Bird Therapy

Skylark on Gorse

“Even when the world around us is a dark place, the birds still sing, they still migrate – they’re just being there, being, in a way that perhaps we all aspire to be ourselves”

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

This week is a strange one. It’s annual leave for me, that means I get to take time off from my paid jobs – which I love – to stay home and do my unpaid ones – about which I’m slightly on the negative side of ambivalent. Luckily, the young Ms RR remains in residence and came up with the idea that I should go out! Another strange thing – going out….. We are of course, in Scotland, in Phase 1 of ‘returning to normal’ which means that unless you’re shielding, you can go out within about 5 miles (or not so far that you need to use a toilet in another persons house). Of course going out, when you’re a carer usually involves a lot more than just…..well, going. However, I currently have live-in help in the form of Ms RR, so after considering all of the reasons why I shouldn’t go and failing to come up with a logical one, I went. Alone. On my own. Yet another strange thing.

So, there I was, out, alone. With my walking boots, my book, a flask of tea, a chicken sandwich and a vague sort of plan to walk along the River Tweed from Dryburgh. At the weekend we had a picnic lunch on the banks of the Tweed and then walked a little way along through the meadow grasses – they were stunning, those pink tinted grasses interspersed with white umbellifers and surrounded by beautiful clumps of Russian Comfrey. I decided then that I wanted to come back and here was the perfect opportunity.

Russian Comfrey

I stopped on the way at Scott’s View, just because it is such an amazing view.

The view from Scott’s View

And that’s when it happened! The first thought – that this was silly, that this was a bad idea, that I couldn’t walk along the river bank alone, sit and have lunch alone. Now, for those that know me, this isn’t such a surprising thing – there are lots of reasons why I shouldn’t do this thing on my own, not least of which is that I have a well known propensity for falling down! I’m always falling over, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve arrived home bruised and scratched from taking a tumble into thorny bushes, or down a flight of muddy steps. What if I fell into the river! Or, heavens above landed in a bush and couldn’t get up! Even worse – what if someone saw me!! As well as this possible calamity, there was the ongoing problem of the foot pain, some days a mile is all I can manage without the burning incapacitation of pain in my feet. What if I got to the river and then couldn’t walk back! Also, though I used to walk a lot on my own, when we lived in Cornwall…..things have changed since we moved North and I seem to have had my ability to venture out on foot alone eroded. All this thinking flew through my brain in nanoseconds as I contemplated the view and listened to Alexander Armstrong on Classic FM. What could I do?

In the end, what I did was, start the engine and drive a little further on. I thought that if I got to Dryburgh and strolled just a few yards to the river, that would be enough. I could eat lunch in the company of the ducks and then stroll back again. So it was with some surprise that I found myself pulling into the car park for the viewpoint from the Wallace Statue – a fair walk from Dryburgh – and steeply downhill at that. But here I was. No-one else in the car park, so safe to leave unnoticed, if I changed my mind.

And so it was with some trepidation and a few palpitations that I stepped out of the car, changed into my walking boots and hoisted my backpack onto my shoulders – you’re not a real walker unless you’re carrying a backpack! Off I set, into the woods…..all the while I was telling myself that I only needed to get to the first bench, sit with my cup of tea and then drive on to the next viewpoint. And then…..not 100 steps into the wood, I spied a bird with a long pointed bill working its way in a hopping action up and down a tree trunk! I stood and watched, and I saw another….Tree creepers I thought. Oh how jealous Mr RR was going to be!! I watched them flitting about, every now and then flying off to a further tree and then back again. It occurred to me that they were feeding young, although I could see no nest in the further tree. I stood and watched and tried to catch a photo for many minutes until a sound somewhere nearby sent them skitting away.

Spot the bird!

It wasn’t until today, that I checked the little bit of bird that I’d managed to capture on camera that I realised – not tree creepers at all, the tail is all wrong and these birds were going up and down the tree – tree creepers only go up! The only British birds that go down the tree headfirst are Nuthatches – elusive, and according to the RSPB website, only rarely seen in southern Scotland, they are found in deciduous woodland and nest in natural holes in trees.

Whatever they were, the standing and the watching and the silence had calmed me and I set off determinedly for the river.

“Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose work most modern, mindful stress-reduction therapies are based around, defines mindfulness as ‘paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally’. When applied to birdwatching practice there are evident correlations. You pay attention in a particular and focused manner, not just on birds, but also on the wider environment. It’s very much a purposeful pastime, as it can be accessed almost everywhere. It grounds us in the present moment – here and now……”

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

The path from here down to the pretty village of Dryburgh used to be bordered with dense woodland, but much of this has been thinned now letting in light and air.

Much of the woodland used to screen the William Wallace statue from view before you actually came upon him, but now I can see this massive memorial ahead staring out over the valley towards the Eildon Hills.

