Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Santa in Moffat

The skirl of the pipes brightened a cold and overcast Sunday afternoon in Moffat.

The pipes heralded Santa's arrival in the town!

All part of the Christmas Fayre.  It was certainly colourful, and there were lots of kids enjoying the rides.

On the way back to my car, I thought I was being 'chugged' when I encountered a charming lady with a large basket of ribbons outside of St Andrews Parish Church. Not so. No hard sell, rather "Would I like to attach a ribbon to the prayer tree in the church grounds?" I paused - just long enough to think of friends who are going through difficult times at the moment. So I selected a blue ribbon, attached it to the tree, and said a wee prayer for them. Then I enjoyed a very welcome coffee and mince pie in the church hall. Christmas Fayres notwithstanding, this was a nice way to get into the Christmas spirit!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Vendee Globe

It happens once every four years, a single handed, non-stop, yacht race around the world. The Vendee Globe began last week. This is the race that brought Ellen MacArthur to prominence when she finished second in 2001. If you have any experience of sailing whatsoever, you will be able to appreciate - a little - of just how hard a challenge this is, and not just physically and mentally. Crazy? Some would say so. Three months, with only a few minutes of sleep at any one time, is a challenge in itself!

In the 1980s, I enjoyed a few brief years sailing with friends Jimmy and Kirsty Letton in their UFO 27 called Canna. (It's not Canna, but I recently found this clip of a UFO 27 under sail, and it brought back some great memories!) I learned so much and it was great to be able to appreciate another sport. Until that time my summers had been spent hillwalking. Of course, cruiser racing in the Clyde estuary is a far cry from ocean racing, but the experiences of thirty years ago have meant that even now I follow sailing whenever I can, whether on the box, or via the internet.

This year, especially finding myself confined at Skip more often than I would like, I set out to follow the 2012 Vendee Globe online via the official website, and the usual Facebook and Twitter feeds. You know, it's easy to get sucked into the event, what with tracking the boats via the website, the animations, and the daily updates and stories which include photos and even videos from the boats. The race is dominated by French sailors but there were three Brits on the start line for me to support.

There has been lots of drama during the first week, with collisions, gear failures and dismastings. And the race has only just begun. There's a video summary of the first week here.

I was gutted on Friday morning when I logged on to read that Sam Davies' boat Saveol had been dismasted. Fortunately she is alright, and, having cut away the rig, has been able to motor to Madeira. There is no way to describe how disappointed she must feel. You work for years raising the sponsorship, and putting a team together, then just days into the race, it's all over. No wonder she was distraught when she was explaining by videolink what had happened (above). Sam is a great ambassador for the sport, and immensely popular in France where she now lives. Hopefully she will be racing again soon!

I plan to be an armchair sailor for the months ahead, and I look forward to following the fleet as it tackles the challenges in the oceans. Hopefully all will return safe.

The photos are screenshots from the video highlights on the Vendee Globe website.

Sunday, November 04, 2012


"Have you seen what it is yet?" The clue is that I'm in Greskine Forest, north of Beattock, looking down towards the M74.

I was hunting for the remains of Mellingshaw Tower.

There's not much left of this 16th century tower house which belonged to the Johnstones. Archeological notes are here.

One has to think that some of the material from the ruined tower might have been incorporated in this dry stane dyke. The pic shows the prominent position that the tower house occupied above the Evan Valley.

The little burn that come down this forest ride is called 'Tower Burn'.

Rather more substantial is Mellingshaw Burn which has carved a deep gorge, complete with waterfalls, on the downside of this bridge. Exploration of which has to be left to those younger and fitter than me!

These are the ruins of Greskine. Canmore lists it as a 'farmstead' see here, with no other information. Certainly it looks to be a substantial habitation on the OS 25 inch first edition map from 1861. Greskine farmstead gave Greskine Forest its name.

Did someone with a warped sense of humour plant the tree within the walls of the house? My OS 1:25000 Explorer map, which dates from 2001, seems to show that Greskine is in a clearing. It's not - it's well hidden by trees these days and could easily be missed it you weren't actually looking for it.

Greskine had two rooms. There's a hearth at each end of the building. I wonder what life would have been like here in the mid nineteenth century?

I tried to see if I could find one with four leaves!

There were wintry showers last night! This snow was still lying on these old logs as I walked up through the forest.

But it was a perfect day for a walk, with lots to see. Indeed, Greskine almost made it into my list of places I don't blog about - because I want to keep them a secret! The constant rumble from the nearby M74 was the only thing that prevented a full mark!

Photos © Skip Cottage