A Woodland Walk in Balbirnie, Fife

Let’s pretend that we’re going on a wee walk through the local woodlands in Fife. I took these photos on May 20th just when we were grabbing every good day – just in case it was the last of the summer.
Bluebells

It was such a late spring that a week or so before these photos were taken there was hardly any sign of green at all, but suddenly everything just exploded when our seemingly never ending winter lost its grip. There’s a wee wooden bridge in the distance – it’s perfect for playing Poohsticks, but I usually just hang over it nowadays looking for fish, and sometimes I see one or two.
Burn

Burn

The burn is fairly silent until it reaches a tumble of stones and old displaced cobbles, evidence of what had been a ford until the rushing water took its toll.
Burn

woodland path

Here and there there are groves of these ferns, so elegant looking as they unfurl, I think they might be Shuttlecock ferns but there are so many different kinds, I’m not sure. I’ve just noticed that there are hogweeds beginning to grow on the edges, I hope they don’t eventually crowd the ferns out.

Ferns
Ferns
This woodland was part of a Victorian private estate but is now freely open to the public.
Ferns

It’s not all green!
Trees

We’ve now reached the rhododendrons, these ones were obviously planted here because they’re directly opposite the front windows of the ‘big hoose’ which is now a hotel. I just noticed a couple of days ago that those posts with wire fencing on them to the far right of the photo below have small padlocks attached to them, so that fad which started in Paris must still be ongoing, crazy, but no doubt the padlock manufacturers are happy about it. I think the ‘fence’ looks completely out of place though.
Rhoddies

Rhoddies

I hope that that stretched your legs a bit and maybe cooled you down if you’re still stuck in intense heat. The rain arrived here today, I’m not complaining about it as it’s badly needed, I just wish that we could arrange for it just to rain overnight!

My garden in Fife – late June

I think it was the end of May when Storm Hector raged through large parts of Scotland and flattened the more delicate plants in my garden, it also destroyed the thin metal arch that we had straddling the garden path, so we decided to replace it with a more robust wooden one. The wooden posts were stuck into long metal spikes and holes were dug by Jack and Davy our brother-in-law and Davy mixed the concrete. It seems good and solid. The photo above is of Jack doing some fine tuning.

Garden Arch

The photo below was taken a bit later when the evening sun had moved around to the front of the house. I ended up cutting back completely the everlasting sweetpea which had been covering the metal arch. It had become too fankled (tangled) to train it over the new arch and to be honest I’m not sure if I want it there now as it seems to be a bit of a bully and the stalks and leaves are very course. There are a couple of climbing roses and a honeysuckle at the arch now and I think that will be enough.
wooden garden arch

A week or so of decent weather makes all the difference especially after such a slow start to the growing season as the one we had this year was. The pink rose was one of my birthday plants, I think it’s called Awakening and although all of its original blooms have gone it’s now happily producing a second flush.
garden in Fife

There’s a handy piece of ground behind the shed and that’s where I’ve been storing all of the turf that I’ve been cutting up ever since we moved here over four years ago now (I can hardly believe it’s that long). I realised that foxgloves had seeded themslves on top of the turf and attempts to move them to a more scenic location culminated in the death of a few of them as the roots were too firmly embedded – so I just left the rest of them to get on with it. They’re very happy there.
Foxgloves
I took the photo below from the top of the ladders, as you can see that bed to the left of the wooden arch is becoming quite congested, but everything seems to be growing well for the moment. I might have to move some things next year though.
Plants
The other garden project that I’ve completed this year is the area around the old sink planter. The old rosemary tiles that I’ve used as edgers are doing the job I wanted them to and stopping the grass from encroaching into the slate.
garden sink

Of course the garden looks quite different now as it didn’t rain for weeks and weeks after I took these photos. The grass turned yellow, but the clover stayed nice and green and as usual was very popular with the bees. Most of the plants have coped well with our unusually hot and dry weather but I hadn’t realised that the down side to hot dry summers is that the flowers don’t last nearly as long as they do when the weather is cooler. Not that I’m complaining – well I might be – just a wee bit!

Here, There and Everywhere

I’ve been away in Dumfries and Galloway for the past four days, and I thought I would be able to blog from there. We were near Dalbeattie for a couple of days and then had a couple of days in Wigtown – known as Scotland’s book town. WiFi was supposed to be available from both locations, well technically it was I suppose but it was soooooo slooooow – we just gave up on it. I don’t know how people who actually live in that remote part of south-west Scotland cope with modern life.

Anyway, it was the furthest south we had ever been in Scotland and we spent the four days running around like mad things so in the end we were glad to get home for a rest. We had a great time though and the weather was brilliant. We visited two famous gardens that I’ve wanted to see for years – Logan Botanics and Threave Gardens. I must admit that plants were purchased, I’ll squeeze them in somewhere!

