Sunday, 13 January 2013

Blackford Hill - One street from posh

In some ways I feel quite a wealthy person - I’ve travelled extensively and my life's been enriched by the great outdoors and wild nature. But my pocket is poor … at least until I find a new job. I’m not sure there’s much call for a hobo who cycled the globo! So most of my outdoor fun is currently limited to destinations served by a £1.40 Lothian Buses fare. Amazingly there are many mini wild adventures to be had on the city bus route and I’m not talking about the night bus to Tranent! But there is one delightful little spot of wildness not even a bus ride away from my bed. 

I’m typing at my desk nursing a hot mug of tea, trying to warm up from a long wander over Edinburgh’s Blackford Hill whose steep north slopes rise above my window in the south of the city. If my window looked out from a house in the next road to the north I would officially live in The Grange. But sadly I am ... one street from posh. At least Blackford Hill's so close that in one movement I can slip from under the duvet into my duvet jacket and through the old iron gates to a small slice of wild heaven. 

On a crisp morning I hauled myself up the steep hillside where overnight frost had made the grass crunchy underfoot. From the top there’s a beautiful view north to a beautiful city but, for me, the real joy is to point your face south along the axis of the viewfinder. Do this and you’ll marvel at the idea that you can be in the capital city but look out across wild hills as Blackford gives way to the Braids which blend into the Pentlands which stretch for a surprising number of empty of miles to the horizon. 

I headed south from the top, left the open scrubby terrain of Blackford Hill and dropped down into the deep, chilled valley of the Hermitage of Braid with its wild woods and fast-flowing burn. Weak sun filtered through the trees; rooks clamoured above in the canopy; blue tits, chaffinches and wrens filled the understory; and the ground floor was pecked over by a dunnock which may sound like a type of teacake but is actually a small, sparrow-like bird.  Mosses, ivy and lichens covered anything that lingered too long and logs sprouted colourful fungi. I meandered for hours along a maze of paths, passed the mallards and mute swans on the pond, before slipping back out through the gates and home for tea. 

Cosy indoors, I look back to the top of Blackford Hill from my window and say thank you for living next to its wild loveliness. I may not be posh but I do feel quite rich. 

Fact File
Lothian Buses No 41 drops you at the gates to Blackford Hill beside the pond.

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