Wandering in a Wintry World – Grey Mare’s Tail, White Coomb and Loch Craighead

A second walk for me in the Grey Mare’s Tail area which was longer than the previous visit, both because of the route taken and the wintry conditions under foot.

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On arriving, our attention was drawn skyward by screeching from three birds which seemed to be having a bit of a squabble. Peregrines reside in the area but these seemed to be bigger and unfortunately were on the move, getting too far away before binoculars could be trained on them for a better look.

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With winter hanging on longer than usual, the falls of the Grey Mare’s Tail were pretty well frozen, though not entirely and maybe not suitable for climbing with the amount of running water passing down them. As we passed though and ascended this steep section we saw peregrines underneath and then above us. They obviously favour this area as we saw them again on our downward route later in the day but nowhere else – unless that was a consequence of there being little to eat higher up where snow lay.

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After passing the last of the falls, we crossed the burn feeding them and headed up White Coomb with views improving along the way, Loch Skeen and the rest of our walk for the day in one direction and various summits across the Borders in others.

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Despite it being cold, we hunkered down behind a fence (itself showing signs of cold conditions) for a quick, warming drink and nibble near the top but soon departed, following the ridge round to Loch Craighead. Along the way we saw, what at first appeared to be two walkers, but soon realised were a couple of goats making their way slowly and awkwardly across the deep, soft snow on the plateau.

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Our own walking alternated between smooth on the hard packed snow to a bit more chaotic and stagger-like on the deeper, softer snow as we made our way over to the gap which we would drop down in to before ascending Loch Craighead. At this point Loch Skeen was the focus of our attention and cameras, frozen and with snow forming some odd patterns on it which may well have been wind generated.

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We didn’t linger at the summit long before descending to Loch Skeen to walk along its side, stopping to admire the views of the hills round the loch with changing light on their sides. At this point we also came upon two goats scraping through the snow to reach shoots, something which was a nice scene at first until we realised they were protecting their two dead, half-eaten kids, rather than heading to lower ground where food would have been more plentiful. Only when they moved was it clear how knackered they looked.

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A lovely walk in nice weather but a shame to see winter is hanging on so cruelly for the local wildlife.

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