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Monday, 31 May 2010

Gardens open Sunday

001 hayston house OMG!  I never knew that the gardens of Haystoun House on the south side of the town were so extensive and so gorgeous!  The house itself has belonged to the same family (with name changes along the way) since 16 something, 1635 maybe, and has been added to over the centuries to form a beautiful house 030 hayston rear with views of the neat formal gardens to the side and the  wild yet organised garden in the valley behind,  The gardens too have been extended over the years, and it was quite exciting to think that one of my ancestors, head gardener there once upon a time long ago, maybe had a hand in the layout, and worked on these very same vegetable plots and propagation beds behind the neat pin stripe lawn and well organised flowerbeds.  Below in the valley are the beautiful woodlands with paths leading round to the man-made loch and its artificial island near the far end.  014 hayston loch How I covet the view from the garden over the loch to the wooded hillside beyond.  A small stream – a burn to us Scots -  rushes down the lower slope to flow eventually under a wooden bridge and  into the loch.  It is so beautiful.  I could have admired that scene all day an never tired of it.  The light rain gave the panorama a hazy fuzzy look, which I have to say I think  is beautiful.  Gee, if it weren’t for the rain we wouldn’t have all this wonderful scenery to admire.  Still, it would be a different sort of beauty you’d see on a fine day with blue sky, sunshine and fluffy clouds (or not), but I loved today’s look with the light giving a kind of blue tint to the hillside and its trees.

013 red campion We took the walk around the loch, only completed in the 1980s but looking so much more established than you’d think those few years would have allowed.  A small rowing boat sat casually at the water’s edge, and wild flowers grew in abundance along the shore. 016 swans cygnet In the water at the edge of the island a pair of swans with new family, hatched only on Saturday, were swimming and grazing.  Two of the cygnets were swimming alongside their graceful parents 017 cygnet under wing

while at least one other youngster was riding piggie-back amongst its parent’s folded wing feathers.026 rhodies



Ret020 rhoddieurning to the woodland garden

the azaleas and rhododendrons were in full flower.  018 azaleas The oranges, pinks, creamsreds and purples mixed beautifully together with the blues and whites of the bluebells –021 azaleas and rhoddies a wild garden that has been well organised by today’s gardeners.022 woodland




019 m&m




Morag and Mike  framed by an old fallen tree.

028 giant acorn

In a clearing you will find this giant acorn, cleverly built from layers and layers of pieces of slate…

027 wild boar


and a couple of stone pigs – wild boars? - were hiding near the end of the woodland path.

005tearoom  Back at the house, afternoon tea was being served in one wing, in a barrel-vaulted room containing a huge arched fireplace, and decorated with paintings, presumably of bygone family members or 031 john hayeminent friends, and a large wall clock of the type I have only ever seen on tables or mantelshelves – French, perhaps?

This is a close-up of the portrait at the end of the long room, of Sir John Hay proprietor of Smithfield and Haystoun in the early 1800s.  I wonder if great great great grand-uncle Andrew worked for him?

002 hayston dovecote


Outside the rain had stopped, and the gentle cooing of white doves encouraged us to look further at  the little dovecote set in an angle of the house walls.  003 hayston doos



We’d call it a doocot,( a DOOket), doos being the Scots word for doves, so here are a couple of the Haystoun doos!  Others were nesting inside, and more sat on the roof.  Their eggs and the birds themselves would have been a tasty meal in years gone by.

At last , after a quick purchase at the plant stall – two fuchsias for me – it was time to leave.  How wonderful it would be if these gardens were open to the public more often, but at least under the “gardens open Sunday” scheme, we do get to see it once every couple of years, as they alternate years with another garden I am keen to see – Portmore to the north of Peebles.  ~Portmore next year then and back to Haystoun in 2012!  Don’t want to wish my life away but I can’t wait!

Talk again soon.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Lochs and Reservoirs

I’m not doing too well catching up on the things I’ve been doing – blog-wise, that is!  My last entry was a week after the event and here I am again only now posting last weekend’s news.  I’ll not make it such a long post this time. 

loch o the lowes So, it was a glorious weekend this time last week, and on the Sunday afternoon Morag and I decided to take a run in the car to St Mary’s Loch and the Loch o’ the Lowes.  There is car-parking on the bank of the smaller Loch o’ the Lowes, so getting a lovely spot right down near the water was our good fortune.  glen cafe sunday The Glen Cafe on the roadside facing the loch is a very popular spot and we joined the queue of bikers who gather here on a weekend, to buy sandwiches and homemade cake to take back to the car for our picnic lunch.  Sitting back in the car with the windows wide open we were able to enjoy the sun, and the light breeze that came from being beside the water in a valley.  loch boating We ate our lunch while watching everyone else at their various activities, some in boats, some just paddling, but most, like us, just picnicking, eating ice-creams and generally enjoying the fine weather.  loch bbq 


It was the group with the BBQ that eventually got us moving again, with the smoke and smells driving us away. 

