Friday, 19 May 2017

Scotland by Rail - Dalry Station Garden - hare unveiling and River Garnock walk



Dalry Station Garden Open Day including unveiling of three fantastical white hares, staring skywards. Afterwards cake and folk music in the Greenbank Inn then a couple of hours exploring a mile or so downstream along the River Garnock.

Previous Dalry blogs one (Lynn Glen) and two (Blair Estate) for other local walks and more about my mural involvement with Dalry Station.

Dalry Station Garden Group - website.


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Station Garden hares

Funded by Dalry Parish Boundary Trust and North Ayrshire Council three beautiful white station hares were commissioned from artist Wayne Darnell. After the unveiling we were treated to hare cakes and bakes in the Greenbank Inn and folk songs and stories from James Dippie and John Hodgart.



unveiling the hares

hawthorn and compost

micro pond - try one of these in your garden, easy and quick and one of the best things for nature


new planter thanks to Dalry Burns Club

more speeches in the Greenbank Inn

James and John




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River Garnock walk,

A short and sometimes uncertain walk with lots of bird and plantlife to stop for. 



I walked from the town downstream on the west side of the River Garnock until a little beyond a high-fenced auction ground on the other side of the water. Turned around at a point where I discovered snipe. Frightened them off before I spotted them unfortunately, as is almost always the case. Have you ever seen snipe holes though? Look at the photos...

Retraced my steps as far as the auction ground bridge, crossed the bridge over the river and through a gate in the high fence. From there it's close alongside the fence until a more substantial track winds you back towards the town with railway on the right and river on the left. 

After a while you're nearly at houses when there's a footbridge over the river on your left - don't take it, turn right and walk with field on either side until you emerge at the station.


starting the walk, River Garnock on the left, Dalry houses behind me

Dalry's Maes Howe?

looking back to Dalry, Garnock on the right

butterbur - www.plantlife.org.uk

butterbur

wind farm - http://dcdh.btck.co.uk/Projects/WindFarmCommunityBenefits

orange water outlet and auctions cross the water. They could do with some hedgerow

snipe holes! All over the muddy ground here where they'd been probing for insects

more snipe holes

where I flushed the group of snipe

now returning to Dalry, looking back along the auction ground fence

woodland then river on my left, railway on right

Dalry in the distance

fields on either side, Dalry station ahead

my Garnock River walk - the red-ringed, white-arrowed bit


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How to get there

Trains to Dalry take half an hour from Glasgow Central and run half-hourly Mon-Sat, hourly on Sundays.

'Ayrshire, Inverclyde & Stranraer Timetable' and 'Buy Tickets' option on ScotRail website.



Thanks to ScotRail for enabling my Scotland by Rail work.




Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Scotland by Rail - Dundee, Balgay Hill & Cemetery

crossing the Tay


I get up to Dundee about once a year, visiting Gallery Q or my friend Martin or both. Martin and I were at secondary school together and he's a painter too. We exhibit in some of the same exhibitions and galleries and not often enough we go sketching together. Last time we sketched at the top of Dundee Law but it was cold up there and we retreated quickly to a pub. This time the weather was lovely and we had a long ramble followed by a bit more sketching. Then a pub.

I've been reading a lot of Jim Crumley. You should too. Try Nature's Architect for up-to-the-minute species reintroduction discussion and in-depth beaver ecology understanding and inspiration; Try Encounters in the Wild series for short, personal, beautifully published accounts of individual species - Badger, Skylark, Barn Owl, Fox, Hare, Swan. Try the The Nature of Autumn for Jim's newest book and the motivation for this my latest trip to Dundee.

Jim is from Dundee, grew up there in the 1950's and 60's. In his books he often mentions his Dundee childhood on the edge of Balgay Hill and cemetery with views to the River Tay, autumn geese overhead, spring skylarks song-flighting from surrounding fields. Although the skylark fields are long built over, Balgay Hill is still a place of nature. I'd just finished reading about Balgay in The Nature of Autumn and decided to pay it a visit.

Travel was by train from my home in Burntisland, changing at Kirkcaldy. Total journey time a little over an hour. If you want to read about the route try this Dundee blog post from 2014.


looking west from the Tay Bridge


The area around Dundee station has been a building site for a good few years. Since I was last there a new station entrance has sprung up, not yet complete, and the dark hulking body of the ship-like V&A Dundee, also not yet complete.


