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A Wee Trip North


You can say what you want but all this cold weather has left some brilliant flowers to dazzle us. Normally this display would have opened and passed by now. Yet here it sits shining out in vivid colours.

Timing is everything. I almost considered not using this photo as there was so much I could have said this week. But if these tulips hadn’t squeezed in now they would be gone for another year and I would have missed my chance.

The colours spring out. It is just coming to that time of year when shades of all sorts begin to creep into bloom in small batches everywhere. It puts a smile on my face and seeps into my mood. A promise of what is yet to come.

Hopefully, that will be long hot days and mellow nights. Bright warm hues and cool long drinks will mix to form new memories of happy times. I am already looking forward to slipping over to the West and up to Sutherland when I can.

A custom has evolved for those of us living here on the east coast. Each year more and more locals follow that road west. A day trip, with a stop in Ullapool, a glance at the island ferry, followed by either ice cream or a fish supper. Then a quick dip into the Ullapool Bookshop to see what they have. Often a fleeting hello is shared with someone we recognise from our burgh before we head home again in time for tea.

I made it to Helmsdale for a trip this week. I wanted to capture the stunning hill just behind it covered in luminous yellow gorse. Only I had forgotten about the fire way back in autumn where the mountains were ablaze with flames. You could see it from my upstairs window. The sky refusing to turn dark as an orange inferno chased the deepening night away. Even from across the firth it looked devastating.

It was only as I was driving past Portgower that I remembered. You can see how close it had been to the road. In one area the blackened bracken sits alongside the main A9 north. Fire has no respect for boundaries or fences designed to keep wildlife in check. The first house was so near to disaster, it had me wondering how the inhabitants had felt.

Was it pure luck that it stopped right beside their garden and left their home in tack? Many homes were ruined though. The wildlife that nests and lives within these patches will be long gone. Although they could move a few feet away in some instances where the gorse bushes appeared untouched.

It was strange venturing out after so long. We expect that the countryside and towns will look the same as they did over a year ago but they don’t. New builds have continued, trees have grown that few extra feet and now block a view. Even the beaches look different as winter storms moved the sand and shingle around forming new shapes.

The sea is the same though. White waves capping deep water, hugging the coast and kissing the beaches. The big sky melting into the water on the horizon.

We were lucky the day we drove north. The sun shone and the gorse that survived glowed. Sparkly reflections danced on the water. Traffic was back to the level of years gone by when roads were quiet and calm. All this made for a joyful and uplifting few hours out.

We arrived back refreshed but without the long for photographs. Helmsdale and the gorse will still be there another year. Perhaps this year off will allow for an extra brilliant display next year. If not it will gradually creep back and once again delight all who see it.

In the meantime, I can enjoy all the other displays around and take time to listen to the chatter of bird song, the humming of the insects and breathe in the scent of the fauna. It evokes a feeling of calm and being part of something special. Like an invisible chain, it links us back to all the humans throughout the years who have taken that few seconds or minutes to just enjoy what we are so fortunate to have. Each season holds its wonder and right now the timing is just right to enjoy this one.


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