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Archive for February, 2018

Today’s guest pictures (there are two of them) show that snow was spread from London to Edinburgh today.  They come from our son Tony in Edinburgh and our daughter Annie in London.

Edinburgh snow

Edinburgh at 8am

London snow

London at 9 am.

And to fill up the sandwich, here is Langholm at midday.

John Street in snow

In the end, we got more snow than either Edinburgh or London and rather surprisingly finished up with 6 inches by the afternoon.

It snowed on and off all day.

WARNING FOR BUSY PEOPLE:  There are far too many pictures in today’s post so just take note of the snow and get on with your life.

I had to put on the full set of waterproof clothes and boots to go up to the town for a cup of tea and a meeting with a mover and shaker on a possible call for the Archive Group to be involved in an arts project.  It is all very much up in the air at the moment but the mover and shaker is very articulate and persuasive so funds may appear and the thing take off.  It sounds quite exciting.

On my way home, I went over the Langholm bridge but it was snowing hard enough to spoil the view.  I noticed that it was cold enough to have ice forming on the river’s edge.

meeting of the waters

We used to have more snow I think,when we first came to the town forty years ago and looking in the records, I see that the last serious snow fall here was in January 2016 and the one previous to that was quite late in the spring of 2013 so today’s minor blizzard was a bit of a novelty.

I spent a lot of the day watching birds.  Mrs Tootlepedal kept an eye out too and noticed a single brambling while I was out.  She took a shot on her camera and as there were a lot of other birds about, I have tinkered with her picture to pick out the brambling.

brambling

The brambling is on the right of the picture.  The rest are chaffinches.

She also saw a lot of starlings and unlike the brambling which didn’t come back, they returned.

starlingsstarling

We also had a visit from a song thrush, a very rare visitor to our garden. It sat on the plum tree for a while, assessing the situation and then…

song thrush

….returned to try out the feeder.

song thrush

Sadly it couldn’t get organised to grip the perch in such a way as to get its beak into the seed opening so it perched on the feeder pole for a while…

song thrush

…and then went off sulking.

All through the day there was always a small crowd of chaffinches under the feeder…

chaffinches in snow

…as well as a flock in the plum tree…

plum tree with chaffinches

…and a usually a whirlwind round the feeders themselves.

busy feeder

We could count thirty or forty birds at a time.  The odd goldfinch turned up too…

goldfinch

…but it was mostly a chaffinch day.

On the ground what looked like a dropped glove….

blackbird in snow

turned out to be a blackbird which was digging for buried food.

And a small black blob turned out to be a robin, perfectly spherical to beat the chill.

robin

A dunnock shrugged its shoulders against the wind.

dunnock

And the blackbird found a better placed food block on the chimney pot.

blackbird

Sometimes birds seem to be a stupid as people and in spite of there being several empty perches, this chaffinch thought it best to gratuitously stamp on another one.

battling chaffinches

I hope it gave itself a sore toe.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal decided that a walk down to the Co-op would be a good excuse for taking a little exercise and as it had actually stopped snowing, we got well covered up and went off.

I took a camera of course.

Langholm bridge and trees

When we had done a little shopping, Mrs Tootlepedal headed for home and I walked on to Skippers Bridge in the hope of some winter wonderland pics.

I was quite glad of the exercise, which was strenuous not least because when they plough the roads to get the snow off, they just push it onto the footpath and this makes for smooth running for vehicles and heavy going for elderly pedestrians.

A7 in snow

As I walked, the snow got heavier and heavier and this put paid to any picturesque shots of Skippers Bridge…

skippers bridge in snow

…so I settled for a close up of catkins among the snow as I walked back on the other bank of the river.

snow and catkins

The snow eased off and I followed these two walkers up to the Stubholm…

Stubholm track

…and then went back home by way of a diversion along Gaskell’s Walk from which I got this view of a snowy Eskdaill  Street.

Eskdaill Street in snow

I had to be careful not to knock the bushes beside the path…

snow

…but I enjoyed looking across at the snowy trees at Pool Corner.

