Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Loch Ness - 3

Here we see the Loch Ness Lodge Hotel near Drumnadrochit.

The most famous mystery about Loch Ness surrounds the phenomenon of an enormous creature that is believed to live in the water – known universally as the Loch Ness Monster, or ‘Nessie’ as she’s affectionately known.

The first recorded sighting of the monster was in 565 AD, when it was said to have snatched up and eaten a local farmer, before being forced back into the waters by St Columba.

Over the years, rumours spread far and wide about ‘strange events’ at Loch Ness. Some believe that ancient Scottish myths about water creatures, like Kelpies and the Each Uisge (meaning ‘water horse’), contributed to the notion of a creature living in the depths of Loch Ness.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Loch Ness - 2

During World War Two, a Wellington bomber was forced to ditch into the Loch when an engine failed. Almost 40 years later, the aircraft was discovered by divers and raised from the waters in surprisingly good condition. After restoration, the bomber made one final journey to Brooklands Motorsport and Aviation Museum, where it can still be seen today.

Loch Ness was also the location for John Cobb’s water speed record attempt in 1952. Although he broke the record in his speedboat ‘Crusader’, becoming the first man to travel at over 200mph on water, tragedy struck when the vessel lost control and disintegrated, killing its pilot. A memorial has been placed at the edge of the loch to commemorate Cobb’s achievement.

There are a wealth of interesting stories to be discovered at Loch Ness – come and see for yourself…

Monday, 29 October 2012

Loch Ness - 1

Loch Ness lies along a natural geographic fault line that stretches across the breadth of Scotland. Geographically, it has always been an important site for military, political and commercial reasons – and almost certainly had settlers as long ago as 2000 BC.

In the first millennium, The Great Glen was populated by Pictish tribes – who gradually converted to Christianity following the pilgrimages of figures such as St Columba. By the 1200s, the area was in considerable turmoil following revolts against the monarchy and the loss of Castle Urquhart to the English. Following the coronation of Robert the Bruce as King of Scotland in 1306, ownership of the castle passed back to the Scottish Crown – although Urquhart was to fall time and again to the Clan MacDonald. In the 1600s, the castle was abandoned, but the ruins still stand today – and provide an evocative reminder of Scotland’s violent past.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today we hear about blind Bartimaeus receiving his sight.

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise!
Triumph o'er the shades of night:
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day's return,
till thy mercy's beams I see,
till they inward light impart,
glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine!
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief!
Fill me, Radiancy Divine;
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Harvest Festival - 6

Today it is the turn of this cabbage

and this relative of the cauliflower at Harlow Carr Gardens.

We plough the fields and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God's almighty hand:
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft, refreshing rain.

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above;
Then thank the Lord,
O thank the Lord,
For all his love.

He only is the maker
Of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower,
He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey him,
By him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, his children,
He gives our daily bread.


We thank thee then, O Father,
For all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest,
Our life, our health, our food.
Accept the gifts we offer
For all thy love imparts,
And what thou most desirest,
Our humble, thankful hearts.


Next Monday will see the start of a short series on Loch Ness.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Harvest Festival - 5

Today it is the turn of the celery

and the kale at Harlow Carr Gardens.

To thee, O Lord, our hearts we raise
in hymns of adoration,
to thee bring sacrifice of praise
with shouts of exultation.
Bright robes of gold the fields adorn,
the hills with joy are ringing,
the valleys stand so thick with corn
that even they are singing.

And now, on this our festal day,
thy bounteous hand confessing,
Upon thine altar, Lord, we lay
the first fruits of thy blessing.
By thee the souls of men are fed
with gifts of grace supernal;
thou, who dost give us earthly bread,
give us the bread eternal.

We bear the burden of the day,
and often toil seems dreary;
but labour ends with sunset ray,
and rest comes for the weary.
May we, the angel reaping over,
stand at the last accepted,
Christ's golden sheaves, forevermore
to garners bright elected.

O blessèd is that land of God
where saints abide forever,
where golden fields spread fair and broad,
where flows the crystal river;
the strains of all its holy throng
with ours today are blending;
thrice blessèd is that harvest song
which never hath an ending.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Harvest Festival - 4

Here we see aubergines

and figs

at Harlow Carr Gardens.

Let us, with a gladsome mind,
praise the Lord, for he is kind:
for his mercies aye endure,
ever faithful, ever sure.

Let us blaze his Name abroad,
for of gods he is the God: Refrain

He with all commanding might
filled the new-made world with light: Refrain

He the gold-tressèd sun
caused all day his course to run: Refrain

The horned moon to shine by night,
mid her spangled sisters bright: Refrain

All things living he doth feed,
his full hand supplies their need: Refrain

Let us, with a gladsome mind,
praise the Lord, for he is kind: Refrain

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Harvest Festival - 3

Here is a scene inside one of the greenhouses at Harlow Carr Gardens - we see some tasty looking onions!