Sadly for him, his huge eyes are empty and he stares unseeing at the countryside laid out before him….

From here its downhill along a steep path softly carpeted with beech nut shells, more wood clearing has gone on and the sun is shining through the remaining branches. Through the village and past the currently closed Abbey, and then along the path towards the river. It’s going well!

There’s ploughing just started in a nearby field and in the air, the smell of the newly furrowed earth. As I pass this field, ahead of me I spot a deer, just its head visible above the crops, I stand and watch as it saunters towards a line of trees.

And then I’m on that path alongside the river, walking between the wild flowers and grasses.

I decide that I’m going along as far as the Mertoun Bridge which is about a mile or so and then, if I feel like it, I’ll cross over the bridge and continue to walk along in the same direction looking for somewhere to stop for lunch.

After the meadow, there is a hill up through more woods and then I’m high above the river looking down through the trees on the sand martins and oyster catchers far below. In the field, right next to me as I stand and stare, a dunnock is having a bath in an old water-filled trough. I stay still until he’s finished but then he hops onto a nearby rock and starts drying and preening himself. Joe Harkness talks about dunnocks in his book, he says they are:

“the archetypal ‘little brown job’ which is a term that birdwatchers tend to assign to any small, nondescript and (obviously) brown bird. If you take your time and study one properly, you’ll actually see a deep palette of colours and markings taking shape. Delve further into their detail and you’ll begin to realise just how intricately marked they are.”

Personally, I feel I’ve noticed enough details for now, I’m getting hungry, so selfishly, before he’s halfway dry I decide to move on, finally startling him out of his own meditation and sending him fluttering to the nearest tree.

To get to the Mertoun Bridge I need to descend some roughly cut steep steps and as I approach them I know instinctively that this is danger time! If I’m going to fall….it’s going to be here. The top two steps are completely worn away meaning there’s a huge crumbly leap down to the first safe-looking standing place. Here’s where I turn back…..except without even a hesitation I hang on to a wooden post and lunge down, inelegant but achieved! I manage to come to a stop on the third step with only grumbling knees to show. Ha! Today is not a falling day! Down I go, one slippy slidey step after another until I’m on the road, a big silly smile on my face. Luckily there’s no-one to see and no traffic to bother me as I walk on across the bridge to the footpath on the other side.

The view from Mertoun Bridge…I’m heading for the path in the right hand corner.

More steps down on this side, but safer ones, built out of wood. And then I’m in the woods again walking along beside the river keeping an eye open for a good lunch spot. The path diverts away from the water for a while as the river bank is eroding but its soon back alongside and in the distance I can see a pebbly shore just right for a sit down.

I stay and eat. Across the water a pair of swans and oyster catchers, mallards and gulls. And in the air hundreds and hundreds of sand martins in their continual insect catching flight. I stay for an hour or so just watching.

This swan floated along meditatively for the whole time I was there, oblivious to its surroundings, to the frantic flights of the sand martins (that’s the blur in the foreground) and the high pitched call of the oyster catchers….just all in its own world.

Decision time now….go back the way I’ve come or walk on the other bank of the river through the golf course and into St Boswell’s and back via the chain bridge. The golf course is busy and I’m reluctant to be ducking out of the way of golf balls and not feeling like nodding hello to golfers, so I go back the way I’ve come.

Mertoun Bridge on the way back.

Back up the wooden steps, knees creaking, across the bridge and make for the crumbly steps. I’ve deliberately not thought about getting back up till now, I have to do it so I just keep going. My feet slide under me a couple of times and then its a clamber up to the top over the missing step on hands and knees – even more inelegant! But I make it and set off across the field and back down through the woods, spotting a woodpecker on the way.

It’s a lovely afternoon so instead of heading back through the village, I find a place on the river bank and take out my book. It’s quiet, just the sound of the golfers shouting whatever it is they shout every now and then, and the oyster catchers calling their calls. And then about 20 minutes in…….a huge flock of gulls descend. Time to go!

The timing is right, I’m in need of a cup of tea and because the sun is shining families are coming to the river to paddle and play. I wander back slowly up the hill, past William Wallace and through the woods to the car, feeling quite pleased with myself…..I may do it again one day!


Bird Therapy is a lovely book by a guy who writes about his struggle with his own mental health and how connecting with nature and in particular with birds has helped him in his journey to wellbeing.

In the book Joe talks about a morning when he was ‘awoken at seven by a witch-like din of screeching and cackling from the back garden’. What he finds are ‘eleven shimmering starlings writhing across my feeders, jostling and snapping at each other….’ Well I know just what he means. We have our own ‘murmuration of starlings’ in our back and front gardens. Even as I write this, there must be 50 or so adult and juvenile starlings all trying to crowd onto the single bird feeder in the back garden and a similar cacophony happening in the front! All of the babies are fledged, and all of them are shrieking and screaming and demanding to be fed! Even the cat has retreated indoors and is sulking on the sofa!

