The first significant frost this morning. Venus, satellite bright in the morning sky the time has come to find winter gloves stored at the first signs of spring and the last use of the woodburner. I am trying to go a long walk every day. Up just after 6 and out as quickly as possible.
Geese in their thousands are here and more local Starlings than usual. There are two well known places for murmurations, but there is now a third and very close to us and I can catch it most days. If you ever have the chance to see one, go even if you have to travel.
It is winter that reminds you of the emptiness of this part of Scotland. All summer I have been saying ‘ we have 6 people for every square kilometer, that’s 10 less than the highlands ‘. It feels even less now. One of my birthday presents was a 1924 copy of a guide to Galloway by G.H. Dick ‘ Galloway and Carrick, a district which has remained unknown to the world longer than any part of Scotland with the possible exception of the island of Rockall ‘, Is how the book begins.
We have just created an advert for Adventure Cycling in the USA. The strap line we came up with is ‘ The Unicorn is Scotland’s national animal – the next car that passes you may be just as rare ‘. It is quite possible if you can be bothered to count to ride 70 miles or so and see just 6 cars. We love it.
The walk on Saturday was a significant step in recovery. A circular walk to the high cliffs and spectacular views around Balcary Bay. We picked a peach of a day. I could not have done this a week ago, it is great to be out and pulling in great lungfuls of winter air. Get the blood pumping and deep into the areas that still need to heal.
I have worked out a route. Inland at first, picking off the site of a huge fort before we pick up the coast path. Half way and we turn towards the coast – PRIVATE, a sign we tend to ignore here in Scotland as we have a right to roam and I can see a clear route. ” Are you lost? “. I know we have every right to go through, but I can speak farmer talk if needed. I used to have a farm and 1,000 sheep, did all the collie dog stuff and even entered a sheep dog trial. The farmer does not know this of course.
” I have a bull down there! ” What type? I like bulls. ” All the gates are padlocked down that way “. I will have to throw out a bit of bait and I see he has a shepherd’s dog whistle around his neck, so I tell him I never got on with those not even the metal ones. He now knows this and that I live here. I tell him that we have a cycling company and that we show mostly American guests this fantastic area. ” Most of them want to spend as long as possible out of the USA while Trump is in “.
This gets an unexpected response ” He stands up for what he believes and is getting things done “. I have met my first Trump supporter and it comes as quite a shock. I move off the subject and noticing he has a Peacock I think I will tease him – ” My worst nightmare would be having someone move in next door with a Peacock, horrid noise, beautiful bird, but horrid noise”.
The Peacock is too scared to come out ” Too many birds of prey here, I told that Bill Oddie when he was here “. Just on cue 2 Kestrels and a Sparrow Hawk shoot by. ” My pigeons never come out, they need controlling “.
Then the clincher ” We had a coachload of Muslims down by the hotel last week, what are they doing here? ” I changed the subject .” You have a million dollar view you know “. He thought for a moment, he had bought the place for the view and we had agreed with him that it was the best view in the south of Scotland. ” You can have it for half a million “.
Off we went to think about his offer, across his land without once seeing a bull or any padlocked gates. It is useful to speak farmer. In most of the country you just need to know what is wheat barley or oats and you say things like ” fine-looking crop of barley there”. Sheep look all the same but you need to know only 6 breeds to get by, cows just 4. Tractors are just blue, green or red and you will need to allocate Ford, John Deere and Massey Ferguson to the right one. Anything without a cab is a great tractor and you ask how long they have had it.
As usual, the whole point of the walk was to brew a coffee at the most perfect location. Life can be made simple and a simple life is usually full of joy. The bike is my simple pleasure, but it may be another week or so for that. A great coffee, a wooden cup and the finest access legislation in the world make me so full of joy to live here in this gem of Scotland.