God, whose farm is all creation,
take the gratitude we give.
Take the finest of our harvest,
crops we grow that all may live.

Take our plowing, seeding, reaping,
hopes and fears of sun and rain,
all our thinking, planning, waiting,
ripened in this fruit and grain.

All our labour, all our watching,
all our calendar of care
in these crops of your creation,
take, O God; they are our prayer.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Harvest Festival - 2

As part of my harvest thanksgiving I visited RHS Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate, North Yorkshire on 14 October.

Harlow Carr's Grow Your Own Autumn Festival, supported by Mr Fothergill's, is packed with advice, demonstrations, displays, walks, talks and information on what to do in your garden in the autumn - no matter how large or small your plot.

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.


For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight.


For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.


For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of Heaven.


Later that day I entertained my mother to dinner at the Premier Inn in celebration of her 92nd birthday.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Harvest Festival - 1

What a glorious image as we start our harvest celebrations - fully ripe tomatoes grown in the conservatory of Westhill! Yes,the woodburning stove has done its bit to help bring in the harvest.

Come, ye thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide
for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come,
raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field,
fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown
unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear,
then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we
wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come,
and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day
all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last
in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store
in His garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come,
bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in,
free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come,
raise the glorious harvest home.

I took these tomatoes down to Harrogate to give to my mother on her 92nd birthday. Earlier in the day (14 October) I visited the famous RHS Gardens at Harlow Carr where the remainder of our harvest photos were taken. Please note - their tomatoes were not up to the standard of mine - honest! Perhaps I should exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show next May.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

For the third time, Jesus tells his disciples that he is going up to Jerusalem to suffer and die. James and John respond by asking for special places in heaven! Jesus simply asks us to follow him.

I danced in the morning
when the world was begun,
and I danced in the moon
and the stars and the sun,
and I came down from heaven
and I danced on the earth,
at Bethlehem
I had my birth.
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

I danced for the scribe
and the pharisee,
but they would not dance
and they wouldn't follow me.
I danced for the fishermen,
for James and John -
they came with me
and the dance went on. Refrain

I danced on the Sabbath
and I cured the lame;
the holy people
said it was a shame.
they whipped and they stripped
and they hung me on high,
and they left me there
on a Cross to die. Refrain

I danced on a Friday
when the sky turned black;
it's hard to dance
with the devil on your back.
They buried my body
and they thought I'd gone,
but I am the Dance,
and I still go on. Refrain

They cut me down
and I leapt up high;
I am the life
that'll never, never die;
I'll live in you
if you'll live in me -
I am the Lord
of the Dance, said he. Refrain

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 48

On this fourth anniversary of my arrival at Westhill, the new woodburning stove is filling the conservatory with warmth and cheer - but are the tomatoes ripening?

Colours of day dawn into the mind,
The sun has come up, the night is behind.
Go down in the city, into the street,
And let's give the message to the people we meet.

So light up the fire and let the flame burn,
Open the door, let Jesus return.
Take seeds of his Spirit, let the fruit grow,
Tell the people of Jesus, let his love show.

Go through the park, on into the town;
The sun still shines on, it never goes down.
The light of the world is risen again;
The people of darkness are needing our friend.


Open your eyes, look into the sky,
The darkness has come, the sun came to die.
The evening draws on, the sun disappears,
But Jesus is living, and his Spirit is near.


We shall be celebrating Harvest Festival all next week.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 47

No - we do not have a new Pope! Benedict XVI is still gloriously reigning.

As the black smoke clearly indicates, we do not have a new Holy Father. Mind you, I am not sure what I would do if the smoke did come out white!

The woodburning stove is now lit and fills the garden with a wonderful aroma as the smoke ascends. My neighbours will be relieved that the fire does not produce much smoke - in fact it is only noticeable when the fire is newly lit. Once the fire is well-established new logs produce very little smoke.

Full in the panting heart of Rome
Beneath the apostle’s crowning dome.
From pilgrim’s lips that kiss the ground,
Breathes in all tongues one only sound:

The golden roof, the marble walls,
The Vatican’s majestic halls,
The note redoubles, till it fills
With echoes sweet the seven hills

Then surging through each hallowed gate,
Where martyrs glory, in peace await
It sweeps beyond the solemn plain,
Peals over Alps, across the main.

From torrid south to frozen north,
The wave harmonious stretches forth,
Yet strikes no chord more true to Rome’s,
Than rings within our hearts and homes.

