Resting on the Nethers

The first Saturday in June, no Meadows Fair again so I headed to the Park and clambered up Raven’s Rock on to the Nether Hill. That is a knackering climb up on a warm day (okay, so warm for Edinburgh so far this year), a lie down was definitely in order. There’s worse places to stretch on and enjoy the sunshine! The occasional breeze was nicely warm, even though overhead there did seem to be a number of dark clouds massing (the rain gods possibly thought, first weekend in June? – we should at least threaten rain).

The Nether Hill is a good place to be still; it’s neighbour Arthur’s Seat is more popular and everyone knows it’s name, but it’s all about getting up there, a quick pic for evidence and back down, busy busy. On Nether Hill I could lay back and watch swallows swooping around and about, the odd crow would enjoy a glide on the thermals. Just a smattering of chatter could be heard wafting over from the Seat and the usual background hum of traffic in the town, but plenty birdsong distracted from them. Oh, and there was a piper playing somewhere in the distance for a while. That’s how pipers should be heard – at a distance!

As I lay there it occurred to me to share with you just what I could see at that moment, so, a head turn to the right and it’s Arthur’s Seat, and above me some rather worrying clouds (glad to say they all just moved along without shedding their loads).

Sitting up I could see the Castle and the Palace. One of those, wow, and I live here moments. If I’d stood up and turned left I could have made out the top of another castle, I didn’t, I stayed sitting marvelling at the views. The two observatories on Calton Hill and Blackford Hill, the three bridges spanning the Forth, well, just bits of them, Cramond Island with the causeway just visible. For all that humans can make things hard and drain the joy out of life, seeing my adopted town spread out before me always gives me a sense of wonder and hope. All the lives that have been lived here, are being lived here, weaving into the rich, colourful tapestry that is Edinburgh. I may feel on the fringe of it all at times, but there’s no place I’d rather live.

Aaand, back in the room. I eventually shifted my butt and toodled over the hill down to Dunsapie Loch, where much to my surprise, a heron was busy fishing on the road side of the loch (they usually stay on the far side, well away from people). I’ll leave you with the view over to Fife as I headed down and the heron doing his best to ignore me.

Toodle pip!

Escapee egg terrorises walker!

Winter came back this week with below zero temperatures every morning and tonight Edinburgh has a forecast of snow! There have been a few fierce flurries so far. Come on, snowflakes! I intend to be up early and am expecting the Park to look pretty enough for a picture or two. I’ve been trying hard to get up and out at a reasonable time this last week. It’s definitely the case that morning walkers are friendlier, I found that the earlier the hour the more eye contact and friendly greetings. Climbing high in the recent clear mornings has afforded me some amazing views…..

View from the Lang Rig looking across to the remains of the Camstane Quarries. In the distance to the left are the Forth Bridge and the new Queensferry Crossing can just be spotted.
Looking across from Whinny Hill to the Lang Rig and Arthur’s Seat. There’s only six walkers at this time in the morning!

There were plenty of remains from Easter Sunday shenanigans scattered around the slopes; broken pieces of egg shell, plain, painted, and this one, so beautiful decorated, there was a true artist at work here. Nothing of any the boiled innards though, the Park inhabitants had done a thorough job of clearing every edible morsel.

Then as I headed down Whinny Hill I spotted an egg that had survived the annual rolling event and is now living feral on the hillside….

The jackdaws are all busy sprucing up their accommodations, going back and forth from the crevices in the wall below the Queens Drive as the road starts down towards Powderhouse Corner. As soon as one peeks over the wall there’s usually a flurry of jacks taking off but I think they’re getting used to me now. I always bid them good day and tarry a while to enjoy their noisy banter and aerobatic skills. I think some folk wonder what on earth I’m looking at as they pass by, don’t reckon the jackdaws even register with them.

I’ll leave you with a view that quite surprised me, I’m referring to the thing between the two cranes, this was the first time I’ve actually noticed it . A new addition to the Edinburgh skyline, a part of the new St Andrew’s Quarter (previous St Andrew’s Shopping Centre).The locals have given it a variety of names. I’ll let you just ponder on that!!