Our route home took us a different way, the long way round, climbing gradually up a hill on a narrow twisty road to Megget Reservoir,  stopping at a couple of the viewpoints on the way.   meggat cramalt towerAt Cramalt, we found a reconstruction of part of the ruins of one of the ancient pele towers that are rather prolific in the Borders.   meggat cramalt tower2



The original 15th century tower had been covered by water when the valley was flooded in the early 1980s,  to form the reservoir supplementing the Edinburgh and Lothians water supply. This is an artist’s impression of the tower.  


Up the hill we twisted and just past the summit we got the first view of Talla, an older reservoir by about a century, way below us!   talla below It is a steep twisting


descent into the valley, following a tumbling burn(stream).  talla outlet tower


At the other end of Talla is the dam and the rather interesting outlet tower, victoria lodge overlooked by the

very imposing Victoria Lodge, which I gather is a 5-star Bed & Breakfast house.

On again to the tiny hamlet at Tweedsmuir where, just before the main road the lochs, etc 053we diverted to the left to visit the third of the reservoirs in the area, 1960s Fruid.   I rather like the water monitoring building at the end of the dam.fruid water monitoring building



And so, back to Tweedsmuir and onto the main road taking us back in the direction of home, to finish the day with tea in the garden!

Talk again soon.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Botanic Gardens

Well, from freezing weather a week ago  - well, ok, not literally, but it  was really cold -  to sun and blue sky with temps up in the 70s F, about 24 Celsius, and a suggestion that it could get up to about 80.  Sorry, but that’s too hot for me,  along with the humidity we tend to get too! 

Anyway yesterday – crumbs, it was actually over a week ago now -  the gardening group was meeting in Edinburgh at the Botanic Gardens for a tour with a member of staff.  It was an afternoon tour, so I felt I had plenty of time to work a couple of extra hours at the Heart Foundation shop, go down to Gala(shiels) to pick up my car from the garage where it has had substantial work done on it and is going to cost me mega money, drive up to Edinburgh direct from there and arrive well in time for the tour.  Well, how wrong can you be! 

I left the shop in time to get the 1130 bus to Gala,  got to the garage around 1200 to pick up the car, and set off for Edinburgh.  In hindsight I might have been quicker going back to Peebles first, but I thought that driving one side of a triangle would be quicker than driving two.  Huh!  There were several sets of roadworks on the main road, with half the road dug up and traffic lights to control the traffic on the good half,  that always turned to red just as I reached them.   Then there was heavy traffic on the approach to the city, with a right turn against the traffic almost impossible  - we drive on the left!  It took 6 changes of the traffic lights to get round one corner, and every set of lights after that were at red as I made my way through the centre of the city and out to Inverleith.  It had taken me two and a half hours!  Honestly, if I had been going to see Colin in Yorkshire I’d have been almost there in that time!  My only piece of good luck was finding a car parking space only yards from the West Gate, but of course being 45 minutes late, the tour had left and could anyone find out where it might have got to by then?  Not likely!  I had presumed the tour would take a particular route, and that I might have been able to catch them up, but apparently the tours are quite random! 

Oh well, with a slight hope of finding the group I set off on my own, thinking that if I caught up, well and good, if not then I’d have enjoyed the garden anyway, and I did – enjoy the garden, that is!.  orange roddies The rhodendrons and azaleas were beautiful in bright reds,  oranges and yellows,azaleas while there were all sorts of other plants in flower and hankie tree trees in soft new leaf colourbaby fir cones to see,





birds and squirrels to watch. squirrel3 One of the squirrels was playing a distance away when I remembered I had a muesli bar in my handbag.  Would the squirrel be tempted closer?  Hmm!  I just opened the bag, and suddenly the squirrel was almost at my feet looking up expectantly!   I hadn’t even found the muesli bar by then.  Anyway, when I finally got the packet opened he actually took a piece of it from my hand, but it obviously wasn’t to his liking as he refused a second piece, turning his back on me and hopping off into the distance again, dismissing me as a decent source of sustenance!  At least I got this photo!  He may be classed as vermin but he’s very cute!

Inverleith House Though the Botanic Gardens  actually began on a much smaller piece of land near Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh in 1670, part of the Inverleith estate was bought in 1820  and in 1875 the house too was bought and the gardens expanded.  Inverleith House was built in 1774 for the Rocheid  family who had been owners of the Inverleith Estate since 1665.   It now houses exhibitions.  This is the front of the house, but the windows at the rear have a wonderful panorama of the city centre.  calton hill and arthur seat  These were taken from the lawn at the back.

city view from botanics

glass house The glass house or Palm House, the tallest in Britain, was built in 1858.

