Posts Tagged ‘River Tweed’

Visit to Peebles and Dawyck Gardens

November 5, 2018

It’s 3 years since Peebles featured on the blog here and 4 years since I highlighted signs in Peebles here. This was a coldish but sun-filled day and the autumnal colours were having their annual beauty contest in the trees by the river and on the river paths. This is the view from the main road bridge in Peebles, looking along the river Tweed.


Looking down the river Tweed from the Tweed Bridge in Peebles (Click on all photos to enlarge)

The next photo is taken from the other side of this bridge and looks over the town centre towards the hills in the distance. The Leckie Memorial Church spire is prominent and there is a range of colours in the trees.


Looking over the park and town towards the hills in Peebles

What we did not know at this point, was that the colours seen from the bridge paled into insignificance compared to what we were about to experience. Our main purpose for the day was to visit Dawyck Gardens which is an offshoot of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (good photos). The name “gardens” is rather a misnomer for the Dawyck experience as it consists mainly of woodland, but this is extremely well nurtured woodland, with labels helping you to identify the many variety of trees. The site changes with the seasons, with swathes of snowdrops and daffodils in spring,  and beautiful azaleas in summer. We were treated to the autumn spectacle. Having paid to enter at the well-stocked shop, you can follow a variety of paths through the woods. In addition to the splendour of the scenery, this is good exercise as you walk to the top of the gardens and through the different areas. We were alerted to the domed acer (photo below) near the start of the walk and a stunning sight it is. The acer or Japanese maple is relatively common in the UK but we had never seen one as eye-catching as this sudden splash of deep pink in the midst of evergreens. It is also a very shapely tree.


Domed acer in Dawyck Gardens

There is also a magnificent range of impressive Douglas Fir trees, named after the Scottish botanist David Douglas, and many of the trees here were grown from seed, whose descendants were brought to Scotland by David Douglas. The one shown below is an excellent specimen and it is only when stand underneath one of these trees that you get to appreciate their height, solidity and what looks like bubbling growth. These trees dominate their surrounds and while the other trees may appear smaller, you appear very small indeed.


Douglas Fir at Dawyck Gardens near Peebles

There are a number of benches in the woods and taking a seat in one of the benches at the top of the forest, you are rewarded with stunning views. The photo below shows one such view, looking at a wide variety of trees and the hills above Peebles in the background. As your eye wanders across the scene, you go from the multi-coloured and multi-patterned deciduous trees to the larger and smaller fir trees, with the smaller ones making elegant green triangles on the leafy ground. You can sit for quite a while here and always catch something different as you survey this aesthetically pleasing landscape.


Dawyck Gardens looking over the hills near Peebles

There is a huge variety of trees here and some are quite unusual, such as the sorbus munda belowWhat was fascinating about this tree was that, as you approached it, you feared for its survival because it was covered in lichen. However, another visitor with good knowledge of trees told us that the lichen was a sign of a very healthy sorbus munda, despite the fact that the lichen was making the attractive berries quite hard to see.


Sorbus munda at Dawyck Gardens near Peebles

In contrast, the sorbus commixta, a similar tree of Chinese origin, had little lichen and a beautiful display of berries as shown below.


Sorbus commixta at Dawyck Gardens near Peebles

I took many more photos of the trees, the paths and the carpets of leaves – too many to show here. I leave you with a video of part of this wonderful forest, to which we shall return in the spring. We are off to Australia and New Zealand for 3 weeks in a few days time, so blog posts may be more intermittent than usual.



Snake man and ducklings

June 2, 2016

I was showing my grandchildren this photo of the Snake Man in Wagga Wagga and it got me wondering if he was still active – and he is.


