East* of Eden

June 13, 2018

For those of you awaiting with bated breath to find out whether I chose to risk cycling the A701 to Eden, or indeed whether I survived, you may breathe out – apologies for leaving you all in suspense, but an unlucky lightning strike on Saturday took out our phone line and internet and we only got it back yesterday.

This enforced digital detox did not exactly bring out my best self, but hey ho. Anyway, it did tip the balance towards cycling to Eden, because what else was I going to do at home? And besides, it was a nice morning

view on the road

In the end 90% of the ride was just lovely. Avoiding the A701 for most of the way meant lots of zigzagging back and forth and a fair bit of unnecessary up and down but the day was warm and not too windy, the roads were quiet and it was pleasant to be out on the bike exploring new places.

road not takensignpost

Including the intriguingly named Murder Loch … a story there, surely?

Murder loch

“There’s been a murrrrder …”

As I approached the point where I had no choice but to join the A road, the gathering clouds started to feel a bit like a harbinger of doom, but in the end the mile or so was … doable. On the plus side the tarmac was lovely and smooth and flat all the way to the edge, and the lanes were reasonably wide so the fact that many of the drivers passed me without crossing the white line didn’t feel quite as threatening as it does on our B road where the road edge is crumbling and steeply cambered. On the other hand, with everyone doing at least 60, and only one driver bothering to wait before passing me until it wasn’t a blind bend, it did feel all a bit too high stakes for me. Uninviting, to say the least. Unsurprisingly, the festival itself looked like a giant car park, which is effectively what it was.

gathering clouds

When I got to Eden, it turned out that the gathering clouds were in fact a harbinger of rain. Fortunately I had got to the backstage area by there where we had a nice tent (even if it did have a stream running through it after a while). We sang, we had more people watching us at the end than we did at the beginning, and it was an enjoyable enough experience.

backstage watching the rain

There was no bike parking, but I think the bike enjoyed its access-all-areas luxury covered spot just behind the stage. Hopefully it won’t go to its head…

bike back stage

Personally, as soon as we were done, I was ready to leave, so I wheeled the bike back through the crowds and was happy to get out on the open road, especially once I’d turned off the main road and was back on my own. Even a little rain couldn’t dampen my enjoyment.

road home

I think I can now safely tick off ‘go to a music festival’ as an experience I have tried and won’t be hurrying to repeat. Who knows, I might even try oysters next, but I doubt that they will beat the pleasure of finally tearing into one of those Snickers bars on the bench at home, with 40 miles in my legs and a well-earned cup of coffee on the side.

On Friday we set off for an even bigger adventure, of which more tomorrow.

* Well, more like South West of, but what does Steinbeck know?

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Clout Casting Commences

May 24, 2018

Signalled by a strange portent yesterday morning

Not only has the fine weather continued, but suddenly it’s gone from ‘nice and sunny and warm if you’re out of the breeze’ to ‘this is not a drill, this is summer, enjoy it while it lasts, because when it’s gone, its gone’

Unfortunately this has coincided with the crunchiest of crunchy work deadlines so I’ve mainly been enjoying it by proxy, but I have been allowing myself a snatched hour or so outside here or there. This has meant choosing between gardening and the bike …

hawthorn (may) blossom

Today the bike won, even though my seedlings are queuing up to be planted and starting to suffer in the sun. I don’t regret it though, because the may is out (and the bluebells and the gorse and everything else) and where the farmers haven’t been slurry spreading the air is positively perfumed and gorgeous, and warm with it.

sandals

Apologies for the glare…

There might even have been a bit of clout casting done.

Besides, I have pipeline news: they have finished laying and joining the big gas pipe and started to make good the enormous hole they dug to do so, so the site now looks like this. Given the talent the land round here has for growing grass, I expect it to be indistinguishable from the surrounding fields within weeks.

pipeline covered over

Or almost, because a mysterious pipe remains, sticking out of the ground, purpose only to be guessed at …

pipe sticking up

Amazingly, if the forecast is correct, this weather is set to continue after the deadline crunch has passed and I will be able to do all the binge gardening I’ve been longing to do all week. Watch this space. I might even get around to blogging about compost …


Suffering for my Principles

May 15, 2018

Heading back from Bigtown with a freshly serviced stealth bike this afternoon, I had to pick up some sausages on my way home. This meant a choice: the butcher in town, who does nice sausages but from pork of unknown provenance and hence probably intensively reared pigs. Or the farm shop and shortbread emporium out on the edge of town, which does equally nice if somewhat pricier sausages but from its own outdoor reared pork, which means happy (albeit now obviously dead) pigs

may woods

And an extra mile or five added to the ride back…

may woods

It’s a tough choice.


Down in the Wildwood, Something Stirs

May 13, 2018

I love this time of the year, especially once POP is over and I can enjoy it, and above all I love the colour of the just-emerged spring leaves which is so fleeting and so gorgeous with the sunlight filtering through it that the Germans, of course, have a word for it:

Today, then, with the Weather Gods relenting and bringing us some proper May weather (I knew they read this blog), was the perfect day to finally visit Carrifran Wildwood, which I have blogged about before. We pass it every time we go back and forth to Duns, and we have watched with interest over the years as the tiny trees have grown up from a barely visible fuzz on the hillside, but we’ve never properly visited.