Losing Eden

One of the neighbour’s Zwarbles – not delighted to see me so early in the morning!

I’ve been reading ‘Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need The Wild’ by Lucy Jones. It’s an exploration of how and why we need to connect with nature to maintain our physical and mental health.  I don’t think I’ve ever doubted this, but its interesting to read about previous and recent research that is proving that we need to be out of doors, and in touch with the natural environment, to stay healthy.

There’s one particularly fascinating chapter called ‘Equigenesis’ which is a discussion of whether improving our connection with nature can reduce socio-economic inequalities. Lucy Jones argues that alongside the ecological destruction of Planet Earth that we are all participating in “there is a deep inequality in access and connection.  And this is a stain on our society”.  She backs this up by citing research from Professor Mitchell at Glasgow University who suggests that greener neighbourhoods may “reduce the health gap between rich and poor and lead to a better, more equal society”.

All very inspiring and thought provoking – and with that in mind, I wondered why I’ve been reluctant to get out this week when it’s really so easy for me – even in these extreme times. I’ve been busy with work and of course, all of that is online or on the phone at the moment.  I said last time that the focus and anxiety this causes is exhausting – and I’m not alone – so I’ve been looking for ways to relieve this a bit, to gain some energy and enthusiasm. Coincidentally, or maybe not given the numbers of people suffering in this way, this article appeared on the BBC website.

So…I introduced a plan to take a short break before and after every Zoom meeting or online chat. It does work – I might just make a cup of tea, put the washing out or walk around the garden for a few minutes – but it definitely helps. Of course I don’t get as much done….but then I’m not being very effective when I’m so tired anyway.

Anyway – get outside is what I’m saying!  If you can of course, or look out the window, or listen to the birds singing – whatever you can do.

I was awake early this morning and took a walk up the hill towards the village. It was a damp, misty morning and I didn’t really expect to see much. However, just a few yards up the road sitting on a neighbour’s wall was a thrush pleased as punch with himself for catching a worm.


We used to have a couple of thrushes in the garden, but sadly one flew into the studio window one sunny day and died, the other one disappeared after that.

My neighbour tells me that thrushes have a hundred different songs and that they sing each one 3 or 4 times before moving on to the next. This one wasn’t singing as it was full of worm!  Have a listen next time you see or hear one.

The White Dead-nettles are in flower – loved by pollinating insects especially the bumble bees.  Apparently if you suck on the flower you get a drop of delicious nectar – get there early before the bees though!  These are not the stinging variety – and you can eat the young leaves and stems before they flower, raw or steamed or in soup.


A single clump of red campion has appeared on the roadside. According to my medieval flower book this herb was often found in medieval gardens and appears in the borders of 15th century manuscripts.


I saw lots of hares but none of them wanted their picture taken today so I had to be content with views of the misty hills over the field of rapeseed.


Just a little stroll – enough time for everyone else to get up and for Ms RR to produce some delicious sour-dough pancakes for breakfast!

Most of the daffodils are over now – but not these – the exquisite Pheasant Eye Narcissus.

Stay well.

J xx

This Too Shall Pass

An early English citation of ‘this too shall pass’ appears in 1848:

When an Eastern sage was desired by his sultan to inscribe on a ring the sentiment which, amidst the perpetual change of human affairs, was most descriptive of their real tendency, he engraved on it the words: – ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’

(cited by Julia Samuel, 2020)

I’ve just started reading  Julia Samuel’s ‘This Too Shall Pass’ – Stories of Change, Crisis and Hopeful Beginnings which is newly published with commendably appropriate timing.

Here we are in week four of our crisis – I hope you are all doing ok.

Hareheugh Crags – the view from our house

Yesterday we went for a short walk up to Hareheugh Crags, it was not a bad day here, cold wind but some sunshine as well. We can see the Crags from the house – they are a ‘prime example of a volcanic plug with an unusual rock composition’ and a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the rare Northern Brown Argos Butterfly can be seen there. Plenty of butterflies about on our walk but not that one. There are also some quite ‘locally important fauna’ if you go at the right time, which is around now. The only wild flowers we found apart from buttercups and dandelions were these which I think are Wild Pansy………

Sarah Raven says the Wild Pansy has declined due to the use of herbicide and fertilisers.

On the way to the Crags we spotted a Pied Wagtail and I managed to get some photos.


This one was alone as far as I could see but we often see a pair on the hedges and field near the house. Now – Pied Wagtails apparently roost in communes of up to 3,000 – 4,000! I’ve only ever seen one or two at a time – but when they are together they are called a Volery of Wagtails. I looked up volery – it means ‘a flock of birds’!! Haha!!

We sat for a few minutes and looked across to Sweethope Hill and watched the cows grazing before heading home.


