Day 2: John O’Groats to Lands End

The Ythan at Newburgh

I’m making some progress on this one! Despite having a fairly sedentary day in the office doing data analysis I still managed to make up 6.9 miles today.

We had a lovely wee walk at Newburgh, down onto the estuary when there are hundreds of seals – it’s well worth seeing if you are in the area. Apparently in the summer when there are thousands and the wind is blowing in the wrong direction the smell in Newburgh is pretty overpowering!

The estuary of the Ythan river
The estuary of the Ythan river – all those ‘rocks’ on the other side of the river are seals!

There was also a small float (?) of eiders and some shore waders of which I weren’t sure what they were! Note to self – improve bird identification!

Lots of seals with those little grey wading birds in the foreground....
Lots of seals with those little grey wading birds in the foreground….

Once we got home, I dusted off the running gear and went out for what I’m going to call a run-walk up the coast a little. Unfortunately I hadn’t quite mastered the headtorch (i.e. I wasn’t holding the button down for long enough :/ ) so proceeded to walk back in the almost dark. It was light enough for walking but not enough for anything faster.

Therefore this was a successful second day, bringing my total up to …. 12.2 miles! Not too shabby!

 

Annette

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Plant Focus: Meconopsis (Blue Poppies)

On a recent visit to the Scottish Plant Hunter’s Garden (The Explorers Garden) in Pitlochry I was lucky enough to see their famed Meconopsis collection pretty much in full bloom. This post was a few weeks in the making as I had a few more photos to add.

Although also know as Blue Poppies, they actually come in many colours. Generally Meconopsis like cool, fairly moist, sheltered conditions and as such I’ve never had much success in my sandy, slightly windy garden. Some are monocarpic – that is they flower once and die, others will form perennial clumps. I should also note that the trusty Welsh Poppy (M. cambrica) also belongs to this group and is an easier one to grow.

Unfortunately I didn’t see too many labels, which, in a genus plagued by naming difficulties was a little disappointing. This could be because they were hidden or because I missed some. I thought I might be able to name some of them post photograph but there’s nay chance!

So you will pretty much have to mostly enjoy photographs of them which is fine because they are so beautiful!

Meconopsis napaulensis - yellow/cream version
Meconopsis napaulensis – yellow/cream version
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Meconopsis napaulensis – pink version
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Meconopsis ‘George Sheriff Group’ Crewdson Hybrids
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Dark blue against the stone wall
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I think this one was Meconopsis ‘Dalemain’ if my notes serve me correct!
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Meconopsis ‘Inverewe’
Meconopsis x sheldonii
Meconopsis x sheldonii
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Meconopsis baileyi ‘Alba’ (aka M. betonicifolia ‘Alba’)
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Such a beautiful range of shades on this Himalayan poppy. This is probably my favourite photograph.
M. grandis (2)
Meconopsis grandis – check out all those anthers!
Meconopsis Huntsfield 1
Meconopsis Huntsfield 1
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Gentle nodding head of a Himalayan Blue Poppy

It’s also worth looking at other parts on the plant in detail. Some have furry stems, others smooth.

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Furry stemmed. It’s amazing how many colours there are.
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Smooth-stemmed ‘Alba’ form

 

Plus how cute are these seed pods with their little waistline belts and furry jackets?

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Meconopsis seed pods

There were a couple which hadn’t yet flowered which is always interesting to know if you’d like to extend the season.

And some which are over such as Meconopsis quintuplinervia – how many times do you think I had to check that I had spelt this right?

As usual I like to give some ideas of what to plant them with.

Here’s some planting ideas mostly from the Scottish Plant Hunter’s Garden:

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They look fantastic under trees.
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I couldn’t get enough of these blue and white forms against the mossy stone wall.
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These Meconopsis were interspersed with Primulas.
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Meconopsis planting which looks straight out of a show garden.
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Look fantastic with bright yellows which highlight the rich orange anthers.
Meconopsis napaulensis and Aquilegia vulgaris
How lovely does this M. napaulensis look with these purple wild-seeded Aquilegia vulgaris?
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This Meconopsis was standing tall against a Tibetan Cherry Prunus serrula. Note the self-seeded Foxgloves behind too.
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A late-flowering Rhododendron makes for a great backdrop for these blue and purple poppies.

I hope that this inspires you to grow some if you have the right garden or why not have a go and find out. If not get along to the Scottish Plant Hunter’s Garden in Pitlochry to have a look. Also the National Collection is held by Holehird Gardens near Windermere in the Lake District – now would be an excellent time to see them!

 

Annette

Photo Club Walkabout

We have a group of us at work who are all keen on photography. We went on a walkabout last night around the local park. I haven’t had a chance to go through all the photos properly yet but here are a few.

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Bronze-leaved Sycamore: I loved how the light caught these leaves
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Old rusty shipping container with paint peeling off: I do like dereliction photography
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Bamboo planted to try and hide this shipping container
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Having fun doing a quick modelling shoot!
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Archways can be so photogenic! Although this looks natural, it was completely posed.

Brexit and Scotch Eggxit?

