A Saturday in January

A Saturday in January

Now here’s a thing you don’t normally see in January, I looked out the window towards Arthur’s Seat this morning and there was a group of people dressed in Santa suits standing around by the path up towards Hunter’s Bog. Santa suits? In January? There was some sort of banner, but it was too far away to read, so I watched and waited to see what would happen. After a short while a number of them moved off up the path and turned north on to Salisbury Craigs, then the penny dropped. They were there for the “Jingle Jump“, a fancy dress abseil event which should have taken place before Christmas (hence the Santa suits), but as there was a metre of snow on the ground from the middle of November, it hadn’t taken place.

Mystery solved, it was time for the weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market. On the way we passed a pile of snow on the Meadows which has been there since November. Now, Edinburgh has an excellent farmer’s market with some of the UK’s best food producers. I was after the best butter in Britain, also picked up some excellent Italian cheese (made by Italians in Edinburgh), a monster chicken (grown free range in Clackmannanshire, from which we will get at least nine meals for two), fish and some game (a hare, since you ask). I somehow resisted the temptation to get a hot chocolate from the Chocolate Tree, ah the joys of Saturday mornings, and yes Edinburgh is a great place to live.

Late afternoon, we decided that a walk was in order and headed over to Holyrood Park for a bimble up and over Arthur’s Seat. Now, for those who don’t know Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat is the plug of an extinct volcano which, at 251 m, is the highest point of the city. From a distance it is said to resemble a sleeping lion, with its head looking to the north and a second vent of the volcano forming to the Lion’s Haunch (or Nether Hill) to the south. Holyrood Park, including Arthur’s Seat, is home to a remarkable number of rare plants (such as Spring Cinquefoil: Potentilla tabernaemon-tani, Spring Sandwort: Minuartia verna, sticky catchfly: Lychnis viscaria and Forked Spleenwort: Asplenium septentrionale, among others, not that they are particularity visible in in January) and other wildlife. As we walked up the zigzag path, built to stop the erosion on the Gutted Haddie (this prominent erosion scar was originally caused by a cloud burst in 1744), towards the Lion’s Haunch, we heard the distinctive “croak, croak, croak” call of a raven (Corvus corax).At first I found this confusing, as looking around, I could only see a couple of crows (C. corone). Then the raven appeared low over the brow of the hill, the crows turned to follow, trying to harry it but struggling to keep up. Unfortunately I had left my Nikon with the long lens at home, as this would have made for some great pictures. The raven continued to climb on the up draft until it was high over our heads, the crows gave up their pursuit, and it turned to the south-west and glided away towards the Pentlands. We continued our climb onto the Lion’s Haunch, but didn’t bother with the Lion’s Head, as we only go there with visitors these days. So this time we went around the back, crossed over to the Long Row, then round below the Lion’s Head on along the Piper’s Walk (so called because Queen Victoria used to have a piper walk up and down playing while she rode in a carriage up the Hunter’s Bog glen. The carriageway was removed in the mid 1990’s) and back to the wee bealach separating Arthur’s Seat from Salisbury Craigs, then toddled on home for tea.

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