Today’s guest picture comes from my nephew Dan who is in Tromsø in Norway. It rained so much that he and his companion had to take refuge in the Tromsdalen Church, sometimes called the Arctic Cathedral.
The forecast, which had suggested a sunny day and a temperature of five degrees by lunchtime, was partially right. We did have a beautifully sunny day but the temperature was still below two degrees at lunchtime, and the lawn was still covered in frost.
Any thoughts of cycling had had to be abandoned.
Circumstances have not been kind to my cycling ambitions in November and December and after doing sixteen hundred miles in the four months from July to October, I have barely done three hundred miles in the last two months of the year. I am hoping for no injuries and better weather next year. I started this year hoping to do 4000 miles and have had to settle for a little bit over 3000 instead, but I have done more walking recently so I am reasonably content.
The roads were a bit icy in the morning so I did the crossword, had coffee and watched the birds.
They were looking cheerful in the sun.
A dunnock tried to look like a heron…
…and a siskin tried to find someone to argue with…
…while the robin made a welcome re-appearance after a few days of being invisible.
The bird that I was most pleased to see was this lesser redpoll, the first one that I have seen this winter.
After lunch, I set out to make some use of the sunshine. I still had to tread carefully while I was in the town as there were icy spots here and there, but once I got onto the track up Warbla, the going was good.
It was easy to see where the fields had been in shadow during the morning.
Looking across the Wauchope valley, I could see a favourite little ridge, Naze Hill, which is pleasingly symmetrical.
I had to pay some attention to where I was walking as well as looking at the view because there were icy puddles on the track.
I tried to avoid taking too many pictures because I posted quite a few shots of this walk not long ago when I came the same hill with Mrs Tootlepedal, but it was such a lovely day that I had to take one or two when I got to the summit.
On this occasion, I did not go back home by walking down the way that I had come up. I headed on down the far side of the hill, roughly following the line of the electricity poles which would take me down to Skippers Bridge in the end.
It was rough ground but the frost kept things firm and made the moss look very festive.
Towards the bottom of the hill, I was on the shady side of the ridge and there was a distinct chill about.
As I walked down to the main road, I was surprised to see some hair ice beside the path, but as I went on, I could see that there was a lot of it about.
Wikipedia tells me:
In the year 2015, German and Swiss scientists identified the fungus Exidiopsis effusa as key to the formation of hair ice. The fungus was found on every hair ice sample examined by the researchers, and disabling the fungus with fungicide or hot water prevented hair ice formation. The fungus shapes the ice into fine hairs through an uncertain mechanism and likely stabilizes it by providing a recrystallization inhibitor similar to antifreeze proteins.
The fungus must be spreading round Langholm because I see more hair ice every year.
I crossed Skippers Bridge and walked back to the town along the river bank. There is a fine tree beside the river at the Co-op store. It has some good fungus and a mysterious tag which has been nailed on to it.
I have noticed several trees round the town with these little tags on them and would welcome help from any reader who can shed light on what they are for.
The sun was still high enough to shine on me when I got back to the town so instead of crossing the suspension bridge, I continued on to the Kilngreen and had a word with the gulls. They were also enjoying the sun.
I crossed the Sawmill Brig and walked round the bottom of the Castleholm, where the castle was doing a little basking in the sun too…
…and went home via the Jubilee Bridge and our corner shop. Our neighbour Liz was doing a little shopping there too so we walked home together.
I had done five miles and that proved quite enough exercise for me for the day. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening doing some creative sofa slumping.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to read the blog over the past year, and in particular those who have added the always polite and often informative comments that make writing the blog feel worthwhile for me.
I hope that 2020 brings readers all that they might wish and a little bit more.
I personally am keeping my fingers crossed that our National Health Service can weather the storms ahead. Our church organist Henry, who drives a bus for a living, recently had to wait three minutes to get an emergency call answered when a passenger had an epileptic fit on his bus. When his call was finally answered, the call handler told him that as his passenger wasn’t actually dying, no ambulance would be sent out. This is not very satisfactory. Voters will have to learn that there is a crucial link between paying taxes and having a good health service and politicians will need to learn that leaving sick people lying beside roads at night is a matter of great shame in a civilised country. (Henry took the patient home in his bus.)
On that cheerful note, I end by wishing all and sundry a very happy new year. I hope to meet you all again next year.
The flying bird of the day is a gull, disturbed by an elderly walker and heading for a fence post.