Upping my game

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony in East Wemyss. On his walk today, he found a tree with some very determined roots.

It was slightly warmer here in the morning and a lot drier today than yesterday. As Mrs Tootlepedal had a big task on hand in writing up the minutes of a meeting, I took advantage of the better weather and went for a bike ride after an early cup of coffee.

I had a look round the garden before I left. Once again, I was struck by the different dahlias Mrs Tootlepedal grows. I also spotted the Crown Princess Margareta rose making an effort.

As the wind was blowing from the north west, I thought that starting off by going east might be a good idea, so I headed over the hill to Newcastleton. The wind was indeed helpful but the snag in the plan was the climb up to the White Yett as I left Langholm. It is only a mile and a half long, but the start of the climb has a gradient of 12% before it eases off to 7%. I was happy to stop to take a photo to get my breath back on the way up.

Once over the top of the col at the White Yett, there is a break for the rider as the road dips back down to the Tarras Water, and I was able to look about and enjoy the heather which is coming into bloom.

Of course, the down side of going down, is the going up on the other side, and once again I was happy to take a breather on the 7% gradient and look back down the road.

I looked down the Tarras Valley too.

Once I was out of the river valley, the trees gave way to never ending heather . . .

. . . until I got to the county boundary at 1118 feet above sea level. I had climbed 1178 ft since I left Langholm (253ft above sea level) thanks to the drop down to the Tarras Water.

I only averaged just over 7 miles an hour for the six miles from home but at least it was quicker than walking.

At the county boundary, I looked back across the moor to Whita and the monument . . .

. . . and forward to the very welcome sight of four miles of continuous downhill to Newcastleton.

The land has not been intensively managed for grouse on this side of the fence.

The whizz down the hill to Newcastleton (four miles in thirteen minutes) was made even more pleasant by the lack of motor vehicles in either direction, though there was a bit of traffic to be negotiated at one point.

From Newcastleton, I headed down the main road to Canonbie and would have kept my camera firmly in my pocket if I hadn’t stopped to check out some frenzied bird calling. I took some time to place it, but finally realised that it was coming from a good number of birds on a wire.

From the racket that they were making, I thought that they might be starlings but I was a good distance away from them and the colour looked wrong.

When I got home, I had a look at the picture on my computer and it turned out that they were starlings, but almost all of them were youngsters and not fully clad in the starlings’ usual black plumage. The blow up of the photo is not good but it does show the young birds with very pale head colouring.

I have never seen a sight like this before. I wish that I had taken a better picture of the birds.

Although the ride to Canonbie down the Liddle valley and back up to Langholm along the Esk is much flatter than going over the moor, there is still quite a lot of smaller up and down in it . . .

. . . and Strava reckons that I climbed over 2000 ft in my 26 mile outing, though my bike computer was more conservative and put it at 1800 ft. Whichever is true, I was quite glad to get home in time for lunch.

I had a walk round the garden before I went in and got a treat. Butterflies had discovered the buddleia. They weren’t prepared to pose for the photographer though, so I went in intending to catch them later.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal returned to her minutes while I watched the the birds. A sparrow gave me that ‘over the shoulder’ pose.

It had turned into a fine afternoon so I went out into the garden and mowed the greenhouse grass and the vegetable garden paths.

And hunted for butterflies.

There was a selection on the buddleia and during the rest of the afternoon, I found more when I looked around.

Red Admiral:

Small Tortoiseshell:


I hope that this is just the start of a major invasion.

Funnily enough, my best butterfly picture of the day was probably this one of a tried and tested white butterfly in its fur coat.

I looked at flowers too. That is mint in the middle of the bottom row.

I noticed that the afternoon warmth had persuaded the Crown Princess to spread her wings a bit.

I came back in and looked out at the bird feeder. It was very busy.

When Mrs Tootlepedal had finished her minutes, we drove up to the moor. I wanted to show her the heather and as it was a sunny afternoon, I thought that the heather would look good. Oddly enough, although the weather looked much brighter in theory than it had been when I had cycled over in the morning, there was a a curious haze hanging over us and the view was if anything a little duller.

Still, it was a treat to stop and enjoy the peaceful scene for a while, and we got home in perfect time for a cup of tea. By coincidence, it also let us watch the last few kilometres of a hilly stage of the Vuelta as we drank our tea.

After a busy day, we were both quite tired by this time, so apart from Zooming with my brother and sisters, we let the day wind down gently.

There is no flying bird today. A greenfinch is peering round to see where it has gone.

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

37 thoughts on “Upping my game

  1. That looked a cracking good ride today,with some great shots of the scenery along the route.
    That’s a fair bit of ascent in 26 miles,excellent . I’d go for the Strava ascent gain figure😊

  2. That’s quite an amazing gathering of starlings. It looks like they’ve had quite an increase in their numbers. Thanks for the blow up to give us a better look at starling youngsters. We don’t have many (if any?) around here.

    The butterflies are gorgeous. Seems we have less of them here this summer. I hope it isn’t a trend. Looking at your bird feeder reminded me that I really should make an attempt at finding hulled sunflower seeds. The discarded shells sure do make a mess. Seems it may take some extra effort to find them on offer.

  3. The heather is beautiful, and so are the blue (?) dahlias. I’ve never seen them that color.
    Those are excellent shots of the butterflies.
    We do have starlings here but I’ve never met a young one, apparently. I’ll know now if I do.

  4. The purple heather looks beautiful – especially in your first photograph. I have never seen so many young starlings perched together. Soon you will be able to witness your own murmurations of them!

  5. How beautiful, the flowering heather, here too the heather fields are now in full bloom.
    That meeting of the many birds on the telephone cable is very special 🙂
    Another beautiful ride and a tough climb. Thank you for the pictures.

  6. Thank you for the wonderful photos of the butterflies- it’s so good to see them flying about at last. The starlings have done well I’ve never seen so many youngsters. It’s no wonder there was such a racket from them all.

  7. I enjoyed all these photos and beautiful views. The expanses of heather are outstanding. I remember a song from way back when, “Heather On The Hill”. My mother used to love this song.

      1. Unfortunately large stretches of heather are pretty but usually the result of intensive moorland management for grouse shooting which has not been helpful to the local environment.

  8. “It is only a mile and a half long, but the start of the climb has a gradient of 12% before it eases off to 7%” Thanks for this information! I plan to try it as a run sometime. I suspect my dog will manage rather better than I do (very energetic Golden Retriever…). BTW I’m new to Langholm and have been enjoying your blog partly in terms of improving my knowledge of the area but also all the horticultural information, having taken on an acre of near untamed land, which my wife and I, as complete amateurs compared to you and Mrs Tootlepedal, are trying to tame…
    Thanks a lot!

    1. Thank you for commenting Mark. It will make a good run with plenty of time to recover after the sharp start. Good luck with your acre. That will be quite a task. If you would like to come and visit our garden, let me know.

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