Wall of walkers, 
forest of bikers

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The warmth of summer seems to have left us and there’s a fresher feel to the air.

Last weekend, I ventured slightly south for a weekend break in a town which claims to be the geographical centre of Britain – Haltwhistle in North Northumberland.

It is just a couple of miles from Hadrian’s Wall and on a glorious sunny Sunday morning, I sat on this amazing Roman structure and marvelled at how it was made, in the days before JCBs and trucks.

As one of the promotional leaflets said: “Built in sandals – walked in boots”. Considering its remoteness, it was a veritable thoroughfare of hikers “doing the wall”.

The local economy must benefit greatly from having this historical rocky ribbon running right through it.

The return journey was through the immense Kielder Forest, which would have been quite pleasant had it not been for the mad bikers careering along the narrow roads in gangs, frightening the living daylights out of us senior motorists.

However, it was nice to get off the road and onto one of the nice reservoir woodland walks, where the shades of pink and purple were stunning thanks to the heather, willowherb and scabious, which were all vying for prominence.

At this time of year, my mailbox is usually heavily occupied by readers asking me to identify a strange creature found in their garden.

Nine times out of 10 it turns out to be the caterpillar of the elephant hawk moth.

This large, beautiful caterpillar has two pairs of eye markings, which are made even more prominent when it withdraws its head into its body.

They are, typically, a blackish-brown colour, but are sometimes green, and though their ‘eyes’ make them look quite dramatic, they are completely harmless.

However, they can strip a fuchsia of its leaves at night. Active from mid- to late-summer, they can be found hiding during the day on the undersides of leaves.

The caterpillars overwinter as chrysalides, hidden amongst low vegetation or in the soil.

Reader L.F. sent me this week’s picture of one of the aforementioned caterpillars found recently on an Earlston footpath.

Don’t forget, if you come across something interesting in the Borders countryside, take a picture and email it to me at corbie@homecall.co.uk

Or if you have any questions about our region’s flora and fauna, why not drop me a line?