A Happy New Year To You

….. And all your kin! We’ve made it to 2021, woohoo, and I made it to the top of Arthur’s Seat and back down again without any serious mishaps. Never have I known it so treacherous before, a friend on Facebook joked that she’d like a helicopter to take her back down – if ever there was gonna be a serious accident requiring an airlift, then today was definitely in the running.

The snowfall from a few days ago wasn’t much but freezing temperatures and lots of feet compacting it down, then drizzly weather and more freezing! The pavements around Holyrood Park are like ice rinks, the road through looks deceptively fine in comparison, but as I and plenty of others know, its just out to give us a false sense of security, then, BAM!! All the well-trodden paths up the hillsides are now ice or compacted snow. The best way to get up to the top was definitely off piste……

So I went into the Park a much longer way round (but less icy), I totally avoided the scene of my fall, by walking through rough tussocky grass that I had to check didn’t conceal any deep holes. I avoided all the main routes upwards, instead heading up Nether Hill and veering to the right just before the final rocky climb up to the Seat, that was a scary part, it wasnt so much up as, up a bit, left, left, down a bit, left, up, up, right, no left, up, you get the picture! The last wee bit and the top were actually the easiest, least slippy bits. God, I was knackered, as is rather obvious here……

I spent a while just sitting near the top, sipping ginger liqueur from my hip flask and munching on a large slice of Yorkshire parkin (a bit like gingerbread but way better), enjoying the spectacle of all the jackdaws and crows having a fine time soaring above. Alas, I had to head down at some point. At least in our mutual terror folk were chatting to strangers as we’d pause, pondering where to put our feet next. Yes, there were definitely more smiles and encouraging “Happy New Year”s than usual. Staying off the main routes as much as I could, I realised how much more I know about the Park now thanks to all my summertime wanderings. I really am a lucky moose to have such amazing parkland close by, sometimes I forget.

I leave you with a pic of me having a wee rest in a pine tree on the way back down. Yes, in a pine tree! I can just let my legs hang and relax a while that way.

Toodle pip! And Happy New Year!

A windy day even before the sprouts!

Hello, my fine friends! I hope you had a lovely Christmas, or few days, depending how you roll. So did I rise at 9? Was Arthur’s Seat busy? Not quite and not at all, but I did make it!

See, there I am!

Right at the very top was a group of Japanese and Aussie students who wanted a photo taking, so I offered my services in return for a photo of myself. It was extremely windy up there, I was almost blown off the trig point! Luckily for me a lady was stood next to it and I managed to brace my leg against her arm when a gust tried to tug me off (she was very understanding, phew!). This was the best photo out the few snapped. At the time I just trusted that there’d be something useable taken, said my thank yous and headed down to calmer levels. As it’s not the most exciting pic I’ve funked it up on my Facebook, a collage of alien vistas, well, its nearly Dr Who time again.

Speaking of Dr Who, I felt like the Face of Boe on Christmas Day! Some clever clogs rigged up a large screen in a corner of the lounge at mater’s, so that they could include me in the family party by Skype – to the extent of making me join in Charades and quizzes where they’d hold up the question cards to the screen for me to take a proper turn in a team! I did serenade them with a few Christmas tunes on my ukulele while they ate. I’d already eaten a rather good Christmas lunch with a slice of my wonderful cake to follow. Bet my cake was better than theirs!

I shall love you and leave you with Me & My Christmas Lunch …

A seat with a view

As today (well, technically yesterday) was the third Saturday of NotFringe2020, I took myself up Arthur’s Seat to sit awhile and stare out over Edinburgh. I would have stood but the wind was scarily strong, so I hunkered down low to stop from being blown away. Why today? Barry Ferns, for some years this was the day of the big Gala performance (well, he and three other comedians he’d manage to persuade to walk up Arthur’s Seat), it seemed fitting to trot on up and read a bit of poetry.

I say trot, more of a trotting start, slowing to an amble, with more and more pauses “to admire the view” as I went higher and higher. Oo, I took a different route to my usual up near the top, quite daring of me in the high winds and blinding sunlight. The views today were great, so pics were in order,  at least one to prove I made it up there! It was difficult to judge which bit of Edinburgh was in the background but I got lucky – zoom in and to the side of my ear is McEwan Hall and the university area, a smidgen further and there’s George Square Gardens, further again the Meadows and Marchmont.