Town wise we visited Dalbeattie, Kirkcudbright, Whithorn, all in beautiful sunshine but of course the day we went to the Mull of Galloway, the southernmost part of Scotland there was a sea mist there, so we weren’t able to see the Irish coast just miles away, nor even the Isle of Man.

We did make full use of our Historic Scotland membership – well we like to get our money’s worth! We visited Sweetheart Abbey, Glenluce Abbey, St Ninian’s Chapel, St Ninian’s cave, New Abbey Cornmill, Orchardton Tower, Chapel Finian, Dundrennan Abbey, Caerlaverock Castle, Cardoness Castle, Carsluith Castle. The towns of Dalbeattie, Kirkcudbright, Gatehouse of Fleet, Whithorn, Isle of Whithorn (not an island)and Wigtown.

Books were purchased too, but not where you would expect. I only bought two books in Wigtown. I think it must be a real disappointment to people who have travelled a long way to get there as there aren’t that many bookshops and two of them were closed the two days we were there, very annoying as one of them had a book displayed in the window that I wanted to buy.

When we get around to sorting through the photos I’ll do some blogposts on where we visited. I really enjoyed the change of scene but I was so glad to get home, I was worried that even four days away in the heat we’ve been having would have frazzled my garden, luckily there was heavy rain on and off yesterday, we missed it all but could see how heavy it had been, especially when we saw a side street in Ayrshire under water and people on their doorsteps looking very worried.

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!

This and that

Today it was actually quite mild and sunny – at times anyway and I spent most of the day in the garden , still ‘redding up’ (tidying up) weeding and cutting back the dead bits. In fact after the brutal cold weather and snow we had a fortnight ago there are now quite a few fatalities. My rosemary bushes had gone all through the winter fairly happily, but the Easter weather was just too much for them and they’ve had to be chopped right back, I hope they re-grow. It was only today that I realised that my lovely ceanothus (Californian lilac) now has brown leaves instead of the lovely glossy dark green leaves it has had all through the winter. More chopping back required, I find it painful. A few roses have succumbed to the cold weather, but I’m hopeful that they might survive – eventually. Strangely the lavender bushes are all very happy looking, so much for them being tender Mediterranean plants, but my Alpine edelweiss plant looks like it has had it. I’ll leave it in though just in case there’s life in the roots yet.

Over the weekend we were up north in Inverness on a football related jaunt. Friday was freezing and grey, a disappointment as the weather forecast said it would be nice up there. But the sun arrived on Saturday – and there was warmth with it, amazing! When I say warmth it was probably just in double figures celsius, but not long ago it was -5 so I was happy. Can you believe I actually had to put the car window down? Inverness was heaving with people, there were so many tourists, and it being a Friday night we couldn’t get into any of the restaurants that we tried as we hadn’t booked. There was one restaurant that had only four people in it, not a good sign considering how jam packed everywhere else was, but we had no alternative so we gave it a go. It was a Mediterranean eatery (allegedly). It was expensive and it was possibly the worst meal I’ve ever had in a restaurant – AND I came out feeling hungrier than I had been when I went in! Why oh why didn’t I check out the Tripadvisor reviews first?!

The book pile has grown by seven books, I bought some in the Pitlochry bookshops on the way up to Inverness. Then some more in a Dingwall bookshop. Dingwall actually has two secondhand bookshops, amazing. I think maybe the long dark winters in the Scottish Highlands lead to a lot of people picking up books to take themselves to pastures new, for a wee while anyway.

One of the books that I bought was by Rose Tremain. I’ve never read anything by her, but I enjoyed reading this Guardian article last week. Have you read any of her books?

I didn’t take any photos of Inverness itself, but you can see some images here.

I was away – now I’m back!

I scheduled four posts just before leaving for a short break at the end of last week. We were in fact driving down to Oswestry which is very close to the Welsh border, at one point we had to drive into Wales and then out of it again to reach Oswestry which is a place neither of us had been before.

So what was the reason for our jaunt? Well, it was a football match because Jack is a very loyal supporter of Dumbarton Football Club (soccer). They’re what other supporters would probably call a ‘diddy’ team as they’re part-timers, all of them having ‘proper’ jobs, but this year they’ve done amazingly well in the Scottish Challenge Cup (officially known as the Irn Bru Cup because of its sponsors) and because they won the match at Oswestry they have now reached the final which thankfully will be played in Scotland.

I didn’t go to see the match, I stayed in the hotel and got on with reading Anna Karenina, a much more sensible thing to do, especially on a cold February night. I didn’t go online at all while we were away so I’m just catching up with replying to comments and reading blogs.

I plan to do another RRS Discovery post this week and also to tell you about the books that I bought on our travels – a worrying amount of them, but I just couldn’t say no!

Automation = exploitation

Be warned – this is a bit of a moanfest – but I’m annoyed!

I have to admit that I’m a bit of a Luddite, especially when it comes to things like supermarkets and banks. I’d much rather deal with a human being when I’m carrying out any transactions, and I think that if lots of us had eschewed online banking then the banks wouldn’t have seized the chance to close most of their branches, throwing their employees onto the dole queue and leaving people in more rural areas high and dry.

