Gelston Diary

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The idea of this page is to give an interesting glimpse of Gelston life month by month, so that readers can gradually put together a picture of the place through time. If I don't get round to it, send an email reminder!

August 2010

Those Ospreys again (see Summer 2009 below): this year the young 3 year old male known as "Black Eighty" and his unknown mate have successfully bred 3 chicks, which made their maiden flight at the end of July. The nest is on the river Dee just upstream of Threave Castle, and the National Trust for Scotland has nobly constructed a viewing platform on the bank directly opposite. Nowhere else in the world is there such a good view of an osprey nest (direct and not on CCTV) which is as readily accessible as this.

Minke Whale beached, 30 July 2010

On 30 July a Minke whale, alas dead, was found beached on the estate (picture right). Council ranger Keith Kirk was quick on the scene and arranged for a team to conduct a post-mortem on site, the results of which are still awaited. So come on all you whale watchers, there's more in the Solway than you might have thought ... (see also the note on Basking Sharks in Naturalist Country).

9 April 2010

We've been busy clearing up the woodland area along the South Lodge drive, and have just finished replanting one side of it: a naturalistic planting scheme blending a mix of native trees (including genuine Caledonian pine from Scottish seed, now rare in southern Scotland) with a high proportion of Ash which we plan to coppice as fuel for the wood boiler. The whole area is covered in bluebells, and this planting scheme with only light shade will give them full rein. It should be a wonderful sight in a few years. The other side will be planted in November.

We have also been planting some new parkland trees in the fields close to the courtyard, with help gratefully received from Solway Heritage in constructing proper wooden tree guards. They include three sweet chestnuts planted around the dramatic skeleton of a once magnificent elm which finally succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease - we gave free rein to arborist Alex Satchell to do an artistic pollard (to make it safe), preserving the tree's structural outline, and he did a brilliant job which is fun to look at. For more on Alex's work, see under Our Ethos (in the section Who We Are); we also plan to add more material to the page Woods And Trees.

The weather has now warmed, and spring is suddenly getting into gear. The fields are full of lambs, and the daffodils are coming out.

March 2010

Like everyone else, we've had our hardest winter for years. Snow is unusual here, but we've had plenty, including a white Christmas. Exhilarating sledging on the hills. Absolutely beautiful for visitors, even if it eventually became tiresome for those who live here and have to work outdoors. The wood boiler system purred through it all.

As a result the snowdrops have been later than usual, starting at the beginning of February (they are normally out in January), and continuing into late March. Their massed displays here are a memorable sight: photo in the section Winter In Galloway.

This year we've had quite a few guests in this period, which we normally devote to maintenance and redecoration. One first-time family had a great week at the February half term.

The cold winter, especially a cold snap in March, has been hard on the lambing ewes. Even though they all lamb indoors, and in spite of the valiant efforts of our highly skilled shepherd Marcus, we have lost a number of lambs this year to the cold.

26 October 2009

The houses are all full, mostly families from England with kids on half term.

We've had some golden autumn days, and some really wild ones. I was out all day on Saturday in the Lowther hills (up by Durisdeer) with stormy winds mounting and the odd heavy shower, a real buffeting by the elements. What a great day out, the deep-folding hills dramatically magnificent!

Autumn colours (pictures right)
Huge variation in the autumn leaves: some of the birches already stripped and showing their purplish twigs above silver stems, others holding their pendulous sparse sprays of small leaves like showers of gold coins, glinting in the afternoon sun. One Norway maple with the most exquisite coppery-pink tinted leaves, mostly blown away by Saturday's wind, while others are more yellow and have only just started to turn. The beeches are at their most beautiful; the oaks only just beginning their more subtle ochre display. The hawthorns are laden with deep red berries, a dramatic accent to the colour palette.

Lockerbie Jazz Festival last weekend ran the gamut from old pros like tenorman Scott Hamilton over from America with a consummately smooth set, to some serious young talent, including Dumfries drummer John Lowrie only just out of school and already showing an astonishing gift for composition. Just go for the music though, and don't expect too much from some of the hotels. Think about it for next year ....

Summer 2009

Ospreys at Loch Ken (picture right)
Since last year (2008) a pair of ospreys has been nesting near Loch Ken, just a few miles from Gelston. The young male had been born in Wales at Glaslyn and gone missing, but was identified here by local wildlife ranger Keith Kirk. In early April this year (2009) a female returned to the nest, calling constantly for her mate - they travel separately from West Africa! He turned up a week late(men can be slow on the uptake - maybe he stopped at a few pubs en route), and they have now successfully bred two chicks. The parents have now set off back to Africa, leaving their young to follow in early Sept. Unlike the other Ospreys over at Wigtown, which can only be watched by CCTV, these can be viewed from a public place 300 yards from the nest. Those who are on the birdwatching wire will know where it is, but it's not being publicised and the site has been watched 24/7 by volunteers. April to June is the key time ...

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