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Archive for the ‘Cycle outings’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce.  It shows that when it comes to Scottish sparrows, a sparrow’s home is its castle.

bruce's sparrow

I am starting this post with a cheat, as it is a picture that I took a couple of day ago but forgot to include in that day’s post.   Mrs Tootlepedal saw a most unusual visitor on the plum and I got there in time  to take its picture.  It is a meadow pipit.  You would expect to see it up on the moor not on the plum tree in our garden, so I thought that it ought to appear on the blog, even if a bit belatedly.

meadow pipit on plum tree

Back to today.

It wasn’t as warm as yesterday by a long chalk and there was no sun about, but it wasn’t raining and we are still happy to count any dry day as a good day, even if it is a bit cold and grey.

Oddly enough, the light outside suited my pocket camera very well, and when I walked round the garden, it picked out some good detail, like the rosemary flower with its tongue out….

rosemary flower

…the emerging leaves on a raspberry cane…

raspberry shoot

…and the tiny fruits on the silver pear.

sliver pear nlossom

I am endlessly fascinated by the lengths that euophorbias go to make themselves interesting.

euphorbias

The recent compost bin reorganisation left Mrs Tootlepedal with some rough mulch on her hands, and she has bestowed it on one of the front hedges which is now well mulched.

mulched hedge

The continuing cool weather is making flowers hesitant to emerge but every day shows a little more progress…

four garden flowers

…and the magnolia is gradually shedding its winter fur coat.

magnolia peeping

Mrs Tootlepedal filled up the third log library shelf and then made a fourth while I sawed up some logs to help fill it up.

The result was very satisfactory and some sweeping up made sure that the flags on the floor of the log shed saw the light of day for the first time for many years.

completed log library

There is a little more sorting and tidying still to be done but it looks as though we will have plenty of time on our hands to do it.

We sat on a bench in front of the espalier apples to rest after our labours, and I was pleased to see the first shoots appearing on one of the apple trees.

firs apple shoot

Across the vegetable garden, the rose shoots on the fence were standing up very straight.

upright rose leaves

I went to the corner shop to collect a jar of honey which the shopkeeper had kindly procured for me and was a bit puzzled when I saw a line of people standing several yards apart from each other in front of the Buccleuch Centre which is currently closed.  The puzzle was resolved when I remembered that a butcher’s van visits the town and parks beside the Centre on a Friday.  I realised that the queue was would be shoppers correctly socially distancing themselves as they waited to buy their pound of mince.

People are taking these things seriously and I had to queue outside the ex-corner shop until it was safe for me to go in.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal took a well earned siesta and I went out for my permitted exercise.  After yesterday’s walk, it was time for a cycle ride today.  The cooler weather and a brisk wind made sure that I was back to being very well wrapped up.  Although the wind helped to get me across the hill and down to the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass in good time, it also meant that the trip back up to Langholm on the old A7 was a bit of a battle.

Talking of battles, I noticed as I passed that Hollows Tower had lost the fight against the virus and was closed to visitors.

hollows tower shut

And as it was a grey day, I took a picture of a grey bridge.  It carries the new A7 and is much wider than the camera angle makes it seem

grey bridge auchenrivock

Whether on the cross country roads, the new A7, or the old A7, there was very little traffic about and I enjoyed a peaceful ride.

When I got home, I had another walk round the garden and found the daffodils in a mathematical mood.  They came in squares…

square of daffodils

…straight lines…

line of daffodils

..and triangles.

triangle of daffodils

As I came through to the middle lawn, I saw a jackdaw trying to creep off unobserved…

jackdaw leaving after lawn pecking

…but it was no good, I could see the evidence of savage lawn pecking which it had left behind.

lawn pecking

Checking the news on my phone when I got in, I found that in the midst of the virus mayhem, the government had released a statement saying that they are intending to reduce private motor car travel and increase cycling and the use of public transport.   This is a jaw dropping change of tack for a government and the Ministry of Transport whose only plan for many decades has been to increase roads and road congestion at any cost.  I don’t suppose that it will actually happen, but to have the government even thinking about it must be a good thing.

