Today’s picture, taken at my 70th birthday party last year by my stepmother Pat, shows those two most regular commentators, my sisters Susan and Mary.
Thanks to a slight deviation in the jetstream, the weather has been unusually stable over the past few days, reasonably warm for the time of year (40°F to 50°F), reasonably blessed by light winds but unreasonably grey day after day. Today was the same and although we are grateful for dry days, we would probably put up with quite a bit of rain just to see the sun again. A goldfinch was the only colour at breakfast time.
Still, it made for another good day for cycling and I had a new partner for the morning pedal today. This was Mike, a near neighbour of Dropscone and a fine cellist. Dropscone was waiting for men to deliver a washing machine so Mike came round alone.
We set off round the morning run in the wrong direction as this avoids the two short but very steep climbs. It did mean starting the ride with five miles gently uphill and into the wind and I didn’t make enough allowance for the very little cycling Mike has done recently and he was soon a bit puffed. In the end, we took a short cut and completed a 14 mile circuit. Just as we got back to Langholm, we met Dropscone setting out in the right direction, washing machine safely installed. I waved at him and went in to enjoy a cup of tea and a Welsh scone at Mike’s.
When I got home, I felt pretty good so I set off the wrong way again hoping to meet Dropscone coming round the right way. This meant another five miles uphill and into the wind but I took it gently and I met Dropscone after going just over five miles.
We enjoyed a nice whizz downhill and downwind back to Langholm but didn’t have time for our usual coffee. When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal taking a break from the kitchen to mow the new grass.
I am hoping that my joints will be sound enough to get a proper push mower out next week.
After lunch we set off to take the new road round the north of Carlisle to visit an embroidery shop near Great Orton. It was full of women attending a quilting group and enjoying themselves a great deal. The shop owner says she has classes morning and afternoon all week. Mrs Tootlepedal was able to make the purchases necessary to enable her to finish the quilt she is working on and we left for the next part of our outing. This was a visit to a nature reserve nearby. I had never been before and we were quite surprised when we got there. The reserve is on an old airfield which was used a burial place for thousands of animals that were culled during the last foot and mouth epidemic, 11 years ago. This was not the first place you would think of a suitable for a nature reserve and it didn’t look much like one either.
However, a great deal of work has gone into the site, including creating two lakes.
We went into a hide at the second lake and took a moment to see what was about.
There was a large reed bed outside the hide and I spent quite a bit of time trying to catch a reed bunting there.
A movement to the side caught my eye and I realised that there was an easier way to see a reed bunting…
The bird with its back to me turned out to be a tree sparrow.
For the first time I was able to notice a female reed bunting.
We walked back to the car, listening to the song of the skylark and the cry of the curlew and I managed to get a blurry pictured of this long beaked bird as it flashed past us.
Our route took us past boxes and vents which are monitoring the products of the sheep burials which took place here. It was slightly creepy. You can see from Mrs Tootlepedal’s attitude that it was far from warm.
Altogether, it was a strange experience but as it develops, it should be a good place to visit. It also has a centre for disabled cyclists and I was able to look at a recumbent tricycle. It was a valuable experience because I have been thinking about potentially getting one for my old age but I now know that I would have the greatest difficulty in bending enough to get onto it and no hope whatsoever of being able to get off it. Plan B, I think.
We went on to a nearby garden centre to purchase fertilizer for the garden and then used the northern ring road to get home again.The new road certainly was a bonus for us today, saving us about half an hour of grinding through the town traffic.
I had had a brief opportunity to snap the birds in our own garden before we went.
In the evening, we went to a meeting to see if there is enough demand to start a community choir in Langholm. There was and it has started. We had a little sing and it looks as though it should be good fun with an experienced and cheerful choir leader.
With all this activity, there was hardly a moment to sit down all day and by the time I came to write this, I was definitely tired but certainly happy too.
A final chaffinch of course.