A country walk in Fife, Scotland

Come on, it’s time to get some fresh air and go on our first springtime walk of the year. This place is called Braes Loan and it’s a walk we hadn’t done before. Just 2.5 miles long I think – so easy peasy! It begins in Markinch and loops up and around part of the town ending very close to where the walk began.

Braes Loan, Markinch

The narrow lane above is quite steep as you would expect from a place called ‘brae’ – it’s Scots for hill, and it isn’t long before you get to farmland with views of the much higher Lomond Hills in the background.

Farmland and Lomond Hills in Fife

I took these photos on Saturday the 23rd of April, it was probably the warmest day we’ve had this year, not that it got any warmer than about 60 F, but it was still a very pleasant change from our long cold winter weather. How do you feel about wind turbines? Some people hate them, including a certain POTUS who is miffed that some are going to be visible from one of his Scottish golf courses, but I like them, in the distance anyway. It’s the golf courses that blight the landscape in my opinion, certainly in Fife (the home of golf) where we have just far too many of them!

Fife farmland

The view on the left hand side of the path is of woodland, and I like these old stone steps that lead to another path through the woods, we’ll take that path another day.

Braes loan in Fife

Onwards and upwards, the trees will not be quite so bare now, nearly three weeks since I took these photos.

Braes Loan path

But the celandines were happily showing their cheery wee faces in the sunshine.
celandines

There’s some kind of crop beginning to grow in this field, I’ll have to go back later in the year to find out what it is. In the distance you can see the small and historic town of Markinch.
Markinch in Fife

As you can see we’re still walking uphill, although it does even out from time to time so it’s not a relentless hike up. It seems to me that no matter what the month is in Scotland you’ll be able to find gorse or ‘whins’ as it’s called in Scotland in bloom, it fairly brightens the place.

Braes Loan, Fife, whins

I think the photo below was taken more or less at the highest point of the walk. It’s a bit hazy but in the distance you can see the River Forth which is several miles away. Surprisingly there are a few lonely scattered houses in this area and they obviously want electricity, hence the annoying wires in the photo – how very dare they!

Fife, River Forth, Scotland

Suddenly we reached a road and more or less flat land where there were a few horses looking for some human company. The small village in the distance goes by the poetic name of Star of Markinch and at one point the author Annie S. Swan lived here with her husband.

Star of Markinch

I don’t speak ‘horse’ and when they amble up to me it seems to me they always have something in mind, I find it a bit alarming. I just end up stroking their noses tentatively, while looking out for flashing teeth getting too close for my comfort!
horses

I’ve got a fair idea though that as I backed away from them they were saying – Oi! Come back, what – no apples? What was that all about then! There’s no doubt about it, horses find me disappointing.
horses , Fife

We’re about two thirds of the way through the walk now but we’ll take a break now and finish it off another day. If this is your first country walk for a while you’ll be needing a break. I hope you enjoyed this breath of fresh Fife air as much as I did!

Buzzards or Hawks ?

Last Thursday our weather changed (for one day only!) and out in the garden I could actually feel some warmth from the sun. It was time to do some garden tidying after a long hard winter, in fact I just about filled the brown garden waste wheelie bin and there’s still a lot more to tackle.

But it wasn’t long before I hear a familiar plaintive cry – that of what I think are buzzards who seem to spend a lot of time wheeling around in the sky calling to each other. Is it a mating ritual I wonder? Well it’s getting on for that time of the year. There were four of them up there, presumably having fun, you can only see three in the wee video that I took of them though.

Buzzards

There are an awful lot of buzzards and hawks around wherever we go in Scotland, numbers just seem to have exploded in recent years. I suppose that means there must be plenty for them to eat.

I like the photo below as you can fairly clearly see the wings of the nearest bird. I’m wondering if these are hawks or buzzards, do you have any idea?

3 Buzzards

Cockburnspath/Cove, Scottish Borders

headland Cove

One day ten weeks or so ago (how time flies!) we went to Cockburnspath to visit Eric and his family. it was the last week of Freya’s school holidays. It’s a very historic area, being very close to the border with England, battles were fought nearby. When King James IV married Margaret Tudor in 1503 he presented the land around here to her as a wedding gift.

Our visit usually includes a walk to the beach at nearby Cove, a settlement that was once a fishing village with quite a lot of houses and families living there, but due to the ravages of the North Sea most of the houses have been swept away, there are only around three left that are inhabited.

Uther found a ball on the beach and he thought it was a great game to poke it over the edge of the quayside and watch it drop into the harbour, Eric wasn’t so enthralled with the game. Luckily he had his wellies on! The bystanders were very amused.

Boats  at Cove

The North Sea has worn some lovely patterns into the rocks.
rocks  at Cove

rocks and houses  at Cove

Although we’ve been there numerous times we had never witnessed the place when the tide was out, it looks so different. It meant there was far more territory for Uther the red and white setter to investigate, and I must admit that I was happy to follow in his pawsteps. Mooching around on a beach is one of my favourite pastimes, why anyone would want to lie down on a beach is a mystery to me.

Uther

Uther

rocks and Uther

The low tide had brought a couple of cockle/whelk gatherers out – rather them than me, apart from not liking seafood – there’s a nuclear power station lurking in the background!

sea  at Cove

Freya, Jack and Eric were happy to sit and chat while I risked broken ankles scrabbling around amongst the rocks.

