Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter at Skip

It almost seems that this is a black and white photo. Skip has seen a covering of snow!

It is the seasons that make gardening in this country so interesting. Today is the shortest day of the year, and I'm looking forward to seeing the first signs of growth, perhaps even next month.

I must admit that I like the snow, although it is no fun having to travel in weather like this.

The beech trees look spectacular in winter.

The standing stone will have seen many winters.

I've just looked at the weather forecast, and it looks as if Skip will be having a white Christmas this year. Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, November 20, 2009

After the storm

The calm after the storm. By the time I was up and around this morning with my camera, the water levels in the Annan were already going down, although that is not obvious from this photo, looking north from the garden!

That's the river behind the trees on the left. What was different from normal was the roar of the water.

I took this pic from the bottom of the garden.

Downstream from Skip.

Where is the actual river?

All very well to take these pics of the power of water, but not so enjoyable if your home is threatened. Sympathy for those, as the news today has been full of horror stories of residential and commercial properties affected.

For me, there was only a little inconvenience as access to the Jocksthorn Bridge was blocked.

The water had been very much higher during the night, and was still flowing from the field over the road mid morning.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Skip island

It certainly has been a bad storm! The River Annan is well over its banks near Skip today, not surprisingly, as it's been raining non stop for more than 24 hours. And the weather forecasters are predicting that there's more to come! At least Skip stands well above the river (fingers crossed).

I'm sorry for those further down Annandale who may not be so fortunate. Today is certainly not a day for driving around Dumfries and Galloway. Thoughts are with those who have to be out and about.

You will have seen this field to the north of the cottage here and here. It's a lake today!

It is flood plain, so this is not unexpected. Apparently the river was diverted to its current path, just out of sight on the left, when the railway was built in the middle of the 19th century. The river used to come in from the right and run along the north slope of the garden in the foreground!

The only silver lining is that the garden pond doesn't need filling!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

More on Copland's Monument

Earlier this year, my explorations took me on to the hills behind the Minnygap farms, on the west side of Annandale, see here. I posted photos of this interesting construction, marked on the maps as Copland's Monument, and noted that I could find no documentation of who Copland was.

Jim Storrar, author of two Moffat Miscellany books which I've mentioned before (see here), has been in touch to say that he has 'stumbled upon' a reference in the Dumfries Weekly Journal of Tuesday, 26th July, 1803, which explains that Copland was a local shepherd killed on the morning of 20th July, 1803. Thanks Jim.

The paper says, "On Tuesday night and Wednesday last we had a violent storm of thunder and lightning here, accompanied with some very heavy showers of rain. We are sorry to state, that Mr John Copland of Monygap (sic), about five miles from Moffat, while he was going to look after his sheep, on Wednesday morning, was struck with the lightning and instantly killed."

Presumably the monument was erected soon thereafter, making it more than 200 years old!

Photos © Skip Cottage. The dog is Tally!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Autumn colour

The rain has been battering Skip all day and the wind is stripping the leaves from the trees. Autumn is here. On Thursday I had a last look around the garden before the winter hibernation! This splash of red really stood out.

Six years ago when I was setting out this level of the garden, I made a trip up to the Tree Shop at Cairndow, and came back with three small trees which I hoped would become the focal points of the garden. I haven't spent much money in the garden, but this was, for me at the time, quite a major purchase! It's taken a few years, but this Acer is becoming established and I'm sure you will agree it is making its mark. It's all to do with anthocyanins, see here!

On the other hand, this michaelmas daisy was a division from a friend and appears to like its new home. I don't know what cultivar it is, but that doesn't matter a whit!

I'm pleased to say that my neighbours got the forage maize safely gathered in!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

First frosts

For the past two mornings there has been a sheen of white over the fields. Cold and frosty mornings have arrived. The 'non stop' begonias immediately stopped, keeling over and dying, and heralding the demise of the summer containers (look back here and here). The priority has been this week to plant up something to add a bit of colour at the front of the house through the winter. Here's what was accomplished, looking a bit miserable at the moment. But let's see what they look like in February and March when the bulbs push through.

Someone has to tell these little Coreopsis. Grown originally as a biennial, these two plants are in their second year of flowering, and have so far taken no notice of the cold! Very cheery.

The big job next year will be to do something with the heather and shrub border.

Yes, I do sit here and ponder... occasionally.

Michaelmas daisies and Kaffir lillies still provide colour, although most of the garden is getting past its best.

Clematis tangutica 'Bill Mackenzie' is my 'plant of the month'!

The other job that did get done (and I'm not going to list all that did not) was to get one of my three compost 'bins' ready for all the leaves. Skip is surrounded by a number of very large beech trees, and will be awash with leaves soon. I'm ready for them this year!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Rainbows over Annandale

Spectacular showers today, and lots of rainbows. Here's one, looking east from near Cogries towards Craig Fell. I almost felt I was inside the rainbow. But the pot of gold remains elusive!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chasing steam

I'm standing in a field (above). Near a railway line. And I'm not alone. I encountered a lot of really strange people today. They were standing beside roads, in laybys, on bridges, and on station platforms. They were predominantly male, of an older vintage, although wives and partners could be seen often sitting in cars close by, reading, and, in one case, knitting. They operated cameras, and video cameras, and sometimes both. They were in touch with others by mobile phone. These patient people came from all over Scotland, and the north of England. All of them completely daft.

