Spring Work – Summer Relax

You may remember our exploits in the garden last year. I covered that in the post It’ll only take 5 minutes. Well, we never learn. You see, when I wrote that post we did think we’d do “something” with the side garden but that was more along the lines of clearing it of weeds, levelling it, and then perhaps cover it in decorative gravel.  So, we thought we’d decide and plan it over the winter and then tackled it this year.


Some things didn’t really go to plan.

In May last year we arranged for a gardener to come round and clear all the weeds, fruit bushes, rosa rugosa, grass, long lost shrubs, and flatted the spoil heap of soil we’d built up over the years, ready for us to start our redesign this year. Well, we waited, ‘I’ll be at the end of the month’, two months later turned into ‘I haven’t forgotten you, I’ll be round in 2 – 3 weeks time’, turned into ….. well …… nothing …………. still waiting.

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By the end of the summer we decided, we could just tackle it ourselves. Amazing what you can do with a couple of spades, a fork and a rake. The rosa rugosa roots were massive, and there were runners speading out all over the area. No mercy was given on either side, but we were a force to be reckoned with and out they came!

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We had planned replacing the fence but thought we would let the old one get through another winter and then replace it. Well, that didn’t run to plan either.  During our path laying last year I leaned on the fence, and it moved… a lot. I didn’t realise I needed to lose weight, or was it my newly honed muscles. There was no way that it would weather another Highland winter so after 27 years marking the border of the garden, we got it replaced.

The fencing contractor was great.  He came when he said he would, and replaced the fence at break-neck speed, and even removed our old ‘hole in the roof shed’.  However, the fence was 140+ meters long, so that meant a lot of fence to paint (280+ meters as we had to do inside and outside). We got most of it painted, but unfortunately the winter came quicker than we expected.

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I don’t think we expected such a long cold winter and spring was really late coming this year, so it was well into April before it was warm enough to finish painting the fence. Then, we lifted the membrane and started lowering and levelling the garden.

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Firstly, we had to get the level from the front gate down to the level of the existing patio correct as we didn’t want to put in any steps.  Also, we had to get the patio reasonably level with just a very small slope for drainage.  So out came the string lines – oh, yes, a beautiful trip hazard – still, it let both of us practice our very unattractive ballet leaps, in steel toe capped wellies.  A sight to behold.


Over the winter we decided on 3 raised beds – one for vegetables, one for wildflowers and the other for flowers. The Woodblocx arrived and the first tub went together really easily. That then gave us a store for some of the soil that was to come out of the patio area.



Nice and easy producing a plan.  But there’s always something that will be a spanner in the works.  I guess the next bit of the garden was the bit that we were most undecided about. Would we have an arch to mark moving from the relaxing patio area to the productive work area of the garden? Then, the next question was, could we find one that would fit? We were quite tight for space, so the dimensions would have to be accurate.

Search as we did, both online and at the chain DIY stores, we couldn’t find one that had the perfect dimensions.  So, the next option?  Perhaps we could leave this bit out, and then put one in when we found one that was the correct size.


One thing one of our local garden centres has is a brilliant restaurant.  So up we went for a coffee, and what did we see?  An arch! Exactly the size we needed, the look we wanted and cheaper than the diy stores. So a few days later it was delivered, along with the metal spikes we were going to use to stand it in.


I guess we didn’t really think too much about it, but, despite being in the house for over 27 years, we hadn’t really worked this soil. So we started to hammer in the spikes, only to hit something hard. So, the fork came out, the spade was used too but no, nothing was getting past. Then the crow bar came out – that sorted it. A layer of tar. Gradually we broke through it but in the process decided that really we’d have to dig down and try to get all the rubble out. Oh, all the builders rubbish was there, oily cloths, tar, boulders, concrete all had to be removed.

We did realise early on in this process, that we would have to make sure that all 4 of the spikes were positioned millimetre perfect. In the end, due to all the builders rubbish we ended up having to dig out holes for 3 of the spikes, the remaining one sunk into the soil beautifully. Then the moment of truth. We lugged the arch from our existing patio, where we’d built it, round to the spikes, and lifted it into place. Would it fit? Like a glove. So, we backfilled the holes and tightened up the screws in the arch.



