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Over the moon

Today’s guest picture comes from my Langholm friends Jim and Sandra.  They are visiting Australia where they met some down under bird life.

australian bird

We enjoyed another chilly but sunny day and if you could keep in the sun and out of a relentlessly nipping wind, it was not too bad at all.

We had a quiet morning, mostly reading newspapers and listening to the radio.  I did a little bird watching every now and again.

The male blackbirds were chasing each other about when they weren’t posing or eating so I think that they must be our native blackbirds claiming their territory.

blackbirds

There were no siskins or goldfinches about today so the chaffinches had a free hand and flew about in every direction.

chaffinches

Dunnocks and robins made occasional appearances.

dunnock and robin

A greenfinch looked relatively happy today (by greenfinch standards).

greenfinch

Mrs Tootlepedal spent some useful time clearing up in the greenhouse getting ready for the new season and I made a pan of vegetable soup for my lunch.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal turned to cooking and made several fish pies and I wrapped up well and went out for a pedal.

I didn’t want to go too far from home as the wind would be against me on the way back and it was very cold so I went five miles up the road and back twice.  This is not as boring as it sounds and I enjoyed myself.

I stopped once or twice.

It was a lovely afternoon when the wind was behind you.

Westwater

I was going to take a picture of the gate at my turning point on Callister when I noticed a movement among the tussocks.  The head of a deer poked up…

gate and deer on callister

…but it sneaked away without letting me get a better shot.

I went along the river on a circuit of the New Town of Langholm as part of my route in the hope of seeing oyster catchers.  There were none about on the first pass but two had arrived by the time I went along the bank for the second go round.

oystercatchers

Good route choice.

And crocuses were almost out in the garden when I got home.

crocus

Mrs Tootlepedal was also out in the garden but she was finding it chilly too and came in.

The sun was still out though and it seemed too good a day to waste indoors watching Scotland getting beaten by England at the rugby (I am never optimistic about Scotland’s rugby chances) so I got changed and went out for a short walk.

I was hoping to see some black headed gulls and I was in luck and saw one straight away when I got to the river.

black headed gull

Then I saw ten more.

black headed gull

It was as good a day for walking as it had been for cycling, especially as I was reasonably sheltered from the wind.

sawmill brig

The sun was dropping in the sky and lit up the moss on the wall after the Sawmill Brig.

mossy wall

It is obviously a good place for  moss…

mossy wall

…which is thriving.

mossy wall

I always like the colour of the bark when low sun strikes a pine tree…

pine tree

…and the trunks looked good too as I went along the new path.

pine tree

An old tree trunk, now used as a bench had an interesting selection of colonists on it. One of the ‘helicopter’ seeds was actually rooting in a crevice in the wood.

moss and seeds

I had noticed that the moon was already high in the sky so I took a hopeful shot as I walked along and after a tweak in the photo editor, it came out surprisingly clearly.

moon

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal told me that against expectations, Scotland were leading in the rugby match.  I watched until half time and then, fearful of causing them any bad luck by showing excessive expectation, I started cooking our evening meal. I received messages of amazement from all of our three children during the half time interval.   Annie, our daughter, was watching the match in Berlin while attending the Berlin Film Festival.

In spite of my best intentions, I kept sneaking back in during the second half and taking a quick look.  England (dropping the ball, giving away penalties and getting a man sent off) were playing like Scotland and Scotland were playing very well.  It was all most unsettling.

In the end, we won.  The first victory over England for ten years.   Our daughter was watching the game with an England supporter in Berlin and he just couldn’t understand why she was still so worried when Scotland were 15 points up with only two minutes to go.  He obviously hasn’t seen what Scotland can do when it comes to losing matches in the last minute that they should have won.

Now that I know that they are going to win, I may well sit down and watch a replay of the whole match in comfort.

All in all, it turned out to be a better day in every way than I had anticipated.

The flying bird of the day is one of the gulls at full stretch.

black headed gull

 

 

My hat

Today’s guest picture is a reflective study from my brother Andrew.

Tamworth

There are too many pictures in today’s post so I will try to keep the wittering to a minimum.

It was another mainly sunny, dry day with a chilly wind and a frosty start.  As long as it keeps dry, we are trying not to complain too much about the cold.

