A bracing autumn walk

Two days ago, on a cold but beautiful morning, the delightful assistants got themselves warmly kitted up and headed off to a quiet road not far from their home for a little health-giving trot.

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Delightful assistant no.2 helpfully holding his wife’s gloves while she ties her jacket up tightly.

Although the temperature was below freezing, the air was dry and the sunshine very welcome. They strode out briskly, hand in hand, to keep each other upright.

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Delightful assistants trotting off on their walk.

Thankfully, the road was only icy at the very edges; fallen leaves on the verges were covered in a thick frost.

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Frosted leaves by the roadside.

Most of the trees had lost their leaves, but swathes of green grass softened the scenery, provided pleasing blocks of colour against a bright blue sky.

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Fields of green and a blue sky in autumn, sunny Perthshire.

In one of the fields they passed, the assistants were delighted to spot four horses of varying sizes, each clad in its own nicely fitting blue blanket.

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Horse in blue blankets.

Whenever they’re out for a walk, there’s discussion between the assistants about when to turn back. Delightful assistant no.2 is usually for stopping when he feels he’s had enough, but his spouse always wants to go to the next bend. On long straight stretches with no bends in sight, something else has to mark the turnaround point for her. On this occasion it was a hedge of beech trees, still sporting quite a lot of orange leaves. This is the sort of turnaround point delightful assistant no.2 finds quite satisfying, since it avoids walking in a shaded area (she likes as much sunshine as possible at all times).

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Turnaround point in the walk: a hedge of beech trees shading the road.
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Heading back from the turnaround point in the sunshine.

As they walked back past the field of horses, they met a lady who was on her way to remove the coats from her beasts. They watched as the horses bounded around, free from their garments and apparently delighted to be shot of them. Delightful assistant no.2 wondered if he should remove his coat to see if it had a similar effect, but the prospect of getting any colder wasn’t in the least attractive.

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Delightful assistants wisely keeping their outer garments on during their walk.

In the latter stages of the walk, despite the sunshine and their brisker than usual pace, the assistants were beginning to feel rather chilled. By the time they passed an oak tree with some of its leaves still clinging on, they were relieved to be nearly at the car and only a few minutes’ drive from home.

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Passing the oak, nearly at the car.

Arriving back at their cosy house, with the heating turned up nice and high, they sat down hungrily to hot bowls of leek and potato soup with crusty rolls, pleased with their exercise and glad to be in out of the cold.

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Welcome hot soup at the end of a chilly walk.
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Jedburgh holiday part 6: the finale

On the last day of their holiday, the delightful assistants took it easy and mooched around in the local area in a leisurely manner.

They started off with morning coffee at a steading conversion complex called Born in the Borders, which incorporated a cafe, farm shop, brewery and grass sledging. Their chauffeur thought the long, closely-cropped grass slopes looked tempting for sledging down, but the assistants showed no inclination whatsoever to engage in such activity. Their minds were, quite rightly, on their morning refreshments.

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Inside the cafe at Born in the Borders, near Jedburgh.

The cafe had a special deal on, with an Americano and a scone for £2.95. The assistants were quick to take up the offer and, after surveying the options available, both plumped for fruit scones, while their chauffeur went for the cheese variety.

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Fruit scone at Born in the Borders, near Jedburgh.
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Cheese scone at Born in the Borders, near Jedburgh.

They were delighted to find that the coffee was served in decent-sized mugs, ample for slooshing down their scones with.

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Decent-sized coffee with scone, at Born in the Borders, near Jedburgh.

Continuing the holiday tradition, they rated their scones out of 10. Unfortunately, all three felt these scones were not as good as most of the others they’d had previously, and the top score was 6.5/10 (from delightful assistant no.1 and their chauffeur), and the lowest 6/10 (from delightful assistant no.2). However, the total cost of scone plus coffee was not to be sniffed at, and all agreed it was good value for money.

Refreshed and ready for a little exercise, the assistants made use of the beautifully clean facilities before striding out into the fresh air. Still not remotely tempted by the notion of grass sledging, they headed away from the grass slopes and towards the River Teviot,  which was flowing gently nearby.

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Delightful assistants heading for the River Teviot.
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Delightful assistants observing the River Teviot.
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Delightful assistants strolling along a grassy path by the River Teviot.

The riverside path was very damp, and not terribly pleasant to squelch along in their ordinary shoes. After a short distance, they turned round and headed back towards the car.

