Archive for Jan, 2011

Today’s picture, taken by Dropscone, shows me practising my putting before playing nine holes of golf this afternoon.putting

The day started with a bonus as Chuck Muir joined Dropscone and me  for our morning ride. It was still pretty cool but there was no danger of meeting black ice so we wrapped up well and went round the morning run the right way. In spite of apparently zooming along at a good speed, we still took rather longer than I expected to do the trip. This is probably down to having to wear so many layers of clothing, the chilly wind and the long winter lay off. Or it might just be old age catching up with us.

After a cup of coffee and a slice of walnut cake, I said goodbye to the cyclists and went to help Mrs Tootlepedal dismantle two beds which we are giving to our daughter. They are being taken to London as a part load by a removal firm from Dumfries.

removersThe removal men were scheduled to come in the early afternoon but in fact arrived in the early evening. Their van was so big that they couldn’t bring it up Wauchope Street and they had to carry the beds and bedding down into Henry Street. The van was certainly big enough to take our beds as you can see from the picture of the last bed frame being put in the side door of what used to be called a pantechnicon.

We shall wait with interest to see if it does make it down to London.

I had missed playing golf at the weekend because of the freezing conditions so I decided to go up and play nine holes in the afternoon. The wind had got up quite a bit from the morning but the course was very playable and I enjoyed myself a lot. Dropscone had brought his camera with him so that admirers of great golf swings can look at our efforts and be amazed.


Dennis on the 4th tee


I played with Dropscone and Jim Murray who had both played in the winter competition on Saturday and Sunday so you can see that what they like doing is playing golf.



Jim on the 4th





When we were young we used to see three or fourballs of gentlemen of great vintage playing golf in the afternoons and wonder at the fact the people so old could still play. Now we are those people.



The author on the 4th

The author on the 4th

My back has been rather sore of late so I thought there was little point in trying to protect it as I usually do and I gave the ball several hearty swipes with gratifying results.  However, as I was only playing nine holes, it is difficult to say whether I could adopt this policy over eighteen holes without doing some serious damage.

In the morning I had had a little time to look at the birds and I noticed that the siskins had come back in force.


Two siskins in their usual position.

And when I looked down, there were more in this one little patch on the ground than I had counted in the whole garden yesterday for the garden bird count. What were they up to then?


There are two redpolls on the right and a goldfinch with its back to the camera.

I paid the bill for the service and MOT for the car today and I have worked out that it costs £16 a week just to put the car on the road before you even start driving it. Add 10p mile for petrol on top of that and it looks like an expensive luxury but it is hard to imagine life without it round here so Mrs Tootlepedal is just going to have to eat less.

In the evening, I went to the bowling club and enjoyed a fine session of slot car racing with Grant. On my return I put a week of the E&L into the database so as not entirely to waste the day on pleasure.

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Today’s picture is of a siskin’s head. The only bird that stood still all morning.

Today was the day of the RSPB garden bird count so as soon as I had finished my porridge, I set about counting the birds in the garden. You are supposed to count the most of any one sort that you see within the hour. That sounds simple enough but the birds just haven’t got the hang of it at all. For a start all different sorts hang about together making it very difficult to see what’s what.

ground crowd

There’s at least three different sorts here, possibly four, if there’s a redpoll in there somewhere. Unlike this picture, where they all seem to be standing still, in real life  they are all scurrying about this way and that and just when you start to get counting, someone walks past the garden gate and they all fly up into the walnut tree. Of course, there’s another lot too at the same time under the other feeder.

ground crowd

..and becasue they are all little brown jobs (except the blackbird of course), they are not easy to see against the stony ground.

So the counting goes…”Let’s take the ones on the ground under the elder…one siskin, two siskins, three siskins…drat!……one goldfinch, two goldfinches, three..no that’s as siskin…drat!”

And then there’s the lot on the tree as well.

tree crowd

.. and these aren’t just sitting there, they’re flying about all over the place so you look down to write something down and when you look up it’s all changed.

tree crowd

You just get one sorted out…

flying solo

…when a whole lot more join in.


feeder frenzy

circular chaos

It makes your head hurt.

