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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who was passing Tamworth castle the other day when the sun came out.

Tamworth Castle

We had another cool morning here but with added sunshine and the day soon became suitable for gardening and cycling.

I had a walk round the garden after breakfast and had to duck as a low flying aircraft passed by.  I got the camera out as quick as I could and caught it just as it got framed in electricity wires.

hercules

Looking at the picture above, you may think that I am exaggerating about having to duck but it really was low.

hercules

 

Sandy came round for coffee in the morning which gave me a good excuse to delay cycling until the things warmed up a bit.

After he left, I had another garden wander.  I was pleased to see crocuses looking perky…

crocuses

…and surprised to see and early bee about.  The forecast is for chilly days ahead so it might well have to go back and hide.

bee on crocus

The first daffodil also appeared and it was unfortunate that it was growing in the middle of a bush so it was not easy to capture its full beauty!

first daffodil

However, the moss was looking wonderful in the sun.

moss

I would never have believed that moss could look like this before I started this mossy chapter in my photographic journey.

Like the bee, the frogs in the pond may find that things are too chilly for them soon but this one seemed quite happy for now.

frog

After the sunny garden stroll, I did think of trying to have both a walk and a pedal during the day but looking out of the window and seeing a brisk wind coming out of the north west and making the walnut branches wave about persuaded me that just cycling might well be enough.

I was right, as the windy was strong and cold enough to make sure that my average speed stayed quite low so it took me some time to get round a 31 mile circuit.

I got my fairly speedy bike to check whether it had been harmed by the accident.  It looked all right and I gave it a good wash and brush and oiled the chain before I set off. I wasn’t going to hurry though, just in case.   In addition, after the recent frosts and snow, the roads are beginning to crack up so I kept my eyes fairly firmly on the road ahead, not wanting a repeat of the unplanned flying dismount so soon after the last one.

As a result I decided to stop every 5 miles and take a picture both of the road I was cycling along and whatever was there.  I also hoped that this might give readers unfamiliar with our area, a picture of a typical cycle ride for me.

5 miles:

callister and buzzard

The road up Callister and a passing buzzard: a two lane minor road

10 miles:

Between the waters and gair road

The road to Gair and a local farm: single track road

14 miles:

I made an extra stop as i crossed it to show the M74, the main road between Carlisle and Glasgow.

M74

While I was taking the picture, a car drew up and the lady inside asked me if I was Tootlepedal.  She had seen the blog and recognised the ski goggles that I was wearing.  She is a relative of our neighbour Liz and her son and our older son had met at the Lauder Common Riding last year so we had a good chat before going our separate ways.

15 miles:

I stopped a mile later on the old A74, once a dual carriageway but now returned to single carriageway and used as a service road for the motorway and very handy for cyclists.

Old A74

This was an interesting place to stop as there was history all around.

(Clockwise from top left) The old road which replaced the original coaching road, Robgill Tower, Burnswark, a site of both Roman and iron age forts and, coming bang up to date, a wind farm in the distance.  And I had the motorway on one side of me and the mainline railway on the other.  People have been passing this spot for thousands of years,

20 miles:

Glenzier road

In farming country near Chapelknowe.  Still a minor road but a slightly more busy one.

25 miles:

Broadmeadows road

The back road to Canonbie.  I am in the Esk valley now…..with a nice gate.

30 miles:

A7 bike track

The end of the bike path where it joins the A7, the road from Carlisle to Edinburgh and the A7 itself just before Skippers Bridge.

And to complete the picture, here is the route itself.

garmin route 20 Feb 2018

Click to see the route details

Because I am supposed to avoid big hills with my new knee, these quiet unadventurous routes are just my cup of tea.

As you can see , it was a sunny ride so I enjoyed it in spite of an unhelpful breeze.

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden, making the most of the warmer weather.

The frogs had gone but there was a colourful bunch of crocuses to catch the eye.

crocuses

I hadn’t had any time to watch birds earlier in the day so I took a moment when I got in to stare out of the kitchen window but the light was a bit too far gone to be ideal….

chaffinches

…so I was pleased to see a robin in posing mood.

robin

I was ready for a cup of tea and a quiet sit down by this time.