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Before they reached the car park, delightful assistant no.2’s attention was attracted by a curious wooden box beside the path. He went over to investigate, and found that it had opening drawers at the top and a cupboard beneath. It wasn’t at all clear what the purpose of this piece of furniture was, and he was left puzzling over the question.

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Delightful assistant no.2 investigating a curious wooden box.

Leaving behind Born in the Borders, the assistants drove to Kelso, where they had a wander round the town square before calling in at The Cobbles restaurant. They enjoyed a relaxed late luncheon there before tootling back to their holiday home to start packing for leaving the next day.

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The Cobbles restaurant, Kelso.

The following day the assistants were up early and ready for the journey home. They decided to have their morning snacks in Melrose, since they hadn’t ventured into the town at all on their holiday.

Melrose was bustling and they were very pleased to find that their chosen tearoom, Apples for Jam, had space for them to settle in and order refreshments. There were only four small tables, and they soon filled up.

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Delightful assistants at Apples for Jam in Melrose, cheefully awaiting their morning snacks.

The tearoom incorporated a small gallery selling a few locally made cards, framed paintings, items of jewellery and trinkets. While they were there, the assistants noticed that every customer who came in for coffee also bought something from the gallery.

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Local paintings and trinkets for sale at Apples for Jam in Melrose.

The scones on offer were fruit, cheese, and lemon and poppyseed. They opted for one of each to share, with coffee for delightful assistant no.1 and their chauffeur and a beautiful glass pot of Darjeeling tea for delightful assistant no.2.

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Darjeeling tea at Apples for Jam in Melrose.

Each of the scones came with a little dish of butter cubes and a silver dagger to spread it with. The fruit scone also came with an overflowing jar of strawberry jam, while the lemon and poppyseed one came with a similarly filled container of lemon curd.

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Cheese scone at Apples for Jam in Melrose.
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Fruit scone at Apples for Jam in Melrose.
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Lemon and poppyseed scone at Apples for Jam in Melrose.

The scones were rated, but I appear to have lost the note reminding me of their scores. In any case, Apples for Jam was declared top-notch in the refreshments department, and the staff were friendly and helpful to boot.

These were to be the last scones of the holiday, and they were an encouraging note to end on. To quote the wise old Scottish saying: ‘A scone a day keeps life’s troubles at bay.’ For the assistants and their chauffeur these words certainly rang true for their week in the Scottish Borders.

Jedburgh holiday part 5

The morning after their exciting train journey to Edinbugh, the delightful assistants visited an award-winning tearoom for coffee and scones. Part of the Woodside Plant Centre, the Birdhouse Tearoom was located in a very pleasant setting, inside a large walled garden.

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Delightful assistants at the entrance to Woodside Plant Centre and the Birdhouse Tearoom.

They enjoyed a slow amble through the plants for sale, en route to the tearoom which sat in a far corner of the garden.

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Delightful assistants ambling through the garden centre.
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The Birdhouse Tearoom at Woodside Plant Centre, near Jedburgh.

The tearoom contained scrubbed wooden tables and an assortment of wooden chairs. The assistants had their pick of where to sit, and chose a table next to a window, with a bird feeder outside and hungry birds making the most of the treats on offer.

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Inside the Birdhouse Tearoom. The assistants sat at the far table in the corner by the window.

There were plenty of treats inside for humans, including a magnificent array of delicious-looking cakes and a fine selection of scones.

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Tempting sponge cakes at the Birdhouse Tearoom.

There were four scone options available: fruit, ginger beer, cheese, and cheese and pickle. Delightful assistant no.1 chose a cheese scone, while her spouse plunged into a ginger beer affair and their chauffeur went for the fruit option.

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Cheese scone at the Birdhouse Tearoom.
Ginger beer scone at Birdhouse Tearoom (2)
Ginger beer scone at the Birdhouse Tearoom.
Fruit scone scone at Birdhouse Tearoom (2)
Fruit scone at the Birdhouse Tearoom.

The scones were absolutely delicious, and the awards won by the tearoom were undoubtedly well deserved. The trio’s scone scores were as follows: delightful assistant no.1 rated her cheese scone 9/10, delightful assistant no.2 rated his ginger beer affair 8/10 and their chauffeur was so overwhelmed by the excellence of her fruit scone she could give it no less than a perfect 10/10.

Happily sconed-up and ready for a little ramble, the assistants shimmied out of the plant centre and drove the short distance to Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre. After parking in the centre’s car park, they trotted off along a way-marked route, past an interesting-looking tree, which was labelled as a ‘Spanish or hedgehog pine’.

