Balbirnie Woodland Walk

It’s time for another wee walk in the Balbirnie Estate, Fife – socially distanced of course!

Balbirnie Path and burn

The burn (stream) in the photos is variously called Balbirnie Burn or the Back Burn. It’s a lovely thing but quite devoid of wildlife. The problem apparently is that there is too much sediment in it and not enough gravel for fish to lay eggs in. There was going to be a project to try to rectify that problem, but that may be on the back burner now due to all the costs of the lockdown to the local council.

Balbirnie Path and burn, Markinch, Fife

Like many old estates this place was well known for rhododendrons, there was a bit of a craze for them in Victorian times and Balbirnie has some unusual and very old specimens.

Balbirnie Path and rhoddies

Strangely the reddest rhoddies seem to bloom first, but I prefer the paler colours.

Balbirnie Path and rhoddies, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie Path and rhoddies

The ferns below must be the most elegant variety growing in the UK. There are big pockets of these ones around the woodland in Balbirnie, I think they’re called shuttlecock ferns.

Ferns Balbirnie Park, ferns, Markinch, Fife

Ferns, Balbirnie, Fife

There was a tall cherry tree still in blossom. It’s a shame that it never gets warm enough here for the fruits to ripen properly.

Blossoming Trees, Balbirnie, Fife

Rhoddy flower, Balbirnie

Walking in a big loop we reached the ‘big hoose’ again and as the hotel is closed for the duration, like everywhere else we slipped through the gardens and I took a photo of the small Magnolia below, I believe the variety is stellata but the photo isn’t as good as I hoped it would be so it’s not that clear.

Magnolia (stellata)

I hope you enjoyed your walk in the woodlands. It wasn’t as empty of people as you might imagine. We had never seen it busier; usually we have almost the whole place to ourselves but people who never before exercised aroud this area are now making good use of the place. There was even an ex-leader of the Scottish Labour Party out and about.

75th Anniversary Victory Day

This time last year we were in Russia, a place that I never really believed that I would ever visit, sadly we got there two days after their huge victory celebrations commemorating the end of World War 2, but the banners were still decorating the streets.

1941-1945 banner

The Russians commemorate The Great Patriotic War – as they name World War 2 – on the 9th of May so I thought I would do this post of the memorials in St Petersburg, mainly because I really dislike the way the Russian war effort is overlooked by the rest of the allies. Without Russian people’s efforts and sacrifices, we would all be speaking German.

There is a memorial garden just off Nevsky Prospekt where I took this photo of the VICTORY hedge plus Red Star.

Victory

Below I’m just reposting what I blogged last year about what is the Leningrad Hero City Obelisk installed on the 40th anniversary of the war’s end.

WW2 Monument, St Petersburg, Russia

Over the last couple of days we’ve had the commemorations of the D-Day landings which were attended by the leaders of the allies and also by the German leader, Angela Merkel. But there was apparently no invite for President Putin, despite the fact that they were definitely our allies and if Hitler hadn’t taken on more than he could handle when he attacked Russia it’s almost certain that we would all be speaking German now. It was a close run thing.

I’m definitely not a fan of Putin, but given the fact that the Soviets lost more people in the war than anyone else, it seems mean and petty to leave them out of the memorial services. So I thought I’d show you a couple of photos of the War Memorial at the top of Nevsky Prospekt which is St Petersburg’s equivalent of Paris’s Champs Elysees or Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street.

WW2 Monument, St Petersburg, Russia

Balbirnie House Hotel, Fife, Scotland

The local posh hotel – Balbirnie House Hotel – has beautiful gardens, and now that it is closed due to the lockdown I felt I could take the opportunity to snap some photos there.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife, Scotland

If you feel that you’re hemmed in by four walls I hope these photos will go some way to making you feel a bit cheerier. Just take a big breath in and imagine you are there.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

It was a very bright day and the sun made some of the photos look a bit faded.
There’s obviously still a lot of hard work going into the upkeep of the gardens, which is just as well as wilderness takes over so quickly if you don’t put in the effort to keep things trimmed. It’s a shame there are so few people to see it though. I suppose I’m rectifying that a wee bit now.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden , Markinch, Fife
Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

The steps above lead to a little sitting area with some lovely topiary, very peaceful looking.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

And the photo below is from the top of the steps looking down at the hotel which was the home of the Balfour family until the 1960s.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife,

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

This is the front of the hotel, which is the more recognisable poart to most people.