When the supermarkets started installing self-service tills I decided that I was never going to use them. I’m not absolutely ancient but I do just remember the days when we used to go to the shops with our basket and string bags and actually be served by a human being who gathered all your items from the shelves themselves and rang everything up on the till. I couldn’t help thinking back to those days when I went to an ASDA supermarket on Monday, it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the store is a really big one and it was full of shoppers.

I didn’t intend to buy an awful lot, I just wanted some fruit so I took a hand-basket and when I made my way to the check-outs I was shocked to discover that although they have around 23 check-outs only two of them had actual human beings working at them, the rest were all empty, the alternative was for me to serve myself and use an automated check-out. The two ‘womanned’ check-outs were queued up with people who had large trollies full of food, so I just had to abandon my basket and leave. My fruitless supermarket visit was just a waste of time.

I was/am more than a wee bit annoyed, when you consider the massive profits that the supermarkets make it seems ridiculous that they are now employing as few people as they can get away with employing. There used to be a time when employers felt an obligation to the community that supplied them with customers – and employees, but now the only important thing is profit. Costs have been pared back to the bone and the people who provide the businesses with money – the customers – are expected to do the work that was once done by paid employees. For some people a short chat with a shop worker is the only point of contact they have with another human, modern life with family scattered far and wide can be a lonely place, especially for the elderly.

There’s no doubt that in many ways society is going backwards. I’m quite cheesed off about it all. I would probably be regarded as a bit of a red by some people but I really think that if companies are making enormous profits – as supermarkets and banks do – then they shouldn’t be allowed to lay workers off and replace them with machines which exploit their customers for labour.

North East Scotland

Well, that was a weekend with a difference. On Friday morning we began the long journey from Fife up to Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, the north-east of Scotland. It was snowing heavily by the time we got the car loaded up for the journey, so I decided that it would be a good idea to be ready for all eventualities – such as getting stuck in snow, so I added a duvet, blanket, lots to eat and flasks of coffee. Jack went out to the shed and got a spade, just in case we had to dig ourselves out of a snowdrift. The forecast further north was for no snow at all though so we knew if we got out of Fife safely we would be fine.

Neither of us had ever been to Peterhead before and as the football team that Jack supports (Dumbarton) was playing Peterhead FC it seemed like a good time to go up there. He has visited almost all of the football grounds in Scotland, but not Peterhead. He was keen to tick that one off too but sadly the match was called off! It would seem mainly because the police had said that nobody should travel in the west of Scotland if it wasn’t absolutely necessary and Dumbarton is in the west of Scotland. So annoying as they would have got there fine I’m sure.

Anyway – every cloud and all that, we were staying overnight in Peterhead so we had plenty of time to explore the area and visit places we had never been before such as Laurencekirk, Ellon, Fraserburgh, Cruden Bay and also Slains Castle. To be honest I wasn’t too enamoured of any of the towns, but at least now I know what they look like. Being that far north is just too far from Glasgow and Edinburgh for my liking.

Slains Castle was the most interesting place we visited. It’s a ruin now as the owner had the roof removed in 1925 to avoid tax, but when it was still habitable the author Bram Stoker had been a guest in the castle and apparently it inspired him to use the castle location as Count Dracula’s castle. We took a lot of photos, but I’ll keep them for another blogpost. Meanwhile have a look here if you’re interested.

Happy New Year!

Like many people I’m fairly glad to see the back of 2017, but given the MAYhem that has been unleashed on us in the UK – I’m trepidatious about 2018.

But heigh-ho – onwards and upwards. I hope that 2018 will be a good one for us all, so Happy New Year to anyone who drops in on me at Pining.

Every year there’s a torchlight procession down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile on the 30th of December. I think we might take part in it next year – I’m told it’s good fun.

Christmas Update

A fine time was had by us all, both for J’s birthday and Christmas, but after stuffing our faces for two days running we were glad to get out of the house and stretch our legs on Cellardyke beach this afternoon. We took part in their beach clean up- a first for both of us.

Compared to lots of beaches I’ve seen it looked fairly clean to me but when we got in amongst the rocks we found lots of plastic bottles, plastic bags, polystyrene, insulation foam, rope and netting from fishing boats, broken creels, casing from electrical equipment, hub caps …. the list went on and on.

Luckily it was a gorgeous blue sky and sun shiny day and we were warm enough while we were actually picking litter, despite the fact that the rock pools were covered with ice, surprising as it’s obviously sea water.

As it got towards 3 o’clock the sun disappeared and the chill came down on us and hot pies provided by a local shopkeeper were very welcome at the end of it all. I’d definitely take part in any other beach clean ups, it’s a good way of getting to know people – and their dogs.

Sadly there’s no photographic evidence though – I was too busy!

But you can see some images of the beach here although we were at the far end of it where it’s much rockier.