Later in the day, I made the mistake of ringing up a software company to sort out a problem and when the lady had asked several times for me to produce an email confirmation of sale for a product which I bought in 2012 and I had replied patiently each time that I didn’t keep emails for 5 years, she then asked me if there was any one else in the house she could speak to who might be able to understand what she was talking about.  I was mildly offended to say the least but we didn’t get anywhere with our conversation after that.

In the absence of a flying bird of the day, I can only put up a bird that was very nearly flying.

robin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who went to Margate to visit the Turner Gallery, which can be seen in the background of her  shot.

Margate sands with Turner Contemporary Art Gallery in the distance

I had the job of being the stand in feeder filler at the Moorland bird hide today and it was dry but chilly when I drove up to the feeding station.  The roads were very icy in places so I went with great care.

I filled the feeders and sat in the hide for a while, enjoying the busy comings and goings of the residents.

The chaffinches went for the tall feeder….

chaffinches

…while blackbirds and siskins preferred a little shelter from possible raptors…

siskins and blackbirds

…and the tits went nuts.

tit collection

I tried to catch one of each of the resident tit varieties.  This is a great tit…

great tit

 

….this is a coal tit…..

coal tit

…and this is a blue tit.

blue tit

We get long tailed tits around the town too but I have never seen any at the Moorland feeders.

As I sat there, I noticed that it had begun to snow and since I thought that the roads were quite tricky enough already, when the snow started to come down more seriously, I upped sticks and went home.

It didn’t take long before we were back to this again…

snowy garden

….so I settled down to work on my computer indoors for the rest of the day.

I put a couple of parish magazines, which Sandy had formatted for me, into the Archive Group website and checked on a couple of other things while I was there.

Then I caught up on my correspondence and turned my attention to hymns.  I have recently joined the church choir and since I don’t know the bass parts, I find it very awkward to put the music and words together for hymns, especially when the music is on one page and the words are on another.  As a result, I am experimenting with producing my own versions with music and words as close together as is possible to see if this helps.

Outside, the workers on the dam bridge seemed to be packing up although the work is by no means complete.  At one stage, a large lorry appeared and removed the container that they had been using as office and canteen.

dam bridge repairs

They were very brisk an efficient and had it swung up and on the back of the truck in no time.  The next time that I looked out, I caught a last glimpse of it as it went off down Henry Street at the bottom of our road.

dam bridge repairs

We are interested to see what is going to happen next.

In the early evening, Peter from our camera club turned up and we spent a frustrating three quarters of an hour unavailingly trying to get one or other of my laptops to talk to his projector via an HDMI cable.  There were plenty of suggested solutions available on the internet but sadly, none of them worked.  Such are the joys of tech.

On a more cheerful note, we switched off the computers and went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our local community choir where Peter is one of the tenors.  We are preparing for a concert with our local orchestra and as a result, we are singing a lot of songs which we know quite well.  This makes for a relaxing evening.

The forecast suggests that we might get a better day after a wet start tomorrow.  I hope so.

There was an almost complete absence of birds in the garden today for some unknown reason so the flying bird(s) of the day come from the Moorland feeders and are the best that I could do on a gloomy day.

Moorland feeder in snow

There was at least one walking bird about in the garden though.

footprints in the snow

It was almost certainly a wood pigeon.

 

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Today’s guest picture is rather small but that is how it was sent to me by my friend Sandra.  I have put it in because it shows some of her regular flock of long tail tits visiting her feeder.  It is a great benefit to live right on the edge of town if you want a better class of bird visitor.

long tailed tits

There is still a distinct lack of perkiness in the Tootlepedal household.  I am up and about but not at all active and Mrs Tootlepedal is still mostly in bed having lost all her get up and go.  We are both doing a lot of coughing.

