Today’s guest picture comes from sunny East Wemyss. Our son Tony thought that it was a particularly calm if rather hazy day on the Forth of Forth.
We had a calm and sunny day here too today, after some seasonally appropriate early morning autumnal mist.
Under the circumstances, a bike ride seemed to be a good idea. I let the mist burn off and the temperature rise, and finally got going a little later than I intended, but still before coffee time.
I left Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden in the company of butterflies.
I decided that my knees had been having life a bit too easy with flat rides lately, so I took to the hills today. They weren’t big hills but there were a lot of them as I headed for England by back roads. Before I could get to England, I had to cross the Liddel Water at Penton. I looked at the river both ways from the bridge . . .
. . . and the bridge from the river.
The red cord across the river belonged to a group of firemen who were on a training exercise. It was a peaceful spot . . .
. . . but I left the firemen to it and headed on up the very steep hill into England. At a 10% gradient, if only for a very short while, it is near to my limit these days, but I got up it and managed the long but less steep gradient that followed.
I was happy to stop for a breather and pictures of a seed head shining in the sun together with a moth or butterfly hanging on in a big bunch of mint. Mint seems to have done very well this year.
Once I got out of Liddesdale, I found myself crossing several more streams and rivers, all of which have steep descents, a bridge at the bottom and a steep ascent on the other side.
Luckily, the weather was perfect, the views good, the road surfaces well maintained, and there were objects of interest to distract me on the way.
My target was the castle and church at Bewcastle. The castle sits in a farmer’s field and he kindly lets visitors walk round unimpeded. The castle was originally built in the eleventh century near the site of a Roman fort. It was destroyed and then rebuilt in the mid fourteenth century and lasted for 40 years before it was captured by the Scots and left a ruin.
I was interested to see that a lot of the lower facing stones from the remaining outer wall had obviously been ‘quarried’ for building use in later years . . .
. . . and there is not a great deal of the interior left standing.
The church is in better condition but the present building dates from 1792, 500 years after the first recorded church here.
The chief glory of the church is the Bewcastle Cross, which you can see in the picture above.
Research on a local website tells me that the Bewcastle Cross, with its cousin at Ruthwell on the Solway coast, are probably the finest to survive from Anglo-Saxon Britain. Their style looks to Northumbria, and beyond there to Rome and Syria, rather than to Galloway and Ireland. They are likely to date from after 675 when this area (formerly known as Rheged) had come under Northumbrian sway.
I took pictures of the carvings on all four sides of the cross.
The church car park was full of cars. It turned out that their drivers were not church goers but a rather large party of walkers who filled up the whole road as I approached the castle and only gave way rather reluctantly.
I was a bit worried by a large sign on the road that I intended to take next: ROAD CLOSED. This is the second time that this has happened to me lately, but I shouldn’t complain as it does mean that surfaces will good to bicycle on when the work is done. A friendly postman had told me that the work was only patching and not total resurfacing. He thought that a cyclist might be able to get through, and he was right . . .
. . . though it was a bit of a squeeze. I wondered what a welfare vehicle might have inside it.
Once past the road works, the road was well surfaced, traffic free and an absolute treat to cycle along (there was a lot of downhill at last).
When I came to the road junction at the end of the moor, I turned right and swooped down to this fine bridge at Kirkcambeck . . .
. . . which I crossed again from the other side a few minutes later when I discovered that I should have turned left and not right.
I had printed out a map for my trip but it was so small that I found that I could hardly read it without my bifocals on, which of course I didn’t have with me. A great deal of earnest peering got me back on the right track, and I cycled down from the hills to the Solway plain through Hethersgill and its church . . .
. . . built as a chapel of ease in 1876.
Although the scenery was not so interesting, and there was a lot more traffic, my knees were extremely pleased to find themselves on roads with gentle gradients for the twenty miles home. A lot of the ups and downs in the previous miles had been caused by the crossing of the White Lyne, the Black Lyne and their tributaries. All these streams had come together when I crossed the River Lyne itself on the road to Longtown. I paused on the bridge to enjoy a honey sandwich and the pastoral scene.
I cycled steadily home up the main roads, stopping once or twice for more refreshment and to give my legs a much needed rest.
When I got back, I discovered that Attila the Gardener had been in full attack mode and a large fern near the bird feeder had bitten the dust. The plants in the garden have learned to be light on their feet and the sensible ones dodge out of the way when they see her coming. She is planning for next year.
I took a stroll round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal and found that there are flowers left in the garden . . .
. . . and the bees and butterflies are enjoying them as much as I do.
But by far and away the most popular flowers are the sedums. They were astonishing this afternoon.
The visitors seem mostly to be white tailed bumble bees but there are others too.
The birds had not been visiting the feeder while Mrs Tootlepedal was working on the fern nearby, and they didn’t seem inclined to come after she had finished, so there is not a single bird picture today and the flying bird of the day is a dahlia.
Footnote: I append a map of the bike trip with an elevation chart so that you can see why my knees were pleased to get to the flatter section. Those interested can click on the map for more detail.