Making the best of the day

Today’s picture shows my sister-in-law Catherine admiring a South African locomotive in a Welsh station at Porthmadoc on their recent Welsh holiday.

welsh railway

It was another lovely morning and this time, I had nothing to stop me making the most of it on my speedy bike. It was warm enough for me to shed all superfluous layers and sunny enough to call for some sun block.  I had intended to start early but as is all too often the case, I didn’t get away on schedule so I was worried in case the midday sun might be a bit too hot.  In the event, a fair bit of light cloud kept things from getting too hot and a very light wind made for a perfect cycling day.

My route was simple; head north for 25 miles and then turn round and head south again.  I followed the Esk valley for the first 20 miles to the very head of the river  and after crossing the county boundary at 1100 ft, I dropped gently down to the Ettrick valley

Here is the Esk on my way up….

It bends away from the road here for a a couple of miles..

…and here is the top of valley where the Esk has dwindled into the Tomleuchar Burn.

Esk valley

On my way up this hill, I passed this undistinguished building….

seismological station

…which is much more important than it looks.  It is the base for the Eskdalemuir Seismic Array. It has a large set of recording pits spread over the surrounding countryside.

It records all sorts of sesimic activity from all over the place.  I stopped and jumped up and down three times rather heavily on their doorstep just to give them something novel to record.

I paused at the watershed to have an egg roll and a rest and my camera took a rather wobbly picture of me eating the roll.

cycling chic
Hard to beat for cycling chic.

The sun was shining when I got to Ettrick and the bike had a rest in the shade of a fine tree…

This is a geographically important place as it is exactly in the middle of nowhere.

…while I popped off to take a picture of a bridge over the Ettrick Water.

Ettrick Bridge

On the Dumfries side of the border, the countryside was very open but on the Selkirk side, the road ran between trees up a narrow valley.

Tima road

The little stream beside the road is called the Tima and near the top of the hill I stopped to take a picture of Loch Tima.

Loch Tima

The five and a half miles from Ettrick to the top of the hill are my favourite five miles of cycling.  The road rises 100m over the five miles and the road engineers have created an extremely steady gradient over the entire distance.  Together with a really smooth road surface, this means that it is possible, even for an old man like me, to pedal uphill at an average of 15 mph on a calm day.  Somehow, this is better than whizzing downhill as you are purchasing small chunks of gravity as you pedal for a very low price in terms of effort and you know that these same chunks of gravity are going to push you down the other side of the hill at speed.  It is all very satisfactory.

So well did the gravity chunks work, that I did the 12 miles from Ettrick to Eskdalemuir (100m climb and 150m descent) at 17 mph which is a speed that I haven’t managed for a long time.  The energy gel that I had taken at Ettrick might have helped but it was all too good to last and I had to slow down a lot to make sure that I had the legs to get home.

I got home bang on schedule just in time to enjoy a plate of leek and potato soup which Mrs Tootlepedal had been making while I was out.  The leeks had been a gift from Sandy’s garden.

After lunch, I went off with Sandy.  He had noticed a promising bluebell wood from the windows of the bus which he takes to get home from work so we went to investigate.  It certainly had bluebells….

bluebell wood

…plenty of bluebells….

bluebell wood

…really a lot of bluebells on every side.

bluebell wood

I have never given this wood a thought as I have passed by along the road.  I thought, if I thought about it at all, that it was probably just one more sitka spruce plantation.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

beech wood
It is a beech wood.

We waited for a while to see if the sun would obligingly come out but it stayed behind the clouds so we went off along the river to look for further photo opportunities.  These were not hard to find.


The esk at Skippers

The esk at Skippers

path to the railway

Then the call of a cup of tea and a caramel biscuit became too strong to resist and we returned to Wauchope Cottage.  After our cuppa, we had a meeting with a fellow photographer who is keen to produce some postcards of Langholm and the surrounding area from the pictures of local photographers.  We are going to explore the possibilities of this as they say.

While we were doing this, Mrs Tootlepedal took her mother for a scenic drive up part of the route that I had pedalled in the morning.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went to a practice for our choir.  After the committee had decided on Monday to cancel our forthcoming concerts due to the serious illness of our guest artist, it has become magically uncancelled again so frantic arrangements are now being made to fill up the programme.   Still a short concert is always better than a long concert so we are hoping for the best.

In the continuing absence of a flying bird of the day, an oriental poppy, the first of the season, will have to do.





Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

27 thoughts on “Making the best of the day

  1. What a lovely looking day and a marvellous bluebell wood. Well done on the pedalling too, that must have been very satisfactory.

  2. I agree, you made the best of the day! I also want to thank you for posting the photo of the middle of nowhere, I’ve been looking for that my entire life, but have yet to find it, probably because it’s in Scotland, and I never thought to look there.

  3. What a picture to end with, such colour. Glad the cycling went so well, it was nice to see pictures of your countryside as well as the wonderful bluebell wood you took later.

  4. Glad you had such an enjoyable bike ride and that your choir concert is on again. The bluebells were amazing.

  5. The bluebells are lovely, the best I’ve seen. The poppy is pretty darned good too 🙂

      1. I love poppies but never seem to have any luck with the red ones. Even the red field poppies that are supposed to self seed only seem to last one season and never come back in my garden. I wish they would.

      2. They grow ok but they don’t come back the next year and the self seeding ones don’t self seed. I’ve got thousands of welsh poppies though. I may have to have another try with the red because I really love them

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