They are Mainline Steam Railway fans!

I learned from them facts like, "She was on time at Oxenholme." "A little late leaving Gretna." "It's a sell out, no seats when I tried to book." "It's the first time a Jubilee has been in Scotland for forty-five years." (Really?) "It's just as well she's not stopping at Beattock, so she can take a run at the hill." "Why hasn't she got a banking engine for going up Beattock, when she's got one tomorrow morning for Cowlairs?"

These people study their OS Maps and are expert in navigating the smallest of back roads.

I heard reminiscences about standing on platform ends in the 60s, visiting sheds, travelling on heritage lines. I met people that were following the train, by car, all the way to Mallaig!

These are really strange people! I'm one of them. Here are a few of my photos.

What we were all looking out for was LMS Jubilee Class 4-6-0 no 45690 Leander, pulling the Preston - Glasgow leg of the Railway Touring Company's three day excursion, The West Highlander, here photographed near Langhill Farm on its approach to Lockerbie.

A thing of beauty. Read about Leander here and here.

It does look as if this supermarket is providing a needed drink.

Pulling away from Lockerbie station.

I need a video camera! (If you want to see what Leander is like on the move, look here.)

Stopped for a rest in a loop on the Main West Coast Line near Abington.

At speed on its way up the Clyde valley near Lamington. What a wonderful day!

Pics © Skip Cottage.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Annandale Way officially opened

This was the big moment on Saturday. Ed Forrest, the project manager, helps Lady Hope Johnstone unveil a way marker to declare the Annandale Way officially open!

The 55-mile long distance path up (or down, your preference) the valley of the River Annan was first conceived as an idea in the aftermath of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 which hit this area particularly badly. It may have taken a few years and a lot of work to make the idea a reality, but Saturday's celebrations, with the sun beating down, showed Annandale, and the people who live here, in the best possible light. Hopefully, in the years ahead, there will be economic benefits for the region from visitors who come to walk all, or just part of it. I certainly look forward to exploring all it has to offer.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. On Saturday, the walk was broken down into short sections, and groups of people walked each section. This was the group which had signed up to walk from Lockerbie to Templand, an 'easy stroll' of around five miles, mostly on quiet country roads. What's with the Annandale Initiative bus? With Blair Crossan behind the wheel, we were brought to the starting point at Lockerbie Cemetery from the assembly point at the Town Hall. Blair then picked us up at the end of the walk and took us to the opening celebrations in Lochmaben, before delivering everyone safely back to Lockerbie later.

Seventeen of us, and two dogs, set out, here just passing under the old railway bridge that once carried the Lockerbie - Lochmaben - Dumfries line! My job was the 'sweeper', matching the pace (or should that be trying to keep up with) the slowest of the group! Zoe Roberts was the leader of our walk.

The fluorescent jacket is so they could find me if I got lost! Note the blue sky.

Anyway, it was not a race, and there was plenty of time to appreciate the surroundings, and take photos. I was fascinated by these spiders' webs!

Our perambulations took us over the River Dryfe, a tributary of the Annan.

The Way joins up established walks. Here we went through the Gallaberry Plantation, which used to be the grounds of Dryfeholm Manor, demolished in 1952.

Mike Libera and grandson Robbie examining the bark of this Wellingtonia, one of many interesting trees in Gallaberry.

Oops, there's only fifteen, plus me, makes sixteen. Don't tell me we've lost one already! Robbie, where are you hiding?

We walked through Millhousebridge, or 'Millus brig' as the locals tend to call it.

And here's the River Annan, from the bridge at Millhousebridge!

Some were grateful for the better weather than we've seen recently!

And we were soon at our destination. Coming from the north, walkers have a decision to make. They can chose to go via Lochmaben, or via Lockerbie, the loops meeting up at Kettleholm.

Lochmaben Community Centre was the next venue, safely transported there by Blair and his bus, to meet others who had walked different sections of the Way.

Or indeed those who had run parts of the route, as had this impressive lot!

Lockerbie and District Rotary Club was on hand to dispense medicinal refreshments.

Indeed, former Rotary Club President, Stuart Martin, was the master of ceremonies for the official bit of the day.

But not before the multitudes had been fed.

Impressive lady this. She's Linda Cracknell, and has already walked ALL of the Annandale Way. She's a writer, and teacher of creative writing. (Her own blog is here). Her involvement with the Annandale Way was to engage with youngsters from local schools, take them out along sections of the route, and encourage them to create poems based on their experiences. This was just a wonderful idea. You can find some of what was written here, and the students' work also features large in the booklet that has been published about the Way, see below.

Two Moffat Academy pupils read examples of the poems. This is Lauren Struthers, with Linda looking on rather proudly, I suspect.

And this is Mhairi Sharkey. Great job, girls.

Lady Hope Johnstone spoke eloquently before declaring the Annandale Way 'open'! Find out more about Sulwath Connections and the Annandale Way here.

The 'official' photo of the dignitaries on the day.

This is the guidebook I referred to above. It was produced in partnership with CREATE Curriculum for Excellence, School Services, Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Photos © Skip Cottage