Snake man releasing a brown snake at Pomingalarna Reserve, Wagga Wagga

The photo above was taken in 2004, not long after my wife and I had moved to Wagga Wagga, in South eastern Australia, as I was teaching at Charles Sturt University. We stayed there for 3 years and came back to Dunbar, from where I taught online for another 6 years, going to Australia for 6 weeks each year in October/November. My wife was running with others from Wagga Wagga Road Runners at Pomingalarna Reserve (good photos) and I was walking up one of the hills when we came across a man with a hessian sack and a hooked metal rod. I asked about the man and was told “Aw, look James, it’s the snake man”. As an aside, the word ‘look’ here does not mean ‘have a look at this’ but is a word Australians use to explain something. I always joked with my students that I was called “Luke James” in Australia. I asked the Snake Man what he was doing and he took out the snake in the photo and released it into the nearby bush. I enquired about what kind of snake he was releasing. “The second most dangerous snake in the world” he told me. It was a brown snake and, to my horror, he was releasing it just a few metres from the running track where the runners were soon to pass. He assured me that the runners were in no danger and that people who were killed by snakes in Australia were almost always trying to kill the snakes. I looked him up recently and Tony Davis (up to date photo) is still going strong, with people still regularly phoning him up to remove snakes from their houses and take them to Pomingalarna – photo below with other wild life on the reserve.


Kangaroos at Pomingalarna Reserve, Wagga Wagga

Back here in Scotland, we met old friends in Peebles (good photos) which I’ve featured on this blog (good photos) a few times. We were walking along the banks of the River Tweed (good photos) when we saw a mother duck and her 8 ducklings swimming together (1st photo) and then slightly apart (2nd and clearer photo).


Duck family in Peebles


Duck family in Peebles

By coincidence, that day I’d turned over a page in Chris Rose’s book In A Natural Light and it was a painting of a duck family also. I’ve had Chris’ permission to reproduce some of his paintings with acknowledgement. The painting is wonderfully realistic but also so vibrant in its use of light and shade and delicate colour. For the mother duck, this is a serious business, as it was for the mother duck in Peebles.



Chris Rose Tufted Duck Family from the book ” In a Natural Light”.

Visit to Peebles and spooky whales research

February 15, 2015

We set off for Peebles on a bright sunny morning here in Dunbar, with a big Australian cloudless sky above. We headed for Peebles and took the country way, via Dalkeith (good photos). We got to Peebles and went to the excellent Coltman’s deli and restaurant for coffee/tea and a superb fruit scone (big enough for two), butter and homemade strawberry jam. We changed into walking boots and headed along the banks of the River Tweed, under the main bridge – photo below.

Tweed bridge at Peebles

Tweed bridge at Peebles

We followed the river to a metal bridge and crossed to the far side. From there we headed towards Neidpath Castle, on the site of which a castle has stood from about 1190, with the present castle built in the 1390s. It remains an imposing site and on Sunday, there was still snow lying on the approach to the castle, as in these photos.

Niedpath Castle, Peebles

Neidpath Castle, Peebles

Neidpath Castle, Peebles

Neidpath Castle, Peebles

The railway used to run through Peebles and part of the track is now a walking/cycling path. An impressive bridge remains, giving views up and down the Tweed. The bridge is a magnificent structure (see below) with its numerous arches and strong railings.

Looking up at the old railway bridge, Peebles

Looking up at the old railway bridge, Peebles

The old railway track over the bridge, Peebles

The old railway track over the bridge, Peebles

After our walk, we headed to one of our favourite eating places, the excellent Kailzie Gardens Restaurant. There 2 impressive wood burning stoves in the restaurant. We’ve had wood burning stoves in previous houses, and there is no better heat. There is a danger if you sit facing the stove, as you can easily get mesmerized by the constant changing of shape and colour of the live flames. Our thickly cut lamb was delicious and it was served with a jus that had a real depth of flavour. I asked for more and was quickly given a wee jug of this flavoursome accompaniment to the meat. This restaurant makes the best Border Tart, the subject of much praise on a previous blog.

My research on the stranding of 147 whales at Thorntonloch Beach, near Dunbar in May 1950 is nearly complete and I have interviewed about 2o people who went to see the whales. I also interviewed Dr Patrick Miller an expert on whales from St Andrews University. He told me that there was no defining theory of why pilot whales strand themselves in large groups. I was looking for some articles on this yesterday and up on my screen came news reports that 200 whales had been stranded on that day at Farewell Spit, near Nelson in New Zealand. The BBC News report contains a striking, if somewhat distressing video. It was quite spooky to come across this report on the day that I was researching the stranding of whales.

