From moorland to seashore

Today’s picture is another from my sister Mary’s recent riverside walk and shows a gull making its escape from the Tower of London.

Tower of London

We had some hints of sunshine when we woke this morning, combined with some hints of snow to go with it.  In the end we got neither to any great extent, although the occasional breath of snow floated out of the sky without coming to anything.

I got up reasonable early and set off over the hill to Newcastleton armed with two bottles of wine and a jar of marmalade.  I stopped en route to capture one of my favourite roadside streams as it burbled down the hill.

Langholm moor

The view from the top of the hill near the county boundary was expansive.

view from the moor

You can just see the Solway Firth in the distance.  It will appear again later in the day.

The reason for my trip to Newcastleton was to attend the Liddesdale Camera Club coffee morning where the wine was bound for the raffle and the marmalade for the sales table.  I thought that the turnout of fifty coffee drinkers was good but the organisers had hoped for rather more.   It seems that coffee mornings are all the go in Newcastleton and act as social occasions as well as fund raisers.

I had a cup of coffee and bought some rock buns and drop scones from the sales table before I made my way home.  I made another stop on top of the hill on my way home.  I was intending to do quite a bit of photography while I was out on the moor but the really chilly wind persuaded me that hanging about at 1000ft above sea level was not going to be much fun.  I took one photo….

Looking down across two ridges at the windmills which we usually look up to.

…and got back in the car and headed down to the town.  I paused for a moment of the Kilngreen and someone came along at just that moment to feed the ducks….


…but the gulls had other ideas about who was going to be feed.

I tried this one in black and white.
Spot the gull’s heads if you can

It was still pretty chilly and so I soon got back into the car and scuttled back to home comforts and warmth.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy making a sturdy wooden framework for netting to form a cage for her sweet peas.  In recent years her peas and sweet peas have been heavily attacked by sparrows as they start growing and this is a serious attempt to keep the little blighters out.  Part of the problem is that some fool has been enticing birds into the garden with bribes of free food.

The birds in the garden were as hungry as ever.

goldfinch and brambling
A goldfinch and two  bramblings beat the chaffinches for once
The bramblings were in control of the floor space too
A goldfinch waits his turn in the plum tree.

I had intended to go to Newcastleton with Sandy but he had slept in and even a phone call had not wakened him. He surfaced later in the day to ring me up and we arranged to go down to Gretna to see the starlings because a friend of his had reported that they were quite spectacular.  Before he came, I had time to get the slow bike out and do a ten mile ride.  Once again, riding with the wind behind wasn’t too bad at all but coming back into the wind was a bit on the chilly side.

I found time to stop for a gate (or two)…

A gate in the modern style

…and a look at the Wauchope in mild mood.


Sandy duly arrived and we set off for Gretna by way of Milltown of Sark where we visited the small graveyard where Kinmont Willie is buried.  He was the subject of a daring rescue from Carlisle Castle in 1596.  The graveyard is rather neglected …

Milltown graveyard

…and the resting place of Kinmont Willie is not known.  In spite of signs warning us of imminent squishing by falling gravestones if we were foolish enough to enter, Sandy and I walked round this ancient burial place.  Most of the stones were hard to read but this one at the far end of the yard was impossible.


There was some fine carving on the stones and some elegant if largely unreadable writing too.

Sark stones

The wall surrounding the graveyard was well marked too.

wall at sark

We returned to the car and crossed briefly into England before crossing back into Scotland.  This is a wonderful part of the world for cloudscapes and the drive was a treat in itself as we looked at some stirring views over the Solway plain.


We were headed for the Solway shore and we couldn’t tell whether it would be sunny or cloudy by the time that we got there.  In the event, we were in the shadow of the clouds but the sun was out not far away.


The tide was well out to day and we were able to walk across the foreshore to take some pictures.

solway shore

I had a graduated filter with me and this seemed to be a good time to try it out.  The results are very marked.  Here are two pictures taken from the same spot at the same time looking towards the west.

