Sunday, 29 March 2015

Great weather for the Gameshope Donalds

I can't believe it's nearly three months since my last hill walk. So much for my plan to walk much more often in my year off! To be fair the weather in January and February were mainly wet and windy and dry days were taken up with things already booked to do. We also had a death in the family and another close family member struck with cancer, so I wasn't in the right frame of mind to be out on the hills walking. Any hoo, the forecast for last Wednesday was perfect, wall to wall sunshine, no wind, high cloud base and I had a day to myself. I consulted my list of walks to do, much looked at when I couldn't get out and decided to do one near to home. I find it better to do an easier, near one when I haven't been out for a while and then build up again, does any one else do the same?

Talla reservoir, perfect reflections

My faithful hound walking companion and I set off at 8am for Talla reservoir. I resisted the temptation to sneak back to bed for another hour's sleep once youngest son was on the school bus and make the most of a beautiful day. I was rewarded for this decision by the perfect reflections on the reservoir. I stopped the car several times to take photos, it was beautiful. There was not a ripple on the water, I don't think I've ever seen such calm water in Scotland! I parked the car just beyond the entrance to the farm at Talla Linnfoots, there's plenty wide grass verge here to park safely. 

The climb ahead from the road

I was not looking forward to the initial climb on this walk. Having read several trip reports on the walk and looked at the map I decided to do the same, get the climb out the way and enjoy the rest of the day on the hills. Not even a quarter of the way up I was questioning that idea, and every other idea I have about hill walking, steep it is, its rough walking / climbing through tufty grass and never any sign of the top until you almost crawl over the last hump and the trig point comes into view. Out of practice and as unfit as I thought I was I stopped plenty times to get my breath back and give my aching legs a rest. In the end it took just under an hour and I think Bracken probably did it twice, running backwards and forwards on his long extending lead, show off,

Bracken, king of the hill

Looking back down into the valley, can you spot my tiny car?

More great reflections on the reservoir

At last the trig point on the top of Garelet Hill came into view and after a few minutes recovery, the reason I do this was plain to see. Fabulous clear views in every direction, not a sound appart from bird song and not a soul to be seen. I do like walking the mountains further north when I have done them in the past, but I really do love these lowland hills, I don't know why, I just do. 

The view from Lairds Cleugh Rig looking south to the hills on this walk, first new donald of the day

From here it was an easy walk for the rest of the day, five hills over approx eight miles and a two mile walk out along Gameshope valley. There were patches of snow as you can see in the photos and the dead grass was flat enough for easier walking. The route more or less follows the fence line along the tops all the way to the last hill of the day, Cape Law. At the second hill Erie Hill you take a wee detour right on to the top. This hill was tricky in that it is covered in Luzula sylvatica or greater woodrush, a short grass with glossy flat leave, normally they are upright but after a winter of being flattened by snow they were slippy and not easy to walk on. There is a wee pile of stones as a marker on the top of Erie Hill.

Looking back to Lairds Cleugh Rig and Garelet hill, the route so far

I cut across the top of Erie Hill and back down the south side to join the fence / wall line and on towards Garelet Dod. Because we had a dry week, unusually for these hills it was fairly dry underfoot, what wet boggy bits I came across were easy enough to cross, which made a pleasant change (this was not quite the case on the walk out, more of that later!)

Looking back to Erie Hill and first sight of Fruid Reservoir

Looking towards the Lowther Hills from Erie Hill

Looking down to Games Hope Burn from Garelet Dod

Again the hill top is slightly off the fence line, Garelet Dod is a flat top and no cairn or marker that I could see. The views were great again, a bit of cloud gathering to the south, but still high. I was making good time so far. Bracken was having a great time, even though he isn't allowed of the lead, it's a long extendable one and he can still run twice as far and more than I walk on any outing! 

Gameshope Loch from Garelet Dod

Hartfell Rig from garelet Dod

Shed and sheep enclosure from Garelet Dod

From here I could see so many hills I have previously walked, Saddle Yolk, Hart Fell, White Combe, Broad Law, Tall Cleugh Head, Coulter fell, Tinto, Lowther hills, Moorfoots, Pentlands and the Ochils, a truly 365 view of central Scotland. It's a steepish descent to Ellers Cleugh between Garelet Dod and Din Law. Lots of boulder and boggy bits at the bottom where the run off from the loch cuts down to the valley below. Din Law the forth and last hill was different in that it is rocky and craggy on top, all the others are flat and grassy. There was a great view right down Fruit Reservoir with Tinto and Coulter Fell in the background.

