My garden in Fife, Scotland

The yellow rose ‘Golden Showers’ at my front door has started to bloom again. I had intended liberating it from the large tub it lives in, hoping that it might flower for a longer time if it is in the earth, but never got around to it, also I have no idea where I could shoehorn it in!

Rose , Golden Showers, my garden

Golden Showers Rose, my garden

The video is of a bit of my back garden. It’s very short and I did it mainly to capture some of the birdsong that fills the air most of the time.

Bird song video, my garden

I’m not great at recognising birdsong, I’m a bit better at bird spotting, but one day late last week I was sitting reading in the sun room when something brown flew past accompanied by a lot of screeching from the ever present sparrows. When I looked out the window I saw that some sort of raptor was sitting on the grass, it was Jack that realised that it had something in its claws. I suppose we now have one fewer sparrow around the place, slightly upsetting but I tell myself that the kestrel (?) has to eat too. This bird was like a much smaller version of a female sparrowhawk, I suppose it may have been a very young one, but I suspect it was a kestrel – whatever – we hadn’t seen one in the garden before.

Hawk , Kestrel

Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, West Scotland

Below is a stitch of a couple of photos that I took of Loch Lomond from the wooden pier at the wee village of Luss last Wednesday morning. You can see more images of Luss here. I didn’t take any photos of the houses as there were so many parked cars in the streets. The village was built by a Colquhoun to house the workers at his nearby slate quarry.

Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond panorama

The snow covered mountain that can just be seen to the left centre of the photo below is Ben Lomond, which is a ‘Munro’ meaning it’s over 3,000 feet high. It must be the most climbed mountain in Scotland, it’s an easy one to get up although as ever, if you aren’t wearing decent footwear and you aren’t properly clothed it can still be dangerous as the weather can change very quickly. I believe that some years ago a 12 year old German boy died of hypothermia on Ben Lomond, in July!

Loch Lomond, Luss, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Loch Lomond is an idyllic place but in the summer months it can be very busy with tourists as it’s such a short distance from Glasgow, this area is often called Glasgow’s playground. When I was growing up I was lucky enough to live within a few miles of the loch so it was an easy walk in good weather anyway. But this part of Scotland is still incredibly well served with local transport links – buses and trains are very frequent. I took this completely for granted as a youngster and only realised how unusual it was when I moved away and discovered that some towns only have one bus a week – and to nowhere that you would want to go – what a shock that was!
Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

There are a lot of small islands dotted around the loch. In the summer visitors are sometimes tempted to swim out to them, probably not realising that they are further away than they thought – not all of them make it there!

Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

One of the islands – Inchconnachan – is home to a population of wallabies, you can read about them here. They were introduced there in the 1940s and are controversial now as they are a non-native species and apparently are a threat to the native capercaillies.

Loch Lomond panorama, Scotland

Another walk – Cockburnspath and Cove, Scottish Borders / Berwickshire part 2

To get down to the right hand side of the beach at Cove you have to walk through this tunnel. It was constructed years ago and goes through the cliffs. It was no mean feat to build it and it’s very dark inside, you just have to aim for the light at the end of it and watch out for the potholes.

Cove Tunnel

At the beginning it’s shored up with brick but I think most of it inside is just rough rock face, but as it’s so dark in there I don’t know for sure.
Cove Tunnel

To get over to the beach on the other side you have to go back through the tunnel. These cottages are all that’s left of what had once been a thriving fishing community, all of the other cottages have been swept away by the sea.

Cove Harbour

Cove Harbour

Thecottages are only used to store fishing gear.

Cove Harbour , creels

The houses below are bit more modern and set back from the seashore. I still wouldn’t fancy being in them during a storm though.

Cove Harbour

Looking closer you can see that the cliffs are well upholstered with gorse bushes, they fairly brighten the place and seem to be in bloom most of the year – just don’t fall into it!

