We’d been to Slimbridge about four years ago and I was struck by the beauty and sheer wilderness of this place. Then I had difficulty telling one kind of bird species from another; this time around I managed just a bit better. Although truth be told we felt a little out of it with our really useless binoculars compared to other people who’d come armed with enough tripods, cameras and state-of-the art binoculars to launch several space-ships.
Anyway I digress. It is the peacefulness of the place (if you shut everyone else out), the dramatic winter colours and textures, the variety of birds that, despite the cold, keep us coming back.
This year our holiday destination was the Isle of Skye. It was all very last minute; we only knew we were going a week before and had to arrange accommodation. Not easy when you send out 30 emails and most replies come back saying ‘sorry but unfortunately…’. However somewhere the stars, sun and moon decided to shine upon us and we were really lucky. Suffice it to say the accommodation we stayed in was fantastic – everything you’d need in self-catering was there including foil and kitchen roll and a truly beautiful view of the coast and mountains.
We spent a day at Kylerhea – a must stop for those who want to wildlife watch. We saw herons, an otter, lots of seals, oyster-catchers and what we think were dolphins in the distance. I tried to do a watercolour but I think I need more practice! We also got bitten to smithereens by all sorts of flies and ones that could go through layers of clothing! We then pottered down to a tiny hamlet and if you look closely at the picture of the ferry that only takes six cars, you’ll see a border collie on the edge of the boat that was barking at seals in the water.
It felt so wild, desolate and windswept yet at the same time this rugged beauty and peacefulness came through. I started thinking about how lonely it must get in the winter and that you’ll have to be very resourceful as there isn’t a supermarket five minutes down the road.
Day two was spent just north of Portree. We were looking for shade and a similar cosy spot like the day before but all we did was walk and get battered by the sun. Eventually we found this rather uncomfortable rock in the shade and had lunch. I then proceeded to sketch the view in front of me. I could have stayed there forever!
This little place was a hive of activity. The boating school was busy and I kept half an eye on their progress all though the day; numerous walkers and energetic dogs passed us by, as well as grumpy teenagers and we just enjoyed sitting there with not a care in the world.
The next morning we made our way, very early to Elgol. Again a similar theme of single track roads but the knowledge that any rain that was due to come would blow over at lunchtime. We were pretty much the first ones there and just enjoyed being able to wait around and not rush anywhere. The boat trip was enjoyable although you had to hold on to your seats at times! We were very lucky to see puffins, kittiwakes, shags, a sea eagle, plenty of seals, jellyfish and red deer on our travels (although all of the birds on the bird photos have come out really small!) It was fantastic. We also had an hour to explore Canna. It was so good to be able to walk around and stretch our legs!
We arrived back in Elgol for 1pm and promptly had our lunch on a hill overlooking the harbour. We also had a good view of the incoming storm clouds and blessed our stars that we were not booked onto the afternoon trip which had just left. A couple of walkers were seen running down a nearby hill. We gathered up our stuff but I was adamant that I needed to take some more photographs. We both got soaked.
Later on we spent a couple of hours in the sun, walking around Loch Slapin. It offered us yet more breath-taking views.
I went away for the weekend and on Monday found that we had at last got some new arrivals in the garden. They were over a month late in coming but they have arrived. And that is what counts! Now I have to wait for the frogspawn to turn into tadpoles. I’ve followed this event for over three years here and then a long time ago and it still never fails to excite me and leave me in awe of nature.
Monday even saw a little snow left but it was totally gone the next day. I love this time of year when the garden slowly emerges from its’ mothballed status.