This morning I headed out for a very early morning walk. It’s not just that I love walking in the early mornings, its that if you don’t go straight out once you are up, Mojo gives you no peace! She won’t go out on her own at the moment because the blackbirds are nesting in the holly hedge and if they spot her alone, they dive bomb her and she’s such a scaredy cat!  So we have to take her out, if I walk along the road she’ll have a run along with me but she gets nervous if I go too far so she goes home and sits on the wall waiting:

You can see that the mist descended pretty quickly….

There was a lovely light and low lying mist which was just a white cloud in the distance when I started out but soon completely enveloped me so that I turned back. Not that I was worried about getting lost – there’s only one road – but I had been hoping to spot a trio of deer that Mr RR saw yesterday and the mist put paid to that.


By the time I’d got home and had a cup of tea it had cleared!  Anyway I saw one of the wagtails,


a pair of jackdaw which are, I’m fairly sure, nesting in a hole in a tree and I took some pictures of the trees in the mist.

The Jackdaws have been visiting our garden this year as well, I’ve been watching them feeding from the plate of seed and hanging on for dear life to the feeder.

We’ve had some excitement in the field this week as more and more new lambs arrive. Number 20 is proving particularly troublesome, he’s a good climber and has managed on a couple of occasions to climb over the wall and been unable to get back – leaving his mother bleating consistently on the other side while he runs up and down looking for the way back in. Have  you ever tried to catch a lamb? It takes some skill I can tell you – and we don’t have it!  After a couple of attempts  a neighbour opened the field gate and reunited the pair.  Actually talking about trying to catch the lamb reminded me of the time that we were walking on Dartmoor with our lovely friends Mr and Mrs B – when we spotted a sheep with its head stuck in a bucket! Mr RR and Mr B spent a hilarious half hour trying to catch it before we had to give up! I tried to find some photos of that but we have hundreds, if not thousands of photos all over the place!  That might be a project one day!

What else for this week?

Finished a little outfit for the youngest member of the family.


Sorted out my herb garden – I might actually grow some herbs in it this year!

We actually sat in the garden with a glass of wine one evening this week – a rare event requiring a blanket for me!

Made a slide show of a children’s story book so that I can read to little Master RR online tonight and he can see the pictures. I’m not telling you which book in case I’ve breached some sort of copywrite law – but it involves a famous park keeper.

I’m rereading The Malice of Waves by Mark Douglas-Home, a Scottish author. I’ve read all three of his books and really like his writing – I’m sure its time he published a fourth.

I must tell you that as well as all this other stuff – I am working from home which is much more time consuming and exhausting than you might imagine! I have had to learn to zoom, chat online and host virtual drop-ins, and this week I’m apparently going to learn how to use a graphic design app! 🙈

Here are some more of todays early morning photos – from our wildflower patch – a wild teasel loved by our Charm of Goldfinches and Lily of the Valley, named from the Song of Solomon ‘I am a flower of the field and a lily of the valley’.

Anyway – Mr and Ms RR have gone out for a cycle ride so I’m off for a quiet sit in the garden with a cup of tea, a piece of freshly made chocolate flapjack and my book!


Keep well, stay safe and remember – This Too Shall Pass.

Thanks for reading.

J xx

Easter Highlights


So – that was week three of lockdown…how was it for you? Thanks to all of you who commented on last week’s ramblings. It’s lovely to hear from you all.

Highlights for us this week: lots more lambs born and brought to the field, I’ve lost count now but I’m watching them from my window running around amongst the chickens and there are a lot! Hares….what a lot of hares there are at the moment. I went for an early walk one morning and saw six in one field, the cat found one hiding amongst the daffodils in the garden – luckily it was too quick for her and escaped unharmed, and as you’ll see in a minute we watched a couple on our walk yesterday.  A few days ago a deer appeared in the field opposite us. It looked a bit bewildered, the field has recently been ploughed and planted and I think it had lost the way out, we watched it for quite a while before it finally made its way across the burn and up the hill back to the woods.

We haven’t had the sunshine that many of you have had recently, although its not so cold at the moment – just a bit grey. Yesterday morning we repeated last week’s walk, but backwards….makes a change and the views are different!  You can see Hume Castle nearly all the way from different angles.


We started out in bright sun but by the time we got to the garden gate grey clouds had arrived again! There were a few exciting moments – I managed to get my first photo of a yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)!


I’m very pleased about this one, they’re quite flighty and difficult to capture but we spotted this one alone in a tree as we walked towards the farm. Lovely bright yellow head – although I’ve seen brighter ones than this one – my RSPB book says that in winter the yellow is obscured by greenish-brown streaks so I suspect this one is still changing its plumage or it’s a juvenile. They are found throughout Britain but are red listed due to a recent decline in numbers mirroring that of other farmland species – loss of wide field margins, autumn planting and use of herbicides impacting breeding. We have a flock of yellowhammers just along the road from us, and the other day after the field opposite was planted I spotted one in our hedge which then flew down to help itself to the new seed, but apart from that one I haven’t seen them venture this far along the road before.

