My first ever day on the **** newly opened**** Borders Railway! Very very exciting. Read about the journey here.
Tweedbank is the final station on the Borders line, just beyond Galashiels. I chose it for my first Scotland by Rail Borders blog post
Unfortunately arriving at Tweedbank station is a bit underwhelming. You're met by a lot of fresh concrete- platform and car park. The station is beside a small industrial estate, on the edge of Tweedbank, so you don't immediately feel sure of which way toshould go. But don't be put off, it's a great starting point for exploring in every direction, by foot or by bike.
Listen for nuthatches. I heard their chinking calls almost as soon as I got off the train and continued to hear them all day. (Though I never caught a glimpse.)
To walk into Tweedbank itself turn right to exit station, then right again at mini roundabout (straight on is into the industrial estate. Probably actually worth a visit for Bread Works bakery, associated with Breadshare, a social enterprise near West Linton.A sign says they sell 80p teas and coffees...)
|exiting Tweedbank station (for Tweedbank village turn right then right again)|
Anyway, turn right to exit station, right again at mini roundabout. Follow the road towards houses. Or better - take the unobtrusive footpath into woodland on the left of the road, turn right when the path does and navigate until you find yourself passing behind and then through the housing estates. It's a good overgrown area of scrubland. There isn't signage, but if your sense of direction is bad, and it's breaktime, you can follow the sounds of the primary school. I had loads of soft blackberries and heard more than one chiffchaff chiffchaffing - seems late in the year, nearly the start of October. Two bullfinches were enjoying a hawthorn.
|pathway from Tweedbank station to village|
Tweedbank isn't a place for beautiful architecture and interesting shops and museums. It's small and new, only begun as a settlement in the early 1970s. It does have Gun Knowe Loch where I saw a big group of house martins feeding over the water. Also 20+ swans, 30+ mallards, moorhens, tufted ducks, blackbird, song thrush, wren, robin, bullfinch.
There's a cafe restaurant with excellent views across the loch (man-made lake), or there's a local shop in which to stock up for a picnic or on snacks for your walk.
|Gun Knowe Loch. house martins were drinking from the water & hawking for insects.|
a circular walk
I walked a route totalling 6-7km, taking me south from Tweedbank, along river, through beautiful woodland, through field, up (small!) hill, along (small!) hill-top country road, down into (very small) Darnick village and finishing back at Tweedbank station.
It was a fairly vague walk with lots of possibilities for longer/shorter/different options so I won't give detailed directions. Take an O.S. and see what you feel like.
Leave Tweedbank in the direction of the River Tweed. Quickest way is to follow the road all the way from station. Nicest way is to follow the footpaths that run near to the road. Another nuthatch was calling from the wooded path between Gun Knowe Loch and the river.
Arriving at the river at the point where it's crossed by the nastily busy A6091, walk down steps to pass under the road bridge. You're in woodland, on a track heading downhill. There's the Abbot's Ford. Someone had used it very recently...
|this is the Abbot's Ford|
Into the Abbotsford Estate. I stayed near the river and saw a heron perched perfectly in a pine across the water. Mallards were there, and three goosander. I heard a kingfisher downstream but couldn't see it. I sat to sketch and to eat more of my lunch than I really needed at 11am.
|arriving on the Abbotsford Estate|
|sketching spot, River Tweed|
|why I stopped to sketch|
|goosander in sketchbook. Three of them among a raft of mallards.|
|a kingfisher flew past. It had been 'cheep'ing for some time just downriver. pencil & watercolour in sketchbook|
Continue to follow the river through mature parkland and Abbotsford House (North Elevation). A great wide expanse of thistle and flower, brilliant for wildlife.
|Abbotsford's North Elevation.|
|Ah yes. spot the pussy cat|
|River Tweed. On that shingle bank up ahead a pied wagtail and a grey wagtail were foraging side by side.|
River path becomes woodland path, beautiful beech tunnel. Fungi growing.
Cross the minor road B6360 and into this steep and undulating field. A copse of trees hanging above - Abbotslea Plantation.
|sketching below the 'Abbotslea Plantation'|
|sketching the 'Abbotslea Plantation'|
|great views, dottings of grand houses|
|the things you can see with binoculars|
At the top-right corner of the field is a gate and stile and a little yellow arrow. Follow that arrow. You're on a woodland track that runs above Faldonside Loch. On the loch were two adult swans with six young, the young full grown but still wearing their brown feathering. And a moorhen.
|the little yellow arrow. Little, but chunky|
|lovely woodland track. Follow it. Faldonside Loch is down on the right.|
|do yew know what it is?|
|ce ne sont pas un oeuf|
The woodland track emerges by a house that I'd love to live in onto a small country road. Follow this straight for a couple of kilometres until you come downhill and past the Borders General Hospital. It's a beautiful minor road. Views to the Eildon Hills most of the way. Good hedgerows to forage in. Just lovely.
|the Eildon Hills|
|Eildon Hills & blackberry. pencil & pen in sketchbook|
|black (& red) berries|
|Robin's pincushions. These are seriously amazing things. Read about them here, (two thirds of the way down)|
|worth zooming in on|
|badger latrine pits|
Pass the hospital on your right and come to the busy A6091. Take the underpass and you entering the old village of Darnick. Explore. Every building makes you want to stop and nosey. Darnick Tower dates back to the 1400's. Lots of historical info here, click 'Next Page' to cycle through.
|Darnick Tower (In the Middle Ages there were three)|
There's a very special little Community Garden with good signage about how to help wildlife in your own space at home.
|Darnick Community Garden. Showing how beautiful a wildlife-friendly garden is, and no big amount of space needed.|
Walk north out of Darnick, cross the main road, head down a track on the left of the large Waverley Castle Hotel. You're now bacl on th river Tweed, this time downstream of Tweedbank.
Turn left to walk upstream. Soon you pass the battleground of Skirmish Hill and immediately after that you reach another busy road. Cross it and come away from the river. Tweedbank station is a couple of minutes ahead of you.
As I said at the start, there are many variations and extensions to this route. Have fun!
All birds seen/heard:
Black-headed Gull, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Feral Pigeon, Goldcrest, Goosander, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, House Martin, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail, Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Robin, Tufted Duck, Woodpigeon, Wren.
How to get there:
There are two trains an hour from Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank.
Find the ScotRail timetable here.
Many thanks as always to ScotRail for their invaluable support of my work to explore Scotland by Rail.