By this time, we decided that we wanted to put a trellis behind each of the flower tubs – which would let me grow one of my favourite climbing flowers, sweet peas. Knowing that we had so much hassle with the spikes for the arch we decided to sink the spikes for the trellis work at this stage, and to position the posts for the trellis. Yes, more tar, more builders rubbish, but finally, with all that completed we could build the two remaining raised beds, fill them, and then fit the trellis. Our final job at this stage was to fit wooden edging to the path and backfill with soil to give a flat surface.

Looking back, it was just as well we found the arch as there was no way we could have retro fitted it.

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As you’ll probably have guessed by now, we have loads of soil that we’ve dug out. Some we used to fill the raised beds but there’s still tonnes of the stuff.

So, back to the fork and rake to get the patio dug out. If you read the previous blog from last year you’ll know that we redid a couple of paths. At that time we decided that if we had enough soil we would use it to fill in a couple of areas in the back garden that needed raising and finishing. So a lot of the soil was wheelbarrowed round to those areas. We still had a lot left, but thought that as the shed had been removed we could work on this area later and use the soil there.


We had drafted a plan for slabbing the patio and paths over the winter.  However, we then decided to change them to incorporate different sizes of slab and finally came up with a design we liked.

The patio slabs being delivered

The patio slabs being delivered

The next stage was slabbing the area. As you’ll see from the photos the area between the arch and the gate is very much our working area. We’ve the wood store, the vegetable raised bed and the wheelie bin area. So that was the first area to be slabbed.

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Next was the patio.  We knew this was going to be a challenge as there are so many different angles and levels in the garden.  After a few trips over the string level we got the correct angles and set to laying the patio.  We always knew there was going to be a tight spot at the hedge as we had just enough room to fit a slab in there – and phew! it worked, I don’t think we had more than 1mm to spare.


Once the patio was complete then it was onto the pathio.  This was the area that linked the new patio with the existing patio.  When we started building that we realised it was almost a small patio in its own right, and was almost too wide to be called a path.  Hence the new word – pathio.

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So joining the new and existing patios was always going to be a close shave.  Remember, we had to match the correct height and angle with the existing patio.  Relief – all the trips over the string line were (nearly) worth it – it fitted.


I’ve mentioned it a few times – we have a lot of soil.  It was becoming more and more apparent that the area between the pathio and the fence was going to be another raised bed. So, back to digging and raking.  Eventually we managed to level the area but there was going to be a slope and it was going to be too steep for the decorative gravel.  A quick look around the garden and we decided to re-use some more of the granite setts that we’ve had lying around.

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A year or too after we moved into the house a builder decided to “fly tip” builders rubble further up the track from us.  In those days it wasn’t illegal to do that.  But, one of the many trips was to dump off some really lovely old granite setts.  It was quite funny, as soon as the lorry left, everyone in the area were out with their wheel barrows and rescued the setts.  Now, if you walk round the village you will see lots of features made up of these lovely setts.


Remember earlier I mentioned a gardener, who last May, said he’d be at the end of the month?  Well you’ll never believe this, but on the 31 May this year, he arrived.  Still, it gave us a chance to show him what we’d been up to.


We knew we had quite a lot of wildlife visiting our garden, but we didn’t realise just how many different species paid us a visit.  We ended up becoming trusted by one of the blackbirds, who has become increasingly bold in coming up really close to us.  We also tried to build in escape routes between the fence and the gravel by adding in concrete lintels a few centimetres from the fence – this will allow the hedgehogs to transit through the garden.  In the final stages we found another visitor – a common frog.  He’d found a wee hidey hole under the membrane within the centre of one of the plants.




Delivering one of the 5 bags of decorative gravel


At the start of June the 5 bulk bags of decorative gravel arrived for the raised flower bed.  So, it was many trips with our barrow, but finally, all the area was covered.

As with all gardens this will continue being a work in progress as I already have cuttings in tubs which I hope will be big enough next year to plant round the edges of the raised beds to help soften them.