Pool Corner with snow

On my way along the road from the Auld Stane Bridge, I passed a scientific snow depth measuring device….

snow on fence post

…and an ice covered pool at Pool Corner.

Pool Corner iced over

The temperature stayed around 1 degree all day today and it is to be colder tomorrow so with a bit of luck, we will have avoided the icy conditions that come with thaw and freeze.  Still, if need be, I have an old pair of Yaktrax which can be called into service.

Mrs Tootlepedal was hoping to go to the Buccleuch Centre in the evening to watch a ballet performance of The Winter’s Tale but sadly and with dramatic irony, the Winter’s Tale was cancelled by real winter conditions and the Buccleuch Centre was forced to stay shut.

There are warnings of more snow tomorrow so we will just have to wait and see.  If there is more snow, I hope it comes with some sunny spells to keep a snapper happy.

Today’s flying bird is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s American adventure.  No prizes for guessing the name of this animal.

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We woke to an unexpected scene this morning….

snowy garden

…though it was only unexpected as it had arrived sooner than I was expecting.

There wasn’t that much of a snowy scene though when I walked down to the river after breakfast….

River Esk snow

…and although it was only just above freezing all day, the snow tended to fade away as quickly as it had come.

While it was there, it made a good background for a greenfinch on the feeder….

greenfinch

…and the brighter light showed off the rich colours on the back of a dunnock which often looks like a rather dowdy bird.

dunnock

It is one of my favourite garden birds.

 

I also like blue tits so I was pleased to see one in one of the sunny patches that interspersed the day.   You can see the nippy wind ruffling its  feathers.

blue tit

Because the wind was blowing briskly from the ‘wrong’ direction, the birds couldn’t hover when visiting the side of the feeder where I usually catch my flying visitors and there were very few birds today anyway, not surprising when this sort of thing happened.

snow

I stopped trying to get a FBotD shot and went off to have lunch at the Buccleuch Centre with Mrs Tootlepedal in an effort to forget the weather.  It worked well as we had an excellent meal.

After lunch, I settled down to work at my computer and time fairly flew by.  When I looked up, the sun was out again so I put on my coat and went for a short walk.  I was hoping to see river side birds and I wasn’t disappointed.

Mr Grumpy was catching some late afternoon rays…

heron

…and the ducks were doing likewise.

mallard

Crossing the Sawmill Brig, I looked down in the hope of seeing a dipper.

dipper

The Lumix did exceedingly well considering that it was quite far below me and in shadow.

The moss on the wall had survived the snow….

P1070734

…and I was impressed by the enthusiasm of this clump which had managed to find a place to grow between two cut logs.

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On the side of one of the logs, I could see the the seed holding cups of another moss.  The brown ones are empty (I think) and….

P1070736

…the green ones are still in business.

P1070737

In spite of the low sunshine, it was very nippy and the clouds behind Whita were beginning to look threatening…

P1070739

…so I took a picture of some fine pines…

P1070740

…put my camera in my pocket and headed home without stopping again.

I got in just as it started to snow.

It is promising to be colder and to snow more tomorrow.  What fun.  All the same, there are many parts of the country both to the south and north who are having a harder time than us so we mustn’t grumble.

Under the circumstances there is no flying bird of the day so the dunnock creeps into the frame instead.

_DSC1704

 

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Today’s guest picture is a beautiful shot of the little lake in Regents Park.  My sister Mary took it on her way to play tennis at the weekend and remarked that it looked very spring-like in spite of being partially frozen.

Looking spring-like in spite of partially frozen lake

We had another dry, chilly day here without much sun to cheer us up so it felt cold.  There were even one or two desultory snowflakes but they came to nothing.

The dam bridge repair man was back and busy and by lunchtime, the bridge looked like this…

dam bridge repairs

…ready for the final finishing touches in the next day or two, weather permitting.

The forecast is very dramatic, talking of low temperatures and deep snow but at present our part of the country looks as though it might get off lightly.  We live in hope.

