Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia who visited the the Toulouse-Lautrec museum in Albi and thought that possibly this advertising poster, commissioned from Toulouse-Lautrec in 1896 by the Simpson Chain Company, might possibly be of interest to me. It was indeed.
I had the intention of taking my new belt driven bicycle out for a spin after breakfast but what with one thing and another (things to do, cold northerly winds, lassitude, mental instability etc), I didn’t get out until midday.
I had a quick look at the garden in the morning…
…and couldn’t resist another look at the anemones, radiant in the sunshine.
I enjoyed watching a bee literally getting stuck into a rhododendron flower…
…and admired the colour of the tulip.
When I finally got going, I chose a route which I hoped would see me battling the breeze on my way up to the county border above Eskdalemuir and then getting swooshed back down to Langholm with the wind behind me.
Alas, my calculation was out and I had a crosswind to annoy me in both directions. However, it was a lovely sunny day and the cool north easterly breeze stopped me from cooking in the sunshine so “mustn’t grumble”.
It is quite a hilly route by my standards and I have to be careful of my tin* knee when going up steep hills so I was lucky to have my new gears working well today. The new bike’s hub has a choice of really good low gears which let me get up the hills without putting too much strain on my legs and I enjoyed the journey up to the border at 1000 ft above sea level.
I snapped away as I went along.
It was a great day for wide views and closer looks.
This is the Esk at Bentpath.
I saw a lot of orange tip butterflies on my way and even spent some time on the Shaw Rigg chasing up and down the road on foot trying to catch a male who kept stopping and then flitting onwards just before I got the camera into focus. I had to settle for this shot of the female which annoyingly doesn’t have the orange tip to her wings.
Wherever I looked there were beautiful corners…
…prehistoric stone circles…
…and wide panoramas.
This one was looking up the upper Esk valley over Eskdalemuir to the hills behind. Sharp eyed readers may spot a curious white tower in the middle distance. I passed it later.
On a sunny day Eskdalemuir is uniformly lovely.
And this is the white tower a few miles north of Eskdalemuir village.
It is part of the Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist monastery which has a beautiful temple. It is not the first thing that you might expect to see in the Scottish Borders but the community has been here for 50 years and is part and parcel of this part of the world now.
Leaving the monastery behind, I headed up the single track road to the county boundary. It is one of my favourite sections of road as the records show that in five miles the gradient is so steady that you only lose 15 meters in the course of climbing 432 metres.
The climb is gentle, the scenery delightful and the only fly in the ointment is the need to avoid the large and speedy timber lorries that come hurtling up and down the road. Luckily they make such a noise that you get plenty of advance warning.
I stopped for a light lunch at an abandoned sheep fold in the forest at the top of the hill…
…and was quite pleased not to be driving in a car on such narrow roads when log lorries were on the go.
The trip home wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked as the cross wind nagged and pestered and I had to keep a sharp eye out for the many potholes on the way. This didn’t make for relaxed riding.
I chose a slightly different route for my return which gave me other views, including the junction of the Black and White Esk rivers…
…and a new selection of wild flowers.
As I got near to Langholm, I saw a farmer rolling his grass pastures…
..and reflected that I could do with a good roller for my lawns.
I took a last look round…
…and was grateful for a quirk in the wind which pushed me up the final climb and then down into the town.
I had only done just over 40 miles but with over 2000ft of climbing, it felt like quite a long ride and my average speed was very modest. I don’t do many hilly rides so it was a pleasure to have managed one without taking any harm to my joints.
When I got in, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had a cup of tea on the new bench in the garden and I kept leaping up to photograph more flowers.
There were a lot to choose from. They included a fine display of lilac blossom and the first sighting of a new yellow tulip, just out today…..
…as well the first of the white clematis on the wall round the back door, one of the few remaining daffodils and some of the very hardy grape hyacinths which have been out in frost, rain and sunshine for weeks.
After a nourishing evening meal of corned beef hash, I went off to sing with our Langholm Choir. For some reason the cycling had reduced my voice to the merest croak so I wasn’t much use but I was able to hit some impressively low notes.
The flying bird of the day was far too busy hitting some high notes of his own to be flying about.
*Tin knee: Actually it is likely that my new bike and my artificial knee are made of the same material, titanium.
Those interested can see details of my bike ride here.