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Cursed Trees and Blessed Nature

Botanical Biking

The Summer draws to a close but the biking season is still in full flow. Last week I took a quick jaunt south again. The Scottish borders truly have some wonderful sights, perfect for navigating your machine through in the hope of uncovering the natural beauty. What more could one want than quiet roads that traverse nature? I took the long way down, past the Harperrig Resevoir, it has suffered  from the hot, dry days we experienced through June and July, but will no doubt recover with the help of the August deluges! Funny to note that whatever road you travel in Scotland you will most likely see the yellow plates of our continental neighbours, most notably the kindly Dutch. The NL seems to stand for "Never Lost," as it appears to me that they  have an uncanny ability to unearth Scottish Beauty spots. Overlooking the tranquillity of the deep waters I spotted just such a couple tucking into their sandwiches, they gave a nod of approval at my passing 1200CCs. The roar of the engine echoing through the glen failed to distract them from their lunch. It's not just the advent of the Edinburgh International Festival that brings in our Euro-mates, I believe the Dutch have an inherent sense of adventure when it come to all things bonny.

I don't believe that nature plots against us, despite the gathering clouds that began to appear overhead, threatening to complicate my ride. The ominous gloom merely served to frame the untamed splendour that stretched out in front and beyond my handlebars. If indeed nature was plotting against us mere mortals; it's surely happening in the rings of trees that pop up intermittently on the sparse hillsides, their conspiratorial assemblies whispering unknown wisdom to one another. Ever onward, through the stunning Tweeddale area, I crossed and recrossed the River Tweed several times. It snakes its way alongside the road until it grows tired of cohabitation with man-made pathways and exerts its true authority as one of the life veins of Scotland.

Just outside a place called Candymill you can still see fine examples of runrigs, not so common this far south but carved into the hillside which create natural small plateaus. At first glance the lines of plants look like the beginnings of an olive grove! A Mediterranean vista seemingly lifted from Homer's Odyssey certainly makes you take a second look. It's so far removed from the biting wind and thunderous reality of the Scottish Borders, yet on closer approach the bizarre snapshot diminishes and reveals its truth. A plantation of young conifers,  that will in time become Christmas trees, happily enjoying their ruse. 

After some long sweeping roads where you can lengthen the time between gear changes, I reached my destination, Dawyck Botanical Gardens. Very much associated with Edinburgh's Royal Gardens but with a distinct flavour all its own. Much like the guarantee of meeting our continental cousins in Scotland, you will always meet a Scotsman abroad, David Douglas was one such man. Although we are known to populate areas ol' Davey did the inverse. He was a botanical adventurer who travelled the world collecting trees in the hope he could use the best examples to forest our lands. From roots in Perthshire which finally lead him to plant roots in the Scottish Borders, most famously his namesake the Douglas Fir. The trees at Dawyck are wonderful, proud specimens. They stand over you like gentle parents making you very aware of your diminutive stature in comparison. Strong and straight, observing the world without judgement as they have for hundreds of years. The Aspen is known as the cursed tree, as its leaves shimmer at the slightest breeze, which lead many in the past to believe it had been touched by the devil himself. The sound of the leaves in reality just adds another note to the symphony of nature. The orchestra at Dawyck plays it so well. Remember that it is not just in the sounds, but also in the sights and the smells that act as instrument in this great concert. As the summer turns to winter take every opportunity for a ride out. The real world awaits.

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Cursed Trees and Blessed Nature
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