Friday, 25 May 2018

Hadfast Valley Wildlife Reserve

I recently cycled past Hadfast Valley Wildlife Reserve just on the East of Cousland. I didn't have time to stop and explore so made a mental note to return later. On the way back from a wee job plastering at Ormiston it was sunny so I called past to see what was there. It was interesting in a slightly downbeat and dreamy way: very much left to grow wild without being manicured, and for the benefit of the wildlife living there rather than the humans who might be visiting.

you could easily miss the entrance although that's not an entirely bad idea!

First step in the place and a squirrel and a bunny ran and bounced away before I could get their pics. They were the only Disney animals spotted, the rest was all just birdsong and reluctant butterflies. Plenty nettles though. If you like nettles and can't get enough of them get yourself along. I am in the process of redeploying Skins calf-compression socks as nettle guards tm. But on this occasion I just waded in and "enjoyed" the razor slash and tingley dance of urtica dioica, cursing the orange tips as they knowingly enticed me through the nettly undergrowth.

there is a figure 8 maybe a mile in total of this sort of grassy trail

this is about the only concession to humans - a boardwalk over some squelch

there were a couple of tattered peacocks sunbathing and patrolling their turf
the second one was so shredded I thought it was maybe a comma

can anyone spot the problem here?

I admire the owners/people in charge for catering primarily for the wildlife in favour of the human visitors however I felt they might be slightly flying under that flag of convenience when it comes to maintenance and provision of benefit. There were maybe a dozen or more bird feeders out and every one empty. Now this time of year there is plenty bird food about but I wonder when the last time they were filled was? Like the bench above there was a lot of growth around them and I got the feeling if there is not a little bit of tidying and maintenance the place could get swallowed up by encroaching nature to the point of actually keeping people out entirely. Which wouldn't be ideal.

There was nobody else there when I visited and the place had something of a dreamy, neglected feel. It was rather pleasant but the locals, Orange Tips and GV Whites, hadn't become super tame or anything. In fact they seemed at least as skittish as any I have met this year (hasn't there been loads? bumper crop!) and they all did their best to get me covered in nettle rash and bramble slashes. I wonder if they had a points system for drawing the most blood or raising the lumpiest rash. I did get some pics though despite their efforts and I like the soft backgrounds, the result of a muted hazy sunshine.

bird strike?
although it looks more like the shrinkage of cellophane next to a flame

Back into the village and I had a wee neb in at the Cousland Smiddy. My dad (who lived nearby, photo above) used to do a bit to help out with the restoration or upkeep or fundraising for this. I forget what exactly. Probably all of that. It is very charming and couthy and slightly dilapidated, but also not just for the tourists. It is a working smiddy and I thought I'd pop in and patronise the blacksmith who was not super keen to engage in chit chat but okay to let me take a few photos. Later as I cycled home I wondered why it was we use the term smiddy, but not blacksmid. Anyway I used to do metal sculpture at art school and have a life long fascination with metal working tools, even though my own history of metal working used to involve quite a lot of white charred marks on my fingertips, particularly after a long lunchbreak. A history of self harm? Swapping up hot metal for cold nettle? I hastily took a few snaps of all the tools, the sort of thing my grandfather used to use and had a stash of in his cellar. (I come from a long line of hoarders!) You never know when you might need a blowtorch or pair of snips.

Makes you want to build a gate or shoe a horse?
Can you hear the hiss and bubble of the red metal being quenched in the can of water?

On the way out the village I saw this sign on the old rail trucks once used in the Lime Works. I painted the original but I am fairly sure this is a repaint as it was maybe 25~30 years ago and this looked in better nick than 20 years would have left it. However looks like they traced and copied my original script - zapf chancery possibly.

nature reserve on right, smiddy little vertical diversion off the road, on left

And before I go, a visual treat: I picked up Graham Bennison's print from the post office today. "Norman's Law, from the Brunton Side". And very nice too! Lino pint with experimental corrosion using drain unblocker and wallpaper paste mix to give texture to the lino. I think it has great charm and character, catching the flavour of the countryside there perfectly. He is selling another handful of them (being prints) so if you get in quick you will get a bargain.

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