Ringing and riding

Today’s picture is of a brand new peony which has appeared in the garden.


It was a calm pleasant day and ideal for bird ringing so I had a quick breakfast and Sandy kindly picked me up at 7 a.m. and we went off to see what Cat was up to at the moorland feeder station.  As we arrived, we could see a hot air balloon hanging in the air to our south but it was too far away for me to get a usable photograph and the light wind blew it further off.  Cat had been hard at work before we arrived and there were birds ready for ringing.

She had four onlookers to take an interest in her work (and any nearby wild life).

bird ringing fans

Cat gave us a running commentary as she ringed the birds on how to determine the age of the birds and their stage of moulting.  This is quite a complicated business involving counting feathers and careful looking at subtle changes in colouration.  It has to be pretty obvious before I can make a reliable judgement but  I could tell that this was a young blue tit.

blue tit

It will get bluer as it gets older.

Cat had two sets of nets and the walk down to the second set looked a bit too strenuous for a couple of old geezers like Sandy and me so we sat in his car while the others trekked through the jungle.

The second nets

Between the two nets, there were a fair number of different birds.

Willow warbler
This is a willow warbler

Cat was able to assess its muscle and fat which is looked at to see when they will be fit to migrate.

Among the new birds was the appearance of possibly the most stupid woodpecker in the world.  This was the little chap that was ringed yesterday.  He hit the same net no less than three times this morning.  I think he deserves a medal.

hungry woodpecker

Cat, who is not so judgemental as I am, thought it might by hunger and inexperience that was taking him to the same place time after time so she left the nets up for a while  to give him a chance to get some peanuts in peace.

Because it is a photo heavy blog today, I have put some more shots from the ringing onto my Facebook page and in a Picasa album.  Follow either of the links if you are interested in seeing more birds.

The midges were severe and old legs get tired so when it was time for toast and coffee, Sandy and I repaired to Wauchope Cottage and left the youngsters to it.  It had been a very interesting morning.

After coffee, I had time for a walk round the garden to admire Mrs Toot’s white flower display…

white flowers
Campanula, philadelphus and rosa Goldfinch

… then help with the constructive destruction of a spirea and shred the results and then Mrs Toot and I cycled up to the Town hall to go round the local Art Club’s exhibition.  It is a good club and as always there were some very nice paintings on show, including some by my archiving friend Jean.  Having feasted my soul on art, I returned home to feast the body on a cheese toastie.

The Langholm Common Riding takes place on the last Friday in July and on the Saturday two weeks before that, the cornet and his mounted followers ride to Bentpath and back over the hills.  I went up to the Auld Stane Brig to wait for them.   It was a beautiful sunny day by this time and the cattle in the field next to the road where looking for shelter and refreshment.


Two smartly clad sisters were intending to do much of the same journey as the riders but on foot.

Katrina and Karen
Fine recorder players in their youth.

Just as I was expecting the horse to arrive, the sun went in.  Typical.

The cornet and his followers
The cornet and his followers

The cornet has a right hand man and a left hand man to assist him with his duties and to avoid confusion, I should explain that his right hand man is on his left as we look and his left hand man is on the right.

They turned off the main road and took a lane that leads up to Becks Farm and the hills beyond.  I went up the hill on the opposite side of the valley so that I could take a long view of the ride out.

Benty rideout Becks
Passing Calfield
Going onto the hill
Going onto the hill
Heading up to Calfield Rig
Heading up to Calfield Rig

I took a great many pictures and I have put some of these onto Facebook and Picasa.

I had plenty of time to look around while I was waiting for the ride out to progress and the intermittent sunshine made for some pleasant prospects. (IMHO as they say.)

The new town with the school shining in the sunlight
The new town with the school in the background


Behind Becks Farm
Behind Becks Farm
The Esk valley
The Esk valley
Castle Hill
The riders would return over this hill some five hours later

When the riders had disappeared from sight, I walked home.  I saw a solitary orchid which the sheep and cattle had somehow missed.


While I was waiting for the horses’ first appearance, someone had remarked rather disapprovingly that the council was letting the road verges get overgrown.  I am not complaining.


I met George pedalling vigorously up the Manse Brae on his spiffy new bike.