After breakfast, I cracked open my piggy bank (into which I put small denomination coins which otherwise would put an intolerable strain on my trouser pockets) and was able to take a couple of pounds worth of coppers round to our local shop who still need them for change.

I had a moment to look out of the window after that.

A goldfinch appeared but it was the only one that I saw today…

goldfinch

….and a greenfinch flew in.

greenfinch

Then it was time to welcome Dropscone for coffee.  He has returned safely from his holiday in the very south of Ireland where he and two of his children had had a good time going about and seeing the sights.

Not only was he welcome back in his own right but the fact that he brought scones with him was the metaphorical icing on the cake.  I had butter and blackcurrant jelly on mine.

While we were sipping and chatting, we had another visitor.

sparrowhawk

The fact that the sparrowhawk stopped for a picture meant that it had successfully nipped one of our other visitors off the feeder.  I have cropped the picture because it is too sad to view the reality however much it is just part of the natural cycle.

Later on, after coffee, I saw a most unusual burst of colour in the plum tree.  A closer look showed me that it was a male bullfinch.  It stayed on the plum tree for long enough for me to get the big lens and take its picture.

bullfinch

You might well think that such a magnificent little bird would be welcome but what it is doing in the plum tree is pecking off the shoots and eating them.

bullfinch panel

Left alone a bullfinch and its pals will strip a tree so rather ungratefully after taking its picture, I went out and shooed it away.  I like bullfinches but I like plums more.  This particular bird, having taken off a shoot, had the cheek to drop it as you can see in third picture in the panel above.

I spent some time after all this avian excitement in not quite getting a flying chaffinch picture right.

flying chaffinches

I took a stroll round the garden and was impressed by the hardiness of our small bunch of early daffodils.  We will need a few more before they can be considered a ‘host of golden daffodils’ but they are trying.

daffodils

The crocuses were keeping themselves to themselves, huddled against the cold but I liked the picture that this small bunch on the drying green made.

 

crocuses

After lunch, I went out for a short ten mile bike ride on my slow bike.   My plan was to go as slowly as was reasonable to avoid increasing the wind chill factor too much.

Although it was very chilly, the roads were dry and there was no danger of frost.  At one point on my way up the road, I heard a clink, as though something had fallen off my bike but a quick check told me that my bike was still all there. It was only when I went to look in my mirror before turning at Callister that I realised that it was the mirror that had fallen off.

I put my failure to notice this down to the extreme cold which had obviously numbed my brain.

I turned and pedalled back looking anxiously for any trace of the mirror but I fear that a passing car must have run over it and spun it off into the verge because there was no sign of it at all.

Ah well.

I made a tomato, potato and feta bake for my tea to cheer myself up

And to make things even better, I had a musical evening as first my flute pupil Luke came and then, after tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.   The trios were great fun and I hardly noticed the cold as I walked home.

I did catch one flying chaffinch without a feeder in front of it and it is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s visit to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone

It was  cold here again but not as cold as Yellowstone and we had another sunny day to take our mind off the near freezing temperatures.

It was a choir Sunday with the church choir in the morning and the Carlisle choir in the afternoon so there was not much time for anything else.

My ingenious plan to make my hymn singing life easier was somewhat marred by the fact that I had missed two verses of one of the hymns out altogether.  My chagrin was lessened when my fellow bass told me that the previous organist had also missed out the verses while playing in a service.  The missing verses were on another page and under another setting so it was easy to miss them and our present organist told me that he has a big arrow on his page because he too had missed them out in a service.

I will be more careful this week.

I had to time to walk round the garden when we got back from church…..

crocuses

…where some early crocuses and daffodils were defying the chilly morning….

daffodil

…and the snowdrops were looking cheerful both singly…

snowdrop

…and in concert.

snowdrop

I had a moment to  spot a robin over lunch…

robin

…and then it was off to Carlisle for a bit of shopping and the choir.

The shopping went well,  the choir went even better and the conductor remarked that the tenors had been on fire during the practice.  I am almost certain that he meant this as a compliment.