As it was too cold to cycle or garden, the plan was to visit the Larch Cottage garden centre nearly 50 miles away to the south of Penrith, have lunch, buy plants and then come home via somewhere interesting.

As a plan it went well.

There was time before we left to drop some money from sales and donations round to the Archive Group treasurer Nancy.  She asked me whether I had lost a woolly hat on my walk up Timpen the other day.  When I thought about it, I realised that I had.  Nancy told me that she had found it and put it on a post up the hill.  As it was a nice day and I was rushing off, she said that she might go up and retrieve it for me and when we got home from our outing, I found that she had kindly posted it through our letterbox.  This is the kind of friend that an old forgetful man needs.

I also took a quick look out of the kitchen window.

chaffinches

greenfinch and chaffinch

The drive down the motorway went as well as any drive down a busy road can go and we got to Larch Cottage with enough time to have a look round before lunch. In spite of the sunshine, the snow on the hills reminded us that it was still chilly.

Larch Cottage is run by a man with a sense of humour and a great love of old stone.

P1070638Larch CottageLarch Cottage

The cafe, which is in one of the original buildings, was cosy and the food was good.

P1070637

Mrs Tootlepedal bought plants and I took the occasional picture.  I liked a euphorbia a lot but was slightly less impressed by the customer service sign.

Larch Cottage

It is probably  no coincidence that London and the government are exactly 300 miles away.

However, since the staff were uniformly helpful and cheerful, we had no complaints.

We set off home by way of Brougham Hall and Brougham Castle.  We approached the hall by the road under this bridge.

Brougham Hall

The bridge gives access to this….

Brougham Hall

…from this.

P1070649

Brougham Hall is more impressive than the modest name might suggest and it has a fine entrance for visitors…

P1070650

…and a rather small back door.

Brougham Hall

There is a broad courtyard inside the walls…

Brougham Hall

…with many buildings in various states of repair.  A local group is restoring what they can and several artists and craftspeople have small studios and shops.

We went through the buildings to see the other end of the bridge to the chapel…

P1070657

…avoided purchasing any pottery or jewellery and left by the door through which we had entered.

P1070663

We were sorry to see that a large walled garden nearby had been let go.

Brougham Hall

I liked the notice on the door of one of the hall’s smaller buildings.  It should help those who don’t know the name to understand how it is pronounced

P1070665

And the lion looked quite cheerful.

We drove on in the hope of visiting Brougham Castle which is not far away…

Brougham Castle

…but as it turned out that it is only open at weekends at this time of year, I took a picture of the A66 crossing the River Eden and we went on our way.

Brougham bridge

For those who think that these two buildings deserve more pictures and information, my sister Susan visited them last year and wrote about them in her blog. You can find that post  here.

It is very interesting.

The drive home passed without incident and we got in just in time for  a cup of tea.

I walked round the garden first though…..

daff and crocus

…and I did think that I might go for a short bike ride but a cold wind and no sunshine persuaded me to stay indoors.

I had a look out of the kitchen window while the tea was brewing.

dunnock and robin

I spent a happy hour or two on my computer, learning some new tricks from my score writing programme.  It has a feature that will automatically tie words of songs or hymns to the right notes in a score when you add them.  I haven’t used this before but it turns out to be very handy.

Our cold dry weather is set to continue but there are murmurs of impending snow next week.  That will not be welcome.

The flying bird of the day is a reliable but angry chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

Unexpected punctuality

Today’s guest picture shows an interesting wall which Dropscone encountered on his Irish holiday.

irish wall

Our spell of calm, dry and chilly weather continued today with a bright, sunny morning making it possible to overlook the 2°C temperature.

It looks as though this pattern will stay with us for several days with the only difference being that it will be well below freezing every morning.

Under these circumstances, I thought it would be best to get a walk in today while the going was still good.  On the same basis, Mrs Tootlepedal did a little gardening.

I started my walk by passing the mouth of the dam, just where it joins the River Esk.  After flowing under the bridge and then past the back of our house, the dam disappears under roads and into a factory, where it supplies water, before it comes back into daylight here:

dam

I was hoping to see interesting riverside birds while I was there but the cold weather has discouraged them and I had to make do with one of the resident ducks when I got the Kilngreen.

mallard

There were plenty of black headed gulls about but they stuck to the fence posts on the far bank of the river…

black headed gull

….where any flying action was largely confined to playing a game of musical posts.

black headed gull

They did occasionally rise high enough in the air to be described as flying….

_DSC1527

…but nor often.

I got fed up in the end and walked on to find somewhere where more reliable subjects could be found.

Surprise, surprise, it was a wall.

It had a  wealth of interest on it.  I am getting more confused every day but there seems to be moss, liverwort and lichen all in a heap here.

moss liverwort

 

My favourite patch was this one.

moss lichen

As I may have remarked before, it is amazing what you can see when you look.   I should acknowledge my debts both to Sandy, who showed me how to use a camera, and the New Hampshire Gardener, who consonantly inspires me  to look closely at the things I see.

I found another wall and met two very contrasting ferns on it.

ferns

I walked along the top of the wood above the Lodge Walks and once again admired the skill of the tree fellers who can leave a selection of trees standing while felling all around if they wish.

trees

On my way, I was inspected by the locals…

sheep

…and was intrigued by this tree.

tree with moss

Would that little window open and a gnome pop out and ask me to buy a ticket for my journey?   (I think that the political situation may be destroying my mind.)

I walked down through the snowdrops at Holmhead.  They are just about at their best.

snowdrops

When I got down to the flat, I could see the ridge that I walked along yesterday.

Timpen

I have to say that it seemed a lot steeper when I was walking up to the summit on the right yesterday than it did when I was looking at it today.

Further on, I saw more moss…

moss on wood

…which was not too difficult as there is moss everywhere at the moment after some very wet years.

I got home in time for a cup of coffee, fairly swiftly followed by lunch and the traditional Thursday trip to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents.

We always leave in plenty of time as there is a bumpy and winding road on the way to Lockerbie but this leaves me with time to stand on the platform and look around.  I love the tower of Lockerbie Town Hall.

Lockerbie Town Hall

I like the fact the clocks show slightly different times and often wonder if anyone has ever stood on the balcony and addressed the crowds below or perhaps blown a fanfare.

I didn’t have as long on the platform as I usually have as incredibly the train was on time today.  Not only that, it actually arrived in Edinburgh a little ahead of schedule and there was a bus at the bus stop to take us down to Matilda’s almost as soon as we had stepped out of the station.

We were punctual to the dot so it was no great surprise to get a text from Alistair to say that they hadn’t got home yet.

Still, the great thing about cities is that they have shops there so we were able to kill a little time without any difficulty.

We had a most enjoyable visit, being thoroughly entertained by Matilda and well fed by her parents.  And Mrs Tootlepedal had bought one of her sticky toffee puddings with her.

The journey home went as well as the  journey up and we arrived back to find that not only had the builder finished installing the pavement kerb on the bridge but the gaps had all been filled up and things look as though they are now ready for tarmac.

dam bridge repair

The state of play when we left in the afternoon and when we got back in the evening.

I did find one sympathetic gull this morning and it is the flying bird of the day.

black headed gull

 

To make a change from endless pictures of moss, my guest picture of the day is a moose The picture came from Venetia, who saw the moose in Grand Teton National Park.

moose, in Grand Teton National Park

The wind is in the east at the moment, which often means sunnier days for us and this was the case today.

It also means cold mornings.

The frogs disappeared because of the cold morning but a daffodil appeared.

daffodil

And we did have wall to wall sunshine so after the frosty start, the temperature went up to a pleasing 7°C and this combined with a very light wind, opened the day to many possibilities.

After breakfast, the light was good enough to encourage bird shooting through the kitchen window.  Not all my efforts were entirely successful…

flying chaffinch

…but some were better than others…

flying chaffinch

…and some were quite action packed.

_DSC1501

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal turned to gardening and I took my walking poles in hand and went to the top of a hill and came down a again.

I had my camera with me for once.