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Just a wee reminder of before and after:

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So, things I learned during the process:

  • Always plan what you want to achieve
  • Calculate what you need
  • Shop around – I’d have never got the arch I really wanted if I hadn’t
  • Don’t assume the chain stores will be cheaper – both the arch and the gravel were a lot cheaper from the garden centre
  • Tackle each part as a mini project in its own right
  • Set realistic goals
  • Make sure you take breaks – or you’ll just get scunnered
  • If you think something will be better, deviate slightly from the plan – we hadn’t thought of the wood logging but it really added a finishing touch
  • Logistics – we kept the impetus going by making sure materials were going to be delivered when we needed them – that gave us a target to aim for in finishing off an existing mini-project
  • Alter the plan if you need to – you may end up with something better




Stop Press! Willow has something to say

Hi, Willow here.  Do you remember in my last blog entry I told you about the thinning of the woodland? As its Saturday, and my hu-mum has been very good, I’ve decided to let her go for a walk without me.  But, I instructed her to take her camera, and to go into the woods and to get a photo of the wood cutting machine.

Well she back now, and seems to have had a great walk – apparently she met lots of lovely dogs and humans.  As we’ve had a bit of snow this week, and it’s been really frosty I noticed that she took some photos of the mountains.  These are looking west towards Contin.

Look West no cw

She also remembered to take the photos as I instructed.  One of the cutting mechanism, and other photo is of the two machines that are now working in the woods.  I’ve inspected the first photo and I think the red machine lifts and stacks the wood before it’s taken out of the woodland.

She was also very excited about one of her other photos.  Apparently my humans were watching a program this week about trees.  In it they showed what happens when a rotting bit of wood is composted in woodland – it excretes water, which if it’s cold, then freezes and forms a fluffy looking coating on the wood.  Well my hu-mum was so excited that she managed to get a photo of the white fluffy water.  Of course, me being a dog, have seen this many times.

Water caused by digester no copyright

Well, I’ve got to go now but before I do I’ve want to say a very happy New Year to all of you, I hope you all enjoy 2018.


Oh PS, If you liked these photos you may want to visit my hu-mum’s shop on: siobhanfraser.redbubble.com

They’re Cutting My Woods Down – Another Willow the Wanderer post

Well, that’s what I thought first of all, they’re cutting my woods down. But no, my humans have told me that’s not what’s happening – they are only thinning out the woods, and only removing the trees that didn’t originally grow in Scotland (like Sitka spruce and Western Hemlock). I worked something else out – but you’ve not to tell my hu-mum or hu-dad ‘cos they’ll never think of this – there’s new paths so I’ll get new routes to explore.


Willow Exploring_lowres

Willow The Wanderer exploring. Look in the background for trees felled in a previous storm

There is a downside though. As we don’t know where exactly in the woods the machine is going to be, I have to stay on the lead. My hu-mum says it’s because I will only go and supervise and get in the way. Me! Get in the Way! What a cheek! Mind you, she is right about the supervising.

I sat and wondered why they would want to cut down trees. Then remembered back to when I was a little puppy. My favourite pond looked very different then. There were hardly any trees around it, or bushes. But now, it’s really thick with lots of different plants. It must have been telepathy because my hu-dad looked out a photo he took 12 years ago (a couple of years before I was born) and there was my pond. Oh, it looks so much better now.

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Now shhhh! Don’t tell them what I’m thinking. As you’ll see, my hu-mum took some photos of the tracks and felled logs. What I noticed – there’s new tracks – I’ve even planned a new route in the photos below. Now this is great. These tracks often fill up with water when it rains – and I can spend ages just running back and forth through them, splashing away till my wee heart’s content. And the added bonus – they’re often filled with mud. Whoo hooo. A dogs delight.

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Just as a bit of interest, have you ever seen one of these tree cutting machines working? This big metal thing clamps itself onto the trunk of the tree, and then slices it off at ground level. Then it tilts the tree until it’s horizontal and runs it back and fore until there’s no branches left. Finally, it feeds lengths of the trunk through and cuts them to the correct length. Then onto the next one. I did ask my hu-mum to take a photo but she said she couldn’t as the big metal thing (she meant the cutting mechanism) was swinging back and fore too much and it would just be a blur.  I stood there for ages and ages just looking. See my hu-mum was right, I do like supervising. 



