Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Old Kirkyards of Tongland and Senwick

Last Weekend, we continued our exploration of Borders Kirkyards by visiting two places geographically not far apart but very different in atmosphere and approach!

Firstly, we stopped at Tongland Abbey, found by following the appropriately-named Monks Way, just off the A711 through Tongland near Kirkcudbright.

The Abbey itself is in a piteous state, dangerous and in bad repair now. In the grounds there is also the ruins of a small church. The churchyard is well-manicured and very close to some houses. A mausoleum for the Neilson family takes pride of place (apparently, James Neilson was the inventor of the hot-blast system of iron-smelting). The motto, "Presto Pro Patria" appears above the entrance with a bearded bloke holding a hammer, the motto meaning perhaps "Ready for the Mother country".

The other names on the gravestones below are George Frater, Isabella Graham, Robert John Rae, and Isabella Kyle. We learnt later that one of B's ancestors is in this graveyard so we will return.

Next, we drove through Kirkcudbright and round the western side of the Bay. We parked near Balmangan, and found the footpath leading firstly across fields then into woods. The wild flowers in the woods were between snowdrops and bluebells, and in full throw of lesser celandine (which looks remarkably like a buttercup, but much more delicate)

The woods betrayed the fact that in fact we were very close to the coastline, and after catching a glimpse of one wonderful secluded beach we couldn't resist a visit. The local geology makes the pebbles here very flat and a lovely grey/blue colour, contrasting beautifully with the red sand. I loved the way the beach just "starts" very quickly turning from trees and grass to rocks and sand.

Further through the woods, we found the kirkyard of Senwick (NX65534601). The most prominent building is a mausoleum for the Blair family of Dunrod, in fact there were quite a few Blair graves and also Sproat, including one paid for by a descendant in the USA who was also buried here. I loved the little groudlevel slate slab which simply reads "HEIR LYS CORPS OF SPROT AN". There was also a stone on the top of the wall engraved with graffiti in 1920 by RJ Paterson, JPS?

We could just make out the rubble of the old church and behind it the taller manse, both abandonded in 1670. It's so impressive that there is anything left of these places at all! A wonderful little churchyard, preserved by the fact that there is no easy and direct path to it now. Senwick was given to Tongland Abbey by David II in c.1355 and the parish was united with Borgue in 1670, along with Kirkandrews, presumably why Senwick was abandoned.

I find old graveyards enormously interesting, and often think of the present family, perhaps in other areas of the world, who are connected to the people buried beneath.

After returning back along the path, we made our way to the Cream of Galloway visitors centre for lunch. We could actually make out the tree-climbing section this time of year! Maybe next time we'll have a go.

Next, we went on a rockart hunt to Barharrow, which was a bit of a wild goose chase. On the way home we stopped to take some shots of Chapelcross, but that's another story!

Route to Senwick here

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Garlands Walk

I live very close to the old Garlands hospital, some of which has been very successfully converted into housing (see here for an excellent site describing it, and here for a great aerial shot of the chapel, now flats, and here for what is used to look like)

I have been stuck at home this week, and getting incredibly stircrazy I decided to get off my fattening arse and go for a quick circuit around the block, part of the route took in this glorious old queen.

Even though it was a dreich morning, the walk was enjoyable because the world was still waking up, and I saw the obligatory blackbirds, robins, chaffinches, thrushes and sparrows that I have been missing in plasticland.

I really must get more exercise if I want to look svelt for my summer wardrobe :P

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lamb Cam!

Awwwww.... little waggy tails!

Chichester College Lamb Cam

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Talkin Tarn - with four seasons in one day!

Today, we visited Talkin Tarn near Brampton in NE Cumbria.

This place brings memories back of my attempt 22 years ago to walk around it 36 times making a 50-mile walk (for some reason our school was obsessed with the Kennedy Challenge) - we had started at 6am on midsummers day and I had a rest at 1am after completing 29 laps - and never started again. I can't believe now that three boys in our year actually ran it! (they later joined the marines) I have a vivid memory of crying in the car all the way home... after stubbing my toes on what felt like every tree root on the path...

Anyway the tarn (1.3 miles perimeter) is now part of a country park area managed by Carlisle City Council, and they have made a lot of improvements including relaid paths and a shiney new toilet block!

The weather today was predicted to be mixed - it was very windy already hence quite changeable. After completing a lap we visited the tearoom and bird/squirrel feeding area, where I saw a red squirrel happily eating alongside robins, blue tits and chaffinches. While having our tea the sky went black and the heavens opened - with snow! Or was it hail; perhaps a mixture.

So I fed my crusts to the ducks and we headed back to the car.


Visit Cumbria

BBC Walking Page

Another Walk

Visit Northwest

Pictures of England

360 Panorama

SAGA members go bling bling!

Saw this story on the Beeb news pages and thought - about time! I think it's a fab idea and it'll be a hot hot seller - may many more copycats follow!