Great view from Din Law looking down Fruit Reservoir

Now it was an easy walk to Cape Law, last and highest hill of the day. Another flat grassy top with great views of snow covered Hartfell Rig and Hart Fell which I walked in February 2009, such a long time ago! How life has completely changed in those 6 years.

Sometimes it helps to have four paw puppy drive! Heading up to Cape Law

Bracken and I on Cape Law, last hill, what a great day

Cladonia growing on the wall stones

Once I'd taken some photos, inhaled the success of the walk so far, enjoyed the views and had a look at the Cladonias on the wall we started walking down into Gameshope. A gentle walk down the side of Loch Hill past the loch on our left and eventually to the valley bottom where there was the stream to cross, done with no misshaps and then a stop for lunch and a boulder in the sun by the stream was perfect.

Our lunch spot by the Games Hope Burn

Give me your cheese sandwich says Bracken

We didn't stop too long as it was chilly sitting, and yes Bracken did get some cheese sandwich, despite having had his own doggy biscuits, he adores cheese. Looking at the map there isn't any easy way to walk along the valley until you get to the bothy. I decided to cut uphill a bit behind the shed and over the spur of the hill, I hoped it would be a bit drier and quicker than following the burn's every twist and turn. This proved a good idea and we were doing well over the rough grass until we got to the large square walled enclosure. I was negotiating our way over a very boggy bit which was also very orange in colour. As I was doing this I didn't realsie Bracken has seen some sheep further up the hill (this is why he has to be on a lead) and he took off towards them, dragging me on the other end of the lead right through the deepest parts of the bog. I was soaked and orange almost to my knees and he was a white and orange dog! We were nearly back onto a proper path too, dogs! 

Looking back up Gameshope, there are lots of waterfalls all the way down to the end at the reservoir

Gameshope bothy and shed

Eventually we reached the brightly coloured shed with bothy behind it. I didn't bother crossing to look inside as the water was quite deep and I was wet footed enough after our bog encounter. It's certainly a pretty spot to stay a while. From here there is a track all the way back to the road at Talla Linnfoots so east walking, thankfully.

Funny the things you see

Talla Linnfoots bathed in sunshine
After about half an hour from the bothy we were back at the car, tired but really happy to have had another great, successful walk and in brilliant weather.

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Saturday, 28 March 2015

This March I am

Amazing reflections on Talla Reservoir

Making: the most of some lovely sunny spring days in the garden.

Cooking: Rye bread with flour bought when we were at Little Salkeld Mill last month.

Drinking: Coffee with chocolate syrup in it.

Reading: Wedding planning books!

Wanting: my children to be happy and achieve what they want in life.

Looking: Forwards and not backwards.

Playing: the new album by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, loving it.

Wishing: for peace, understanding and tolerance in the world.

Enjoying: Being surrounded by the love and good wishes of our family and friends.

Loving: Being in love and being happy.

Smelling: My new almond soap.

Wearing: My beautiful engagement ring.

Anticipating: A very busy summer.

Buying: A massive amount of celebratory cheese for David!

Disliking: That oldest son didn't get the apprenticeship he set his heart on.

Eating: Chocolate, of course, one of 3 boxes I got for Mothers day.

Planting: Violas and Primulas in pots on the patio for some colour.

Marvelling: At how having the right people in your life make such a huge difference to life.

Wondering: At how things fall into place and do things happen for a reason?

Feeling: Excited, nervous, worried, happy.

Friday, 27 March 2015

This week turned out to be quite a week!

I was going to write this blog yesterday, but I got distracted. 

We're engaged!!!

It's fancy frock and hat time folks.

It started off as an ordinary day, we dropped my car off for it's MOT and then we went for a wee day out and visited Linlithgow palace, we climbed all the way to the top to St Margaret's Bower. David fell to the floor, I thought the climb had been too much, but no he was down on one knee asking me if I'd be daft enough to marry him! And so we were engaged, followed by celebratory lunch and ring buying. It was a wonderful happy day. So now we have some planning to do for late August next year.

