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Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2008


There is a fine little circular walk that I can do from home in Stirling. It is usually an uneventful affair but not on the day that I relate here.

The tone was set by my passage through the trees below the western edge of King’s Park.  A Robin boldly staked a claim on his territory and several Blackbirds clattered through the undergrowth complaining loudly at their disturbance by my presence. The walk continues past a farmstead where the cattle grazed without batting an eyelid as I passed them.

Crossing the A811 was no problem now, but in the mornings and evenings it can be a Russian Roulette. The open farmland of the Carse is but stubble after the harvest and the field edge path is thankfully dry – the wet Summer relented into a dry period in early September that allowed the gathering in. A Buzzard is perched on a fence post and lifts into the air as I close on him. He is a regular in this area, often surveying his domain from a lamppost. His peace is disturbed by a pair of belligerent crows who mob him unmercifully until he flies off. The term Hoody for these birds has nowadays a certain accuracy – if any bird needed an ASBO it is these guys.

I reach the road by the Fire Station to be greeted by an outbreak of road rage. Two motorists exchange expletives as they vie for possession of the roundabout – they are joined by beeping horns from other cars that are held up by their contretemps. The incident passes and I cross the clear road up towards the castle.

There is a short pull up to the path that runs below the castle and I lean on a wall to survey the view for a few moments. I am joined by a dog walker who comes this way every day. We discuss the scene and he informs me that the farmer had grown a grain crop this year after several years of grass. The area is renowned for providing some of the best hay in the country that is used for racehorses. This year it will be straw for the stables and a reasonable yield of grain that coincides with record prices – a good year for the farmer.

The King’s Knot is the next destination, at midday today it is indistinct but in early morning & under frost it sparkles and throws long shadows that reveal its elegant topography. Two dog walkers meet and their pets face each other on top of the Knot. The walkers try to ignore each other as the face off turns into a noisy scuffle – the Jack Russell Terrier easily out barks the Old English Sheepdog. Embarrassed apologies are exchanged and they move off with suitable admonishment for their cannine’s misbehaviour.

A short walk across the golf course completes this outing with the final little incident of the day. Two greens run parallel and close to each other but in opposite directions. Two balls from the golfers on different holes have landed about 50 yards apart and the protagonists meet. Unfortunately they both worship the same golf ball god so a loud discussion ensues about whose identical ball is whose. The older man is sure he miss hit his ball and it fell short but this would put the other ball belonging to the Japanese golfer 50 yards further back. His prowess is offended as he claims that he always hit his ball at least 200 yards and his ball must be closer to the green. I leave the bi-lingual argument and head for home.

It may have been punctuated by some bad tempered encounters but this short walk was also full of fresh air and fine views so it had achieved the battery recharge and relaxation effect that I desired. I returned home content and at peace with the world.

© Keith Ratcliffe

November 2007

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