Taking a walk on the Wilton Park wild side

Hawick's Wilton Park in its autumnal garb
Hawick's Wilton Park in its autumnal garb
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Now that we’re well into autumn, the weather has decided to catch up. Sunday was one of those classic “back-end” days, with blustery showers and strong gusting wind.

Not ideal conditions for seeing wildlife, but whatever the conditions, there’s always something to look at.

After a bit of shopping in Hawick, I decided that Treacle, the mad cockapoo, was in need of some exercise to let off a bit of steam, so we headed for Wilton Park – one of my 
favourite wet-weather walks, 
as it is always mud-free 
underfoot.

Before going through the gates into the park, I usually check the cauld to see if any fish are jumping. Unlike Selkirk, where there’s a big run in progress, all was quiet on the fish front. As usual, there were lots of gulls just hanging around, a few mallards and a wily old heron resting on the island at the foot of the weir. It stayed there long enough for me to get a few pictures, but it wasn’t easy keeping steady in the buffeting wind.

There must have been lots of small fish in the pool below the cauld, as a group of goosanders were trying their luck. I was amazed how close they allowed me to get to photograph them, but I suspect that they were used to people walking close by and maybe even feeding them. They were all females, judging by their brown heads, except for one male with his dark-green head and black-and-cream livery.

When you see them together like that, it’s hard to believe that they’re the same species.

It was great standing on the footbridge, looking directly down on them fishing. Their technique involves swimming with their head just below the water as if they are snorkelling, until they spot a small fish, then they dive rapidly after it before grasping it in its serrated bill. They are terrifically-well designed for the purpose.

Once into the park, the autumn colours were lovely, but a little sunshine would have made all the difference. The wind was whipping up the fallen leaves and spinning them round like mini-tornadoes. It was a pity the tearoom was closed for the winter as a warming cuppa would have been most welcome. However, it was good to see work in progress to repair the pavilion and war memorial, and it looked as if the bandstand was getting a new look as well.

Hawick is fortunate to have such a wonderful amenity and it is good to see money being spent on its upkeep. Judging by the number of people out walking on such a wild day, the locals make full use of it.