There are many prehistoric stone circles in Aberdeenshire. They are small compared to the likes of Stonehenge, but still wonderful and mysterious. I took the dogs for a walk yesterday through the woods in the Strichen community park and we found ourselves following the path up the little hill to the Strichen stone circle.
I had planned to publish one of the pictures I took of the dogs on the stones, but I have changed my mind. When I uploaded the pictures to Flickr, I quickly received two favourable comments, one from Munich and one from Slovenia, from people who liked one of the pictures. It was taken half way up the hill where I stopped to watch a tractor working in a field. It was not a sunny day, but the greenness of the Aberdeenshire countryside is very much in evidence. We often take the ordinary countryside round about us for granted, but it clearly touched at least two people in far away places in Europe.
Perhaps I will publish a pictures of the ancient Aberdeenshire stones another day.
I am really noticing how much lighter it is in the late evening now that I have come back to Hatton from London.. It also helped that at this time of the year the evening sun shines in the windows at the street side of our house, and as I was sitting at the computer there was a lovely apricot colour glow in the room.
I picked up the camera and the dog leads and headed out. The dogs did not seem impressed with the evening sky, but I certainly was. I took several pictures and in the end have chosen this one of a summer sunset at Hatton.
I stopped off at Bannockburn on the way north on Saturday. My main purpose was to look at the huge mural which Chris Rutterford (the son of my cousin, June) has painted and is now installed in the visitor centre. It is very impressive, and after a bit of searching I found my face among the Scottish army there.
A few months ago I made a discovery while doing some family history research. Much to my surprise it turns out that June and I are related to King Robert the Bruce, through our grandfather’s family! Not that that impressed the dogs any. They were more than content to romp about on the grassy area round the stature of King Robert, though Lily did take a moment or two to quietly contemplate The Bruce.
I had planned to spend last night in a Travel Lodge on the M6 Motorway to break the journey from London to Hatton. But everything changed. when I was near Birmingham. I got a phone call telling me that the hotel was overbooked and did I mind transferred to a Travel Lodge in central Carlisle? They dogs seemed to have no objection, so I said yes.
It was quite a different Travel Lodge to what we are used to. Indeed it looks as if it had a Royal Appointment. I did hear that the Queen is having to move out of Buckingham Palace to allow renovations to take place, but I am not sure she will be expecting to stay at Carlisle Central Travel Lodge, even if it has King – Sized beds.
A quick search on the internet confirmed my suspicions that the building was actually a former Telephone Exchange – hence the EIIR on the wall beside the door.
The Golden Mile is the name given to a stretch of the Great West Road north of Brentford, running west from Chiswick. It was so called due to the concentration of industry along this short stretch of road which was opened in the 1920 to ease congestion on Brentford High Street.
Over the past couple of years we have been watching the redevelopment of a big area of ground (which is being called Great Western Quarter) between the A4 “Golden Mile” and the Thames. Here a 2 bedroom apartment will cost you half a million pounds.. This is quite near where our daughter lives and the usual route for the walk to school takes the grandchildren through GWQ, Quite a difference from the narrow streets of brick terraces which has been the norm for Brentford up to now.
Lily has taken the lead in developing a new skill during our stay in Brentford. She has learned to skateboard! I have not yet really managed to photograph her well on her board but she does manage to punt along two or three steps before jumping on. At first Poppy was too afraid to try, being scared by the noise of the wheels, but she stuck at it and by the evening was happy to sit on the skateboard.
Perhaps a new activity in agility competitions?
I saw the narrow-boat coming and it gave me time to plan the shot. I stood under an oak tree with overhanging branches and waited for the boat to sail into the right position. Today was the first day I had seen any boats during canal walks with the dogs. Earlier there had been a small cabin cruiser, now what looked like an authentic canal boat. As it sailed gently past I got a friendly wave from the man at the tiller and I could hear the relaxing music playing on his phone.
How different it would have been when this canal was in his heyday with boats carrying goods between London and the midlands. Horses would have plodded along the toe path where now I was walking and there would have been lots of boats. I walked past a mile marker which told me that it was 92 miles to Brauston which is a small village on the canal between Rugby and Daventry where the Grand Junction Canal and the Oxford Canal meet. I wonder how far this narrow boat was going?
We continued our walk enjoying the wonderful rural setting and wildlife of the canal banks even if the M4 motorway and a railway bridge carrying underground trains crossed over us.
All Poppy’s training in agility came good today when she managed to cross over the lock gates at the Clitheroe Lock on the Grand Union Canal. To her it was just like the dog walk in training. No fear, just strutting merrily over the narrow walkway to the other side. Lily on the other hand was not so sure and needed quite a bit of persuasion to make the crossing.
We are enjoying our walks along the canal and Poppy certainly looks the part of a canal dog perching on the lock gates.
Lily, Poppy and I have really enjoyed exploring the countryside round the River Brent and the Grand Union Canal. Although we were right under the elvevated section of the M4 motorway, heading west out of London, down among the trees and the bushes beside the river you could feel you were in the jungle. What a surprise we got when a group of people gently paddled past us, exploring the area from the water. What a great way to spend a warm Sunday afternoon in June!