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Delightful assistants at Harestanes.
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Spanish or Hedgehog Pine at Harestanes.

It was a lovely morning as they walked along a forest trail, enjoying the beautiful sight of sunlight through beech leaves.

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Sunlit beech trees at Harestanes.
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Sunlight on beech leaves at Harestanes.

Well into the forest they came upon two striking trees with large, partly-exposed roots. Standing between them, the assistants looked like a pair of little wood sprites.

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Wood sprites at Harestanes.

After a good hour’s healthy exercise, they hopped back into the car and buzzed off south for lunch. They stopped at Carter Bar, on the border between Scotland and England, and read an information board about the area and its history.

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Delightful assistants at Carter Bar on the Scotland-England border.

The board included an explanation of the design of the UK flag.

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Information board at Carter Bar explaining the UK flag (the Union flag shown above is missing the red saltire of St Patrick, which sits on top of the Scottish saltire).

After a quick look at both sides of a standing stone painted with the names of the two countries, it was back into the car and off to their luncheon destination.

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Heading into England at Carter Bar.
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Heading into Scotland at Carter Bar.

For the third day in a row, they were boarding a train. This time, it couldn’t take them anywhere, but it did offer much-needed sustenance and an unusual environment to lunch in.

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Carriages Tearoom at Bellingham, Northumberland.

Inside the train – now enjoying a new lease of life as Carriages Tearoom – the assistants felt they had gone back in time. The carriages were built in 1957 and still contained their original seats and fittings.

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Delightful assistants in Carriages Tearoom, Bellingham, Northumberland.

From the tearoom menu, delightful assistant no.1 chose a tuna salad, while her spouse and their chauffeur both plumped for quiche of the day: cheese and onion.

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Tuna salad at Carriages Tearoom, Bellingham.
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Cheese and onion quiche at Carriages Tearoom, Bellingham.

After a leisurely luncheon, the well-filled threesome disembarked and tootled off back to Scotland. They had one more full day of holiday left, and as they settled themselves into their holiday home for the evening they wondered what tomorrow might bring.

Jedburgh holiday part 4

The day after their adventure on the narrow gauge railway at Etal, the delightful assistants headed off to Tweedbank station, the southerly terminus of the Borders Railway.

It was late morning when they boarded the train to Edinburgh, the right sort of time for their usual coffee break, but there was no tearoom at the station and no dining car on the train. To avoid enduring the entire journey without sustenance, they purchased hot drinks at a kiosk, and a large packet of salted crisps to share, and settled themselves in for the ride.

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Delightful assistants on the Scotrail service from Tweedbank to Edinburgh, with hot chocolate and coffee, and a bag of salted crisps.

The seats were clean and comfortable, and the train wasn’t busy. They enjoyed the countryside views as the train whisked them smoothly northwards.

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A bit of the Scottish Borders, as seen from the train to Edinburgh.

On arrival at Edinburgh Waverley, they disembarked and made their way towards the Princes Street exit. Since their last visit to the station, many years before, new lifts and escalators had been installed, saving them an exhausting trek up the Waverley Steps (I forget the exact number, but I think it’s something like 72 steps from the station to Princes Street, rather a lot at once for two octogenarians).

Up at street level they were bewildered by the crowds of people, and quickly headed across Princes Street to Jenners department store where they planned to have lunch. There were three cafes to choose from and they went for the one that looked the most enticing.

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Delightful assistants lunching in Jenners, Edinburgh.

Delightful assistant no.1 chose a chicken salad, while her spouse opted for mushroom soup and their chauffeur went for carrot and coriander soup.

Alas, the food was not up to the old Jenners standard they remembered from time gone by, and the store had lost its sparkle since being taken over by the Frasers chain. However, the food filled a gap and gave them the energy to set off for the next stage of their culinary journey. They fought their way out of the shop and into the breezy air of South St David Street.

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Delightful assistants on South St David Street, Edinburgh.

Sauntering north, they entered the pleasantly landscaped St Andrew Square, where they found a curious box with peep-holes inviting them to look inside. To their surprise, the box contained large Chinese lanterns in the shapes of various animals, glowing from lights inside them.

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Delightful assistants posing in St Andrew Square with a box containing illuminated animal lanterns.

From St Andrew Square it was a short toddle downhill to Queen Street and their hot beverage destination, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery cafe. The cafe had undergone a major refit since their last visit, and contained a quiet room at one end with sliding doors to keep the noise of the main cafe at bay. They were delighted to find a table free in this room, and after choosing their snacks and drinks, sat down to enjoy the peace and catch up on their postcard-writing.

