8 December 2012


Walter - The Baxatron
Strange, occasionally frightening and sometimes wonderful how the internet connects people. They may be lost friends or complete strangers and it doesn't only happen through blogging.

A hundred and fifty miles north of Sheffield and you are in a hilly, underpopulated region known as the Scottish Borders. Though I was at university in Scotland, it's an area I have hardly explored at all. My trains or many hitchhike rides used to pass along the east coast - from Newcastle to Alnwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed, then up to Dunbar, Musselburgh and along to Edinburgh. Borders towns like Kelso, Hawick and Peebles were always bypassed, languishing in their inland secrecy.

Walter's mum (93)
in  fashionable
fishing hat
As some of you may recall, I like to contribute photos to the "geograph" project. It was there that I first encountered a talented retired gentleman called Walter Baxter (aka The Baxatron). Born, I think, in the same year as me, he lives in Galashiels where he looks after his aged mother but in his spare time he roams the Scottish Borders, building a magnificent portfolio of pictures of his home area. It's quite amazing how many wonderful, keenly observed photographs The Baxatron has produced. To see his full geograph album, and to learn an immense amount about the Scottish Borders, go here.

I have been in email correspondence with Walter for a while and one day I hope to meet him so that he can show me how to take consistently great photos before retreating to "The Jolly Haggis" for a pint of heavy and a wee dram. We will exchange lurid tales of his many exciting years in architectural planning for his local health service and my years of chipping away at the old chalkface in dusty classrooms, serving our nation's grateful youth. For this post, I asked him if he'd pick four of his "best" photos - to show off his talent and his beloved Borders and these were his choices:-
Reflections on Loch of the Lowes
Salmon fishing on the River Tweed
Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.
Bowden Moor from the B6359
Newark Castle
In addition to Walter's choices I thought I'd chip in with three of my own favourites - not easy I tell you when you see his "work" in its entirety:
Sunrise on Brotherstone Hill

A Hercules in the Selkirk to Moffat valley
Mist and trees at Brotherstone
Walter Raleigh? Walt Disney? Walter Cronkite - no way! For me, in this oddly sycophantic blogpost there's only one Walter worth mentioning. I guess it's because I'm often striving for the impossible - the perfect picture and it seems to me that The Baxatron regularly gets much closer than I do to that tantalising goal.

Finally, here's Walter in his own words: "Tourists from the south usually charge through the Borders on their way to Edinburgh and the Highlands but there is much to enjoy in an area of rounded hills and attractive market towns such as Melrose, Kelso and Jedburgh, all with old ruined abbeys. There are historic houses, keeps and peel towers to explore. Galashiels is not that attractive having been a tweed and woollen mill town – at one time 28 weaving mills were situated along by the Gala Water but there is only one active mill and tall chimney left. A local character called Jimmy ‘Piper’ Rae used to walk around the top of a mill chimney that was due for demolition playing the bagpipes as a farewell gesture to a town landmark, and all without a safety harness in the days before Health and Safety. As a boy I knew when I was late for school by the different sounds the mill whistles made."


  1. Beautiful photos. I keep saying that I want to visit Scotland and, seeing these photos, I am even more determined to go (maybe even before going to Denmark to see Sarah Lund!)

  2. walter's mom looks like a bag of laughs!

  3. They are breathtaking photographs!

    I wouldn't dream of trying to pick the best of such an excellent bunch. The trees in the mist was surreal but, perhaps because I flew at low level in them so many times, the Hercules shot really grabbed me. What an ACE photo. With yours and Walter's permission, I would like to copy that photo to a mate of mine (he was Best Man at my first wedding), a Group Captain in the RAF who served with UKMAMS living and breathing Hercules aircraft.

    I think it is really nice of you to share the contacts you make with the readers of your blog so that we can all enjoy them.

    I bet Walter is a really interesting bloke and I second John of the Valleys comment.

  4. All of those photos are really really good....and so beautiful.

  5. JENNY Make sure your passport is in order afore ye go!
    EARL JOHN GRAY I don't think "bag" is the most appropriate term to use you noble devil!
    HIPPO (MAURICE) Absolutely no problem in sending that picture on as it is covered by geograph copyright and I know that Walter would be chuffed. "Really nice of me" Eh? You must have mixed me up with someone else!
    LIBBY I'm pleased you like them too but in a spare hour why not check out some more in his geograph album? See the link in the middle of the post.

  6. Oh they are fantastic. I'm just sending Tony to look at them. He's researching new lenses to so he can dazzle us with his photos on our next holiday.


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