I think a lot of the readers of this blog are from the great US of A so I thought it may interest you to hear some thoughts of a Scottish person after the outcome of Brexit early this morning. I will share with you some of the thoughts, fears and observations of my day. I’m not a great talker of politics as there’s too many arguments and confrontations for my liking, but this goes beyond that.

To be honest my day started like any other aside from the fact we are on holiday at the moment. We are trying to do up the house to sell (more on this over the coming months!). I was aware that the UK referendum was the previous day but never did I really expect to wake up and start a day which would change the course of history as we expected it. I guess we always get used to the status quo. The previous Scottish Independence Referendum confirmed that Scotland were happy to remain as part of the UK – “Better Together” as they said. I’m not particularly against leaving, but I am against dividing people and nations. I must admit I did vote to leave the UK but I was happy with either outcome. I sat on the fence, but I had to vote one way or the other. Change can be a good thing as well as bad. We always have to keep our eyes open and adapt.

When my OH first showed me the result my first question was: “Is that the final number?”

“Yes,” he replied “but it’s not a legally binding vote this one.”

“Aaah, hmm,” I said “that’s kinda close, that’ll never go through then. That’s too close surely.”

As I then saw the map which showed that every single county in Scotland had voted to remain, this was closely followed by: “Gee, look at Scotland! That’s not going to go down well. Maybe David Cameron will decide to remain and Scotland will be like ‘yey,’ we like the UK!” I did feel a moment of pride here as, even if the UK hasn’t, Scotland I feel has become more united since the Independence referendum. I’m generally a Green supporter but I have to admire Nicola Sturgeon’s ability to lead the country together. On a side note I’m also impressed with how many women there are at the head of Scottish politics.

That aside, as the day wore on it was clear that the days of the United Kingdon as we know it are limited. David Cameron announced his stepping down ( a little ‘abandoning ship’ I thought) and Nicola Sturgeon said that a new independence referendum was on the table.We had the news on for a while but it’s all speculative at the moment and pretty repetitive. They were going into detail about all the parts of the UK – how Northern Ireland, London and Scotland had all voted to remain. The saddest part for me is not whether we remain or not, but that it has divided everyone. It damages the EU and it threatens the United Kingdom.

What is interesting, is that according to social media at least, 99% of people my OH and I know (i.e. our friends and work colleagues) voted to remain.

Who knows, it could be good? If it builds us up as a nation together or apart, within the EU or out, I will be happy. If we support each other through the process and seek to build our strengths rather than undermine each other’s weaknesses then it may be OK.

Then to be honest, my day ended like any other. Only time will tell what’s going to happen. All I know is that change is afoot and it’s a little worrying for me and many others.

How do you feel about the outcome.

Annette X

PS Hope you like the title – courtesy of the OH: #scotcheggxit – make it viral!

 

 

Visit: Glen Tanar NNR

Vaccinium myrtillus and Calluna vulgaris undergrowth (Heather and Blaeberries)

I think that everyone has a list of favourite places to go or be. Glen Tanar NNR, near Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, is one of those places which is in my Top 10. I can easily spend a good few hours wandering up and down paths or a good day venturing further up the valley.

It’s a fantastic place to photograph especially in the evening when the mist starts rising through the trees. It was a glorious sunny day on Thursday – one of the best this year – when I had a wonder around. The harsh contrast between highlights and shadows makes it difficult to take pictures in such sunny conditions but I certainly enjoyed the walk and have a few images to share with you.

It’s a few pounds for the car park and there is a small visitor centre with toilets. There are well signposted walks of a mile or too or if you fancy there are also longer walks. For example if you fancy a munro, there is always Mount Keen, although be prepared for a 7 mile walk before you even start ascending it.

Church (1)
Chapel of St Lesmo
Church (3)
Glen Tanar green – all the houses are painted in this colour of green.
Church (4)
The bell on St Lesmo’s chapel
Undergrowth (1)
Sun dappled undergrowth
Tree stumps (6)
Views of Glen Tanar
Tree stumps (5)
Pignut and wood
Cows (1)
Cows grazing in the field.
Cows (2)
Close up of a young bullock.
Path (1)
Path alongside a field – this route follows the river upstream.
Loch (1)
Loch with boat house and private fishing – return in autumn for some amazing colour here.
Loch (2)
Ethereal loch at any time of the day.
Reeds (2)
Reeds with dragonfly zooming by.
Rhododendron
Rhododendron growing next to the loch.
Foxglove (2)
Foxglove – Digitalis purpurea
Purple Thistle and Bee
Thistle – Cirsium
Dragonfly lake
Smaller loch with loads of dragonflies and damselflies
Path (2)
Path dappled with sunlight
Sign post
Plenty of signposts are around
Broom (2)
Broom is everywhere and flowers in June
Tree stumps (1)
An unsusual natural tree sculpture
Path (3)
The view down Glen Tanar
Tree stumps (2)
Sunlight through the Scots Pine
Tree stumps (3)
Blaeberry and Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris
Undergrowth (2)
Galium saxatile
Undergrowth (3)
Galium saxatile closeup image
Glider
A glider from the Deeside Gliding Club

I’ll share some autumn pictures with you at some point. Do you have some favourite places you like to visit as much as you can?

