A final fling

Today’s guest picture shows fungus on Hampstead Heath in London and was sent to my daughter by her friend Claudia with the note that I might find it interesting.  She was right.

Hampstead fungusThe day started with a successful attempt to get my cycling mileage up to my target for the year of 5000 miles.  A 20 mile trip round the Waterbeck Triangle got me to 5007 miles and since I will not be able to cycle at all in December, this was just in the nick of time.

I stopped near Wauchope School to admire the ingenuity of the tree fellers who needed a way to cross the Wauchope a few hundred yards below the school bridge.

Wauchope BridgeThey must be a bit more sure footed than I am.

Near Waterbeck, I stopped again to take a picture of this very well preserved example of a traditional East Dumfriesshire cottage.

Cottage near WaterbeckI like the way that these cottages are uncompromisingly plonked straight down onto the ground with no frills.

I got my bike as clean as I could  and then made some vegetable soup for our lunch when I got back.  The reason for cleaning the bike was a plan to take it into the bike shop at Longtown for its annual service while I will not be needing it.

We ate the soup for lunch combined with some sour dough toast and a selection of cheeses and this made for a meal that would have been the envy of princes and bankers if they had only known about it, for they could not have eaten better than we did.  The only sad part about the meal was that it made use of the last home grown onion of the year.

onionSome years, you grow a lot of onions and they don’t store well.  This year we grew fewer and they kept superbly.  Such is life.

I just had time to snap a goldfinch….

goldfinch…before we put the bike and ourselves in the car and headed off for Longtown.

Our plan was to show our daughter Annie the walk round the Longtown ponds after delivering the bike to the bike shop.  It turned out to be a good plan because as we drove south, the sun came out and with the temperature at 50°F, we had a glorious afternoon for our stroll.

Both Annie and I took a lot of pictures.  I hope that she may show you some of hers while she is guest editing the blog.

Meanwhile here are some of mine.

Arthuret Church
Arthuret Church seen across the fields from our path.

 Longtown ponds

cattle at Longtown
There were cattle grazing beside the ponds today.

There were plenty of birds about, both on the water…..

swan at Longtown….and in the air.

Longtown pondsWe kept an eye out for fungus and saw none until on the edge of a row of trees beside one of the ponds, we saw a great number of these striking growths.

fungus at LongtownWe wondered whether the presence of the cattle nearby had anything to do with this.

cow at LongtownThey took an interest in us as we passed.

cow at Longtown…but didn’t cause us any alarm.

The sun was beginning to set as we walked back to the town and we were slightly bemused to see a walker in the middle of the river.

Esk walkerIt had been a splendid short walk and we looked back at the setting sun as we left the ponds.

Longtown pondsIt occurred to us as we got back to the car that it might be a good moment to go to Gretna to see if we could find some starlings there.

The sunset, as we drove towards the Solway shore, was outstanding but stopping to take pictures in the middle of a busy main road is not recommended so you will have to take my word for that.

As we passed the  retail outlet village in Gretna, every car parking space was taken and an overflow car park was in operation. We felt that walking round the ponds had probably been a more cheerful occupation than shopping in a great crush and drove on towards Brow Houses on the shore feeling a little smug.

It was very peaceful on the Solway shore and there was a very musical accompaniment of bird song to charm the ear.  The sand banks were busy…

Brow Houses…and there were birds swimming and flying in all directions.  The light was fading fast….

Brow Houses…and even with binoculars it was hard to tell what the birds were, though one flock certainly looked like lapwings as they rose from the mud and flew off.

There was no wind and the scene was so serene that we would like to have stayed but we had come to see starlings so we went back towards Gretna.

By a curious chance, just as we drew up at our chosen parking spot, a car arrived from the opposite direction.  Fortunately there was room for two and the other car turned out to be carrying a former colleague of mine and her husband who had had his knee operation a few weeks ago.  He indicated that progress was hard work but that he was doing well and advised me to be extra nice to Mrs Tootlepedal as I will be leaning on her a lot over the next few weeks.

Mrs Tootlepedal stayed to pick up a few tips on patient management from his wife and Annie and I walked down the road to look for starlings.

There was an ever growing murmuration forming but it was hard to decide whether to watch them…..

starlings…or the ever developing sunset in the opposite direction…

Gretna sunsetIt is amazing to think that those two pictures were taken with minutes of each other while standing at the same spot.  The camera makes the light look so different.  Above us a moon was beginning to shine and this time, different aperture and shutter speeds made a stunning difference to the resulting shot.  Neither picture has been processed significantly.

moon shot
Left: f5.6 at 1/500th and right: f7.1 at 1/1250th, both with an ISO of 4000 and the camera held in my shaky hand.

Both pictures are of course cropped as I didn’t have my big stepladder with me!

We stayed for a while watching the starlings and they were as amazing to watch as ever but they didn’t offer a better photo opportunity so we left for home before they went down to roost.

Mrs Tootlepedal cooked us an excellent bacon and chick pea casserole for our tea and I filled in some admission forms and packed my case, as we have to make an early start for the hospital tomorrow.  The forecast is good and the ladies are hoping to make the best of their trip to Dumfries with a programme of interesting visits after they have delivered me.  Lucky them.

The flying bird of the day picture is a double, showing two of the more interesting flying objects we saw at Longtown today.

flying machines

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

24 thoughts on “A final fling

  1. As I learnt when I lived in their country, the French don’t wish you good luck as they reckon such things should not be left to chance. So, as they do, I’ll wish you ‘Bon courage’.

  2. Thoughtful of you to engage a guest editor for the blog otherwise we would not know how you are doing. Thank you. And I hope everything turns out just the way you want it to. I like the herd of cows and the murmuration of starlings. And, of course, the witty remarks.

  3. The sunset photo is very beautiful and those are great shots of the moon, especially since they were hand held.
    Knee operations seem to have become standard practice these days, but I’ll wish you luck anyway. I’d guess the hardest part for me would be having to sit still afterwards.

  4. The murmuration picture is good (I managed to see part of a murmuration while sitting in a traffic jam in Norwich at 4pm on Friday) and both the photos of Solway shore are lovely – so peaceful! Best of luck!

  5. Hooray to reaching your cycling target, having a top class support team,and to putting the end of your wonderful onion harvest to such good use. We’ll be thinking of you; best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  6. Congratulations on achieving your most impressive goal. I was mentally rooting for you all day, hoping you’d make it.

    Love the photo of the cow framed by trees and all the lovely water photos. Your moon shots are great; I never can get that detail with my little camera.

    You will be on our minds tomorrow, very much.

  7. Your ‘leaving the ponds sunset’ is wonderful, and 5,000 miles is impressive. Congratulations on reaching your goal! Best Wishes for your well being through surgery and recovery.

  8. I think my favourite shots are the swan and the one of the setting sun over the bushes and path. A beautiful collection though. We have large cumbers of black swans here at Moogerah Lake. I wonder how shocked the explorers were to encounter black swans for the first time!
    Good luck with the knee procedure! I hope that means you’ll be cycling many more kms when you recover. 🙂

  9. Everyone has said it all so I will just say congratulations on reaching the 5,000 miles on your bike, your evening pictures were a delight and all the best for the next month or so.

  10. A very fine collection of photographs, lovely swan, sunset and many others. Well done re bicycling target.

  11. A wonderful set of photos as you temporarily relinquish the reins to Annie – especially like the cattle framed by trees. Very glad you hit your cycling target. It must have been kismet that directed you to meet the gent recovering from knee surgery – a good omen, I think! Best wishes.

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