Tuesday, August 27, 2019

August in Paxton and The Borders

I often feel summer in the Scottish Borders begins to wane somewhere between the 5th and 10th of August, when nearly three and a half months of long, light nights (visibility almost up to 22.45 pm at peak times) suddenly start to dramatically draw in and we sometimes get three weeks of cool, grey skies before the blue skies and fresher air of early September heralds the beginning of autumn. While August is still a comparatively sticky month, in the Borders, we do not get anywhere near the levels of humidity that London and the South-East of England are afflicted by during the same period. There are a few delightfully warm, blue sky days, though, but a couple of them are soon tempered by a cooler, fresher day to follow.

The lawns are still lush and green, fed well by August’s intermittent soft summer rain and the hollyhocks and late clematis are in bloom. The hydrangeas are only just coming into bloom. Dahlias and fuchscias are still healthy, although, just like further south, the hanging baskets are starting to droop as each week passes.

We tend to stop filling our bird feeders for a few months in high summer, as the gardens birds feed off bugs, midges and worms as opposed to endless peanuts and dried mealworm. The ubiquitous starlings are still around, of course, but lots of other garden birds are making their presence felt - blue tits, great tits, sparrows and siskins - while swallows and house martins are nesting under the houses’ eaves and constantly swooping around. 

Our cats are loving the warm weather during this period, spending still nights outside before coming in around 6-7 am and, during the day, finding shady spots under bushes to sleep most of their days away. 

The farm fields have been full of golden hay bales since the beginning of August, what were once green crop-filled fields are now shorn to the ground. The colour of many of the fields is golden a full month before their equivalents  much further south. 

On one of our cycles recently, We saw a roe deer trotting down the side of the road quite happily, keeping sensibly to the edge. Upon seeing us, it scarpered, remarkably performing a standing jump, like a cat, to scale a five foot plus hedge into a nearby copse. 

A nice place to visit in August is the coastal town of Dunbar, particularly on a blue sky day, where the natural red stone of the rocks on the delightful cliff top walk is highlighted beautifully. A walk from the Chain Bridge to Horncliffe along the river is pleasurable, as is an always invigorating walk up Northumberland’s Brough Law.

Brough Law Hill Fort


Thursday, August 15, 2019


Dunbar is a small coastal town in East Lothian, Scotland, about 30 miles East of Edinburgh and 29 miles north of Berwick-Upon-Tweed. The town is easily accessible by road via the A1 or by rail. This former royal burgh is the birthplace of John Muir, an explorer, naturalist and influential conservationist. North of the picturesque harbour is the John Muir Country park and a coastal path known as the John Muir Way. At the northern end of the town centre  the ruins of Dunbar Castle proudly overlook the harbour and the sea. 

The name Dunbar is derived from the Gaelic word Dùn Barra, meaning "summit fort". The town dates back to at least the Iron Age with evidence of a an old defensive fort. It is thought that St Cuthbert  was born in Dunbar in 634 and worked as a shepherd before becoming a monk in Melrose. Dunbar was originally part of Northumbria but after the battle of Carham in 1018 when Lothian was ceded Malcolm II the town was finally acknowledged as part of Scotland. 

In 1072 Dunbar was included in a land grant by Malcolm III to his cousin  the exiled Earl ofGospatric of Northumbria. The grant included Dunbar and an extensive area of East Lothian and Berwickshire. The Gospatric family founded the family of Dunbar, the head of the house filling the position of Earls of Dunbar and March. Gospatric built the first stone castle in Dunbar and the town steadily grew becoming a royal burgh in 1370. 

Both the Castle and Town were fought over by both England and Scotland and although the castle withstood many sieges the town was frequently burnt. Although the castle was deliberately destroyed in 1568 the town continued to flourish and both a fishing port and agricultural centre. In 1650 the Scottish army were heavily defeated by Olive Cromwell and his parliamentary army in the "Battle of Dunbar". In the nineteenth century the town became a popular holiday and golfing resort, becoming famous for its "bracing air". 

Dunbar Castle
Although a stronghold existed from at least the ninth century the ruins of Dunbar Castle date from the twelfth century The red stone castle was built by the Earl Gospatric and was one of the strongest fortresses in Scotland. It was built overlooking the town and the sea and although it suffered may sieges the castle never succumbed remaining until it was deliberately destroyed in 1568. 

John Muir Country Park
The John Muir Country Park is an area of woodland, grassland and stunning , rugged  coastline stretching from Dunbar to Tyninghame. The John Muir Way runs through the park on its way to North Berwick and the ruins of Dunbar Castle lie just within the park.