Final blast of colour before autumn arrives

Kelso Abbey
Kelso Abbey

After our superb summer, at last there has been a hint of autumn in the air. In the sunshine, it was still warm, but there was a distinct chill in the air, colder air from the north along with a significant amount of rain. Without a doubt, the seasons are starting to move inexorably towards autumn.

Mind you, it has been pretty hot and the lads and I were in summer clothes as we exchanged the customary greeting, insults and banter as we loaded up our bikes and gear for the journey north, to England-Scotland border country, for our annual unruly lads’ (the youngest is 48) cycling tour. With evening drawing in, it remained so as we parked up outside our digs in Seahouses on the Northumbrian coast, but it was just starting to drizzle.

Overnight, the placid sea we had seen as we drove up the coast had formed into huge breakers bashing into the sea wall and the rain hammered onto the hotel’s windows. We were in for an interesting day’s cycling. Teeth gritted we pushed hard into an unremitting northerly wind up to Bamburgh Castle before cutting inland to Wooler.

The flat, easy, roads, all wind-assisted with perfect pubs along the route failed to materialise and the rain was ever present, particularly on the homeward run back to Seahouses when it was in icy winds and with standing water on the roads that we gratefully coaxed our tired legs towards the warmth, shelter and hot showers at the hotel.

This was but a brief stay, however, and the following day we moved across the border to the pretty little market town of Kelso.

Thankfully, the sunshine had made a return visit specially for us and we were able to see the Tweed valley at its best. The local community is heavily dependant on tourism and the town looked a treat with flower beds near the ruined abbey, hanging baskets outside the shops, pubs and cafes all in superb condition even at this late stage in the season.

As so often, on the back of three or four wet summers, ‘Non-Stop’ Begonias dominated the displays everywhere. A pretty little town, but one where you could see they were serious about making the place look good for the tourists.

But even their efforts were exceeded just a few miles up the valley in the other little gem, Melrose, which had done even better and been named winner of Britain in Bloom.

What a lovely little place. Flowers adorned every shop front. Trees laden with apples peeped over garden walls. Again it was the begonias which stole the show. It was good to see that everyone seemed to be doing good business, too.

The place looked like it was prospering.

Nevertheless, in the late afternoon sunshine there was a chill in the air, as the sun raced towards the western horizon. Just here and there the odd tree was showing the first hints of autumn colour. Summer was hanging on but autumn was waiting in the wings to take centre stage.

We cycled back over the high lands towards Kelso and dinner. After a pedal-bending killer of a hill we had one of the best rides in years.

Nine miles over the rolling hills with clear views all around with a good down hill finish to Floors Castle and straight into the town centre for an end-of-tour pint.

But I’ll tell you what, by the time we had finished that ride I was chilled to the bone.

The end of the ride, the end of the tour and pretty soon the end of the summer, but I think all three have been marvellous.

Now as we start putting summer to bed, we move into bulb planting time, early morning dew, mist in the valleys and the season of gold.

It was all good while it lasted, but I love the changes that we get as the year rolls on, and those changes are starting to happen.