Willow supervising

Once they finish working in the woods it’ll be great, as there will be lots of space, and light. This means that all the little saplings and other bushes will have the space and light they need to grow. I’ve seen that in the other parts of the woods that they’ve cleared over the years. It also means that all the wildlife that I’m used to seeing – the red squirrels, pine martens, and the different deer will have a more natural home too.


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Now, I can’t wait until they finish working there as I am desperate to get in exploring.

A Step Back in Time

I thought I’d step back in time for this blog. Perhaps in more ways than one: this is a walk we did in July 2015 and it is walking back in time to explore something that happened many millions of years ago.

We started off in Hopeman in Moray.  If you are coming by car there’s loads of parking spaces facing the beach.  Once we walked past the beach we came across some beach huts.  They were beautifully painted by their owners and really expressed their personalities with loads of different colours and even geometric designs.

Beach Huts by Hopeman Beach lowres

There was a well worn path which followed the shore but you could also walk along the beach for at least part of the way.  All the way along we were afforded stunning views of the Moray Firth and were lulled by the waves crashing onto the beach. 

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Part way along the walk the sandy beach is replaced by a rocky shoreline – which was lovely as it gave real character to the waves crashing against the rocks.  Then quite un-expectantly we came across a lovely pebble beach. 

Flat sea worn pebbles and crashing waves lowres

A bit further on we turned a corner – and there it was, in all its glory.  Clashach Cove.  A geologists delight.

First Glimpse of Clashach Cove lowres

Although I’ve seen several fault lines in Scotland this one did surprise me as I hardly ever think of a fault line in sandstone.  But yet, if I’d thought a bit more about it I would have realised that the oil and gas sector, which has been so important to Scotland recently, has resulted from sub-surface reservoirs of oil and gas in porous sandstone.  And, some of the reservoirs in the North Sea (eg the Rotleigend reservoirs) also contain faults.  So, when you’re looking at these remember that Clashach Cove is an example of a conventional hydrocarbon reservoir.  Apparently, and I only found this out once I started investigating Clashach Cove in a bit more detail, this area is the best place in Britain to see sandstone faults and their deformation bands.

Footwall and Fault at Clashach Cove lowres

So where and when were these rocks formed? 

These were formed about 299 to 252 million years ago.  You’ll hear geologists refer to this as being in the Permian period.  What we don’t know is when the rocks were split by the fault.  It would have been after the rocks had been formed, but we don’t know how long after.  Now the thing that I find a bit mind blowing with geology if you’ve to think in really long timescales, and remember that the surface of the earth is moving.  So, these rocks were once sand dunes and they were in a hot and arid desert environment.  It’s thought that they were only 20o N of the equator when they were formed.

What am I actually looking at anyway?

Well obviously I’m going to say – a lovely bit of geology, but, you’re looking at three major features.  The first is a fault line.  This has caused the rocks to split.  If you look at the large cave you will see a greyish wall making up its left side. This is the fault line. 

Caves at Clashach Cove lowres

The next really interesting feature is the layering on the rocks.  If you remember, these were sand dunes which resulted from the wind blowing sand grains to build them up.  Different wind directions will have contributed to the changing directions of the layers.  

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The third feature is the two caves.  The main cave is a large hollow and you can walk into it.  The second cave entrance is a tunnel which takes you through the rock and you can come out onto the beach at the other side.  Even on a quiet day you can really hear the waves booming when you are in the tunnel and can feel each wave hitting the rocks.  It sounds like a massive storm is going on outside, but actually it’s just some really quite small waves.

If you do visit the area, do take time to wander around the beach area as there are lovely rock formations right round the beach.