It was still light as we set out to drive home, which makes us feel that the cold can’t last for ever.

Instead of a slow cooked stew, Mrs Tootlepedal had prepared a fish pie for our tea and this rounded off a very cheery day.

The flying bird of the day is having a quiet sit down.

chaffinch

A note on the garden birds: this must be easily the slowest winter since I started taking pictures of garden birds.  I am at a loss to explain this as there haven’t been any reports of bird disasters.  My tentative idea is that changes to neighbouring gardens and in our own garden may have lessened the amount of cover available for visiting birds.  How are other UK garden bird feeders going on?  Does anyone have news? I would be interested to know.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Langholm friends Jim and Sandra.  They are visiting Australia where they met some down under bird life.

australian bird

We enjoyed another chilly but sunny day and if you could keep in the sun and out of a relentlessly nipping wind, it was not too bad at all.

We had a quiet morning, mostly reading newspapers and listening to the radio.  I did a little bird watching every now and again.

The male blackbirds were chasing each other about when they weren’t posing or eating so I think that they must be our native blackbirds claiming their territory.

blackbirds

There were no siskins or goldfinches about today so the chaffinches had a free hand and flew about in every direction.

chaffinches

Dunnocks and robins made occasional appearances.

dunnock and robin

A greenfinch looked relatively happy today (by greenfinch standards).

greenfinch

Mrs Tootlepedal spent some useful time clearing up in the greenhouse getting ready for the new season and I made a pan of vegetable soup for my lunch.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal turned to cooking and made several fish pies and I wrapped up well and went out for a pedal.

I didn’t want to go too far from home as the wind would be against me on the way back and it was very cold so I went five miles up the road and back twice.  This is not as boring as it sounds and I enjoyed myself.

I stopped once or twice.

It was a lovely afternoon when the wind was behind you.

Westwater

I was going to take a picture of the gate at my turning point on Callister when I noticed a movement among the tussocks.  The head of a deer poked up…

gate and deer on callister

…but it sneaked away without letting me get a better shot.

I went along the river on a circuit of the New Town of Langholm as part of my route in the hope of seeing oyster catchers.  There were none about on the first pass but two had arrived by the time I went along the bank for the second go round.

oystercatchers

Good route choice.

And crocuses were almost out in the garden when I got home.

crocus

Mrs Tootlepedal was also out in the garden but she was finding it chilly too and came in.

The sun was still out though and it seemed too good a day to waste indoors watching Scotland getting beaten by England at the rugby (I am never optimistic about Scotland’s rugby chances) so I got changed and went out for a short walk.

I was hoping to see some black headed gulls and I was in luck and saw one straight away when I got to the river.

black headed gull

Then I saw ten more.

black headed gull

It was as good a day for walking as it had been for cycling, especially as I was reasonably sheltered from the wind.

sawmill brig

The sun was dropping in the sky and lit up the moss on the wall after the Sawmill Brig.

mossy wall

It is obviously a good place for  moss…

mossy wall

…which is thriving.

mossy wall

I always like the colour of the bark when low sun strikes a pine tree…

pine tree

…and the trunks looked good too as I went along the new path.

pine tree

An old tree trunk, now used as a bench had an interesting selection of colonists on it. One of the ‘helicopter’ seeds was actually rooting in a crevice in the wood.

moss and seeds

I had noticed that the moon was already high in the sky so I took a hopeful shot as I walked along and after a tweak in the photo editor, it came out surprisingly clearly.

moon

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal told me that against expectations, Scotland were leading in the rugby match.  I watched until half time and then, fearful of causing them any bad luck by showing excessive expectation, I started cooking our evening meal. I received messages of amazement from all of our three children during the half time interval.   Annie, our daughter, was watching the match in Berlin while attending the Berlin Film Festival.

In spite of my best intentions, I kept sneaking back in during the second half and taking a quick look.  England (dropping the ball, giving away penalties and getting a man sent off) were playing like Scotland and Scotland were playing very well.  It was all most unsettling.