This makes the house a somewhat gloomy place and the succession of grey days isn’t helping.   It looked for a while as thought we might get some sunshine this morning but by the time that I looked out at the birds, the skies were heavy with cloud again.

The robin was in a stand offish mood….

robin

…and the goldfinches were too busy eating to wave at me.

goldfinches

The chaffinches always seem to be getting a chilly welcome from…..

chaffinch and goldfinch

….goldfinch or siskin.

chaffinch and siskin

Although I had occasional visits to make with a hot drink or a slice of toast for Mrs Tootlepedal, I was getting increasingly bored and restless with sitting around doing crosswords and listening to the radio so I realised that this might be a good moment to get back to putting copies of the 1960s Langholm Parish Church newsletters into the Archive Group website.  We have a collection of these newsletters given to us by the widow of the minister of the time and I put a lot onto the website  at one time but I have neglected them over the last few years.

This seemed the right moment to get back to work on them.  It requires scanning, OCR and HTML formatting and as they are not very well printed in places, the scanning and OCR requires attention and time.   If you wish, you can see one of the months that I put in today here.  I don’t guarantee that it will be error free.

It is interesting to me that 20 years after the end of the war, the minister still drew a lot of his examples from the war experience.  You get little feeling from the newsletter that the cultural stirrings that were rippling through the country in the mid 60s were affecting life in Langholm, though I am sure that they must have been making themselves felt even here.

This task proved a very good decision as it was interesting in its own right and as it required a lot of concentration, I didn’t have so much time to feel sorry for myself and I ended up a good deal more rested and cheerful than when I started.

To give myself a break between editions, I went for a very slow walk across three bridges.  The light was very poor by this time but I was still pleased to see some old waterside friends.

waterside birds

And the moss once again offered a bit of colour on a grey day.

The parapet of the Sawmill Brig was home to a mossy contrast.

moss

moss

And there was more to see as I went round the new path.

moss

It wasn’t a day for colourful views….

Lodge

….so I kept an eye out for other points of interest.

ferny tree

catkin and seed head

I had plenty of time to look about because I was walking very slowly indeed.  In fact I was going so slowly at one point that I thought that I might even have been going backwards.

Still, I managed to cross the Duchess Bridge and combine moss and bridge in one shot.

mossy tree and Duchess bridge

This part of the river in is shade for most of the year and it is no surprise to find a lot of moss covered trees on its banks.

The most colourful moss of the outing was this fine curtain on the wall at the end of the Scholars’ Field.

moss on Scholars Wall

Mike Tinker was working in his garden when I passed and kindly offered me a cup of coffee but I had done more than enough by this time and headed home for a sit down.

I thought that it was about time to eat a more or less proper meal for my tea but in retrospect, this wasn’t a brilliant idea and a boiled egg and a finger of toast would have been better.

The quality of the flying bird of the day continues to be appalling.

flying chaffinch

We are promised our next sunny day on Saturday week so things may not improve until then.

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows the village pond in Osmaston, Derbyshire.  It was passed by my brother Andrew while on an outing with his walking group.

Osmaston

After a moment of dry weather before breakfast, the day very soon reverted to type and got wet.

tulip

The tulips are trying their best despite the weather

Dropscone rang me up  from the golf course where he was hitting a few balls before the rain arrived and we arranged to have a cup of coffee.

I was expecting treacle scones as it was Friday but he arrived bringing the standard issue with him.  He had gone to buy some treacle from our local Co-operative Store but they had been literally unable to get their doors to open so he had had to return empty handed.

The standard scones were very good.

The main business of the day was waiting very nervously to see if a change in my internet provider would go smoothly.  After staying with my previous provider ever since I first connected to the internet, I had been put off enough by the poor customer relations of the big firm which had recently taken them over to change to a new provider.

I got an absurdly good deal from my new supplier which is entirely based on the (probably justified) hope that I won’t bother to change when the rate goes sharply up after a year.  I was promised that the whole change over would happen seamlessly without the need for me to do anything more than plug in a new router when told and greatly to my surprise, this turned out to be true.

