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Posts Tagged ‘Birch’

The autumn colours in Perthshire are particularly good this year and, thinking that the Scottish Borders would be putting on a similarly spectacular show, I took the delightful assistants down there for a gawp at the weekend.

We were most surprised to find that, despite being further south, it felt like winter rather than autumn in the Borders. Many of the trees were completely bare and most of the leaves that were left on the trees were well past their flame-grilled best.

However, I’m happy to say that at our destination of Dawyck Botanic Gardens, nature’s loveliness was abounding:

A couple of beech trees had curious wrappings round their trunks:

There was a poem, entitled The Bandaged Trees, attached to one of the trunks, but I found it a tad depressing so I won’t burden you with it.

Looking up into the trees was beautiful with the sunlight on the leaves:

Dawyck (more or less pronounced Daw-ik) is a beautiful place to walk around, and even though there were a lot of cars in the car park, we met very few people as we strolled through the gardens.

Here are a couple of tiny assistants perched atop a lovely bridge:

The air smelled very fresh and I took lots of deep breaths. The amount of lichen on the trees was perhaps a good indicator of just how pollution-free the atmosphere was. Some of the birches looked as if they were dressed in furs and feather boas:

Bits of the garden were in the shade and quite frosty, an ideal hiding place for ice nymphs and frost elves. Apparently, if you run backwards making chirpy little whistling noises they sometimes pop out. I tried this, but I didn’t see any. Mind you, I find that trying to stay upright while running backwards takes up most of my concentration.

My camera battery died just past this bench,

which was a pity as I had been hoping to take photos of the lunch we had after our walk.

However, I wouldn’t like to sign off without a small morsel to share with you, so here’s a Christmas pudding scone* I made yesterday instead:

*so called because it was inspired by Christmas pudding, and contains sultanas, mixed peel, slivered almonds, cherries, dates, mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and treacle, as well as the standard scone ingredients

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Yesterday morning I felt rebellious.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been limiting my tearoom visits to the areas round where I live, because of the guide book I’m writing (luckily for me, this area has a wide variety of interesting tearooms). Yesterday, I don’t know what it was, maybe the sunshine and the hope of spring in the air, but the urge to venture beyond the confines of Perthshire, Angus and Dundee was too strong to resist.

Thanks to a staunch puritanical upbringing, however, morning refreshments were taken in Perthshire, so that I could at least compromise with my inner dissident (it doesn’t do for one to become entirely nonconformist, after all).

I had a yearning, as I often do, for chocolate, and so my glamorous assistant and I stopped in the small town of Auchterarder at a chocolaterie and cafe. Last time I was here I had a decadent hot chocolate in a little earthenware cup (see Chocolate post) but this time I fancied biting into some chocolate rather than drinking it. There were many tempting foodstuffs, but in order to get the right mix of chocolate and cakiness I was craving, I opted for this rather delicious looking morsel:

You may be surprised to learn that this is a chocolate and beetroot cake. Being both intrigued and delighted by such a combination, but not wishing to fill up too much, we ordered one slice between us. It was moist, dense and, oddly enough, tasted more of ginger than anything else. It was, altogether, quite a surprise of a cake, but being partial to gingery things I found it very pleasant and decidedly edible.

I wanted to sloosh it down with a cappuccino but at the last minute ordered a decaf latte. I don’t know why I keep doing this, but although I often like the idea of a cappuccino, I somehow feel more secure with a latte. I think it’s all that milk, it makes me feel loved and protected. Perhaps I was a cow in a previous life.

The weather forecast promised better weather towards the west of Scotland, so we drove off in a westerly direction and ended up in Stirlingshire at the lovely Flanders Moss, a Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) wildlife reserve. In the words of SNH: “Flanders Moss is a vast expanse of all things damp and wonderful”. Quite true, it is damp, and it is wonderful. Near the entrance to the reserve is a very solidly built viewing platform (tiny mother in pink for scale):

There are  a lot of steps to get up to the top (I counted them, and then promptly forgot how many there were):

The reserve is largely peat bog and is apparently the largest raised bog in the UK to remain in a predominantly near-natural state. A series of boardwalks enables visitors to get out on the bog:

The area is a haven for sphagnum moss. It’s everywhere, loads of it, and yesterday quite a bit of it was under ice:

There aren’t many trees here because SNH are trying to preserve the boggy habitat. Trees take up a lot of moisture, drying out the bog, but this birch had somehow survived the cull:

Wandering round the bog worked up an appetite for lunch, and after a short drive (not having a clue where we were going to eat but hoping for something magical to pop up out of the heather) we stumbled across this promising looking place:

It was a bit nippy for dining al fresco, but I would imagine on a sunny summer’s day it would be lovely to sit outside:

We had to wait for a table inside because it was very busy, but after a few minutes we were seated in the conservatory and both went for soup of the day, which was carrot and coriander, and came with either crusty brown bread or sandwiches. My delightful assistant stuck with the bread, while I opted for the sandwiches, choosing egg and cress on granary bread, with their special carrot chutney as an added extra. I must say, I was jolly glad I’d added the carrot chutney because it transformed the egg and cress sandwiches into something spectacular!

Having filled up on sandwiches, I didn’t have room for a sweet treat, but my assistant had a slice of coffee cake, which I’m assured was very good:

Replete and happy we wended our way back north and east, but on the journey I felt very thirsty and extremely keen for a cup of tea, so we stopped in a road-side cafe not far from Auchterarder. By this time a small space had appeared in my stomach, just about the size of a melting moment:

All in all, a grand day out, and a nice change of scenery and location. I’m looking forward to more food forays in Stirlingshire, and I have the excellent carrot chutney cafe at the top of my list.

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