Waves pounding entrance in rocks lowres

We turned and headed back to Hopeman at this point.  However, if you continue on the same coastal path you will come to a quarry with fossilised reptile footprints.  The path will take you past this and you can follow it to Lossiemouth.






https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/GeositesClashachMoray accessed 05 10 2017




Into The Hot Houses

A couple of weeks ago I covered a trip to the Botanic Gardens in Inverness – but only covered the journey through the outside gardens.  There are also 2 large glasshouses: one a warm, spacious environment and the other a more tropical damp environment.  Both are on 2 levels but the levels are more obvious in the cactus and succulents house.

Cactus and Succulents lowres

I don’t think I really realised until then the wide variety of different succulents and cacti that exist.  There’s a mix of colours and textures.  There are some I really wouldn’t want to get too close to as they are completely covered in a multitude of sharp spines, to others that are really fluffy looking.  Although to be honest, I didn’t try touching them either in case they were slightly sharper than they looked.  Nature has a way of tricking you sometimes.

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I was quite taken with some of the flowers on the cactus as they were very colourful.

Flowering Cactus lowres

The succulents also looked lovely as they too had a wide variety of different colours and textures.

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In between the two different glasshouses is a fascinating area.  It’s full of the man-eaters.  OK, well, yes I know, that’s a gross exaggeration.  There are lots of carnivorous plants – but they don’t eat humans, they’re more happy with insects.  I had seen some Venus Flytraps on a previous visit but didn’t notice any on this visit.  The one thing that did surprise me though was that these plants didn’t just rely on attracting insects with their “killing mechanism” they had beautiful flowers too.


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Moving onto the more tropical glasshouse this is a real joy to walk through as the plants are really closely planted and are a beautiful mix of colours in both their foliage and flowers, especially the entrance from the cactus greenhouse.  When you’re wandering through this area you really feel as is you are pushing your way through a tropical paradise.

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There were far too many flowers to get individual closeups but I have singled out some of my favourites in this section.  From flowers that looked like Birds  of Paradise, some that looked like beaks of Parrots and a tree covered in Cork.

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There’s also a small waterfall and a fish pond with lots of different sized fishes and a couple that really looked as if they were monsters from the deep.

The Monster from the Deep lowres

So two very different environments, one stark almost minimalist in feel with the cactus and the succulents while the other is lush and tropical where you feel the plants are all vying with each other as they would in the wild.

Definitely a place to visit especially with winter rapidly approaching.

2 Bridges and Loads of Water – a Willow Wander

Hello Willow, the tripawd Labrador, here again.  My hu-man and hu-mam are both resting after a brilliant walk, so I thought I’d tell you all about it.  This is a very historic route as it was used by drovers and the military in the past, and the rock formations we’ll see are even older, but more of that later.

View from Silverbridge lowres

We parked at a place called Silverbridge, which is past Garve on the Ullapool road.  It’s another Forest Enterprise carpark and is nice and safely away from the main road which is great for a dog like me.  Well, once we left the car park we crossed a lovely old bridge and I was going to explore one side of it but was told there was a nicer place to visit.  So down some steps we went and then I saw the bridge properly.   It’s a really old bridge, my hu-dad thinks it was built around 1762.  Perhaps my humans remember it being built when they were young?  There are nice waterfalls here and the water looks lovely as it drops over them.

Bridge at Silverbridge over Black Water lowres

We followed a well laid out path along the river – it was up and down a bit to start with but my hu-mam made it no problem and then it flattened out well.  We crossed a little stream, and somebody had very kindly thought of my humans and put in a crossing.  Now, as you probably know, my natural temptation is to jump into every bit of water I can find but I was good on this trip. 

Waterfall to stream lowres

As we walked, the river was beside us and every now and again we saw some lovely views of the river. Now, my hu-mam takes photos of our walks but what no-one really knows is that I stop, find a nice spot with a good view, and then she comes along and takes the photo. She’d never manage without me, you know.   On the other side of the path was mixed woodland.  It was really peaceful and, as it was autumn, the leaves were all changing colour.

Peaceful river with autumn colours lowres

We then came to a fork in the path, which was greeted with lots of “oh, we’re here already” from my hu-mam.  So, I took my humans across a really steep bridge and into another carpark.  This one was hidden between the trees and you could see the river really well.  It was at a place called Little Garve which was a really important stopping place for drovers and their cattle, as they used to rest here, and get shoes put onto the cattle.