And I took this view of Pool Corner as I got to the town.  You can just see the cut that feeds the dam that runs behind our house in the top left corner.

Pool Corner

Although my legs and feet were a bit sore with all this standing and walking, I managed to find the energy to mow the front lawn before settling down to watch Bradley’s ongoing battles in the Tour de France.  I have paid Eurosport a fiver for the privilege of watching it on my computer.  Fortunately we have discovered that Mrs Toot can watch simultaneously on hers so there is no ugly pushing and shoving for the best seat.  Watching the tour is both peaceful and exciting at the same time.  A good trick.

After having spent a good day outdoors, I was happy to be indoors when it started raining heavily later in the afternoon.  Luckily the rain had stopped by the time the horsemen appeared on the top of Castle Hill.  I took the best pictures I could in the gathering gloom while standing my garden.

The horsemen gather
The horsemen gather
They descend with care
They descend with care

Although they have taken a long time to go round the ride, they have spent some time in the hall at Bentpath in eating, drinking and making merry on the way.

I meant to take advantage of the good weather today by going for a cycle ride but, in the end, I thought that I had done enough.

Today’s flying bird is a rather fuzzy redpoll, glad to get back to freedom this morning.


Note for concerned readers: owing to my continuing inability to type Mrs Toot[dleals’s Tootelpedals Tootleplads Tootle[pedal’s name without typos, she has graciously consented to be abbreviated to Mrs Toot.  She is a good sport.




Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

15 thoughts on “Ringing and riding

  1. Question: What is the Common Riding for, and who is the cornet?

    As far as the stupid woodpecker: Perhaps he just wants more body rings. We have a lot of those in CA.

  2. That orchid photograph was a real treat to my eyes, I have saved it onto my computer. I also loved the ‘out and about’ pictures. You had a busy day what with one thing and another!

  3. Thank you Mr. Tootlepedal, I loved your photos today ( although I always do!) I am relying on your pictures and comments on proceedings over the next couple of weeks. Oh the miseries of a Langholm exile who can’t make it back for the Common Riding!

  4. For the benefit of those not aware of the Common Riding the following appears in Wikepedia

    Langholm’s Common Riding (“Langholm’s Great Day”) attracts a large number of Langholmite exiles and also tourists from all over the world. The Public election for Cornet takes place in May. It comes from the settlement of a legal dispute in the 18th century, which ensured Langholm people certain common rights (e.g. the digging of peat) within set boundaries. Every year, those boundaries must be re-marked to maintain the rights. Over the years, this has become a celebration of the town and its people.

    Although not originally ridden to check the boundaries, horses are an extremely important part of the Common Riding and the traditions that have built up around it over the years. Common Riding Day is preceded by ‘ride-outs’ of horses on the hills around the town, and on the day itself the Cornet and his followers have to be able to ride – and ride well – to gallop up the Kirk Wynd, and get to the Monument* as part of checking the ancient boundaries.

    On Common Riding Day, the last Friday in July, after the Cornet receives the flag, there are three Cryings of the Fair: two outside the Town Hall and one on Whita Hill. The Fair Cryer stands on the back of a horse.

    The emblems – Thistle, Spade, Crown and Barley Banna’ – are also important. The barley banna is barley bread nailed to a wooden platter, along with a salted herring, with a large (twai-penny) nail.

    Common Riding Day is concluded by returning from the Castleholm to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”, dancing polkas on the A7 trunk road, handing back the flag and finally singing of “God Save The Queen.”

    (*The Monument was erected in memory of Sir John Malcolm.)

    1. Of course the big questions are what actually happened to the rights and why do we not own the common lands any more? As is so often the case, the rights and the lands seemed to have disappeared into the hands of landowners. The Common Riding has a set of iron bound traditional rules which cannot be changed for any reason (except of course when they are changed, in which case the new rules become traditional immediately.)

  5. great photos.. . will gladly pinch your photos for project blog.. just one thought… do you mean.. closed the nets to allow great spotted woodpecker to feed in peace?

  6. What a wonderful day you had! Thanks for all the photographs too! BTW, I am in your camp about letting the roads edges get rangy. The wildflowers graced the view. ~ Lynda

    1. I don’t use Facebook much except to play scrabble with a couple of friends but it is useful when I find that I have taken too many pictures for the blog but want to keep them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: