Monday, December 29, 2014

Year End Nostalgia

Best New Year I ever had? There's been a few memorable ones over the years. In a wee bothy in the Monadhliath, deep in snow, was special. But the one I was thinking of recently was 1982 into 1983, celebrated somewhere in the Himalayan foothills as we trekked across Nepal, from the Indian border to the Everest region. I reminisced about this a couple of years ago, see here.

I came across some on my own 35mm slides of the trip recently, and scanning these brought back a lot of memories. The locals we met were just wonderful and so friendly and welcoming...

... even if not everyone we met seemed willing to let us pass!

It's funny to look at photos of myself, complete with hair and beard! How quickly the intervening years have gone by.

I took this of Everest from the top of Kala Pattar. That was a hard day, but remains a 'best memory'!

I was not much into photography back then but I did try my best with a small Olympus compact camera that I had with me on the trek. I remember taking this early one morning, Ama Dablam just catching the early morning light!

And that got me thinking. With the weather forecast so good for yesterday, December 28, why not go see the sun rising on a Scottish mountain!

So I made an early start from Skip and I was beside Loch Long on a cold, frosty Sunday morning!

Seen from across the loch, the Cobbler was getting the first rays, and looking quite majestic.

Surprise of the day was to find this cafe open early on a Sunday morning, serving the best bacon roll I've tasted this year! Five stars.

This was what I had been hoping for, to catch the pink glow.

It being early, and suitably fortified by that bacon roll, I thought to bring back a few memories and walk a bit up the path. I took it slowly ... it's been a long time ....

... but well worth persevering, following the path beside the Allt a Bhalachaim!

I had my second breakfast at this point. Could not stop taking photos, and feeling so blessed to be there, halfway up a mountain! All thanks of course to Dr McMahon and staff at the Rheumatology Department in Dumfries for giving me my life back.

What was interesting was the people I met along the way. In no hurry myself, I chatted to many of them. One chap with his two collies, complete with LED collars and reflective jackets, had been up high to see the sunrise. Many well equipped walkers were headed in to Beinn Ime and one even to Ben Vane. A few serious climbers were intent on tackling some of the winter routes on the Cobbler itself. There were families with their dogs, three mountain bikers, one fell runner. Some like me, were looking to go no further than the Narnain Boulders. I met a couple of 'serious' photographers. And two couples from England, spending their Christmas break in Scotland. And all just rejoicing to be out on a perfect winter's day with such a blue sky, not a cloud in sight.

It was a day I will remember for a long time!

All photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter 2014

Winter took a while to arrive this year. But last weekend there was snow on the hills above Annandale.

When the sky is blue it's a delight to be out and about!

But on most winter walks, grey skies are the norm! It is nice to encounter a well maintained hedge.

So much for the well maintained hedges - there must be a hole in the fence somewhere.

My favourite tree has seen a fair number of winters!

There has been lots of work going on recently, improving the drainage alongside the West Coast Main Line. Quite a community here for the past weeks, and work goes on into the nights.

 This tunnel under the line probably dates from when it was built in the nineteenth century.

A Merry Christmas to everyone!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Misty Morning

Sunday, November 23, and the early morning mist is beginning to clear across the fields. Actually, I'm fibbing somewhat. It's not 'early'! I don't do early very often these days. I took the photo above at 11.30. How lovely to see the sun appear after that.

The garden pretty much gets left to itself at this time of year. But I was out with the loppers this morning, cutting a few shrubs back. Some major pruning, or replacement, will be required in places, I'm thinking. Ten years have passed so quickly.

This deciduous cotoneaster has good colour.

A few tubs with some winter colour have been planted up to give me a lift on the cold, grey days that are still to come. And a lot of new bulbs have been planted too.

It has been a very mild autumn ... so far.

So mild that this fuchsia is still flowering away in its pot outside! It is called 'Blue Heaven', and the label describes it as 'Suitable for patio tubs and other containers, this semi trailing variety displays a profusion of red and purple flowers in summer and early autumn'.

The standing stone opposite Skip has seen a lot of winters!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Autumn adventures

I planted this Acer not long after I moved to Skip. Twelve years on, just look at it!

After all the rain earlier this week, I went out to see what the River Annan was doing. Here it is under the Jocksthorn Bridge.

The river wasn't keeping within its banks on Tuesday afternoon. Mind you, it had a long way to go to match last December 30, see here.

But it was well over in places, as you can see. Now, there's a story, or two, about Wamphray's bath tub.

Some think this is just an old tub that is in the field to provide a source of water for the cows. Not so. The story goes (1) that it is a left over from a failed attempt to navigate the Annan from Moffat to the Solway in an interesting way, or (2) it was where visitors to Wamphray were required to wash their feet before visiting!

I'm not sure I believe either of these stories, but it does seem to have magic qualities. Note that although the water is high around it, the level in the bath itself is quite low. So, if you want to visit Wamphray's mysterious bath, just stop at the Jocksthorn Bridge. There's no charge!

Moving on, this is the Wamphray Water, at the point where it goes under the West Coast Main Line.

The river is squeezed coming through under the railway and was really quite impressive on Tuesday.

In my pre-blogging days in 2005, this bridge got jammed up with debris brought down by the river. The resulting build up of water in a particularly wet spell eventually found an outlet, and flooded many of the houses in the village, and the village hall, with hardly any warning. Bad memories for many.

And going down in size, I didn't realise that this little burn which usually is somewhat insignificant beside the road leading to Pumplaburn Farm, is called the 'Pumpley Burn'.

 The sun came out briefly after the storm.

No, its not upside down ... just the reflection in the field. The water didn't last long though. By today, most of it was away.

Autumn sunset! Good enough for the Cloudporn group, I wonder?

Photos © Skip Cottage

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Into Autumn

Travelling home from Stranraer recently, I just had to stop the car and capture this pic, near Creetown. Early evening sunsets - a sign that autumn is approaching.

The spiders have been busy on this Cotoneaster.

At Skip, the first frost must be imminent. It has been a good summer. Fuchsia 'Hawkshead' is still going strong.

Autumn colour from this aster...

... and from Sedum 'Autumn Joy'.

 The beech mast has fallen, and the leaves are just beginning to colour.

The first autumn storm did bring some leaves down, and these are now on a new heap to compost down.

A few winter containers have been planted up.

These cheery violas makes me smile.

 Cotoneaster horizontalis looks spectacular against the white wall of the house.
A good year for the gentians.

Probably the biggest success of the year were these snapdragons, grown from plugs and planted out in containers, and still giving a great show into October!

There's a trellis doing sterling work underneath all this!

So, a few more bulbs to plant, and then it will be time to 'forget' the garden until the new year. There are no gnomes at Skip, but this little fellow was purchased in aid of pancreatic cancer. He (she?) gets to look after the garden over the winter months. Doesn't have a name ... yet.

Photos © Skip Cottage