Not only that, the provision was, as promised, a great deal speedier than my old one.  This is very unsettling and i am still expecting bad things to happen but meanwhile I am very happy and shooting pictures up the line onto the WordPress server at great speed.

Osmaston

As it was raining pretty well all morning, I was quite happy to wait in and watch birds while the switch over happened, even though the light was terrible.

chaffinch and goldfinch

The birds were quite happy to quarrel

We had regular visits from the sparrowhawk but it was too quick for me today and I didn’t even get the camera raised let alone take a picture of it.

We also got regular visits from redpolls who did hang about a bit more.

redpoll

I took a picture of one beside a siskin….

redpoll

…which shows how similar they are in size.  When they have their back to you and the red head and chest is not visible, they are often hard to pick out among the siskins.

As I said, the switch over went smoothly and while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Hawick on business, I noticed that the rain had stopped so I went for a walk.

The wind hadn’t stopped along with the rain and it was blowing too briskly for comfortable walking in exposed places so I just tramped through the puddles round Gaskell’s Walk.

There was the usual selection of lichens to enjoy.

lichens

They are often little works of art.

The larch trees are just beginning to turn green which is a very cheering sight…

Larch in spring

…and the willows are working hard too…

willow

…though the wind made taking good pictures of them tricky.

It was still rather gloomy so I thought that a black and white tree might demonstrate the feel of the day…

b/w tree

…but perhaps this one getting its feet wet….

tree and puddle

…shows the day off better.

I was pleased to see an old friend at Pool Corner…

heron

…and I was very impressed by this colour daffodil beside the road there.

daffodil

When I got back home, I put the dry weather to some good use by sieving some compost and mowing the front lawn and the drying green.  I am thinking of applying to have the garden designated as a national centre for moss.

There are new flowers to be seen in the garden though.  There are fritillaries…

fritillary

The brisk wind blew one flower head up to reveal the riches within.

…and the very first tulips to open a little…

tulips

….and the daffodils are at their peak.

daffodil

I just need the wind to drop and the sun to come out.

When I get bored with the birds outside the kitchen window, which is very rarely, Mrs Tootlepedal has provided me other things to look at.

flowers under the feeder

 When she came home from Hawick, we discussed whether the tulips were a bit earlier this year than usual so I looked at last year’s posts for this time and discovered that we are perhaps a week further forward than we would usually be.

Looking at the posts was rather disturbing because I discovered that my life runs in very well regulated channels and last year’s pictures are uncannily similar to this year’s efforts.  I even noticed that I had done more or less the same long cycle run to Caerlaverock last year as I just did this year.   I will have to try to get a bit of photographic variety into my life.

Nature is repetitive though and looking at last year’s posts for early April, I saw several pictures of a sparrowhawk in the garden and this year again,  we have had several visits from one over the past few days.

In the evening in a very welcome piece of repetition, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I played Corelli, Rameau and Loeillet along with Greensleeves on a Ground from the Division Flute.  Unlike the new internet connection, we took things at a very steady pace and as a result we enjoyed our playing a lot.

I didn’t get a good flying bird picture today and have had to settle for this ‘two for the price of one’ effort.

flying chaffinch flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture was provided by my brother.  He thinks there should be a counterbalance to the many white lambs which have appeared in the blog lately.  He saw these diverse lambs on a walk in the Peak Distract.

manifold lambs

We had another cold and (very) windy day today so I was pleased that my banked cycling mileage for the month would let me take a day off without feeling guilty about it.

It was brightened by the appearance of Dropscone and Sandy for coffee.  Dropscone had been shopping so there were no scones but I was able to plug the gaps with a combination of iced buns and mini Jaffa cakes so we didn’t starve.

After coffee, I sat down to make the most of the morning by putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database but suffered the first frustration of the day when I couldn’t access the server to put the data in.  This has happened before and cured itself so I am hoping that it might do so again. (It hadn’t by the end of the day.)

