Langholm’s Great Day

No guest picture today but instead, a picture of my guests; Matilda flanked by her mother and father and outflanked by her granny and grandfather.

Eileen, Al, Matilda, Clare and Francis

In the absence of Mrs Tootlepedal, who is still visiting her mother, I was the chief cook and bottle washer of the party and as a result I was not as free as usual to flit about taking happy snaps.

I was woken at 5 o’clock by the boom, boom, boom of the big bass drum as the flute band perambulated the town, reminding the townsfolk that the hound trail would soon take place.  As it was pouring with rain, I was able to roll over and go to sleep again without feeling too bad about missing that part of the fun.

When I woke again, it had stopped raining and I made breakfast for Al and Clare and Matilda.  Then Al had to go out rescue Eileen and Francis who had got caught up in the road closures for the ceremonies and hadn’t made it to our house in time.

Matilda and her parents went off ‘to see the horses’ while I made breakfast for her grandparents.    Then we set off to join them.  By this time the youngsters had seen the procession of horses in the town and gone up the Kirkwynd to wait for the riders to ride up onto the hill.

We could see the crowd assembling there on the far side of the river as we walked along Caroline Street.

Kirk Wynd

It didn’t take us too long before we found the others and we too were part of the crowd waiting for the cornet.

Kirk Wynd

You might think that there was a good sized crowd on the hill but it is multiplied considerably when those who have waited in the Market Place for the first fair crying to finish, squeeze up the Kirk Wynd…..

Kirk Wynd

…..and annoyingly stand in front of the people who were on the hill first.

We could just see Cornet Murray over their heads as he rode past us in fine style….

Cornet Murray

…being enthusiastically cheered on by the crowd.

Kirk Wynd

About half the crowd are trying to take pictures with their phones of course.

The cornet is followed by the rest of the riders, about 150 today in number…

Kirk Wynd

…each one cheered to the echo by friends and family…

Kirk Wynd

…but there is always a head in the way.

After the riders had gone by, we went back home for refreshment, passing Mr Grumpy who was lurking by the river bank, probably wondering what all the commotion was about.


When I got to the garden, I had a quick check to see how it had survived the overnight heavy rain.  The result was very positive.


poppy, buddleia, dahlia

The mounted procession returns from the hill and after a while, the riders cross the Ewes at the Kilngreen and assemble on the Castleholm.  Matilda had had enough outdoor activity for the morning so I took her grandparents along to see the riders crossing the water but we were a bit late and the cornet was already on the Castleholm when we arrived on the other side of the Esk…

Cornet's chase

…so we watched as he was led out to start the Cornet’s Chase where he takes the town standard round the racecourse and is pursued, at a decent distance, first by his right and left hand men (the ex cornets of the previous two years)…

Cornet's chase

…and then by the rest of the riders.

Cornet's chase

It was an impressive sight as the cavalcade thundered onto the racecourse.

We retired for lunch and then Eileen and Francis returned to their car and drove off on other business.

As Matilda has a siesta after lunch, I took the opportunity to walk over to the Castleholm to see the horse and foot racing which takes place there.

While I waited at the bottom corner for the first horse race to come round the track, I noticed that the castle ruin has sprouted some ragwort on its topmost turret.

Langholm Castle

Because the going on the racecourse was very heavy, there were only four runners in the race but it was still a stirring sight as the hurtled round the bend towards me.

Langholm Common Riding races

The small field was less impressive as it headed up the back straight.

Langholm Common Riding races

The next race also had four runners and I went to the opposite side of track to see the start.  It was a tense affair.

Langholm Common Riding races

The riders were soon up to full speed.

Langholm Common Riding races

As they came round the top corner on the way to the finish, I could clearly see the advantage of being in front of the field on such deep going.

Langholm Common Riding races

The air was full of flying mud and the rider at the back was covered in it.

On my way up the track between races, I had passed the Highland Dancing tent…

Highland dancing

..where the piper was playing and kilts were swirling.  We had hope to see Matilda’s cousin Lola dance again this year but in the end, she didn’t come down.

In the athletics field, I could see the floral crown in its place of honour.

Langholm Common Riding Crown
Our roses are in there somewhere.

