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

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The garden in September

The garden has not had a lot of attention in the last month. In one of the wettest months on record, it was all too easy to look out of the window and think, "It doesn't look too bad." Yesterday was lovely - warm and sunny. I spent it pottering in the garden. At least that was the plan. But as I went round the garden I saw hundreds of jobs that needed to be done! The experience was more frustrating than it was enjoyable.

Still, many plants had thrived despite the poor weather. This cotoneaster is just covered in red berries. I like cotoneasters. They seem to thrive just about anywhere. In my garden at Meikle Burntshields all these years ago I used to joke that I had the National Collection!

Here's another Cotoneaster Horizontalis in the foreground, looking over to the pond. That's been a great success, and brings lots of wildlife into the garden.

Plant of the month though is this Calluna Vulgaris, Kinlochruel, a double white heather. I note I'm not the only one to highlight this as PotM for September, see here. In the pic above, it's just coming into flower and will shortly be spectacular. One of the big jobs coming up for me is to completely revamp the heather garden. After seven years it's in need of a makeover.

My 'wild garden', aka a north facing wooded slope, has been ignored again this year.

This part of the garden could be better managed and made a bit more attractive. Next year!

I was pleased to see this late visitor yesterday. Undoubtedly this Painted Lady has travelled a very long way to reach Skip Cottage, see here.

Pics by Bob.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Down the Crooked Road

This is known locally as the 'Crooked Road' which leads west out of Beattock. That's Moffat in the distance. This little stretch of single-track road has a special significance for walkers, cyclists and those on horseback. The Southern Upland Way, the No 10 National Cycle route, the Ae to Eskdalemuir South of Scotland Countryside trail, as well as the about to be opened Annandale Way, all are directed along this road.

Mind how you go!

This information shelter is on the Southern Upland Way, on a local path and picnic area in Earshaig Forest.

I mention it because I wasn't expecting to find photos of steam trains on my walk today. The pic is of Princess Margaret Rose steaming up Beattock in the early 1960s! (This locomotive escaped the scrapyard, see here)

This is called Earshaig Lake on my OS map. Who said the Lake of Menteith was the only 'lake' in Scotland? I wonder if anyone has ever curled on it?

I walked along a short stretch of the Southern Upland Way today. Very pleasant it was too. That's the path on the right of the pic.

These little ponds were apparently made when the Way was opened, for wildlife and to add interest. Certainly today, I was fascinated watching beautiful dragonflies.

Not all is so beautiful hereabouts!

It is autumn, and the heather is looking great!

Pics © Skip Cottage

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Winton Train into London

This is the last leg of The Winton Train's journey into London yesterday, pulled by the new build 'A1', No. 60163 Tornado. Here it is passing through Stratford Station at speed, not far to go to Liverpool Street. There were lots of people (including me) on the platforms, taking pictures and waving to those on the train.

Here's Tornado safely arrived at Liverpool Street. There was a huge number of journalists, photographers and television crews to record the meeting of Sir Nicholas Winton with some of the children and their families who had travelled through from Prague. The story is in lots of papers, for example here. And this report has video of what happened when the train arrived in London. The official Winton Train website is here.

This was the first time I had seen Tornado close up. Impressive. Tornado's story is all here.

Suitably attired for the occasion.

The work of Sir Nicholas Winton, important as it was, was only a part of a greater effort. Just outside the station, in the appropriately named Hope Square, is this monument. For information about the Kindertransport, this link is probably a good place to start.

The plaque reads:
Children of the Kindertransport
In gratitude to the people of Britain for saving the lives of 10,000 unaccompanied mainly Jewish children who fled from Nazi persecution in 1938 and 1939.

"Whoever rescues a single soul is credited as though they had saved the whole world" Talmud.

Dedicated by Association of Jewish Refugees Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief 2006.

Photos © Skip Cottage