Annette.

Visit: The Scottish Plant Hunter’s Garden

Candelabra Primulas

I have been wanting to visit The Explorer’s Garden (aka The Scottish Plant Hunter’s Garden) for many years but have never found myself around Pitlochry to make that visit. It was made better therefore on the day I was able to visit, that the OH wasn’t there to be bored while I walked around. And finally what was ideal was that it was at the time of year when the Meconopsis, for which this garden is well known, were in full bloom. Excellent! Oh and on another note – it was not raining!

Camera at the ready I paid my £4 to enter which I regarded as an excellent price. I was fully expecting to pay over £10. There is not much you’ll get for less than a fiver nowadays.

So off I set with my map…after a brief hello to the cat.

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Map for The Scottish Plant Explorers Garden

The first section was a lovely little landscaped section planted up with Saxifraga sp. whose frothy white blooms complemented the grey slate coloured organic forms well. In fact there were many lovely planting combinations throughout the garden.

There was also some lovely Aquilegia and Alchemilla mollis planting as you walked under the trees towards the main section of the garden.

There was a strong Himalayan theme throughout the garden, despite many regions being represented, probably because many of these plants suit the Scottish environment very well. Most of the Rhododendrons were past but there was one I spotted in full bloom. At first I thought they all had a bout of rust on all the flowers but looking closer I saw that it was part of its design – nice up close but not so much from a distance! Some of the Rhodies had shed their flowers in recent days and formed these wonderful pink carpets underneath. A little reminiscent of Japan perhaps?

Dotted around the garden were works of art, all of which I though went well within their chosen settings. I love outdoor art when it works in harmony with the surrounding landscape and planting. I particularly loved the Perspex mobiles with the names of plants and skeleton leaves incorporated into them along with the wonderful pagoda roof.

I also loved the composting toilet! It was a little space age when you went into it. Next door to that there is a lovely little room which would be amazing for a small wedding. On the day I went they had a photography exhibition from someone who had gone on a recent expedition to the Himalayas. I left feeling that I know that region of the world just a little better and also how magnificent the Meconospsis look in their native environment.

Speaking of such, they didn’t fail to disappoint! They were in full bloom. I couldn’t get enough of them against the wonderful stone dykes they have built there. The colours are so beautiful. I was however slightly disappointed that there weren’t many labels about (although looking through my photos I realised there was a section I missed, sob). There were a few which I spotted but I would have liked to have been able to see more for my next Plant Focus: Meconopsis. Many more images will be available in that post to come later. I’ll also do another post with more flower images as I have so many! Here is one to whet your appetite….

 

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Meconopsis close up photograph

 

I’d say the garden is definitely at its best at this time of year or earlier when the Rhododendrons are also out. I’m not sure what would be out after around the end of July. It’s open April-Nov, every day 10am-5pm and well worth a visit if you’re near the area. There’s plenty of information boards around which tell you all about the parts of the world the plant explorers visited to bring back many of the plants we have in our gardens today.

 

 

Hope you enjoy your visit.

AnnetteX

Loch Lomond in Black and White

Just thought I would share three black and white photos I took of Loch Lomond, in previous years, tonight. They are taken just north of Balmaha a little along the West Highland Way long distance path. It is a beautiful route achievable over 4-5 days. You can even get people to transport your bags around for you so you can fully enjoy the walk. It takes in some of the best views in Scotland including those of the Loch Lomond National Park seen here. I would highly recommend it as a ‘thing to do.’ Hope you enjoy.

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Looking out over Loch Lomond
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Loch Lomond view near Balmaha
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Loch Lomondside

Annette X

The silent field – Culloden

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The site of the 1746 Battle of Culloden
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The site of The Battle of Culloden

 

A cold wind flaps the red and blue flags which provide a visual stand post of the locations whereupon two great armies met; the Jacobite army weary and wild and the Government army drilled and disciplined. The Culloden battlefield now sits quiet, but upon the sharp wind is carried the desperate cries of soldiers locked in face to face mortal combat.

 

 

Today a few souls wander peacefully and listen dutifully to the audio soundtrack of the 16th April 1746 carefully prepared by the National Trust for Scotland.  But just under 260 years ago the site could hardly have been in more contrast with the screaming and fighting of battle-fueled men creating an almighty cacophony of death and destruction.

Where today stands a stone to mark a mass grave, then stood a soldier mauled by a Hanovarian bayonet.

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The memorial headstone for Clan MacKintosh
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Gorse growing atop the memorial

 

The site is boggy which then, as today, affected the efficiency of movement around the battlefield. Today though the deep dark waters can only represent the pools of blood which were spilt by both sides on that day.

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The black pools

 

In 1745 the Jacobite uprising had seen initial great successes but on this fateful day that quest was put to a bitter end. The Jacobites, who had dutifully followed the French Prince Regent, Charles Edward Stuart in his pursuit of the English throne, now frantically fleed from the forces of the ruthless Duke of Cumberland.

The conflict was over in less than the time it takes to walk round the site today. The site may be bleak but so is the reason why it exists there.

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