Balbirnie House Hotel , Fife

Balbirnie Estate, Fife

The weather has been so bad recently that we hadn’t been able to get out for our usual walks, so when a bit of dry weather came along we grabbed it although we knew it would be muddy underfoot. The weather never seems to bother the deer that live around here although they have been ranging further than normal and I know that because twice recently they’ve walked across roads as we’ve been driving along, thankfully not going very fast.

Deer, Balbirnie, Fife

The wee burn below is new, there’s normally a trickle in this area which just disappears into the ground but it’s actually flowing now but was easy just to step over.
new burn

Balbirnie path, Fife

It’s squelchy underfoot though and walking down the very steep muddy path below is nasty at the best of times. I wished I had armed myself with a stout stick, but with some nifty footwork I managed not to skite on my bahoukie!

Balbirnie path, Fife

Balbirnie snowdrops,Fife

Once at exactly this spot a fox rushed past us, coming from behind and just about brushing past me, I thought it was a dog at first, then a horribly aggressive pit bull terrier with no collar on and no owner in sight ran past me too. Those dogs must have quite a poor sense of smell because it didn’t realise that the fox had gone off the path and into bushes nearby, where I’m sure they have a den.

Balbirnie, snowdrops , Fife

Balbirnie,snowdrops, Fife

The ‘back’ burn as it is called locally is much fuller and faster than normal, as you would expect with all the rain and sleet we’ve had. Not that I’m complaining having seen on the news what other people are having to put up with.
back burn, Balbirnie, Fife

We’ve been living in this area for almost six years now and we’ve never seen it flooded like this, walking into town for the Guardian in the morning has been interesting, dodging the mini lochs and rivers that at times have reached across the road.
Balbirnie Floods, Fife

No scooting across the golf course as a bit of a short cut, as you can see it has been fairly cold too with ice on top of the floodwater.
Balbirnie floods, Fife

The flagpoles outside the Balbirnie House Hotel, which was originally the ‘big hoose’ in this area, have recently had new flags run up them. I don’t think they last too long in our windy weather. I’m just so glad to see that they are continuing to fly the Europan flag.

Balbirnie House Hotel , Fife

You’ve had quite a few virtual walks around here recently and looking at my bathroom scales it seems like I’ve been having virtual walks too. I hope you’re having more success than I am!

A Winter Walk in Fife

Last Saturday we decided to go for a good long walk before Storm Ciara really hit us hard as was forecast, and we had been meaning to visit the Barrel Brig ever since we saw a photo of it on our 2019 calendar. So we drove to the wee village of Coaltown of Balgonie to park the car there and stroll along the country road in the right direction. I took the photo below of Balgonie Castle from a very rural lane. If you look carefully to the left of the middle you’ll see a castle which is a mixture of ruins and a family home. The castle has been used as a location in Outlander, as have so many places nearby.

Balgonie Castle, Fife, Scotland

It wasn’t long before we realised that it was a mistake to tackle this walk at the weekend as we could hear the roar of motorbikes and quadbikes. But some of the bikers pointed us in the right direction for the bridge and presumably the farmer was happy for them to vroom about in this otherwise empty field.

Bikes , Fife

The road went from being fairly good tarmac –
farm path, Fife

To truly awful mud due to the motorbike traffic. My boots felt twice as heavy as they had been – so mired in muck were they.

