Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The empty nest and other stories

Each year I usually find a few nests somewhere in and around the garden. For three years blackbirds have nested in my old shed. Sadly, the past couple of times with little success. This year, as soon as I saw the nest above being built, I decided to keep out of the shed completely, with only an occasional peek to see how things were going. I didn't want to mention it here on the blog, tempting fate after the disappointment of the past years.

Two eggs duly appeared, and I enjoyed having the parents accompanying me when working in the garden, singing away (the birds, not me).

The eggs hatched and one chick grew up. Then I discovered last week that the nest was empty. Had the chick survived? Later in the afternoon I found where it was - hopping about on the floor of Skip's porch, beside the central heating boiler, the drying clothes, and in and among the gardening tools I had been storing there, to avoid me using the shed!

What to do? Try to catch it? I decided to do nothing, and just leave the outside door open for a while. An hour later I watched as mother Blackie came to the door of the porch and escorted her offspring out and off down the garden path. Result! I wish it a long life.

On Saturday last I spent some time with curling friends Shari and Christian. What a lovely day. On Sunday I decided that a walk was in order and I duly set out, with my camera, to do some Geographing and continue my explorations of the area between Boreland and Eskdalemuir.

Although much of this countryside is covered with conifer plantations, not all of it is. Here I'm northeast of Boreland looking westwards towards the Great Hill, as it's called on the map! One doesn't encounter too many other walkers in this area, and if you like solitude this is certainly a part of Scotland to enjoy.

This stand of beech trees on the side of the valley of the Cow Burn is rather ancient. On inspection some are obviously very old, and indeed the little wood is shown on the 1860 OS six inch map.

What a pleasant walk along this path, beside the Cow Burn, on a hot day.

And this was where I was headed over to the next valley, that of the Black Esk.

Back in the garden today I found that two days of heat have brought the rhododendrons into flower.

This is a relatively new addition. Now, why don't I label things better!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Friday, May 21, 2010

Steam Dreams

Do you ever have vivid, fragmented dreams? I do. In this one I was on a platform at the Citadel Station in Carlisle.

Why was I there in my dreams?

I was certainly dreaming about these post war times...

...when the country was driven by this stuff.

I seemed to be sharing the same dreams as these guys.

Food features a lot in my dreams!

First class elegance.

Even second class looked good.

Carlisle cathedral was founded in 1122.

This diesel locomotive intruded into my dream...

... as it pulled this steam locomotive backwards round the Upperby loop.

I'm pretty sure my dream was stimulated by seeing this loco in action recently, see here.

LNER A4 Class 4-6-2 no 60019 Bittern

Trainspotting is such a healthy environmentally friendly hobby!

This is where the phrase 'letting off steam' comes from.

And Bittern heads off south on the Carlisle - Settle line, pulling the Steam Dreams Cathedrals Express excursion.

As Bittern pulled out of the station I woke up and caught the 18.11 First TransPennine Express back to Lockerbie. As I sat down in my seat, the announcement on the train was that it was heading for Edinburgh and Windermere. Windermere? I thought for a moment I was dreaming again. Maybe I was!

Wide awake again
Or am I dreamin'?
Trains passing by
Worlds spinning
'round my head

Court Yard Hounds 2010 Skyline

Photos © Skip Cottage

Monday, May 17, 2010

Warm in the garden

I think today was the first day this year that I've actually felt comfortable when working in the garden!

So what have I been doing since the daffodil days? There's been three main objectives. The first has been to keep on top of the perennial weeds. The second has been to sort out the problems that the severe winter caused. I lost a number of things. The third has been to move those perennials that are growing in the wrong place. When I took over the garden, it was great to receive lots of divisions and donations from friends. These went in anywhere and everywhere. Some have prospered in the conditions at Skip, some haven't. Lot's of things are in the wrong place. Time for action!

I planted some tulips last year, and these have been a success.

Here's one raised bed which faces south and tends to be dry. I've moved some things from here, and planted others. We'll see later in the summer how it has worked out. That's a geranium in the foreground, from a small division from a friend several years ago. Just one of many geraniums in the garden - they do seem to do well, standing up not just to the climate, but resisting attention of rabbits, mice and other wildlife!

One of the things I lost was a large hebe. However, these middle beds, dominated by heathers and conifers, are needing some attention after seven years, so that's an ongoing project for the next couple of months. A new white rhododendron has gone in, and some Calluna Vulgaris.

I've also replanted my three troughs. The big one here was originally a white kitchen sink, transformed with a WI hypertufa recipe!

