Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who took this charming view of St Paul’s  Cathedral across the river from the cafe outside the Tate Modern art gallery which she was visiting.

st pauls

We had plenty of sunshine here…

very sunny chaffinch

…and quite a few birds…

two sunny goldfinches

…on what would have been a grand day for a walk or even a pedal if I had wrapped up well enough but I was overcome by a most unusual outbreak of good sense and stayed at home instead.

I have been suffering from a rather sore right foot lately and have been trying to walk it off but by last night I had been reduced to limping.  This is not a satisfactory state of affairs because limping only makes things worse so I went for a day of complete rest today in an effort to get things on a better footing before going to Edinburgh tomorrow.  Time will tell if I have improved things but at least I can be confident that I haven’t made them worse.

As a result, I did many puzzles in the paper, put two weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, mooched around and put a good deal of effort into practising songs for church and choir.

I looked out of the window a lot too.

robin on chair

At this time of year, the feeder is in the shadow of either our or our next door neighbour’s house for most of the day so it may have been the lack of light that was making this goldfinch concentrate so hard on pinpointing the feeder perch.

concentrating flying goldfinch

The wrecking crew of peckers were back digging up the lawn again…

pecking wreckers

…and goldfinches and chaffinches were in perpetual motion at the feeder…

busy feeder

…sometimes getting in the way of good flying bird of the day shots.

flying goldfinch and flying chaffinch

Mrs Tootlepedal suggested that I might find making some ginger biscuits a useful way of spending some time and I took her up on that.  I also took her advice on exactly when to take the biscuits out of the oven and I am happy to say that it was very sound advice as you can see.

I managed to take this picture before all the biscuits had disappeared.

ginger biscuits

It was hard to lurk about inside when the day outside was so bright…

walnut tree

…but we are in for a run of weather from the north so the day gradually got colder as it went on in spite of the sun and it has got down to 2°C as I write this and it is going to freeze overnight which will be a shock after a spell of relative mildness.

I did find a fairly sunny flying bird of the day and a goldfinch makes a change from all the chaffinches.

flying goldfinch

Using his loaf

Today’s guest picture is another from Tony.  While walking his dogs, he saw this big flock of sea birds floating just off shore.

wemyss sea birds

For some unknown reason, I was feeling a bit tired this morning so I decided to have a leisurely time and I was just standing in the garden contemplating life when Dropscone arrived in his car.

He was bringing a gift so I invited him in for a cup of coffee.  The gift turned out to be a loaf of brown bread which Dropscone had noticed lying in the last chance trolley at a supermarket in Galashiels late last night when he was coming back from a golf meeting.  There had actually been two loaves, both reduced to 11p and this seemed an irresistible bargain so he had snapped up both of them and kindly brought one round to us.  We ate several slices with apple jelly while we drank our coffee.  The bread was worth every penny.

When he left, I looked in vain for some bird action on the feeder but only spotted a single chaffinch happy to pose for a moment.

tall chaffinch

Perked up by the bread and apple jelly, and a hint of sunshine, I got my cycling gear on and set out to go round my usual Canonbie circle. The sun promptly went in and didn’t reappear but it was reasonably warm at 8°C and although the wind was strong, it was generally in a helpful direction so cycling was enjoyable.

The Highland cows in Canonbie were hiding behind each other…

two highland cows canonbie

…but a youngster was less coy.

brown cow

I cycled through the village and stopped for a second look at the carvings in the wood at the Hollows.  The artist has placed some birds in trees…

carvings at hollows

…and arranged a rather unsettling trio of heads on the ground.

heads at hollows

I cycled on and added a couple of extra miles to the trip, recording 23 miles for the second day running.  Added to my walking miles, this took my total to the month to over 200 miles which is very satisfactory for the first half of January but as the forecast is for near freezing weather for every day after tomorrow for ten days at least, the final total for the month may not be much higher.