Fife farm track

But we struggled on, just hoping that we were going in the right direction.
farm track, Fife

Eventually we could see a river through the trees, the River Ore.
River  Leven, Fife

The bridge is described by Historic Scotland as an – early 18th century double arch bridge with cutwater buttresses to centre pier. Rubble spandrels with squared and coursed rubble soffits. It is a pack horse bridge, erected before 1725 and was presumably used by farm labourers who were carting crops around and maybe even people, if they were lucky enough to be given a lift.
Barrel Brig, Fife

The River Leven here isn’t much bigger than a burn really but people still fish in it, or they did when there were any fish in it to catch.
River Leven, Fife

On the way back the sky turned to blue, for a wee while anyway, but as we were caked in mud by then we were glad to get home and sit down with some coffee. Sadly I didn’t lose any of the extra pounds that I put on over Christmas despite the exercise.

Fields, Fife

You wouldn’t believe that it was the same day – looking at the sky, but such is the weather in Scotland, just wait five minutes and it will have changed! I hope you enjoyed stretching your legs with me.

Fields, Fife, scenery

Oakham, Rutland part 2

It was late on in a September evening when we had a look at Oakham Castle in Rutland. I must admit that I wouldn’t even have recognised the building above as being a castle, it’s very tame compared with Scottish castles. I thought it was some sort of ecclesiastical building. Apparently it’s a Norman Hall and was built betweem 1180 and 1190. You can read about its history here. Of course it was shut when we got there, but I have seen it on TV.

Oakham Castle, Rutland

Another unusual building in the town is the house which was lived in by the smallest man in Rutland – the smallest county in England. You can read about him here and here. He was a dwarf at the court of Queen Henrietta Maria

Jeffery Hudson Cottage,Thatch 2

The blue plaque on his house doesn’t give you much of an idea of the amazing life that this small man led.

smallest man, Hudson's Cottage

St Mary’s Church, Mold, Wales

While we were visiting Gladstone’s Library at Hawarden in North Wales we took a trip to the nearby small town of Mold. It was the morning and seemed like a nice bustling sort of place, full of locals going about their business. On our wanderings around we spotted this old church called St Mary’s which turned out to be quite historic. Sadly we weren’t able to get into it.

St Mary's Church, Mold, Wales

But the information board outside was interesting. The church was built/funded in the 1480s by Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor.
The church was built in thanksgiving for Henry’s victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
St Mary's church info, Mold, Wales

The gravestones seem to have been re-arranged over the years and I doubt if many of them are really marking the actual grave of the person named. Most of them were written in Welsh but it seems to me that Welsh women keep their husband’s name after they die as women do in England too. Of course in Scotland the name on a gravestone is her maiden name, it makes life much easier for people doing family research I think.

St Mary's Church, Mold, Wales, gravestones

St Mary's churchyard . Mold, Wales

It’s a very grand church for such a small town but it’s such a shame that the locals haven’t managed to organise some volunteers to show people around the church – at least during the summer months, and make sure that nobody can vandalise it. Apparently vandalism has been a problem in the past. The old church in the teeny town I live in manages to keep the chuch open with volunteers in the summer, and it’s a focal point for people walking the Fife Pilgrims Way.

St Mary's  stitch

Directly across the road from the church is this Tudor building which has lovely old diamond paned windows. I waited and waited for that car to move, but although the driver was sitting in it he seemed determined just to stay there staring into space. I suspect he moved as soon as we left the area!
Tudor style S (windows)

If you happen to find yourself in the area of Mold it’s worth a visit, but there doesn’t seem to be much else of interest around there, or if there is – we missed it!

Calke Abbey – The Chinese Bed

State bed info, Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

The State Bed at Calke Abbey was only discovered in the early 1980s, it was packed away in wooden chests which is just as well as otherwise the Chinese silk would not have been in the pristine condition that we see today.

It’s really difficult to get a good photo of the bed as it’s shut away behind glass within the bedroom, to keep it as safe as possible from damage.
Chinese silk state bed hangings, Calke Abbey

The photos don’t do it justice at all, as it’s absolutely sumptuous in reality.