Here's another trough that used to be a kitchen sink. It looks the part after some six years. Completely replanted last week. The new Lewisia is flowering away brightly.

This is just a polystyrene fish box.

Another progress update soon.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, May 16, 2010

East to Berwick-upon-Tweed

Paxton House, a mid-eighteenth century mansion in Berwickshire, was my destination yesterday. Co-incidentally it was also the destination for the Wigton Motor Club's 'Geordie Gallop'.

You can read all about the house and estate on the website here.

Paxton House itself is fascinating. Jackie, a volunteer guide, made the tour both interesting and informative. Here we are in the library in the nineteen century extension.

The main reason for my visit to Paxton yesterday was to see the Picture Gallery, which became in 1993 the first of the National Galleries of Scotland's partner galleries. The selection of paintings on show has been made to complement the history of Paxton House. Most are from the National Galleries' reserve collection.

There is a curling connection (the stimulus for my visit) and this will likely be a subject of a future post on the curling blog.

Curling aside, I learned much about the art collection from another knowledgeable volunteer Mary-Ann. Paxton is well worth a visit. Another of my recommendations! You won't be disappointed.

My next stop was at this level crossing on the main East Coast line near Scremerston, where there used to be an old station.

I was waiting to catch sight of LNER A4 Class 4-6-2 no 60019 Bittern, pulling the Steam Dreams 'The Coronation' railtour from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley.

Thanks to a fellow trainspotter John, who took the time to guide me to this excellent spot to watch the loco pulling away from its water stop at Berwick-upon-Tweed, I was able to enjoy Bittern working hard on the upslope north of the station.

It really made my day. I've always had a soft spot for these streamlined A4s.

I was interested to see 60019 sporting a double tender.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Lockerbie Secret

If any blogallies have been wondering about the garden, may I just say that work is progressing, albeit slowly. The weather has been so cold this week that little has been done outside. However, as you know, I like to explore and go out and about with the camera. So here's a post about one of Lockerbie's attractions, and perhaps its best kept secret, the Ukrainian Chapel at Hallmuir.

The photo above is one of the few huts which remain of the forty or so that made up the WW2 prisoner of war camp at Hallmuir Farm which housed both German and Italian soldiers. After the war, these prisoners were mostly repatriated, and the camp became home to a different population.

In May 1947, Ukrainian POWs arrived at Glasgow Docks from a camp near Rimini in Italy. Around 450 were brought to Lockerbie by truck and train and were marched through the town to Hallmuir Farm Camp.

Once settled, they were employed by the Ministry of Agriculture to work on the farms and forestry in the area. Unlike the German and Italian POWs, the Ukrainians could not return home. Ukraine had become part of the USSR, and it was made clear that on their return to the Soviet Union they would most likely be executed or sent to Siberia, because they had fought on the German side.

Sir John Buchanan Jardine, the landowner, donated one of the huts to the Ukrainians so that they could use it as a chapel. It was decorated by the internees themselves over a number of years, using their own skills and whatever materials that were to hand.

It is all rather beautiful and quite moving, not to say unexpected, as one enters the old hut. It was the first Ukrainian Chapel of its kind in Scotland and is still in use today. Services are held on the first Sunday of every second month.

This memorial is outside the chapel. There's a static caravan on the site, with information and old photographs. There's more about the Ukrainian Chapel here, and in this YouTube video here. It's a remarkable place to visit.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Big Lizzie at Carlisle

LMS Coronation Class 4-6-2 no 46233 Duchess of Sutherland was in Carlisle today.

The locomotive was pulling The Citadel Express railtour, Crewe - Carlisle over Shap, and return. All about the loco is here. The Duchess of Sutherland is owned by the Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust whose website is here.

Earlier this year 6233 was repainted in LMS lined black livery, and 2010 will be its last season on the main line before major overhaul.

Having delivered the passengers for their Carlisle stopover, the Duchess reverses out of Carlisle station to park the carriages for a couple of hours.

Later, having turned round, the locomotive brought the carriages back to platform 3, and, with its support carriage, runs around the train....,

..... and couples up at the front, pointing in the right direction for the run back south over Shap.

And having had a wee run in a Virgin Pendolino myself, counting all the hundreds of enthusiasts positioning themselves, cameras at the ready, to catch the Duchess on the return leg of the railtour, I was at Oxenholme station for this shot of my own.

Locomotives of the Princess Coronation Class were often referred to as 'Big Lizzies'. They were the most powerful passenger steam locomotives ever to be built for the British railway network.

Pics © Skip Cottage