One minute the bramblings are over here and the next, they are all over there. I am running between the kitchen and sitting room windows shouting, “Sit still you little devils.” and Mrs Tootlepedal is ringing up the doctor to see if there’s a cure.

So the counting goes, “One, two, three, lots, oh about fifteen, sixteen,” and so on.

In the end I settled for 1 coal tit, 1 sparrow, 2 blue tits, 2 redpolls, 2 greenfinches, 3 woodpigeons, 11 siskins, 15 goldfinches, 20 bramblings, 23 chaffinches and 26 starlings. I think I probably undercounted the greenfinches, the siskins and the goldfinches and I am sure there was more than one sparrow about but I was so busy counting bramblings that I missed it. Mrs Tootlepedal just wandered about laughing and was no help at all.

And then Andy Murray lost. Knowing that he was going to lose on form didn’t make it any better.

I was intending to go for a bike ride but the temperature never got above 2º and the road outside the house was coated in a thin layer of snow when I got up so I didn’t go. Falling off the bike on the ice a few weeks ago has certainly dampened any little enthusiasm I ever had for pedalling when the temperature is below 4º.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Dumfries to see if she would be chosen as a census enumerator. While she was out, the birds settled down and sat still.

redpoll goldfinch

You can see the redpoll saying to the goldfinch, “What was all that fuss about?”

..and the siskin said nothing at all but sat quietly until I was about 4 feet away.


That cheered me up and I  put a week of the E&L into the database and then put the programme for the Langholm Walks Festival on to the walks website which I manage for the Walks Group. It wasn’t quite as much fun as cycling but it was work well done. I even spent a bit of time practising the recorder

Mrs Tootlepedal got home from Dumfries in time to welcome our B&B visitors, a couple paying us a return visit which is always a boost to the morale  and later on she got a phone call  to tell her that she had been selected as an enumerator. Her evening can be said to have been very satisfying.

I noticed that a radio show from 1961 called Beyond Our Ken was on BBC Radio 7. This had been one of my greatest favourites when it originally came out and as I am a big fan of Eric Merriman, the script writer for the show, I was looking forward to it enormously. However it turned out to be one of those occasions when it would have been better to treasure it in my memory rather than actually listen to it because it was a very lame affair indeed and I couldn’t even see why I had liked it so much when it first came out. Ah well.


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Today’s picture’s is a panorama taken from the top of Timpen Hill and covering 180º. You will have to click on it to see the whole thing.panorama

The day opened with a sharp frost which put an end to my ambitions to play golf. My back hadn’t recovered fully from last week’s game and the prospect of banging a club onto hard frozen turf did not appeal. In fact, the day was gloriously sunny and even though it was only  1º at lunchtime, the course may well have been not too bad.

Ironically, because I wasn’t playing golf, Mrs Tootlepedal talked me into walking a old favourite ridge walk on the hills behind New Langholm. I haven’t had a serious walk for a good few years other than on the well manicured lawns of various golf courses so I had no confidence that I could do it all. As usual, I turned out to much more pessimistic than was justified by events and we got round the six mile walk without any problems at all.

In the morning I took a shot of the birds collected on the elder tree just to show that we are going to have our work cut out tomorrow when we are taking part in the RSPB garden bird count. Can you tell how many of each species there are in this tree?

lot of birds

I can count at least seven goldfinches and there are some bramblings too but it is going to take some concentration to get it right over an hour.

As a token, because I didn’t have time to look properly at the birds today,  here is a lone blackbird looking for some seeds early on a frosty morning.


We had an early lunch and set off up Jamie’s Brae towards Meikleholm Hill. As soon as we got a little bit above Holmwood, I turned and took this shot back over the town.

walk 1 golf course

You can see the golf course in the background bathed in the early afternoon sunshine. And what are those black dots on the first tee?

walk 2

A zoom lens is a marvellous thing.