Kailzie Garden Restaurant, rain and evening sky

June 5, 2014

On our trip to Peebles (see 28 May posting), we enjoyed a pleasant walk along the River Tweed (nice photos on this site a) and enjoyed the reflections of the trees in the river – Photo 1.

River Tweed at Peebles

River Tweed at Peebles


After our walk, we went for lunch to Kailzie Gardens Restaurant. This very attractive restaurant, set in an old stables building, is part of Kailzie Gardens, an extensive area of garden with spectacular displays of flowers at different times of the year. We go back to this restaurant because of the quality of the food and the service. The lunch menu presents the visitor with a problem – what to choose? The very tasty smorrebrod or the flavoursome quiche or the smoked haddock risotto, which is light in texture but has a depth of taste. I enquired on a previous visit how the chef got his risotto so light and he said that it was done simply with butter and parmesan – yes, and a lot of practice. There are always specials on the board and on this visit, I went for the pork belly with mash potatoes and savoy cabbage. I like pork belly but am wary of ordering in restaurants unless I know it will be crisp on the edges and full of flavour in the middle. This pork belly – see Photo 2 – was the best I’ve had. The crackling was very crisp but not overdone i.e. it does not threaten your teeth with its hardness, the meat was tender, the mash was creamy and the gravy had the depth and quality of a good red wine. On the photo, you will see a small sliver of smoked eel at the side of the plate. On of our party had smoked eel and scrambled eggs, and the eel was gently cooked and I liked the mild taste, never having tried eel before. There ensued a discussion in our party about how best to scramble eggs. We all knew how not to scramble eggs e.g. as served in cheap B&Bs and made with eggs and milk. My wife cooks her eggs only with butter, while I like to add a little crème fraiche to mine. We asked about these eggs and were told that the chef used butter, a little rapeseed oil and a teaspoonful of cream. If you visit this restaurant, you must try the warm border tart with ice cream and butterscotch sauce. Border tart comes in a variety of forms and recipes differ e.g. this recipe includes a lemon glaze, which I would not recommend. The Kailzie border tart has crisp pastry with a very fruity filling and the butterscotch is light but adds much to the dish, as does the local ice cream. This is one of the best puddings/desserts I’ve ever had. I forgot to take a photo but you can see one here. This is a restaurant for food lovers, with the food freshly cooked and served by friendly and informative staff, and a chef who is very approachable.

Pork belly dish at Kailzie Gardens restaurant

Pork belly dish at Kailzie Gardens restaurant

Today in Dunbar, the rain was relentless all morning, driven by a cold NE wind – welcome to June in Scotland. Having said that, this is a cold interval in between warmer and sunnier weather. The other day, I turned over my poetry calendar and found the poem Rain by Linda Pastan. It’s a poem that has striking images – “A rage of rain/on the tin roof;/ a hammering/ as of a thousand/ carpenters;/ …. bright sheets/ of water/ blowing about/ in the wind/ like translucent laundry”. John Lennon sang “When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads” in the song Rain and Thomas Hardy’s We sat at the Window has the lines “And the rain came down like silken strings/ That Swithin’s day./Each gutter and spout/ Babbled unchecked in the busy way/    Of witless things”. I like to watch the rain fall from indoors – it’s less alluring when it’s hammering down on your bike helmet, as it was on Monday, and you’ve 10 more miles to go.

Last night was the first brilliant sky of what I hope will be many this summer. There was truly a red sky at night and while this may traditionally be a shepherd’s delight, and promise a beautiful day to come, this morning’s deluge proved it to be an exception to the rule. I love the range of colours you get in skies like these, and never tire of taking photos of these wonder displays of shapes and colours – see Photos 3, 4 and 5.

Evening sky over Dunbar

Evening sky over Dunbar

Evening sky over Dunbar

Evening sky over Dunbar

Evening sky over Dunbar

Evening sky over Dunbar