Bordering on the unbelievable

© Angus WhitsonJupiter Artland in Peebles.
Jupiter Artland in Peebles.

The week has seemed a bit ordinary after last weekend, which the Doyenne and I spent with son James and his family at Peebles, in part to celebrate a grandson’s 18th birthday. James usually finds an interesting diversion to entertain us when we visit.

Jupiter Artland is a sculpture park created within the 100 acre Bonnington House estate by owners Robert and Nicky Wilson. Both serious art collectors, they have provided leading contemporary artists with the opportunity to create new works in the formal gardens, fields and woodlands surrounding the Jacobean manor house.

Jupiter is a woodland journey of discovery of artworks by near neighbour Ian Hamilton Finlay, Antony Gormley, Alec Finlay, Nathan Coley, Laura Ford, Cornelia Parker and others which are described as land marks, events and confrontations.

It would be easy to describe it as a fusion of art and nature – it’s much more than that.

Names such as Love Bomb, Weeping Girls, Signpost to Jupiter, The Light Pours Out of Me, Landscape with Gun and Tree, The Rose Walk, don’t prepare you for the sculptures, which come on you as a surprise even though the guide plan tells you what to expect.

The disparate subjects sit naturally and comfortably in their open air gallery and are thoughtfully placed so no one of them intrudes into the space of the others.

I try not to use the word unique as it is too often misused, so I’ll say that Jupiter Artland is special and its appeal very personal. I could write a whole article about this unique – there you go, I’ve broken my own rule already – contemporary art collection but it should be experienced rather than read about.

The woodland collection opens out on to grassy sculptured life mounds entitled Cells of Life, created by Charles Jencks. I was blown away by the sheer size of the concept, its simplicity and free-flowing lines – water and hills are so often part of my daily walks with Inka.

Jupiter Artland is a registered charity and Bonnington House is half an hour from Edinburgh city centre, at Wilkieston near Kirknewton (A71) – within easy driving distance of Courier Country. There’s a dizzying choice of talks, tours, events and workshops, many aimed at young visitors and developing their experience. See lots more at www.jupiterartland.org.

On Sunday the Doyenne and I drove to Corbet Tower, below Kelso, to catch up with Australian cousins who are on their biannual visit to Scotland.

We were blessed with another clear, sunny day, perfect to enjoy the long Border views. The green, rolling Border hills look deceptively soft compared with our Angus Braes but in winter they can be as hard and bleak and desolate as anywhere.

It’s a winding road and a pretty one. At this time the hedges are filled with pink and white dog roses, and plate-sized splashes of elderflower blossom.

It’s easy to forget that you’re driving through the Scottish East March of Border Reiver country, with its bloody history and hellfire memories of such fragrant characters as Jock Half-Lugs Elliot, Nebless Clem Croser and Fingerless Will Nixon. They didn’t earn their bynames by being nice to the neighbours. Luckily, Border folk are more kindly disposed these days.

The great River Tweed is never far away and the road keeps pace with it for the first 20 miles. Our road took us through Galashiels and Melrose.

They are rugby mad down there and every town of any size has its own rugby team and park. They have historic abbeys too but they are probably considered less important.

To the west the triple peaks of Sir Walter Scott’s beloved Eildon Hills rise like the sails of three great ocean schooners. In a lost cave below their heathery slopes lie King Arthur and his court of armed knights, sleeping at their horses’ feet.

It’s the land of Thomas the Rhymer who was spirited away to the Land of the Elves by the Queen of the Fairies, who fell in love with him when he kissed her. She released him after seven years to return to his old home but he could not settle there and seven years later he disappeared for ever, to return – so legend says – to his only true love.

It brought us back to Earth again to see the ramparts of the Cheviot Hills ahead of us as we headed out of Kelso towards Morebattle and Corbet Tower.

The Tower is a small 11th Century peel tower which saw its share of the feuding and bloodshed which was part of everyday Border reiving life. The adjoining “big hoose”, a Scottish Baronial style mansion, shares the name and my cousins were staying in the converted stables.

After lunch they took us round the rose scented parterre and traditional walled vegetable garden with espaliered fruit trees and borders of catmint, buzzing with bees.

Sadly, an all too short visit but we had to get back to Peebles to pick up Inka – and then home. But what an eventful weekend.

Breaking