Archive for Oct, 2011

Today’s picture shows the yellow rose really trying hard to come out.


It was a grey, wet and windy morning and by mutual consent Dropscone and I abandoned any idea of cycling and substituted a cup of coffee with Arthur and some drop scones instead.  Mrs Tootlepedal braved the weather and combined a little exercise with a number of tasks about the town and in this way we passed the morning.

Dropscone entertained us at coffee with tales of his recent nightmare journey round the south eastern corner of the M25 when he got onto a triangle of motorway roads which would not let him get off them in the direction that he wanted to go.  It sounded like a vision of hell for the modern age.

After coffee, there were birds about.

slender robin

This robin seems more slender than our usual visitor.

This slenderness may be a trick of the camera angle or perhaps the spider’s web on its beak shows that it hasn’t been eating much lately.

great tit

There is something reminiscent of Audley Harrison in the size of this bird's feet.

sparrow and goldfinch

A sparrow keeping cool in the face of provocation

sparrow portrait

Today's sparrow portrait

This one has the same wing colouring as yesterday’s but a more marked colouring around the face.

After lunch, although it remained very grey, it became quite dry and as it was very warm for the time of year, I got the speedy bike out and did 21 miles over Callister and round the Waterbeck triangle.  It was rather windy and very gloomy so although I had the little camera with me, there was not much incentive to take a picture.  In the end, just for the sake of taking one, I took this shot of the road passing through some autumn scenery near Waterbeck.

near Waterbeck

Once again, the camera makes it look a much nicer day than it actually was.  Annoyingly, the sky to the west was far brighter while thick cloud loomed above me as I pedalled.  I took this shot looking back from the top of Callister towards Criffel.


It was almost a nice day.

When I got back home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal busy with the process of hand making flour from the harvest that had grown up under the bird feeder from discarded bird seed.  She uses a very high tech method of separating the wheat from the chaff.


It’s quite spectacular when she really gets going.

puffing hard

When the seed is thoroughly sorted, I will grind it in a hand driven coffee grinder and with a bit of luck, we will have enough flour to make a couple of drop scones.

The sunny weather finally reached Langholm but it was too late in the evening to be any good to our garden and the nearest we got to it was looking at its reflection in a neighbour’s wondows.

sunshine reflected

I hope there will be more to come tomorrow.

I put a week of the E&L into the database and I am now thoroughly up to date.  This is less a tribute to my hard work than to the fact that I have been getting help with input and some of the indexers have been on holiday.  Now the fishing season has ended, I expect Arthur will return to the fray with renewed vigour.

October has felt like a very wet and grey month and we won’t be sorry to see it go.

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Today’s picture is of the view from the golf course at noon today.

view from golf course

As the picture shows, it was another grey day today but apart from a stiff breeze, it was pleasant enough for a game of golf.  Only one other fellow turned up to play and as he was a fit triathlete who likes to play quickly,  I knew that I was in for a hard time.  We played eighteen holes in two and a half hours and the effect of this was to give me the yips with my short game.  To be fair, I can get the yips at whatever speed I am playing but going too quickly these days makes them much more likely.

To those who have never heard of the yips, they go like this: you settle down to play a little chip or a putt, you are concentrating hard and you are thinking about controlling the club head speed in a calm manner when you suddenly notice that you have already played the shot and the club head speed was not in any way controlled.  On top of this, your hands may twist convulsively in mid stoke, resulting in the ball going in many odd directions, none of them ones that you wanted.  It is not a pretty sight.  I am so used to it by now that I hardly get cross any more but they do ruin your scorecard.  In between messing about round the greens, I hit quite a lot of good shots so that, although my score was pathetic,  I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had gone shopping and bought a chicken so I got roast chicken, roast potatoes and beans for my lunch which quite removed any lingering regrets about my golf score.

I am going to try to take pictures of the different shapes and sizes of sparrows that visit us.  Here is short and stocky one with strong colouring.

short stocky sparrow

The greenfinches have returned to the garden.  I like their severe and grave manner.


The observant may have noticed that I have bought a new seed feeder. This will give me the opportunity to clean and rotate the feeders to try to avoid spreading diseases.

After giving the old one a wash, I hung it on the plum tree just to see if any different birds would go to it there.  The greenfinch just shifted feeders.

another greenfinch

While a goldfinch took its place on the new feeder.