We set off up the hill past the water works and here we see Mrs Tootlepedal striding out with great zest, feeling very fit after her recent cycling and walking activities. I was hoping that my various painkillers would start to take effect soon.

Mrs T

On the way to the summit of this first hill, we pass the spot where there was a small television aerial connected to the town by a wire down the hill. If you wanted to watch the telly, you paid a modest sum and some kind man came and physically connected you to the wire.


We also passed this marker post, one of the many put up by the Langholm Walking Group as part of the Langholm Walks project. It has stood the test of time, and passing hill cattle very well.

One of the best things about walking in the hills around Langholm is that, although they are not ‘big’ hills, you are rewarded with wonderful views almost from the moment you have left the town. This is Castle Hill

castle hill

trig point

After dropping down a few metres from the top of  Meikleholm Hill, we climbed up to the summit of  Timpen, the highest point of our walk at 1064ft or thereabouts. It is marked by this trig point.

trigTrig points no longer play any part in OS mapping and there was a move to have them removed from the hills but I think they are very handy as recognisable navigation aids on a map and I would be sorry to see them go.

It was from this summit that I took the photos that have been stitched together to make the panorama at the top of this page. It is made up of seven pictures and I just stood there and swung round as carefully as I could. The program that stitches them together couldn’t be easier to use.

Following  the ridge along from Timpen we were rewarded by some wonderful unfolding views both towards the Ewes valley and up the Esk valley.

Esk valley

Looking up the Esk


Looking up towards the Ettrick Hills

We were able to get a glimpse of how the other half live by looking down off the ridge towards the well sheltered Craigcleuch, one of the mansions built by successful mill owners in the nineteenth century.Craigcleuch

We also passed a few of the humbler inhabitants of the area.


The walk is in the form of a horseshoe and at the first turning point, you get a fine prospect along a typical ridge running down to an one of the many local iron age settlements on the far tip.


When we turned to look the other way, the old gave way to the new.


As we walked round the top of the horseshoe, we were able to look back down the valley towards the Solway plain.  We were fortunate on our walk because for the most part we were in warm sunshine. In fact, I was distinctly overdressed and had to take off my hat and gloves so as not to cook myself. Down to the south and west, conditions were very hazy and murky which has at least spared you a series of views of the Lake District which you would normally be able to see on this walk.


Turning for home, we were now very close to the windmills. It is hard to get a proper view of just how big these things are. That little gear housing behind the blades at the top of the column is the size of a delivery van and three people could sleep in it without any trouble.

The walk stays on the top of Calfield Rig, offering more views as you go along. This one is looking to the hills between Langholm and Newcastleton.


When we finally came off the ridge, the walk took us along the track towards Becks farm. The track used to be lined with crab apple trees but old age seems to have put paid to many of them.  This striking tree caught our eye as we went along the track.


On the other side of the track, I took a picture of this stubble field. This is a rare sight round here and it looked attractive in the low late afternoon sun.stubble

Next we passed through Becks farm….


…where we saw this handsome brown bull.bull

…but the farmer obviously like to hedge his bets because in a field the other side of the farm we saw this fellow too.


At this stage, I put the camera away and we walked though the wood, along the bottom of the fields, down past Holmwood and then down the new path through the Galaside wood.

Pausing to pick up the debris from some carry out meals which had been discarded there, we headed for  home and a restorative cup of tea. I have to admit that we were not much good for anything else for the rest of the day but we had both enjoyed the walk. My enjoyment was enhanced by the amazement of actually being able to do it and the wonderful effect of painkillers.

All being well, it will be back to the bike tomorrow.

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Today’s picture is another of Dropscone’s golfing scenes from yesterday. This shows Jim and George ready to tee off on the first. Classic dress style is always at the forefront of Langholm’s senior golfers’ thoughts.golfers

We are in a run of near freezing morning temperatures so there was no cycling after breakfast today. Instead, I managed to fill in the time by going to get a sack of potatoes which I had ordered from John’s shop, making a cup of coffee, drinking said cup, doing the crossword and putting a week of the E&L into the database. Arthur, the demon indexer, came round while I was doing this and I think I have persuaded him to go slow to let me catch up for a couple of weeks. Nancy, another of our  archivists, is going to India for a holiday soon and that will help as well.