I had a walk round the garden when I got back and noticed a little colour here and there…

january garden colour

…but the stars of the show are the snowdrops which are going well.

january garden snowdrops

I don’t have to go far to find lichens as I noticed this crop on our back doorstep.

lichen on back step

Mrs Tootlepedal had been helping out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop and when she got home, she started working on her rocking horse restoration, which is progressing well, and I did the crossword and went out for a short walk in the hope of seeing some birds as there were none in the garden.

My hopes were somewhat dashed by finding cheerful dogs running up and down the waterside and as a result, no birds.

I did notice that someone had come along with a saw and cut up the trees which were resting against the Town Bridge.  The trees had been removed and only a splash of sawdust remained.

cleared langholm bridge

When I got to the Kilngreen, the bird situation was no better and a  lone gull on a fence post was the only one in sight.

sole gull on post

I went on to the Castleholm and took the new path towards the Jubilee Bridge.  Looking over the fence, I could see a female mallard standing on a rock in the Esk.

female mallard on rock

There wasn’t much more to see and very little light to see it with so I only took one further picture before I got home.

laurel sprout

Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea and invited us to go and view the new fence which had been erected earlier in the day on the edge of his garden by the chap who made our new bench.  I will take a picture of it next time that I go past.

Mrs Tootlepedal went out to see a screening of Richard II in the evening after cooking a fine penne and smoked sausage casserole for our tea and I settled in for some singing practice and a little late archive data entry.

As well as the lone chaffinch on the perch, only two other chaffinches appeared while I was looking today.  One was too quick and the other was too slow to appear as flying bird of the day.  Still, I am saving a lot of money on bird food this winter.

blurred flying chaffinches

Note: I am in the market for fresh guest pictures.

 

Today’s guest picture from son Tony in East Wemyss goes to prove that you can find grumpy herons all over the place.

wemyss heron

It was a beautiful morning with a delicate sunrise but it was chilly enough at 4°C after breakfast to keep me from getting my bike out.  Instead, I walked up to the town where I did a bit of archive group business.  I asked Nancy, who was mining data in our new premises, for a suggestion for an interesting walk but she was unable to come up with one that hadn’t already figured in the blog.

Scratching my head, I went out into to the street and bumped into Mike Tinker.  He is a stalwart of the Langholm Walks group and suggested that I try Walk 5.  As this involves walking up steep rough ground and I hadn’t got either walking boots or my walking poles with me, Nancy and I hadn’t considered this.

However, nothing ventured, nothing gained so I resolved to take up Mike’s suggestion, trust to the ground being firm and the boggy bits few and far between and hope that I didn’t fall over on a slippery bit.

And, plucking up my courage, I headed out to try Walk 5

It starts with a stroll along the river out of the town and this led me past one of favourite bits of lichen which can be found on a fence just on the very edge of Langholm.  It is a grey and black lichen and so a black and white shot seemed like a good idea.

fungus on fence lands end

I crossed Skippers Bridge without taking a photograph and was soon walking up the track towards the hill.  I could see the mast on the top of Warbla (275m) in the distance and it seemed to be a good day to be up beside it so I pressed on.

distant view of mast on warbla

My hopes about the dry ground and lack of boggy bits were fully realised and though the hill is quite steep in places, I was able to stop and admire the view from time to time and get my breath back.

view from above skipperscleuch tarck

There was even some more lichen on a rock to detain me.

fungus on warbla

It wasn’t too long before I was able to look back down on the town, snugly tucked into its nest at the bottom of the hills.

langholm from walk 5

And then I was high enough to be able to look around at the neighbouring summits…

timpen from warbla

…and to look ahead to my immediate target.

approaching the mast warbla

When I got there, I was amply rewarded for the slog uphill across rough ground with superb views of hills streaked with sunshine and shadows…

view from warbla summit

…which I shared with a man and a dog who had reached the trig point from the opposite side of the hill.  We agreed that a better place to be on such a fine day would be hard to find.