Dundee station


HMS Discovery de-masted, V&A behind


V&A and Tay Road Bridge


I started my walk westwards along the Dundee waterfront, headed towards and then under the Tay (rail) Bridge where three mallards paddled. Tide was low and four seals pretended to be bananas out on a sand bank. On another temporary island were gulls (common, herring, black-headed) and a preening cormorant. Down at the river edge a curlew waded the temporarily revealed mud. Take time to read boards about the Tay Bridge Disaster and the verses of William McGonagall. Also the sad tale of a humpback whale which visited Dundee in 1893. Jim has a book about that too - The Winter Whale, Birlinn, 2008.








Soon after passing under the Tay Bridge turn right across road then playing fields (a hundred or more starlings were foraging the grass here) and across the Dundee-Perth railway line via this footbridge.


The bridge leads Magdalen Green where I recognised the colourful cast-iron bandstand, a century and a quarter old, from one of my favourite of Martin's paintings.


Martin Hill - Bandstand, Magdalen Green, oil on board, 45x57.5cm


From Magdalen Green the entrance to Balgay Hill at Victoria Park is less than a mile away bearing north-west. I went first to Martin's studio, a good big white space in the depths of an old church, full of stuff to look at, as studios should be. We discussed work then gathered sketching stuff and headed to Balgay.

The Hill and cemetery are two side by side lowly rounded hills, all part of the same maturely wooded Balgay landscape. The sites are spanned at the hip by an elegant Victorian cast-iron bridge, matching Martin's bandstand from earlier.

The sun was out and birdlife was in full voice. Three or more great spotted woodpeckers were particularly obvious by their song, high in the trees around us as we walked up the hill to the Observatory summit. The drumming of bill on wood is unmistakable to the ear but as often with woodpeckers I could catch only glimpses. This drumming is the bird's song, used to mark and defend territories, heard most often in the spring.

Once, staying in an organic pink watermill in Little Salkeld, Cumbria, I heard a great spot performing its drumming on the metal-capped tip of a railway telegraph pole. The rhythm was absolutely familiar but the sound was alien and took some moments to place, so much stronger and sharper than the normal drumming on wood. It rang out from the railway cutting, up through the wooded slope where we walked, down across the valley of the River Eden.

Wildlife was great down in that area. I once found a dipper nest spot under a railway bridge on a tributary of the Eden, watched the adults bringing meat for their young, heard the chicks frantically squeal as their meals arrived, glimpsed their downy heads and scrawny necks. At the mill nuthatches were often on the kitchen window feeders, red squirrels too.

Back to Balgay, where there are also apparently red squirrels. We didn't see any but Martin will be tasked to let me know if he ever does. After a few hours of exploring and sketching we were leaving the hill when a jay surprised me as I went off-path on the heathy eastern slope.

We ended with half an hour in a cosy book-themed pub before I left to catch my train.


Balgay Hill, woodpeckers drumming








from Balgay looking west


 Balgay cemetery, pen in sketchbook


from Balgay looking north




 Balgay cemetery, pen in sketchbook


in the George Orwell pub, pen in sketchbook

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Martin's paintings

See more of Martin's work on his website and by following him on Twitter:


If you'd like to see pieces for real try the Sutton Gallery in Edinburgh, Billcliffe Gallery in Glasgow and Gallery Q in Dundee:
www.galleryq.co.uk/manufacturer.php?id_manufacturer=115


Contact Martin to ask about any artworks, possible workshops, demos, talks, etc.


Many thanks for permission to show Bandstand, Magdalen and these Balgay oils:


Martin Hill


Martin Hill


Martin Hill


Martin Hill


Martin Hill

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Friends of Balgay

Lots of info here - www.balgay.btck.co.uk

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How to get there

Trains to Dundee leave:

- Edinburgh and Aberdeen every half hour, journey time c.1 hour 10 mins
- Glasgow every hour, journey time c.1 hour 20 mins
- Perth every hour, journey time approx 25 mins

Timetable - Glasgow/Edinburgh/Perth/Aberdeen - Dundee


Very many thanks to ScotRail for supporting my Scotland by Rail work.