Open Country by Erica Hume Niven

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The first time I visited Kailzie Gardens a number of years ago I went with a lady called Bel. It was the height of summer. I was not sure what I would find when we went through the first gate around a huge clipped yew tree.

Neatly mown lawns lie next to wild flower meadows. Outside the high walls of the formal gardens specimen trees from around the world display a variety of leaf shapes and silhouettes. Inside the high Georgian wall a bounty of colour and form is present. Then there is a surprise.

There are smaller walled areas within this elegant space. They are like secret rooms. They made me feel like a little girl again finding a secret garden. Urns had fountains of colour bursting forth and trailing plants falling down the sides – these are like a horn of plenty for aestheticism.

As the gardens evoked my childlike nature all those years ago it is no surprise that I accepted a gift of fairy wings from the fairy tent at the recent Kailzie Wildlife Festival. I faithfully wore my wings both days rain or shine. In fact I became quite smitten with the fairy tent and the three wee faery folk who belonged to the head fairies. Jenny and I and her two boys sat on mushrooms painting fairy doors.

Fairy Cyn and Pixie Pete are the owners of this delightfully colourful tent. They take their business around festivals for much of the year and supply the knowing public with all their fairy needs. By far the brightest stall there, Fairy Glass are purveyors of fairy jewellery, fairy doors, fairy ornaments, fairy homes and charming stained glass wares. Most of their products are made with their own magical hands.

A falconry team brought a selection of hawks and a raven allowing a great opportunity to get close to animals at the top of the food chain. Anna Craigen from Borders Forest Trust worked tirelessly for two days intriguing adults and children alike with the fascinating creatures found in water. Most people are not aware of the things you can dredge up from the murky sediment; like water boatmen, shrimps and diving beetles. Of course the children who came and went were enthralled with the amount of tad poles.

Wilson Jamieson, local forestry and fencing contractor, brought one of his experienced team members to give a tree surgery display. Di Bennet local naturalist and dog washer extraordinaire trapped small mammals giving an interesting wildlife experience for festival visitors who could take part in the mammals’ release. Chris Sawers, another local naturalist, gave a heritage tree walk with her charismatic style.

The presence of Caldwell’s ice cream trailer on the lawn was a popular addition to the day’s proceedings. Dotted around the area where a Georgian manor once stood were conservation groups, a dry-stane dyke demonstration and Peelham Farm’s fragrant organic meat barbecue. Here people gathered enjoying the sun, the exquisite native and ornamental trees. Nature’s aroma mixed with food smells, chatter and laughter all the long day.

Over the stone bridge more stalls offered their wares on the grass terrace in front of Kailzie’s courtyard. In this area Roy Dennis opened the weekend’s festivities with a charming talk about the reintroduction of ospreys in Tweeddale. As a young naturalist he thought it foolish to name animals. However, as the decades went own he became pleased to discover that a named bird was reported that had travelled from Scotland to Africa.

It is testament to Angela Lady Buchan-Hepburn’s reinstatement of the formal gardens and unwavering care for the policies that this festival was couched in a pertinent environment; coupled with the organisation by Friends of Kailzie Wildlife. Apart from an interest and care for wildlife visitors and workers enjoyed the atmosphere of the weekend.

When my colleague Keith and I were not building bat and bird boxes with festival goers we stood and looked out at the people, the trees and the hills beyond. There was a delicate atmosphere in that special place; it transcended the mundane.