man and dog on warbla

From the summit, I could look across the valley and stretching the zoom on the Lumix to its full extent, I could just make out the stile over the wall on Whita that I had crossed on a walk almost a week ago on another fine day.  It was about a mile away.

stile on whita from warbla

The hills looked just as good on the way down from the top as they had on the way up…

view from warbla

…and the track to the town was at its best.

green road on warbla

However, without my walking poles, I had to keep my head well down as I went along since there were plenty of opportunities to slip and slide on wet grass or slippery stones and I took no more views and only got the camera out to note this tree growing out of the top of a wall in a rather unlikely fashion….

tree on wall

…and got home safely with dry feet and no unexpected encounters between my backside and mother earth.

By coincidence, I met Nancy just as I got back.  She had been dropping off some of the results of her data mining for me to enter into the Archive Group’s newspaper database.  I’ll have to hope for some wet and windy weather which makes entering data a sensible thing to be doing.

I made some vegetable soup for lunch and found some bright eyed birds at the garden feeder.

bright eyed birds

After lunch, the temperature had risen enough to make cycling a possibility so I got into my cycling gear, got my bike and set off.  In an exciting fashion I rode round the block and was home again in about three minutes.  It had started to rain heavily much to my surprise and annoyance.  There had been no sign of this sort of thing while I was out walking.

However, I kept my cycling gear on and after only a few minutes, the rain had disappeared as suddenly as it had come, and I set off again.

It was a lovely day for a pedal!

cleuchfoot road

The days are still short though and I only had time for 23 miles before it began to get gloomy.  Because I was pushed for time, I  took just that one picture on my ride which was of the scenically dull ‘up and down the road’ variety.  It was enjoyable pedalling though and my legs only reminded me of my morning walk once or twice.

I got home in time for a cup of tea and some Garibaldi biscuits which we had bought in Carlisle yesterday.  While eating the biscuits, I was able to reflect that too much of my life has been wasted not eating Garibaldi biscuits, an omission which I will try to correct in the years to come.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been out doing some useful gardening while I had been pedalling so we were both quite satisfied with our afternoon’s work.

After the tea and biscuits it was time for my flute pupil Luke to come and we played a sonata by Godfrey Finger and worked on a bit of one by J J Quantz.

After Luke went, there was time to enjoy a second helping of Mrs Tootlepedal’s tasty puy lentil, leek and feta bake for tea before I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.  Here we played Mozart, Boismortier and Schickhardt so that rounded off a very good all round sort of day.

I even found a satisfactory flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch wings closed

 

Today’s guest picture comes from Jenni, my highland correspondent, and shows a flock of long tailed tits enjoying her peanuts.  They are beautiful little birds and we are very envious as we would like to see them in our garden.

longtailed tits

We had a generally sunny and cheerful day here today; cheerful that was as long as you weren’t exposed to the very strong wind which made it feel decidedly chilly.

After going to church to sing in the choir, there was a moment when I had time for either a short cycle ride or a walk before the trip to our Carlisle choir in the afternoon.  The wind, gusting up to 40 mph made the decision for me and I went for a walk.

I didn’t have to waste any time watching birds in our garden because there were no birds to be seen, the wind proving too strong for them too perhaps.

If you could keep out of the worst of the wind though, it was a beautiful day for a stroll…

ewes at kilngreen

…and although all the gulls flew off as soon as I got near the Kilngreen, I did find two or three ducks lurking in the shelter of the river bank on the Ewes Water.

female mallard drinking

male mallard

I crossed the sawmill bridge and walked up the hill past the Estate Offices.  The road verge and walls here are home to a considerable number of hart’s-tongue ferns…

harts tongue fern ewesbank

…and a grand display of dog tooth peltigera lichen.  This crop was about two feet in width.

dog tooth peltigera pathead track

Three trees further up the hill have been artistically arranged by nature to make a pleasing combination.

three trees pathead

And there was plenty of shelter as I walked along the track above the trees to let me enjoy the view of Whita without getting blown away.

vierw of whita

A lot of trees have been felled along the track, leaving the pines still standing.

pines on track

I followed the track until I came to the north lodge…

north lodge

…and there I enjoyed a view up the Esk valley which has only been recently been made available to walkers by the felling of yet more trees.

view up esk valley from north lodge

Time was pressing a bit so I had to hurry home, stopping only for a view of an as yet unfelled wood…

bw woods

…and making it just in time to have a slice of bread and honey before setting off to Carlisle.

