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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Dropscone, who took it with his phone while going along a local bike path.  It reflects exactly how much care and respect our council has for this path.

bike pathI surpassed myself today by doing absolutely nothing before lunch except a little flute practice.  In my defence, there was a very stiff breeze blowing outside which would have made cycling hard work if not actually hazardous and as it was coming from the north, it was decidedly chilly as well.   On the plus side, it was cheerfully sunny so it was very pleasant to be able to watch the birds.

The wind made life hard for them too.  Check out the bird landing on the top left feeder perch.

busy feeder crash landingOuch.  You don’t often see a complete missed landing like that.

Not all our goldfinches were well turned out.

scruffy goldfinchNow the leaves are beginning to come of the plum tree, I can see the chaffinches perching there more clearly.

chaffinches perching in plum treeI did take a walk round the garden.  It really was windy….

grass…but I managed to find a few survivors in sheltered spots.

daisy, pansy and petuniaAfter lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal was in a mood for action and I thought that the sunshine was too good to waste, so we muffled up well and went for a walk.

Our route took us up on to the lower slopes of Meikleholm Hill.  Once we had passed through the tunnel…

Meikleholm tunnel…we could look back.  We had just avoided a rain shower.

rain showerOr rather, it had just missed us.

I scanned the golf course but there was no sign of Dropscone.

golf courseAs we walked further up the hill, the town began to sink below the hills.

LangholmI could see the impressive old mill building at the far edge of town in which my recorder playing friend Susan slaves away daily to earn a crust of bread.

waveley millsAhead of us, the ridge of Castle Hill stretched out.

Castle HillAnd soon we were looking up the Esk valley towards Potholm.

PotholmOnce again, I was blown away by how quickly the hills round Langholm let you get up amongst the good views and Mrs Tootlepedal and I enjoyed our walk along the hill before we dropped back down onto the road to walk home.

As we went down the hill, Mrs Tootlepedal spotted some very traditional toadstools on a bank beside the track.

There were other varieties nearby but I was struggling to keep my footing on the steep bank and hold the camera steady at the same time so you will just have to take my word for that.

toadstools

There was another set a little further down the track.  I shot these with a longer lens from a level surface below!

toadstools

The Amanita muscaria are obviously popular with some local animal as they were well nibbled.

When we got to Holmwood, Mrs Tootlepedal opted for the direct route home while I took a little diversion across the Castleholm.   I thought that the sunny weather might be the last for a few days.   I walked down through the woods…

Holmwood…crossed the river and got to the Lodge Walks.  It is compulsory to take an autumn picture of the Lodge Walks if you are carrying a camera.

Lodge walksI walked on across the Kilngreen and got a cheerful wave from Mr Grumpy but left him unshot on this occasion as I wanted space for some views.

Looking up the esk

Looking up the Esk

Langholm Bridge

Langholm Bridge, looking into the late afternoon sun…

Langholm Bridge

…and looking back from the other side.

I was quite ready for a cup of tea and two biscuits when I got home.

Already the sun is quite low in the sky by four o’clock and by next week it will be even lower, as the clocks go back this weekend.  I will have to get organised and look sharp, if I want to take pictures after lunch then.

In the evening, Susan took me to Carlisle and we enjoyed a good evening of recorder playing with our group.  In various forms the members of the group have been playing together for the best part of thirty five years now and we are hoping to get the hang of it soon.  Tonight was one of the nights when we think it might be possible.  The biscuits were first class too.

I managed to duck round the many chaffinches to find a goldfinch as flying bird of the day today.

flying goldfinch

Today’s guest picture comes from my Newcastle correspondent who met these fearsome beasts on a trip to Wallington, a National Trust property near Morpeth.

WallingtonI didn’t take the opportunity to go for a morning pedal with Dropscone today and I am very happy about this as he tells me that he had a ride that can best be described as interesting.  He went round his preferred route for a morning run.  He had to get off and carry his bike over fallen branches, get off his bike and hide in a hedge as a log lorry came past on a single track road, do the same thing again for a milk tanker on the same road, clamp on his brakes in hurry when he met an unexpected car and dodge half a mile of hedge clippings.  It is hard for me to say why he prefers that route.