I liked the contrasting colours as I walked up Meikleholm Hill…

View from Meikleholm Hill

…and I was surprised to see how much of the ground that I trod on was made up of mosses.

moss on Meikleholm Hill

You may think that the green hill on the right of the fence is grassy but in fact the pale grey patches are grass and almost all the green is moss.  Far from walking up a grassy hill, I was climbing a moss covered boulder.

moss on Meikleholm Hill

There was even a patch of moss clinging to the side of the concrete trig point on the top of Timpen Hill at 326m.

moss on timpen trig point

The view from the top was good.  That is the River Esk curling up the valley.

Esk from Timpen

On the far side of the Esk, I could see another example of tree felling followed by some very neat tidying up.

tree felling Longfauld

To the north, the Ettrick hills still had a little snow on their tops.

Ettrick Hills in background

Coming back down the hill, I stopped to admire the moss in one of the boggy patches.

bog moss

And of course, it is illegal to be out on the hill on a fine day and not take a picture of the town.

Langholm from Meikleholm

It is a very rewarding route for a walk of well under three miles.

I found Mrs Tootlepedal in delving mode when I got back and while we were chatting, we noticed a bird singing away in a very forceful manner.  We followed its flight on to the silver pear and I was very surprised to see it was a dunnock.

dunnock on pear tree

I usually see these creeping about silently in a very unobtrusive manner under the bottom of hedges so I can only assume that love must be in the air already and either mates are being attracted or rivals discouraged…..or both.

On my way round the garden, looking for exciting mosses, I saw these instead…

liverwort

…and Mrs Tootlepedal told that they are liverworts.

After a pause for recovery and lunch, I got the fairly speedy bike out and set off to see where my legs would take me.

They took me to the top of Callister Hill (223m) and back down again.  I was going to put some additional miles in when I was waved down by a passing motorist who turned out to be a friend who wanted my opinion on the reprehensible behaviour of our local landowner.

This led to an interesting and lively discussion, conducted while aeroplanes overhead combine to drag clouds across the sky….

con trails and cloud

…and left me with just time to get home as the sun went down and the shadows lengthened.

cycling shadow

Secretly, I was not at all upset to lose a mile or two from my trip as the morning’s hill walk had taken a little stuffing out of my legs.

I found Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden again when I got back and we went out to admire the work on the dam bridge repair.

dam bridge repairs
It is looking very neat and tidy with a waterproof membrane now stuck on top of the concrete beams and the sides of the bridge completed.   We are waiting for the pavement edge to be re-installed, a bit of fill to be added to each edge of the bridge and then the final tarmac can be laid.

I still haven’t heard from the Queen regarding the Grand Opening.

In the evening, I took my third trip of the day.

Sandy arrived and he drove us down to Canonbie, where he and I delivered an illustrated talk on the work of the Langholm Archive Group to the Canonbie Tractor Club in the Cross Keys Hotel.   We followed the talk by a showing of the Langholm Heritage DVD on the mills and railway in Langholm which members of the group made a few years ago.

This must have gone down quite well as I sold six copies of the DVD (all I had brought with me) to members of the audience after the showing.

Everything went very smoothly.  This was by no means a given considering that we were using a laptop, a projector, a screen, a sound bar and the visitors’ wi-fi connection of the Cross Keys Hotel, any of which might have been in a contrary mood.

It was a day which has been firmly entered on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

On the road

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who was passing Tamworth castle the other day when the sun came out.

Tamworth Castle

We had another cool morning here but with added sunshine and the day soon became suitable for gardening and cycling.

I had a walk round the garden after breakfast and had to duck as a low flying aircraft passed by.  I got the camera out as quick as I could and caught it just as it got framed in electricity wires.

hercules

Looking at the picture above, you may think that I am exaggerating about having to duck but it really was low.

hercules

 

Sandy came round for coffee in the morning which gave me a good excuse to delay cycling until the things warmed up a bit.

After he left, I had another garden wander.  I was pleased to see crocuses looking perky…

crocuses

…and surprised to see and early bee about.  The forecast is for chilly days ahead so it might well have to go back and hide.

bee on crocus

The first daffodil also appeared and it was unfortunate that it was growing in the middle of a bush so it was not easy to capture its full beauty!

first daffodil

However, the moss was looking wonderful in the sun.

moss

I would never have believed that moss could look like this before I started this mossy chapter in my photographic journey.

