Today’s guest picture is another captured by our son Tony’s new camera, showing that it (and he) can take close ups as well as the larger picture.
It was bright and chilly when we got up and after breakfast, I went out to look for the lost perch from the feeder. I found it easily enough and screwed it back in place and then sat back and waited to see some obliging bird land on it.
I waited in vain.
It was a very quiet bird day indeed and I had to look hard to see a single chaffinch in the plum tree.
In the end, I gave up bird watching and had a cup of coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal and then went out bicycling. The thermometer had scraped up to 5°C but the wind was light so I took a more adventurous route than usual and headed up the road to Bentpath.
This involves a sharp climb at the start of the ride but does provided some excellent views like this favourite, looking towards the Gates of Eden just after the first climb.
Our hills are generally rounded and smooth but there are occasional outcrops and those who know tell me that if I was patient enough, I might see a peregrine falcon on this crag near Bentpath.
I continued on through the village and headed up the Esk valley towards Bailliehill. There are hundreds, if not thousands of the tree planting tubes which the foresters use to protect deciduous trees when they plant them and I was interested to see how well they do their job. Almost every tube in this group seemed to have a healthy tree sticking out of it.
Conifer forestry was very evident too as I cycled up the river and I took this shot to show the impact that farming has on the view. Where there is a flat place by the river, a ‘holm’ as it is called round here, there is always a field on it, usually with added sheep….
…but where there is no holm , the uncultivated ground runs right down to the river and is often planted with spruce and/or larch.
I took these contrasting two shots from the same spot, looking first up and then down the river.
When I got to the top of the hill at Bailliehill, I turned south to go over the watershed between the Esk and the Water of Milk.
I stopped at a cattle grid for a drink and a banana.
The cattle grids are necessary to keep stock in the right place on unfenced roads and they can fairly rattle your teeth if you go over them too fast.
There were no cattle about today so I didn’t have to worry about bumping into one on the road but I had to keep an eye out for potholes, though the road was in better condition than this view back along it makes it look.
Although it looks a bit desolate on the top of the hill, I had not gone more than a mile further before the countryside had changed and I was cycling among pleasant green pastures and there was enough water about to make the Water of Milk recognisably a river in the making.
I was able to look across at the Ewe Hill wind farm and check the wind direction. Happily it showed that I would be helped home by the breeze.
I left the Water of Milk when I crossed the bridge at Paddockhole….
…and headed back towards Callister Hill and Langholm.
I stopped on the way up Callister at a spot where a good view up towards Winterhope and a chance for a breather on a steep climb are equally welcome.
The last time that I took this route was on a cold and sunny day early last year and on that occasion, I made a choice to extend my trip by taking a diversion from the direct route home, met an ice filled pothole and hit the deck.
Under the circumstances, I thought long and hard about taking another diversion this time but as the temperature was a couple of degrees higher, the roads were drier and my legs were very cheerful, I risked turning off three miles short of Langholm and going over the hill to join the main road at Canonbie, adding ten miles to the journey.
Needless to say, I hadn’t gone far along my diversion before the sun ducked behind some clouds….
…although it was by no means as gloomy as the camera makes out. All the same, once the sun went in, it felt a lot colder so I didn’t hang about taking any more pictures but pedalled steadily on.
The ride added 35 miles to my skimpy total for January but as I had done the last 15 miles in just under an hour, I was quite satisfied with both the views early on and the pace towards the end.
There were still no birds about in the garden when I got back but the sun came out as soon as the bike was safely put away in the garage and the sky was full of fluffy pink clouds.
In the absence of interesting birds and garden flowers, I took a picture of the bowl of hyacinths which our friend Liz had given Mrs Tootlepedal at the new year. They are flourishing.
Although the days are just beginning to get noticeably longer, they are still don’t last very long so I lit the stove in the front room and settled down to putting two of the Carlisle choir songs onto my computer so that I can start learning them. Learning words and music is a protracted and sometime painful process, full of small steps forward and giant leaps backwards.
The flying bird(s) of the day are the only two chaffinches which approached the feeder when I was looking out of the window before cycling so I feel very lucky to have captured them at all. They have been carefully balanced for gender and left and right tendencies in the pursuit of political correctness.