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Back on the bike

Today’s guest picture is of a showy bed of tulips in Regents Park, London where my daughter Annie was taking a walk.

regent's park

We are almost beginning to forget the five months of gloomy weather that have just passed as the present dry and sunny spell continues, bringing joy to the hearts of the townspeople of Langholm.

I was very pleased myself when I woke up this morning with no aches and pains of any sort after my gentle tumble off my bike yesterday.  As a result when Mrs Tootlepedal suggested a cycling outing, I was only too pleased to join her and we set out on a ride up the Esk valley, crossing the river four times as we made a figure of eight loop through Bentpath and Westerhall.

This ride starts with a stiff climb and I was able to catch Mrs Tootlepedal as she stormed over the summit at Peden’s View.

over the summit

We kept our eye out for roadside wild flowers as we went.  There were a lot of celandine about but I wasn’t allowed to photograph them as Mrs Tootlepedal hates them as only a gardener can hate a persistent weed.  Luckily there were plenty of other candidates.

wild flowers

Gorse, bluebell, violet, cowslip, ladies’ smock and anemone

We stopped at Georgefield to admire the llamas….

llamas

…or alpacas. I can’t tell the difference.

We crossed the Esk at Bentpath and went up the east side of the river to Enzieholm.  We crossed the river at Enzieholm and went back down the west side of the river until we got to Bentpath where we crossed the river again and continued south through the Westerhall estate.

We crossed an impressive bridge soon after we entered the park.

Westerhall bridge

….admired some early rhododendrons…

rhododendron

…and passed through the south gates and bumped our way along a farm track until we crossed the river for the last time at Burnfoot and regained the road to Langholm.  The trip was fifteen miles of pure pleasure.

We had had an early light lunch before we set out and we had a late light lunch when we got home again.

We were just about to have a cup of tea when Sandy appeared with camera in hand.  He joined us for a cup of tea and then I changed out of my cycling clothes and while Mrs Tootlepedal went back to gardening, Sandy and I went for a walk.  Once again the Esk was crossed as we walked  along the Murtholm down to Skippers Bridge and walked back on the town side.

More wild flowers were to be seen.

wild flowers

An anemone (we think), Ladies’ smock again, golden saxifrage and oxalis.

The river is quite low and so we clambered down onto the rocks at Skippers Bridge.

Esk

Looking downstream

Distillery

Looking through the bridge at the old distillery.

There were birds to be seen as well.

grey wagtail

Sandy spotted this grey wagtail near the bridge.

Heron

A familiar sight

heron flying

A stately flypast

There was interest on every side.

willow

The river bank near the Dyehouse was lined with willows

willow with bee

One of them had proved very attractive to a number of bees.

More sinister plants were to be found.

Japanese knotweed

Japanese knotweed, a pest that is costing millions in an attempt to control it nationally.

Sandy went off on an extended walk and I collected our car from the garage where it is going to have a new track rod bearing fitted tomorrow.  When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was involved in an extensive task of clearing ivy and cutting back a berberis.  I noticed a couple of newcomers in the garden flower department.

A new fritillary and a dog tooth violet

A new fritillary and a dog tooth violet

Old established flowers had asked to be taken too and I couldn’t resist their charms.

daffodils

Pretty as a picture as they say.

Just as I was going in to cook the tea, we were treated to another stately flypast. This time it was a bird of a distinctly different feather.

low flying aircraft

It missed our chimney but not by much.  There have been a lot of these planes flying low over the surrounding hills and many helicopters too.  We imagine that they are practising for the invasion after Scotland votes for independence in September.  Perhaps not though.

In the evening, we went off to a choir practice for Langholm Sings.  We are in the last stages of preparing for our concert on Sunday week and I got the opportunity to take half the practice and enjoyed myself immensely, leaping around like a demented marionette.  The choir is sounding very good for a small open access community group and we are keeping our fingers crossed that singing with the local orchestra will go well and that we can do ourselves justice.

