Category Archives: walks

Grey Mares Tail, Black Bob, And The Three Brethren

I love walking in the Scottish Borders at this time of year. The weather didn’t look so good at first but it’s Scotland, you have to expect some Scotch mist. We both love this walk, we’ve done it before, starting from the beautiful waterfall called Grey Mares Tail.

UntitledThe steep path takes you up above the waterfall, then it flattens out and opens up.
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The sedges were beautiful, glowing orange in the sunlight but the camera didn’t really pick that up.

This is looking up to the top of the stream, at the rise there was something that took us by surprise on our first visit.

When you get to the rise it opens up into a loch which was unexpected as there’s no view of the loch until you are upon it.

We traced our steps back down, taking a moment to look at the silver thread of the river below.
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Click to read about my last visit to Grey Mare’s Tail 

The next morning there was a frosty start to the day, but frost seemed to heighten the leaf colours, I’m not sure if that’s a fact or if it’s my imagination. I gathered some to print with.

We set off on a ten mile circular walk to the Three Brethren, which are 3 cairns dating back to the 16th C. But first we had to investigate Black Bob.

If you are of a certain age and you read ‘The Dandy’ comics you may remember Black Bob the wonder dog from Selkirk.

IMG_5921The wonderful illustrations are by Jack Prout.
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The stories were written by John Hunter, telling of the adventures of farmer Andrew Glenn and his dog. The Black Bob trail has some display cases showing exhibits relating to the stories and farming in the area, it was lovely to be unexpectedly transported back to childhood.
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Then it was onwards and upwards following the way markers through woods then up to the summit. We saw lots of deer tracks in the woods.
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A slight detour took us up Foulshiels, we had to battle through bracken, then we had to find a way of getting over a dry stone wall and a stream to get back on the track but it was worth it. The views were spectacular, you can see the Eildon Hills  in the distance, we climbed those on our trip to Etterick Bridge a couple of years ago.
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Finally we made it to the summit and the Three Brethren.

Untitled The views were spectacular.

It was such an enjoyable few days break and I recharged my batteries 🙂

Along The River

I went collecting treasure along the river the other day, most of you wouldn’t see leaves and wild fruits as treasure but they are to me. I have always foraged every Autumn, it’s something my Grandpa taught me. I will make jam and do some printing with the leaves, I love working with nature.

Early Autumn has to be me my favourite time of year, the low sun and gentle warmth on my face, the long shadows and sparkling dew on spiders webs.

Along the river
The river was quite full, it’s been a couple of months since I walked along her banks. I look for wildlife, today there were herons, swans, ducks, dippers, lots of water beetles, and a cormorant up a tree, not something you see every day. I only had my camera phone so the photos aren’t so good but you can see a heron fishing here.

Along the riverI like to observe the huge boulder field left after the floods, once totally barron it’s now being colonised again by plants. It’s hard to imagine this as the virtual moonscape it was originally.
Along the riverSome areas are being colonised more slowly.

Along the river

There’s still evidence of debris from the floods, but the tree trunks are starting to rot.

Along the riverHimalayan balsam didn’t grow here before but now it’s everywhere, probably washed down along the river when it flooded. It’s such an invasive species, there are laws about transplanting it, but Mother Nature doesn’t know that.

There are a lot of gorse bushes too, some are getting quite large.

Along the riverAlso buddleia which again was probably washed down in the flood waters, they seem to grow on every railway line but I haven’t seen them growing along the river before.
Along the riverThis pond, used to only fill up after heavy rain, it’s now a permanent feature.

Along the riverYou can see it’s very close to the river. It’s interesting to look at this new channel and see if the pond water is draining into the river, or if the river is filling up the pond. I’ve seen it flow both ways.

Along the river

Soon we will need a bridge to cross it as it’s getting deeper .

Along the river

After my walk along the river I took a detour through the nettles and brambles.

Along the riverIt was worth it as the bullace tree gave me great bounty, there will be jam making , something to enjoy over the winter months when summer seems so far away.

Along the river

Cup And Ring Marks In Northumberland

If you have visited Northumberland you will know it has some amazing beaches, rolling countryside, moors, hills, and lots of castles, more on those later.
IMG_5790If you delve deeper into the history of Northumberland there are Iron Age hill forts, Bronze Age burial sites, also quite a few rocks with Neolithic and Bronze Age cup and ring marks which I’ve read about but I’ve never actually seen them before, even though they are the most important collection of prehistoric art in Britain.

