The old chimney from the mills down in Dunsdale Haugh is about the only thing I can see outside my window this evening. I have had another time of sharing stories and nature and laughs, a short series of events that feels like a mini-festival.
However, it is always laced with difficult issues and worries – there is an edge of inexplicable concern that never seems far away.
These heavy mists in the morning and the evening are surely creating that pressure on emotions. The atmospheric processes are almost claustrophobic – creating background noise with their opaqueness. But there is always a place that is safe, its aesthetics a comfort. Its bounty has nothing to do with material riches.
The more I walk around the loch at the Haining, the more beautiful it becomes. With the arrival of new eyes, once again a familiar place is brought to life. As we pass through the space in the wall from the West Port car park I see the lush field layer – a thick green carpet. The trees are filling out. I know the group are soaking up the scene.
When we reach the next junction in the path we stop and turn to look at the hills beyond. We only walked out of the town a few minutes ago and already we are submerged in an oasis. The light changes as we go up the small set of steps and look down the lime avenue. There is light everywhere, even under the canopy – it drops all around, giving shape to everything that is growing.
A muddy track takes us down to the lochside. At this time of year the tall pale stalks of leopard’s bane hold its yellow daisy-like flowers above the debris on the woodland floor. Against the dark crowd of tree trunks the flowers look ethereal like a fairy gathering. If you breathe they may bend against this slight air movement. I think they are sun drops.
We step down to a viewpoint built by a team from Criminal Justice and organised by my colleague Susan. The house was transformed into a Roman-styled villa by Robert Pringle in the 1830s. On his return from Europe he was imbued by all things classical. He employed Archibald Elliot as his architect and John Smith as his builder to make his dream house. The elegance of the view belies the relatively unkempt interior.
We pass the huge beech trees; they are totems since the crowns have been removed for safety reasons. Their pale grey trunks are brightened by the sunlight. Further along, the walking tree has morphed, leaving a split trunk like two legs striding out. The group go closer to study the strange shape.
We leave the Haining and walk along Castle Street and South Port to reach Selkirk Hill. The street names keep the history alive, despite the modern houses that are there now. On Selkirk Hill we follow the Borders Abbeys Way on to Greenhead Farm and then to the Batts; an old track that ultimately takes us to Lindean Church.
Only a few days later I am walking around the Haining loch again. A group of women from various Selkirk churches have asked me to join them and talk about the trees and the plants.
They have all been here before so my purpose is to re-open their eyes anew.
So we look at the thin bark of a felled silver birch and consider its ancient use as paper. If you write a wish on the bark and bury it, your wish will surely be granted. As one friend points out, you could write a prayer. So I broke pieces of bark and gave them out, the act was symbolic of breaking the bread for communion.
Further along the track I told the tale of the crying yew tree which always makes listeners laugh.
Folklore is not just relevant to children, in our modern world it is a great tool for exploring nature and hopefully for helping people to remember different species.