Sunday, 28 August 2016

A bee-loud hillside


By William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, 
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; 
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee, 
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, 
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; 
There midnight's all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow, 
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day 
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; 
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray, 
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

One of my favourite poems.  I learnt it at school, and it has been with me ever since.  I especially love, and respond to, the first line of the second verse.  Could anything be more soothing, or offer such balm.

Yesterday we walked up to Hopes Reservoir, tucked away in the Lammermuir Hills.  
The heather is out, and as we walked, away to my left, I could hear a hum coming from a bee-loud hillside.  Hives, placed at the foot of the purple slopes had clouds of bees hovering, and buzzing to and fro, and I could smell the heather as the wind blew down off the hill.  It was that moment when you take the lid off the jar of Scottish heather honey, at weekend breakfast time.  The best honey in the world!  Yes, yes, I know there are other exquisite honeys, but heather is my favourite!  It takes me to the hills, just as we were then.
Juniper is under threat in the UK.  
Many of the bushes surviving now are over a hundred years old.  There seems to be a reasonably good number of juniper bushes on the lower slopes of the hills near Hopes Reservoir - which is excellent news, not just for populations of juniper bushes, but also for those of us who enjoy a gin and tonic!  And also for those who like to cook pheasant - another good pairing!
The dogs and I clambered up the very high steep grassy wall which contains the reservoir.  It was almost perpendicular!  At the top, looking across the water I could see, in the distance, the point at which we gaze down upon Hopes from Lammer Law, when I go on the mountain hare survey walk. 
We walked back along one of the overflow channels, which leads away from the reservoir, snaking off around the hillside, out of sight.  It crosses the track which we took, back down to the car.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Tag team!

I've been looking forward to this moment, ever since Ted the pup arrived.  Tilly and her little sidekick had their first race around on the beach together today.  They brought huge smiles to our faces as they tore around the huge empty beach - joy unconfined! 

Slightly blurred photos, but they were going at a real lick!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

A river walk, and a castle

We have had some beautiful sunny weather this week, so Mr Gaucho and I have been out and about a bit, enjoying some of the joys of the Scottish Borders.  

Born in the Borders, near Jedburgh, is a place I have wanted to visit for a couple of years,   In old farm buildings it has its own brewery, a cafe with extremely good cake, and a shop selling local foodstuffs and other nice things.   Across a field there is a grassy walk along the banks of the River Teviot.  Across the field a family of ospreys were calling, and ahead of us children were clutching some fishing nets, heading towards a shallow part of the river, to do a spot of minnow hunting.  Just what children should be doing in the summer holidays.
We took a walk along the river bank.  Ted had his first paddle/almost swim in the peaty waters, and I fancy there was a smattering of autumn colour appearing in the trees and plants.  In the hot sunshine, it was a very enjoyable interlude.
On the way home we came to a screeching halt, having spied Hume Castle, high on a hill ahead of us.  This is Boys Own castle stuff and I couldn't resist getting a bit closer.  Well, a lot closer actually.  We found our way up the hill, and I climbed up and into the castle, to stand next to it's flagpole.  There is a perfect 360 degrees view from up there.  Perfect for keeping out the marauding English - although they did manage to breach the castle's defences three times.  The English border is not that far away.  The Duke of Somerset captured the castle in 1547. It was taken again by the Earl of Sussex in 1569, and 1651, on behalf of Oliver Cromwell, a hooligan called Colonel Fenwick burnt and reduced the castle to a ruin.  Anyway, it's looking pretty good for all the death and destruction that has taken place within its castellated walls. The watchmen now are sheep, and they seem quite happy to allow visitors to wander about, and take in the breathtaking views, to the Cheviots to the south, and all points north, east and west.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Mid summer madness

The Edinburgh festivals are in full swing.  I went into town yesterday and the place was heaving with visitors, with all sorts of stuff going on.  And that was just along Princes Street and in the gardens.  I had only been there five minutes and couldn't wait to get back to the wood!

Here we have two likely lads giving us traditional Scottish tunes on the bagpipes, with the added dimension of percussion.  They were very good.  Next to them were a couple of street performers I saw last year.  They sit balancing, seemingly, in mid air.  The top layer is a dummy which is looking a little weary this year! 
The middle layer of the man-sandwich is obviously bored and taking a photo or movie clip of the musicians on his phone, and the lady on the pavement in the background is doing what I did last year - trying figure out how the balancing act works!
As you enter Princes Street Gardens, at the bottom of the Mound, you will see a functioning clock, decorated by the Edinburgh parks gardeners, using succulent plants.  It takes them a month to six weeks, or more, to complete their task.  I used to watch their progress when I passed this way, on my walk to work.  It's always a very impressive display of planting.
On one of the sunniest days of the year, I was happy to get back to the wood!  The Edinburgh festivals are wonderful.  A real celebration of so much creativity and talent, and I love to know it is all going on.  However, I think I am happiest walking around the fields nearby, and that is exactly what I did once I got home.  Tilly and Ted enjoyed it too!

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Open Studio - Allanbank Mill Steading

We've waited a year to have the opportunity to go back to this place - Allanbank Mill Steading.  It is the home and studios of quiltmaker extraordinaire, Pauline Burbidge, and her sculptor husband, Charlie Poulson.  They throw their property open to visitors on the first weekend of August, every year.  We went there for first time last year, and have been eagerly anticipating our return ever since!  

Pauline's work is magical.  Have a look at her website, and see for yourself.  Charlie's work is fascinating too.  It is varied He has pieces in lead, and also designs living sculpture, with willow, as well as producing drawings.  I think I enjoy his living pieces most. Clever stuff.

The open studio displays Pauline and Charlie's work in the steading buildings, and they also invite a guest artist to exhibit over the weekend.  This year it is Graham Murrell, a photographer, who also produced a series of thoughtful quotations, which I found rather more interesting than his photos!  Sorry, Mr Murrell.  
We started off in Pauline's design studio.  She has another space, in the granary, where her quilting machine is set up, but I enjoy the energy in the space where she does her thinking and planning.  It is light, bright, ordered and full of beautiful, carefully observed things.
Allanbank Steading is a glorious place.  Swallows swoop in and around the buildings, chattering on the overhead wires, excitable because their peaceful barn spaces have visitors wandering in and out.  
The garden is burgeoning with colourful and expressive plants.
Last time we were here, we very much enjoyed Pauline and Charlie's attention to detail.  It can be found in every single aspect of the property.
So, that's year's very enjoyable visit over.  Roll on next year!