Monday, 13 July 2015

Stunning landscape at St Abb's Head National Nature Reserve

It was about a half hour drive from Foulden Hagg to St Abb's Head for
Looking back to St Abb's village from near the
start of the walk 
our nature reserve walk yesterday. The site is owned by National Trust for Scotland. We actually crossed the Scotland-England border twice on the way there (and, of course, on the way back) and it was interesting that the Scots make a big deal of the line with large signposts welcoming visitors to their country whereas the English side is remarkably unmarked. I spotted a trio of Northumberland, England and Union Jack flags on tall poles set back from the road on one crossing point and nothing on the other. St Abb's Head is off the popular coastal driving route so well signposted and with a few car parks at the edges of the reserve. We went to the one by the visitors' centre. It is Pay And Display, but only £2 for the whole day and all proceeds go back into the upkeep of the reserve.

Once on foot, there are marked trails to follow - one basic circuit, The
Gorgeous colours at St Abb's Head 
Discovery Trail, and two additional optional loops, The Lighthouse Trail and The Loch Trail. We ended up doing The Discovery Trail and half of each of the other two. This made a good two hours walking with an interesting mix of landscapes and sights from expanses of ocean and sttep cliff rocks, to lush pasture. The trails are all pretty well marked and I was surprised how few people were actually visiting the reserve. It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon and I had been concerned that it might be heaving, but no! I loved the colours and contrasts of texture. Green grass, yellow lichens, white guano, reddish-hued rock and steely-blue sea. The area was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions which has resulted in its distinctive rugged craggy appearance today.

I guess St Abb's Head's main attraction must be its seabird colonies and
If you click into this photo (and squint) you might
be able to see birds! 
we did wish that we had a pair of binoculars when we were stood on the cliffs above them I do have opera glasses, but they are, typically, in storage! And probably wouldn't be up to this kind of viewing anyway. We could make out dozens and dozens of gull-like birds perched on the cliffs, but not in sufficient detail for identification. The cacophony of their cries and calls was loud enough from a distance and I can't imagine how deafening it must be right in the middle. We both sympathised with any introverted seagulls, inventing for them a series of hermit colonies where they could live tranquil lives, perhaps with their beaks in books!

The cliffs are riddled with rabbit holes and burrows. We saw a few rabbits
St Abb's Lighthouse 
and there are apparently hares here as well. We also kept a lookout for the Brown Angus butterfly but didn't knowingly see one. Butterflies are very uncooperative about sitting still with their wings open! After a steep climb which went on almost too long, the top of St Abb's lighthouse peeped over the ground ahead. It has been automated since the 1990s, but before that three lighthouse keepers and their families lived up on this isolated head. It must have been a challenging existence. Building was completed in 1862 and the siren fog signal, the first in Scotland, was added in 1876. Now it is maintained and preserved by the Northern Lighthouse Board.

I was fascinated by the crumpled rock formations at the far point of our
Pettico Wick 
walk, Pettico Wick. We wondered if this amazing place might have gotten its name because its folds resemble a petticoat? There has obviously been a lot going on here, geologically speaking, over the millenia and not a handy geologist in sight to ask about it! We need a team of pop-up experts like they have on Coast! After Pettico Wick, we continued downhill and headed back in the direction of the visitors' centre by walking alongside Mire Loch which is beautiful. There were a couple of graceful white swans out on the water and, part-way along, we saw a tiny one-roomed hut with its own boathouse attached, all hidden away amongst mature trees.

Mire Loch 
On a completely different note, it is our twelfth anniversary today! Yay us! There isn't really room for a bouquet of flowers in Bailey so that tradition has been put on ice for a year or two or more, so instead here are some pretty photos of flowers from yesterday. Does anyone recognise the tall pink flowers? Updated because, yes, Mary has identified the pretty pink flower - thank you Mary! It is a woodland lily Speciosum, variety Rubrum.
Woodland lily 
Honeysuckle on a wall 

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