Carrifran Wildwood

Today we took the opportunity of a guided walk led by one of the people who’s been involved from the start (and joined by the contractor who planted several thousand of the trees we were there to see over the years). It was a gloriously sunny day, loud with birds, and a fascinating glimpse into a project I’ve long been admiring from afar.

carrifran new trees

It was great to hear about its history from the people involved and learn more about the wildlife that was coming back alongside the trees – but you don’t need a guide to see what an amazing difference a few determined people can make if they stick at it year after year (and don’t let anyone tell them what they’re doing is impossible).

trees emerging on the hillside

We even got to see the original rowan, the sole surviving tree in the valley when it all started, now surrounded by its own emerging offspring.

Original rowan

We’ve got used to Scottish hillsides being cropped bare by sheep and deer, and the rest of the valley where the wildwood lies does have its own bleak beauty, but Carrifran is something else.

Carrifran track

Such a contrast between the emerging native woods – and the bare hills and plantation forest beyond

Go if you can, in May if you can, when all the birds are singing their hearts out and the trees are just putting out their leaves. You won’t regret it.

Carrifran track

Though maybe bring some boots.


Bottling It

May 7, 2018

Planting out my peas the other day, I realised that my collection of old plastic bottles that I use as mini cloches has become somewhat diminished over the years. A combination of the house move, my disorganisation, and last year’s less-than-convincing gardening efforts means a fair few have gone missing, and others may have simply become too tatty to be used, although some of them must be almost a decade old and pretty much unchanged, which I suppose illustrates the problem with plastic in the first place

We don’t buy that many drinks in plastic bottles any more but that’s not a problem because empty ones apparently grow on trees – or at least in verges, ditches and parks. Anyone who’s cycled with me in recent days has had to put up with me slamming on the brakes and suddenly swerving to the side of the road or doubling back as I spot a particularly fine specimen to add to the pile on the back of my rack. Even being picky and sticking to the freshest-looking new arrivals, I usually run out of room before I run out of bottles.

bottles on bike rack

I feel a little bad only picking up some of the litter but I suppose each one salvaged and put to work for the next ten years in my garden is one more not clogging up the gullet of an albatross chick, so it’s better than nothing. Especially now that summer has arrived even in Bigtown (I actually heard someone say ‘taps aff’ this afternoon) and people are apparently feeling the need to keep themselves well hydrated and then helpfully leaving their bottles out for me to pick up, in some cases just yards from a bin …

summer in Bigtown

“Aye, it’ll no last, mind”

That is, if I’m allowed anywhere near the garden for the next few weeks, as the other half reported he couldn’t complete the strimming round the back because there was a tiny leveret hanging out in the long grass. Fortunately not so tiny that it didn’t have the sense to get out of the way – finding one baby hare in the garden is wonderful, finding half of one, not so much.


Fill your Boots

April 22, 2018

Yesterday was the New Nearest Village church plant sale and – it being a rather glorious sunny one – I actually managed to lure the other half to join me on a cycle ride up there for my annual ‘how many plants can you fit in a Brompton basket‘ adventure.

After a very pleasant interlude sitting in the sun in the church hall car park eating barbecued sausage sandwiches and as many tray bakes as we could decently pile onto a plate, and talking cycling in Rwanda (as hilly as it looks, apparently), we pootled (me; it’s difficult to get up much speed when you’re conscious of your new plants’ leaves all blowing in the wind) and raced (the other half) back down again. The plants (random lupins of unknown provenance and a named primula species which I’ve managed to forget everything about apart from the fact that it apparently likes boggy conditions) are now awaiting such time as I can clear a space to plant them and set up slug defences, as the last lot of lupins I planted didn’t last a week. I should probably have thought of that before I bought them but hey ho, if I keep throwing lupins at the problem surely some of them will get through…

plant sale haul

In other plant cruelty news, I was wondering why our windowsill basil had started looking peaky even (especially) after I’d fed it. It was only when I took it out of its lovely white pot cover – which I’d bought earlier this year as part of a set and left on the windowsill of our entrance hall awaiting a plant pot to put in it – that I realised why. Handy pots left on windowsills in our household get random things put in them, it turns out. Like spent button batteries, for example. And it also turns out basil doesn’t thrive when sitting in a weak solution of battery acid. Who knew?

On the other hand, it might also do for the slugs …


Floundering

April 20, 2018

You know, when you have lived somewhere for almost 10 years (and how did that happen, I want to know), you start to think you’ve got a grip on the place and its little ways and strange customs like talking to strangers on buses. And then you have a conversation in your writers’ group that goes like this:

Local person: yes, it was like at the flounder tramping when I just couldn’t bring myself to stand on a flounder.

Other local person: oh God, they’re so wriggly, I don’t blame you.

Me: Wait, whoa, hang on, back up a minute. Flounder tramping?

So it turns out, there used to be an annual event where you waded out into the sea to go and stand on flounders (you can get a flavour of the excitement here).

Sadly (or perhaps happily if you’re a flounder) it has apparently since been banned on health and safety grounds – although not, presumably, the flounders’. You snooze, you lose, even in the world of bonkers rural pursuits it seems.