Either the heron or the aeroplane might have been flying bird of the day but, in the end, I decided that a chaffinch should have that honour.  I hope that you agree.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

Spring fall

Today’s guest picture, from the camera of my brother Andrew, is another of the canals of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam

I notice when reading other blogs that some posters like to commence their thoughts with an apposite quote.  Although this is usually a cut above my cultural level, I do have a couple of quotes suitable for today:

“…the minor fall, the major lift…” – Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.

“Lars Porsena of Clusium by the Nine Gods he swore” – Horatius at the Bridge by Thomas Babbington Macaulay.

All this is a rather elaborate way of saying that I fell off my bike this morning.  To be nearer the truth, I didn’t exactly fall off it but was propelled off it by inertia when the bike stopped dead in a large pothole and I kept going.  Fortunately I was not going very fast and was just beside a large grassy bank and I was able to direct my flying body towards that rather than the tarmac and took very little hurt as a result.

I was on the way to Gair and travelling behind Dropscone on our morning pedal when a large vehicle coming the other way left us very little room on a road which is being steadily wrecked by a daily  procession of quarry lorries.  Dropscone being in front could see the hazard but the pothole arrived long before I could get my thoughts in order quickly enough to avoid it.

Still, my front tyre didn’t burst, the bike fell on the side away from the gear mechanism, I bounced gently down the bank and the only casualty of the whole affair was my back mudguard so things might have been a lot worse.  I was quite able to remount and complete the ride in a reasonable time.

Otherwise, it was a perfect day of warm sunshine and light winds.

The tulips continue to thrive….

tulips

tulip

…and the garden is getting to be quite cheerful.

primulas

plum blossom

daffodils

There are two new plants to record.  A buttercup or kingcup growing in the pond….

pond flower

I like the way that the light has hidden the stalk so it seems to be floating on air.

…and three descendants of a very old plant indeed called horsetails.

horsetails

The afternoon was largely spent in scarifying and mowing the front lawn….

front lawn

…and then putting liquid fertilizer on both it and the parts of the middle lawn which the worm wee had not reached yesterday.

These activities were interrupted by a visit to the new primary school which had an open day for the public before it starts business after the Easter holiday.  Considering that the building is north facing and has been tacked onto the end of an existing building, the architect has done very well to provide a welcoming environment for the children.

primary school

The site means that each classroom has only one side with windows and if I was a child I would fight to get a seat looking in that direction.  This is one of the classrooms looking inwards from the window wall.  It manages to look very cheery.

primary school

The architect told me that there will be forty bike stands provided and as that is forty more than the previous school building had, that shows good intentions.

I found a moment here and there to watch the birds. The sunshine hasn’t mellowed the siskins.

siskin and chaffinch

siskin and chaffinch

The force of this one’s disapproval has blown a chaffinch sideways

There was some peaceful posing too.

goldfinch

…and a welcome but fleeting visit from a blue tit.

blue tit

In the evening I got a phone call from Luke’s grandpa to say that Luke had passed his recent flute examination. This was pleasing as Luke had worked very hard for it.  Then Susan arrived and gave me a lift to Carlisle where five of us met to play recorder consort music, rounding off a very satisfactory day.

The flying bird of the day is a determined chaffinch.

chaffinch

After I had posted the blog last night, I took a quick shot of the nearly full moon as it was a very clear night.  It is truly fantastic that I can point a hand held 300mm lens out of the bedroom window and take a point and shoot picture of something that is 200,000 miles away.

moon

The sunshine cure

Today’s guest picture comes from my daughter Annie’s garden and shows that even in the heart of a big city, apple blossom may ease the soul.

annies apple

I was very disappointed because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find anything to complain about today.  This made it a rare day this year and dawn to dusk sunshine was the culprit.

The day started as a week day should with a pedal round the morning run with Dropscone followed by coffee and scones (and a view of a redpoll outside the kitchen window).

redpoll

The breeze was strong enough to keep us working but cool enough to stop us getting overheated in the sunshine so we got round in good order.

Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been at a church choir practice, joined us for coffee and afterwards suggested that the day was nice enough for a pedal for her too so I swapped the (fairly) speedy bike for the slow bike, took a picture of some birds…

three chaffinches

Watching Dropscone leaving.