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The Drove Roads

Many years ago people called Drovers used to walk cattle from the north and west of Scotland down to markets in the more populated areas of Scotland.  In this part of the Highlands these markets could have been in Muir of Ord which used to hold a big fair.   Very often these cattle would then be walked down to the central belt of Scotland to large trysts in Falkirk or Crieff.  For the drovers who were using the drove roads in this part of the Highlands they would have been walking on paths, but from Little Garve onwards they would have been walking on much harder roads so needed to shoe their cattle to make it easier for them to walk on the hard roads.

Little Garve Bridge

Now, the bridge we crossed is really interesting.  Again, it’s a really old bridge as it was built around 1762.  After the Jacobite uprisings a man called General Wade built lots of roads and bridges across Scotland.  This was to make it easier for the troops to move around the country to stop any further uprisings.  It’s thought that this bridge was built by Major Caulfield, Wades successor.

Little Garve Bridge lowres

We then followed the river back to Silverbridge.  Now, you may not know this about my hu-mam but she loves rocks, see she does have some good taste.  So, we were both in our element on the way back as there were fantastic rocks in the river. 

A Bit about the Geology

The one main feature in this whole area is Ben Wyvis a mountain which is 1046 meters high.  This whole area has a Psammite bedrock and had originally started off as a sandstone but underwent  metamorphism.  This was about 541 to 2500 million years ago.  What’s really interesting about this walk is that the area around Little Garve has superficial deposits that were laid down about 2 million years ago in a fullivial, or river, setting.  This is different from the superficial deposits nearer Silverbridge as they are glacial deposits from about 3 million years ago.

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You may be wondering how a dog knows so much about geology.  Well, on the way back I was encouraged to cool my paws down in a burn.  But then I found a much better pool which I waded into, cooled my paws down and had a big drink. You know, you can learn an awful lot from licking rocks.  Actually, I think I gave my hu-mam a bit of a fright as she thought I’d jumped into the river.  Ha ha, fooled you.

So, all too soon we came back to Silverbridge, so it was quite nice to get a different view of the same bridge. 

Black Water under Silverbridge lowres


Grid Ref: NH 395 630

Length, about 2-3 miles and took us about 75 to 90 minutes









Coulter’s Candy

I guess that’s what stepping back in time does – it reminds you of all sorts of childhood memories.  This week the open air, Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore certainly achieved that for me, when we re-visited to catch up on the Croft and Village sections we missed on our last visit.

Aultarie Croft from Pavilion lowres

Aultarie Croft

This is a croft that still has animals on it. The three Highland Cattle were hiding – all we could see were the top of their horns but I’ve captured some of the other livestock.

The farmhouse area incorporates 3 different items.  Its main front room has been interpreted as a late 1930s living room.  The room across from it has been transformed into a wee sweetie shop, called Kirk’s Store.  And yes, you can buy sweets there.  They even had a tub of Coulter’s Candy – so of course, I had to buy some.  The Coulter’s Candy song (you may know it as Ally Bally, or Ally Bally Bee) then circulated in my head all day.  It was written by Robert Coltart (1832 – 1880), a Galashiels weaver, to help market his sweeties.  And there I was thinking marketing was a modern phenomenon.  There are many versions of the song but I’ve included a link below for the version by Donovan.

Farmhouse and Post Office lowres

Attached to the side of the farmhouse is the Glenlivet Post Office.  This was acquired by the museum and has been rebuilt as it was when it was operating. 

There are loads of things to see in this area:

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But don’t just look at the outside of the buildings, when you go inside it really is stepping back in time – but strangely familiar.

A tin cottage, interpreted as it would have been in the 1930s, which was originally used by farm workers.

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Balameanach Village

Once you get back to the Shepherd’s Bothy and Fank you then start picking up the buildings that make up the village – Balameanach.  Do spend some time going inside these as they are a real glimpse into the not too distant past.  Remember, if you were born in the 1950s or 1960s then you will have probably seen, if not used, some of the items in the interpretations.  Even if you were born more recently all the items will be really familiar.