A little further along the road we saw this pair of hares sitting in a field, we watched them for a little while – as long as you’re quiet they don’t notice you.


Apparently their eyesight is not good but their hearing is. Which explains why out walking in the early mornings they often lollop towards you getting quite close before noticing you’re there.

Remember the Swiss sheep with the curly horns? – they’ve taken their coats off:

and the pony with laminitis has moved back in with his mates:


It’s a lovely walk along this track, there’s a woodland on one side and views of Sweethope Hill on the other, I love woods like this with gnarled old trees and mossy logs,

although I do think my companions are taking social distancing a bit far!

Wait for me!

We spotted a kestrel near the end of the track, hovering and diving, obviously after its lunch, but I couldn’t manage to get a photo.

Walking this way round means we have to go up a long steep hill, my feet were really painful by this point so we took a rest on a mossy boulder and ate chocolate flapjacks – another highlight – the young Ms RR makes delicious flapjacks from an adapted Nigel Slater recipe, they have quickly become my favourite snack!

Perfect for taking a quick break to rest the sore feet.  A flock of sheep watched jealously:


As we got to the top of the hill more ploughing in progress plus the spreading of some very pungent fertiliser! Earlier we’d seen a deer hoof print in the mud and as we walked by all the activity we saw a pair of deer, panicked by the machinery trying to find their way to the woods. They made several false starts before suddenly making a run for it and escaping.


Turning the corner to head downhill towards home, we could see lovely views of the Eildon Hills….


…..and a beautifully mown field – I love a pattern!


There were more highlights to come: A virtual Easter Egg hunt via Zoom with our grandson – we stuck paper eggs up around the room:


and he got a real ‘chocolate ball’ when he answered the clue and found the eggs; he seemed to enjoy it anyway! Also a surprise Easter Egg hunt of our own devised by Ms RR;


and a half eaten mouse left specially for us by Mojo! I decided not to take a picture of it….but here’s the culprit in hiding:


Makes of the week – not so much knitting and sewing this week although I did start a rainbow which needs sewing together. Managed to produce some hot-cross buns although they don’t look much like the real thing, they taste alright. Plus a chocolate sponge cake as I didn’t buy any Easter Eggs – which I made before remembering that Ms RR does not like sponge cake!!  More for me then 😁!

Maybe see you next week! Let me know what you’re reading at the moment…I need a good book!  I hate choosing books online, it’s just not the same as picking it up and flicking through.

Have a good week.

J x

Permitted Daily Exercise!

Well! Can you believe what’s going on? It seems we suddenly have a whole new vocabulary – lockdown, sheltering in place, social distancing..etc. It’s all a bit of a shock isn’t it?  I don’t know about you but I’m finding it better to keep away from social media and to stop constantly listening to the news.

The view from here….

So I thought as I’m lucky enough to live in this lovely place, I’d share some stuff from my local rambles.  I might share some old photos as well, seeing as I haven’t been here for a while. And I might even share some other stuff….I’ll see.

Down the road is a field that is more often than not, flooded. Geese and seagulls love it, occasionally an oyster catcher drops by, and quite often the lapwings feed there:

Lapwings on a local piece of wetland

There’s a flock of lapwings always gliding around a bit further away at the top of the hill – such a lovely sound they make when they’re together in the air. I guess these are the same ones come down for lunch – but who knows? They may not be. A group of lapwings is actually called a Deceit – A Deceit of Lapwings. I looked it up – it comes from the birds’ use of diversionary tactics when they have young in the nest. There’s even a poem called ‘A Deceit of Lapwings’ by David Underdown (

I love lapwings, I love the way they swoop and ‘rollercoaster’ in the sky and when they’re on the ground they’re so funny and proud with their crested heads bobbing about. And their song which you can hear on the RSPB website is very distinctive, they are sometimes known as peewits because of their call. (

Lapwings are on the red list – their numbers were noticed to have declined significantly in the early 1900s due to their eggs being collected for food. The Lapwing Act in 1926 helped them to recover a bit but by the 1940s changes in farming practices caused them to decline again. Cultivation of arable land adds to nesting failures and crop growth shortens the nesting season.


To be honest we didn’t actually see any Lapwings today on our walk, except in the far distance swooping over their usual field. We did see yellowhammers, skylarks, and a buzzard. It was a good day for a stroll – no wind.  It’s windy here on most days so its lovely to be able to get out without being blown along or dodging falling branches!

There are plenty of lambs about now of course, we have some in the field next door, six black and white lambs born to Zwartble ewes:


Today we walked past these amazing rams:

I think these might be Valais Blacknose sheep originating from the Swiss mountains. I’ve no idea why they are wearing coats though – maybe to keep their fleeces clean?

