was opened in 1988 by the Earl of Mansfield, the first Crown Estate Commissioner.

Sometimes the path is beside the river ...

... and if you follow the obvious route ...

... you find that at other times the path is high above the glen.

The signs may seem to be a bit superfluous.

Just follow the way they point, in this case, following the edge of the field!

Across the glen, that's the old manse.

Looking north, that's Dundoran Plantation, site of a fort, details here.

Wamphray Place. This is the site of Wamphray Motte, where there would have been a wooden tower. The site dates from around 1100 AD. The flat area would have been surrounded by a palisade where cattle could be kept safe and there may have been timber or wattle-and-daub buildings for stabling and storage. The site may have gone out of use by the mid eighteenth century.

That's Leithenhall Farm in the background.

A different view of the site of Wamphray Place. Archaeological details are here.

Just follow the obvious path!

The noise is impressive!

The Leithenhall Burn joins the Wamphray Water.

There's not a lot of traffic hereabouts!

The walk takes you past the old Wamphray Mill, now a private residence.

At Wamphray Kirk you need to make a decision. You can retrace your steps, or take a right turn and follow the road up Kirk Brae and then walk down the Boreland road past Wamphraygate Farm to where you left your car.

Or you can continue left, following the signs for the Wamphray Glen extended walk. That will be in Part 2, hopefully soon.

Photos © Skip Cottage