Wildlife watch is better on two wheels

After a summer’s incarceration in the shed, a recent burst of September sunshine allowed me to liberate my bike for a long-overdue excursion into the countryside.

Bedecked in high-vis waistcoat and bicycle clips, tyres blown up and survival rations of cold pie, Mars Bar and flask of coffee safely installed in the pannier, I set off into the wide blue yonder.

Cycling is a great way to see roadside wildlife. It’s such a pity that you have to share the road with fast moving motorised vehicles, which makes sudden stopping to look at plants or photograph butterflies, a hazardous business.

Not far from Selkirk, heading for Yair, I noticed some interesting looking flowers on the verge, which I hadn’t previously noticed while driving. There were some huge long yellow spikes of mullein beside a handsome stand of welted thistle.

Meriting a photograph, I managed to park the bike safely and get some interesting shots with the town nicely in the background. While snapping away, I noticed a lone peacock butterfly visiting the thistle flower heads – a rare sight this summer.

Leaving the main road at the Yair Bridge, it was great to cast off the luminous attire and leave the traffic behind as I entered the forest with its network of peaceful tracks.

At this time of year, there was little to hear in the way of bird song, but the sheer silence and feeling of solitude was therapeutic as I climbed higher and higher through the vast expanse of trees, (pushing the bike most of the time, I hasten to add!). I had already made my mind up not to return by way of the main road, instead to head upwards almost to the Three Brethren cairns, where I would descend down the Corbie Linn glen and back to Selkirk.

Near the highest point, as my energy flagged, I found a convenient tree stump to sit on and have my refreshments, taking in the extensive panorama towards the Eildon Hills.

Once over the watershed it was downhill all the way home, which made up for my long slog upwards, pushing a very heavy road bike, with panniers loaded with provisions and other paraphernalia.

As I freewheeled down the rough track, I met three proper mountain bikers decked out in all the gear, sweating profusely, standing on the pedals of bikes without even mudguards, struggling against the steep incline, with only a bottle of water to refresh them.

As I passed, I could see them cast an envious glance at my smart cycle with its bell and panniers and my fetching bicycle clips. Well, I think the glance was envious!