We saw some miniature Shetland ponies, including this little one, separated from her friends because she has laminitis – caused by eating too much and getting too fat!


We caused a good deal of excitement walking past a field of horses – they came running over obviously expecting a snack – sadly we only brought chocolate flapjacks along and we’d already eaten them!


Not so many Spring flowers to be seen here yet – but we spotted some Lesser Celandine, a type of buttercup. It grows anywhere but you shouldn’t think that because of that you can ignore it – its really important for early feeding for many insects and an important source of pollen and nectar. I spotted three bumble bees buzzing around today looking for food so these plants might be common but they are important.

And of course there are daffodils everywhere and continuing the yellow theme, the gorse is in flower!

I can’t leave out the lichen and mosses! We saw these in the woods…

And the views…

Looking across to The Cheviot Hills


Sweethope Hill


Not sure what this building is…….

Stay safe everyone – I may be back soon!

Meanwhile here’s what Mr RR has been up to:IMG_2722

and yet another started but not finished thing by me! 😊


St Abb’s to Pettico Wick

St Abb’s to Pettico Wick and return via Mire Loch (3.5 miles)

The Berwickshire Coastline with Bass Rock in the far distance


(3.5 miles)

It’s me! Some recent lovely comments on my site made me decide to have another go.  Walking is slow and distances are short for me at the moment which is frustrating – but when the weather is being kind, as it was on the coast today, I suppose it doesn’t matter so much if you can’t walk fast or too far!


We usually walk around St Abb’s Head from the village and return via Mire Loch, missing out Pettico Wick.  Today we decided to go and have a look at this little cove starting from the National Trust Car Park just before you get to St Abb’s village and walking through the farm and out along the ‘Discovery Trail’ before diverting along the ‘Lighthouse Loop’ to the sea at Pettico Wick.  It’s all really well marked, the views are lovely – ahead and looking back towards St Abb’s and Coldingham Bay.

Pettico Wick

Pettico Wick – no idea why this pretty bay is called this, apart from that an alternative name is listed by Canmore (Historic Environment Scotland) – Pettycarwick Bay – so it’s probably just got shortened over time and is now known as Pettico Wick. It’s a tiny harbour with a pier which was built so that supplies for the St Abb’s lighthouse could be landed. We didn’t venture down as there were lots of divers milling about preparing to set off on an exploration of the waters.

The coastal habitat here is a Voluntary Marine Reserve and is protected and part of a European Marine Site.  Apparently there are offshore forests of dense seaweed and the area is full of a mix of Atlantic and Arctic plant and animal species.  You can sometimes see dolphin here and we’ve seen a porpoise previously.

We reach the coast and walk a little way along the coast path northwards to see the thousands of guillemots nesting on the cliffs – they’re tightly packed together on the ledges. Puffins, kittiwakes and razorbills are also known to nest here but it’s hard to make them out amongst the hoard of guillemots – collective noun: A Bazaar of Guillemots –   that’s just what it sounds like too!  It’s unwise to get too close to the cliff edge for obvious reasons (!) but also because we know that breeding success in guillemots and kittiwakes is reduced by the presence of people, who cause the nesting birds stress (shown by raised heart rate) and a related energy loss which may lead them to desert their nests.  I don’t have my real camera today so can’t get good pictures of them but here’s one I took another day!

Why do they all face the cliff instead of the sea?

We head back inland along the shore of Mire Loch passing by the reed beds (those black clouds just drifted away!)IMG_1520.JPG

and spotting what we thought might be a reed warbler chattering away.  Looking it up in my book later though, it seems that reed warblers are rare this far north so I think it was probably a sedge warbler – it had that distinctive white stripe above his eye.  They like reed beds and marshes with some trees and bushes, so its perfect for him here.  This is a first for me – never seen one before! No camera!!


It’s getting warm as we head on through the wooded path and I’m beginning to wish I’d left the extra layers at home!  There are plenty of insects enjoying the sunshine including this moth – known as Mother Shipton because it’s wing pattern is said to look like an old witch, you have to look at it for a long time and turn it about a bit but could be I suppose:


There are also lots of wild flowers and I’ve just got my phone which doesn’t do flowers and insects very well.

I did manage a good picture of the brightly coloured Northern Marsh-orchid which seems to be doing well here:


And have a look at the lovely Scots Pine cones and flowers:



We saw the swans nesting last time we were here – and this time they were guarding 5 cygnets from the hovering gulls.  Swimming not far away was a little troop of golden-eye duck – so pretty! So needed my camera!!


There’s a steep uphill climb on the way back and I’m slowing down even more. The best way to deal with being slow I’ve found is to pretend you just wanted to take another picture:

Mr M pretending he’s looking for something on the path and not at all wondering how far behind I am!

The hills around here are full of sheep and they roam freely – or laze about – whichever takes their fancy:

He’s lovely and knows it!