F,E, J
These old houses are incredibly picturesque and part of me thinks it would be exciting to have the North Sea battering off your walls, but the fact that all the other houses have been torn down by the sea makes me see sense. This one is now only used to store fishing gear nowadays.

steps  at Cove

Uther is the only dog that I’ve ever known that doesn’t like to go into water, whisper it but – maybe he was a cat in another life!
Uther

harbour wall

Caithness – sheep and dolphins

Just after leaving the Castle of Mey we met a traffic jam – Caithness style – sheep. They were being moved from one field to another one down the road a bit.

Sheep
Yes the road ahead was full of sheep.

Sheep

Sheep

Sheep

Sheep

There was a teeny wee Border collie pup dancing on the end of its lead, probably its first outing with the sheep, but it hardly took its eyes off the shepherd.

It’s not the most beautiful scenery in Scotland, but just a bit further south you reach the Moray Firth, I’d like to spend some time there to watch the wildlife, it’s famous for dolphins amongst other things.

Moray Firth seascape

I found this You Tube video of the dolphins there, but I’d like to see it in person.

A Dutch dog walk

Back in May we were in Holland, visiting relatives, and although for once the weather there wasn’t great, we did have a few good days. On one of them we went on a long walk with the dogs and as the area in the north-west (Frisian) part of the Netherlands is mainly rural, we were walking around farmland.
Foals and horse in Holland

Foals and horses

Unfortunately it isn’t like in the UK where you can get up close to any animals in fields. Most of the fields are surrounded by wide drainage ditches, I really wanted to get nearer this mare with her foal, but unless I waded over mud it wasn’t possible.

Foal and mare

There are horses all over the place, a real paradise for horsey people, apart from the fact that you usually can’t get close enough to pat them. They were always interested to see us though.

horses

Meet Ziggy and Fleur

Back to the subject of dogs, I was really impressed with the cute Aran pullover that my Dutch sister-in-law knitted for my niece’s pit bull terrier Ziggy. The pattern is very similar to my Aran jacket, so I just had to get a photo of us together – we’re well matched!
Ziggy and K

Ziggy has very short hair, he feels like velvet but it means that he feels the cold easily so he really needs his Aran in chilly weather. He also has wee short legs as well as a very thick, dense body and although he loves the water he isn’t able to paddle his legs fast enough to stay up. So a dog life-jacket was purchased and that means he can swim around as much as he wants.
Ziggy + buoyancy aid

dogs swimming 2

We went quite a long walk to reach this popular pond and unfortunately on the way Ziggy was attacked by another pit bull which made its way over a large ditch to reach us. Ziggy is such a sweetie and very gentle, but the other dog had a terrible owner who must have trained his dog up to be aggressive. Its ears had been cut off, leaving just small bits on his head, apparently that is what people do when they use dogs for fighting, it means there’s less for the other dog to get a hold of, it’s horrific, and illegal in Holland, they have to go to Slovakia to get dogs like that. Anyway, no damage was done to Ziggy, although that dog had three goes at attacking him, being dragged off by its owner each time.

Ziggy Swimming 2

It was Fleur the border collie/spaniel cross who was barking back more at the attacking dog, but as you can see – it didn’t stop her from being completely laid back later on in the day.

Fleur

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window

Wandering further afield from the town centre in Ypres, Belgium, we were amused to see a dog sitting in the window of a shoe shop.

dog in window

That was our cue to start singing How much is that doggie in the window? of course. Well, we thought it was funny but the dog was not amused and took to pacing the length of the window, we were obviously dodgy customers as far as that dog was concerned.

Did you know that when Margaret Thatcher ‘did’ Desert Island Discs she said that that song was her favourite piece of music. It says a lot about her!

If you want a blast from the past have a look at Patti Page singing it.

Auldgirth and Belted Galloways

aview 1

Last week we were at Low Kirkbride Farm near Auldgirth in Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Border country. It’s a very remote part of Scotland, very nice to visit but I don’t think I would want to live in such a far-flung rural place. I’m not one for the bright lights but I do like to feel that I can easily get to a big metropolis easily when the fancy strikes me.

Auldgirth view 3 + cow

Peggy has a thing about cows, and Belted Galloways in particular which is why she chose to rent a teeny cottage in this area for a few days, as the farmer here seems to be one of the very few who still breed ‘Belties’. They’re very placid and we were assured that we could walk through the fields containing them and their calves with no worries at all – and we survived! I wouldn’t have chanced going too close to them though and we gave the field where the bull lived a very wide berth.

acows 4 + P

As you can see from the photo above Peggy was keen to get up close to this unusual Beltie which is a sort of honey colour with a cream belt rather than the more ususal white and black ones. That cow was having a rest from being pregnant or nurturing a calf for a few months before that beast of a bull got near her again. I suppose you could say she was having a bit of a holiday too, but she was missing her calf as it had just been taken to a neighbouring farm.

geese

We had a bit of a discussion as to whether these birds were geese or ducks – that proves we aren’t much use at this farming malarkey. Whatever they were they were very comical and if they are geese then they were also very well behaved. The white geese that I remember from my childhood that guarded the whisky barrels whilst the whisky inside them matured for several years were violent maniacs that you certainly didn’t want to mess with. The same kind that guarded ancient Rome I suppose.

cows 2

Poor things, they were a couple of very disgruntled ladies and they lost interest in us when they realised we didn’t have their calves. They’ll be pregnant again soonish though – it’s a hard life being a cow you know. Belted Galloways were in danger of dying out until recent times and I think there are still only about 1500 of them in the UK but their numbers have been slowly increasing which is a good thing as it would be a shame to see the end of these quiet and distinctive animals.