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The Blackhouse was one of the first buildings that the museum acquired and it has been rebuilt here.  You will see scaffolding in this picture which is there as they are now re-thatching the roof.  If you look closely you will see turfs have been laid on the roof, and one of the other photos shows the marram grass which has been gathered into sheaves ready for thatching the roof.  I believe this was to be done the week after we visited.  Next to the Lewis Blackhouse is the Loom shed which contains a loom similar to those introduced to the Harris Tweed industry in the 1900s.

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Highland Cottage is one of the buildings I find most interesting.  At one end of the site there’s the 1700s township whereas at the other end of the site are buildings from the 20th century.  This wee cottage sits at the middle of the site, quite near the entrance, and represents the transition from turf dwellings to stone build houses.  This building represents buildings from the early 1800s.

Like many other villages of the time it wasn’t just made up of houses but would have had a wealth of other activities from industry, craftspeople, a school and church.  These have also been included in the museum by the restoration of buildings, and their contents, from all over the Highlands.

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 It’s just as I was writing this blog that I realised what it is that I really like about this museum.  It represents the life of ordinary Highlanders from the past which means that many of the items are really familiar – whether that’s an old tractor, or a kitchen storage unit, a 1950s clock or even a tub of Coulter’s Candy.  I never tasted Coulter’s Candy as a bairn but I knew the song and that’s the memory that was triggered.

Coulter’s Candy song – sung by Donovan


I’m Innocent

Hi, it’s me Willow, the tripawd Labrador, here again.  You know that saying “if you’re in a hole, stop digging”?  It’s true, you see I was literally in a hole and yes, I should have stopped digging.  And now because of that I’m in the dog house.  And my humans think they have enough evidence – hmm, but I have the ultimate rebuttal.  And here is my defence.

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You see I used to have a friend who loved to dig.  She left holes all-round the garden – I think she called them booby traps.  Anyway, my hudad decided to tidy up the garden and has done loads.  But this week it was removing old rosa Ragusa bushes and removing all the dockens, grass and anything else that grew.  And now it’s all bare ground.  But he did something terrible – he filled in the holes!

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 So my friends “ghost” came back and decided to re-instate the holes.  You know the one, the same “ghost” that pushed me off the settee when I was lying in my friends favourite spot.

 Now, my humum seems to think it was me that did the digging.  Well, show me the evidence I say.  Ahh.  Well, yes, that’s correct I was in the garden at the time it got dug – I’ll grant you that.  But you can’t prove it was me that did the digging.


Yes, my paws are very dirty and covered in gutters.  As were yours when you went over to “inspect” the damage.


Yes, I know that there’s considerably more gutters on my front paws compared to my back one.  But if you think about it, when I walk I have to put lots more weight on my front paws than on my back one – so they just went further into the mud.  It had nothing to do with digging.


And, my final ultimate rebuttal?  How could I, with only three legs dig a hole like that?  I need to balance with all 3 legs, so if I was using my front 2 legs for digging that would mean I was standing on one leg.  Dear humum, do you really think I could do that?

So, there you go, all my evidence presented.  Case closed.  I’m INNOCENT!

Autumn Colours

I guess it’s that time of year when we’re getting ready to wave goodbye to summer and still awaiting winter.  But autumn has its own glories and I was reminded of that on a recent walk round the Botanic Gardens in Inverness.  If you haven’t been – GO!  From the outside it looks really small, and looking at the size of the space it takes up you would be mistaken for thinking it wouldn’t contain much.  Think again.  They have really successfully managed to make the most from the space.  In fact, this will probably be one of a series of blogs about the gardens – this is the outside bit – but I’ll be covering the indoor greenhouses separately.

The Old Boots

Don’t be mistaken in thinking that these places are staid and a bit boring – not here.  There’s always some quirky little corner that always triggers good ideas – and a smile.  This is just that corner – what a brilliant way to use some old boots.  Last time I visited it was fizzy drinks bottles.  Always a good source of inspiration on what to do with left over “stuff”.

