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Friday, 31 October 2014

You canoe it if you really want

IT’S an ill wind that blows nobody any good, so goes the well-known 16th- century proverb.

KC jottings Nov18
Canoeists take advantage of the high water levels as they paddle down the River Esk in Langholm

Shakespeare inverted it when he wrote in Henry VI: “Ill blows the wind that profits nobody.”

Either way we all know what it means. Someone always benefits from another’s misfortune.

We could turn the expression around to “It’s an ill rainfall that doesn’t bring good to someone”.

We’re all a bit fed up with the heavier-than- normal rains this November but they’ve brought visitors to the town in the form of canoeists.

With the Esk running fast and white in places, the conditions have been perfect for canoeing and I’ve recently seen several groups paddling their way along the Esk.

Whita well, too, is gushing forth, with the water coming up and over its metal cover as well as from the spout.

I enjoy a drink from there of unadulterated, fresh water after being subjected to water from the Black Esk reservoir over the past year.

This change of source from Whita to the Black Esk has resulted in the Old Town’s tap water tasting of something other than pure water. At least, in my house it has.

Despite the torrential downpours, we’ve had one or two bright, sunny days this month and this weather has brought visitors.

I try to get out and up a hill whenever the sun shines and I’ve met one or two strangers, all expressing their thoughts that Langholm and its surrounds is a great place to be.

Last week, when I was on the Castle Hill, I met a photographer who had come to add scenes of Langholm to a DVD he was making of Dumfries and Galloway scenery. He’d been as far west as Glen Trool and was now at his furthest east.

He thought our countryside was wonderful and asked whether he could walk from the MacDiarmid memorial north. I told him there was a ridge walk, coming down finally at Arkleton, so he was off to photograph from that aspect.

When I was at the monument on Saturday, I met a former miner and cyclist who loved to visit Langholm. He had cycled from Alston in Cumbria and had used his bike to reach the monument.

He knew one or two local worthies – John Murray of Claygate and the late Arthur Miller of Holmhead. We had a grand blether until the cold wind drove me homewards. So Langholm in all weathers is becoming a Mecca for visitors. Our secret is out.

I know we grumble about the weather but the changing seasons and unpredictable weather make our countryside such an interesting place to be. I’d hate to live in a country where the weather was the same all year round as at the Equator. You’d have no change to look forward to.

As soon as I put out food for the birds, the jackdaws descend, frightening off the small garden birds with their menacing appearance. Crows and jackdaws are everywhere around the town. But you have to go onto the moor to see their cousins, the ravens.

In America it was the ravens which were everywhere. You would see them in car parks, or wherever there were people, scavenging as our crows and jackdaws do here.

I’ve been told that next year the cameras following the progress of the hen harriers on the moorland, relaying images to the Buccleuch Centre for the public, will perhaps do the same for the moorland ravens next year.

As I watched the ravens in the Rockies, I tried to remember the collective noun for these birds. Three came to mind: a storytelling of ravens, an unkindness of ravens and a conspiracy of ravens. I found a fourth, a murder of ravens. Not exactly complimentary terms. I believe the last expression is also used for crows.

There are some kinder words for more attractive birds such as an ascension or exaltation of larks, although how a gathering of lapwings got the name a deceit of lapwings I can never understand.

As for a parliament of owls, I think that’s doing a disservice to these wise old birds as our parliamentarians aren’t know for their wisdom.

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