Floods leave marks, old and new

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It was a case of pastures new on Sunday when I decided on a pleasant stroll starting in the historic town of Coldstream.

Parking high above the silvery waters of the slow-flowing Tweed, I set off towards one of Coldstream’s famous landmarks, its trans-border bridge. Built in the 1760s, this handsome structure has seven arches, the main five of which were all cleverly made the same radius to save on shuttering costs during construction.

At the Scottish end of the bridge is the Marriage House, which, like Gretna Green, attracted English couples who came for a “quickie” marriage, which at that time was not possible in England.

The path to the riverside walk passes under the bridge and it was interesting to note that on the edge of the arch next to the path, a line had been etched marking an unbelievably high flood level some time during the 1800s, but the soft sandstone had been weathered to such an extent that it was difficult to read the exact date.

Recent floods, too, left their mark in the form of debris hanging from riverside willows and piles of flotsam along the field margins. It was good to note that the amount of plastic among it was very little compared to what I experienced a few years ago on other stretches of Tweed riverbank. Either someone had been along and cleared away the worst of it, or the council’s recycling efforts are finally paying off.

Birdlife on the river consisted of the usual suspects – goosander, mallard (all paired off), heron and a single cormorant. A pair of mute swans were having a bath in the shallows on the opposite side with much splashing and beating of wings.

Before leaving the river and heading up towards Lennel, I had a coffee break on an old stile beneath an extremely active and noisy rookery, where urgent nest work was taking place to repair the damage caused by recent gales.

Snowdrops were nodding in the stiff breeze all along the pathway and here and there the first real native flowers were coming into bloom – shiny, yellow petalled lesser celandine.

After a short walk along the roadside, it was into the woodland of Lennel Estate to wend my way back to my starting point.

I stopped to admire the huge column with a statue on top which I always thought was something to do with the Battle of Trafalgar, probably because of the proximity of Trafalgar House and its similarity to Nelson’s Column. I was amazed to learn from the inscription that it celebrates the victory of Charles Marjoribanks, when elected Berwickshire’s first MP after the 1832 Reform Act. The inscription described him as having “high talents, amiable qualities and political principles”. He was knocked off his perch and brought down to earth in 1873, when he was struck by lightning and had to be replaced!