The birds were as active as usual, although the siskins have by and large disappeared. From being the biggest portion of birds in the garden, they have fallen to a level of two or three at a time. I don’t know if the bad weather has killed them off or driven them further south. Perhaps they have just found a better garden in Langholm. Currently bramblings, chaffinches and goldfinches are the most frequent visitors.



What's that down there?



It's a robin

Some birds stick to the peanuts on the plum tree but I have been disappointed not to see more members of the tit family. We were getting a few great tits, as well as coal tits and blue tits but we seem to be down to one blue tit and one coal tit.



A sparrow trying some of the rather unpopular so called "wild bird food"

Fundamentally, the two most eaten seeds are niger and sunflower and once again the sunflower was keenly competed for today….



A brambling on his way



A chaffinch having made it to the feeder



Waiting in the queue

I don’t know how efficient it is for the birds to expend so much energy trying to get to a single feeder. There is another sunflower seed feeder on the other tree but it is not fought over like this one.


chaffinch greenfinch

A chaffinch challenges a greenfinch


chaffinch greenfinch

A male chaffinch this time. The greenfinch stands its ground.


chaffinch greenfinch

Trying from a little further off. The greenfinch looks fed up by all this


chaffinch greenfinch

He's just not paying attention at all



A brambling pretending to be a humming bird - the chaffinch got onto the feeder


brambling chaffinch

A brambling in charge, a chaffinch in shock

After lunch, I went out on the bike as the temperature had reached a tolerable level. I took my good camera with me to show a little of the sights to be seen on the usual morning ride. I went the wrong way round, starting up the Wauchope road, and pedalled in a leisurely manner, stopping from time to time to take photographs. This first one is about a mile and half from the house.

bike trip

The Earnshaw burn

There was very little wind and the sun came out shortly after I left Langholm (it had snowed a little during the morning) so it was a very pleasant ride.

bike ride

The abandoned cottage at Blochburnfoot

bike ride

The Penine hills show up mistily in the background from near Tarcoon

bike ride

Looking north to the hills of Arresgill

bike ride

A tree on the old A7 before Canonbie

bike ride

The Langholm-Riddings Junction railway viaduct over the Liddle.

bike ride

Hollows Tower looking rather romantic - notice the ubiquitous power lines

bike ride

Whita Hill, not a popular shot with photographers as the police radio mast seems to tower over the monument

In the evening, as is customary on a Friday, we were visited by Dr and Mrs Tinker and I enjoyed an hour of recorder playing with Mrs Tinker at the keyboard. The doctor and I disposed of a bottle of wine which Mrs Tootlepedal had won in a fundraising  raffle at her choir yesterday. I wasn’t entirely surprised that the bottle had been put into a raffle when I drank it… but it went to a good home.

The ton up of the post’s title? For the first time since November 2010, I have managed to cycle a hundred miles in a week and I hope to add a bit more on Sunday, if the weather stays kind. This has cheered me up a lot.

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Today’s picture, from the camera of Dropscone, shows Arthur at work on the golf course. I was disappointed to find out that the better weather had not in any way abated his enthusiasm for indexing.Arthur

Although it was not freezing this morning, Dropscone and I reckoned it was still too cold for sensible cycling so I was able to indulge in a genuine OAP’s morning. Although I felt that I was quite busy with this and that, by the time that elevenses came round, I had done nothing of note except the Herald crossword. After a cup or two of coffee, I put a week of the E&L into the database and that took me up to the time for making a leek and potato soup for lunch. It seemed like a busy morning but in retrospect, it was perhaps quite leisurely. However, there must be some compensation for the aching limbs and bits dropping off that accompany the possession of this sort of spare time.

