Three outings, during the past week in the central Borders, have been extra enjoyable, and all for totally different reasons.
Firstly, I had a real shocker while on a trip to Craik Forest, on a cold squally afternoon.
I was sitting in the car in the picnic area next to the infant Borthwick Water, reading the paper, when suddenly my wife shouted “Look at that!” Across the burn, completely oblivious to our presence, a young badger was trundling along the waterside path, no more than 20 feet away from the car.
I was so amazed that I forgot to reach onto the back seat and grab the camera. We watched it for about half a minute, until it eventually disappeared round the corner.
It was even more amazing to consider that we saw this nocturnal creature at two o’ clock in the afternoon!
On Saturday morning, I had a lovely wander round Selkirk Hill, dodging the worst heavy shower by seeking refuge in the convenient brick-built shelter.
The Hill is well known for its spectacular display of colour in late August when the heather is in full bloom, but just now it is the gorse which is stunningly beautiful.
There are always a few flowers on gorse at any time of year, but in May it is absolutely laden with blinding yellow flowers, which give off a delicious peachy scent.
Compact gorse is ideal for a range of nesting heath land and farmland birds, including the stonechat, linnet and yellowhammer.
The dense structure also provides important refuge for these birds in harsh weather. It is no accident that the yellowhammer has canary yellow plumage when you consider that its preferred habitat consists mainly of bright yellow whins.
Gorse is also important for invertebrates; it is in flower for long periods, so is an important nectar source in early spring and early winter, when little else is in flower.
My final excursion was to the Woodside Garden Centre near Ancrum on Sunday, when after watching the live CCTV images of a family of great tits in a garden nest box, I had a stroll up the section of the Border Abbeys Way which runs up the glen behind the gardens.
The woods were filled with the smell of wild garlic and the dappled shade was resplendent in carpets of bluebells and forget-me-nots.
We are so lucky in the Borders to have such a variety of wonderful places to visit.