…and set out up the Wauchope, trying to keep up with the flying Mrs Tootlepedal.  If anything the wind had dropped a bit and cycling conditions were perfect though still cool enough to require a jacket.

We visited three more of the little streams that merge to make up the mighty Wauchope Water.

stream at Westwater

This is taken from the Collin bridge at Westwater and shows the meeting of the Collin Burn and the stream from Westwater

A few hundred yards down stream they will be joined by the Back Burn.

Back Burn

I stopped at the high point just before all these streams become the Wauchope Water to enjoy the scenery and was passed by Mrs Tootlepedal, going at speed.

Wauchopedale

I stopped twice more for lichens that caught my eye.

yellow lichen

One of my favourites on a concrete fencepost glowing in the sunshine.

On a wall further along, there has been an outbreak of bright green lichens.

green lichen

Looking like an ancient map of a lost continent.

After a shower and lunch, it was time for gardening.  With Mrs Tootlepedal’s help, I scarified the middle lawn twice, once with the  scratcher and once with the slicer, raked the resulting moss mountain off it, mowed it, edged it and sat down and admired it.

middle lawn

It looked not bad considering the violence we had done to it.

By this time, the temperature had risen to a very comfortable ‘sitting out’ level and for the first time since last September, I got warm enough while working to have to go in and get a drink of water.

Thanks to a serendipitous visit by Dr Tinker, I was provided with a substantial amount of worm wee from his worm farm and I was able to dilute this and apply it to quite a lot of the lawn as a fertiliser.  I haven’t used worm wee before so I am looking forward to seeing the results.

During the day, I took the opportunity of the finer weather to catch up on some flower photographing.  The tulips had welcomed the sunny weather.

tulips

tulips

tulips

tulips

purple flowers

A range of purples is available from fritillary, dicentra and aubretia.

plum blossom

There are enough bees about to make me hopeful about the prospect of plums  from all this blossom.

ladybird

A shy ladybird

We saw a pair of butterflies too but they didn’t settle down within camera range.

The tadpoles are developing every day and the pond is alive with them and a healthy population of snails.

tadpoles

A new flower of the day was a pulsatilla.

pulsatilla

In the early evening, Mrs Tootlepedal continued to work in the garden and I was visited by young Luke for his flute lesson.   He played with fine style and is continuing to practise even though he has taken his exam.  He is is a good lad.

In the sunshine, I took far more pictures than I could use and as the forecast is for an equally lovely day tomorrow, I shall probably do the same again.

The flying bird of the day, glimpsed when I looked up from all the flowers, is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s guest picture is one of my brother’s from the recent trip to Amsterdam by three of my siblings.

Amsterdam is a city of canals. This is a grand one, the Herrengracht

Another cold and windy morning persuaded me (quite easily) that watching the London marathon on TV would be preferable to going outside while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing with the church choir.

When she returned, we went off to fill the moorland feeders and spent a little time bird watching.  Mrs Tootlepedal uses binoculars and was able to catch some brief glimpses of hen harriers while I waited vainly, camera in hand, for a woodpecker to turn up.

I took yet another pheasant shot to pass the time.  I always wonder where the males get their very nifty knitted caps from.

pheasant

As I almost always take close ups at the feeders, I took a wider shot today to give a feeling of the place.

Moorland feeders

The feeders hang in a small larch plantation.

The bird in the shot is a great tit, one of my favourites.

great tit

male great tit

The non arrival of the woodpeckers, combined with the chilly wind meant that we didn’t stay too long.

After lunch there was a spell of sunshine so in spite of the brisk wind, Mrs Tootlepedal felt that a bike run might be in order.  Needless to say, soon after we started the sun went in and rather ominous looking black clouds appeared.  We battled on into some heavy gusts, working hard to make even 6 mph at times up the gentle hill and into the strong wind.    We might have coped with one or the other but both together made for hard work and after two and  a half miles, Mrs Tootlepedal had had enough and headed home.  I kept on until I got to Wauchope Schoolhouse and then was happy to float home in no time.  In fact, I was so happy that I turned round and did the same journey again adding a little diversion to Cleuchfoot to bring the distance up to 14 miles which is my notional daily target.

It was spotting with rain when I started on the second lap and it began to rain heavily just as I got home in the nick of time.

I had my pocketcam with me.

A heron at Pool Corner

A heron standing on the caul at at Pool Corner

Pussy willow

A pussy willow adds a splash of colour to the manse brae.

The Wauchope Water, for all that it carries quite a flow, is a bare three miles long and it starts at Wauchope schoolhouse where the Bigholms Burn and the Logan Water meet.   I took two pictures of Logan Water just before the meeting point.

Logan Water

Logan Water

Further up the stream, I stopped to admire a lichen clad wall.

Brown lichen

In the midst of mainly white lichen, there are quite a few occurrences of this brown variety.

white lichen

Some lichens were bursting with life

white lichen

I am sorry that the poor light didn’t let me get a better shot of this as it looked very impressive.

The rest of the day chopped and changed between fairly bright and horribly wet but always with the strong wind discouraging any thoughts of a little evening walk or any lawn care.

Although the strong wind was rocking the branches of the plum tree and causing the feeder to sway about, I took some perching birds during the day.

a ca chaffinch and plum blossom

We are a bit worried that the plum blossom will all be blown away before it gets pollinated if the wind keeps up.

redpoll ruffled

A redpoll ruffled by the breeze

siskin

A siskin catching a little of the sun that tempted us to go cycling

redpoll

One of the redpolls feeding

The evening was once again devoted to admiring the lawn care skills of the Augusta greenkeepers and wondering how long it will be before Bubba has to retire with chronic back problems….and of course watching with amazement as he co-ordinates a wonderfully complicated set of mechanical movements and blatters the ball down the middle of the fairway.

I did manage to find one flying chaffinch in the evening rain.

flying chaffinch

Surrender

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my son Anthony who is in London with his partner Marianne on a short break.  He wonders if the birds are related.

london life

I wasted the day today.  I just couldn’t get going at all.  I thought about cycling but the grey, damp morning weather and the persistent 30 mph wind discouraged me.  The wind was cold as well as being boisterous.  I made a few sourdough crumpets but forgot to put any salt in so they tasted rather dull.

Then I thought about  waiting until the forecast sun came out in the afternoon and going for a walk.

This was a good thought.  In fact it was such a good thought that I kept on thinking it and never actually did it.

Sandy rang up and suggested a going for a little hen harrier watching but I told him that I was thinking of going for a walk and didn’t take up his offer.

I didn’t even spend much time looking out of the window.  The birds were sitting around out there too.

siskin and goldfinch

To be fair to the forecast, the sun did shine in the afternoon and it was pleasantly warm if you could find a sheltered spot.  The trouble was that as soon as it was out and shining, it went in again.  I copied the sun and went out and did a little lawn mowing and then went in again.

The strong wind is making taking flowers pictures very difficult.  The tulips are keeping themselves to themselves.

tulip

tulip

Mrs Tootlepedal spend most of the day at an Embroiders’ Guild workshop and came home with a very nice but tiny embroidery which she likes enough to think that she will finish it off.

She had a quick look round the garden when she came home and then like the sun, she too went in.

We were watched closely by a blackbird while we were out.

blackbird

We spent the evening watching with great enjoyment a programme about sunshine. flowers and immaculate lawn care from somewhere in America.  People in strange clothes kept walking on the grass and hacking lumps out of it but we put up with that.

I hope to be in a more positive frame of mind tomorrow.

I caught a flying chaffinch in one of the sunny moments.

chaffinch

 

At leisure

Today’s guest picture shows a view of Amsterdam.  It was sent by my sister Mary who has just come back from a visit there with my brother Andrew and my sister Susan.  They get about.

Amsterdam April 2014 022

I made an effort to get about a bit myself today as for once it was a completely dry day and, for a while at least, the wind had dropped.

The downside was that the temperature was decidedly chilly in the early morning and I didn’t get going until nearly ten o’clock.  The sun was shining as I set out with a couple of bananas and an egg roll in my back pocket and no particular route in mind.  My plan was to see how I felt and cycle accordingly.