Like the bee, the frogs in the pond may find that things are too chilly for them soon but this one seemed quite happy for now.

frog

After the sunny garden stroll, I did think of trying to have both a walk and a pedal during the day but looking out of the window and seeing a brisk wind coming out of the north west and making the walnut branches wave about persuaded me that just cycling might well be enough.

I was right, as the windy was strong and cold enough to make sure that my average speed stayed quite low so it took me some time to get round a 31 mile circuit.

I got my fairly speedy bike to check whether it had been harmed by the accident.  It looked all right and I gave it a good wash and brush and oiled the chain before I set off. I wasn’t going to hurry though, just in case.   In addition, after the recent frosts and snow, the roads are beginning to crack up so I kept my eyes fairly firmly on the road ahead, not wanting a repeat of the unplanned flying dismount so soon after the last one.

As a result I decided to stop every 5 miles and take a picture both of the road I was cycling along and whatever was there.  I also hoped that this might give readers unfamiliar with our area, a picture of a typical cycle ride for me.

5 miles:

callister and buzzard

The road up Callister and a passing buzzard: a two lane minor road

10 miles:

Between the waters and gair road

The road to Gair and a local farm: single track road

14 miles:

I made an extra stop as i crossed it to show the M74, the main road between Carlisle and Glasgow.

M74

While I was taking the picture, a car drew up and the lady inside asked me if I was Tootlepedal.  She had seen the blog and recognised the ski goggles that I was wearing.  She is a relative of our neighbour Liz and her son and our older son had met at the Lauder Common Riding last year so we had a good chat before going our separate ways.

15 miles:

I stopped a mile later on the old A74, once a dual carriageway but now returned to single carriageway and used as a service road for the motorway and very handy for cyclists.

Old A74

This was an interesting place to stop as there was history all around.

(Clockwise from top left) The old road which replaced the original coaching road, Robgill Tower, Burnswark, a site of both Roman and iron age forts and, coming bang up to date, a wind farm in the distance.  And I had the motorway on one side of me and the mainline railway on the other.  People have been passing this spot for thousands of years,

20 miles:

Glenzier road

In farming country near Chapelknowe.  Still a minor road but a slightly more busy one.

25 miles:

Broadmeadows road

The back road to Canonbie.  I am in the Esk valley now…..with a nice gate.

30 miles:

A7 bike track

The end of the bike path where it joins the A7, the road from Carlisle to Edinburgh and the A7 itself just before Skippers Bridge.

And to complete the picture, here is the route itself.

garmin route 20 Feb 2018

Click to see the route details

Because I am supposed to avoid big hills with my new knee, these quiet unadventurous routes are just my cup of tea.

As you can see , it was a sunny ride so I enjoyed it in spite of an unhelpful breeze.

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden, making the most of the warmer weather.

The frogs had gone but there was a colourful bunch of crocuses to catch the eye.

crocuses

I hadn’t had any time to watch birds earlier in the day so I took a moment when I got in to stare out of the kitchen window but the light was a bit too far gone to be ideal….

chaffinches

…so I was pleased to see a robin in posing mood.

robin

I was ready for a cup of tea and a quiet sit down by this time.

Later in the day, I made the mistake of ringing up a software company to sort out a problem and when the lady had asked several times for me to produce an email confirmation of sale for a product which I bought in 2012 and I had replied patiently each time that I didn’t keep emails for 5 years, she then asked me if there was any one else in the house she could speak to who might be able to understand what she was talking about.  I was mildly offended to say the least but we didn’t get anywhere with our conversation after that.

In the absence of a flying bird of the day, I can only put up a bird that was very nearly flying.

robin

A bit more out and about

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is on holiday.  He and his family visited Mizzen Head.  It is not on my list of places to visit for obvious reasons.

mizzen head Ireland

For the first time for what seems like ages, we had quite a warm day today with the thermometer gently pushing at 10°C and it was genuinely pleasant to step out of the door into the garden.

I had to go up to the Day Centre to collect the key for the camera club meeting in the evening and I took the opportunity to do a little shopping and gossiping in the High Street while I was about it.