At last I can drag my sore feet through the car park and down to the Old Smiddy Coffee Shop where we stop for a cup of tea and admire the nasturtiums outside of the lovely Number Four Gallery where Mr M dropped of some more arty stuff earlier today….


So there we are, I hope you enjoyed reading about this walk.  I just wanted to give a trio of mentions:

to the St Abb’s Ranger who writes a blog, A Day in the (Wild) Life, which is full of lovely photos and interesting info! I notice s/he’s not posted since November last year but hopefully s/he’s just been super busy and will be back soon!

to the National Trust for Scotland for the amazing information/visitor centre at St Abb’s which is full of interesting and very useful (for me) information boards, ‘what you might see’ books and leaflets:



And to Mr M for this beautiful painting of Mire Loch – which of course we don’t get to keep – it’ll be part of his exhibition in The Robson Gallery, Halliwell House, Selkirk from 16th July and you can see it – and more – there:

Mire Loch by Andrew Major


The Northumberland Coast


24th February 2019

So it’s February already….I’ve not been here since last September but lets not worry about that just now.  We’ve been ‘wandering’ as opposed to ‘rambling’ today on the beach at Cocklawburn in Northumberland.  We’ve not been here before, but the sun is shining and its positively springlike so we decided to take a trip to the beach.  Cocklawburn is part of the Northumberland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Lindisfarne Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  The Northumberland coast has the longest stretch of sand dunes in Britain – most being formed only 300-400 years ago, lovely sandy beaches, castles and pretty villages. There is evidence of human activity stretching back 7000 years.

The majority of the Northumberland coast is limestone, alternating with sandstone and shale.  These hard rocks form platforms which are moulded by the waves and extend out into the sea as reefs or headlands.  The most dramatic of these are formed of Whinsill – or whinstone – an igneous rock (of which our very own house is built).  The patterns formed from the various layers of rock are fascinating and its easy to find fossils among them.

(For some fascinating info about local geology have a look at which has a page about Cocklawburn)

On top of one of the cliffs is a disused limekiln, one of many in the local area.  They were built in the 18th century, as industrialisation was taking off and they supplied the raw material for improving soil fertility – quicklime – which is formed when limestone is heated to 900-1000ºC.


This is a great place for rock pooling and an excited lady stops to show us a photograph of a couple of starfish she has seen.  We don’t see any of those – just limpets and barnacles with a lot of seaweed – which I thought was not going to prove very interesting but I’ve just spent an hour reading all about limpets and barnacles and found out some fascinating stuff!!  For example did you know that although limpets are firmly fixed to the rocks during the day, they graze on algae at night but always return to the same spot when the tide goes out?  This is because they need to protect themselves from drying out so their shells grow to fit the contours of their very own bit of rock ensuring the best seal between themselves and the surface.  Who knew limpets could be interesting?!


And barnacles too – these are crustaceans related to shrimp, crabs and lobsters and they secrete a fast acting cement – one of the most powerful glues known to man. In fact researchers are currently trying to find the best way to use this commercially – according to the National Ocean Service in the US – wouldn’t you just have guessed even barnacles are not safe? (  I’m sure extra-strong barnacle glue is going to be a very valuable resource eventually.  Anyway these tiny creatures don’t move around much – the adult ones just stay glued to the rock by the backs of their heads (ouch!) and feed via ‘cirri’ – feather like appendages which can retract through the top of the outer shell and are used to filter the water for microscopic organisms – when the tide goes out these ‘doors’ close to conserve moisture.

Barnacles – the cement they secrete is what makes them such a problem for sailors who spend hours trying to scrape them off the bottom of their boats – isn’t that right Mr O?

So this is an important area for birds too – part of the reason for its status as an SSSI.  the mudflats are of international importance for several species including the redshank which we saw today – very close by:


I was super-excited (I know – it doesn’t take much!) and was frantically waving to Mr RR who had wandered off to look at pretty rock patterns or search for driftwood or something when I suddenly realised that everyone except Mr RR was looking at me – probably wondering whether I was sinking into the mudflat (although no-one actually moved to save me!).  Of course by the time I’d finished waving my arms around and turned back, the bird had flown – not surprisingly!!

When Mr RR finally caught on and joined me, we spotted a flock of smaller birds which we think might have been dunlin – this is another important bird in the area – but sadly they were a bit far away to see properly.  We also spotted oyster catchers, a heron and could hear skylark on the sand dunes.

Anyway – I hope you enjoyed this little wander.  We aren’t actually managing to walk long distances at the moment but I’ll try and put some more wanderings up and also some links in case you feel like a ramble yourselves – so today have a look at – the coast path is 62 miles long and goes from Cresswell to Berwick-upon-Tweed and is on my list for when long rambles are back on the menu!


Hopefully see you soon.