The choir practice was well attended and we set about learning another of the songs that we will take to the choir competition in Manchester in March.  We  also went through one of the songs which I have been trying to get off by heart….more work required!

When we got home, Mrs Tootlepedal tried out a new recipe involving leeks, feta cheese and puy lentils.  It made for an enjoyable meal.

We have been watching the television adaptation of Les Miserables and it has been an interesting but chastening experience for me.  I read the book a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I thought that I would remember it well and be able to compare the book with the TV programme but it turns out that although I do recall a lot of the scenes and places from the story, many of which don’t figure in the musical version, I have also forgotten much more than I thought. As a result, I have confidently said to Mrs Tootlepedal on  more than one occasion, “Well, that didn’t happen in the book,” only to find that it did.

No flying bird today but I did get the briefest glimpse of a robin.  It was flying a second or two later.

fleeting robin

 

Today’s guest picture is another from Tony, proving that he can take in the bigger picture but not miss interesting detail at the same time.

tony's stone

Encouraged by the splendid picture of a loaf bread which our daughter Annie sent us, I checked the recipe which she had also sent me and decided that it might be within my capabilities to make a similar loaf.   It has an interesting method requiring no kneading at all and cooking in a Dutch oven so it was a journey into the unknown for me.

The result was pretty good for a first go and I would have had a picture for you if half of it hadn’t mysteriously disappeared already.  I can report that as it is made from what is virtually a batter rather than a stiff dough, it tastes much like a crusty crumpet and is very delicious, especially when it is still warm.  I will have another go.

I had plenty of time to look at birds this morning while I was cooking and for once, there were plenty of birds to look at…

busy feeder

…including another visit from our resident robin.

robin on chair

I liked these two goldfinches keeping a communal eye out…

two contrary goldfinches

..perhaps checking for siskins, one or two of which made a welcome re-appearance.

siskin

I did think of going for a cycle ride while the mixture was rising but a rather gloomy forecast persuaded me that a walk was a better option so I went along to check out the Becks wood.

It was reasonably warm but grey and windy so I resolved to try a few black and whites on my way.

bw bench

I thought that this old tree stump, entirely given over to moss deserved the full colour treatment….

moss covered stump

…as did this elegantly gesturing tree…

expressive tree

…but an old shack often looks better in monochrome.

shed bw

In among the hundreds of new trees in tubes in the recently felled Becks wood are some rather weedy looking survivors of the cull.  This one looked as though it was bending down to greet the newcomers.

bending tree bw

The wood has been thoroughly cleared of felled trees and brashings and the scale of the new planting is impressive.  Although some locals mourn the loss of the commercial conifer plantation, I for one look forward to the new deciduous wood and enjoy the much improved views in the meantime.

view down becks burn

I went through the wood, down the road and across the Auld Stane Brig before climbing up the lower slopes of Warbla on the far side of the valley.  I kept an eye out for interesting stones and was much struck by this one with lichens on it nearly as decorative as a Maori tattoo.

warbla stane with lichen

An old tree trunk posed for a picture.

rotting log

I had thought of taking the track to the top of the hill but when I looked around, I could see low clouds coming in from all sides…

mist coming down

… so I took a more direct route home through the Kernigal wood and along the Stubholm track..

bw wood walk

…before dropping down into the park and passing a favourite wall.

moss on wall

When I got back to our house, the snowdrops on the bank of the dam were out…

dam snowdrops flourishing

…as was much of the moss on the middle lawn which had been pecked by jackdaws…

lawn pecking

…and Mrs Tootlepedal who had gone off to an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting.