Pity there is no tuba on the organ!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 46

The Virginia Creeper has turned a glorious shade of red in celebration of St Luke's Little Summer!

Any spell of quiet, dry weather starting on this day has its origins in folk lore based on the Feast of St Luke.

Although he is the patron saint of physicians, surgeons, artists and butchers, his name has traditionally been linked to St Luke’s little summer.

For centuries farmers must have noticed a period of better weather at the autumn harvest, but the term Indian Summer is recent and refers to Native Americans gathering their harvest later than in Britain.

We shall be celebrating Harvest Festival next week - and I have just heard on the BBC Weather Forecast (6.30 pm on Wednesday 17 October) that we may be in for an Indian Summer - Praise be to St Luke!

Happy Feast!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 45

It is St Luke's Day tomorrow, and summer is almost over.

The summer bedding is now being cleared, and the beds prepared for the wallflowers and tulips which will grace the garden next spring.

The wallflowers have been raised in one of the raised beds (sorry!). The seed was sown on 30 June and the plants look very healthy. They will basically rest during the winter months, waiting to burst into new life at Easter.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 44

It is now mid-October, but the geraniums are still putting on a good show!

You've hit the jackpot with T&M's special blend of F1 Century-type geraniums. Compact, uniform plants produce a mass of colour in bright shades of white, red and cerise. The single flowers are particularly weather resistant making them ideal for summer bedding and patio containers. Height: 40cm (16”). Spread: 35cm (14”).

I have four containers of geraniums sitting in the conservatory - keeping the tomatoes company! During the winter months they go inside the house where they provide colour through to the following spring.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 43

Another crop from the garden is raspberries - and this variety is called Autumn Bliss.

They are really easy to grow. You simply cut the old canes down to the ground in early spring, and by autumn there are some delicious raspberries ready for picking.

Unlike the runner beans and tomatoes, I do not share these with my neighbours - I wonder why?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In the gospel today we hear Jesus say, 'Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.'

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, Whose Word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for His own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

See! the streams of living waters,
Springing from eternal love;
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove:
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst t’assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver,
Never fails from age to age.

Saviour, if of Zion’s city,
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy Name.
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know.

Happy Sunday - and Happy Birthday to my mother who is 92 today!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 42

Here we see the bespoke wood-shelter loaded with logs ready for burning.

The wood has been supplied by GM Forestry Ltd.

Whether you need one bag of logs or a lorry load, we have a package to suit everyone at very competitive prices. We can provide good quality seasoned wood cut, split and delivered to meet your individual needs. We also sell kindling , peat and household coal.

We sell a variety of hard and soft woods by the load, or in individual bags. The load size is approximately 2 cubic metres. Logs are delivered loose and tipped. The logs can be cut to lengths between 8" and 16" and split if required.

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 41

Here is the finished wood-shelter, ready to receive the logs. It was built by GM Forestry Ltd who have only recently started to provide bespoke firewood shelters.

Our firewood shelters are the perfect way to protect your firewood from the elements during the colder and wetter months.

The shelters are designed and constructed by an experienced craftsman from locally sourced materials.

Our standard sized shelters are large enough to hold a Barro bag, half load, or full load of wood. We can also provide made-to-measure shelters for those with more specific requirements.

A friend suggested that I use the shelter for an outdoor crib during the Christmas Season. They even recommended a set of 3 ft tall figures at a cost of £3,500. I told them (very politely) that they can think again!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 40

Here we see Des Baker (Head Verger at St Andrew's Cathedral Inverness) hard at work painting the wood of the new shelter.

This was quite a task - as there was so much wood to treat! The 'paint' used was 'Autumn Gold' in the Cuprinol range by Dulux.

With over 75 years of experience of caring for wood, Cuprinol has a product for every job that helps you make your wood last for longer and keeps it looking its best.

Whether you want to protect your wood against rot and decay, waterproof and nourish or simply add some beautiful colour.

Let Cuprinol help you make your garden great!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 39

The wood-shelter is now almost finished and is in place.

It is located close to the front drive of the house - where the logs will be delivered from the saw mill. There is a side door into the garage from whence the logs can be conveyed to the conservatory without me having to get cold and wet. An important consideration in Highland winters!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 38

The bespoke wood-shelter continues to take shape.

The shelter is now the right side up - the four legs will shortly be concreted into position. Work is starting on the rear side of the shelter. As you can see, only the finest of materials were employed in the construction. The shelter will have to cope with a considerable weight of logs when it is filled.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 37

Unlike gas central heating, the wood-burning stove requires solid fuel - yes, wood! And I would need somewhere to store the wood. Obviously there was need for a wood-shelter.