The yellow rose still hasn’t come out but in a well sheltered spot, the red rose has made a better effort.

red rose

We are promised a spell of warm, if wet, weather so I haven’t given up hope for the yellow rose yet.

A Jacob’s ladder has also appeared.

After lunch, we went up to the moorland bird feeding station to see if we could spot a woodpecker but once again we had no luck.  There were plenty of other birds about.

great tit

coal tit

I like the way this one is enjoying a little sit down.


A phine pheasant with a tail.

As we left, we could see the sun breaking through the clouds for a moment further down the Tarras valley.

sun and clouds

That was the only glimpse of sun all day.

We called in at the Kilngreen to admire the 100 or so ducks that gather there.  I tried to catch a seagull in flight but I didn’t have the camera focus on the right setting and this was my best effort.


It wasn’t for lack of gulls flying about.

gulls flocking

I am hoping that the wind drops a little during next week as pedalling into 30 mph gusts is not much fun but the forecast doesn’t give me much hope.  We are going to get the clouds that have just poured snow onto the east coast of the USA.  It’s not going to snow here, as it is far too warm but it is going to rain and blow.

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Today’s picture is another look at our resident robin…or it may be one  of a string of robins that visit us.  All robins look a bit the same to me.


It was another gloomy morning and the only colour came from the birds.

chaffinch on branch in rain

I think that the chaffinch gives an idea of the dampness of the day.  On the other hand it was quite reasonably warm again so I was interested to see if the rose had come out.  Not quite.

rose trying

We seem to have less sparrows about at present than we have been used to and this gives a chance for the tits to eat their fill.

Blue tit coal tit goldfinch

Here they are joined by a goldfinch

We were looking to get a flat screen telly for the B & B sitting room and the day was not much good for anything else so we set off for Carlisle.  Annoyingly, we hadn’t gone far from the town when it became apparent that this was one of the day when the bad weather started at Langholm and everywhere south was much better.  This is because we live among the first hills that the weather front meets as they come of the sea and is the price we pay for living in a beautiful,  green and temperate place.   I think it is a price worth paying but Mrs Tootlepedal is more ambivalent about it and occasionally longs for a place with warmer weather and a longer growing season.

When we got to Carlisle, we entered that vision of hell which is a supermarket and came out with no TV and a bag of potatoes.  This meant that we had to visit another supermarket and luckily in this one we found the TV we wanted and were able to make our escape  without further harm.  We recovered by visiting a garden centre and buying some bird food and a couple of interesting cheeses.  Not having to visit big supermarkets is one of the aspects of my life that I treasure the most.

We had noticed on our drive that the trees were looking good so after a slice of toast and a cup of tea, we walked down the River Esk to Skippers Bridge and back along the other bank, past the Murtholm and through the park.

It rained gently on us us as we went and it was very gloomy too but the old saying the the camera never lies, fortunately turned out to be a lie itself and I was able to take some pictures that, with the aid of my photo editor (Serif PhotoPlus X4), made the day look quite pleasant.

Warning for those not wanting to look at pictures of trees: there are 14 coming up.

From the Kirk Bridge

From the Kirk Bridge

Taken from beside the Dyehouse

From beside the Dyehouse

As we walked beside the rover, Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out this Japanese knotweed which is a great pest.  It destroys the banks of the river and is very hard to eradicate.

Japanese knotweed

The bank above the old railway line

The bank along the old railway line

Approaching Skippers Bridge

Approaching Skippers Bridge

Skippers Bridge

Mrs Tootlepedal on Skippers Bridge

The view north from Skippers

The view north from Skippers

I took the next picture as we turned for home. It shows Warbla with the television mast on top which beams Strictly Ballroom into our house and gives Mrs Tootlepedal great pleasure on a Saturday evening.



Looking back across the Esk from Murtholm

Looking back across the Esk from Murtholm

Across the Murtholm field

A blaze of colour among the evergreens across the Murtholm field

The beechy plains

The beechy plains

Easton's Walk

Mrs Tootlepedal thinks she has discovered where the rain is coming from

In Buccleuch Park

In the Buccleuch Park

By this time, I had got a raindrop on the lens which accounts for a blur here and there.

