It was just a five mile stroll with friends up the moors to the inn at the end of the road. It might be just three miles east of Dunblane but it feels more remote: Sheriffmuir Wood hides the slope down to the upper reaches of the Forth valley sprawl; the horizon on north and south sides is moorland and to the east, Blairdenon Hill is the bare-backed lump hiding the rest of the Ochils. Its mood is usually bleak but it was a hot and hazy evening, the finest day of the year so far and the first of the cider days. Skylarks hung in the sky, singing; a sky faded to pale blue from the haze of the heat, and Curlew song rippled languidly from the moors. We took the quiet road that winds its way past rusting, crumbling shielings and conifer plantations, the Larch still brown after the long hard winter. Colt’s-foot lined the burn that runs under the quaint bridge sitting in a scar that seems to me too grand to be the burn’s own work. Two Sand Martins flit downstream into the slowly setting sun. Yellow, like the Colt’s-foot.
The evenings here are long. They start early and end late and normally catch me by surprise. Today it wasn’t so much the evening as its sepia brown accomplice that caught me out. As we strolled up the final slope to our waiting pints, the grass turns to heather and across the road swept a Short-eared Owl. With some fat, unfortunate rodent in its bill, it flew low and fast down the line between the heather and the grass. It dropped to the ground and stared, cross-eyed, back along the moor, before vanishing behind a veil of grass. My pint completely forgotten about.
Nature is best unexpected.