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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan.  She was visiting Tunbridge Wells recently and admired the fine station clock there.  She didn’t arrive at the station by train though, as she had had to get there on a bus from Tonbridge owing to works on the line.  So, it is not just us who have a bad effect on the railways.

Tunbridge Wells Station

It was another grey day today here with very low cloud again, but as it was calm and reasonably warm, I turned down a very tempting offer of treacle scones and the tale of a trip to Amsterdam from Dropscone and got my bicycle out instead.

There was a light breeze in my face as I set off but it wasn’t enough to blow the clouds off the top of Callister…

mist over Callister

…and it was thick enough on the top of the hill to make me wish that I had cycle lights.

However, it was not long before I was out of the clouds and safely  down the other side  of the hill.  The clouds were still pretty low….

misty pylon gair

…but at least I could see where I was going.

It wasn’t a day for stopping to take pictures and I didn’t take another until I was halfway round my route when a lichen on the motorway bridge at Harker caught my eye when i stopped for half a banana.

lichen on bridge Harker

I was spoiled for choice when it came to bare trees in a field once I had crossed the A7 and headed towards Scaleby.  This one was on my right at one point….

tree near scaleby 1

…and this one was on my left.

tree near scaleby 2

As you can see, the clouds had lifted a bit by this time but I was under slight time pressure to get my ride completed.  I had been pretty slow against the breeze on my way out so I had to keep going on my way home.

It was our 52nd wedding anniversary today and I was hoping to mark the occasion with a 52 mile ride but I miscalculated and ended up doing 53 miles.  Ah well, the route should stand me in good stead next year.

I called in at our corner shop on the way home for some milk and a packet of biscuits so it was a useful if rather elongated trip to the shop.

Garmin route 24 Jan 2020

Click on the map for more details of the ride.

I found Mrs Tootlepedal at work in the garden when I got home.   It isn’t the time for serious work yet and she told me that she had just been faffing around.  I had to check before using this word in a post as it sounds vaguely vulgar, but I find that faffing is a word of impeccable pedigree meaning to blow about indecisively in the wind.  Mrs Tootlepedal confirmed that this approximated to what she was doing.

I had a look round the garden and was rather depressed by a vigorous show of moss in the middle of a lawn.

moss on lawn januray

I like moss but I would also like to be able to see some grass at least.

Signs of life on a viburnum were cheering.

viburnum january

And I hope to get better light soon to be able to take a better picture of the Sarcococca at the back door.

sarcoccoa

The reason for getting the bike ride finished on time was the need to be ready to take Mrs Tootlepedal out to see a film called The Personal History of David Copperfield, which has been well reviewed.   Mrs Tootlepedal had checked the film timings and we arrived in Carlisle on the dot for the programme to start.  All would have been well if the cinema had not been closed because of a fault in their water supply, a secret which they had kept to themselves and not revealed to their website.

We drove home.

And had fish and chips as a consolatory treat for our anniversary tea, followed by plum crumble and custard.  It is not just railway trains that fall to pieces as we approach them.

At the end of the day the feeder remained as full as it had been at the beginning so there is no trace of a sitting let alone a flying bird of the day today.

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  The parakeets in Hyde Park are so tame that this one came to her friend Garth’s hand without even being offered food.

parakeet and garth

In spite of being in a spell of high pressure which usually brings sunny weather, we have been getting a lot of cloud.  This has been trapped near the ground and is reluctant to disperse.  As a result we didn’t have any views to enjoy when we caught the train back north after our visit to Evie and other relatives.

What we did have was a punctual train.  We were beginning to think that we might have become railway train Jonahs, bringing lateness and delay in our wake whenever we boarded a train but today’s journey put paid to that idea.   As the train wasn’t even very full, we had a most comfortable trip and caught the bus from Carlisle to Langholm with time to spare.

Although we have had a delightful time in the south, we were still very pleased to get back home…

welcome home

…even if it was even greyer in Langholm than it had been on the way up.

A few snowdrops in the garden promised a brighter future.

snowdrops Jan 23

After a revivifying cup of tea, I took my legs out for a little stretch.  It was reasonably warm at 8°C and there wasn’t much wind so it wasn’t a hardship to be out but there wasn’t a lot of light left in the day.

I walked round Pool Corner…

pool corner grey evening

…along towards the Auld Stane Brig…

tree at churchyard

…where I checked on the fencepost lichen garden…

lichen fence post

…and then returned by the track towards the town.

gaskell's walk

Meikleholm Hill was entirely encased in cloud…

no view of Meikleholm Hill

…but on the other side of the valley there was a slight lift so that I could see the mast on Warbla for a while,

warbla in mist

The was no chance of seeing the monument on Whita though.

stubholm in low lcoud

We had lightly boiled eggs for our tea and will go to bed early in an effort to be fit to face local life again tomorrow after the excitements of the great metropolis.