And what about the rest of the week? Monday was another dry and sunny day so Bracken and I had our walk up the hill to the local village school and back. There were a few lambs in the fields, so spring is really happening. These ones are still quite young and cute. Then it was home for domestic duties.

Local lambs

Spring has sprung

Local view with dramatic clouds!

I set up the camera on the tripod at the window again to photograph the birds coming to the bird table, still the same common varieties, it will be nice if we get more unusual birds as they get to know there is food on the table.

One of my photos from the bird table

Tuesday again was sunny and dry! Wow, that's a few days in a row. After Bracken and I had our walk to the village and back I did some pottering about outside, restarting the bonfire and starting to clear the big bed at the west side of the back garden. This has a few evergreen shrubs in it and LOTS of nettles and sticky willies (cleavers). I tidied up the neglected shrubs and raked off the old leaves and weed tops which went on the bonfire along with as much nettle roots as I could find. There was lots of torn landscape fabric buried under the leaves so that went on the bonfire too. I am not sure what I am going to do with this bed while we are here. It will certainly throw up lots of seedling weeds as the year goes on which will need removed. I have lots of annual seeds that I might throw on it, for some colour, flowers for cutting and photographing.

The abandoned back garden border

We had Papaya for dessert, which we had never tried before,
with lime flavoured yoghurt, it was refreshing

Wednesday was a great day, David was working away for the day and the weather was perfect (dry, sunny, calm, high cloud) for one of my hill walks. I decided to do a walk I'd had an eye on for a while which would take in 3 Donalds in the Moffat hills (that's me done them all there now) and some New Donalds, so five hills in total over 10 miles. I had planned to do it in seven hours but did it in 5.5, which was pretty good considering the initial ascent for this one was very steep straight away and I thought I'd never see the top! I am going to cover the walk as a separate blog over the weekend.

This is the view from the first hill, Garelet Hill
south to next 4 hills to walk 

Thursday, well it was quite a day as you probably gathered at the beginning of this blog. David made his amazing chilli for dinner along with some crusty bead and the red velvet cake Daniel made on Wednesday and we opened a bottle of bubbly in the evening to finish the day off.

A delivery of Pelargoniums

Today, Friday, I unpacked the delivery of Pelargoniums from Fibrex Nursery that arrived yesterday. This is what I spent my Christmas money on, adding to my collection with some varieties I've had before and lost and some new ones to try. I potted them up into one litre pots and put them in the heated greenhouse after a good water. There is not an ounce of space in the big greenhouse now, some of the biggar plants I've moved onto the floor so the smaller ones can go on the bench. I have been buying ferns, ivies and Pelargoniums from Fibrex for many years now. Their plants and service are excellent and they usually have a stand at Gardening Scotland.

I think that's plenty to be getting on with for one week, I hope you all have a lovely weekend

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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

This weekend we dug a veg bed and built compost bins

Unbelievably, two sunny, dry and quite warm days this weekend, fantastic! Being me it wasn't wasted. I watered the greenhouse and left the doors open to vent them, it's great once we get to this time of year and they can be open all day. I then did some weed killing, there are lots of dandelions coming up in the borders I created last autumn and couch grass is appearing through the gravel in the drive. I lifted all the bigger sticks off the front lawn so they don't cause a problem with the lawn mower once we start cutting the grass. These went on the bonfire heap which we were planning to burn on Sunday.

Bulbine fruticosa witht eh macro lens

Red cabbage seedling in the greenhouse

Corydalis malkensis with rain drop, taken with the macro lens

Mosses in one of the alpine troughs with the macro

Enjoying the sun

It was lovely to be able to sit out at the table on the patio in the sun without feeling cold, and to absorb the warmth from the sun while eating a creme egg. I also took a chance to photograph some of the plants now coming into flower with my macro lens. Next I started the last job of the day: clearing the area in the back corner where the compost bins are going. It's a pile of stones, bricks, weeds and earth, so needed digging out of stones into a pile, weeds on another pile and the soil will be used to top dress the new veg bed once it is dug over.

The area where the compost bins ans bonfire are going

Glorious blue sky, view from the back garden

 A pile of kerb stones and bricks

Daniel's old bed which is going to become part of the new compost bins

Sunday dawned bright and dry so we got the teenagers out into the fresh air to help. Daniel and I dug over the veg bed to be which was an empty square of soil in the corner of the patio. It is quite stony so we will see how it goes over the year. After it was cleared, weeded and dug over we barrowed the pile of soil down that I found on Saturday under the stones. This was really nice soil, proper soil, so it should make a difference on the veg bed.