I took a different line and had a lie in, a late breakfast and a gentle run up to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back three times.  This gave me the same distance as Dropscone but a lot less harassment.  It suits me on a windy day as there is little climb, a good deal of shelter and plenty of room for me and any passing traffic. Chacun à son goût as they say.

Although it rained for some of the time that I was out, it was reasonably warm and I was dressed for inclement weather so I didn’t mind.  It stopped about halfway through my trip and I was dry by the time that I got home.

I did have to apply my brakes once when I was getting close to the auld stane brig while homeward bound  on my second lap.  I was delighted to see a deer leap the fence and cross the road a few yards in front of me but surprised when it was followed by another.  I slowed down just in case there was a third and saw two young deer waiting to jump.  Seeing me, they held back and were still munching away beside the fence when I came back on my third lap.  They had disappeared by the time I came past again.  I have occasionally seen a single deer at this point on the road as I think they may cross the road to drink from the river but I have never seen a family before.

The garden was inviting when I got home.

While Crown Princess Margarita was  able to withstand the wind and rain, the late flowering delphinium had been snapped off and lay on the bare soil in a depressed way.

rose and delphiniumWe are getting ever nearer the last poppy but the nasturtiums don’t mind the weather.

poppy and nasturtiumSpecial Grandma positively loves these conditions and is putting out more flowers every day.  In a more modest way, a blue clematis is also thriving.

special grandma clematisThe light was not at all bad by the time that Mrs Tootlepedal and I had had a cup of coffee so after my shower, I went back up the Wauchope road in the car with my cameras.  I had seen some autumn colour when I was biking but I hadn’t taken a camera with me because of the rain.

BlochburnfootThere was a mixture of trees, some already bare, some still green and some turning yellow.

autumn colour up Wauchope

…and coniferous trees as a backdrop

Bull

I won a prize with a picture of this bull at a summer show so I went to congratulate him today.  He was very happy.

bracken

A feeble  sun came out just in time to highlight this river of bracken flowing down the hillside.

blochburnfoot

My favourite ruined cottage is getting ever more dilapidated.

bramble leaf

A bramble leaf offering the most vivid touch of colour that I saw all day.

autumn colour up wauchope

Nearly home.

In between these excursions, I started off a sourdough loaf with my friend Sue’s excellent starter and as that takes some time to appear, I made a fruity malt loaf in the bread machine as well.  While half a loaf is better than no bread, two loaves are definitely better still.

As the weather was holding up well, Mrs Tootlepedal and I took the car a mile or so out of town and went for a short circular walk via Jenny Noble’s Gill and Broomholmshiels.  I snapped away as we went round.

Longwood

Longwood

Oak tree

One of the old oak trees in the wood we walked through.

bracken

The bracken is over for the year

Broomholmshiels

Looking back at the wood when we had left it.

fungus

We kept an eye out for fungus but these were the only ones we saw.

We saw a late thistle and the groundwork being laid for next year's crop beside it/

We saw a very late thistle and the groundwork being laid for next year’s crop beside it.

tup

This magnificent tup gave us a hard stare as we passed.  Mrs Tootlepedal thinks that it might be a Texel and I agree.

cow parsley

We noticed more late flowers, cow parsley in this case,  as we came back down the road.

fern and moss

And my favourite wall was as full of life as ever.

With impeccable timing we arrived home bang on four o’clock. just in time for a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

I had time to look out of the window from time to time during the day.  The feeders were busy and offered a constantly changing cast of characters.

feeder

I very much like the greenfinch auditioning for the part of Homer Simpson in the left hand frame.

A chaffinch and a greenfinch bring a very different attitude to posing.

chaffinch and greenfinchWe are promised strong winds tomorrow as part of the second hand hurricane Gonzalo which the Americans have kindly posted on to us so it was extra pleasing to have got a good day today.   That accounts for the above ration numbers of pictures today for which I apologise. I know that readers are busy people.

I had a visit from my flute pupil Luke in the evening and we are still battling to install that mental metronome in his head while he plays.  He has started practising some grade three pieces which will be well within his capability.

