Today’s guest picture comes from Langholm exile in Canada, Joyce. She was greeted by this scene on New Year’s Eve. There will be shovelling.
The new year here came in with clouds but no rain and no frost, so all was well set for the ‘Whisky Run’, a long standing Ne’erday event in Langholm, organised by our friends Mike and Alison with the help of their friend Charlie. It is an informal event for runners and walkers where what is important is not when you start, but when you finish. You can start whenever you like but you must try to finish at the Market Place as near to 11am as possible.
Leaving her decision to the very last minute, Mrs Tootlepedal decided that she would walk the eight mile long route and left the house at 8.25 just as it became light enough to walk safely on public roads.
I gave her a quarter of an hour start and followed.
It was as good a day for walking as you could reasonably expect on the first of January, with a light wind and generally ice free roads, but it wasn’t a great day for taking photographs early in the morning.
I also didn’t want to waste too much time stopping for snapping as I thought I might need all my time to get to the end punctually. I did stop once or twice though.
The walk starts with a stiff climb so I was probably happy to have an excuse for a breather when I had got over the first hill.
It was misty in the valley below me as I walked down towards the Burnfoot Bridge over the Esk.
I noticed a couple of horses in a field beside the road near…
…the racehorse training establishment.
Passing the training track, I came to the Burnfoot Bridge, and having crossed it…
…I plodded up the second long hill of the walk, looking back down the misty valley which had been my outward route.
At the top of the hill, I noted the cottage at Henwell which always strikes me as being a perfect example of a borders hill farm cottage.
The road took me past a small quarry which was full of cows, and I wondered if they had been stashed there by Border reivers.
I approached the Gates of Eden, which I have often photographed on more sunny days from across the valley..
…though they didn’t look quite so inviting today.
I wasn’t going to go through the gates anyway as our route took us to the right at the spot where you can see a white van in the picture above.
From there, it was straight back to Langholm with a slight kink at Potholm farm to make a detour round a bridge which got washed away some years ago.
I passed Mrs Tootlepedal at Potholm. She was making good progress and listening to the radio on her phone as she went along.
I had been walking without passing or being passed up to this point but from then on in, I caught up with other walkers…
…and was passed by eager runners. I arrived at the Market Place at five to eleven and Mrs Tootlepedal followed me in at five past, so we were both pretty happy with the timing of our efforts. The eight miles was our longest walking outing for a couple of years.
The runners and walkers gathered in the square for New Year greetings, tots of whisky, the prize presentation and a group photo. This was the last year that Mike, Alison and Charlie were going to organise the event so it is to be hoped that some others will take on the task next year as it makes a cheerful start to the year…
…especially as the Town Band always arrives to play in the Market Place while the runners are there.
Mrs Tootlepedal and I made our way home, and on the way, we met our neighbours Liz and Ken who came in with us to enjoy a cup of coffee with a tot of whisky added and a seasonal piece of shortbread.
Ken has had many medical troubles this year but between visits to the doctor, he has somehow managed to squeeze in over 6000 cycling miles this year. Memo to self: must try harder.
When they left, I watched the birds for a bit.
I was happy to see a redpoll chatting to a siskin on the plum tree….
…and took the fuzzy picture because it is an unusual sight. It does show how similar on size and build redpolls and siskins are.
At the feeder, one chaffinch leaned round the corner and gave another chaffinch a really nasty shock when it approached.
A collared dove looked down from above.
And Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out the walnut tree was dripping with big black birds.
Over coffee, Ken had told me that he had cycled thirty miles yesterday in very low temperatures while I had been walking up my hill, so I thought that I ought to at least make an effort in slightly milder conditions today and went for a 16 mile ride up and back down the main road after lunch.
I didn’t stop to take photographs as it was still very grey and I wanted to get home before the light faded. The only picture I took was the old toll house at Fiddleton. I had stopped there anyway as that was where I turned to come home.
Thanks to a kindly wind which helped me up the hill and didn’t make too much of a nuisance of itself on the way back down, I averaged just under 14 mph. This was a promising start to my 2020 cycling year.
Strangely, neither Mrs Tootlepedal or I was fit for a great deal in the late afternoon and evening so it was lucky that the Magnificent Seven was available on the telly to remind us of the days of our youth. It stands up remarkably well to the test of time and still has some of the coolest film moments that I can recall.
I would practise that gunfighter’s walk if my knees didn’t creak so much.
The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, doubtless the first of many in 2020.