In the end, we won.  The first victory over England for ten years.   Our daughter was watching the game with an England supporter in Berlin and he just couldn’t understand why she was still so worried when Scotland were 15 points up with only two minutes to go.  He obviously hasn’t seen what Scotland can do when it comes to losing matches in the last minute that they should have won.

Now that I know that they are going to win, I may well sit down and watch a replay of the whole match in comfort.

All in all, it turned out to be a better day in every way than I had anticipated.

The flying bird of the day is one of the gulls at full stretch.

black headed gull

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is a reflective study from my brother Andrew.

Tamworth

There are too many pictures in today’s post so I will try to keep the wittering to a minimum.

It was another mainly sunny, dry day with a chilly wind and a frosty start.  As long as it keeps dry, we are trying not to complain too much about the cold.

As it was too cold to cycle or garden, the plan was to visit the Larch Cottage garden centre nearly 50 miles away to the south of Penrith, have lunch, buy plants and then come home via somewhere interesting.

As a plan it went well.

There was time before we left to drop some money from sales and donations round to the Archive Group treasurer Nancy.  She asked me whether I had lost a woolly hat on my walk up Timpen the other day.  When I thought about it, I realised that I had.  Nancy told me that she had found it and put it on a post up the hill.  As it was a nice day and I was rushing off, she said that she might go up and retrieve it for me and when we got home from our outing, I found that she had kindly posted it through our letterbox.  This is the kind of friend that an old forgetful man needs.

I also took a quick look out of the kitchen window.

chaffinches

greenfinch and chaffinch

The drive down the motorway went as well as any drive down a busy road can go and we got to Larch Cottage with enough time to have a look round before lunch. In spite of the sunshine, the snow on the hills reminded us that it was still chilly.

Larch Cottage is run by a man with a sense of humour and a great love of old stone.

P1070638Larch CottageLarch Cottage

The cafe, which is in one of the original buildings, was cosy and the food was good.

P1070637

Mrs Tootlepedal bought plants and I took the occasional picture.  I liked a euphorbia a lot but was slightly less impressed by the customer service sign.

Larch Cottage

It is probably  no coincidence that London and the government are exactly 300 miles away.

However, since the staff were uniformly helpful and cheerful, we had no complaints.

We set off home by way of Brougham Hall and Brougham Castle.  We approached the hall by the road under this bridge.

Brougham Hall

The bridge gives access to this….

Brougham Hall

…from this.

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Brougham Hall is more impressive than the modest name might suggest and it has a fine entrance for visitors…

P1070650

…and a rather small back door.

Brougham Hall

There is a broad courtyard inside the walls…

Brougham Hall

…with many buildings in various states of repair.  A local group is restoring what they can and several artists and craftspeople have small studios and shops.

We went through the buildings to see the other end of the bridge to the chapel…

P1070657

…avoided purchasing any pottery or jewellery and left by the door through which we had entered.

P1070663

We were sorry to see that a large walled garden nearby had been let go.

Brougham Hall

I liked the notice on the door of one of the hall’s smaller buildings.  It should help those who don’t know the name to understand how it is pronounced

P1070665

And the lion looked quite cheerful.

We drove on in the hope of visiting Brougham Castle which is not far away…

Brougham Castle

…but as it turned out that it is only open at weekends at this time of year, I took a picture of the A66 crossing the River Eden and we went on our way.

Brougham bridge

For those who think that these two buildings deserve more pictures and information, my sister Susan visited them last year and wrote about them in her blog. You can find that post  here.

It is very interesting.

The drive home passed without incident and we got in just in time for  a cup of tea.

I walked round the garden first though…..

daff and crocus

…and I did think that I might go for a short bike ride but a cold wind and no sunshine persuaded me to stay indoors.

I had a look out of the kitchen window while the tea was brewing.

dunnock and robin

I spent a happy hour or two on my computer, learning some new tricks from my score writing programme.  It has a feature that will automatically tie words of songs or hymns to the right notes in a score when you add them.  I haven’t used this before but it turns out to be very handy.