Brow Houses
When the tide is in all the grass in the foreground is covered.

The filter will obviously be very useful when I have learned how to use it to its best advantage.

We left the shore behind us with one last look back…

Cloudscape over Solway

…and headed on to where we hoped that we would see the starlings.  We had found the right place.

starlings at Rigg

We were given a thoroughgoing demonstration of formation flying.

starlings at Rigg

And even a fly past in a jet plane.

starlings at Rigg

So as not to tax the patience of those who have seen many starling pictures already, I have placed some others after the flying bird of the day at the end of the post.

We didn’t wait until the flock had gone to its final roost as the cold was freezing our fingers and making photography uncomfortable to say the least.

One event occurred while we were watching the birds which is worth reporting.  We were standing with cameras in hand when a car drew up.  The window was wound down and the driver said, “Oh you should have been here yesterday.  There were far more birds about then. It was much better than this.”  His body is buried neatly behind a nearby hedge.

We arrived home feeling very satisfied with our little excursion and resolved to have at least one more visit to the starlings of Gretna before the murmuration season is over.

Sandy left to go to a concert of rock and roll at the Buccleuch Centre while I had a good rest as I seemed to have had quite a full day.

The flying bird of the day is a strange headless and bodiless gull seen this morning at the Kilngreen.


Here are the bonus starling pictures:

starlings at Gretna


starlings at Gretna

starlings at gretna

starlings at gretna

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

32 thoughts on “From moorland to seashore

  1. Thank you for today’s fun and entertaining look about the countryside. Looking at starling pictures is much like looking at clouds! In your last photo I see black mountains in the sky, in the one before that a Plesiosaurus is swimming by in the lower left. 😉

  2. Great pics all, but those starling murmurations are spectacular! I also like your headless gulls. 🙂 A few days ago I saw a mini murmuration here. I’m not sure what kind of bird they were (dark, but I don’t know if they were starlings), but they swooped and turned and dove in sync. It was fun to see, though so small compared to yours! I couldn’t get to a place to capture because hubby was behind the wheel. When I drive, my hands and feet automatically go toward pic opps.

    1. My bicycle often works in the same way. Sorry about the unco-operative driver. He probably thought that he had something better to do than gawp at birds.

  3. its amazing the shapes those murmurations form by chance. I really like the gates and the stone walls.. the photo of the shore and the golden clouds is beautiful.

  4. It sounds and looks like a thoroughly satisfactory day with some wonderful views and a fine finish with the starlings.

  5. Hello I write to say how much your blog is enjoyed south of the border! I have been reading since your visit to see Ralph Mctell? I haven’t got the hart to delete any. I am surprised how enjoyable the lives of others can be maybe because I live in a city? [Birmingham] keep up the excellent work

  6. The starlings are amazing and your pictures are amazing. Hope you put a big stone to the resting place ot the poor blighter behind the hedge 🙂
    Interesting also your visit to the graveyard, as I just yesterday delved a little deeper into the history of the border-reivers and of course came across Kinmont Willie Armstrong. For those interested here’s a link: compiled by Tom Moss

  7. First, a note to your sister Mary: I am extremely envious of your opportunities to walk throughout London! A second note regarding the starlings: they look like avian northern lights, if you know what I mean. Their movement is like a dance – but I’m surprised that you don’t see them dropping after having run into one another. Quite amazing.

  8. The graveyard photos create an image of an unfrequented corner with forgotten stories. I’ve always been interested in old tombstones. In my youth, I used to occasionally visit a solitary stone on an ocean-side hill. It had three dates on it of deaths in a family separated by a few days. Illness we assumed.

    The carving on the stones you show is indeed rather fine. The script in particular must have been tricky. My older brother,who studied art in university, has carved two sculptural tombstones and found the lettering to be particularly difficult to do by hand.

    The starling photos are always fascinating.

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