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And, of course, a panoramic shot from the castle far left, taking in the Forth, across the city to Edinburgh’s Disgrace on Calton Hill on the right.

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Toodle pip!

Fluffy bunnies, fluffy bunnies!

Fluffy bunnies! Why? Err, a friend in school said it to me many years, told me it was the first thing you should say to anyone on the 1st May. Who was I to argue? I just googled it to see if it really is a thing and apparently some say “white rabbits” at the start of March, while others say it at the start of every month. Hmmm, a tenuous similarity. Does anyone else say fluffy bunnies on 1st May?

I had thought I would trot up Arthur’s Seat early doors to wash my face in the morning dew on May Day – tis said this will keep one young and fresh-faced! Yeah, right! As every other year I’ve battered my alarm off and gone back to sleep. Besides, there is social distancing to be adhered to, supposing hordes had descended on the same hill? That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Goodness, time is marching on and I’m yet to my own marching for the day. I shall leave you with some pics I’ve taken out and about recently.

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Duddingston Loch.

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A pheasant in Holyrood Park enjoying the view over Portobello and the Forth.

 

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Canongate Kirk on the Royal Mile in the foreground, part of the high rises of Dumbiedykes visible behind, all dwarfed by the Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park, with Arthur’s Seat peeking over at the back.

 

 

The end of the world as we know it??

These are strange times we are living in. I think I would much less surprised if our local extinct volcano came back to life now than I would have been a few months ago. This coronavirus thing is bad, I’ve seen less scary zombie films; and like in zombie films there’s the dumbass “cool” guys, all showing off flexing their muscles, reckoning they’re somehow immune to the dangers. Newsflash: You’re Not!!

Being a moose, I, like cats and dogs, can’t get Covid-19, but just to be on the safe side no more hugging until we can ALL hug together again. I did see a worrying post on Facebook the other day, it asked folk not to abandon their pets as they can’t spread coronavirus. What?! Please people, do not abandon your pets, it’s times like this the affection and solace of a animal companion is to be cherished. In a way I can understand the consuming, confusing fears some owners will feel; but I also know that some folk are callous, heartless bastards. Sad but true.

I’m almost surprised there’s been no apocalyptical, doomsday cults popping up out of the woodwork. Or is this just too real and immediate a situation for them to create fantasies from?

If you’re wondering about the picture, it’s by Peter Standen, originally from Surrey but he’s lived in Edinburgh for ages . For some years now he has been at the West End Craft Fair during the Fringe, showings his etchings and postcards. I bought this one just last year (I have three others bought in previous years along the same destruction of Edinburgh vein). When I saw it I actually initially laughed with delight; from when I first learnt that Edinburgh was situated on an old volcano (as in the picture, Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat are two of it’s vents) there’s been a scary, fantastical What If? in my head and here it was in front of me. No, it’s not framed yet. I’m happy to wait for the perfect frame, I just haven’t seen it yet. No worries.

Stay safe, peeps, and as my father used to always say “Be good.”

 

 

Happy Not-Quite-New Year!

Hello, dear friends! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy Hogmanay wherever you are! My family Christmas was fine, thanks, until a nasty little coughing lurgy attached itself to me somewhere amidst all the farewell hugs in the last days before I journeyed back North.

I soldiered on, went back to work to earn my crust, ignoring how my whole body shuddered at each cough. Hogmanay was spent by the fireside with a hot toddy watching the telly til after the bells, well, there was no point going to bed earlier – those fireworks are very loud and they went on longer than ever this year!

New Year’s Day morn I rose with one mission, to climb the Seat That Belongs To Arthur, no lurgy was going to hold me back. And, by George, Andrew and Murgatroyd, it didn’t!! My adrenaline pumping, my dander up, I was gonna scale that Seat or die in the attempt. Dear reader, I nearly did! (thank goodness I had my emergency hipflask of Laphroaig to revive me)

Since then I’ve been confined to bed and fireside, but am starting to feel much better now, so I thought I’d drop you a line. Expect stuff soon on Dr Who, Dracula and Dark Materials, also some Tuck and squirrels’ nuts.

Yours truly on reaching the top…

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And after a reviving glug or three of Laphroaig…..

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Hello 2019!

