Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who started the new year by visiting the strangely named Locko Park where he met a fine lake.
Our year here started with a brilliantly sunny but rather chilly day. I would have liked to have taken part in the eight mile walk/run event that starts the Langholm year off but a combination of stiff muscles and sore feet persuaded me that a bike ride would be a better bet.
After a late breakfast, a little cooking and dawdling my way to coffee, I saw that the thermometer had climbed to 5°C so I got my cycling clothes on, got out my bike, leaned it against the car while I filled my water bottle and then looked at the car windscreen.
It was still covered with ice.
I put the bike back in, took my cycling clothes off and went for a walk. The roads may well have been 99% clear of ice but it is that other 1% that I am hoping not to meet this year.
My idea was to walk to the top of a 1000ft hill and admire the views and so I headed up Meikleholm Hill (859ft), intending to go along the ridge and onto the next hill, Timpen (1069ft), and get my views there.
I passed some fine fungus…
…and was soon looking at views from about 656ft…
…but not long afterwards, I found myself looking at the enquiring heads of cattle peeking over the skyline and looking back at me.
For the second time today, I changed my plan. I retreated.
I lost about 100 feet and found a cattle free but steep route to the top of Timpen. There were a number of views available and the air was remarkably clear for once.
I looked north along the ridge….
…and down into the Esk valley curling among the hills.
Nearer to me I could see the river running through the fields of Milnholm.
Going further round, I could see Castle and Potholm Hills making a barrier between the Esk and the Ewes Water on the far side.
And going round further still, I could look back down on the town, 800 feet below.
It was warm enough in the sunshine for me to unbutton my jacket, put my gloves in my pocket and still feel rather hot after the climb.
Coming back down the hill, I chose a cow dodging route using a mountain biking trail through the woods on the shady side of the hill.
The track was well maintained and although it was much colder out of the sun, it was a pleasure to walk along a track that I had never used before. I ended up down on the road about a mile out of town and took the path above the river that leads to the Duchess bridge (part of Walk 2 of the Langholm Walks).
Trees had fallen across the track but some kind person had come along with a chain saw and cut a Tootlepedal sized hole in the trunk…
…so I was able to arrive safely on the flat of the Castleholm and walk along the tree lined Lodge walks in the sunshine.
I crossed the Sawmill Bridge and strolled along the Kilngreen. There were many gulls on the fence posts but as I got near, they flew off and only one remained.
I feel fairly sure that if I had had my flying bird camera with me, they would all have stayed glued to the posts.
Looking back up the river, I could see the sun tipping the hill with gold where I had stood an hour earlier taking in those views.
One of the really good things about our hills to my mind, is the ease with which one can get up and down them without requiring a mass of time and special walking kit. I did find my two walking poles very useful though as the grass on the shady side of the hill was still frosty and slippery in places.
I tried to catch a flying bird in the garden when I got home but they were nowhere to be seen and this shy character was the only bird available.
I collected Mrs Tootlepedal who was at work on her rocking horse restoration project and we went off to see Mike and Alison Tinker and wish them and their daughter and her family who were visiting, a happy new year.
We had a sociable new year drink and some good conversation and Mike and his daughter Liz, who is a professional horticulturalist, pointed out that two days ago, the blog had wrongly called this shrub, which we encountered on a walk, a pernettya…
…whereas Mike actually has a pernettya in his garden and it looks like this…
…and what we had seen two days ago…
…was a Symphoricarpos or snowberry. I apologise deeply for the error which must have appalled many readers who were too polite to point it out.
I was slightly envious when I saw a steady stream of birds visiting Alison’s feeder as we sipped and chatted. Liz presented Mrs Tootlepedal with a bowl of hyacinths as a new year’s gift and I hope this will appear in future posts when they burst into flower.
I had made a beef and mushroom stew in the slow cooker in the morning so we were well supplied for our evening meal when the time came.
In the absence of any flying birds, I can offer an echelon of gulls who returned to their posts as soon as I had got too far away to photograph one individually.