I shall take this opportunity to thank  my sisters Susan and Mary for accommodating Mrs Tootlepedal and me during our stay, and Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother and sister in law for our welcome to Marlow.  We saw nine relatives (plus two alternative grandparents) in two days which is a very reasonable return of relatives per hour spent.

I have filled the bird feeder up to the top and hope for a visit from some garden birds tomorrow but in the meantime, the only flying bird action that I saw today was a noisy parliament of rooks having a break in their discussion while I was on my walk.

flying rooks

Note: I don’t know what happened to the posts from my phone while I was away.  They didn’t have any allowance for comments for some reason.  The ways of WordPress are often mysterious and as far as I know, it wasn’t anything that I had done.  I am hoping that comments will be enabled on this post now I am back at my computer.

We went to our daughter Annie’s after breakfast and then went with her and our granddaughter Evie to visit Evie’s great grandmother, Mrs Tootlepedal’s mother.

This involved a trip on two underground trains to Paddington Station…


… where we had time for a cup of coffee.

We really shouldn’t be allowed to travel on trains at the moment because we only have to get on one for it to run late.

The train we caught was modern, comfortable, with good buggy accommodation…


…but ten minutes late at Maidenhead which was enough to make us miss the connection to  Marlow

Luckily, Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother was able to collect us, although an unexpectedly closed road gave us time to admire the station clock.

We were given an excellent lunch by Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother and sister in law and then we went off to visit Mauri, Evie’s great grandmother.

You will have to take my word that this meeting of four female generations of the family took place as no photograph is available online, but it was a great moment to see Mrs Tootlepedal with her mother, her daughter and her granddaughter all at the same time.

As her mother is 103 and Evie is very small, a good stretch of history was to be seen in the room.

We got home safely (and on time!) and rounded the day off with a very good meal at a Greek restaurant with my sisters  Susan and Mary and my stepmother Patricia.

We go back to Langholm tomorrow…if we can find a reliable train to take us there.

.

This is another phone post as we are still in London visiting relatives. Today we ventured south of the river to spend time with our granddaughter Evelyn Rose, the current holder of the title of the World’s Greatest Baby.

Soon after we arrived, Evie took us and her mother Annie to their allotment where we spent some happy time shifting manure in one direction ..


… and pernicious weedy waste in the other.


By the time that we had finished, Annie’s raised beds looked well looked after.

Mrs Tootlepedal gave things a final touch…


… as Evie supervised.


Big flying birds passed overhead…


.. while parakeets watched from neighbouring trees.


Although it was a chilly day with frost still in the ground, there was plenty of colour about as we walked about the area.


We particularly liked these winter aconites at the allotment.


But this was the most spectacular…


…and this winter honeysuckle had the best scent.


After visiting Evie’s other grandparents and briefly seeing her father, we headed back across the river (or rather under the river, as we used the tube).

We were going to go to the pictures but we left buying the tickets until it was too late and there were none left

Instead, we went back and spent the evening chatting to my sisters Mary and Susan, which is always a pleasure.

If all goes well, we shall take in more relatives tomorrow.

Arrived

We have arrived in London. Regular readers will be surprised to hear that our train was half an hour late.

We were told that this was because of speed restrictions between Rugby and Milton Keynes. A reluctance to go to Milton Keynes is quite understandable of course and as it will lead to us getting half our ticket price refunded, we kept calm.

I had time to go for a short walk before we left Langholm and take a couple of pictures on the way.

It was a gloomy day so leaving Langholm was not a wrench.

I am not going to miss many birds while I am away by the look of things.

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who noticed these sculptures of  full stop on a recent visit to the South Bank of the Thames.

full stop sculpture

Our day looked like this when I got up…

burst

…but it had become rather cloudy by the time that we got to church….

sunday cloud

…and it had disappeared entirely by the time that we got out.

sunday mist

Rather disappointingly, the foggy conditions remained in place for the rest of the day and the temperature hardly rose above freezing.

At the church, the minister remarked during his sermon that it might be a good idea to pray for the church choir.  We didn’t entirely know how to take this.

When we had got back from church and a cup of coffee had found a good home, I set out for a short misty walk with the intention of taking some moody pictures.  This plan would have gone better if I had put a card in my camera.