On New Years Day I made my traditional trek up Arthur’s Seat to welcome in the year. This year along with my hip flask of Laphroaig, I took a slice of my rather damn fine Christmas cake, a reward for reaching the top and sugar rush to get me back down! It maybe somewhat tiring going up, but it’s trickier getting down again (well it is for me, I’m much more sure-footed ascending but descending I go so gingerly and worry about slipping).

Twas a beautiful sunny morning and rather breezy at the top, thankfully not as windy as when I did my practice run two days earlier, I almost took off in the wind a couple of times! So many different languages and accents can be heard at the summit, most heard is “Could you take a photo of me/us?” I do like to oblige when asked.

From there I scrambled down from the peak and explored the other areas around the top, finally heading back down via a path I’ve never used before and probably never will again. It took bloody ages to negotiate the slip slidy mud and steep parts. By the time I was back down to the road the annual triathlon was in full swing with cyclists whizzing past, it was a while before I had a chance to leg it over to the pavement.

I really should go up Arthur’s Seat more often, there’s so many paths to follow and such beauty to behold. I used to wander around the park much more in the past, ah yes, New Year Resolution – must walk in the park more often.

Toodle pip!

‘Allo Vera!

How I love the smell of gorse flowers in the evening! After a warm sunny day the heady perfume from all the gorse around Holyrood Park is quite intoxicating; it lingers into the twilight with the occasional whiff on the breeze. If you’re wondering what this heavenly scent is like just think suntan lotion with aloe vera. God, I love it, in fact one year I decided to attempt to bottle it!

I had pondered on the idea for a few years, so with a few old books on wine-making and Google to assist, I set out to capture this nectar of the gorse in alcoholic form. Did it work? Umm, if I ever tried again I would hold back with the raisins, whilst I get that they help with the sweetness it was too sherry-y for me which I put down to the raisins. Mind I still have a couple or three bottles of it! They do say try some of your endeavours young but lay some back to mature. There’s also a bottle of greengage wine from a few years ago, up there in the winerack, gathering dust, occasionally winking at me.

Anyway, yes, the last two evenings I strolled down to Holyrood Park to enjoy the scented evening air and a spot of bat-watching. My favourite place for this is St Margaret’s Loch, or the Bottom Pond as I just called it for years (halfway up the park is the Top Pond aka Dunsapie Loch). There may be other good places to see bats in the Park, probably near Duddingston Loch, but they might be creepier to walk home from in the dark! At dusk there are still plenty of folk in the area, some winding their way down from Arthur’s Seat or the Crags, others heading up (I do hope they have torches); St Anthony’s Chapel above St Margaret’s Loch always attracts a few.

A blackbird was blasting out his evensong as I approached the Loch yesterday. There was plenty of other snippets of birdsong which seemed to turn into disgruntled squarks and squabbles as everyone settled in for the evening. A few ducks flew off and the swans all settled down, no longer bothering to follow anyone walking by the lochside. And then the bats came out to play!

With such clear skies both evenings the bats were very visible at the start. I was making my way along the path on the hill side of the Loch when I saw a few bats skittering above the gorse bushes towards the end of the water. Oh my, there were loads, don’t think I’ve ever seen so many there before, a bumper year for bats? Once I see one bat that’s me for a long while, just standing, enchanted by them. A few folk walk past, some look decidedly in front trying to avoid eye contact with the weirdo standing staring into the gloom, whilst others notice the bats and often stop awhile too.

Just round through the trees to the end of the Loch and there’s another great spot to see them swooping all around you. The longer you stay still the closer the bats will come – you’re attracting insects and so too the bats! Two evenings ago a couple of American tourists stood awhile with me, the lady was worried by the old myth of bats flying into hair, but I explained the insect deal and assured her the bats wouldn’t land in her hair – unless she moved really suddenly at the wrong moment!

After a long while I headed back up the road side of the Loch; there are some great spots along this stretch, just where the trees clear by the water’s edge for seeing more bats. Then sadly, much as bat-watching is fun, the chill and darkness became apparent and time for home. Up on the hillsides in the Park random torchlights shine and snippets of music and chat waft down. Heading back into town the Cursed Earth (sorry,  Dynamic Earth to you guys, I called it that when it was being built and it stuck) looks like some giant malevolent bug.

I love that I live in a beautiful city but have this abundance of wildness on my doorstep 💛

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