Buccleuch Park

A contrast in colour

I had received a kind invitation to go to a reunion of ex-pupils from Langholm Academy who are 40 this year so in the evening,  I left Mrs Tootlepedal watching her favourite programme and made my way up the the Golf Clubhouse where the function was being held.  There was an excellent turn out of teachers and pupils and I stayed for an hour or so, enjoying the company, a quiz and a buffet.  I made my way home before the disco started because I am a man of a nervous disposition and loud music of the early eighties might prove fatal to my well being.

It was very pleasant to see the ex pupils not only chatting animatedly to each other, greeting friends they might not have seen for many years as well as those they see every day, but also enjoying the company of their old teachers.


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Today’s picture shows a New Zealand duck.  It was sent to me by David who noticed my fondness for duck pictures.  The duck’s friend is Maisie.

duck and friend

The weather looked nice when I got up but a quick glance at the thermometer revealed that it was 2° outside and that was too cold for cycling with the danger of ice in sheltered spots.  I was heartened as the temperature got up to 3° as I made the porridge and then 3.9° as I ate it.  Unfortunately it then stuck there, even dropping a tenth or two, for the next hour.  Instead of cycling, I invited Dropscone round for coffee.

He had had a terrible time enmeshed in the motorway system round London and hadn’t arrived home last night (or rather, this morning) until 2 a.m.  In the course of his travels, he had been rather surprised to find a huge dish of paella being cooked at a market in Bromley.  Not your typical south of England dish, he thought.


By the time we had finished coffee, it was warm enough to go out.  It was still a fairly chilly 7° so I wrapped up well.  Once again I was favoured by the conditions as a stiff westerly breeze only got up by the time I was heading back east and as a result, I enjoyed the ride.  I went on a familiar route over Callister so there wasn’t much of an opportunity to take an original photo as I pedalled along.  I took this shot of the larch trees which are the only conifer to lose their leaves in the winter round here and are just on the turn at present..

autumn larch trees

I started to put a week of the E & L into the database after lunch but I needed to check something at the Archive Centre so I arranged to be dropped off there by Mrs Tootlepedal after we had paid a visit to Dr Barlow’s feeding station.  I had hoped to see the woodpeckers again but although there were a lot of other birds about, there were no woodpeckers.  I took a picture of the larches there too.

more larches

It was a quiet day on the home bird feeder front, with the occasional goldfinch.


Somehow this one does not look very cheery

Mrs Tootlepedal went out to clear a bit more of the dam bank after we got back home.

dam hard work

She is doing a couple of meters at a time

She has also finished tapping at the chimney, at least for the time being, and she tidied up the fireplace and blacked the grate so everything looks very orderly now.  I did quite a bit of tapping on the computer in the evening as I finished off putting a very heavy week of the E & L into the database.  It had more entries than any other of the many weeks that I have put in over the years.  I hope the editor is not going to make a habit of this as it will slow our progress  quite a lot if all the weeks are this size.

There are still a few unrecorded flowers about.


A cornflower laughs at the cold morning as it comes into bloom.


An unseasonal viola


Begonias cheating because they are in the greenhouse



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Today’s picture, sent to me by Gavin, shows Cat Barlow ringing a woodpecker at her feeder station.  It pecked her.  You can see more pictures of the ringing on Gavin’s blog.

woodpecker ringing

There was a sad start to the day when Mrs Tootlepedal and I went to the funeral in Carlisle of the husband of one of our recorder group.  By a cruel stroke of fate, he had just retired from a very stressful job and was looking forward to a life of playing music when he became very ill and died shortly afterwards.  It was obvious from the turnout at the funeral and the delightful and moving encomium delivered by his son, that he was a genuinely good man and his loss will be keenly felt.  He was a lute player and an early music consort played some of the music he loved as we were waiting for the service to begin.   Their programme included, not surprisingly, Flow My Tears by John Dowland.

By the time we got home, the day had taken on a sombre hue as well and I spent the afternoon putting a week of the E & L into the database and catching up on Archive Group business.

On a brighter note, the greaseproof paper on the shiny undertray of the new feeder has done the trick and the goldfinches were back today.

return of goldfinches

The handy hook underneath was providing opportunities for blue tits as well.

goldfinches and blue tits

I walked round the garden to see if the yellow rose had come out but it is not there yet.

yellow rose

Trying hard

As I crossed the pond on my way to the front lawn, I was surprised to see a beady eye watching me.

beady eye

It turned out to be the remains of a water lily floating just beneath the surface.

water lily

Mrs Tootlepedal has embarked on a regime of brisk walks now the autumn has come and while she was out combining exercise and shopping in the rain, I had a look at the feeder outside the kitchen window.