The short walk became a very short walk and I arrived home in a disgruntled mood which was not helped by the continuing absence of birds at the feeder.

quiet feeder

However, on this occasion things did improve, and a couple of minutes later the first birds of the day arrived…

feeder visitors

…and it was not long…

busy feeder

…until enough had arrived to cause queues to form.

chaffinch queueing

There was soon quite a rush…

goldfmnch queueing

…and even a hint of arguments developing….

siskin and chaffinch

…but the rush soon evaporated and a few lonely chaffinches were left…

hanging on by toenails

…practising landings.

chaffinch nearly landinf

Still, the thing about chaffinches is that they like spreading their wings and thus make good subjects for a feeder photographer.

four chaffinch anel;

After lunch, we went off through the chilly mist to Carlisle for the weekly meeting of our Carlisle choir.  At one stage the mist threatened to become thick fog but it relented and by the time we got to Carlisle, it was brighter and there was no mist.

Our musical director had suffered a tyre blow-out on the motorway in Glasgow on her way to lead the practice.  She hadn’t come to any harm but was unable to get to us so our accompanist took the task on, playing and conducting simultaneously with great verve.

We worked hard for her and as a result, we had a most enjoyable sing.

I was a bit worried that we might have to face freezing fog on the way home but although the temperature was hovering around zero, there was only one small patch of mist and the drive back was not too bad at all.

We are going away tomorrow for a few days to visit Evie, our younger granddaughter, so posts will be potluck from the phone.

In the meantime, I was happy to find a genuine flying bird of the day today, even though the misty conditions didn’t let me get a crisp picture.

flying chaffinch

Today’s guest picture comes from a Welsh correspondent Keiron.  He saw this fine tree in Ystradgynlais a day or two ago and thought that I might like it as I am fond of trees.

Ystradgynlais tree

It was a sunny day here today, but as it was also freezing when we got up, we were in no hurry to get the active part of the day going and sat and read the papers after breakfast until it was time for coffee.

The birds were not very active either, and the only birds that came near the feeder in the morning were a pair of chaffinches.

frosty chaffinch

Stimulated by our cup of coffee, we leapt gently into action and went for a walk.  We did think of a drive to a start point but we couldn’t think of one which we both fancied so we settled for the walk from the town up the River Esk to Potholm and back again.

We had done this walk three weeks ago an a very gloomy day so this time we decided to go round it in the opposite direction, starting by crossing the river by the Langholm Bridge.

There were plenty of gulls to be seen on the river when we looked from the bridge….

view from Langholm Bridge

…and I had my bird camera with me, so we stopped for a moment to enjoy the black headed gulls in flight and on the ground.

four gull panel

It was a grand day for a walk, and if you could get out of the chilly wind, there was even a hint of warmth from the sun.

Although we were walking a familiar route, it didn’t stop us enjoying the sights as we went along through the woods…

road to Holmhead

…over culverts….

bridge on Longfauld track

…and past tree plantations.

young spruce in winter

The views up the valley were delightful in the sunshine.

view of Milnholm

Rather to her surprise, Mrs Tootlepedal had read recently that beech tree leaf litter is slow to rot and does not contain much in the way of useful nutrients  and with that in mind, the clear ground under the beech trees which we passed was explained.

beech wood longfauld

I have always liked the openness of beech woods but I had never understood that the beech leaves themselves were probably suppressing the competition on the forest floor.

There was not a lot of fungus to be seen but I liked this colourful clump on a tree stump at Potholm..

tree stump fungus

…and this pale outbreak on a growing sapling near by.

fungus on sapling

As I had my bird camera with me, we kept an eye out for buzzards on the way.  The sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal spotted quite a few, but they were circling high in the sky and my 300mm lens could not get very close to them.

two high buzzards

At one time, we could see five at the same time, but all them out of range.

A robin in a tree at Potholm as we came down to the bridge was more co-operative and sang loudly to make sure that we didn’t miss it.

robin at Potholm

On the bank below the robin, snowdrops were talking about spring.

snowdrops at Potholm

We stopped at the bridge for a small snack…

potholm bridge

…and then we headed homewards along the road.  The fields were astonishingly green.

green fields milnholm

A  young cow regarded us with curiosity.

cow on potholm road

And the wall beside the road offered a feast of lichen.

six lichen on potholm road wall

At the end of the Potholm road, we joined the main road back into Langholm.  It is lined with concrete posts which hold the metal bars which stop errant cars falling down the steep slope into the river below.  Two of the posts caught my eye.

two concrete fence posts B709

We got home after 5.4 miles, quite ready for a cup of tea.  Mrs Tootlepedal had enough strength left to cycle down to the Co-op to do some shopping so that she could make a dahl for our evening meal and I had enough strength left to eat it.  It was very good and rounded off a peacefully pleasant day very well.

One of the Kilngreen gulls is the flying bird of the day,

flying gull