to walk that are close by and I’ll be visiting regularly – Tentsmuir and Kemback. both are have woodland, but at Kemback it’s about giving me a workout – there are Jenny’s steps – something like a hundred shallow steps – to climb, and from where we park the car in front of the little church one climbs from 50 to 120 metres very quickly, mostly by the steps, but then there is more incline to the top of the woods near Blebo Crags, 150 metres above sea level.

as soon as you are in the woods there are cliffs, quarries and caves in the horizontally bedded sandstones.

there was some lead-mining here in the 1700’s, but mostly the sandstone was quarried.

on Boxing Day we went higher up than before and found a dry path with birch trees and moss and ferns.

leaf litter and peat underfoot, and cliffs on each side in places.

we may have got as high as 156 metres above sea level.

then gradually down, and through open birch woods, with fern and woodrush very green

denser pinewoods receiving the worst gusts.

we had deliberately come to Kemback in search of shelter from Storm Bella.

and it was only when we arrived at the bottom of the great steep valley edge that these woods clothe,

that we felt icy gusts of it

the green pasture glowed through the trees

waterfalls running down through the wood fill this pond above Kemback House. there is much more to see along the Ceres burn and the back road to Pitscottie, evidence of the flax spinning industry so widespread in Fife in the 19th Century, and geology particularly evident in cliffs and rockfaces in Dura Den, a gorge the river runs through upstream of Kemback.

we went to Tentsmuir on Sunday, a cold but blue and bright day, and caught these sanderlings along the beach

flying up as a flock

turning and twisting and flashing from silver to grey over the waves.

we had been there earlier in the week on a completely different day

the sand seemed so dark, just the shells flecking it with some lightness.

this place continues to inspire paintings

liquid watery gouache and the white of the paper showing through.

even though it was the Sunday after Christmas, and the car park entrance was backing up

and the tide quite high

it gave, and always gives, the impression of great emptiness.

Yesterday we could see this forest and beach, and both of the estuaries, the Tay and the Eden, from a walk up to the other side of the Kemback woods, from Strathkiness to Blebo. at its highest the path passes a trig point of 168 metres above sea level on Clatto Hill, and we could see the Cairngorms, all covered in snow, except one great rampart of dark hill which must be the Angus glens.

here the hills undulate away south in parallel, bright green with winter wheat. always visible across the fields from Strathkiness is Drumcarrow, 218 metres above sea level, with its crags, ruined broch and hut circles, and just below it a fort at Denork Craig.

back in St Andrews, in Lucy and Scott’s garden the late-ripening apples attract blackbirds. I haven’t seen any thrushes here, perhaps it’s just too close to the window (a huge “picture window” of the profligate late sixties) although bullfinches and siskins accompany greenfinch, and blue, great and coaltits.