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A fluffy, shiny croissant to accompany Delightful Assistant no.1’s coffee
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A beautiful Empire biscuit to pair with Delightful Assistant no.2’s Darjeeling tea.
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A delicious toffee and pecan scone to slip down with their chauffeur’s cappuccino.
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Delightful assistants writing postcards and enjoying snacks in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery cafe’s quiet room.

After a leisurely and refreshing experience in the cafe, it was time to bring their short Edinburgh visit to an end. It had been an interesting day and they had enjoyed it, but the crowds and the busyness of the city had quite exhausted them.

They took a quick squiz at the magnificent murals in the main entrance hall of the gallery before toddling back to the station and collapsing onto a much busier, and less clean, train for the return journey. Relaxing into their seats, the train rocked them gently into snatches of slumber all the way back to Tweedbank.

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Magnificent murals in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Jedburgh holiday part 3

On the second full day of their holiday, the assistants kicked off proceedings with a visit to Cafe U in Kelso, the place they had found closed on their previous visit. They found a parking space nearby and walked along to the cafe, passing the magnificent Kelso North Parish Church building on the way.

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Kelso North Parish Church.
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Delightful assistants strolling past Kelso North Parish Church.

Cafe U was set up some years ago as a church project, incorporating a Fairtrade shop and cafe serving loose leaf teas and organic coffees. It originally went by the name ‘Under the sun’, but that name now only applies to the shop part of the business; the cafe has borrowed the shop’s initial letter, becoming Cafe U.

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Cafe U, Kelso, Scottish Borders.

It was busy inside and the only table free was adjacent to one occupied by an excitable toddler with an excellent pair of lungs. They sat down and attempted to study the menu.

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Delightful assistants at Cafe U, Kelso.

It was a pity they weren’t there for main meals, as the menu looked very enticing with lots of vegetarian and vegan options. Although the selection of teas was impressive, all three visitors went for organic coffees, delightful assistant no.1 having an Americano and her spouse and chauffeur decaf cappuccinos. They paired these with one cheese scone and one fruit scone, cut up into bits to share. They made a right mess of the table, but enjoyed their bite-sized portions.

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An impressive list of leaf teas at Cafe U.
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Coffees and scone bits at Cafe U.

When they had finished their repast and made use of the nice, clean facilities, they exited the building satisfyingly filled and relieved to step out into the relative peace of the outside world.

The sun was coming out after a misty start to the day, and they decided to have a little walk round Kelso’s cobbled central area, the largest market square in Scotland. In the sunshine under blue skies it had quite a continental feel to it.

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The cobbled town square of Kelso in the Scottish Borders.

On their way back to the car, the assistants stopped to admire the River Tweed.

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Delightful assistants admiring the River Tweed flowing through Kelso.

After looking at the Tweed they walked along the street on which their car was parked. Coming towards them on the same side of the road were two cheerful-looking men dressed in policemen’s uniforms. As the policemen walked along, one on the pavement and the other on the road, they grabbed the doors of every parked car they passed, attempting to open them. This was something the assistants had never seen before and they watched with interest as the men drew nearer to them and then went past, not missing out a single car as they strode along. It seemed likely that the men were indeed bona fide police officers, rather than criminals dressed up as policemen, since they seemed delighted to find every vehicle safely locked.

Pleased with themselves for having witnessed this lesser-spotted bit of police activity, the assistants hopped into the car and drove off towards the English border, just a few miles away. Entering Northumberland, they made their way to the conservation village of Etal, via the Heatherslaw information centre. At the information centre, they learned an interesting fact about the county they were in.

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As they went about during the day, they spotted several of these flags flying in various locations.

There was a tearoom at Heatherslaw, where they might have partaken of a spot of luncheon, but their chauffeur had other ideas. She was keen to try the Lavender Tearooms at Etal, which had a good reputation and glowing recommendations from tearoom lovers online.

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Lavender Tearooms at Etal, Northumberland.

Housed in the village shop and post office, the tearooms were doing good business, but thankfully there was a table free in the back room of the building, where the assistants gratefully sank into their seats to consider the menu options. Delightful assistant no.1 fancied a sandwich meal, and chose cheese and tomato on brown bread, while her spouse and their chauffeur succumbed to individual broccoli and red pepper quiches with salad. The quiches came with an unusual and delicious coleslaw which contained peppers, celery, sultanas and seeds alongside the expected carrot and cabbage.