To round off a good day, the sourdough loaf, made using a banneton, came out of the oven almost perfectly.

Once again, a chaffinch has pipped all others to the coveted title of flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

Doing even less

My brother Andrew visited Queenstown and Kinloch in the South Island of NZ earlier in the month.  This picture shows the famous paddle steamer Earnslaw, returning from Walter Peak farm, viewed from his motel balcony.

The famous paddlesteamer Earnslaw, returning from Walter Peak farm, viewed from my motel balconyIf yesterday’s activity could be described as slow, today’s was glacial, although it did contain some cooking.  Appropriately enough, the main dish of the day was made using the slow cooker, ideal for a Sunday when we come back from our Carlisle choir practice ready for a meal but happy not to have to cook it there and then.

This was another go at a lamb tagine and I moved up a class by adding some saffron tails to the mix, something that I have never used in cooking before.  I couldn’t recognise them when it came to eating the stew as I don’t know what they taste like but just knowing that they were there made the whole thing a superior gastronomic experience.

Mrs Tootlepedal had gone to church to sing in the choir while I was cooking and I was still in my dressing gown when Dropscone dropped in.  He had gone up to play golf in the Winter Competition.  He is an enthusiast and had been rather surprised that gales and rain had discouraged anyone else from coming to play with him.  I consoled him with a cup of coffee and scanned in and printed out a picture of him in a rugby team in the 1960s which he had brought round.  He looks not too bad nowadays but he definitely looked tall and handsome then.

After he left,  I took a look out of the kitchen window for a short while.

goldfinch

A goldfinch and greenfinch look on in shocked disapproval at the bad behaviour on the lower perches.

goldfinch

A chaffinch is made of sterner stuff and doesn’t respond to provocation.

Then  I retired for a relaxing bath.  I emerged in time for lunch and  a quick walk round the garden as the rain had stopped.

The marigolds cheered up a gloomy day.

marigold _DSC4059The other plants had their heads bowed under the twin onslaught of wind and rain so I soon went back inside.

I caught a glimpse of a robin in a bush….

robin…and after a quick word with its agent, it agreed to pop out for a pose.

robinThen it was time to go to Carlisle for our choir.  The forecast was miserable and the weather was horrible so I didn’t bother to put a camera in the car which I often do “just in case”.

The practice was very good as the musical director worked us hard in preparation for forthcoming concerts.  The tenors have got two new recruits who can sing well and the musical director said at one point that he had never heard us sound so good.  The rest of the choir broke out in spontaneous applause and we blushed modestly.

There had been a very heavy rainstorm during the practice but by the time we came out, the skies had cleared.  Mrs Tootlepedal noticed a small flock of starlings as we drove through Carlisle and suggested a diversion to Gretna on the way to see if there was any sign of the famous starling murmuration yet.

starlings at Gretna

A shot from last year’s murmaration

There were a few small groups of starlings but not enough to make a murmuration yet. Nevertheless, we weren’t disappointed as there was possibly the best sunset that we had ever seen to be enjoyed instead.  It was a close run thing at one time as to whether I was more delighted by the sunset than I was annoyed that I hadn’t got a camera to hand but on balance, I was just pleased to have seen such a magnificent sight.

The stew turned out fairly well and I rounded off my cooking day by making a dish of baked semolina for our pudding.  My friend Sue had kindly brought a new container of sourdough starter to the choir practice for me, as I had carelessly let mine die and I hope to make some sourdough bread soon.

The rather fuzzy flying bird of a grey day is a goldfinch.

goldfinch

Relaxing

By coincidence, both of my London based sisters sent me pictures of the same art work, ‘The Small Lie’, from the Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park and I was faced with the invidious task of choosing between them for the guest picture of the day.  It felt a bit like the judgement of Paris.  This was my sister Susan’s take.

Frieze show sculptureI had that very rare thing, a good night’s sleep last night and the feeling of relaxed drowsiness with which I woke up coloured my whole day.  My idleness was encouraged by grey skies and a very brisk wind which were combined with a tendencyof the clouds to provide a light drizzle if I ventured out any distance.