I hope that they should follow it up with different styles for the more discerning silvertexter. I think a nice leather-look design would be good, or one with flowers on it, a leopard-skin one for Rod Stewart, or maybe a luminous one that glows in the dark so you can find it at the bottom of your shopping bag.

I've just ordered a new phone , I hope it behaves how I want it to... anyway they have all sorts of extras these days, cool ideas and nice designs etc so why not cater more for people who find them difficult to use? It's all profit after all, and I bet this more basic phone - the Emporia Life phone - will cost the same as trendier mobiles on the market.

My dad sent me a text this morning - it read "So what ! ? " - meaning "so what have we got planned for today then, seeing as it's mothers day and you said you'd take your mam out somewhere nice, but the weather's a bit mental and I've got a stinking cold" but hey I knew what he meant. I phoned him back, otherwise I'd still be having the conversation at tea-time. I then found out that he'd sent it under my mam's instruction... she is a dabhand at it, even uses textspeak and everything. I was informed that the most impressive thing about the message was that he'd used punctuation for the first time.

I know plenty of people who have a mobile phone "just for emergencies" - but who then forget to take it with them, they can't find it, never look at it so the battery goes flat etc...

I hope that as well as having clear buttons and display panel, loud vibrate and ring, plus emergency button, that this new "Life" phone also has a big voice which shouts when approaching a battery flatline,


Monday, March 12, 2007

Poodles - WHY?

I caught a little bit of Crufts last night.

There's always a debate about how the dogs are treated etc, but as far as I saw there was no discussion of how absolutely hilarious those poodles are.

Just to make things absolutely clear, this is an acceptable poodle:

These are not:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bluerare Restaurant - a review

Last night we went out for a posh romantic meal, at our "local" restaurant, the Bluerare at Carleton, on the edge of Carlisle. It's not been open long, used to be called the Terracotta. We went there about a year ago and in that guise, it's menu was mostly Italian and it was trying to have a Mediterranean feel but it failed somewhat and felt more like a very large conservatory; bright, echoey and chaotic, with too many very small tables, although it did the biggest deepfried brie I'd ever seen!

During its transformation to Bluerare, there has been no major building work undertaken but the redecoration has been enough to improve the atmosphere to one of modern gastro restaurant, with blue being the main theme (unsurprisingly) larger table and very comfy chairs. Overall much more luxurious and romantic!

We had an early booking, so had the place to ourselves at first, but before we left it had filled up with larger groups and the atmosphere changed to have a bit more buzz, but still with a lot of class.

I had no starter but B ordered the salt & chilli monkfish. It came on a bed of rocket and carrot salad, and three large chunks of beautifully battered fish.

For the main, B had the lemon sole, which had been panfried in butter and came with a simple parsley sauce and new potatoes. The fish was moist and tasty, with a hint of crispiness on the edges.

I ordered the Cumberland Fillet Steak on black pudding mash, but asked for the Drambuie sauce to be made without mushrooms, which they were happy to do. When it arrived, it was so thick (about 2.5 inches) that it was almost round like a tennis ball! But inside, it was perfectly cooked. I had it well-done (despite the name of the restaurant), so there was no trace of pink but all moisture was still there, encased in a crust. Fantastic! I love a good bit of steak, and this was a good bit of steak. I take great pleasure in peeling the fibres apart like feathers, and this was very tender so fell apart - absolutely lush! The mash, sauce and veg accompaniments were equally gorgeous.

For dessert, I was drawn to the Cherry Creme Brulee, which was simply creme brulee with cherries in the bottom. Not sure it had been freshly torched though, as it was cold as if from the fridge. B had "Cinder Surprise" which was ice cream with Crunchie.

We would have had coffee but it was about this time that a few large parties came in and we lost priority in the pecking-order for the staff's attention, so after a while decided to leave and have a cuppa at home.

It was a bit expensive, but we felt like it was worth it, and we'll be going back you can count on that!

PS (added July 2008)
This is the most popular pages on my blog, attracting so far over 450 visitors, mostly sent here via a Google search. Just saying. I mean I reckon if only 10% of those people actually booked a meal spending say hmmm minimum £50 each, that works out at £2250. Hmmm. makes you think doesn't it. Dear Bluerare: maybe someone could send me round a plate of chips or something? That would be nice. Thanks.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Teviothead - more graves, and egg and chips

Another rainy day, so we took a little jaunt up the A7 into the Borders.

First, we visited The Celtic Goldsmith at Teviothead. The shop is interesting, but they didn’t have exactly what we were after so left empty-handed. They know a bit about rock art in there, and lots of other local history to boot.

Across the road in the village itself, we visited Teviothead old churchyard, complete with the memorial marking the mass grave of border outlaw Johnnie Armstrong and 36 of his men, sent to gallows without trial by James V in 1530.

There were some other old graves here, some which looked very similar to the ones we saw at Yarrow Kirk. Unfortunately the inscriptions were weathered or covered by moss so we couldn’t read them. But that didn't make them any less beautiful.

Next it was back via Langholm and lunch of eggs and chips at the little teashop.

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