Cheese and tomato sandwiches at Lavender Tearooms, Etal (2)
Cheese and tomato sandwiches at the Lavender Tearooms in Etal.
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Broccoli and red pepper quiche with interesting coleslaw at the Lavender Tearooms in Etal.
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Delightful assistants with their luncheons at the Lavender Tearooms in Etal.

While they’d been at the Heatherslaw information centre, delightful assistant no.2 had picked up a leaflet about a small narrow gauge railway running between Heatherslaw and Etal. For £7 (or £6.50 for concessions) visitors could take a return journey on this railway, pulled by a small steam train, admiring the countryside along the 6.4km route.

The train left Etal station every hour on the half hour, and when their lunches were finished the holidaymakers were in good time to catch the next train to Heatherslaw. They bought tickets from the guard and settled themselves into an open-air carriage to enjoy the journey. 

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Ticket for the train at Etal.
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Delightful assistants excited to be on the little train at Etal.

The train departed in a cloud of steam with a peep-peep from its whistle, and began its jolly little journey along the track between a river on one side and fields on the other.

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The river on one side of the little railway.
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Fields with cows on the other side of the railway.

Their spirits soared as they were whisked along in the train, delighted to be enjoying such a pleasant and unexpected experience.

When they reached Heatherslaw, quite a few people got off the train and there were plenty of empty carriages. To allow both assistants and their chauffeur to sit facing forwards they split up into two carriages, with the assistants in front.

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The train sitting at Heatherslaw staion.
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Delightful assistants on the return journey to Etal.

On the way back, the cows they had passed on the outward journey had wandered close to the fence. Normally, when delightful assistant no.2 is close to cattle, such as during a countryside ramble, he stops to give them a lecture on some topic or other. There wasn’t time for that as the train sped along, but some of the beasts looked up as he passed, perhaps hopeful of catching a wise word or two on the breeze.

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An attentive beast eager for words of wisdom as the cow whisperer passes.

On arrival at Etal, the journeying party got off the train and walked back to the Lavender Tearooms, ready for a small snack after the excitements of the train ride.

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Sojourners entering the Lavender Tearooms for the second time that day.

None of them felt particularly hungry, but the temptation of a cream scone was too much for delightful no.1 to resist. Delightful assistant no.2 and their chauffeur opted for the local speciality, the singin’ hinnie, which was described on the menu as ‘a large griddle scone with currants’. The scone was a decent size, but the hinnies were enormous.

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Delightful assistants with large snacks at the Lavender Tearooms in Etal.

Just after their food and drinks had been brought over, a cheerful couple appeared at their table and greeted them effusively. Disorientated and still reeling from the size of their snacks, the assistants were momentarily baffled by the warm greetings they were receiving. Moments later, they realised these people were in fact known to them. They were the next-door neighbours of the delightful assistants’ other daughter, and happened to be holidaying that same week in a village close to Etal.

They all agreed it was a remarkable coincidence to have bumped into each other in this tiny village over the border. When they had gone, delightful assistant no.2 got busy penning a postcard to his daughter, asking her to guess who she thought they might have met in the Lavender Tearooms. He was going to leave it a mystery, but decided to add the answer before posting the card, in case the suspense was too unbearable.

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Postcards written and snacks consumed (as far as possible, with bits of hinnie being taken home wrapped in paper napkins for later consumption), the assistants left the tearoom and walked through the village in the late afternoon sunshine. Having had their appetites whetted by a most enjoyable and unexpected excursion on a little steam train, they were even more excited about the following day’s adventure that would see them fulfil their ambitions to travel on the Borders Railway.

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A well-kept house and garden in the village of Etal, Northumberland.

Jedburgh holiday part 2

The second full day of the Jedburgh holiday dawned damp and misty. It seemed perfect weather for mooching around old books and munching on treats, and so it was that the delightful assistants set off mid-morning for Old Melrose Bookshop and Tearooms, a converted farm steading complex up a minor road a few miles north of Jedburgh.

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Inside the courtyard at Old Melrose. Books and antiques can be found through the green doorway on the left, with the tearooms in behind the window on the right. (The white things in the upper panes of that window are dangling teacups suspended on strings.)

There being no signage to assist the visitors, they made the mistake of going in through the door to the antiques and books centre first. After wandering around on the ground floor seeing no sign of a tearoom, they hauled themselves up a flight of open wooden stairs to the top floor, where they found more antiques and lots of books, but still no sign of teas being served.