As a result, I confined myself mostly to the house with a single walk round the garden in the morning and two quick visits to the town in the afternoon.

The wind has changed from the cool easterlies which have been keeping us mainly dry recently to an unseasonably warm (16°C) and boisterous westerly with the promise of rain.  It was pleasant enough to walk in the garden and the flowers were certainly enjoying the warmth but the brisk wind made taking pictures a bit of a lottery and I had to find flowers in sheltered corners.  There are still a lot of clematis out but they are looking rather part worn now.

clematisclematisSpecial Grandma loves the weather…

Special Grandma…but it too is showing sings of wear.

Special GrandmaThe rose Lilian Austin on the other hand looks as good as it did in mid summer….

Lilian Austin….although this is its only flower.

I was able to take a poppy picture because this plant had completely fallen over and the flower was an inch from the ground.

poppyThere are a few phragments of phlox still hanging on…

phlox…and the honeysuckle is providing some unexpected late colour.

honeysuckleI was so surprised to see a bee on our remaining rambler roses that I took a picture of it although the rose was rocking about….

rambler rose with bee…but the bee was so motionless that I don’t think that it was enjoying life much, if at all.

The flowers in the best condition are the Fuchsias.  This is a successful  cutting from the big bush on the back wall of the house.

fuchsiaMrs Tootlepedal went out after lunch to give a lecture on stumpwork to the local branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild as the booked speaker had been unable to come.  She told me that there had been a very good attendance and that she had received kind comments which I could quite believe as her stumpwork is most enjoyable to look at.

While she was out, I walked up to the town (in a shower of rain which started 300 yards after I left the house)  to buy some locally made soap. The soap maker asked if I could supply her shop with some more of our postcards which we sell to raise funds for the Archive Group.  I walked home and then after a decent pause to let the rain go away, I cycled back up with a supply of postcards and combined this with a short shopping trip.  I then cycled home (in some light drizzle) and decided not to go out a again as I was obviously making it rain.

The strong wind and poor light didn’t make for good bird shots so I didn’t spend long looking out of the window.  It was a goldfinch morning…

goldfinchgoldfinches…and a greenfinch afternoon.

greenfinchAfter a week of cycling every day from Sunday to Thursday followed by a good walk in Edinburgh yesterday, my body was very grateful for the quiet day today and even enjoyed being slumped in front of the telly in the evening.

A chaffinch appears as the flying bird of the day,

flying chaffinch

I was hoping to meet my elder son on my visit to Edinburgh today but he was too busy at work so this picture of him and his partner Marianne enjoying their recent trip to Spain will have to do instead.

Tony and MarianneWarning: Far too many pictures in this post.

As it was Friday today, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went to Edinburgh to visit the world’s greatest baby. We got to Lockerbie in plenty of time to catch the train and as it was a few minutes late, I also had time to take a picture of the surprisingly ornate Lockerbie Town Hall tower looming over the station.

Lockerbie Town HallWhen we got to Edinburgh, we had a little time on our hands as Clare was at the dentist so I took the opportunity to purchase a stout pair of winter trousers and Mrs Tootlepedal topped up on vests for the forthcoming chillier days.

While Mrs Tootlepedal did some further clothes browsing, I walked along Princes Street with camera in hand.  It was a beautiful day.

To the south I could see the famous castle…..

Edinburgh CastleIt looks more like a jumble of buildings from this angle but it is surrounded by a high wall and is perched on steep crags and would have been hard to attack.

Edinburgh CastleThe castle is situated on the end of a volcanic pipe and further down the pipe are a selection of impressive buildings.  Right next to the castle is Ramsay Gardens, a set of elegant private houses now considered rather too noisy and too close to a tourist hotspot to be as desirable as they once were.

Ramsay gardensFurther along we find the rather sombre building of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

building of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.And further along still we find the imposing headquarters of the Bank of Scotland……

Bank of Scotland…once a byword for Scottish financial prudence and reliability but now a painful reminder of the descent of banking into chaos and part of an English banking group.

Below these impressive sights, the railway creeps along the bottom of the valley into Waverley Station.