The enforced rest allowed me to spend more time than lately in staring out of the window.  There was plenty to look at.

siskin and goldfinch

A siskin and goldfinch having a discussion

The birds looked as though they were feeling the cold a bit, not to mention the brisk wind.

goldfinches

But occasional shafts of sunshine cheered things up a bit.

goldfinches

We certainly have a lot of goldfinches about at present

After lunch, the wind didn’t get any less intrusive…

wood pigeon

Not a happy looking wood pigeon

…but the sun arrived to pick out a redpoll in all its glory.

redpoll

The wind was still nippy though

redpoll

And in a moment of almost transcendental joy, it also let me finish turning the contents of Bin C into Bin D.

compost

Have you ever seen anything more exciting?

And then I had time for a garden wander.  There is plenty of colour about even if spring is creeping along very slowly indeed.

April flowers

And useful insects too.

insect of daffodil

bee on tulip

This bee couldn’t find a way into the tulip and banged round the side for some time.

The first tulips are starting to go over but they still have the capacity to delight.

tulips

The sun was a cause of  frustration though as it came out at the same time as I had an appointment to visit the physio so I couldn’t make the best of it with a walk.

On the plus side, the visit to the physio was very helpful.  She was pleased with my progress and had useful suggestions for further action and will see me again in a month for a further check.  I walked back home with a spring in my step.

After a cup of tea, I had a moment to look out of the window again.

collared dove

A collared dove paid us a visit

I thought though, that this picture of a chaffinch among the rather scanty plum blossom summed up the day best.

chaffinch

I still had time to go for a walk but I foolishly thought that I ought to try to get some sense out the Archive Group power suppliers as they had not written me the promised letter of explanation after a month of waiting.  This was not a life affirming experience and not only am I no nearly a satisfactory conclusion to my problems but it took so long that I hadn’t time for a walk.

Luckily my flute pupil Luke came to cheer me up with some excellent playing and good signs of progress.  He is a really good lad and I get great pleasure out of our duets.

A final moment of frustration to round off the day came when I got a message from the website hosting company suggesting a solution to my database problems.  It was good to get a helpful suggestion from people who know but the fact that it didn’t work modified my rapture severely.  I will see if my younger son can help me out.  He knows about these things.

The flying bird of the day is one of the flock of goldfinches.

flying goldfinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was taken by Santa Claus.  She is visiting us at the moment and brought our Christmas presents up with her.  She was so anxious to see our faces when we opened them, that we were given special dispensation to tear off the paper 25 days early.  She wasn’t disappointed with our reaction.

ukuleles

The perfect his and hers gift

It was just as well that we had this generous gift to bring some light into our life because there was precious little in the way of any light at all outside as we ‘enjoyed’ another excessively gloomy and wet morning.

I did look out to see if the rain had stopped from time to time and saw a welcome visitor to the feeder.

redpoll

We had been promised a warm front and true to the prediction the temperature which was 4 degrees C at breakfast, rose 3 degrees in half an hour at lunchtime and then continued to climb until it was 13 degrees when I went to Carlisle in the evening.

The rain stopped as the temperature went up and I out out some pellets for the jackdaws.

jackdaw

Somehow I don’t think of birds using their tongues to pick up pellets.

There were the usual queues.

jackdaw

For the second day running we got a dry afternoon, although there was no sign of the sun today.  Still, it was very pleasantly warm so we went out for a quick walk round Gaskell’s.

The zero temperature yesterday doesn’t seem to have affected the lichen on the park wall…

park wall lichen

…though the recent strong winds have had an effect nearby.

fallen trees

 We kept a wary eye for more falling trees as we walked up the track to the Stubholm.

There was plenty of water about, coming off the hill…

waterfall at new bridge

…and rushing down the valley below.

Wauchope

I was very surprised to see some fresh fungus poking out from a covering of moss on a log beside the track.  Maybe the moss had protected it form the cold.

fungus

Annie (a.k.a Santa) was busy with her camera too and posed Mrs Tootlepedal in the middle of the road for an artistic shot…

Annie snapping

…and luckily avoided being run over by any log lorries while she was doing it.