Our cold dry weather is set to continue but there are murmurs of impending snow next week.  That will not be welcome.

The flying bird of the day is a reliable but angry chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows an interesting wall which Dropscone encountered on his Irish holiday.

irish wall

Our spell of calm, dry and chilly weather continued today with a bright, sunny morning making it possible to overlook the 2°C temperature.

It looks as though this pattern will stay with us for several days with the only difference being that it will be well below freezing every morning.

Under these circumstances, I thought it would be best to get a walk in today while the going was still good.  On the same basis, Mrs Tootlepedal did a little gardening.

I started my walk by passing the mouth of the dam, just where it joins the River Esk.  After flowing under the bridge and then past the back of our house, the dam disappears under roads and into a factory, where it supplies water, before it comes back into daylight here:

dam

I was hoping to see interesting riverside birds while I was there but the cold weather has discouraged them and I had to make do with one of the resident ducks when I got the Kilngreen.

mallard

There were plenty of black headed gulls about but they stuck to the fence posts on the far bank of the river…

black headed gull

….where any flying action was largely confined to playing a game of musical posts.

black headed gull

They did occasionally rise high enough in the air to be described as flying….

_DSC1527

…but nor often.

I got fed up in the end and walked on to find somewhere where more reliable subjects could be found.

Surprise, surprise, it was a wall.

It had a  wealth of interest on it.  I am getting more confused every day but there seems to be moss, liverwort and lichen all in a heap here.

moss liverwort

 

My favourite patch was this one.

moss lichen

As I may have remarked before, it is amazing what you can see when you look.   I should acknowledge my debts both to Sandy, who showed me how to use a camera, and the New Hampshire Gardener, who consonantly inspires me  to look closely at the things I see.

I found another wall and met two very contrasting ferns on it.

ferns

I walked along the top of the wood above the Lodge Walks and once again admired the skill of the tree fellers who can leave a selection of trees standing while felling all around if they wish.

trees

On my way, I was inspected by the locals…

sheep

…and was intrigued by this tree.

tree with moss

Would that little window open and a gnome pop out and ask me to buy a ticket for my journey?   (I think that the political situation may be destroying my mind.)

I walked down through the snowdrops at Holmhead.  They are just about at their best.

snowdrops

When I got down to the flat, I could see the ridge that I walked along yesterday.

Timpen

I have to say that it seemed a lot steeper when I was walking up to the summit on the right yesterday than it did when I was looking at it today.

Further on, I saw more moss…

moss on wood

…which was not too difficult as there is moss everywhere at the moment after some very wet years.

I got home in time for a cup of coffee, fairly swiftly followed by lunch and the traditional Thursday trip to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents.

We always leave in plenty of time as there is a bumpy and winding road on the way to Lockerbie but this leaves me with time to stand on the platform and look around.  I love the tower of Lockerbie Town Hall.

Lockerbie Town Hall

I like the fact the clocks show slightly different times and often wonder if anyone has ever stood on the balcony and addressed the crowds below or perhaps blown a fanfare.

I didn’t have as long on the platform as I usually have as incredibly the train was on time today.  Not only that, it actually arrived in Edinburgh a little ahead of schedule and there was a bus at the bus stop to take us down to Matilda’s almost as soon as we had stepped out of the station.

We were punctual to the dot so it was no great surprise to get a text from Alistair to say that they hadn’t got home yet.

Still, the great thing about cities is that they have shops there so we were able to kill a little time without any difficulty.

We had a most enjoyable visit, being thoroughly entertained by Matilda and well fed by her parents.  And Mrs Tootlepedal had bought one of her sticky toffee puddings with her.

The journey home went as well as the  journey up and we arrived back to find that not only had the builder finished installing the pavement kerb on the bridge but the gaps had all been filled up and things look as though they are now ready for tarmac.

dam bridge repair

The state of play when we left in the afternoon and when we got back in the evening.

I did find one sympathetic gull this morning and it is the flying bird of the day.

black headed gull

 

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