Waverley StationAnd on the other bank stands Princes Street famous for its views, its shops and now its overpriced but handsome trams.

Princes SteetMy eye was caught by an exhibition in the Scottish National Gallery which might appeal to Dropscone.

National galleryI was reunited with Mrs Tootlepedal when she finished shopping and we walked along the tram route to St Andrew’s Square.

St Andrew's SquareThis was the first part of the New Town to be built but has been much changed since we were students here fifty years ago.  the impressive monument is to Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville

He was the first Secretary of State for War and became, in 1806, the last person to be impeached in the United Kingdom, for misappropriation of public money.   He got off but this might explain why there is no record of his name on the plinth of the column.

We followed the tram lines out of the square and were reminded that the New Town of Edinburgh is built on the top of a long slope down to the shores of the Firth of Forth and you are never far from a glimpse of the sea as you walk along its streets.

New townWe met up with Clare and Matilda for lunch in an Italian restaurant  at the top of Leith Walk, where we grown ups had a good meal and Matilda enjoyed a spoon.

MatildaIt was decided that Matilda might need some warmer clothes now that autumn is coming and so after lunch we passed my two favourite giraffes….

giraffes…and headed back to Princes Street for some shopping.  I was delegated to wheel Matilda up and down the pavement outside the shop while the experts went in and bought things.  She slept peacefully while I sauntered up and down and my sense of entitlement was so great because I was pushing a baby that pedestrians parted before me like the Red Sea as I went along and I didn’t had to deviate from my course once.

It was such a lovely day when the shoppers came out that instead of taking the direct route, we walked back to Matilda’s home by way of Calton Hill.  I last visited Calton Hill in March when we came to visit Al and Clare before Matilda was born.  Looking back, I see that I took many similar pictures today that I took then but that is not going to stop me putting them in again.

We had to take a gently curving and roundabout way to the top of the hill as we were pushing Matilda along in her personal transport system and this gave us the opportunity to admire a splendid rooftop garden of a hotel below.

Glass House roofNot to mention no less than five smaller gardens on the roof of a neighbouring building.

roof gardensWe finally got to the top of the hill and enjoyed the notable buildings there.

Carlton HillAnd the views down to the Forth and to Fife on the far shore..

View from Carlton hillIn the distance to our left, we could see one of the arches of the iconic Forth Rail Bridge on the horizon.

Forth bridgeI was so enjoying the views that I forgot myself and took an arty shot of the Nelson monument against the sun.

Nelson MonumentIt was a delight to be out on such a warm and sunny day in October but all good things must come to an end (especially when you are pushing a baby about) so we started to descend from the summit.  A last look back at the monuments….

Carlton Hill….and a sideways glance at Arthur’s Seat….

Arthur's SeatWikipedia says: Like the castle rock on which Edinburgh Castle is built, it was formed by an extinct volcano system of Carboniferous age (approximately 350 million years old), which was eroded by a glacier moving from west to east during the Quaternary (approximately the last two million years), exposing rocky crags to the west and leaving a tail of material swept to the east. This is how the Salisbury Crags formed and became basalt cliffs between Arthur’s Seat and the city centre.

 ….we dropped down past the rather brutal modern (1939) home of the Scottish Government bureaucracy…

St Andrew's House…and the more elegant memorial to Robert Burns….

Robert Burns….and peeped respectfully at the roof of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, nestling at the foot of the hill…

Holyroodhouse…before arriving home more than ready for a cup of tea….and a biscuit.

Matilda has discovered that if she smiles and sticks her tongue out, she gets a big reaction.

MatildaTourists may have been surprised and even alarmed by the sight of thee grown adults peering into a pram, sticking their tongues out and laughing dementedly.  It was great fun though.

Matilda’s father came home from work before we left but as he was a bit poorly, we didn’t have much to say and we were soon on our way back to the station.

We had another retail moment as Mrs Tootlepedal wanted to buy some circular knitting needles (don’t ask me) and we enjoyed this elevated temple portico tacked on to the side of a building which we saw on the way to the shop.  Only in Edinburgh….

EdinburghOur train was a little delayed on the route home by signalling problems but we arrived home safely after a very satisfactory day.