By the time that I had strolled home, made a cup of coffee and done the crossword, I didn’t have much time left to look at the birds…

chaffinch

…who were generally….

starling

…looking left today….

siskin

…and take a walk round the garden, which was full of soggy snowdrops (it had rained again in the night)….

wet snowdrops

…interesting moss…

moss

…and more interesting moss….

moss

…some of which looked liked this when viewed in close up.

moss

After fortifying myself with sardine sandwiches, I got my slow bike out and went for another test ride to see how I was.

I managed to go a bit further (20 miles) and a bit faster (11mph) than two days ago so this was encouraging.  I would have more pleased if the last few miles hadn’t been such an effort but I got round and that was the main thing.

I completed my usual Canonbie circuit and was never more pleased to go past my three favourite trees on the way.

three trees Canonbie

I was concentrating quite hard on the actual pedalling (and trying to avoid any potholes) so I didn’t stop for many photos but I always enjoy the silhouette of this monkey puzzle tree near Canonbie….

Monkey puzzle

…and of course, a wall has enough attractions to stop you in your tracks at any time.

This one had gorse on top of it and lots of very emerald green moss clumps on its face.

gorse and moss

I took a close look at the moss. Some of the clumps resembled bracket fungi in the way that they stood out from the wall.

moss

And there were ferns too.

fern

Mrs Tootlepedal was making good use of the warm day by busying herself in the garden when I got back so I had a look round.  Crocuses are beginning to show up well….

crocuses

…and the avenue of snowdrops along the back path is looking good too…

snowdrops in garden

…but the most interesting thing in the garden wasn’t a flower at all.

frog

A real sign of spring.

The frogs may not be too happy though when it gets cold again later in the week.

The evening was quite busy as my flute pupil Luke came and we worked at  a couple of sonatas, very satisfactorily in the slow movements but leaving a bit of room for practice on the allegros.

And then, after tea, it was time for the camera club meeting and thanks to rival meetings, we were a bit short of numbers but the quality of the images supplied by the members more than made up for this.

As usual there was plenty to admire and quite a bit to learn as well so it was a thoroughly worthwhile evening.

It has been a quiet time as far as the dam bridge repairs go but some more shuttering was put in place today…

dam bridge repairs

…and concrete will be laid tomorrow so progress is being made.   We are wondering if the Queen will be available for the official opening.

I had several flying birds of the day to choose from but as they were all chaffinches and all at the same angle, I couldn’t make up my mind and so I have put them all in.

flying chaffinches

Just another Sunday

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset Correspondent, Venetia.  Her aeroplane was obviously efficiently de-iced at Schiphol because she has sent me this icy picture from near Bedford, New Hampshire in the USA.  (I wonder if she bumped into a noted gardener while she was there.)

Bedford New Hampshire
We had a frost, snow and ice free day here today which was very welcome.  We couldn’t entirely escape the rain though.

Even if the day had been fine,  I would have had a rather limited time photographically as I went off with Mrs Tootlepedal to sing with the church choir in the morning and the Carlisle Community Choir in the afternoon, leaving little time for anything else.

I did get a moment after church to watch the birds.

When I first looked, siskins were in charge of the feeder…

siskins

…but it didn’t take long until some goldfinches loomed up.

siskins and goldfinches

One even got a toehold for a brief moment.

_DSC1431

It got dislodged but was soon back trying again.

siskins and goldfinches

Away from the turmoil above, a robin quietly enjoyed the ground level refreshments.

robin

Later on, goldfinches found themselves in control of the perches…

goldfinches

…and roles were reversed when a siskin had to look tentatively around for a free place.

siskin and goldfinches

I didn’t have much voice today and as I was the only bass present in the church choir, I didn’t add a lot to the proceedings.   I enjoyed myself  all the same.  Things were better at the  Carlisle choir where I sing tenor, as there was more support and the conductor went as far as to say that the tenors sounded quite good.

We were chuffed.

On our way to the choir, we stopped off at a well known food shop and topped up on the bare necessities of life.  We now have adequate supplies of tea, coffee, cheese, dates, prunes and cherries so we will not starve.

However,  since Mrs Tootlepedal had made an excellent beef and vegetable stew in the slow cooker which we ate for our tea when we got back from Carlisle, there was in fact very little chance of us starving anyway.

The flying bird of the day is a standard chaffinch.

flying chaffinch