The Gameshope Valley was the location for the May meeting of the Borders Bryophyte Group, where the aim was to record the mosses and liverworts which grow in the valley, spot the local wildlife and enjoy a walk in the wild mountainous countryside.
The Gameshope Valley along with Talla Valley were purchased in 2013 by The Borders Forest Trust which has the aim of reviving the wild heart of southern Scotland. This 4,527 acre estate, which for centuries has been an upland sheep farm, will provide a rare opportunity to restore an extensive area of hill and valley to their natural state.
The Gameshope Valley is just south of the Talla Reservoir and we parked our cars on the roadside at Talla Linfoots and set off southwards and upwards into the valley.
There were a few clouds around at the start of the walk but they burned off and by mid morning the sun was shining and it turned into a very pleasant, warm sunny day.
For the first mile there is an old road, then we followed a small mountain path up the valley floor. The sides of the valley are incredibly steep and I was glad our route was up the valley floor rather than straight up the valley sides.
This valley resembled mountains in the western Highlands rather than the Scottish Borders as the sides are so steep.
The wee burn tumbling down the valley has created little ravines and exposed rock outcrops where a few trees such as Rowan and Birch cling on, they are the only trees in the valley and their inaccessibility has let them survive the ravages of the sheep.
The rest of the valley has been mown down by the sheep and as far as I could see not even one native willow has survived.
Along the burn were a few Common Sandpipers, Grey and Pied Wagtails and a Dipper flew past several times.
A surprising number of Swallows were flying around and higher up on the hillside one pair of Red Grouse was disturbed and Ravens croaked as they flew overhead.
Tadpoles were swimming about in small pools by the path, I just hope for their sakes that there is not a prolonged dry spell as the pools could dry out leaving them stranded.
Higher up the valley it opens out leaving a wider base and side less steep. We were surprised to see four Common Lizards scuttling about amongst the dead grass where they enjoying the warmth and sunshine. It was a bit early for mountain plants flowering but Mossy and Starry Saxifrage, Clubmoss, Scurvy Grass and Wood Anemone were spotted.
Exposed at the edge of an eroding peat bank were the woody remains of trees or shrubs, possibly Birch and Juniper, a reminder of an ancient woodland from the distant past.
The Bryologists recorded over 90 species including a Sphagnum moss new to the Scottish Borders.
A nice place for a walk in the hills without the long drive to the Highlands.