There are over a 1000 examples of ancient rock art in Northumberland, we visited two sites at Lordenshaw and Old Bewick.

Lordenshaw carvings are easily accessed by car, they are situated near Simonside, which we climbed to enjoy views of most of Northumberland, and found a rock carving which gave me the chills, it looks like it’s  designed to catch liquid which would then flow off the rock via a lip. Maybe I’ve just watched too much TV, a scene in “The Vikings” came to mind. There are also rocks with long carved channels which must have allowed something to flow along them.

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IMG_5468And lots of cup and ring marks.
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It was more difficult to find the carvings at Old Bewick, having to walk through heather and bracken, there’s a lot of history here, Bronze Age burial cists. IMG_5768Two Iron Age hillforts, as well as the rock carvings. There’s  also a WW2 pillbox, but it’s the cup and rings that interested me most.

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IMG_6067We found a quite large rock cut into a round basin, which on research happens to be the biggest known cup mark in the world.
IMG_5815I hope the cup and ring marks will inspire some of my art in the near future, I certainly enjoyed seeing them for the first time. Hopefully I will go back and see some more next time we go home to Northumberland.

Sketchbook fail, but still finding inspiration from Luing

While I was away I had such intentions of taking my sketching things out on my walks and filling up the pages as fast as I could. OK I come clean, that didn’t happen very often. I felt I just wanted to be a sponge soak the island into my soul. I did a few sketches plein air, using sea water on my finger to blend the colours.
Luing inspirationI tried to capture an otter but to be honest I just wanted to observe them.
Luing inspiration
I think the dry weather prevented me doing much crafting in the cottage as we went out every day. On the one day of rain I did a stitched sketchbook page, and some eco printing, as I wanted to capture the sycamore flowers and small leaves before they were gone.

Luing inspirationSome ACEO sized eco prints are making their way into my Etsy shop. I think they work so well with my little ceramic ring dishes over on Etsy.

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I did some studying in the evenings when I was too tired to do anything but read and watch online videos, I signed up for some lessons with Laura Horn. I was taught traditional watercolour techniques all those years ago, I’m working on loosening up and painting with mixed media at the moment.

I’m having a blast, this is my “Island of Dreams” painting, I can hear the surf. 😊

UntitledHopefully there will be more mixed media work to show you soon.

Like all good things ………

Like all good things or time on Luing came to an end. I have been looking back over my time there and I have to say it’s a place that has touched my soul. I felt so relaxed and at one with nature. I have never slept so well, but we did walk over 150 miles in 3 weeks.

Yes, I could live there quite happily, if only I could drive. But that’s just how it is.

Some things I learned staying on Luing.

  • It’s quiet
  • Sound travels a long way
  • You ration food
  • The perfect place for an introvert
  • You don’t need much stuff
  • There is no rush
  • Wind turbines sound very loud
  • I feel whole when interacting with nature
  • What comes around goes around

My last observation is based on watching the wildlife; an eagle being bombed by a crow,  the crow being bombed by an oyster catcher.

Talking of eagles we were very lucky in having 3 sightings of a white tailed sea eagle, the first sighting was very close, it was sitting on a pile of stones when we turned a corner,  it watched us for a while, it flew to another pile of stones, then another encircling us before flying off.

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IMG_4201Another sighting quite close up was of roe deer. The first time it was just one, but the second sighting there were two. Usually they would be off as soon as they caught sight of humans but they stood for a while just looking at us.

IMG_4980There are lots of hares on the island but no rabbits, so I didn’t have the problem of trying to decide if it was rabbit or hare by the ears and tail.  There seemed to be a resident hare in the village who came hopping past our window in the evenings. I saw another regularly coming back after our evening otter watch.

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IMG_4432There were so many bird species I couldn’t name them all here, hen harrier, wheatear, rock pipit, greylag and Canada geese,  red breasted merganser to name a few; and not forgetting the dolphins and otters of course.

I hope to go back again some day 🙂

Trip to Corryvreckan and an encounter with dolphins.