When we got home, the ladies spotted some fresh fungus on our front lawn.

lawn fungus

The plant world must be baffled by our changeable weather.

Later in the afternoon, our front room filled up with tenors when four of our section in the Langholm Sings choir gathered for a secret and much needed practice.  We have a concert on Friday and we need all the help that we can get.

In the evening, I went off to Carlisle with Susan in her car and we had a very enjoyable session of recorder quartets, ending with a rousing version of Alexander’s Ragtime Band….and some excellent chocolate biscuits to go with our post-playing cup of tea.

I spent some time during the day installing Windows 10 on my back up laptop and some more time taking it off again.

The flying bird of the day is a shadowy jackdaw, the best that could be achieved on a very grey day.

flying jackdaw

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my son Tony and shows one of his large pack of fierce  hounds.tony's dogAnother dry day, this time with added sunshine and light winds, made for a unmissable chance to go cycling and this time, I didn’t miss it.

There was a moment of distraction before I got going when I noticed a newcomer at the bird feeder.  It was early in the day and the light wasn’t good but this was the first sighting in the autumn of a brambling in the garden so I have put the picture in for the record.

bramblingThe feeder may have been in deep shadow but there was sunshine on the plum tree where a goldfinch was looking a bit put out by the newcomer.

goldfinchIn spite of the sunshine, it was a fairly nippy 6°C when I set off so I was well wrapped up.  I had judged the clothing level well though and I maintained a good temperature, not too hot, not too cold, for the whole ride.

I was helped by going at a very steady pace as I was in no hurry and kept an eye out for views which might show why pedalling up the Ewes valley is my favourite Sunday morning run.

On the way up, I stopped to look to my left….

Ewes valleyEwes valley…and to my right.

Ewes valleyThe valley is remarkable for the extreme flatness of the narrow strip of ground between the hills on both sides.

The flat ground comes to an abrupt end though and the head of the valley is surrounded by hills….

Ewes valley….I took a panorama too.

Ewes valleyInstead of going straight on up the main road to Mosspaul as I usually do, the fine weather persuaded me to turn right at Fiddleton Toll and head for the hills.  The road has been recently resurfaced and was a pleasure to ride along.

road to carretriggI turned round as I climbed gently to see the valley that I had left behind me.

ewes valleyI was headed for Carretrigg, a fine ridge at the top of  a steep hill.

carretriggI could have gone on and dropped into Liddesdale but I didn’t have time so after admiring the view to the south…..

carretrigg…and the north….

carretrigg…I pointed the bike back down the hill….

carretrigg…and headed for home.

Unlike the capricious wind of last week, the gentle wind in my face on the way up today had slightly strengthened but kept its direction so I was able to pedal back to Langholm with a light heart and twinkling legs.

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal and I sawed off another limb of the apple tree and Mrs Tootlepedal did some excellent trimming and shredding so that everything was tided away by the time that I had had a shower.

I took a picture or two in the garden while I was out there.

clematis and nerine

The low temperature in the morning had not harmed the nerine or clematis.

The feeder was now in the sunshine but there were no bramblings to be seen, just sparrows…

sparrows…and contentious chaffinches.

chaffinchesIn the afternoon, we went to Carlisle to combine a little shopping with a choir practice.  We are singing at the switching on of the Christmas Lights in the city centre next month so we concentrated on some Christmas songs today which seemed a bit inappropriate for such a pleasant sunny day but we enjoyed ourselves anyway.

When we got home, we found that a contentious refereeing decision had put the nail in the coffin of Scotland’s chances of going further in the Rugby World Cup so I was exceptionally glad that the choir practice had prevented me from watching the match.  I wasn’t very happy but I must have been the happiest rugby supporter in Scotland.  I would have been distraught if I had been watching.

We had some baked cod for our tea and then I watched a little uncontentious telly and pruned the pictures for tonight’s post before going to watch the recorded highlights of the game and cry a little.

Today’s flying bird is a chaffinch, cheerfully unconscious of the national disaster ahead.

flying chaffinch

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