On the ground next to it in this photo is a fossilised tree trunk dating back several million years….320 million actually… that was uncovered not too far away when stone was being quarried to build the glass house itself.

I could have spent hours looking round the garden, but will finish off here with some pictures of some of the alpine flowers some grown under cover because our climate though cold enough is too wet.is this an iris

alpines outside





 alpine plants


in a clearing

and I must show you that the gardens are enjoyed by the young as well as the old!

and someone told me to look out for the handkerchief tree, so here it is…hankie tree

I just realised I put it in at the beginning too.  Oh well, enjoy once more!

It has been years since I was last at the Edinburgh Botanics, but I must go back and continue to renew my acquaintance.  We have Dawyck Gardens near us, another of the gardens connected to the Botanics.  I’ve show you photos from there before now, and probably will again, but for now…

Talk again soon.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Taking the air

Went for a walk yesterday!  Actually I had two walks!  The first was a wander along the path by the Cuddy Burn, after a singing lesson!  Did I tell you I joined a Gaelic choir last week? Well, anyway, I did, and finding my voice was quite rusty, I decided I would try and find a singing teacher to help me do something to improve it.  I found Fay – a former musicals and music hall singer, who has sung  and acted with all the Scottish “greats”, and who lives just along the road from my old house – she moved into her house about the time I was moving out of mine!!

So after a very enjoyable lesson, during which Fay said some very complimentary, and rather unexpected things about my voice, and  then a visit with my late friend Vina’s husband, I took advantage of the  path by the burn-side home.  It’s such a pretty walkway and has been upgraded considerably since I used to walk it most days on my way home from work.

peebles cuddy walk Alongside the burn, between the path and the road is a swampy area that gets flooded every time the river rises.  At the moment the water is just where it should be, but there are little pools in the swamp, growing pretty clumps of wild flowers, like the marsh marigiolds in this picture.  Looks like there might be some flags (yellow iris) coming on too!

There haven’t been many ducklings on Cuddy for ages – the ducks seem to adapt to the fact that the heron and the crows prey on them, and have less ducklings every year.  peebles cuddy ducklings2It used to be common to see several large families - ten and more youngsters – but not now.  However, there was just one small family – of five – exploring among the grasses at the edge of the water yesterday.  Here, mother duck is keeping three of her brood close by, and looking out for her two stragglers who have fallen behind.  Sorry, it’s a bit fuzzy!

peebles cuddy walk2

A bit further down the path, the main part of town comes into view, but for a bit longer we can enjoy the “out in the country” feel of the last half mile or so.


I hadn’t long had my tea by the time Morag called.  Would I fancy a walk?  Rapidly becoming a slave to the computer I said yes, and agreed to meet her in just a few minutes.  We started along the High Street, but soon cut off to reach Tweed Green and beyond it the river.  Crossing Priorsford foot bridge, we began to head upriver with the view over to the Parish Church and Tweed Bridge in front of us.  peebles spring evening walk with heron!The sun was in our faces so a photo was not going to turn out well, but after we had walked under the big bridge we were able to look back across the cauld (weir) to the swimming pool and the church behind.  If you look carefully, about a third of the way across the cauld you should see the heron patiently waiting for its unsuspecting supper to aswim by!  Here he is closer up.peebles spring evening walk with heron2!


We sat on a bench and watched him for a while, enjoying the evening sun lighting up the church tower and the tops of the trees but soon we were on our way again, veering off the riverside path to walk the path through the trees that would eventually bring us to the old railway line and the cutting leading to the tunnel entrance!   peebles walk tunnelYou can still walk through the tunnel, but it isn’t recommended, and as it bends its way through the hillside you can’t see the other end, so it’s VERY dark.  Even a torch doesn’t help too much, I can say from experience – and no, I haven’t walked the whole way through.  About 100 yards was enough!  That was from the other end, years ago, with friends.  The daylight brightens the entrance at the other end – a little – but this end is very gloomy among the trees!   That wall leading to the tunnel is covered in moss and lichen so it shows just how damp and sunless it is down there.

peebles walk back to town Turning back we came again to the riverside and crossed Fotheringham Footbridge, looking back towards the church tower above and behind the trees now clothed at last in their new spring leaves.

peebles walk from haylodge park The light was beginning to go as we came through the park, so this was the last picture of the night, looking towards Tweed Bridge and Lee Pen, the conical hill in the distance.

I do feel privileged to live in such a beautiful area.

Talk again soon.