Monday, 19 December 2011
On Monday, keen to see bats hibernating in the rafters, I sought out the ruin of Elibank castle. Following Scrogbank burn, I veered left up and past the caravan until, as before, I reached the elbow in the woods where the siskins sang in the sunshine. This time though they were somewhere else.
The sun was setting so I slipped down left, following landrover tracks through the brush and marshy ground. Eventually, down through terraces of conifers, a static grey shape emerged, unmoving between the flitting tree trunks as I jogged closer.
I climbed into its field and, coming closer, peered in at its black, gaping window holes. This mass of stone looked and felt like three dank, square-stacked caves. There was no speaking to it. A torch might have revealed the water bats or the naterers hanging inside, but I found that my head was reluctant to poke far into the heavy threshold, never mind look up.
Dusk was quickly gathering and I ran off, leaving the sleeping bats undisturbed.
Thursday, 15 December 2011
I`m looking at the dictionary of the Scots Language and trying to reconcile the images of the Forest in my head with the shapes and place-names in the OS map: a Rig seems to suggest the backbone or spine of an animal or ( well, of course ) a ridge; a Knowe is a small rounded hill, hillock or mound; Law - a rounded hill...particularly common in southern Scotland where "hills are variously named according to their magnitude; as Law, Pen, Kipp etc" according to an 18th century source.
A Craig - a hill or ridge with a steep rock face at one end sloping gradually towards the other [ I`d understand it if I saw it...].
A Cleuch: a gorge or ravine with steep, rocky sides, usually the course of a stream,
and a Shiel is a rough shelter for sheep or cattle in a remote place.
and all, save the high moorland plateau, clothed in and obscured by trees and populated by wild, shy creatures.
Friday, 9 December 2011
On the same Sunday run though, as I ran up past the caravan and through this area of healthy, well maintained Pine forest, feet now crunching on snow; I found I was running alongside clear deer tracks - one set large, one small - and I followed the ghost of their presence for 1/2 kilometre or so until the road ended at a sunny elbow. The deer tracks climbed up the wood`s edge. I checked myself from trampling them and we came out together onto the higher road 2-300m beyond.
This was a logging road I`d discovered last week, a route lined and oppressed by countless neglected Sitka spruce trees; crushed together, choking and dead-flanked.
On that previous run, fearful of the mood, I`d stopped and spoken (and stretched and breathed deeply). I`d told those suffocated trees that, if I was a woodsman, I`d fell many of them, creating spaces of light for those still standing so they could stretch and breath. And I`d make good use of the greenwood logs, some to season for burning or carving, some to turn into useful objects.
It helped me; took away the constriction I`d felt, this talking to the trees...
I carried on running - gently sloping upwards through the tree factory until the tunnel suddenly opened out onto sunlight and big spaces: views to north and east, the Eildon hills landmarking Melrose. I ran along the high moorland road, through the light, chilly air, happy to have persevered, There at my shoulder was a buzzard (though I wished it was an osprey) flying 300m to my left, against the wind, effortlessly keeping pace before disappearing into the trees.
I stopped, though my path continued straight for a half mile or so towards...where ? eventually the Three Brethren ? One day I`ll find out
Monday, 5 December 2011
My particular bird and its tribe have been almost my only contact in recent forest runs (for going on two months).
This, the Elibank part of the forest, is the vast tree swathe nearest our house. We, and a few neighbours, sit either side of the logging road. Together we form a kind of north facing gateway. Follow this track south and soon you disappear into the woods, into the sounds of the Bold Burn, the smell of resin.
Two minutes on and the road forks up left, then sweeps round to face and then run parallel with the Tweed. And from here, right up to the Head (the path travelling in long curves from left to right over 5 kilometres) the only other creatures I`ve seen have been the small gangs of little, dipping birds.
They seemed at first sighting to be nondescript sparrows (black against the white sky). In time their song and colour and movements have revealed themselves to me. I tend on these solitary runs to "converse" with objects and creatures: "What are you ?" might apply to a caravan, tree or bird (it seems). These wee birds are a mossy yellow, small-headed and they flit ahead, settling in the trees beyond me until I draw level again provoking them to head off again and again. I think they are called Chiff Chaffs, but it could be that I`ve met a charm of Goldfinches (such is my ignorance). In time, I hope, as I pore over maps, words, descriptions, I`ll be able to "name" this other world on my doorstep.
Friday, 2 December 2011
On Sunday I used my new "trail running" shoes. They look good and are waterproof. The soles though feel - on hard surfaces - like knobbly slabs of hard black toffee. I fear also that, being clackety, they`ll scare any wildlife away.
I wanted to explore the forestry road beyond the shell-of-a-caravan (no longer sinister to me because last time, on running down to it for the first time, I sniffed it, so to speak; I introduced myself, speculated outloud as to its character and history).
It sits on the edge of a conifer-wooded slope and looks out and down on what I now know to be Scrogbank Burn. And on this first face to face encounter the sun shone on the widely spread scots pine and a single bird sang nearby - its song echoing peacefully.