Spring 2022 newsletter
In Scotland we have wakened to a glorious day. A hard frost, now becoming a rare event, has left the ground white and sparkling. The birds have been up since six a.m. when it now starts to get light, and the relief of the longer days is immense. The absence of wind is a joy in itself and the clear blue sky promises some warmth in the sun. The snowdrops are in full bloom along the drive and we hope that some of the bulbs sent out from Bemersyde during the pandemic are blooming in other gardens.
Is this enough to clear our minds of the unspeakable events in the Ukraine? We doubt it, but perhaps if we focus on the matters we can influence, we can better cope with the news bulletins.
So here is the news from Bemersyde in March 2022.
Storm Arwen blew in from the north at the end of November. The next morning the destruction was hard to take in: trees had fallen across Scotland in their thousands with whole woods felled in an instant. At Bemersyde the huge copper beech by the side lawn, which sheltered us from the sun last summer was the saddest loss, but along the drive the number of trees down was astounding. The wind came over Scott’s View - an unusual angle - and took trees out across the garden. Fortunately the greenhouse was protected by the kitchen garden wall, but two cherry trees by the tennis court lie parallel on the ground.
And then came Storm Eunice, which felled a sequoia and many others, leaving a supply of logs for years to come.
The replanting of woods felled two years ago was delayed by having to remove the trees brought down in the storms as many fell where the new deer fencing was to be erected. The fencers are back working now and have also put deer-fencing round the kitchen garden and at the back of the mews where we are going to do some further planting. Fencers are hard to come by and materials are much in demand.
In the fields the mild winter means the winter wheat is well on and the ploughing for oil seed rape, barley and oats is nearly complete. There has been ample rain but the worry is the supply and cost of fertiliser, currently at £700 per tonne. Wheat prices are rocketing to £300 per tonne.
What we can grow is governed by our altitude, soil type and climate. On Bemersyde Hill above Scott’s View, only grass and gorse will grow. The gorse, both winter and summer-flowering varieties, provides food for bees and birds year round. The grass can be converted to food by grazing sheep and cattle. Grass on lower fields can be used to make silage for winter feed. This grass-based system of meat production is very different to the intensive beef production in other parts of the world. Pasture and rough grazing cover around 85% of Scotland.
On the estate’s lower ground we have rich red soil, which reflects the fact that the continent of which Scotland was a part, lay in the southern tropics around 390 million years ago! The red colour is typical of rocks formed in the deserts and created fertile soil which will grow a variety of crops. As only eight per cent of Scotland can grow crops, and only two per cent of land can grow a variety of crops, we think it is important to grow crops on this land.
On the lowest part of the estate to the east are the natural bogs, and here we record the bird and moth life. The local ornithological society has collected some wonderful photographs over the winter and we have been thrilled to see evidence of jays, peregrine falcons, owls and shoveler ducks.
The view from the river is glorious. A few dry days and bright sunshine creates clear, twinkling water, which is a vast improvement from the muddy behemoth which came after the winter storms. We are expecting to catch our first fish this week. We almost had a big brown trout yesterday but it dropped off at the last moment. Fish are being caught up and down the Tweed, so it’s just a matter of time. Ghillie Ian has also spotted the first Kingfisher, which builds its nest in the steep sandy banks of the Bemersyde beat. The kingfishers run the gauntlet of high water as well as the attentions of hungry Mr Fox!
The Garden and Store
The store is up and running and we are building a new storeroom to accommodate the ample harvests from our prolific kitchen garden. Housekeeper and avid gardener, Margaret, has already raised over 100 tomato seedlings as well as purple-sprouting broccoli and broad beans. Onions, shallots and garlic are about to be planted, self-seeded coriander is sprouting up and we are harvesting still harvesting celeriac, carrots and turnips from last year.
We have opened our kitchen garden store, supplying soup, chutney, pickles, jam, jelly, cordial, ice cream and sorbet is flavoured with every kind of home-grown ingredient you could imagine. Margaret is also eyeing up the soft green leaves of the newly sprouting wild garlic with a view to turning them all into exquisite pesto. To order from the store, please call Margaret on 07378 342 762. You can collect your order directly from Bemersyde or we can post it to you.
We were thrilled to welcome some Haig descendants from Minnesota, USA at Christmas. It was uncertain until the last moment whether the Covid restrictions would prevent them from coming. We have missed our American cousins over the past two years and hope that planning for future visits can be reinstated. At New Year a party from London were able to have the Hogmanay that they had had to postpone from December 2020.
We have some spaces left at Easter and in July and August for the current year and are looking forward to welcoming old friends now the Covid restrictions have been lifted.
Please get in touch if you would like to come to stay at Bemersyde House or wing. You can call David Proudfoot on 07891 693130 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
With best wishes,
Alexander and Jane Haig