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Books everywhere, but not a scone in sight.

After a few minutes, they discovered another staircase leading back down to the ground floor. Having thoroughly searched the upstairs area, they adventurously descended this second staircase, which was carpeted and seemed more like someone’s home than a public place. As they neared the bottom, savoury smells led them to believe they were close to the tearooms. They followed their noses and found that they had indeed reached their destination.

On questioning the waitress, they learned that if they had gone through a different door to begin with they wouldn’t have had to negotiate all the stairs and fight their way through ageing tomes to get to the tearooms. Their curious entrance had left them feeling bewildered and convinced they were having an adventure. They sat down and ordered large cups of coffee, and two treats to help the drinks down.

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Bewildered assistants trying to regain their sangfroid.

The only scones on offer were plain ones and they were so enormous that delightful assistant no.2 and their chauffeur agreed to share one, while delightful assistant no.1 plumped for a lightly toasted teacake.

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Enormous plain scone at Old Melrose.
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Teacake at Old Melrose.

The scone was unusual in that it was decidedly salty and not very sweet. It had a nice texture but an unexpected taste. Delightful assistant no.2 rated it at 6/10, while their chauffeur gave it 7/10. Delightful assistant no.1 rated her teacake at 7/10.

Refreshed and slightly less bemused than they had been prior to consumption of comestibles, they decided a health-giving walk was what they needed next. After a quick squiz at the books and antiques, they went back outside into the misty air and set off on a way-marked trail through soggy grass.

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Way-marked trail at Old Melrose.
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Assistants setting off in wet grass.

The grassy path led into a forest, which was drier and quite steep in places. The assistants marched on undeterred, making good use of their trusty walking poles.

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They came out of the forest onto another path, which was very wet and muddy in places. This path led alongside the River Tweed, quite high up above the water. The misty view created a dreamlike atmosphere that seemed somehow appropriate for the strangeness of the day.

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River Tweed seen through autumnal foliage near Old Melrose.
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Assistants in a dreamlike state, gazing at the River Tweed far below.

When they got back to the car, it was high time to be thinking about a spot of luncheon. They knew of several options in the vicinity, but decided on Ochiltree’s restaurant, at Abbotsford near Melrose.

Abbotsford was the house of Sir Walter Scott, built by him in the 19th Century, and is a superb place to visit if you happen to be in the Scottish Borders looking for something interesting to do. The picture below was taken on a previous visit.

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Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott, near Melrose in the Scottish Borders.

The assistants had visited the house before, and on this occasion decided a tasty luncheon would suffice. They were pleased to find the restaurant quiet and ready to receive their patronage.

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Ochiltree’s restaurant at Abbotsford, near Melrose in the Scottish Borders.

The enticing menu catered well for different dietary requirements, with meals for vegetarians, vegans and those requiring gluten-free meals. When delightful assistant no.1 asked their waiter about a certain dish and discovered it contained garlic, he summoned a knowledgeable waitress to go through the menu explaining which dishes were definitely garlic-free. The staff were courteous and helpful and their assistance led to delightful assistant no.1 choosing a sandwich with honey roast ham, baby gem lettuce and tomato.

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Delicious soft fresh bread with honey roast ham, baby gem and tomato filling.

Delightful assistant no.2 and their chauffeur both went for the same vegetarian option: butternut, pea and feta frittatas, pea mousse, butternut puree and pumpkin seeds. The meal was a work of art, and delicious to boot.

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Butternut, pea and feta frittatas with pea mousse, butternut puree and pumpkin seeds at Ochiltree’s.

It was so pleasant sitting in Ochiltree’s that two of the lunching threesome managed to find room for pudding. Delightful assistant no.1 settled for a cup of coffee, but her spouse wisely commandeered a warm toffee apple crumble tart with chantilly cream, while their chauffeur fell back on the old fruit scone favourite. She recalled from a previous visit that when this particular choice was made it came as a pair of scones, something that seemed too good to resist. She opted for the jam and cream version, since she was on her holidays.

Toffee apple crumble pie with chantilly cream at Ochiltree's (2)
Warm toffee apple crumble tart with chantilly cream, a small and delightful dessert and a bargain at only £2.30.
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A duo of fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve.

Although the scones were good value at £2.95, they were rather solid and it was quite an effort to munch through both of them with their accompanying condiments. They were nicely helped down with a pot of rooibos leaf tea, but the scoring was quite low at 5/10. Perhaps if they hadn’t come hot on the heels of a delicious main course they might have scored slightly higher.