My timing was good as it started to drizzle as I got home and it kept it up for the rest of the day.

Left to myself, I baked the bread, did the crossword and settled down to trying to learn a Carlisle Choir song off by heart.  This was a thankless task because as soon as I had mastered one phrase, I found that I had forgotten the previous one.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and in the evening, we went off to the Buccleuch Centre for one of the highlights of its annual programme.   Fresh from touring China and playing in Inverness, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with 60 players, had come to play their Viennese New Year’s concert to a full house.  I cannot speak too highly of the privilege it is for us to get a full scale symphony orchestra playing in our town of 2500 inhabitants.  We sit so close to the orchestra that the experience is absolutely thrilling and the slightly dry acoustic, which the players find hard work, means that the audience can appreciate every note that is played by every instrument.

The conductor even told several very amusing jokes.

A grand night out in every way.

As we have a full singing day tomorrow, I am expecting the weather to take turn for the better.

Although there were a lot of birds, poor light made finding a good flying bird of the day hard work and this was the best that I managed.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

Today’s guest picture is another from Tony’s series of perfect weather in East Wemyss.

wemyss view

We were promised good weather by noon and as it was still a bit chilly in the morning, I was more than usually happy to see Dropscone arrive (with traditional Friday treacle scones) for a cup of coffee or two.  I treated him with more than my customary respect as he has had an article printed in our local newspaper this week.  It concerned the great number of shops that there used to be in the town in the days when almost all the money earned in Langholm was spent in Langholm.

After he left, I looked for some bird action on the feeder and although I did catch a robin…

robin on feeder january

…and a coal tit…

coal tit on feeder january

..it was a very quiet day birdwise with only the odd bickering chaffinch to show.

squabbling chaffinches

The temperature crept up to 7°C but sadly the sun did not make its forecast appearance so I had to wrap up well again for my cycle ride.  On the plus side, the wind was very light so I was able to do 33 easy miles, but on the minus side, both the weather and my route were pretty dull so the camera stayed in my back pocket except to take notice of this handsomely decorated concrete bus shelter in Eaglesfield.

bust stop at eaglesfield

The bus shelter is utilitarian and perfectly serviceable without its decoration and Plato may have taken the view that utility is beauty but then he was probably sitting having an ouzo beside the beach in Greece when he thought that and not standing in the cold on a gloomy day in Scotland.  I like the decoration.

The only other picture I took was a colourless view up the River Esk at Irvine House just to show how grey the day was….

esk at irving house

…and I had to wait until I got home to get a glimpse of something more encouraging in the shape of the first daffodil bud of the year.

daffodil showing

Mrs Tootlepedal was working in the garden when I got back and she tells me that she has potted on our Christmas tree into a bigger pot.  It is still getting conditioned to life outside by sitting in the greenhouse for the moment.

There are snowdrops about but to save me crawling about on my hands and knees, I took a picture of two that the gardener has brought into the house.

two snowdrops indoors

It didn’t take long for darkness to fall outside and I settled down to looking at the hymns for church on Sunday while Mrs Tootlepedal made further progress on her crochet blanket.

crochet blanket part two

She has two winter projects ongoing, the blanket for the hours of darkness and refurbishing her childhood rocking horse for the short daylight hours.

She has taken the whole assembly to bits and cleaned, sanded, repaired and varnished the base.  She has fashioned an ingenious method for holding it all tightly together as the glue dries during re-assembly.

rocking horse repairs

You can see the cleaned and sanded horse waiting patiently in the background for its turn to come,  This will involve gesso I am told.

During the day, I did my vocal exercises with the straw and a glass of water a couple of times and I think that they are already having a beneficial effect.  I will persevere.