The robin is a regular attender below the seed feeder

I am hoping to get a suitable picture for our Christmas cards between now and December.  The sparrows were continuing their customary competition for space.


The contest goes now this way...

more sparrows

...and now that way.

When Mrs Tootlepedal came back from her walk, she continued with the job of cleaning up the bank of the dam behind the house. This is very heavy work requiring large quantities of muddy slime to be shifted.  I would leave it but she values a tidy bank.

Dam bank

Still some work to do.

You may think that I ought to be helping her but it is a job guaranteed to wreck a fragile back and she would be a lot sorrier to have to look after me lying about and groaning than she is to dig the bank unassisted.

The resident duck was not scared off by her efforts.   It is getting fed by so many people that it was floating in a sea of soggy bread when I saw it.  It moved off to get its photograph taken in more salubrious surroundings.  It’s probably too fat to fly far away now.

resident duck

The nasturtium by the front gate winked at me as I passed.


In the evening, we went to the Buccleuch Centre to see a production of Ruddigore by Opera della Luna.  They are a professional touring group and they were fantastic.  They only used seven performers with a four piece orchestra but they filled the stage with colour, movement and invention.  The cast sang and acted very well and anyone who thinks that Gilbert and Sullivan operas are not worth producing any more, would have been confounded by the delight of the audience.  It was another grand night out and only a short walking distance from home.

All in all, it was day of contrasting emotions.

I leave you with a gymnastic great tit.

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Today’s picture shows a potentilla which joins the frost survivors club in the garden


Dropscone was away on a jaunt to London and my get and go seemed to have gone with him because, although the day was very reasonable, I couldn’t summon up the energy to get a bike out.  I told myself that I had a cold but that was probably only an excuse.

The morning mail brought an enquiry from a stranger for information from the Langholm Archive Group.  This was not unusual.  What was unusual was that it also contained a very generous cheque for several hundred pounds towards the funding of the group.  When I picked myself off the floor, I bustled about to find the answers to his queries and then, unable to not to look a gift horse in the mouth on this occasion, I rang him up to ask if he was serious about the donation.   He turned out to be a charming chap who was impressed by the amount of work that the website represents and who knew very well how much money it takes to run even a small group like ours.

We get a steady stream of enquiries to the Group and we answer them all.  Sometimes people thank us nicely for our work, sometimes they slip us a fiver and, surprisingly frequently, they do not even bother to acknowledge our replies to them.  This was a splendid piece of encouragement for the volunteers and should see us financially settled for another year.  We are also in the process of dealing with an enquiry from the BBC for material so we are feeling good about our work.

I am not feeling so good about the new feeder I bought on the recent excursion with granny.  It looks nice, it is full of food and all it lacks is any bird visiting it at all.  A goldfinch came to the garden and ignored it completely, going to the other feeder and eating peanuts.  This is quite odd.

goldfinch on peanuts

Later in the day, I stood and watched as another goldfinch eyed up the new feeder.

goldfinch on tree trunk

On the trunk of the tree with the feeder on

goldfinch on twig

On a twig on the trunk of the tree with the feeder on

goldfinch on feeder

Actually on the top of the feeder itself

But it wouldn’t go to the seed.  Twice it touched the tray but both times flew off rapidly.  We suspect that the shiny nature of the undertray may be showing a reflection of the approaching bird that scares it off.  I have covered it with greaseproof paper to see what will happen.  When you feed nyger seed to birds, they always discard a lot.  I used to think that this was inedible husks or seed that had gone off in some way but in the name of a tidier garden, I have recently collected the discarded seed and put it in a handy bucket.  To my surprise, when I looked at it today to see if I could put some back in the feeder, most of it had germinated.  I am going to have a word with the goldfinches about their picky table manners.

In the afternoon Mrs Tootlepedal went off to have her hair done (this is called gilding the lily) and I mowed the new sown part of the lawn  It is progressing reasonably well but considering how much time we spent stamping the earth down flat before we sowed it, it is very uneven.

Then I took the slow bike out for another photocycle.  I had looked at the north end of town yesterday so I headed south today.  I cycled along the banks of the Esk past the Waverley Mills.