I did try to catch a flying bird of the day before we left in the morning and I just managed to snap a goldfinch before it landed.

goldfinch

A hint of a tint

Today’s guest picture comes from my elder son Tony and shows a fine shot of a firework display which was part of the Nerja feria in Andalucia where he was having a well earned short break.

nerja feriaDropscone and I did not have a break as for the fourth day running (riding?) we went out for the morning run to Gair and back after breakfast.  It had rained heavily over night but it had kindly stopped before we set off.  The wet weather came with a rise in temperature and as a result, apart from a bit of spray from damp roads, we had a very pleasant pedal.

Sandy joined us for coffee and found that there was a scone left for him which he enjoyed with a little plum jam.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I had to go out after coffee to collect an exercise bike that we had lent to a friend  who has now bought something more convenient.  As we were coming back over the town bridge, I was struck by the view down the river so when we got home, I packed up a camera or two and pedalled up to the bridge.

Needless to say, any brightness had disappeared and a slight drizzle had arrived in the five minutes that it took me to get organised.   I took some pictures anyway.

The esk in autumn

Looking down the river Esk from the bridge

The Bar Brae

Something about the geometry of this scene appealed to me.

When I got home, I had time for a garden wander.  I took ever decreasing numbers of pictures.

Fuchsia

Lots of Fuchsia flowers and seed pods

marigolds

Five marigolds

rosebuds

Three rosebuds

poppies

Two poppies

delphinium

And a single  delphinium

Not bad for mid October.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal suggested a cycle ride so I got out the slow bike, packed Pocketcam in the back bag and set off with her to go on an eleven mile trip down one side of the Esk and back up the other.  This is not quite such a flat trip as you might imagine as going down the east side of the Esk means crossing the Tarras Water with a couple of good climbs on the way but we pedalled steadily on and enjoyed the hints of autumn colour as we went.

Down to Tarras

Going down to Tarras

On the road

Above the Esk valley.  The weather was kind although it looked alarming at times.

Hollows Bridge

Crossing the Esk at Hollows bridge looking north…

Hollows Bridge

…and south.

It was kind of the sun to come out at just the right moment.  You can see why I often stop on the Hollows bridge to take in the view of the Esk.

Going back up the west side of the river on the old A7 is an easier ride by far.

Irvine House

A gap in the trees along the river bank give a glimpse of Irvine House with Whita in the background.

The Old A7

The old road has become a bike path here.

Once again, our outing was well organised and we arrived home in perfect time for an afternoon cup of tea.

I found a moment from time to time during the day to stare out of the kitchen window.   We can expect some winter visitors in the garden soon so I thought it proper meantime to take a portrait of our two most loyal customers, the chaffinch and the house sparrow.

sparrow and chaffinch

The sparrow on the left and the chaffinch on the right.

I was prompted to do this by the arrival of the first redpoll of the season.

redpollIt didn’t stop long and soon flew off.

Birds approach the feeder in different ways.

A chaffinch arrives diffidently but a goldfinch arrives with all guns blazing.

A chaffinch arrives diffidently but a goldfinch arrives with all guns blazing.

As we came back from our cycle ride, I took a moment to go into the Buccleuch Park to take a picture of our war memorial.  This is in particular for Langholm exiles who read the blog as the council have recently cut down nearly all the rather gloomy cypress trees that used to surround the memorial and it has a more open air about it now which improves it in my opinion.

War memorialIn the evening I went to the Archive Centre with Sandy and while he added more pictures to our photo archive, I put a couple more weeks of the newspaper index into the database.  I will need quite a few rainy days to help me to catch up with the data miners who are ploughing on relentlessly.

When we went in to the Eskdale Hotel for our well earned refreshment, we discovered that someone else was sitting in our place in the corner of the snug.  Even the hotel owner was appalled when he noticed but we rose above it and enjoyed our glass of wine in unfamiliar surroundings with equanimity.

The light would not oblige while I was  trying to catch a flying bird of the day and this has led to the rather curious effect of see-through wings on this picture of a flying chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

A worthwhile excursion

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my much travelled friend Bruce.  No prizes for guessing where he was today.

