Friday, 27 December 2019

DECEMBER IN PAXTON AND THE BORDERS

December this year has been very cold, with bitter winds and regular frost. On the days that it has not been quite so cold there has been heavy rain, although not as much as we had in November. Fortunately Christmas Day dawned crisp and cold with blue sky and sunshine and a frost that remained all day.

After seemingly months of Christmas adverts on TV, it is finally the month of Christmas and many houses in the village are tastefully decorated (some far too early on 1st December, though!). Out house becomes a grotto for two weeks either side of Christmas only.

There is not too much happening either in the garden or in the countryside. The leaves are pretty much all off the trees now, which have gone spidery for three or four months although we discovered our first tulip shoot poking through the ground today (the 18th). It is amazing to think that it is still four months or so before it will flower. 

There has not been any snow this year so I make no apology for posting some snowy December pictures from 2017.
















Monday, 25 November 2019

NOVEMBER IN PAXTON AND THE BORDERS

November (and late October) has brought some serious rainfall, dark afternoons and a big increase in leaf fall, many of which lie on the ground in bright shades of orange and red. The country roads have become extremely muddy and cycling brings the annual annoyance of a couple of punctures (one for each of us) from thorns lying in the ground from freshly cut back hedgerows. Thank goodness for the invention of self-sealing “slimed” inner-tubes!

The garden and hedgerows are now completely orange (they turned at the end of October) although the trees are now pretty bare. What is good about autumn up here in the Scottish Borders is that it is proper autumn - increasingly chilly with frosts on occasions as opposed to the South of England where we used to live where you often had a perpetual Indian Summer throughout October and mild temperatures in November. None of that here - heaters on, big jumpers on. Great stuff. 

The bird life has changed, many migratory species have left and for a fair few weeks, “V” formations of geese have passed over, honking continually and enthusiastically to each other as they leave us for another year. Last year, remarkably, we were briefly visited by a pair of bright green, red-billed Ring-Necked Parakeets. Apparently these tropical-looking birds have small colonies in Greater London and also here in our Scottish Borders. They stayed for one day and were gone.

This November has been one of the wettest for many a year. Fields are saturated but thankfully, we don’t get flooded here, but the nearby River Tweed is very high and the burns that flow Into it in the grounds of Paxton House are also at very high levels, running in fast torrents into the Tweed. 

After the rains, some much colder weather has taken over and mornings are white with frost, some of which is staying for the whole day. Cycling on the country roads is getting icy and more than a little hazardous at times. Probably best to leave it until spring. 

November is a dark, dull month wherever you are in the country and here is no different.

The Parakeets can be seen on the third photograph near the left hand bird feeder

















Tuesday, 29 October 2019

OCTOBER IN PAXTON AND THE BORDERS

Within the first week of October, there are no doubts that Autumn is here - the air is colder, leaves are coming down, the mornings are dark and the heating needs to be used when you rise. The days of blue skies and sunshine that still occur a couple of times a week are now accompanied by a much fresher, colder air. 

In a reverse of the traditional growth cycle in the garden, the pampas grass that has lain fallow in the summer suddenly grows up full and proud again, providing a spectacular display for the oncoming winter. 

October is a month of preparation - for winter in the putting away of the summer garden furniture and protecting the roots of delicate plants such as clematis with compost mulch, and for spring in the planting of bulbs - crocuses, daffodils and  tulips. There is also the chopping down and removal of much of summer’s dead growth from bushes and plants. There is nothing quite so invigorating as an autumn day spent in the garden undertaking these tasks. 

The Virginia Creeper that runs along a large expanse of one of our garden fences turns bright red in the last weeks or September and stays so well into October, giving some wonderful Autumn colour. By the end of the month. however, it is gone. The end of the month is also time to trim the long hedgerow that forms one edge of the garden. 

So, there goes October, a month that began with the vestiges of late summer just about holding on ends with the dark, gloomy feel of early winter. The clocks have gone back now and it is dark at 4-4.30 pm. The last few days has seen the arrival of light frosts in the early mornings, winter is approaching. It has been very much a month of transition.
















Saturday, 19 October 2019

JED WATER


Jed Water

The Jed Water, a tributary of the River Teviot is over 20 miles long flowing from its source in the Cheviot Hills into the River Teviot at Jedfoot Bridge.  The River flows past Jedburgh Abbey where in the past it was the main source of water for the monks living in the Abbey and once powered a watermill in the town of Jedburgh


Jedburgh


Thursday, 26 September 2019

SEPTEMBER IN PAXTON AND THE BORDERS

September is definitely an autumn month here in The Borders. “Indian summers” are rare, despite it often being a bright month.  There is a clear drop in temperatures as we hit September, almost as if a gauge has been turned down. This year, the surprising heat of August’s end has given way to much cooler temperatures within a matter of days. The sun is not quite as high in the sky and its warmth is waning. The sunbathing we did only four days ago now seems incomprehensible. The bikini and shorts of the end of last month have been replaced by long trousers and an extra layered jacket when cycling.

However, the angle of the sun in September leads to a fair few golden, peaceful days early on, and there are certainly plenty of lovely days to experience in this transitional month. It is definitely no longer a summer month up here but many of summer’s characteristics can still make an appearance, particularly at the beginning of the month - warm afternoon sunshine, deep blue skies and long shadows. The heather on the hillsides is just starting to bloom with an array of purple/pink hues.

That said, a week into September and it seems to have become autumn overnight - temperatures have seriously dropped, particularly noticeable in early morning and late night, and the lighting up time seems to move on about forty minutes with each passing night!

As the month progresses, the bales harvested in August are collected up and often stacked in gravity-defying towers at the edge of the fields. Grain is processed too, and a continual noise comes from the farm’s siloes. August into September is a busy time in the fields and farmyards. Before too long, half way through the month, the straw is collected up and stored away, and the fields now get ploughed and sown. 

Our garden rowan trees are now showing off their bright orange berries, which is a regular sign of autumn’s arrival, as is the always pleasurable mid-month blackberry picking. A winter of monthly blackberry and apple crumbles follows.

Very surprisingly, the 20th and 21st were as hot as midsummer, which was quite unusual. 

By the last week of the month the swallows have suddenly gone and the leaves have started to fall. Autumn is here. 


















Tuesday, 27 August 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




Dunbar

Thursday, 15 August 2019

DUNBAR



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. 

History
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.
















DUNBAR



Dunbar is a small coastal town in East Lothian, Scotland, about 30 miles East of Edinburgh and 29 miles North of Berwick-Upon-Tweed. Dunbar is about 22 minutes from Berwick-Upon-tweed by train or 30 minutes by road via the A1.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. 

History
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 Gospatric 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 of 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.