There was no Friday evening music as my accompanist is still getting treatment for her damaged shoulder which is taking longer to heal than expected.  Still, as I have had five pedals, two tootles and a choir this week, I can’t complain.

I didn’t get a very satisfactory flying bird of the day as what chaffinches there were insisted on approaching the feeder from the wrong direction.  Some birds have no gratitude.

flying chaffinch

Today’s guest picture comes from Tony.  He was impressed by the power of some ivy which he found eating a castle turret.

ivy covered turret

I had a day neatly divided into three parts with a wide variety of weather to experience.

My day started when I crossed the suspension bridge in grey, slightly misty conditions.

suspension bridge

I had a bit of business to do in the town but it didn’t take long and I was soon on my way for a three  bridges walk.

When I got to the Kilngreen, the gulls were have a bath…

gulls in water

…and the rooks were looking for food in the grass.

rook kilngreen

At 4°C it was cool but there was little wind so it was a good day for a walk.

After seeing some very interesting moss on my walk yesterday, I had another look at moss on a wall today but found nothing unusual.

moss ewesbank

I did find an interesting lichen though.

lichen lodge walks

It was my intention to walk round the pheasant hatchery and I made good progress along the road beside the field, noticing this device for tightening fence wire…

fence gadget

…and wondering whether a black and white setting would give a truer picture of the day than colour as my camera always tries its best to make the colour look as colourful as possible.

bandw phesant hatchery road

I had just got to the top of the pheasant hatchery and was considering this old tree surrounded by potential youngsters in tubes…

old tree and new trees

…when a cacophony of whistles and banging made me aware of the presence of a group of people who had arrived to reverse the production of pheasants by shooting them.

This is not the sort of shooting that I am comfortable with so I took myself and my camera back the way that I had come, crossed the Duchess Bridge out of range of the guns and waited until I had got home before doing some of my own shooting of birds in the garden.

plum chaffinch crop

A stout sparrow took the chair…

sparrow taking the chair

…while stupid chaffinches wasted time and effort arguing when there were free perches available for all.

quarrelling chaffinches

I made some lentil soup for lunch and and ate it.  After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents and I went for a bicycle ride.

The temperature was still only 5°C but the sun had come out and the day was transformed from dull grey to full colour as this view over the Bloch shows.

sunny view from bloch

Sadly, it only took about another two miles for the weather to revert to grey as the sun slipped behind a bank of cloud and mist rose up from the valley.

misty clouds

I was going round my Canonbie circuit and coming up the Esk through the village, I began to wonder if the mist would get so thick that cycling might be dangerous.  However,  as I left the village and began the gentle climb up to Langholm, the mist thinned out and I could see Hollows Tower clearly, although the trees behind were still rather vague.

hollows tower

Looking up the road, the low mist was still lying but there was plenty of blue sky up above…

misty hollows road

…and by the time that I got back to Langholm, I was in full sunshine again.  I pedalled on through the town and up the A7, hoping to get a sunny view up the Ewes valley but that bank of cloud got in the way again and only the hills at the top of the valley were clear with mist rising from the fields again.

misty ewes valley from a7

I turned and cycled home in the gathering gloom….

misty warbla

…and got there not a moment too soon as within half and hour, the mist was so thick that I couldn’t see past the end of our road.

I made myself a sausage, onion and leek stew for my tea and then my friend Susan kindly appeared to give me a lift to our recorder group in Carlisle.  I was worried that thick mist might make the journey uncomfortable but it had thinned out and we drove down without too much difficulty.

We enjoyed a good tootle (and excellent biscuits) with the group and found that the mist had cleared away before our return to Langholm, where I found Mrs Tootlepedal back from her trip to Edinburgh.

In between all this, I had a go at the ‘blowing down a straw into water’ recommended by my speech therapist.  It was noisy and splashy and fun so it won’t be hard to remember to do it twice daily for the next seven weeks.  After that, I hope to be able to sing like a bird…

…though I probably still won’t qualify as the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch