300 steps

Today’s guest picture comes from not so sunny East Wemyss, where our son Tony woke up to this.

Across the Forth, our other son Alistair was woken in the night by a tremendous clap of thunder but didn’t get any snow. We didn’t get a lot of snow or any thunder, but there was a sprinkling on Whita when I looked out of the window in the morning.

It didn’t come down as far as the town though.

All the same, it was a miserable day but Mrs Tootlepedal was feeling energetic and went out o do some raking on her drive project. I went out to supervise and offer advice but in the end I did something useful and helped Mrs Tootlepedal to lay another slab into place. This was a bonus as she had only intended to do a little light raking before coming back in.

My hands were freezing after only a short time on the garden, so I took the hint and stayed indoors for the rest of the day. I have a rather unreliable step counter on my phone, and it claimed that I only just managed to get over 300 steps for the whole day.

I did watch the birds from time to time, but the sparrowhawk must be hungry because it paid several unsuccessful visits to the garden. This severely limited the amount of small visitors to the feeder.

Chaffinches popped in when the coast was clear…

…and a blackbird picked up fallen seeds below the feeder…

…looking around from time to time to see if I was watching.

A rook perched on the walnut tree….

…while a chaffinch kept very alert for sparrowhawk visits while it was on the feeder.

For some reason, the sparrowhawk was giving notice of its fly-throughs today and the little birds were well away before it arrived.

I made lentil soup for lunch and then I did think of going for a wet walk in the afternoon. However the rain got steadily heavier and my inclination to venture out gradually dissipated.

I wish I could say that I filled the afternoon with constructive and useful tasks but I can’t because I didn’t, and so this will remain a short record of a dull day.

We did have a sibling Zoom in the evening but even that was rather gloomy. I will take the opportunity to cheer things up with a second guest picture. My sister Susan looked out of her window in London just before four o’clock and saw a fine sunset.

I did try to get a flying bird of the day even though the light and rain and scarcity of birds were against me.

Footnote: The forecast for tomorrow is a bit better so I am hoping for an outing.

Lying low

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. It shows the Exeter Bridge across the River Derwent in Derby. It was built in 1929. I always enjoy a picture where I get two bridges for the price of one.

We had a cold and grey morning with occasional light rain, and a cold and grey afternoon without rain. Although it wasn’t freezing, the temperature never got above 3°C all day.

In the morning, I idled about and watched some birds who posed for me. It was lucky that they stood still, because the light was poor for moving objects.

A green finch…

…worked on presenting its best side

A female chaffinch had the posing off very nicely…

…while a male chaffinch didn’t quite get it right.

I tried saying, “Watch the birdie!” to get him to look at the camera but it didn’t work.

A blue tit looked dashing…

…and a sparrow tried to pretend that it don’t know it was being photographed.

Mrs Tootlepedal kept busy, but I occupied myself by reading the papers, doing the crossword and drinking coffee, and in this way managed to fill up all the rest of the time until an early lunch.

Then we made the best of things by going for a walk in the afternoon.

In a successful effort to make sure that it didn’t rain, we wore our heavy coats, and when we were half way round we met a man coming the other way who had brought his umbrella with him for the same purpose. The weather gods appreciate it when you make an effort.

All the same, it was quite gloomy when we took the riverside path from the Duchess Bridge up to the road.

We had to watch our footing as we went along, as there was a thick covering of soggy leaves on the at times narrow path, but we had our sticks with us and we made the tarred surface safely.

Nature was painting with a limited palette today…

We had chosen a well sheltered route, and although we could see the turbines on the hills above us going round quite vigorously in the low cloud…

…it was very still down in the valley…

…and we could enjoy the views without getting our noses cold.

We had to search for colour and Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a dandelion growing out of a wall at Potholm…

…but we could hardly miss a chicken on a fence.

Grasses, both tame and wild, offered a contrast to the prevailing dark greens and browns.

When we reached the top of the hill at Potholm, we could see a group of patient and hardy hill cattle getting as much grass in as they could in the time available.

The walk back to the town along the Longfauld was very peaceful. We passed a beech wood showing the open habit that makes a beech wood so appealing to the eye, even on a dark day…

…and Mrs Tootlepedal gives an idea of the scale of the conifers we passed a bit further on.

There were a lot of cars parked at the pheasant shooting headquarters at Holmhead so we wondered if pheasant shooters were about. We had heard no sounds of shots so we presumed that they had gone to shoot elsewhere. Mrs Tootlepedal saw some promising snowdrops beside the road.

By the time that we got to the Duchess Bridge, our peace was interrupted by a fusillade of shots. Fortunately, the shooters were well away to our left and we were well out of range.

We stopped to chat to Mike Tinker as we passed his house, and he told us that he had been walking on the same route in the morning and had found himself very much among the shooters and pheasants. He and our friend Gavin, who was walking with him, put their heads down and scampered out of range as quickly as they could.

We had been lucky to have such a peaceful walk. The shooters must have been having a long lunch while we were strolling along.

I found a nasturtium still out in the garden when we got back. It needed a flash for the camera to see it too.

Our walk was a fraction under five miles and we had been able to enjoy it more perhaps than we had expected to, thanks to the still, dry conditions. A cup of tea and a ginger biscuit (or two) was very welcome when we got back.

The cold weather is set to continue and it looks as though I will be doing more walking than cycling in the next week. Our son Alistair had a sprinkling of snow in Edinburgh this morning and there is talk of a possibility of some here tomorrow. It is more likely to rain though, so we were well advised to get our walk in today.

A chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.

Cooked up

Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony in East Wemyss.

It was a little bit warmer here today than yesterday, but as there was a chilly wind blowing, it didn’t feel much warmer. When Mrs Tootlepedal went off to combine coffee with buy out business, I was very happy, after a visit to the shop, to stay in and make a batch of orange and ginger biscuits. At least I would have been happy to stay in, if I hadn’t had to make a second trip to the shop to get the vital orange which I had forgotten on my first outing.

I spotted a crow on our wire on my way.

After the biscuits came out, Mrs Tootlepedal came back. She had added shopping to her busy morning and arrived home with some blue cheese in her bag. As we had celery on hand, I made celery and blue cheese soup for lunch.

In between times, I watched the birds at the feeder.

It was quite sunny at times and a chaffinch on the plum tree basked in golden rays before descending to the feeder.

The feeder is almost always in the shade on these winter mornings and the birds there kept busy eating and didn’t waste time basking.

It wasn’t busy but there was a steady flow of traffic…

I saw a blackbird on the ground below the feeder, and a trio of starlings high in the walnut tree.

I was intending to brave the chilly wind and go for a cycle ride in the afternoon, but I got a bit discouraged by a heavy shower of rain. It looked almost sleety. When it cleared up, I went for a walk instead. After yesterday’s low level walk, I decided to go up a hill today and took the track up Warbla.

There was fungus and traces of fungus to be seen on my way to the open hill….

…but when I got to the hill, it was hard to see anything because of a burst of low sunshine.

Just how low it was can be judged by the enormous length of the shadow of my legs which reached right back to the gate.

Still, it was high enough to bring sunshine to the Meikleholm Hill across the valley of the mighty Wauchope…

…and smile on the town too.

However, the higher I climbed, the lower the sun sank and by the time that I was nearly at the summit, the town was in the shadow of the hill….

…and only the hills in the background were lit up.

I had a choice of two gates and a stile when I got to the final push….

…and took the middle gate.

I was not the first at the summit as a mole had got there before me.

Why a mole should choose this rather unforgiving spot out of all the possible places to go tunnelling in Eskdale is a mystery to me.

But then there is a lot of life that I am baffled by. For instance, why did I see only one of many lichen covered boulders on my way down the far side of the hill with this attractive brown lichen on…

…and what was wrong with the other boulders? And why did I only see a single lonely fungus the whole way down?

It was lucky that I had my wellies on for today’s walk because the rough ground was pretty wet in places and I had to keep my eyes down and walk carefully to avoid sinking into a bog or slipping over. All the same, I could clearly see that I was on the wrong side of the valley if I wanted to walk in the sunshine.

I looked over at Whita Hill and admired the skills of the men who built the wall down from the ridge to the bottom of the hill. Extending the zoom on the Lumix to its utmost, I could just make out the stile which I used to cross the wall on a recent walk.

As it was about a mile away and the camera was being hand held, the resulting picture is a tribute to the zoom on the little camera.

I heard the noise of a low flying aeroplane and looked round to see if I could spot it, but it was so low that it was behind a hill. What I did coincidentally see though was a different flight altogether.

It was getting cold in the shade as I dropped down the hill….

…so I didn’t dawdle, stopping only to try my phone’s macro capability on a wall lichen….

…and the camera’s low light capability on a very unexpected wild flower beside the riverside path at the back of the Co-op.

My face was tingling with the chill when I got home and I was happy to come into the warmth and enjoy a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit (and an iced bun which Mrs Tootlepedal had bought on her earlier shopping trip).

The regular family Zoom meeting was slightly impaired by the late arrival of my brother after his walk and the early disappearance of my youngest sister with connection difficulties. But, as always, it is good to keep in touch in these constricted times.

The flying birds of the day are in that skein that I saw flying over me when I was on my walk. I have no idea what they are. Even my Lumix couldn’t get close enough for a clear shot. I thought that they would be geese going back to roost for the night but they look more like gulls to me. I would be happy to be enlightened by a knowledgeable reader.

A walk to welcome winter

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan who came across a bumper barrow of cheese at an outdoor market. She tested the blue goat’s and found it delicious. I would have tested everything.

It was definitely a frosty morning when we got up, but it was calm and dry. As it was the first official day of winter, we couldn’t complain since it might easily have been much worse. All the same, we were in no hurry to get out to check the morning air, and I had a happy time watching birds through the window.

My viewing started with a full house of goldfinches….

…and then a jackdaw dropped in…

…and there was a constant stream of blue and coal tits visiting the feeder.

I saw a lone great tit too. I am not sure of how many of each there were in total because they all look the same, but I noted at least three blue tits at one time so I have put them in pride of place on the panel.

A goldfinch nobly restrained itself from kicking a chaffinch at the last moment…

…and the chaffinches provided endless entertainment for me. One got stuck in…

…while one stood in the air to check things out…

…and another peered hopefully round the corner.

It wasn’t until we had had our coffee (indoors) that I thought of exercise.

Cycling was ruled out as I have resolved not to go out for a cycle ride when the temperature has been frosty in the morning and is still below 4 degrees. I fell off heavily on an icy patch not so long ago and I am very keen not to repeat the experience. Even if the roads were not actually icy, I would still be worrying that they were, and that would spoil my enjoyment.

So after polishing off a tomato sandwich, I went for a walk.

The tracks and roads were not icy and when I had gone a couple of miles, the sun actually came out as I took the road past the old bird hide near Broomholmshiels…

…and walked down to the Tarras Water….

…which I crossed by a bridge. I could not have hoped for a better winter walking day.

I passed the impressive remains of this year’s horsetail crop not far from the bridge…

…before walking up the hill to Cronksbank.

From there I could look across the Tarras to the little oasis of green round Rashiel amid a sea of brown grass, bracken and heather…

…and lifting my eyes, I could see the monument on top of the hill.

Ahead of me, the valley of the Little Tarras stretched out. My walk would cross the head of the valley later on.

Sadly, the sunshine didn’t last but on a nearly windless day, I was quite warm and comfortable as I walked on to the little footbridge back over the Tarras Water at Perterburn…

…past a fine stand of pine trees below Middlemoss…

…and took the track out of the Tarras valley and on to the road back to Langholm.

This road climbs gently but steadily round the top of the Little Tarras and up to the White Yett….

…crossing the ridge at that shallow v to the right of the monument. The sharp eyed will be able to see the road angling up the hill towards the little col. The golden light beyond the col is shining on Langholm of course.

It was just two o’clock but already the light was beginning to fade. Behind me, mist was floating over the face of Tinnis Hill…

…but it was still a superb day to be out on the moor. I pressed on towards the White Yett, stopping to look back down the Little Tarras valley towards Cronksbank.

I could see that England was largely obscured by mist and I was glad to be up in the clear hill air.

A lot of my walk so far had been on the land which is being acquired by the community buy-out and it will be very interesting, if spared, to walk this way again over the years and watch the changes to the landscape that the new ownership will bring.

As I got to the White Yett, I took a last look back over the moor…

…strolled over the col…

…and descended back to Langholm under an interesting sky, too gloomy for any more pictures.

Any day in December when you can come back from a nine mile walk with dry feet, warm hands and a phone full of good views can be counted as a really good day. This was one. (Two of the pictures were taken with the Lumix and not my new phone. Virtual prizes for spotting which two)

And to round it off, I had the last two profiteroles with my afternoon cup of tea.

Strangely, I didn’t do a lot more after I got in and I joined Mrs Tootlepedal who was having a quiet afternoon testing out her new sofa pillow while watching a box set of the West Wing.

The beef stew provided an excellent evening meal and we can only hope that the rest of December is as good as its first day.

Two passing rooks are the flying birds of the day.

Footnote: After tea, I had a late look out of the window and caught a nearly full moon behind some very picturesque wispy clouds. I was hoping to get a cloudy moonscape but the moon was too bright and the clouds didn’t register on my camera. You can just see traces of them on the face of the moon.

Chalk and cheese

Today’s guest picture comes from my youngest sister Caroline. She lives on the south coast of England and found a lovely day recently to look across the sea to the Isle of Wight.

(As far as today’s title goes, I don’t know why chalk and cheese are considered to be so different that they appear as opposites in the familiar saying. I have often been served cheese that tasted exactly like chalk.)

All the same, I have got some really good cheese in the house at the moment so I can truly say that today was a chalk and cheese day, with a perfectly horrible morning and a really delightful afternoon as far as the weather went.

It was cold, wet and windy when we got up, and apart from walking to the shop under an umbrella, I wisely stayed indoors, did the crossword, drank coffee and watched birds.

There were quite a few to watch today. (They like to come when the light is bad just to annoy me.)

Chaffinches sometimes watched out for each others’ backs and sometimes went for each others’ throats.

A greenfinch and goldfinch were more sedate.

There were very busy moments, familiar to those who have had to circle over airports waiting for a landing slot.

By lunch time, things had improved and while I was waiting for Nancy, the Archive Group treasurer, to come round with the accounts for this year, I wandered about in the garden.

The pick of the floral bunch is still the purple sprouting broccoli in my view.

After Nancy came and went, I had another quick look at the birds. The feeder was still busy.

I need to get an invisible pole to hold the feeder up. The present one keeps getting in the way.

As the weather looked set fair, I did think about a cycle ride but fortunately Mrs Tootlepedal fancied a walk. This saved me from having to battle into an unforgivingly chilly and brisk wind. Walking in a warm coat and in sheltered spots was a much more sensible way to spend time.

We decided to walk up to the Kilngreen and over the Sawmill Brig. I couldn’t decide whether the bridge made a better picture with the conifers in front…

…or the bare trees behind…

…so I have put them both in.

We crossed the bridge and walked up the hill to join the track known as the Baggra. On the last occasion that I walked along this track, the weather was very grey and there was no view at all. Today it was ‘chalk and cheese’, and the views were excellent.

I looked around as we walked along….

…at the bigger picture….

…and the smaller ones too. I love a good wall…

…and an interesting twig.

We got to the end of the track….

…and Mrs Tootlepedal was disappointed to find that it fizzled out into a field. She thought that this was the old main road north from the town and expected to be able to follow it a bit further. Some research when she got home confirmed that it was indeed the old main road until the High Mill Bridge was built in 1820, but there is no sign of the continuation now.

We had to turn for home. Some fine trees were a consolation.

Our route home took us back across the High Mill Brig and along the new main road and then across the Castleholm. Moles had been busy….

…but otherwise, with the sun already dropping low in the sky, there was nothing to tempt the camera out of my pocket. You can tell that the sun is low when a molehill casts a long shadow.

On the way home, I met Mike Tinker out for a walk again. Unlike yesterday, on this occasion he went his way and I went mine.

I enjoyed more profiteroles with chocolate sauce and creme pat for my afternoon tea. Mrs Tootlepedal decided not to join in today, so I bravely ate them all. (There are still some more in the tin for tomorrow. I have volunteered to eat them too.)

A lively sibling Zoom and a second helping of the shin of beef slow cooked stew rounded the day off. It had started very gloomily but ended very well.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch auditioning to be an angel on the Christmas tree.

Top down or Langholm under a cloud

Today’s guest picture is from our son Tony in East Wemyss. He found a delightful beach in nearby Kirkcaldy when out walking his dogs.

Our spell of dry weather under a ridge of high pressure is coming to an end, and it gave us a taste of things to come with ten tenths cloud from dawn to dusk….and thanks to the clouds, dawn and dusk seemed pretty close together.

Mrs Tootlepedal has been using up some spare wool by making a crochet pillow cover and this was just the day to find out if it made for comfortable snoozing on the sofa.

It passed the test with flying colours.

It may have been very cloudy, but it was also a very still day and as it wasn’t raining, I got my bike out and went for a short cycle ride. It was so gloomy that I put a flashing rear light on my bike and even then, I didn’t feel entirely secure as cars whizzed by me at great speed because the traffic was very light and there was nothing to hold them up.

I went up the main road north out of the town as it is the easiest cycling, but there was no chance of lovely views of the Ewes valley today. I could just see the church…

…but the hills on the other side of the valley were hard to make out.