Before we started the new veg bed

Daniel helping to dig

While Dan and I were working on the digging, David and Adam were starting to build the new compost bins. These are being build completely from recycled wood; Dan's old bed frame and wood we have lying about. We need the compost bins to do the job while we are here but ultimately when we move they will stay behind. Once the guys had finished the compost bins we got a big bonfire going, always a good thing. So it was a busy weekend with lots achieved, movie night at home and popcorn on Saturday night and french toast for breakfast on Sunday, cooked by Daniel using our own hens eggs. The good life right enough.

David, Adam and Bracken working on the new compost bins

Not bad for a couple hours work and no cost

Bracken keeping an eye on things

The finished veg bed

Filled already

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Friday, 20 March 2015

This week - lots of gardening

This week the forecast is to be good so I am planning a few days in the garden (fingers crossed). On Monday I took middle son back to Lanark for his train back to uni. I then did a few errands to the council office, the farm supply shop for chicken food and wild bird food and to drop a big bag of stuff at the charity shop. I managed to only buy one book in return, but one of a series of novels I am planning to read. Then it was back to the house for cleaning and tidying and a walk to the local village and back with Bracken. 

Eye popping colours at Morton Hall Garden Centre

Tuesday was a wet miserable wet day spent doing some computer work, sorting out photos, dealing with paperwork and emails. After lunch we drove into Edinburgh to take the camera lens I use the most in to get looked at. It has been over exposing photographs which is very annoying. After a couple of minutes looking at it and twiddling the lens the guy had it  fixed, probably a piece of grit jamming it. We dropped into Morton Hall Garden Centre on the way home as I needed some labels. I also picked up some shallots and a pretty yellow double Primula which is sitting on the table on the patio now.

Pelargoniums looking colourful in the greenhouse

The seedlings are tall enough to get their prop tops off and I've moved them
to the top shelf to make more room

The birds are enjoying the new bird table

Wednesday as forecast was dry, sunny and warm! It was so good to be working in the garden and feel some real warmth from the sun. I started off by tidying and watering both greenhouse. I moved some of the hardier pots out onto the patio, top dressing and feeding them as they went. I also took the bubble wrap down from the wee greenhouse, it is warm enough now to do without. The cuttings I took from shrubs and climbers left behind in the last garden are doing well and will need potted up and put outside later in the year.

Euphorbia mellifera in the wee greenhouse
with lots of flowers

Before tidying, en route from greenhouse to patio

After, some pots from the greenhouse, tidied, fed and top dressed

A cutting of Ribes 'Koja' flowering,  determined
to grow!

After the greenhouse I worked along the troughs and pots of plants moved from the last garden, weeding, tidying and topdressing some of the troughs where the plants had been moved around and were a bit high. It's great to see all my old friends growing and moved successfully, although there were a few losses in pots, to be expected. I used the compost from these pots to top dress the troughs.

A garden in troughs and pots!

I also sowed the next batch of seeds in the greenhouse, this was a mix of flowers and veg. Dwarf and runner beans, mixed squash, courgettes and peppers. Then there were some sweet peas, poppies and Liquorice! After that I swept the patio and decided that was a really good days work and went in for coffee and a shower. It was so good to potter about doing all these bits and pieces in comfortable warm sunny weather.

The next batch of seeds sown, last batch on the shelf

Thursday was dry and sunny again, wow! Today I planned to finish of the Prairie border started at the weekend, see here . I dug over the remaining bed and decided to leave a path through the middle. The large bed was easy to dig over but the second bed was full of roots from the removed willow. That said the soil was nice and dry so it was a lot easier than if it was heavy clay (which I had in the last garden). Although you can't see the plants, the two beds are full and it will be exciting to see them grow and my plans come together (hopefully).

Praire bed at the start of the day

One of the beds dug over

Finished and planted up

Bracken enjoyed being out in the sun with me while I was working

Finally, looking good in the garden this week:

Chrysosplenium macrophyllum

Can't stop photographing these Crocus 'Cream Beauty'

Dew on the Dogs tooth violet leaves

The double primula I bought on Tuesday

Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys'

Have a lovely weekend and happy gardening

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