I had a lot of time somehow to peer out of the window and the bird life was as fascinating as ever….(to me at least)….If you are bored with birds, look away now…


A chaffinch considering lowering himself to pick up discarded seeds

It’s still pretty quiet under the feeders..



A chaffinch wondering what's going on above

and what is going on above?


5 bramblings

Brambling mayhem

It isn’t all flap and bother ..



A goldfinch in the frame

There was a lot of action though…


A green finch at top left eyeing up its chance
A greenfinch still waiting its turn
Getting nearer
The goldfinches were feeling fierce too
A brambling stands firm
A brambling on the left wing

You might think that no seed gets eaten in all this furore but…



Eat while you can. It's behind you

On the elder bush, a redpoll has a moment of repose…


..before joining the lower class of birds picking up scraps..


..but still it’s everyone for themselves up above..


chaffinch aerial ballet

Chaffinches in an aerial ballet


A brambling treads water

brambling backstroke

A brambling shows off its backstroke

I’ll give you a break from the birds for the moment.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I spent a happy hour or two after lunch trying to find our driving licences as Mrs Tootlepedal needs hers for a task she is going to undertake. Nothing makes you more cross than this, not even watching the TV. In the end, she had to go online to ask for a new one. This proved remarkable easy.

While she was doing this, I popped out on the bike to put in 20 miles. I went to the top of Callister and then turned back to town before going up to Wauchope Schoolhouse again. This kept me out of a very cold wind for the most part. I was wearing my heart monitor, which I haven’t used for many years, and I was amazed that the batteries were still working. I was able to keep the heart beat to a very steady rate between 145 and 163 by dint of not going very fast.

When I got back, I spent quite a lot of time processing some bird pictures…


brambling siskin

A more peaceful scene at the niger feeder

I don’t know why the elder bush seems to lead to more sedate behaviour among its clients but it does. Maybe there isn’t so much flying space around the feeders. The birds on the ground eating the discarded niger seed can fly up in quite an excited way if someone disturbs them.



Up, up and away

I curried the remains of my mince for tea and then went up to the Archive Centre with Jean and Sandy while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Gretna to sing with her choir. I was frustrated in my efforts to catch up with the indexing backlog by a faulty internet connection but  I was consoled by the customary two pints afterwards.

I hope you haven’t had to wade through too many bird pictures to get here. Mrs Tootlepedal and I are taking part in the RSPB  garden bird count on Sunday. I think we will have our work cut out.



A brambling





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Today’s picture is of Chichester Cathedral and was sent to me by my sister Susan.Chichester Cathedral

For the third day running, we were able to get out on our bikes for the morning ride. As an experiment with Dropscone’s heart monitor in mind, we went round it the ‘wrong way’. That is to say, we went up the Wauchope road first and came back through Canonbie and up the old A7. This was an excellent scheme as far as keeping Dropscone’s pulse at a reasonable rate and it also meant that we whistled along the first eleven miles with a strong wind behind us. We found out just how strong the following wind was when we turned for home and almost juddered to a halt as it hit us. The last ten miles was a struggle but we made it in time for me to have a shower and go straight to the dentist for some work on my teeth.

This was almost as big a struggle as the cycling but mercifully pain free. When I got back, the birds were in full swing on the new feeder and the action was continuous. Picking up the scraps below was quite a decorous affair….


A brambling under the niger seed feeder


A male chaffinch

chaffinch female

A female chaffinch

…but up above, it was all action…


A brambling approaches the feeder

flying brambling

A brambling tries to get at the feeder

flying brambling goldfinch

A goldfinch joins the brambling

flying goldfinch

Two goldfinches in action

flying chaffinch

A chaffinch looks on while two other birds tumble around the feeder

greenfinch goldfinch

A greenfinch gives a goldfinch a hard time

After I had eaten my lunch, it was time for a Heritage Trail committee meeting. Because of the cycling and the dentist, I had had no time for cooking so we had to make do with shop bought biscuits. What a come down.  However, in spite of this, we were quite cheerful as good progress with the booklet is being made and it is now almost ready for the printers. The group looked at the railway section of the DVD and were pleased with the general progress there too so I shall push on with renewed confidence.