GibraltarDropscone and I set out on a somewhat less glamorous journey than Bruce.  We were on our bicycles on the way to Gair and back after breakfast.  The roads were dry, the temperature was about 10°C and the wind was behind us.

Life was good.

Soon after we got going, we were joined by a local postman out for a spin and he chatted politely to us for a mile or so before pressing the pedals and disappearing into the distance in a disconcertingly short time.

Life was marginally less good as we contemplated the 25 year difference in age that let him go off so easily and which was gone for ever for us but we rose above it and completed our run in good spirits.  My spirits were raised even higher when I discovered that Dropscone had made treacle scones today.

I didn’t have time for a stroll round the garden or a stare out of the window after coffee and scones because Mrs Tootlepedal and I had decided on an outing and with the days shortening and the light fading by four o’clock from a photographic point of view,  you have to be out promptly to get any value from an excursion.

Our target was the Eskrigg Nature Reserve at Lockerbie which Sandy and I had visited with the ladies from our course on Saturday.  We had just touched the edges of the woods then and I wanted to see the pond that I had been told was further in.

It was well worth a visit.

Eskrigg nature reserveThe pond turns out to be an old curling pond but you would never know that now as it looks perfectly natural in its situation.  The Lockerbie Wildlife Trust have done a brilliant job in creating a little wildlife haven round the pond with as many different habitats as they could possibly squeeze into a small space.  Best of all for a couple of elderly bird watchers, there is a splendidly equipped hide with comfortable seats and lots to see.  A nuthatch arrived almost as soon as we did

Eskrigg nuthatch, We walked up to the far end of the pond and Mrs Tootlepedal, who had her binoculars with her, looked back towards the hide and saw a woodpecker.  We went back to the hide and were rewarded twice for a little patience.  A greater spotted on this side…..

Eskrigg woodpecker…and a greater spotted on that side.

Eskrigg woodpeckerWe had seen a red squirrel scampering away as we entered the woodland and we hoped that we might see another at the pond.  I was not disappointed.

Eskrigg red squirrelWe had a wander around some of the paths round the pond.  There was a feast of fungus to be seen.

Eskrigg fungusEskrigg fungusWe caught a glimpse of a wren but it didn’t stay to be snapped.

Eskrigg wrenNot all the animals and birds were shy.  This owl stared back at us unblinkingly.

Eskrigg carved owlThere is a pine wood, a larch plantation and some broad leaved trees as well.

Eskrigg treesThe reserve has been created with the needs of visitors kept well in mind.

Eskrigg boardwalkWe had a last look back at the pond…

Eskrigg nature reserve…and walked back though the woods back to the car.  We took some of the route that Sandy and I and the ladies had followed on Saturday.  The paths are beautiful.

EskriggAt one corner, we were stopped by a great twittering in the branches above our heads.  There were many little birds flitting about. We recognised blue tits, and great tits but wondered if anyone can help us with this tiny bird with  a sharp beak.  I know the pictures are bad but we wondered if they might be goldcrests.

mystery birdMrs Tootlepedal spotted a pair of fine fungi on a tree which we had noticed on Saturday.   I would have walked straight past them even though I knew that they were somewhere about.

Eskrigg fungusWe got back to the car very satisfied with our walk and resolved to come again in the not too distant future.  The whole afternoon worked out well as we had a very traffic free drive home and arrived in perfect time (four o’clock) for a cup of tea and a slice of Selkirk bannock (and with just enough light left to catch a flying bird).

For our evening meal, Mrs Tootlepedal had put some braised venison with a red wine and mushroom sauce into a casserole before we went out and it was cooked to a turn when we ate it, garnished with a good dollop of mixed mashed potatoes and bashed neeps.This was another of those occasions when kings and millionaires would have been hard pressed to eat better than us.

After that, we went off to our Langholm Sings weekly practice.  We battled to get our  musical director to play the tricky bits often enough for the tenors to learn them but enjoyed singing the easier pieces a lot.

That flying bird of the day was a chaffinch approaching the feeder at full bore.

flying chaffinch

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