I was intending to go up the hill to Mosspaul but the clouds came right down to road level at Fiddleton after eight miles, so I turned back and headed home. I found Mrs Tootlepedal and Margaret having coffee in the garden, with our neighbour Liz having dropped in for a chat after her morning walk.

Our local weather station says that the temperature was 43°F (6°C) at 11 o’clock, but Mrs Tootlepedal reported that in the still conditions, it was quite pleasant to sit outside and chat. I think that I can safely say that if it hadn’t been for the lockdowns, we would never have contemplated an outside cup of coffee at this time of year.

I joined in the chat and had a couple of biscuits and then, when the coffee meeting closed, I set off again up the Wauchope road to add another four miles to my total. I like to do twenty miles at least if I can when I have gone to the trouble of getting my bike out. I haven’t quite done 300 miles this month, which is disappointing, but today’s twenty took me over 4000 miles for the year. I have done a lot more regular walking this year in an effort to use more than just cycling muscles so reaching 4000 miles on my bike is very satisfactory. It is a great deal further than I have driven this year.

I took pictures of two surviving garden flowers before I went out for my second cycling trip.

And I took some pictures of birds when I got back.

It was a quiet day at the feeder with no competition for places at the table, and occasional chaffinches were interrupted by a lone dunnock.

A couple of greenfinches dropped in later on.

The light was so poor that it wasn’t really a day for spending a lot of time watching the birds and even a chaffinch seemed to have difficulty in spotting where the perch actually was.

After a late lunch, I had a bit of time on my hands before the virtual Carlisle choir practice so I went for a short walk.

The mallards at the Kilngreen have started to pair up….

…though the sole white duck is yet to find a friend.

As you can see from today’s header picture, the gulls have taken up their posts beside the river again and they kindly put on a small flying exhibition for me as I passed.

It was not a day for views….

…so I looked at lichen on tree branches as I walked round the new path on the Castleholm. (I had to use the flash on the camera.)

The resident sheep were too busy grazing to look at anything.

I looked up though and saw my friend Mike Tinker walking towards me. He kindly changed tack and we walked together up to the Duchess Bridge, where we saw hazel catkins looking almost ready for spring…

…and then down the other side of the river, where we spotted that fungus beside the river that looked so curious when I first saw it when it was young and soaked with rain. It turns out to be quite normal when older and drier.

It was good to have some company.

The virtual choir practice was enjoyable but nothing like the real thing. I am getting impatient for the return of singing in the company of sixty or seventy other singers. I did a recording for a virtual choir performance of Silent Night yesterday for a church in Carlisle and it was a bit painful to hear just me singing instead of being part of something much bigger.

I was cheered up by a second helping of profiteroles with my cup of tea after the practice. Mrs Tootlepedal had made some creme patissiere to go with them and it went down very well.

She had also slow cooked a shin of beef with parsnips, carrots and barley and this made for a delicious evening meal, so although the singing part of the day may not have been perfect, the eating part was very good indeed.

The flying bird of the day is one of the Kilngreen gulls.

Enjoying the sunshine

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan who acquired it from a blogging friend. It shows a notice at an RSPB site which conveys a feeling that I am sure we all recognise from time to time.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I definitely went the right way this morning. The temperature was just above freezing, the sun was out, the sky was blue…it was a day for a walk and we went for a walk.

Shortly after we left home, we were very impressed to pass our friend Cat, dressed for a dip in the river in spite of the very low temperature. We were happy to leave this endeavour to her and walked on over the suspension bridge. There were more people in the river there too when we looked upstream.

They looked as though they were working rather than having fun, so perhaps they were inspecting the bridge. (I see from reading a Facebook post later in the evening that they were firefighters in training.)

At this point, I discovered that I hadn’t put a card in my camera. All the pictures on the walk were therefore taken with my new phone.

We walked down the river to Skippers Bridge and then took the steps up to the old railway track, and then headed up past this fine tree….

…through the wood towards the Round House…

…but turned off before we got to it, and went instead along the track to Broomholmshiels. The bracken beside the track looked colourful in the sunshine…

…and in spite of some soggy bits, we climbed up the final wooded section…

…and got safely to the open track to the farm.

There was work going on to the newly made roadway to one of the pylons and we wondered what was happening. Fortunately we met our friend Nancy shortly afterwards and she told us that they were removing the hardcore which had been put down during the pylon maintenance work. They are trying to return the ground to the way it was earlier but it will take some time for it to recover, if it ever does.