I started out along the Wauchope road and, as I was heading into what wind there was, I went at a steady rate, dropping into a comfortably low gear any time a hill approached.  This method took me the ten miles to Paddockhole without any stress and here I had a choice of routes.  I settled for heading north into the rolling hills and climbed up to Corrie Common where the moorland is wide open with skies to match.

Corrie Common

A bit of down and up took me to the edge of the Dryfe valley….

Above Boreland

…and here I could either head east into more hills and back to the Esk valley for a 40 mile strenuous round trip home or west into the broader, gentler country of Annandale with the opportunity to extend my tour as I felt able.  The sun had gone in but I was feeling well and the bike was rolling smoothly so I went west and followed the Dryfe Water.  I  didn’t go into Lockerbie but headed straight on towards the motorway.  I was passed by several log lorries who were heading towards the wood fuelled power station at Stevens Croft.

Stevens Croft

This is UK’s largest wood fired biomass station. With an output of 44MW it supplies the electrical needs of 70,000 Scottish homes, displacing around 140,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.  There was certainly a huge mound of sawdust and vast acres of logs on every side round the building.   In the distance I could see another approach to energy production.

windmills

This was the third windfarm I had seen since starting my journey.   The wind may be a pain for cyclists but at least it is good for something.

For the rest of my journey, I could almost always see the sun shining but it was almost always somewhere else and not where I was which was a bit of a disappointment and meant that I took less photots than I had intended.

I cycled over the motorway on a bridge and headed towards the river Annan, crossing it by the bridge at Millhousebridge where this curious building dominates the approach to the river.

Millhousebridge

This clock lodge was the old schoolhouse.  The clock seems to eternally pointing to ten to three like the Old Vicarage in the famous poem.

I crossed the river and pedalled downstream to Lochmaben.  Here I bought a bottle of water as I had forgotten to put my own water bottle on the bike and a cup of hot chocolate.  I would have enjoyed the chocolate more if I hadn’t put it on the ground while I took a photo and inadvertently kicked it over.  This is the photo that I took.

Mill Loch

The Mill Loch, one of three in the town.

I cycled thought the town and out past the Castle Loch, the biggest of the lochs.

swans on Castle Loch

They have a sailing club here.

There was a brief moment of sunshine but it had almost gone by the time that I had turned round to look down the length of the loch.

Castle Loch

I was tempted to visit the castle that gives the loch its name but the road was covered by farm muck as they had been spraying the nearby fields so I passed up the opportunity and headed first down to Dalston and then to Hoddom, where I stopped in a handy picnic place for my lunch of a banana and an egg roll.

Refreshed, I crossed the Annan once again….

Hoddom bridge

and pedalled home via Ecclefechan, Eaglesfield, Gair….

wild flowers in the verge at Gair

Wild flowers in the verge at Gair

…and over Callister for the second time on the trip.  For this section I at last had the wind behind me.  This was well planned as it gradually increased in strength until it was able to give me a substantial helping hand down the final hill and back home.

I ended up covering 56 miles in just over four hours of cycling time and because of the leisurely pace and the care I took to be in an easy gear whenever some uphill threatened, I ended up in very good order.  Those with time to kill can view the route here.

I noticed when I put the route into the Garmin Connect website, that Dropscone had also taken advantage of the light winds to whizz round the customary morning run at great speed.  I was glad that I hadn’t been trying to keep up with him.

After a cup of tea and  shower, I had a look round the garden.  The tulips are doing their best.

tulip

A silver pear, a lasting gift to us for our silver wedding, has charming pink tips for its flower buds but no pink at all in the actual flowers.

silver pear

We are hoping that the plum tree, as well as offering a perch to our birds, will provide us with a good crop of plums this year.

Plum tree blossom

The blossom is looking very promising so far

The rhubarb is flourishing…

rhubarb

…and we picked  a few sticks which will be cooked for the first of many rhubarb crumbles to come.

As I went back into the house, I noticed this very large bumblebee crawling up the wall.

bumblebee

As the day was still dry, Mrs Tootlepedal, Sandy and I went up to the Moorland Bird Feeders to see if we could see anything interesting.  Dr Barlow was there filling the feeders when we arrived.  She had been hoping to have a ringing session tomorrow but the winds are going to be too strong so it has been cancelled.  She told us that there were plenty of hen harriers to be seen on the other side of Whita.