Julie xx

Beachcombing in North Berwick



Thanks to everyone for letting me know you are still there and reading! It was lovely to hear from so many people.  So we’ll keep going for a while and see how the walking goes….

Tomorrow we’re away to Pitlochry for a couple of days, it sounds like we’re meeting up with Storm Helene so not sure how much walking there will be – but there will be some pretty pictures!  And last week we took a trip to Dryburgh Abbey – one of my favourite local places to go.  However I’m saving that blog for after next weekend when we’re hopefully going back to watch a stonemason at work – maybe he’ll let me have a go!

Anyway – yesterday we took a trip to North Berwick – about an hour away and my favourite beach to walk along.  It was very windy!! We managed a couple of miles each way and then forced ourselves to eat fish and chips before heading home with pockets full of shells and bits of pottery….

North Berwick east along the beach to Longskelly Point and back (4 miles)

Just before we reached North Berwick, as we drove past Tantallon Castle, we could look out to Bass Rock and see the thousands of birds – mostly gannets – swirling and diving all around it so we stopped for some pictures:

Bass Rock – you have to look really closely but all those white dots around the rock are gannets – and the rock is covered in them – its where they live.

The tide was out so we managed to walk the whole way without having to resort to scrambling up and through the golf course.  I was impressed with how little plastic I saw on the beach, there was lots of wood – planks washed in from the sea which Mr RR coveted – and some large tree trunks, but mostly sand, shells and seaweed – just as it should be.

North Berwick beach looking back towards Berwick Law

I tried to identify some of these shells – but impossible without bringing some home and measuring them and peering at them in detail!  Maybe next time.

Seaweed – another identification project for a rainy day!

Here’s a collection of stuff we brought home with us:

Yes….a pair of spectacles! Mr RR is very pleased with them and says they are better than his own! (if they’re yours, just say and we’ll post them on!).

We didn’t bring this home with us – just thought it looked good:



There are a chain of islands in the Firth of Forth in addition to Bass Rock:

Craigleith – meaning Rock of Leith, also home to bird colonies including about 28,000 pairs of puffins – but historically a rabbit breeding warren where the rabbits were bred for food.

The Lamb – very small and apparently locally known now as Uri’s island as it was purchased by Uri Geller in 2009 for £30,000 because he believed Egyptian treasure was buried there.  He spent a day there but has never returned!

Fidra – an RSPB Scotland Nature Reserve.  The lighthouse was built in 1885. The island is said to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

There were plenty of gulls of course:


and gannets:


also a redshank:

The Macmillan Fieldguide to Bird Identification says this is ‘a rather dumpy, featureless wader’ – hmm…I think he’s quite lovely!

There was a crow sitting on a lichen covered rock very photogenically:


and a pied wagtail who really didn’t want his picture taken!


My feet had gone far enough by this time so we hobbled back into town stopping for a look over the harbour walls and to find out about the Lobster Hatchery – a project implemented to repopulate the Forth with a sustainable source of lobsters


Then it was time for fish and chips!  See you next time.





Budle Bay near Bamburgh, Northumberland



It was April 2017 when I last posted on here and as I’ve just had a reminder from wordpress that my annual subscription is due….I thought I’d see if anyone was still out there!

Lots of stuff going on in the last year, none of which I’m talking about here except to say that my ricketiness has extended to my feet – which is pretty poor news for a walker!  However, I have a lovely acupuncturist who is working hard to help me get better and today Mr RR and I did our first good walk for a long time.  It was going to be just 4 miles and ended up being nearly 7 (!) which is probably a bit more than I wanted to do….but we made it back (well I hobbled) to Bamburgh for tea and shortbread which is the important thing!

Anyway – let me know if you’re reading and I’ll see if I recover enough to try another ramble later this week.

Sunday, September 9th 2018

Bamburgh to Budle Bay circular (7 miles – which included some wandering about the beach)


The Lindisfarne Nature Reserve in Budle Bay:


Home to hundreds of birds but it was really difficult to take pictures because of the high winds and also my failure to charge my camera before we left home!


Oyster Catcher

The kite surfers were worth seeing too:


And across the bay – Holy Island.

The tides were all wrong for us to visit Holy Island today.

See you again soon hopefully!

J x

Lilliesleaf and The Riddell Estate

12th April 2017

Mr RR and I had a lovely ramble around Lilliesleaf and The Riddell Estate last week along with Nancy and Chris.  It was a good day – it stayed dry and there was some blue in the sky, lambs in the fields and a coffee shop called the Jammy Coo at the end!  What more could you want?

Okay – so the sky wasn’t blue at this point…but there are lambs!

We started in the lay-by opposite the church (a very important point according to Nancy and Chris!) in Lilliesleaf, a pretty village in between Melrose and Selkirk. Wikipedia tells us that the current population of Lilliesleaf is 301 – I’m not sure if it really is…..maybe someone’s had a baby since that was written! Continue reading