The elevated section of the M4 motorway virtually touches the boundary fence of our daughter’s garden in Brentford, and underneath runs the incredibly busy A4 road. There is a constant noise of traffic. Yet there in the garden there grows a wonderful white rose bush, ignoring the traffic noise and fumes.
Looking east from the garden you can see the Edwardian houses of York Road and a huge advertising poster fixed on an old tower block, there to catch the eyes of the motorists approaching London on the M4. And it give us the warning that we are nearly there after the long drive from Aberdeenshire.
Just peeping out from behind the poster you can see the new tower block and the cranes still busy building more and more flats in the area. The old and the new indeed.
Poppy and I have joined the grandchildren on their walk to school these past few days. They have to walk a mile and a half, or more accurately scoot on their scooters. My daughter says it certainly gets them there much more quickly. The walk takes them through a newly built housing area with huge blocks of flats; past old streets of small Brentford houses, across a frighteningly busy road junction at Kew Bridge; and the joy of the walk – the final stretch along the Thames footpath at Strand on the Green.
On Friday, Eira opted to trade in her scooter to walk Poppy – and Poppy enjoyed the experience.
Lily and Poppy have appointed themselves guard dogs, and they take their duties very seriously. It is not just at home in Hatton that they warn off any intruder who dares to approach the house with a chorus of barking. Their holiday in London has given them the opportunity to guard Rosie’s house too.
The sitting room window is the perfect place to watch people innocently walking along the pavement and there is a very convenient chaise longue which gives them an even better view.
A wonderful place to walk the dogs in Brentford is the lower meadow at Boson Manor Park. There has been wildflower planting going on and on this beautiful June morning there was a sea of ox-eye daisies. Although the setting is very rural you can’t forget you are in an urban area. The huge GlaxoSmithKline plc building towers over the meadow. The noise of traffic is ever present from the overhead section of the M4 motorway and a steady stream of planes are on the approach to the nearby Heathrow Airport.
Still it is a beautiful place with lost of flowers, birds and wildlife to see.
When I think of London I don’t immediately think of countryside. But there is certainly is plenty of green space round about Brentford where we are staying just now. Yesterday morning I took the dogs for a walk in Osterley Park which belongs to the National Trust and is just a couple of miles or so from my daughter’s house. It was a beautiful still, sunny morning and you could feel you were in the middle of the country, apart from the planes overhead, coming in the land at Heathrow Airport just a few miles way.
There is grass a plenty, trees, bushes, and near Osterley House itself, a lovely little lake with swans, geese, ducks, and the occasion heron.
My eye went to the reflections in the water with the coot swimming nearby.
Over the past few years I have taken lots of pictures of dogs doing agility. Just now it is usually Poppy who is pictured as she learns the skills which will be required for her first competition at Aden Park in July. We are all away in London just now s0ending time with my daughter and her children, but Poppy’s training will need to continue. So I loaded a dog jump into the car before we set off and it is now set up in the garden here.
Needless to say it is not just Poppy and Lily who are jumping over it – Eira and Theo are doing it too!
We love staying at the Westmorland Hotel. Many years ago we spied the hotel when we stopped for something to eat at the Tebay Services on the M8, just south of Penrith. Now we are regular visitors. The rooms are comfortable, the staff friendly, the food excellent – and the clincher for us, they welcome dogs.
We stopped there last night on our way to London. Out of the window there is a wonderful view of the Westmorland fells. I took two pictures out of our bedroom window, one at night and the other in the early sunny morning.
We will be back!
On our way to London we stopped off for lunch with my brother and sister-in-law who live near Alloa in Clackmannanshire. As we relaxed and chatted in the sunshine I had quite a surprise – they had fairies at the bottom of their garden!
One of the joys of walking in the field at Hatton in June is watching the wild flowers appearing. The field is full of buttercups and lots of other wild flowers just now. But it is always something special when I spot the first of the wild orchids, as I did yesterday . The dark purple flowers are now starting to appear, pushing up through the grass. I think these are Northern Marsh Orchids, but I will be delighted if someone can correct me.
Bird photography in comfort is my style. We have set up a bird feeding station in our garden just outside the conservatory door. It is amazing how much food the birds are getting through just now. We have not seen anything very exotic, mostly sparrows and starlings, with the occasional flash of bright colour of a goldfinch snatching a few nyjer seeds. (How do you spell it? I have seen niger, nyger as well as nyjer.) We used to have a variety of tits visiting, but there are hardly any in sight at the moment.
No uncomfortable bird hide for me. Just an armchair and an open conservatory door. We have been watching a gang of young sparrows fluttering about the garden for a while now, and here is one of them. I am sure it is saying. “I am posing for you….this is my best side!”
The buttercups are in full bloom in the field in Hatton where I walk the dogs. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day and Poppy loved going exploring among the flowers. You can see from the picture just how small she is. She can hide among the buttercups.