The Old Boots low res

We nearly missed out the rock garden.  This is one of these gardens where there are lots of little paths leading here, there and everywhere.  At the front it had all these lovely heathers and behind a lovely colourful rock garden

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Too often I forget that the colour doesn’t just come from flowers or foliage – it can be there in the bark of a tree too.  These are 2 lovely examples of these.  What a shade of reddish brown, it looked like someone had been out polishing it to a deep sheen.  That contrasted beautifully with the 3 white trunks. 

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From one area in the garden you can see so many different colours.  There were still a lot of the summer border flowers in full bloom, but the autumn colours were starting to creep in.  So this had the lovely effect of increasing the colour palette of the garden.

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I’ve not had a lot of luck growing dahlias probably because our garden is so wet that it rots the tubers.  So I took full advantage of photographing these beauties.  Perhaps I’ll pick up on their idea of growing these in pots rather than in the soil.

Once we completed the tour of the outside gardens we then enjoyed very different  environments in the glass houses.  But that’s for another post…….





It’s quite nice to go back in time.

It’s a few years since we’ve visited the Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore – and what a difference, it has a lot more buildings there and has seen a lot of much welcome development. I suspect it’s the Outlander effect as part of the museum has been one of the locations for the filming of the TV series Outlander. In case you haven’t visited, this is an outdoor museum which is spread over an 8-acre site. At one end there’s a 1930s farm and at the other end, about 1 mile away, is a re-constructed Highland Township. On this occasion we only visited part of the site, but are definitely planning another visit to catch up on the rest.

The Old Cottage and garden lowres

As we visited in September we had a mix of sunshine and showers – what had started as a dreich looking day, had brightened up nicely as we started our wander around the museum. So, we headed for a leisurely stroll through the Pinewoods to Baile Gean which is the museum’s re-constructed Highland township.

We took our time – looking at the animals carved into the tops of tree stumps, and watched live red squirrels scampering up nearby trees. Far too fast for me to even think about photographing them. We saw lots of other reminders of how Highlanders used to live in the past en-route.

The Travellers Camp lowres

One of these is the Travellers’ Camp. The one at the museum was built by in 2008 by Essie Stewart who had travelled Sutherland with her Traveller family in the 1940s and 1950s. The framework here is built of hazel poles and is covered by a tarpaulin.

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Nearby there’s the Curling Pond. You may know of this sport from the Olympics but Curling was invented in medieval Scotland, with evidence of it dating back to at least 1511. The hut at this curling pond is an original which has re-constructed at the museum.

The Mill Workshop lowres

This guy is really realistic, especially when you just catch him out of the corner of your eye. I wonder how many people have spoken to him over the years? His workshop is located just before you come to the township. Look carefully out of the window and you will see the outline of the top of the waterwheel. Outside, you can see the water wheel and the lade that would have carried the water to the wheel.

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And now we come into the re-construction of a 1700s Highland township. This is a group of 6 different buildings and successfully shows how they would have been inhabited and used during that period. The first thing that will probably hit you as you approach the township is the smell of smoke. This is the really distinctive peat that was burned in many homes in the Highlands and Islands. The next thing that surprised me was the birdlife – a couple of ducks and 3 hens were quite happily wandering around their home. Now, that made it feel really authentic.

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Do take some time to visit the buildings – they are open and you can wander in to have a good look round. It’s not like visiting a modern day house – there are no windows so the only light is from the doorways and your eyes do have to adjust to the dark. Add to that the smoke from the open fire in the middle of the house and you get a real feel for how life was lived in the 1700s. Fortunately, the animals who would have shared one end of the house in those days weren’t around – I dread to think what the smell would have been like.

Inside a smoky house lowres

We took the path through the woods back to the visitor centre, which is conveniently located in about the middle of the site. We stopped and had a picnic lunch – yes, it really was that nice in September in Scotland. So, what else is there to do at the museum? Well there’s a café, gift shop and picnic tables at the entrance. Then there’s also a 1930s working farm and a community of buildings which have been re-located from different parts of the Highlands. We will definitely be back to visit that part of the museum as it looks as if it’s grown considerably since we last visited.

Pond in Trees lowres