We sat down to look at the feeders. I was hoping for some good woodpecker shots but I had to settle for a male and female pheasant.

female pheasant

The female pheasant, restrained elegance

male pheasant

The male pheasant, rather showy

If the female looks a bit gloomy, it may be because every move she made was dogged by at least four and often more of the males, all vigorously pressing their suit.

There was little of interest so we soon packed up, pausing only to note the arrival of a woodpecker at the very moment that we were all back in the car with the cameras put away.

Taking Dr Barlow at her word, we drove round and up onto the Langholm Moor and sure enough, there was a hen harrier floating above the hillside looking for something for her tea.

hen harrier

The weather had worsened, with a chilly and strong wind and thick cloud so after Mrs Tootlepedal and Sandy had had a good look through their binoculars, we went back home, there being no chance of a better photograph to be had.

In the evening, we were visited by Mike and Alison Tinker.  Alison had been working very hard in her garden all afternoon so we  were both a little tired but all the same we managed to finish quite a few sonatas at the same time and often in the same key.  Most enjoyable.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

 

Back to normal

Today’s picture, from the camera of my brother, shows an elegant flautist….much like myself in many ways, though I usually keep my shirt and trousers on while playing.

Everyone loves a flute player

I was feeling much better today, and hardly moaned or complained at all…..well maybe once or twice…but I felt well and never had to lie down for a snooze.

Mrs Tootlepedal is still feeling very positive about cycling, even in the rain so after we had had a visit from Dropscone, (who came bearing gifts of cauliflower and squash and departed, after a cup of coffee, with a cycling magazine) we got togged up in the wet weather gear and ventured out.  The wind was not too strong and the rain was gentle so we enjoyed our fourteen mile journey round the Barnglieshead triangle.

The road to Barnglieshead

We relished this nice new bit of resurfaced road near Barnglieshead.

We stopped at the farm for a bit of a home made energy bar…

Barnglieshead

…and a look at the young lambs there.

Barnglieshead lambs

On our way back, we past a newly felled piece of woodland and you can clearly see how closely the trees in these commercial plantations are planted.  It forces them to grow straight and quickly.

Kerr wood

I stopped to admire some very healthy looking hazel catkins beside the Wauchope.

Hazel catkins

Once home, I just had time for a quick walk round the garden…

Tulip

This tulip defied the rain.

tulips and daffs

Mrs Tootlepedal is pleased with the promise of these newly planted tulips among the daffs.

Mrs Tootlepedal has aimed for a river of blue with her grape hyacinths and has produced this.

muscari

 

…before it was time for lunch.  After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal shot off on a shopping excursion in the car and I arranged for a walk with Sandy, who is on holiday from his job at college.  There was the hint of drizzle still in the air but we took our cameras anyway.

We started along the banks of the Esk and I had barely remarked that I hadn’t seen a goosander for ages before we saw two right beside us.

female goosander

The female of the pair.

I tried mentioning that I hadn’t seen a dipper or a polar bear either but this didn’t have the same magical effect.

We walked round the Castleholm and the pheasant hatchery.  We met a man being taken for a walk by his dogs….

Robbie

…saw a new fungus on a tree stump….

fungus

…and caught a glimpse of spring in wild flowers…

wild flower

….and fresh green leaves.

tree

It started to rain quite heavily as we got near the Duchess’ Bridge  so the cameras were put away and we headed for a cup of tea at Sandy’s without too much delay.

As usual, I had found time during the day to stare out of the window.

siskin redpoll

The arguments between siskins and redpolls are ongoing.

Flying birds were ten a penny today.

siskin

goldfinch

Concentration was always needed as the feeder came near.

chaffinches

In the evening, I met up with Sandy again and we went to the Archive Centre with Jean and Jean and I completed the entry of another couple of weeks of the newspaper index.

Although, I am still a bit tired and consequently the literary content of this post is rather skimpy, I was pleased to have had a normal sort of day and I hope that tomorrow will be even better.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

goldfinch

 

 

 

 

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