stories and illustration

The Little Path of Flowers


I was told that at the top of the path that runs from Lennel up to the little cemetary there was an abundance of wild flowers, and since I am on the trail of this abundance this year especially, I took the  walk through the lower wood, across the steep lane, then into the far wood, where in the spring the rooks have their nest in the trees by the river, and make the most stupendous noise.  Today there are only a few desultory caw-caws. The path winds upward quite steeply and comes out beyond the trees, there is a clear spot where you can look down on to the Tweed, and there is the trail of the small path almost vanishing beneath the flowers (I dont think many people can walk this way):




I don’t know how long this lusciousness of wild flowers will last.  I have noticed that at this time of year the paths are strimmed, so that whilst there is a lining of plants, this lush delicate growth is cut back to the margins.  Of course, if the land was left untended, then nettles and docks and sorrel would take over, as has taken place just beyond the river on the other side of Coldstream Bridge, in Another Country.

I have been trying this year to capture these fleeting moments while I can.  I have also taken pictures of individual plants, so that later in the year I can go through my photographs and recognise the individual species, so as to try and emulate, over a couple of years, the more than 150 different species I had written down as having seen when I must have been about ten years old.  I can’t remember going out looking at flowers at all: if it wasn’t for a list at the back of a book I would hardly, consciously, recall this search at all, though I know it was my grandfather who took me out on Chailey Common in Sussex when I was very young, looking all round, and especially keeping an eye open for autumn gentians, that used to grow there – maybe still do.

I stopped by this bench, with its touching inscription:



And looked down over the Tweed, and the fields beyond, with the young wheat growing:


If I sit on the bench where Esme loved to sit I would have problems seeing the water, as the foliage is so dense.  But it would be a lovely spot to sit anyway.  I continue up the path, looking at the flowers on the way:




Until I come to the cemetary at the top of the path:



It is very peaceful up here. Some of the gravestones are too sad to photograph, so I took a picture of one celebrating the life of a couple who seemed to have had long lives, for their time, and a handsome gravestone to commemorate it, deep within the long grass:


And on the way back down the high road, to end on a cheerful note, I see this rose in the hedgerow, starting to fade at the edges here and there, as roses do, but a splash of lovely colour amid the green:


June 26, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Pastel and a Photograph Propped up on a Windowsill


This is a pastel of my grandmother done when she was young, by her aunt. My grandmother Eva Macpherson came from Newfoundland to Europe, and her aunt was Margaret Campbell Macpherson, “Aunt Madge”, who also came from St Johns, and lived in France from 1899 till she died in Verseilles in 1931. Her companion, Josephine Hoxie Bartlett, had to abandon the studio when the Germans invaded France,  so there are probably painting and pastels that have disappered. I have carted this pastel of my grandmother through many vicissitudes. It has inhabited a house in Liddesdale, rackety student flats in Sunderland, a house in Berwick upon Tweed. The photograph  in the decorative frame, which I have also had with me for many years, is of myself as a baby, with my grandmother.  The reflections come  from the sun of the solstice shining through the glass.

June 22, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Walking the Oxenrig Path


It is a long time since I walked up over Oxenrig, which is where I go when I want to feel far away from roads and houses.  Later in the summer, walking up there, one sees hawks and hares, though this time there was little sign of wildlife. except for wood pigeons, which are ubiquitous. Noisy-winged birds,  I can even recognise the sound they make when disturbed, invisible, in a thicket of trees..  Instead of acres of wheat there is a lot of rape crop planted this year.  But the feeling of walking over the hills and far away is still there.


A chaffinch on a treetop tweeted me up the road, where looking back I saw my husband walking along another route.  I wish I had taken a photograph of him rather than the chaffinch.  He is dressed for walking, in his gear and straw hat, and thinks I am taking a photograph of him. He looks like a French Impressionist out on the prowl for subject matter. He goes down one road, and I go up the hills, past the first poppy of the summer that I have seen, through the piles of stone, and out on to the path, taking a look sideways at the array of yellows, and the gate to the field:


 Then on up the path. At the top of the hill I look back towards the farm, which no longer is the egg farm, but is still being used, I  heard activity in the sheds as I was passing, and there is a strangely old-fashioned tractor there, like something out of a fifties farm set, rather than the machines like small houses that thunder slowly along the roads round here.


The road goes up and down, up and down, it is good for the respiration, I don’t notice that I have any asthma at all, inspite of the hills and the rape fields, possibly because it is so peaceful up here, and I am going at my own pace.


At the bottom of a hill is this rather sinister-looking enclave, where they raise chicks, or maybe where they did raise chicks, I don’t know whether this is chick chicks or other chicks, anyway, I did see a hawk scything through their at low level last year, obviously on the qui vive. Everything is open now and looks a bit derelict, the pine trees make for dead ground cover, it is a bit of a Mr Todd kind of a place.


So it is nice to see a healthy-looking bee among the plants outside:

oxenrig bee

The path goes up and down, up and down, past the pylons which I have always found exciting, even when I was a child:




oxenrig18 oxenrig19



Past the stream strengthened with stones caged in wire, this stream I couldn’t cross last summer further down the fields, as I was trying to find a short cut back to the town. Here it is almost dry, and looks more sinister than it is, as I am photographing facing the sun:


I have walked quite a few miles now, there is no going back the way I came, so at each hill I look forwards to try and spy the gate at the end of the path. There is a small sheltered woody area, and then the path opens out, and there is the gate leading back on to the road, only a small road, which will eventually lead back on to the main Duns road, which will eventually lead me back to Coldstream, stepping into the verge when cars go by at a furious pace. There’s still some way to go:




On the small road, the buttercups line the roadside, and I walk along the unfamiliar route (I usually turn back and retrace my steps) I am still taking pictures of the roadside as I go:





And  I say hello to the same stream I saw, in its different guise, on the Oxenrig path, as it now crosses under the main highway . I am nearly home.



June 19, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Comeback Flowers


Some years ago I went on a walk along a patch of ground where there were apparently an interesting variety of flowers growing. Ramblers dressed in full gear, myself in my ordinary boots and coat, felt a fool for a moment, but we walked two miles gently on the flat for two hours, so it wasn’t strenuous. However, I remember we searched for the odd flower here and there along this walk, which I believe was the path of a deserted railway line.  Yes, it was a lovely walk with good people. Yes, there were some flowers here and there among the grasses, which we looked up in Collins guides. But in all that walk we scarcely saw an insect, and no birds were singing at all.


Even last year, there was a scarcity of insects.  I didn’t see a butterfly at all until really late last summer.


Years ago, when my son was young, the hedgerows were almost barren of flowers.  Going even further back – I found this old book that I had had when I was young, about nine, and in the end pages (I was an inveterate scribbler in books) I had listed over 150 varieties of flowers that I had seen, and more than 50 species of birds. I thought maybe this generosity of flora had disappeared for ever.


Something has happened. Suddenly we are knee deep in flowers, banks and fields of them.  Not  rare flowers, but beautiful en masse.


The other day I stood quietly and I could hear the hum of insects in the air.  In places that are left without any husbandry the nettles take over, so perhaps this sudden florescence has been managed.  The farmer  has been putting down weedkiller just along the margins of the fields, so that edging the fields is a narrow and very specific yellow line, which I have not seen before. I know that there is an arrangement to mow the verges on alternate sides of the road each year, to allow plants to flourish.  Has anything else been going on?  Are people suddenly not using the same weedkiller or using different methods of stopping crops being infiltrated? Whatever it is, the effect is beautiful, and makes life feel better.



June 13, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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