About this time last year, I was writing about how much of a nightmare it was just trying to get out of Selkirk for a walk, due to the ongoing flood protection works.
What with route closures, traffic lights, mud, noise etc it was all a bit trying to say the least. With most of the work now complete, I decided to have a walk down one side of the river and back the other, along the tarmac walkway on top of the new flood banks.
I joined the route on the north bank of the Ettrick just above Bannerfield and here I paused to study the shingle island in the middle of the river, where several birds had dropped in for a bath. It was mainly gulls, but not all the same species. They were mainly black-headed in their winter plumage without their usual black heads. I also picked out a couple of herring and common gulls amongst the group. Also present were some jackdaws, a heron, a dipper, a goosander and several mallard – a good start to the walk.
After ascending the rather grandiose steps onto the new footbridge, I crossed to the other side and set off down the south bank, on the new footpath between the flood wall and the river. From this new more elevated position and shielded from the road by the wall, it is a more pleasant walk than before, giving good views of the river and birdlife in the streamside trees. Here I spotted moorhen, another dipper and things like wren, chaffinch, blackbird etc. in the alders on the bank.
After crossing the footbridge by the call centre, I headed back upstream on the tarmac path, paid for several years ago by the Rotary Club. It was here I began to realise that the new footpath network provided a brilliant gateway for disabled people to access huge areas of the lovely countryside around Selkirk. Wheelchairs and mobility scooters are now able to travel three or four miles virtually without following the same route. I hope those trying to encourage visitors to the town make the most of this unique feature.
Before reaching my starting point again, I was able to enjoy watching such things as bullfinches feeding on dock seeds and a charm of goldfinches high on an ash tree, extracting seeds from the ash keys. All in all I must have seen between 20 and 30 species.
The whole area is still a bit ‘new’, but once things settle down, the new grass grows, the newly planted trees come into leaf and the colour of the concrete walls weathers down a bit, I’m sure it will have been worth the inconvenience. People of Hawick bear with it because you are next!