When they had finished their meals, the two assistants spent some time enjoying an informative exhibition about Sir Walter Scott while their chauffeur worked off some of the clotted cream on a short trot along the Borders Abbey Way, a footpath running for over 100 miles through the Scottish Borders (she didn’t complete the entire route).

It was late afternoon when they left Abbotsford, and on their way home they took a short diversion into Tweedbank railway station. Back in the 1960s, the Scottish Borders suffered from the Beeching railway cuts, which saw hundreds of railway lines closed throughout Britain. The trains were sorely missed from this largely rural part of the country and there was a long-running campaign to get them reinstated. After years of planning and engineering works, some of the original track was reopened in September 2015, and ever since then the assistants had been keen to take a ride on the newly opened Borders Railway.

Having familiarised themselves with the set-up at Tweedbank, they whisked off home, excited by the prospect of a railway adventure to come.

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The garden of the holiday home, stretching out to fields of cows beyond.

Jedburgh holiday: Part 1

Last week the delightful assistants tootled off to the Scottish Borders for a holiday in a self-catering house near the small town of Jedburgh.

On the way down, they called in at House of Soutra Coffee Shop (out in the countryside, about 15 miles south-east of Edinburgh) for a spot of luncheon.

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Assistants arriving at Soutra Coffee Shop.
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The view from Soutra Coffee Shop.

Inside there was plenty of appetising food to choose from. They each chose sandwiches of one sort or another.

Egg mayo baguette at Soutra Coffee House (3)
An egg mayonnaise baguette for delightful assistant no.1.
Tuna mayonnaise sandwiches at Soutra Coffee House (2)
Tuna mayonnaise sandwiches for delightful assistant no.2.
Toasted flatbread with roasted vegetables at Soutra Coffee House (2)
Toasted flatbread with cream cheese and roasted vegetables for their chauffeur.

Nicely filled up, they decided not to add cakes to their meal and instead sloped back into the car to continue their journey.

When they arrived in Jedburgh they were a bit too early to check in at the holiday house, so they drove into the town and took advantage of the free parking to have a leg stretch and some hot beverages.

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Delightful assistants passing the magnificent ruins of Jedburgh Abbey.
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Abbey View Cafe and Bookshop, near Jedburgh Abbey.

The Abbey View Cafe, into which they went for their refreshments, was very small and quite busy, but there was a table free and they sat down to consider the hot beverages. Neither of the assistants felt like having anything to eat and simply settled for coffees, but their chauffeur fancied a slice of banana bread, which she paired with a decaf latte.

Banana bread and latte at Jedburgh Abbey Tearoom (3)
An excellent latte and an unassuming piece of banana bread that was utterly delicious.

While they sat in the cafe they noted the books, arranged on shelves at the back of the room. The selection was, like the cafe itself, small but interesting. There appeared to be only one copy of each book and 75 different titles, mostly adult fiction with a few non-fiction and a handful of children’s books.

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Books for sale in Abbey View Cafe, Jedburgh.

After enjoying their coffees and resisting the temptation to purchase books, they drove the short distance to their holiday home, a converted cow shed off a single-track road just outside Jedburgh.

Thankfully, the cows had all moved out and an attractive living space had been created from their old home.

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Sitting room of old cow shed.
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View from the house towards Jedburgh.

After their first night in the new house they set off the next day to visit the nearby Teviot Smokery and Water Gardens, an attraction importantly containing a cafe. Mid-morning refreshments were the top priority, and they were delighted to find that the cafe had a special deal on, with a scone and a cup of filter coffee for the bargain price of £2.75.

This would be the second batch of scones of the holiday, the first having been taken on the morning of their journey at a cafe in Perth. During that refreshment break, a decision had been made to record and rate each scone of the holiday out of 10. Unfortunately, no photographic record was made of those first scones, but they were rated between 7/10 and 9/10 by the travelling threesome.

At the Teviot Water Gardens cafe, delightful assistant no.1 and their chauffeur chose fruit scones, while delightful assistant no.2 opted for an exotic chocolate and espresso variety.

Chocolate and espresso scone at Teviot Water Gardens Cafe (2)
Chocolate and espresso scone in the cafe at Teviot Water Gardens, near Jedburgh.
Fruit scone at Teviot Water Gardens Cafe (2)
Fruit scone in the cafe at Teviot Water Gardens, near Jedburgh.

