Saturday, August 31, 2013

August Garden Review

When I was a little boy, growing up in Glasgow, I thought there were only two types of butterfly - the 'white one' whose caterpillars ate all the cabbage leaves (the Large White, see here) and the Red Admiral, which always seemed much more exotic. I was pottering in the garden this morning when I noticed this Red Admiral paying Skip a visit, and resting on this tree heather. It obligingly waited while I went to find my camera!

But it's been a great summer. Slow to get started, but - compared with last year - it has been a delight to have the garden as one of my hobbies! Here are a few photos from August. Mind you, there are berries on the Rowan tree already, so autumn cannot be far off!

Firstly though, the Bishop's Children have done well, both in containers and in the ground! What a difference from last year.

I actually didn't plant any nasturtiums this year. These have self seeded, from last year, behind a container, keeping these old curling stones happy!

I don't have many Clematis at Skip, but this one is a lovely colour. Now, if only I had kept a record of its name!

This is C. tangutica 'Bill MacKenzie'.

This white Potentilla always gives a good show.

Yellow is still my favourite colour in the garden.

Despite the duckweed, the waterlilies have tried hard this summer.

A right jungle of Astilbe and Crocosmia.

This Inula is impressive every summer, and it was one of the first plants I was given by a friend for the garden of my new home!

Would you believe that this variegated Cotoneaster, crawling all over the retaining wall, is just the one plant! It obviously likes its situation. Which is all luck, rather than planning on my part.

The colour combination of this Solidago and the Sambucus seems to work.

Fuchsia 'Dollar Princess' overwintered OK, and has grown on well in its container for another season.

Fuchsia 'Hawkshead' was a gift this spring. I love the little white flowers. It's supposed to be hardy, so we'll see how it likes Annandale winters!

The new shrub border is just awaiting some spring bulbs, and we'll see how it goes on. It will no doubt put on some growth next year.

This is the other thing that happened in August. Bits were falling off the old brick chimney, so it was a call to a local builder who has rebuilt it completely. Great job he's done too, and he has also done some necessary repointing on the gable wall ... pictures to follow when I get it repainted!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Monday, August 26, 2013

On the canal

Now, way back in my family tree it would seem I have an ancestor (my great grandfather, one Joseph Cowan) who was a canal boatman. It might explain why I'm drawn to canals, even though I know little about them. It's why the Linlithgow Canal Centre was on my list of 'places I have to visit this summer', and I made it there yesterday.

The Linlithgow Canal Centre is run entirely by volunteer members of the Linlithgow Union Canal Society which was founded in 1975 to promote and encourage the restoration and use of the Union Canal, particularly in the vicinity of Linlithgow.

The canal itself was built to join Falkirk and Edinburgh. The history is here. Construction started in 1818 and the canal was opened in 1822. It was dug entirely by hand! It brought coal and stone into Edinburgh in horse-drawn barges.

Traffic in the canal basin yesterday.

The Victoria was built at Braunston, near Rugby, in 1972, to simulate a Victorian Steam Packet. She operated on the Welford arm of the Grand Union Canal before being purchased by LUCS in 1978. She was providing the transport for the half-hour 'taster' cruise on the canal yesterday. Significantly, Victoria was the first boat to transit the Falkirk Wheel after its opening by Her Majesty the Queen. Over the years she has been modified and refitted entirely by LUCS volunteers.

This way to the Falkirk Wheel, but not for us today! In 2001, when the Falkirk Wheel was built, the Union Canal was linked once again to the Forth and Clyde Canal.

Sharing the space with the wildlife, as Victoria nudges past this moorhen.

There are no locks - the canal follows the contours of the land between Edinburgh and Falkirk, all 31 miles. All the bridges are numbered.

Guard dog in action!

I was disappointed to find that I needed to be some sixty years younger to be eligible for a turn to drive! Our skipper was most knowledgeable and great with the kids!

The Centre has a small museum, in the old stable, with lots to see ...

... including this fine old curling stone! It was found in the mud at the bottom of the canal near Woodcockdale when the canal was emptied for repairs sometime in the 1970s.

Elspeth is the museum's curator, and was in charge yesterday. A volunteer, full of enthusiasm and knowledge. Turns out she's a Cowan by birth, so it was a 'Who do you think you are?' moment yesterday!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Moffat Madness

Moffat's bedding was late in going in this year, because of the cold spring, but the many flower beds and planters are looking good now. Moffat's 'station park' is built on the area around where the town's station once was, the branch line to Beattock having closed in 1954.

There's a clue in this photo of the Moffat Ram about what was set to take place today!

The town was packed for the occasion. And if the whole idea seems a bit odd, I can confirm that it is! But great fun.

The main attraction was indeed sheep races! There were five rounds. The going was 'good'.

