Monday, December 30, 2013

The Island of Wamphray

The River Annan was well over its banks at Wamphray today. The river is/should be on the left, behind the trees.

Here's the view north. That is/should be a field in front! It was still raining when I took the photo. Keeping the camera dry was almost impossible. And a cold wind too. Not a day for walking!

Which is the garden pond?

Fortunately Skip sits on a little knoll above the fields which flood. Bottom of the garden is on the right.

It was my intention to get up early this morning and do some shopping before the New Year holiday. But when the alarm went off, I turned over and went back to sleep - the joys of retirement. Probably just as well, as if I had got out, I may not have got home! The rain just got worse all morning. The radio reported that the A701 was blocked at Moffat, and the wee road that comes into Wamphray over the Jocksthorn Bridge looked like this at midday.

This is/should be the adjacent field! Dinghy sailing holidays in Wamphray a possiblity?

I met a couple of drivers trying to get out and up to the service road in their cars, and both decided - good decision to my mind - that this was not worth the risk.

I hesitate to think how those I know with homes downriver have fared. Not a happy thought at the end of the year.

UPDATE 3.30pm

The water is now in the garden, fortunately down at the bottom!

 The Council has been along to dissuade anyone from trying to get across.

The good news - if you look at the 'tide mark' closely - is that the water level has receded a little.

And the rain has stopped. Please, no more. Still, walking back home, I was passed by a car with a large canoe on its roof! Is this the future for being prepared for winter driving? Never mind the snow shovel and the blankets, just pack a boat.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Friday, December 27, 2013

Boxing Day 2013: Walking the Wamphray Water

The Laverhay Burn runs past Laverhay Farm at the end of the metalled road heading north in Wamphray Parish. I had explored the northern parish boundary in an outing back in 2009 to find Cowan Fell, and the ruins of Garrogill Cottage (see here and here). That day I came in from the north off the Southern Upland Way. The area between Garrogill and Laverhay I had not previously explored. Boxing Day 2013, with a reasonable weather forecast, seemed a good day to try out the legs!

The Wamphray Water is in the valley on the left as a good track takes me towards Laverhay Forest.

The gate marks the boundary of Laverhay Forest.

 Tress uprooted in the recent storms.

Lots of evidence of wind damage.

Nature doing what it does best - seedlings growing alongside the forest track.

The track towards Garrogill should follow the Wamphray Water. It's down this way, off the good forestry track, easy to miss!

Here we are!

I suspected the ford might be impassable, and indeed it looked far too risky, so I decided that my path towards Garrogill was blocked. Good reason to return another day. Now, where to have lunch?

A special place on the bank of the Wamphray Water!

Time to contemplate with the water hurling down the stream, eventually to join the Annan, and flow past Skip. A year ago I feared I would never be able to do even simple walks like this one today. I have Dr Mike McMahon, Consultant Rheumatologist at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, to thank for giving me back my life. Fingers crossed there will be many more walks in 2014.

Into the clouds on a still, mild day. I was hoping it might clear, but it didn't. A return visit to the top of Cowan Fell was postponed. The forest hereabouts was for sale recently, see here.

So there was time for a bit of nature study:

I'm pretty sure this is a lichen called Cladonia portentosa.

Is this the same lichen, apparently growing on a nearby tree?

This substantial dry stane dyke reminds the walker of the days before the forest was planted some 30-40 years ago. I suspect that when the time comes for the trees to get harvested, which will be soon, the roads through Wamphray may get somewhat busier! 

Old maps have the site of a pre-Reformation chapel near here, where the Glengap Burn joins the Wamphray Water, see here. The area is named Chapel Lea. There used to be a path on the left of the burn, over the top to Beldcraig Glen.

Nearly done, the end of an enjoyable day. A welcome red dot in the distance is my ride home.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The shortest day of the year

There have been a number of interesting morning skies this month. A lot of rain too. Today is December 21, the shortest day of the year. Twenty-five years ago today 270 people died in the Lockerbie air disaster. I was living in Kilbarchan back then, and I remember vividly hearing the news in the evening. I knew many people living in the town at that time, so it was all very worrying. Now I stay near Lockerbie, and I've very proud to know some of those whose lives were decisively changed that night, and in the days that followed.

I looked in on Lockerbie Ice Rink today to see a little of the under-21 curling competition that's taking place this weekend. The rink, of course, played a part twenty-five years ago, serving as a temporary morgue in the aftermath of the disaster. It's always encouraging to see young people enjoying this great sport, but it struck me that all on the ice were not even born in 1988. Twenty-five years ago is like yesterday to me, as it is I'm sure to all of those who lost loved ones, or who were touched by the disaster in other ways. I'll be having my own minute's silence this evening and thinking of them.

I have to report that the giant which fell on December 5 is gradually disappearing, no doubt to keep people warm next winter.

It's been mild (so far) this winter. I note that these daffodils are already thinking the time has come to show face, and are just peaking through the leaf litter. There may well still be many cold days to come, but from now the days will get longer. Roll on springtime!

Season's Greetings to everyone!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Giant Falls

'Nature in all its glory' was the thought in my head when I photographed this lovely sunset the other night. But of course there's another side to nature - the wild weather. We were well warned that last night there would be a storm. Strong winds were forecast. And sure enough, when I woke up, the wind was howling.

Then I heard a bump! It was still dark, but I got up and checked the house. Everything seemed fine.

It got light, and I assumed the 'bump' I had heard was this bird table going over. 

It was only when I ventured outside that I realised that the 'bump' I had heard was one of the old beech trees near Skip coming down, completely blocking the road. Fortunately no-one had been driving past at the time.

Once the storm had passed over, there was the opportunity to record the occasion!

This old fellow was planted in the nineteenth century, and had stood for some 150 (or more) years.

This is what it looked like from the other side.

The tree had been uprooted, leaving a huge hole. You can see how some quite major roots have been sheared through. It must have been quite a gust of wind, to have blown this tree over.

The trunk had broken in two as it hit the road. I'm rather fond of all the old beeches around Skip, so it was sad to see this today. Although, I was just a little relieved that it was not one of the trees closer to the cottage. Now, I'm just waiting for the 'ax men' to come by.

Before today, the leaves had been trying to stay attached to the branches. No longer. Such was the strength of the wind last night that many had found a new (temporary) home attached to the fence wires. I thought this was an unusual sight, and worth recording!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, November 16, 2013

New Road to Skip

It was one of the most exciting things to happen at Skip in years. I had no vehicle access for a couple of days. The result is - there's a new road past the cottage!

The council team got a couple of dry days for the job. OK, so it was somewhat overdue. If there was a national prize for the biggest potholes, then the road south from Wamphray hall would have been a contender!

It will, hopefully, be a long time before this sight is seen outside Skip again. What a lovely job. So smooth! I understand now why tarmac curling rinks became popular in the early years of the twentieth century. The thought did come into my head that I could sprinkle some water outside on the cold days that are sure to come in the next couple of months, and try out some of my outdoor stones! Where can I borrow some 'Road Closed' signs?

I picked a nice day to go on an 'inspection tour' of the new road!

Now, I wonder what this strange sign 'painted' on the verge signifies?

It was a lovely day to walk a little further. Even Murder Loch looked benign!

Lots of funghi around. But these did not look appetising!

I've photographed my favourite tree many times in different seasons. This beech is clinging on to its leaves so far this autumn.

Lots of fruit on the hawthorn in the hedges this year!

Days like this make me realise how wonderful it is to live in Annandale.

There may have been blue skies, but in the shade there was still the odd patch of ice.

As the clouds started to build, it was time to call it a day!

Photos © Skip Cottage