Fisherman in Esk

A fisherman making use of the last few days of the season

I parked my bike at Skippers Bridge….

…and took a quick look up river…

The distillery building

..and down..

River Esk

The autumn colours are coming along well.  I continued down the side of the Esk towards Broomholm and climbed up the hill towards Broomholmshiels, stopping on the hill to take a couple of pictures.

Broomholm hill

Looking back down the road

Broomholm Bridge

Broomholm Bridge

I continued up the hill past Broomholmshiels to have a look at Dr Cat Barlow’s bird feeding station.  I was fortunate enough to encounter Cat and her dog at the station.

Dr Barlow and friend

Dr Barlow and friend

She was getting ready to put out some nets for bird ringing but waited for me to have a chance to see what birds were about.


As well as this handsome greenfinch, there was a woodpecker or two in evidence.  Unfortunately the feeder they were visiting was on the wrong side of the station to be easily visible from the new bird hide so Cat shifted the peanut feeders to the other side of the station and we settled down to see if the woodpeckers would follow the nuts.

They did. First a female came who suspiciously waited on a nearby tree to see what was going on.

female woodpecker

I was distracted by this tailless pheasant wandering about.

tailless pheasant

Then the male came fearlessly straight to the feeder and started tucking into the peanuts.

male woodpecker

The red flash on the head shows that it is a male

male woodpecker 2

This second shot was taken with the gadget for extending the zoom fitted and the resulting picture is much less cropped than the one above.  I still have work to do in getting the focus bang on but it is getting better.  I think I will bring a tripod next time I come up.  I am hoping that by then Cat will have built a proper hide with seats for old people and a kettle for a nice cup of tea.

In the evening, I put another week of the E & L into the database and answered another query, this time by e-mail.

I leave you with a look at the clematis on the philadelphus which is defying any thought of ending its flowering season.

clematis on philadelphus

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Today’s picture shows a blue tit on the fat ball fortress.  I took it at lunch time and no better bird shot presented itself the whole day in spite of (because of?) my shiny new feeder.

blue tit

Dropscone has taken the bike he has been riding lately to the bike shop for a service as he wasn’t getting full use of his gears. As a result, he turned up on the bike he was riding on the occasion of his spill in July.  This was his first outing on it since the catastrophe and he has wisely put on tyres with a bit more tread.  We decided that a different route to the normal morning run would be in order and did a 21 mile journey over Callister to Dunnabie, Waterbeck and back over Callister from the other side.

Although this route has bigger climbs than the usual morning run, it has a lot less road junctions (7 as opposed to about 19 ) and gives rise to much more steady pedalling which suits my breathing.  We had a light wind and good conditions.

After lunch, I completed the spiking and sanding of the lawns.  By happy coincidence, it has rained soon after each session of work and as a result the sand has been well washed in.  It is due to rain tonight to finish the job off properly.  Although we only have two small lawns, about 110m² in total, it has taken a toll on my ageing joints and I am pleased to have got it over and done with.

When I had done that, I took the slow bike out for a tour of the Castleholm to see how autumn is getting on.  I was hoping for the sun to come out to add a bit of brilliance to any colours but it remained stubbornly hidden behind patchy clouds.

The Lodge gates

The Lodge gates

The Episcopalian church

The Episcopalian church, now a museum for the Armstrong Clan

The Lodge Walks

The Lodge Walks, always a pleasure in any season

Meikleholm Hill

Notice how the birch trees have gone over already

Whita Hill

Looking towards Whita Hill

Path on the Castleholm

Irritatingly, the sun was shining not far away on top of Whita

As soon as I got home, the sun came out but as I had some work on the computer to do, I hadn’t the time to go out again.  Later on,  I did notice this fantastic glow on the hill below the monument and wished that I had been outside.

Sunset on Whita

In the evening, I went with Susan to Carlisle to play recorders.   We were four tonight and played among other pieces,  a fugue J S Bach and music by one of his sons,  two early Italian pieces by Cima, a tango by Brian Bonsor,  Scotland’s greatest gift to recorder players of the world,  some lovely Elizabethan dance pieces, two rags by Scott Joplin and a catchy arrangement of Whistling Rufus.  This was a mixture that could hardly be beaten.  There were good biscuits afterwards too.

All in all, a day to be put on the credit side of the ledger.

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