Tuesday, January 03, 2017

East of Durisdeer

The village of Durisdeer, just off the A702 not far from Thornhill, was my starting point for a short walk on January 2, 2017.

Nothing too strenuous - it's been a while since I ventured far from Skip, and this was straightforward walking.

Did I say it was a cold, frosty morning?

It didn't take me long to reach my destination - Kettleton Byre bothy.

Kettleton Byre is maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association. I found it in good clean condition, and obviously well looked after.

It's a small bothy, with just the one room. Home from home!

It's always fun to look through the bothy book, and see who's been there.

The bench outside the bothy door was perfect for lunch. It's a wild spot though, and picnics outside in January would be the exception rather than the rule!

Did I say that the bothy had all mod cons!

It is 'big sky country' hereabouts!

Old wall, new fence.

This is the view to the west from near the bothy! What a perfect day for a walk.

We had this long conversation on the walk out, as I did my Dr Doolittle thing! And then of course I had an ear worm for the rest of the day. "If we could talk to the animals ... " (Sammy Davis version here.)

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Dawn on a New Year

So, another year! Should I make resolutions? Probably not. But fingers crossed for a peaceful year in a world that is becoming increasingly alien to an old guy like me. Still, I'm very content here at Skip. Annandale is a wonderful place to live.

Highlights of 2016? There was a visit to the trolleybus museum at Sandtoft, see here. That was a fun day.

I've not done as many walks as I would have liked, although this stretch of the Southern Upland way was explored back in March.

With the Carlisle-Settle rail line still closed, there were fewer local opportunities to experience steam locomotives close up, as few rail tours came up to Carlisle during the year. However, I did get up close and personal with Flying Scotsman, and that was exciting, see here. Size isn't everything of course, and I enjoyed this day with some wee locos at Threlkeld.

The new camera got put through its paces when a couple of red squirrels decided to visit Skip regularly in June and early July, see here. I wonder if they will come back in 2017?

August was a fun month with lots of really enjoyable days at the Edinburgh Festivals - and I made a number of blog posts. I'm the same age as the Edinburgh Festival, which is 70 this year. Highlight of many good days was making my stage debut, thanks to Countermeasure, that story here!

I do lots of things in my life that I don't blog about. This year I received a 'commission' to photograph some sites associated with Sir Walter Scott. This took me to a number of places I've never visited before, including Smailholm Tower, above. It's always a challenge with 'commissions' to get the best photo, prevailing weather and time constraints notwithstanding. But I do like a challenge!

I can thoroughly recommend this biography of Sir Walter, written by a good friend, and recently published by the National Museums Scotland, see here. Having just finished reading it, I realise just how little I knew of Sir Walter Scott before. It gets five stars from me.

Generally though, the Skip Cottage blog wasn't as busy as in previous years. My efforts have been directed towards keeping the Curling History Blog active, and researching curling history articles for that site has kept me occupied and engaged, and has been a rewarding experience. Even more so in 2017 I hope.

A Happy and Healthy New Year to everyone!

The top photo is of dawn on December 16, 2016, taken from outside Skip Cottage. I looked out of the window to see this sky and the toast went on the floor as I rushed to find the camera!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 21

Some three miles east of Lockerbie, on the road to Langholm, is Tundergarth Church.

In the cemetery adjacent to the church there is a small stone building. This is where I go to remember those who died when Pan Am flight 103 was blown up by a terrorist bomb on December 21, 1988. Of course, just outside Lockerbie itself, there is the Garden of Remembrance and the Lockerbie Disaster Memorial, in Dryfesdale cemetery. But the memorial at Tundergarth is very special.

One reason it's there is because the nose section of the airliner came down in a field just across the road from the church. You will have seen the photograph - everyone has.

Tundergarth is a place to visit on one's own. I have often taken visitors there. I wait outside and let them explore the place in their own time. It is one small room. On a table against one wall there are two books. This is one - and turning the pages of this book brings home the magnitude of what happened.

Each page of the book has one name, beautifully inscribed thereon. Just one name on each page, and as you turn over the pages the extent of the loss becomes more and more evident. It is a large book.

It is one thing to say that 270 people died. It is quite another to give each of these people a name.

Back in 1988, there was no Internet nor World Wide Web. Today of course, one can just search for information on the bombing, and about those who died. Having opened the book today, randomly at the name of Sarah Susannah Buchanan Philipps, it was to find she was one of the thirty-five students from Syracuse University who were killed that night. She is not forgotten. Material about her is held in the Syracuse archives, see here, and you can read this personal tribute on the Web.

On the same desk is a copy of On Eagles' Wings, a collection of photos and information on all 270 people who were killed. This book, first published in 1990, was compiled in remembrance of the victims, by Georgia Nucci, whose son Christopher Jones was aboard the flight. Most of the information in the book was collected from the victims’ families and was gathered from obituaries. Some pages are left blank respecting the wishes of the families.