We stood and chatted with Nancy who was walking with fellow Archive Group member May, and we all agreed that it was a grand day to be out and about.

We were walking the walk in opposite direction to them so they went on their way and we went on ours, taking the road back down the hill to the river.

The old railway bridge wall at Broomholm has a splendid array of spleenwort on it…

…and the wall beside the road after the bridge is completely covered with amazing quantities of moss….

…and lichen…

…and more lichen.

When we got to the bottom of the hill and walked along beside the river, we stopped to admire this little stream. It looks as though a human hand has tidied its surrounds up a bit.

I had to let the phone have a go at one of my favourite shots…

…before we crossed the bridge and walked home along the Murtholm.

The alders beside the river were absolutely covered with catkins and cones.

As we wandered along the Beechy Plains, I saw a good example of script lichen to end the illustrations for our outing.

When we got home, I put a card in my camera and went out into the garden to see if anything had survived the chilly morning.

The blackbirds haven’t quite finished the cotoneaster berries yet.

Mrs Tootlepedal has brought in a rose which she thought looked in need of TLC, and it is in a little vase in the kitchen now….

…adding a little glamour to the washing up.

I made some lentil soup for a late lunch and then had a look at the birds. There were not many about today, possibly because of the sparrowhawk which made at least one unsuccessful swoop through the garden.

I did see a blue tit low down and a chaffinch high up…

…and a couple of chaffinches having trouble with precise landings….

With not much happening in the bird world, I left them to it and went shopping at the Co-op. This was a modified success. I had a list, remembered to take it with me, found all the items on the list, got in the short queue for the checkout and realised that I hadn’t got any money or my card with me.

They were happy for me to set my shopping basket down beside the till and go home and get my card. They were so unsurprised about it, that it was obvious that I am not the only absent minded shopper inLangholm.

My plan to become a millionaire in a few weeks by buying scratchcards suffered a setback as I cashed in my fifteen pounds winnings, saved three pounds and bought twelve pounds of new excitement. I did have two winning lines but as they only amounted to eight pounds between them, I fear that my dream may have died.

While I was shopping, Mrs Tootlepedal was making profiteroles and when the time came, we sat down to enjoy them with our afternoon cup of tea.

Our weight loss programme is not going quite as well as it should for some reason.

Our neighbour Liz rang up later in the evening and suggested that as the moon was coming our from behind the clouds, it might be worth a look. I had a look but annoyingly the moon didn’t quite co-operate fully.

The flying bird of the day is yet another chaffinch. I like chaffinches, they fly quite slowly.

A good deal of to-ing and fro-ing

Today’s guest picture comes from our neighbour Liz. She came across some very colourful fungus on her walk today.

With high pressure settled over us, we had another quiet and chilly day here today. There was no sun about and as a result there was no mist either.

It was too chilly to make cycling attractive after breakfast so I spent some time watching the birds, and unlike recent days, there were quite a few birds to watch.

A goldfinch showed off its lovely wing colours…

…and a robin perched on a pile of earth under the feeder.

I went upstairs to look down from an upper window and got a different angle on chaffinches arriving…

…and hovering…

…while a blue tit added a dash of colour to the proceedings.

Mrs Tootlepedal went out for socially distanced coffee today so I was left on my own, and after a stroll to the shop, I went off on a walk to check on the repairs to the road past Skippers Bridge.

I stopped for fungus on my way and a closer look showed that it is more furry than it seems at first sight.

I had my new phone with me and tried out the camera on it. I thought that it did well at a general picture of the Beechy Plains…

…and its macro function was useful for these ash buds.

The road had been repaired very neatly…

…and I walked along it with great confidence! It is probable that the damage to it was caused by quarry lorries taking material to repair the big landslip further up the road, so it is to be hoped that no further damage has been caused by lorries bringing in the material for this repair.

I walked on along the road and then turned off to the track up to the old oak woods….

…where I was happy to stop for a breather after a short but very steep little climb up from the old railway.

I took the track towards the Round House and tried another couple of pictures with my phone to see how it would do in fairly low light in the woods.

I was impressed. I can imagine going for a walk and leaving my pocket camera behind (though as I am a belt and braces man by nature, I probably won’t).

I didn’t get as far as the Round House but turned onto the open hill and walked up to the stile across the wall below the quarry. There are steep bits on this track too so I stopped occasionally to admire the views and record things of interest on my way.