Cove Harbour

gorse

A train unexpectedly shot across a field. It’s many many years since I had toddlers walking beside me but whenever I see a train I still have an urge to point it out to them!

train, Cockburnspath

We walked back to Cockburnspath by a different route and came across this rather grand ram. When we first spotted him he was having a fine time attacking the hessian sacking wit his huge horns but he stopped to scrutinise us. Obviously we were more interesting, or just a welcome distraction. He was probably bored but seemed too aggresive to have any company in the field with him.

Ram

Just beyond the ram’s field are these farm buildings, very neglected and seemingly unused. Whenever I see places like this I just itch to put them to rights. I hate that farmers just let old buildings fall down.

Farm buildings, near Cove, Scottish Borders

Farm  buildings near Cove

Farm  near Cove
We walked along farmland paths
Farmland, Cockburnspath, Scottish Borders
and then along the field margins.
Farm view  sheep, Cove, Scottish Borders

And back to Cockburnspath for a well earned coffee.

Farmland , Cockburnspath, Scottish Borders

Local Buzzard

Just a quick one tonight.

Buzzard

Jack took these two photos of a buzzard just outside our garden yesterday, they normally hang about in a tree a bit further away from us. I wonder if they’ll ever actually pay our garden a visit.

Buzzard

They’re not exactly rare in fact there seem to be loads of them constantly calling to each other here as they wheel around, but I never get blase about seeing them. We were just amazed that the tree branch didn’t show any sign of bending as these birds must be quite a weight.

Tomorrow’s post will be more recent book purchases – I know, it’s an illness!

Swallows

I read in the Guardian the other day that a swallow has turned up already somewhere down south. As we all know – one swallow does not a summer make and it’s a whole month earlier than usual in England. Despite our unseasonally very mild weather I think it’ll be quite a while before swallows appear again in Fife.

Some of the houses around my neighbourhood have actually been lucky enough to have swallows build their nests under the eaves and I had hoped they would make their home with us too, so I was a wee bit miffed when I noticed swallows beginning to build a nest next door to us. I quickly realised though that it was a good thing as we had a perfect view of all the comings and goings from our sun room.

Towards the end of summer I was surprised to see the nest being sort of flash mobbed by swallows. There seemed to be a couple of reluctant fledglings hanging over the edge of the nest and I thought maybe they were being encouraged to leave the nest by the older birds. They were at it for a few days and I think there was only one baby bird left in the nest when it succumbed to the barrage and began to fall apart, well there were lots of swallows hanging on to the sides of it and these modern houses aren’t ideal for nest building. I think the underneath of the guttering is too smooth. It’ll be interesting to see if they try to rebuild again this year.

I’m wondering if any of you know if this sort of behaviour is normal for swallows.

Swallows Fledging

Sorry. The video I took is a bit blurry but you get the idea.

Bowhouse, near Crail, Fife

On December the 8th we went to the Bowhouse Market which is held in barns on a farm between Crail and St Monans. I think Bowhouse (Bauhaus) is a pun on the owner’s name which is I think Bowie. For some reason there were alpacas there, I don’t think they’re particularly festive but they were very cute.

alpacas

I got the distinct impression that the alpacas thought we were very strange beings – don’t look at them those two said as they turned their backs on us.
alpacas

After buying some lovely food and drink at the market we drove home admiring a gorgeous sunset which of course the camera didn’t do justice.

sunset  over the Forth

sunset , Fife

It’s obviously a rural part of the county and the road back home is quite a narrow one.
winter sunset , Fife

These houses will have a great view over the Firth of Forth, a sea view seems to be very popular with so many people, and I’m sure it adds lots of value to a house, but I must say I prefer the soft green of hills and field. It probably depends on what you grew up looking at as a youngster. What about you – are you a sea view sort of a person, a hills and meadows fan or do you prefer the bustle of a city and all the culture and conveniences that that brings with it?
winter sunset , Fife

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.