We took a Seafari trip to see the whirlpool Corryvreckan; having donned the waterproofs provided and the life jacket I was beginning to wonder what I was letting myself in for. I needn’t have concerned myself as I had a great time being bounced around at speed in the RIB. I was even splashed in the face by a wet dolphin tail, twice 🙂

We went past Fladda lighthouse………

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……….and Belnahua (I love saying that word), one of the slate mining islands, this tiny island was once home to 200 inhabitants. The ruins of  some of the miners cottages still remain.From the air this island looks like a doughnut, the heart of the island was quarried and later flooded by the sea.IMG_4899We had a wonderful surprise when a pod of dolphins came to swim alongside the boat. They were clearly playing with us, swimming right next to us and going under the boat. I could have touched them they were so close. This was an incredible experience which I hadn’t expected.
IMG_4852We also saw common seals.

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IMG_4835Then we went through the Grey Dogs, a tidal race between the rocks, it was fairly calm, just a small standing wave today.

IMG_4860We spotted a white tailed sea eagle.

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Also red deer.

IMG_4867Corryvreckan is the third largest whirlpool in the world but it was very calm today, the tide was against us so it wasn’t very impressive.

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I’ve saved the best ’til last, here’s a video of my dolphin encounter, I hope you enjoy!

Otters on Luing

We went to Luing for 3 weeks in the hope of seeing otters in the wild. We have tried looking for these elusive creatures many times on day trips but we’ve never been successful. My husband joked that we would probably see them on our first day on Luing, and he was right.

Walking along the shore something in the water caught my eye, just a glimpse. I thought it might be a seal. OH got his binoculars out and said, “it’s not a seal, it’s an otter, there are two of them swimming together”.

There were actually three otters when they climbed out onto the rocks. We sat and watched them for a good half hour, fishing, eating and playing, we could hear their little squeaking noises.
Otters

Otters

OttersThen they swam further along the shore, we watched them until they were just tiny distant specks.

We walked this path daily for 3 weeks at different times of day in the hope of further sightings. We had 7 sightings in total. The second time we found some large rocks to lean against, being slate the sun had warmed them up so we laid back and watched the water. We must have blended in quite well because an otter came on shore quite close to us. It came within 15 to 20 feet of us, it saw us but didn’t seem too bothered. We watched it going back into the water to catch a fish, eel or crab, sometimes it would come ashore to eat it’s catch, then it swam along to what we now called ‘Otter Rocks’.

Otters

Otters

We started to know what to look for when looking for otters, something that looked like a floating log, moving along making a gentle wake. Or just a glimpse of a tail or head. Two or three otters swimming together with arching bodies could easily be mistaken for the Loch Ness monster. We watched three swimming together  in a line or spiralling around each other as they swam.

There was a book in the cottage called ‘On The Swirl Of The Tide’ by Bridget MacCaskill, it’s a beautiful read about a year studying otters, I’ve found a copy on the internet.

OttersHere’s a lovely quote from the book, which I can relate to now….

“In the bubbling, splashing seething cauldron of foaming water it was quite impossible to sort out who was who while they were madly corkscrewing round each other’s smooth bodies, swooping into the seaweed forest below, curving and swerving through it’s restless stems, rising to box and bite, then breaking away to start the game all over again. Excited wickering echoed around the giant rock sides of the Narrows and told the rest of their world that the otters were having a party”

Bridget MacCaskill.

We had another otter sighting, playing on the rocks and eating a huge fish. We watched the male otter bringing fish to the smaller female, who was lazing around on the rocks. They are very playful creatures, rolling on their backs in the seaweed and sunning their bellies.

Our next sighting was to be the last one along this shore, we were on our way home one evening when I caught a glimpse of a head in the seaweed. There was a pair of them, they swam to the rocks and entertained us for almost two hours. It was a joy to watch them playing, fishing and eating. They love to roll on their backs like dogs. Then we lost them on the other side of the rocks.

We noticed a caravan had been brought down to the shore but there didn’t seem to be anyone in it, it stayed unused for a few days. Then one day there were men in waders, placing something on otter rocks  for shellfish farming apparently. I felt sad as I knew the otters wouldn’t come back. I went every day still to look for them, even walked much further around the bay where I often watched them heading. There were more rocks on the other side of the bay but they were difficult to get to, which is where they are probably playing and fishing now.

When the tide was out one day I went over to some of the rocks to look for evidence, there was spraint, (old and new, but not fresh), and lots of crab shells and legs, chewed molluscs and bivalves that had clearly been cracked open by very sharp otter teeth.
Otter spraint

Otters

Not surprising when you see their teeth.

OttersI’ve put my video clips all together for a little otter fest, I hope you enjoy.

