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November 2012


Benmore Argyll Ist. November.

Well I didn't make it on the walks at the Younger Botanic Garden, Benmore Argyll today, the first of November. I had a severe episode of gout and realised that driving and walking were not on the agenda!

Willie Cree kindly stepped in and everyone was delighted with the day!

Alison Gifford kindly sent me some pictures and I missed a brilliant show of

Autumn colour. 



This fabulous photograph by Alison captures the atmosphere at Benmore in autumn.


If anyone else would like to send pictures … great.

Benmore is one of three outstations of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. The others are Dawyck in the Scottish Borders and Logan on the Mull of Galloway.  



                                                 Photograph by Alison Gifford.


 All including the Edinburgh garden are very worth visiting. If you are looking for horticultural excellence then you will be delighted with what you see.




Benmore in Argyll. Photograph by Alison Gifford 2012.


Drumlanrig Castle Estate.

The approach to “the pink palace” is grand with a wide avenue of lime trees and generous expanses of grass. The castle combines a fairytale appearance with strong solid lines of defence. We did not come to see the castle as it closed at this time of year. The garden, which we visited a number of years ago, is also closed. One memorable feature of the garden is a substantial Ginkgo biloba the maidenhair tree. We will return to see the garden again in season. We came for a woodland walk and on the advice of the Countryside Ranger chose the blue route.

Coming off the hill and entering the village at Durrisdeer.


Andrew, one of the Countryside Rangers at Drumlanrig, met us and welcomed us to his world. He told us what we might see – red squirrel, deer, otter and kingfisher. A party of 21 people cannot moved quietly through the woods and this was going to be the only way we might see these wild creatures. Not to worry! Sometimes we are lucky and do see wildlife. Not today.

The trees were certainly interesting. The conifers all looked about right for harvesting and some parts of the walk were closed due to forestry operations. We saw a great deal of natural regeneration especially of Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga menziesii.

An impressive work of art is located in the Marr Burn which our route crossed. The Leaping Arch in the middle of the burn represents a salmon leaping on it's way to the spawning ground. The artist, Andy Goldsworthy, was commissioned by the Duke of Buccleuch in 2009 to create this work of art. The sand stone came from the estates own quarry which also was used to build the castle giving it the “pink palace” colour.

It was interesting to see coppiced hazel on the banks along on of the forest roads which served to illustrate that some trees do regenerate and throw up strong young shoots after they have been cut down to within a few inches of the ground. We saw a sweet chestnut stump producing excellent coppice. If you are coppicing trees to grow poles you can use in the garden it will take between five and seven years to achieve this.

Other species which do well from coppice are Willow, oak, hazel, ash, and field maple.

Coppicing is a technique you can use with these species in the garden. The act of coppicing can rejuvenate some tree and shrub species. Check your facts before launching into coppicing. I would recommend the Royal Horticultural Society web site for research. Search

Often a multi-stemmed tree is an attractive feature of the garden. Willow which produces excellent colour on young shoots is well suited to this growing technique. Many small trees and shrubs can be successfully coppiced. Cornus commonly known as dogwood is a good example. The yellow stemmed dogwood Cornus 'Flaviramea' puts up a good show if coppiced say every two years. Other garden species which can be successfully coppiced are Elder, Hazel and Hornbeam.

For more information go to




A wee bit rain disnae spoil a good walk in the Scottish landscape near Durrisdeer, Dumfries and Galloway. This is part of the Drumlanrig Estate.








We finished our day with a visit to the tiny village of Durrisdeer and the beautiful Parish Church which houses the Queensberry Burial Vault and the Buccleuch Marbles. From here we walked up to a viewpoint above the site of a Roman Fortlet. Drumlanrig is a fine area of Scotland and worth visiting at any time.


Kinshaldy and Tents Muir, the Kingdom of Fife.

I explored Fife on my motorbike and the East Neuk, Falkland and the hill and North East Fife were among my favourite places. One weekend I journeyed to Leuchars on my Ariel Leader and searched the roads and lanes for a route to the sea. I eventually found a lane that followed the shape of the farmers fields taking sharp turns left and right along the boundaries. These were roads which had not changed in generations. Horses and carts made their weary way along these roads within living memory. In fact this is what the roads were created for all that time ago.


Tents Muir Forest 2008.


Once I moved through the farmland I entered the forest initially birch scrub developing into a darker pine forest. Still the road did it's sharp left and sharp right turns and fields with horses appeared in the middle of the forest. The trees came to an end ahead and over the sand dunes lay, out of sight, a great beach. First I had to navigate my way on foot through sea buck thorn some ten feet high. And then over the rolling dunes and onto this amazing beach. It stretched south west, to the mouth of the river Eden at Guardbridge and north to the Tay estuary. Not a living soul to be seen. A massive beach all to myself and the birds and a seal pup left high and dry by mum.





















Fifty one years later with my fifteen fellow travellers we drive the same roads and lanes into the forest, pass the fields with the horses wearing coats to keep them warm, pay two pounds at the Forestry Commission barrier and park in much the same place I parked my bike in all these years ago..


Can we walk on water?


The big shrubs of sea buck thorn are gone. Later we see very small plants of it amongst the dunes. Maybe regeneration but most likely to have been planted to help the marram grass stabilise the dunes against the sea.

The beach is just as fantastic as it was. Walkers with big packs of dogs are getting lots of fresh air and exercise. However as the beach is so vast the presence of other people doesn’t make an impact on the feelings of space and the feeling that we have managed “to get away from it all”.



















                                       Time for lunch.

Boom, boom, bang, bang, roar. It was a still day and we could hear the frequent firing of guns across the Tay from the Barry Buddon Firing Range. The odd jet roared out of RAF Leuchers to the south west. None of these intrusions spoiled our day. Our walk to the Salmon fishers bothy set high on stilts, our picnic in a sun filled hollow around the bothy. Our careful navigation of a sandy burn. All these experiences enriched our feelings of a special day; “a magic” day according to Laura.


Driftwood as modern art and Frances.


The ancient Scots toun of Saint Andrews beckoned us to celebrate his day one day early. I am sure he would have been pleased with our celebration. A short visit to this lovely town is always welcome after a good days walking. St Andrews has always been one of my favourite places.


Home to Glasgow, my minibus, my precious cargo of fifteen friends and a life so different to what it was fifty one years ago. Still the places I discovered all these years ago are special to me. I love bringing people to share the jewels in the Crown of Scotland. I hope that we can all return again in the future.


Nearing the end of a memorable walk.