It is possible to purchase wood-shelters 'off the peg' as it were, but I decided to go for a bespoke wood-shelter. Here we see a local carpenter starting work on the build. I was surprised by how large the shelter was going to be, but was assured I would be able to reap the benefits of economies of scale.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In the gospel today, Jesus emphasises the importance of husbands and wives being faithful to each other, and of the importance of children in church.

Sent forth by God's blessing,
our true faith confessing,
the people of God from this dwelling take leave.
The supper is ended.
Oh, now be extended
the fruits of this service in all who believe.
The fruit of Christ's teaching,
receptive souls reaching,
shall blossom in action for God and for all.
His grace did invite us,
his love shall unite us
to work for God's kingdom and answer his call.

With praise and thanksgiving
to God ever-living
the tasks of our everyday life we will face.
Our faith ever sharing,
in love ever caring,
embracing the children of each tribe and race.
With your feast you feed us,
with your light now lead us,
unite us as one in this life that we share.
Then may all the living
with praise and thanksgiving
give honour to Christ and his name that we bear.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 36

During the summer the garden took on a new role - that of a campsite, as Des pitched his tent!

Time for a campfire song!

She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes,
She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes,
She'll be coming 'round the mountain,
Coming 'round the mountain,
Coming 'round the mountain when she comes.

Singing ey, ey, yippee, yippee, ey.
Singing ey, ey, yippee, yippee, ey.
Singing ey, ey, yippee,
Ey, ey, yippee,
Ey, ey, yippee, yippee, ey.

The same structure is repeated with the following verses:

She'll be drivin' six white horses when she comes, etc.

Oh we'll all come out to meet her when she comes, etc.

Friday, 5 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 35

The colour which I decided on was Woodland Fern 2 by Dulux. The other walls were to be painted in Dairy Farm by Dulux. All the gloss paint would be white.

The decorating work was being done by Des Baker, the Head Verger at St Andrew's Cathedral Inverness. This was the first time for many years that I had not done my own decorating, and I started to realise just how amateurish my own efforts had been!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 34

Here we see the stove in place - it is beautiful!

It sits proudly on a lovely piece of slate - which even shows the outline of a fish skeleton - and of course, the chimney looks just great! Obviously some redecorating was called for, and I decided to have the entire conservatory repainted. The big question was - what colour?

All Dunsley product are manufactured in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. Here is some information on the firm:

We are one of the UK's longest standing and finest manufacturers of high quality
heating equipment and as such we hope and expect to provide you with products and a service which will meet all your heating requirements, from providing heat and hot water for the whole house through the use of our award winning multi-fuel stoves and wood burning stoves and back boilers, to providing the unique atmosphere only an open fire can create!

We produce open fires, boilers and stoves which we believe are unrivalled in their quality. Our current range of products includes multi-fuel stoves and wood-burning stoves. The Highlander 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 16 and Yorkshire stoves and our superb open fires.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 33

Here we see the wood-burning stove - it is a Dunsley Highlander-5.

The Highlander 5 has been developed to increase the choice of the householder, using the same superb burning technology as the Highlander 7. Same air wash system, same shaker system only slightly smaller, but can still take logs up to 280mm long, same range of sustainable fuel, same metallic black finish, solid brass handles as standard, with black handles available on request.

The Highlander 5 differs from the Highlander 7 as follows - the overall size is smaller, this has enabled the design of the door to be altered, so that on the Highlander 5 there is only one door to open for re-fuelling and removing ashes. This also means that the safety precaution to prevent over firing is automatically provided for.

The Highlander 5 has two combustion controls exactly as the Highlander 7, to control the burning rate, with efficiences of up to 82% burning wood logs.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 32

The installation of the wood-burning stove was quite an undertaking - it took a week to complete.

Much of the work involved fireproofing those parts of the conservatory wall that were most likely to feel the heat! To my pleasant surprise, no planning permission was required, but I did have the decency to request the 'blessing' of my next-door neighbours, who would have to look at the chimney and smell the smoke. One of my neighbours said he minded very much - he was really jealous!!

You can see the potatoes growing in the right hand raised bed prior to harvesting at the beginning of September. I am enjoying eating them at present, along with the runner beans which have done so well this year. And yes, even my tomatoes are just stating to show signs of ripening!

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Garden of Westhill - 31

Yes, the tomatoes and geraniums were in for a (pleasant) shock - I had decided to install a wood-burning stove in the conservatory!

Here we see part of the rather grand chimney - the part which would be inside the conservatory. When the fire is lit this gets quite hot as the stove has an output of 5KWh.

In the past the conservatory was really only comfortable for 6 months a year (April - September) and the tomatoes struggled to ripen during October. I found it hard to sit in the conservatory between November and February which was a pity - as it is my favourite room in the house. The new wood-burning stove is intended to make the conservatory comfortable all year round.