The action on the bird feeders was more intense by the moment….

brambling goldfinch greenfinch

A greenfinch stares down two bramblings and a goldfinch

bramblings greenfinch

Two bramblings together can't shift a greenfinch


A complete brambling shambles

bramblings greenfinch

That greenfinch just won't move for anyone

When the meeting had finished, I put a week of the E&L into the database while Mrs Tootlepedal walked round Potholm. That is the best part of 5 miles so she is getting a great deal of exercise just now in order to be fit for the gardening season when it comes. She is also spending time doing an embroidery of a brambling and it looks as though it it will come out really well.

In the early evening it was time for a meeting of the Heritage and Culture Group which meets from time to time to discuss matters of mutual interest. They were very excited by the hand scanner which I had been given by the visiting relatives for Christmas. After the meeting, I was able to persuade one of the members to add a good story to my railway recordings. My friend Jean, who was at the meeting, told me that after hearing me go on and on about the many bramblings in the garden, she had got her binoculars out and discovered that many of the birds that she had thought were just chaffinches in her garden had turned out to be bramblings too.

By this time I was ready for my tea. As it was mince and tatties again, I was soon fully restored and had the time and energy to put a second week of the E&L into the database. I am now only two months behind.

I don’t want you to think that I am neglecting the birds on the niger seed feeder with my enthusiasm for the new one near the kitchen so I end with a goldfinch from that feeder.

goldfinch head


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Today’s picture was taken on a recent walk on Whita Hill by my tootling friend Susan. It certainly has that romantic air which the landscape painters loved.

The day started with a ride round the morning run with Dropscone. He has got a heart monitor after reading an article on getting fit in a magazine and he looks at it in wonder as his pulse goes over 170 up the hills. I hope it is going to slow him down a bit so that I can keep up with him on the steep bits.

We didn’t have coffee afterwards because it was quite wet on the way round and I had got cold and needed a shower. I also had to go back to Longtown to get the old pedals taken off my bike and the new ones put on after we were unable to shift the old ones ourselves.

The main interest of the day was whether the birds would take to the new feeder or not. They spent the first part of the day sitting in the plum tree twittering (presumably along the lines of, “Where’s the food gone?”) but after a while they did approach the new feeder and by the afternoon, they were queuing up to have a nibble.

brambling flying

A brambling making its way to the new station


brambling on way
A brambling nearly there
A brambling having just arrived
I got here first
brambling attack
Everyone for themselves
A brambling keeping its eye out for attacks

So the new feeder was soon busy and underneath there were pickings to be had…


By a blackbird


and a wood pigeon


A blue tit on the peanuts which I left on the plum tree

I took two pictures on the niger seed feeder because they show so well the different sizes of bramblings, goldfinches and siskins

In the afternoon, Mrs Tootlepedal went for a walk on Whita Hill herself but didn’t take any photographs. While she was out, I ordered a new tax disc for the car on-line, organised my correspondence and put a week of the E&L into the database. We both felt very viruous as we drank a well earned  cup ot tea on her return.

I had bought a mirror to fix on Mrs Tootlepedal’s  bike but the fitting was too narrow for the handlebars so it was lucky that Dr Tinker happened to call round with our French horn which he had repaired, because he was able to adapt the fitting so that the mirror could be installed. He is a very handy man to know.

After I had had some delicious mince and tatties for my  tea, I went off to Carlisle with Susan to play recorders. All six of us were there again this week and we enjoyed ourselves as usual with a selection of old and new music.

The playing was followed by a nice cup of  tea and a really excellent Thornton’s chocolate biscuit so that was ten out of ten for the evening.

For those who are anxiously waiting for news of the wormery, I can report that the worms seem to have survived the very cold weather and are wriggling about with gay abandon.

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