Each round declared a winner, and all these contested the final.

My pick led for much of the final, then fell away!

There was entertainment too. These are the 'Samba Sisters'.

Short of taiko, this looked like the most fun you can have with a big drum!

Food options today? Annandale is nothing if not cosmopolitan. Kittikan makes a delicious Thai green chicken curry, and with a nod to the Scottish palate, today you could have some chips on the side. She has her own business locally, see here.

Lots of fun for young and not-so-young alike!

The Leadhills Silver Band entertains!

A rendition of Abba's 'Super Trouper' just had to be heard!

These Annandale Young Farmers were fundraising for RSABI (see here).

They had hauled this tractor all the way from Lockerbie. Full marks to them.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Crawfordjohn's Heritage Venture

I recently had the opportunity to pay a return visit to a little museum in Crawfordjohn.

It's in the old village church. I had been here before and it was pleasing to see that the fabric of the church had received attention, with new windows, and there is now wheelchair access. The interior too has received a makeover. It's not easy to maintain a small community venture like this! The museum is self supporting, and independent. Fundraising is an ongoing challenge!

There's a poster on the wall of the museum which asks the question, "What's so special about Crawfordjohn that it needs a museum?" The answer? "Probably nothing, but the story of the village is typical of Lanarkshire's upland villages." The museum has a fascinating collection of exhibits, and lots of information relating to the village and surrounding area. Many of those who visit are researching their family histories! All that's on offer can be found on the museum's website here.

One reason for me visiting last Sunday was that I had heard that there was a curling exhibit. Why is there a Scottish top on display? Former world champion and well-kent curler Jackie Lockhart (nee Steele) has a link to the area. Her grandparents lived and farmed at Liscleugh, and that's where her father grew up. See some photos of Jackie in action here.

Crawfordjohn did have its own curling club, and in the 19th century local curlers competed against those from Leadhills, Wanlockhead, Sanquhar, Douglas, Abington and Crawford. It was a thrill to find that the minute books of the Crawford CC are currently at the Crawfordjohn Heritage Venture. These date from 1837 through to 1943, and interestingly contain the names of two Polish officers who were members of the club when they were stationed at Crawford in WW2.

I wonder if the minute books of the Crawfordjohn CC still exist somewhere?

The name 'Crawfordjohn' is well linked to curling, as any student of the sport's history will know well. Stone from the quarry at Craighead, in Crawfordjohn Parish, was used to make curling stones in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. That's a Crawfordjohn stone on the left of the photo above.

Enthusiastic volunteers are so important in any community venture, and I must say that I received a warm welcome on my visit.  On the left is Jenny Hodgen, who is a Trustee and was the volunteer 'on duty' last Sunday. It was great to meet Janet Drife (centre) who is the current chair of the Crawford Heritage Trust. Janet Telfer, on the right, is a founder member of the Trust. They could answer every question I had! I wish them every success in future endeavours. 

Do visit the museum if you can!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, August 03, 2013

A Tale of Two Libraries

I have a big list of things 'to do', and places 'to visit'. This week I've been able to scratch two of these places off my list. In both cases I've come away thinking, "Why have I never visited before?"

I feel I know Leadhills quite well, having visited the little railway a number of times over the years, for example here. But the village is also home to the oldest subscription library in Britain. The Leadhills Miners' Reading Society was founded in 1741. Go here to read about it.

It's a walk back in time! By the 1960s, the future of the library was very much in doubt. However local enthusiasts began a campaign to save it, and it was reopened in 1972. It exists today thanks to a small band of volunteers and enthusiasts!

Ali White was looking after the library on the day of my visit, and she could not have been more helpful. She's holding the Journal of the Leadhills Curling Club, the earliest entries therein dating from 1784. Lots of other treasures are in the cases behind! The library is open this year on Saturdays and Sundays, 2pm-4pm, until the end of September.

If you love books, just browsing the shelves is fascinating!

And look what I found - a copy of the Rev John Kerr's 'Curling in Canada and the United States', a record of the first tour by Scottish curlers to North America in the winter of 1902-03, published in Edinburgh in 1904. Most books on the shelves have been specially bound.

Just a couple of miles along the road, in the neighbouring village of Wanlockhead, is another Miners' Library, the second oldest in the country, founded in 1756. It's not in the original building. The library started its life in the local school, but moved to the building above in 1851.

You can read all about the Wanlockhead library here.

The library benefits from being part of 'Hidden Treasures', the Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead. The website is here. There's lots to do and see on a visit to the museum, but be sure not to miss the beautifully restored library!

Here, our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide Anne Arrigoni shows one of the three volumes recording the activities of Wanlockhead curlers from 1776 to 1949!

Photos © Skip Cottage