Chinese silk  hangings, Calke Abbey

There’s a display case in the same room which has some smaller panels of silk in it so you can get a closer look.

Chinese silk, Calke Abbey

It’s thought that the bed hangings were probably a gift from royalty in 1734 when Lady Caroline Manners married Sir Henry Harpur. But they were never used possibly because the rooms in the family’s apartments didn’t have high enough ceilings.

Chinese silk, Calke Abbey

When the National Trust took over Calke Abbey in 1984 they discovered the silk hangings in the chests in the photo below, they are in a room just behind the bedroom. Can you imagine what it must have been like opening up these very ordinary looking chest or kists as we call them in Scotland, and finding all that silk?!

Chinese silk store chest

Balbirnie Park Autumnal Walk

Will you join me on a walk through Balbirnie Park in Fife on a lovely autumnal morning? It was November the 8th.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

There is a reason for the walk, apart from needing the exercise, the destination is the shop where we buy the Guardian.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumn trees

It used to be about a seven minute walk for the paper – there and back, but it takes about 50 minutes now that we’ve moved. Well it keeps us fit – allegedly.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal  trees

The maples are always the best I think, whether they’re bog standard field maples or the more genteel looking Japanese ones.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal trees

Although the Balbirnie estate is a very old one some of the trees which give the best autumn colour have been planted fairly recently.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal trees

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal trees

We’ve had quite a lot of rain recently although luckily a lot of it has been overnight. As you can see below, there’s a mini loch flooding part of the park, but nothing to complain about when compared with the inundations that some poor souls in England have had to put up with recently.

Balbirnie Park , Fife, Scotland

We’re now walking past the golf course, not my favourite use for land but I must admit that they’ve planted it well with lovely trees.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland, golf course

It’s not all manicured though, below is part of the rough and we often end up trying to help golfers find their wayward balls – while thinking to ourselves – how on earth did they manage to hit it in this direction?! I’d give up if I was that bad, but apparently golf is quite addictive. I’m so glad I don’t have an addictive nature, apart from the good chocolate of course, but wheesht – that one’s a secret!

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

We’re on the home stretch now, almost time to get the kettle on and sit down with the paper to read about the crazy things that are going on in this world.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

It might just be this walk that is keeping me/us semi sane!

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

I hope you enjoyed it.

They Grow Not Old – Remembrance Sunday

On Friday we were guests at Perth Academy Remembrance Service which was only attended by a fraction of the school roll because it’s a big school and the hall wouldn’t accommodate them all, but what a lovely lot of youngsters they were.

World War 1 Memorial, Perth Academy, Scotland

As you can see, a lot of ‘old boys’ didn’t return from World War 1. Every year the history department chooses two names from the roll of honour and they research into their background, so that they become real people, not just names. Often some relatives are still living in the area and they are very happy to provide information on what they know of their ancestor. One was a talented footballer, another was an organist, and one modern day pupil once discovered that her family home had at one time been the family home of one of the fallen, so when it came to visiting the battlefields as part of the history course, his grave was sought out and some earth from his old garden was put onto it.

The war memorial is on the wall at the back of the assembly hall so they’re at the centre of things, not tucked away somewhere where they wouldn’t be seen often.

Flowers of the Forest, Perth Academy, Scotland, World War 1

Modern perspex silhouettes of soldiers have been placed in front of the memorial in recent years, sitting at an old double desk just like the ones they would have sat at in school.

World War 1 Memorial, Perth Academy, Scotland

The whole service was impressive, with lovely music from the school orchestra, singing and of course readings.

World War 1 Memorial, Perth Academy, Scotland

I/we went to an old school but I don’t recall anything being done to commemorate Remembrance Day, apart from a minute’s silence at 11 o’clock on the 11th of the 11th. I’m fairly sure that more is now made of Remembrance Day than used to be.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Robert Laurence Binyon apparently wrote the word contemn at the end of the second line, but everyone seems to have changed it to condemn now, which is quite a different meaning as contemn means to scorn, despise or treat with contempt.