I had given up hope of seeing otters again, but when we were waiting for the first ferry of the day to go home I caught a brief glimpse of another otter on the shore at Cuan Sound. It seemed to me they were saying goodbye, or was it me saying goodbye to the otters?

I feel so privileged.

3 Weeks On An Island

I’m heading off to a tiny Scottish island for 3 weeks. To get to the island you have to take what is known as the ‘Bridge Over The Atlantic’ to Seil Island, then a small ferry takes you across to Luing (pronounced Ling).

Cuan Ferry to Luing
Luing is part of the Inner Hebrides archipelago; it’s one of the ‘Slate Islands’.
Map of LuingI have visited a few times as a day tripper but I want to find out what it’s like to live there for a little while. There is another reason too, but that’s for another post with a bit of luck.

The island is only 6 miles by 1.5 miles, it has the Atlantic Islands visitors centre which serves amazing seafood and cakes made by women from the island. It also has some information about the area.
Atlantic Islands Centre, Luing
Seafood chowder from Atlantic Islands Centre on Luing
There’s one shop on the island which sells a bit of everything.
Luing storesLuing one of my favourite places, I  have been before for a days walking but never stayed there. There are such lovely inspirational views everywhere, and there is THE other reason I mentioned too.

I have packed clothes, food, wine, midge repellent, more midge repellent, insect bite cream, midge nets, and Skin So Soft, I’m not taking any chances with those pesky midges. I go to Scotland regularly and I’ve never had any real problems with them in the past so fingers crossed. Also, I have my walking boots, waterproofs, pop up hide, camera and everything I think I might need including art and craft supplies.

I know most people take minimal art supplies on holiday but that won’t be enough should it rain for 3 weeks so I have stuffed as much as I can into a box and a bag. I bought a small sewing machine as I have a bit of a plan of what I want to do while I am on the island should it rain a lot. I have a basic eco printing kit with me, and as I still had a bit of space in the box so my lino printing stuff went in at the last minute.

Here it is all is nicely packed up ready for the off.
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UntitledHopefully I can share my walks, wildlife spotting, and art making with you over the next 3 weeks.

So this slate miners cottage will be our cosy little home for 3 weeks.
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This is the view from the back garden.
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I  intended posting whilst on the island but couldn’t  upload my photos.  I have just got home and I will tell you all about my little adventure in my next few posts.

Working with the seasons- new foliage.

I have been waiting eagerly for the leaves to come on the trees so I can do some printing.

We have been out walking most days during this amazing fine spell, the river is very low.

River walk

River walkIt’s lovely to see all the wildflowers coming into bloom, but I don’t pick those.

Primroses.

River walkBlackthorn.River walk

English bluebells.River walk

Cowslips.
UntitledCommon violets.River walkRed campion.River walk

There were swans, ducks, geese and herons nesting on the pond. Also frog spawn and lots of small fish as well as an eel in the burn.

River walkThe lambs are growing fast
River walkDo you ever get the feeling you are being watched?  🙂

River walkI noticed the field maple and sycamore trees had small leaves and flowers so I picked a few to eco print.

UntitledThey worked quite well but I should have used heavier paper as I tore some of the sheets when they were wet so I will have to cut them down a bit.
UntitledI have blue bells in my garden so I tried the hammering technique to transfer the print but it just transferred a mushy mess, for now I will stick to boiling and steaming .

I am really enjoying working with the seasons but I think Spring is a time where it’s hard to keep up with all that’s bursting into life around me.

Happy Easter!

What glorious weather we have had the past few days, I  hope it lasts a little longer.  I’ve had quite a busy spell getting gallery stock made, but now it’s family time. It’s not often that both grown up kids are home at the same time so we are just chilling out, enjoying each other’s company and catching up over good food and long walks.

I’m determined to have some knitting time though, I  fitted some in while sitting in the garden, the aran jumper is nearly finished now.

It was hazy today but very warm, the photos aren’t so good so here are some pictures from our walk along the river a couple of days ago. I love the abstract marks, colours and texture in these photos.

Along the river

Along the river

The light was beautiful.

Along the river

The water was incredibly clear.

Along the river

Along the riverIt was such a calming walk, we didn’t see anyone once we got out of town. I love this little vignette under the bridge, it’s hard to think of this gentle river as the raging torrent that has flooded the area several times.

Along the river

I hope you are enjoying your easter weekend whatever you are doing.

Jill