Having done something to my back while turfing the other day down in the Scottish Borders, I was looking for something to do that didn’t involve anything that would aggravate by very sore back muscles. Cycling and kick scooting are off the menu at the moment as is walking very far. Checking my mental to-do list, I recalled something I’d seen while out turfing in the Polton area, down by the River North Esk. There was a patch of sand and gravel along the river that looked like it might have a few good sand samples for the collection. In addition, the adjacent Springfield mill, once a paper mill but now a nature reserve, was also good for butterflies, which I was keen to photograph.
Normally, I’d either walk, cycle or kick scoot from my home in Bonnyrigg the 2.5 miles but knew any of those forms of transport would not help my back so I’m afraid to say I used the car. I’ve been trying to use the car as little as possible, both to save money due to my reduced retirement income and also to do my bit for saving the planet and all that. There’s a small car park there and also room on the street for a few cars as well, and it never gets that busy anyway, so space is usually available.
Sand collecting was first on the agenda. I followed the old railway line downstream for about 120 meters or so, and dropped down a short path to the river. The old railway is well trodden my horses from local riding stables and can be very, very muddy at times. I once came here in winter on my bike and ended up with both the bike and myself totally covered in sticky black mud. Fortunately, today it was relatively dry and not too bad.
After collecting some six samples, I headed back to the car to drop them off. No point carrying stuff I didn’t need to. Then I grabbed the camera, fitted the zoom lens and started hunting butterflies. A couple of circuits produced some good pictures of small tortoiseshell and six-spot burnet moth. My efforts to capture a meadow brown on camera were hopeless, same with some smaller brown butterflies I couldn’t identify. Perhaps I should get a butterfly net and catch them first?
Then it was back to sand collecting again. There was a landslide here in 1979 when a massive area of the opposite side of the valley slumped across the river and into what was then Springfield paper mill. There’s an interesting account of the event on the Edinburgh Geological Society website. Was able to grab another half dozen samples from two gravel beds along the river. You don’t get much a lot of variety of sand along rivers, the flowing river just doesn’t grade the sand the same as the sea does at coastal locations. But on the plus side the local Carboniferous geology does provide a wide variety of different colours of sandstone which I also collect and later crush as samples. You can still see parts of the landslide across the river.
Springfield mill nature reserve is a nice little area to explore. It’s generally quiet and serene here although commercial dog walkers with half a dozen dogs barking tends to shatter the peace and quiet. It’s also a good birding spot and there lots of other wildlife as well. I saw signs of roe deer, badger and fox here and for the botanist wild flowers are also abundant. Worth a quick visit if passing by.
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