Your Own Back Yard

Grant Melville

Account Closed
Last Saturday I decided to go out for a walk. I set out from where I live in the south of Falkirk, heading out of the town to the south. I had a destination in mind when I set out, but then I decided just to walk and see where the path took me. After I'd walked for a couple of miles, I left behind my usual stamping ground - the Bantaskine Estate and the sheep-fields just beyond the border - and I came across countryside that I'd never seen before. Rolling hills, forests, streams, stone bridges, shadowy glades and minature swamps.

I saw scenery that I didn't think existed in the central belt of Scotland. The beauty of creatorial handiwork was everywhere in the fine details. Electric blue dragonflies in the hedgerows. Purple-headed thistles nodding in the fields. The occasional patch of bluebells brightening the roadside. Sadly, at one point, a badger, half-way across the road, recently crushed by a speeding car.

Man's interventions on the landscape have an odd beauty to them as well. Much of the hill-slopes are planted with conifers, growing up to harvest. One can walk through a shady, pine-smelling path, carpeted with needles, then come out all of a sudden into an barren expanse, littered with brush and tree stumps. I imagined it to be a scene of divine judgement, the surface of the earth blasted and devastated. In these breaks in the forest, the view opens up.

I walked for nine miles. Further south, towards the village of Slamanan, there's more Forestry Commission plantations. The road there is deeply rutted, the soil sandy as the seashore, the flies persistent and irritating. I dodged large puddles, occasionally walking the tightrope ridge of raised turf in the middle of the road, using my walking stave to help my balance. I watched a fly with irridiscent wings and protruding eyes land on my hand and explore the surface of my skin with its forelegs. Then it lowered its head and stabbed me with its probiscis, producing a tiny, sharp pain. I shook it off.

I followed a path through the middle of a field of gorse, and came to a gate which was chained and padlocked - a contravention, I believe, of the Scottish 'right-to-roam' legislation. I climbed it, somewhat indignantly. After walking for about half a mile, I came to a row of large boulders across the road, intermingled with stubby gorse bushes. I climbed this obstacle and went on. Then I came to a second chained and padlocked gate, which I climbed over, into a lay-by beside the road. The layby was fenced off with wood and wire barricade, which had been decisively flattened. I felt a certain sense of satisfaction at that. If I were a land-owner, 'right to roam' would no doubt irritate me, but as a member of the landless proletariat I do appreciate the government's intervention on behalf of the ramblers of Scotland.

Away from the main roads, along the tracks which are only ever driven by farmers and the odd camper, the air is sweet and clear. I enjoyed drawing in great lungfuls of it, imagining the medicinal effects it might have. Reflecting on all of it, I marvelled at what's out there in our own back yard that we don't imagine is even there. And I realised how blessed I am to be able to walk less than half a mile from my home, out into the country.
Last edited:

Grant Melville

Account Closed
I would agree. At the end of a hectic day at work, and an even more hectic drive home, as soon as I turn onto the dirt road that is my street, and see the woods, I can feel the stress leave my body.
There is something therapeutic about nature, definitely. I studied the topic, very briefly, when I was an undergraduate - I was doing an assessed presentation on the beneficial health effects of incorporating gardens and natural spaces into hospitals. From what I can remember, the scientific findings were that natural spaces reduced the stress of patients and consequently helped the healing process.