Further up the track I took a picture which epitomised the fun to be had at a soggy Common Riding field.

stick in the mud

It was a wonder that the horses were able to race at all.

The ever present threat of rain had not discouraged a good crowd for the racing though.

Langholm Common Riding races

As I walked along, the sun came out and my eye was caught by a brilliant yellow ragwort beside the course.  It was a busy plant.

ragwort with bees

I took a closer look.

ragwort insects

In between watching the horse races, I watched the foot racing from both ends of the track.  Almost all the foot races are handicaps and I watched the start of one sprint event.

Common riding athletics start
On your marks….
Common riding athletics start
Get set…
Common riding athletics start

The back markers may seem to have a lot of ground to make up but the handicapper knows what she is doing, as I could see when I went to the finish end of the track for a couple of later races.

Common riding athletics finishCommon riding athletics finish

The races often need a photo finish to see who has won.

The great beauty of events on the Castleholm is that there are always some lovely views to admire if the action gets a little slow.

Castleholm ViewCastleholm View

I stopped long enough to say hello to Sandy who was there with his family and then went back to see about making tea for my visitors.

While I was cooking, Matilda was getting on with her first novel.


It turned into a very pleasant evening as the wind dropped and the sun came out but it was too late for us as it was soon time for Matilda to go to bed.  She may not have had the full Common Riding experience but she has certainly ‘seen the horses’ as she wanted.  I wonder if she will remember her first visit to the great day.  I will remember it.

I was very sorry to have not been able to share the day with Mrs Tootlepedal and I hope that both she and Matilda will be present next year.

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

29 thoughts on “Langholm’s Great Day

  1. Had I been there 50 years ago I would have had my feet in a puddle too, marveling at the sound of the thundering hooves.
    I like the pink and white poppy, and the action shots of the races.
    It’s great that the town has a day when everyone can come together, but I have a feeling that the people of Langholm get together far more often than just one day each year. From an outsider’s point of view, the place seems more like a family than a town.

  2. Thanks for this. Much enjoyed by me. I wish Mrs. Tootlepedal and her mother well and hope she and Matilda will enjoy this day next year in better weather.

  3. That’s an incredible turnout, I didn’t think that Langholm had that many residents.

    As muddy as the track was, I’ll bet that there were some surprise winners this year.

    I loved seeing the procession of riders, even if a few errant heads did appear in a few of the photos.

    Maybe my memory is failing, I thought that a marching band played a more prominent role in previous years?

    1. There are two bands that lead the procession at various times but I didn’t get the chance to see them this year. The population of the town is easily more than doubled by visitors on Common Riding day. As well as numerous returning exiles, people come from miles around.

  4. A very impressive turnout – both of horses and people! As already noted, Langholm seems to have a very strong sense of community.

    Great shot of the wee boy in his wellies – a splash in a puddle is good for the soul, no matter your age!

  5. Just as wonderful as I hoped! As someone vertically challenged, I very much sympathise with the whole waiting in prime position only to have a taller crowd stomp in at the eleventh hour and stand in front of me. Am I bitter…😊
    It all looked fabulous but my favourites were the races: both human and equine.

    1. I am quite tall but the children on the shoulders of a parent in front are still a fatal blow. I tried to pretend that I didn’t know Al when he had Matilda on his shoulders.

  6. Another wonderful day in Langholm… it’s like a Disney town…lots of lovely activities to see and enjoy and some splendid inhabitants too! Love the brilliant series of horse racing photos – Matilda will remember the day she saw the horses and she’ll have your photos to remind her!

  7. What a day! Even in the rain. (Those horse are certainly sure-footed.) Yes, I, too,think Matilda will remember those horses.

      1. A good idea I’m sure. How horrible it would be if one of them fell.

  8. Prize-winning shots of the hurtling horses. A great day for the town and a fine record of events. Glad Matilda was able to be there.

  9. This is such a wonderful tradition; you are so fortunate to be a part of it! I loved all the action shots of the cornet and the other riders and also the races, horse and foot. I found the little boy in the puddle most endearing as well as the one of Matilda writing her book. Langholm is such an attractive town and is situated so nicely amongst the surrounding hills.
    You must be exhausted after all your work!

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