I used the phone to capture the stile…

…and my camera to capture a view of the town once I had got over the stile…

…and the last of the haws.

Most of our hills are rather smooth and grassy but there are occasional rocky patches and the phone recorded this one.

You might think that walking round Langholm is untrammelled bliss but after rainy spells, it can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare…

…and quite a lot of the track along the hill was like this. “Very clarty,” a man whom I met at the stile called it, and he was quite right.

If I had not had two good walking poles with me, I would have slipped over several times and come home with a very soggy bottom. As lovers of the Great British Bake Off will know, a soggy bottom is a thing to be avoided at all costs.

I got home in nice time for lunch with Mrs Tootlepedal. She had had a busy morning combining coffee with shopping.

After lunch, she went off again, this time on buy-out group business. After some indecisive dilly-dallying, I went out too. I took my bike for a short ride up and down the Wauchope road. I had left it too late to go round a circular route.

I was quite happy to pedal for an hour and do thirteen easy miles in that time. I stopped only once, just to show that I had been out. The two bowl shaped fungi beside the road at Springhill are still standing wonderfully upright, twenty three days after I first saw them…

…though the bigger one nearer the road has seen better days to say the least.

I had bought some cream on my morning shopping trip and when the time came (four o’clock, Mary Jo), I whipped some of it up and we added it to Mrs Tootlepedal’s birthday strawberry cake and ate it as a virtual cream tea. It was delicious.

Darkness had fallen by the time that tea and cake had gone, and the day ended with a sibling Zoom and an evening meal of baked potatoes and baked beans.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Mrs Tootlepedal is wiser

Today’s guest picture comes from both of my two older sisters, Mary and Susan. Like us, they have socially distanced coffee outdoors when they can. Today they each took photos of the other.

As it was Mrs Tootlepedal’s birthday, she got a little bit older and a little bit wiser today. Since she had me a cake for my birthday, I made her a cake and you can see it here with a bottle of fizz and some chocolates which were a gift from our son Tony.

The candles do suggest a possible age for Mrs Tootlepedal, but as it is considered poor form to reveal such things, I have not made it possible to read them. Suffice it to say, that Mrs Tootlepedal is far more youthful than me.

It was a chilly morning, but it was so still that we were able to have coffee in the garden with our neighbour Margaret. Mrs Tootlepedal went in to have a zoom meeting arranged by her brother with her mother who is 103, and Margaret and I were joined by our neighbour Liz, who was just back from her morning walk.

After an early lunch, I went out for a pedal and Mrs Tootlepedal marked her birthday by laying the thirteenth slab of her drive project. This slab takes her over half way in the slab laying marathon. I took a suitably celebratory picture when I got back from my ride.

There had been mist about in the morning and if I had not been making a cake, I might have gone up the hill again to have a look. Still, you can’t do everything, and there was still plenty of mist about when I cycled up Callister. This is the view back towards Whita…

…and when I started cycling down the other side of the hill, I could see more mist ahead of me.

I was a bit worried that I might be pedalling into poor visibility. This would have meant turning back, but when I got down to the valley, the road was mist free and I was able to cycle on to Paddockhole bridge with no problems. I did stop though when I saw a tree stump wreathed in fungus.

My usual outings often start up the Wauchope road and then I turn left at some point to make a circular ride. Today, for a change, I went a bit further along the road and turned right and crossed the bridge when I came to it.

This took me up the valley of the Water of Milk…

…and past our latest windfarm at Crossdykes.

It was a hive of activity. Two turbines are up and a third is waiting for its blades. There were bits ready to be used lying all over the place.

I couldn’t hang around to see if there was any crane action happening as it was pretty chilly at about 5°C and the light wasn’t looking very promising either. I had done 15 miles by this point into a very light wind and with 500 foot of net height gained. Fortunately, as it was a circular ride, this meant that I had five hundred feet to lose on the 11 miles home and as I was also sheltered from the wind, I managed that in 43 minutes. It was lucky that it was easy riding, because with the sun behind the clouds and the temperature dropping, my legs started complaining about old age.

It got colder still as I approached the last hill down into the town and I could see that mist was rising from the valley below.

The two cyclists in these pictures were the only other cyclists that I saw on my ride. It was a very quiet day.

When I got home, I noticed a surprise vinca flower under a hedge in the garden..

When I went in, I suggested to Mrs Tootlepedal that a little birthday outing might be enjoyable, as I thought that some sunshine might be found above the mist if we drove up to the moor.

There was plenty of mist creeping up over the moor….

…and indeed there was so much mist about, that when we drove down the road….

…to see if we could find the goats, all we found was mist and we couldn’t see anything at all, let alone any goats.

We soon turned round and crept back up the road. We came back out of the mist and found some low sun in the west making for a striking sky.

There were some lovely views as we drove back down to the town but my photographic skills and my little cycling camera weren’t able to do them justice. This shot gives just a flavour of the combination of low sun and rising mist.

Some very chilly soldiers were waiting around on the Kilngreen, offering locals a chance of a covid test for those who wanted one, but demand seemed to be non existent.

They may have thought that we were coming for a test, but we were only there to enjoy the views…

…which were worth stopping for.

Although the conditions made it feel as though it was late in the day, we still got home too early to have tea and cake, and we had to wait half an hour until it was time to light the candles and enjoy the strawberry jam filling.

Having spoken to her mother at one end of the day, Mrs Tootlepedal spoke to her granddaughter Matilda (and Alistair and Clare too) at the other.

It has been a week of quiet birthdays for us both, but that as that is all that is available at the present time, we are not complaining.

A goldfinch is the genuine flying bird of the day.

Head in the clouds

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. It shows that while we may have sunrises in Langholm, he can match them with sunsets in Derby.

If the sun did indeed rise over Langholm this morning, we didn’t see it. We were covered in mist.

After breakfast, I decided to drive up to the White Yett to see if it was a day for getting above the mist and looking down on it. Mrs Tootlepedal stuck to her drive project and waved me goodbye as I drove out over her newly laid slabs.

There were fairly promising signs as I drove up the hill….

…and when I looked along it, the Ewes valley was full.

Sadly, this was a false dawn, and as I parked the car and walked up the track to the monument, it became plain that there was more mist above me than below me. Although the Ewes valley gave me this opportunity to see the power lines plunging into obscurity….

…looking down over the Esk, the town of Langholm was basking in sunshine….

…and I was walking up into thick mist…

…and looking down through thin mist.

Still, it was good to be up in the air on such a still morning, and the sun did its best to break through. I walked past the monument until I could just see the police aerial ahead of me…

…and then turned back, with the sun behind me in the hope of seeing a mistbow over the monument. Sadly the sun was too weak and the mist was too thick and I could hardly see the monument, let alone a mistbow.

It was annoying because I could see the blue sky above the mist and it was nearly a perfect day for sparkling misty shots. Since it was quite chilly at about 3°C, I didn’t stay too long in hope but made my way back down the track to the car.

The Ewes valley was pretty well clear by the time that I got there.

I walked up to the col to look over into the Tarras valley…

…and I met a keen runner out for his morning exercise who told me that there was a flock of the wild goats feeding a bit further down the road.

I went back for the car and drove down to investigate. He was quite right.

The goats were quite happy to let me walk up the road taking photographs of them…

…though many of them were too busy eating to pose for me.

They are quite impressive animals.

There must have been at least twenty goats spread across the moor and as I walked back down the road to the car, a noise behind me made me turn round. There was one last goat crossing the road to join them.

I had expected to find a coffee morning in progress in the garden when I got home, but Mrs Tootlepedal and Margaret had agreed that 4°C was just too cold for fun, even for such hardy souls as themselves. I joined Mrs Tootlepedal for coffee indoors.

After coffee, and with the temperature now at 5° to 6°C, I put on a lot of warm clothes and went for a bicycle ride. The days are so short now that unless you start early, there is not enough time for a long leisurely photographic outing so I pressed on to keep myself warm, and only stopped for a couple of token pictures on the way,

The winter gorse is always a cheerful sight beside the Gair road…

….but this view of a bare tree at Chapelknowe more correctly reflected the time of year.

Cold hands and feet are the winter cyclist’s bugbear and I am happy to report that my new socks and old gloves kept both sets of extremities very snug so I thoroughly enjoyed my ride, especially as what light wind there was, blew me home.

Two flowers caught my eye in the garden when I got back…

…but I was too late to see any birds at the feeder and a preening jackdaw in the walnut tree was the only bird in the garden.

After a cup of tea and a shower, I printed out some moorland pictures for Mrs Tootlepedal. My printer was in a recalcitrant mood so this took some time, and no sooner had I finished than it was time for a very cheerful sibling Zoom.

I cooked trout for our tea and that rounded the day off very nicely.

No flying birds today, but a group of birds in a neighbour’s tree, who to be fair must have flown to get up that high, take the flying bird’s place instead.