The scones were of the slightly dry, biscuity sort, a type not particularly enjoyed by delightful assistant no.1 who, in her own words, is ‘not a biscuit hand’. She therefore rated her fruit scone 6.5/10 (it would have got only 6, but the half mark was added because she enjoyed the coffee), while their chauffeur gave it a slightly more generous 7/10. Delightful assistant no.2 very much enjoyed his biscuity scone and rated it a commendable 8/10.

Sconed up and ready for some exercise, the assistants trotted out into the water gardens, to see what they could find. Entry was free, with a donation box available for anyone wishing to contribute to the upkeep.

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The entrance to Teviot Water Gardens, near Jedburgh, Scottish Borders.
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Delightful assistants carefully navigating the steps leading into the water gardens.

For many years now – and particularly since her knee operation in January – delightful assistant no.1 has been wary of stairs. She is capable of going up and down them, as long as she’s allowed to take her time and put both feet on each step before negotiating the next one.

The water gardens were built on a fairly steep slope, and steps were very much the order of the day. Handrails had been helpfully provided, and with her trusty walking stick delightful assistant no.1 managed the whole business admirably.

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Negotiating steps in Teviot Water Gardens.
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Steps at Teviot Water Gardens.

At the bottom of the slope the gardens petered out onto the grassy banks of the River Teviot where, unbeknownst to them, a holiday highlight was awaiting the delightful assistants.

All along the river bank, great swathes of Friar’s Balsam were growing. It was pointed out to them, by fellow visitors to the gardens who had just discovered this for themselves, that if you squeezed the seed pods of the plant, they sometimes exploded in your hand, releasing their seeds with incredible force.

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Delightful assistants in amongst the Friar’s Balsam.

Once they had experienced this for themselves, the assistants and their chauffeur couldn’t get enough of the Friar’s Balsam.

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Delightful assistant no.2 squeezing Friar’s Balsam seed pods.
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Utter delight when the seeds pop out in his hand.
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Delightful assistant no.1 squeezing Friar’s Balsam seed pods.
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Friar’s Balsam seeds bringing great joy.

They amused themselves with this activity for some considerable time, and as they wound their way back up the steps through the water gardens they all agreed it had been an excellent source of free entertainment.

By this time, lunch was at the forefront of their minds. Rather than have it at the Water Gardens cafe they decided to move on elsewhere for a change of scene. Their chauffeur had a cafe in mind, located in the town of Kelso, but upon arrival they found it was closed. Reverting to Plan B, they scooted off to nearby Floors Castle, where they had enjoyed a good lunch in the Terrace Cafe a couple of years before. The cafe was agreeably quiet and they settled themselves in to peruse the menu.

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The Terrace Cafe at Floors Castle, near Kelso in the Scottish Borders.

Delightful assistant no.2 had spotted a nice-looking vegetable tart, and quickly decided on that for his meal, while his spouse opted for a ham salad and their chauffeur went for carrot and coriander soup, which came with a loaf of bread baked in a flowerpot. She had had one of these flowerpot loaves on their previous visit and was keen to revisit the experience. (Apologies for the lack of a photo of the vegetable tart, for some reason it wasn’t photographed although it was said to be delicious.)

After enjoying their savouries, they hopped back into the car and drove off to the village of Morebattle, a few miles south of Kelso and a place delightful assistant no.1 had some connections with. It was about 70 years since she had last been there (on holiday with her mother and her younger brother) and she was interested to see it again.

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Delightful assistants walking through the quiet village of Morebattle in the Scottish Borders.

Delightful assistant no.1’s grandfather, Donald Craig, had been headmaster of Morebattle school and his daughters (delightful assistant no.1’s mother and aunts) had grown up in the village.

In 1931 a new school building was completed, and in 1933 Donald Craig retired as headmaster. As she stood outside the front door of the building, delightful assistant no.1 pondered on his legacy. As a retirement gift from the school, Donald Craig received an oak writing desk and chair. The desk has, for many years, been used by delightful assistant no.2 and the chair has been passed on to Donald Craig’s namesake and great-grandson.

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Delightful assistant no.2 standing where her grandfather no doubt stood from time to time over 80 years ago.

After walking round the school playground, the assistants made their way back towards the car, passing on the way an enticing-sounding street.

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It being late afternoon by this time, their chauffeur ran along Teapot Street in the hope of finding a tearoom open and offering refreshments. Alas, despite the promising name, no such business was in evidence. Very much ready for a nice cup of tea and a sit down, the gasping trio jumped into the car and sped back to their holiday home to put the kettle on.