I have never been able to read more than a few of the pages when visiting Tundergarth. It is an emotional experience to even try. Away from the memorial, one can appreciate Georgia's work more dispassionately. The book is now available online, via Syracuse University archives, see here.

Just reading the prefaces to the first and second editions, pages 6 and 7, gives an understanding of Georgia's motives, and why there are blank pages.
There is a Visitors' Book too, at Tundergarth. And it is emotional to read the entries in that. Twenty-eight years on, family and friends still visit Lockerbie to remember those who died. They are not forgotten.

Terrorism never seems to be out of the news these days. The many victims should always be more than a number in a news report. This sandstone plaque is on the wall at the Tundergarth memorial. One hopes that the sentiment is true as we go forward into a new year.

Photos © Skip Cottage.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

A Curling Pond 'Visitation'

I'm near Johnstonebridge on a sunny December day, heading along this old trackway.

This ditch at the field's edge does suggest that winter hereabouts is not always so dry!

This old beech tree has taken a bit of a battering!

We've not had a real storm this winter (yet), and some leaves are still clinging to the branches.

This is the Plucktree Burn, which will eventually join the Annan. It may not look much, but is of significance to today's story.

The old OS 6in map, surveyed in 1857 and published in 1861, shows an area near Johnstonebridge as 'Used as Curling Pond'. The Historical Curling Places website (here) shows places where curling was played in times past - on lochs and artificial curling ponds of various kinds. Sometimes an area of flooded field was pressed into use, but such sites are rarely recorded on old maps. The Johnstonebridge place, with its description 'Used as Curling Pond', is unusual to see on an old map.

The area is crossed by the Plucktree Burn, and it does not take much imagination to see how the burn could be dammed to make a low lying area of field into a temporary pond, and on freezing this would become a safe place to curl.

The area as it is today, looking down from the north west.

A closer view from the west. A fenced off area today is still very wet, the hollow draining the surrounding sloping fields, and crossed by the Plucktree Burn.

The 'curling pond' lies just to the north of Skemrigghead Farm at Johnstonebridge. One can find references to play there in the middle of the nineteenth century, such as this one from 1845 which describes an inter-parish match on 'Skimrigg Loch'. The place is referred to elsewhere as 'Skemrigg Loch' and 'the loch at Skemrigghead'.

The curling pond is not marked on later OS maps. Visiting the site this month, it was fun to imagine the contests that had taken place there on winter days more than 170 years ago!

The differences that 170 years make in the evolution of a sport - the European Curling Championships at the Braehead Arena last month!

Photos © Skip Cottage. Other images courtesy of the National Library of Scotland maps website, here, and the British Newspaper Archive, here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

First frosts

The autumn colours have been spectacular this year. These trees were near Saughtrees.

Interested locals on my walk.

Competition time. Spot the odd one out!

Back at Skip, my maple has been stunning this year.

Makes for colourful leaf litter!

The first frosts have taken out the dahlias and the begonias, but this splash of colour seems to be defying the onset of winter. A little strawflower has been my garden find of the year. I've mentioned it before back in June, see here, and it has delighted me all summer and autumn.

I planted up a couple of containers to overwinter, and I thought I was all finished. But the various bulb offers at the garden centre were just too tempting, so it was more compost to be purchased, and more containers looked out. November and December are not my favourite months, but usually by January, there are signs of new growth to herald in 2017. And before we know it will be daffodil time again!

Pix © Skip Cottage

Monday, October 24, 2016

Autumn 2016

Something tells me that autumn is here!

There's good colour on the beech trees this year. The big storms are yet to arrive, so the leaves are staying on the branches, for the moment at least!

Looking east towards the West Coast Main Line. Skip has yet to see the first frost of the autumn but it must be imminent.

Parts of the garden still look colourful. My bed of dahlias has done OK this year.

I just love the vibrant red of this one.

New this year. I love the colour.

This Michaelmas Daisy was a random purchase at the garden centre a couple of months ago, and is absolutely delightful!

Containers have done well this year. I cut back this tub of snapdragons last month ready for the compost heap, but they've had another growth spurt in recent weeks, and seem to be determined to flower into November!

I've planted up some containers with bulbs for spring. But this polyanthus, a leftover from last year, has decided to give me an autumn smile!

Cotoneasters are just so easy to grow, and this C. horizontalis, with its red berries against the white wall, stands out this year. Grown from a cutting too.

My New Year's resolution might be to do more with the garden next year. In June this year, the weather wasn't the best, so it got a bit neglected early on, and I never really got on top of it later. Roll on 2017! I wonder what sort of winter it's going to be?

Pix © Skip Cottage