The non-flying bird of the day is a ‘shopping trip’ goosander having a nap beside the river this morning.

goosander

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Welsh correspondent Keiron, who thought that a Welsh lamb would be appropriate for the time of year. I thought so too.

Kieran lamb

We had another in the run of dry and warmish days that have made March such a contrast to February.  Once again there was thin cloud about but there was plenty of sunshine too and the temperature had no trouble in leaping into double figures (just).

Some daffodils appreciated the sunshine…

daff in sun

…but others are still hanging their heads.

daff drooping

I am developing the skills  required for facing the lockdown and have learned to stretch time to fill the available space.  Where it might have taken me five minutes last week to put my socks on in the morning, now it takes me ten, and where I might have taken five minutes to walk round the garden to check if anything new had appeared, now it might take me a full quarter of an hour.  In this way, the day positively rushes by with no need for extra activities to fill it up at all.

And there was new grwoth in the garden, an emerging grape hyacinth…

first grape hyacinth

…and signs of cracking in the magnolia buds.

magnolia bud

But pride of place in the novelty stakes goes to the cardamine

cardomine

I paid a visit to our local shop and got almost all of what was needed but unfortunately couldn’t get any set honey so I will have to go again tomorrow.  As well as the lack of honey, there was a marked lack of oyster catchers on the river bank on my way home.

My friend Dropscone rang up to have a chat in lieu of coffee and scones and in the course of the conversation revealed one of the deadly hidden perils of the lockdown.  His daughter Susan, who has been laid off and has got time on her hands, is intending to tidy the house.  Dropscone is worried.  How will he ever find anything again?

The tidy bug affected us too and after having had our logs in cheerful disarray for a long time…

rough wood pile

…Mrs Tootlepedal is getting some order into the log store.

neat wood pile

We made good use of an old raised bed surround, I thought.

While Mrs Tootlepedal gardened, I shifted another third of the compost from Bin B into Bin C and should finish the job tomorrow.  Last year, I might have done it all in a ‘oner’  but the new expanded time method applies to composting as well as socks.

After lunch, I went out for my permitted exercise.

It was a day for cycling, and it started well with this fine display of daffodils against a wall just as I left the town.

Alix daffs

It wasn’t all plain sailing though as there was a stiff wind in my face as I headed west and it took me an hour to do the first ten miles.  I was glad to have en excuse to stop to take a picture of this tree on a very steep slope.

tree before grange quarry

I have photographed it before but I am always pleased to see it still resisting the pull of gravity, and if I can keep cycling, I expect that it may well appear again if it survives.

I got as far west as Paddockhole, and then I turned north and headed for Bailliehill up the valley of the Water of Milk.  There are turbines on every side here already….

ewe hill wind farm

…and more are going to appear in the near future.

But it remains a very peaceful valley and a pleasure to cycle up.

water of milk valley

I could see the work being done to prepare the ground for the new turbines in the shadow of the existing wind farm.

crossdykes windfarm

As a bonus for elederly cyclists, the narrow road across the hill has been slightly widened to accommodate the lorry traffic for the wind farm and this lets a car pass me without either of us having to stop.

road to bailliehill

I only met one car though.

At the top of the hill, just before the road swoops down to join the course of the River Esk, this lonely man made pond had been well filled with water by the February rains.

pond at bailliehill

The wind had been behind me from Paddockhole and I had been blown up the hill so I expected that once I turned at Bailliehill to follow the road back to Langholm I might find the wind a bit troublesome.

My fears were largely unfounded and the wind was helpful more often than not so I was able to maintain a reasonable speed to Bentpath, where I stopped to admire the bridge and church, looking at their best.

westerkirk bridge and church

And I took in the view across the river at the same time.

benty and the fell

As I got nearer to Langholm, the hills which were sheltering me from the wind also left me in shadows, while the sun shone on the opposite side of the valley.

view towards potholm

It was still warm enough to make me happy that I only had had to put on two layers of clothing after months of cycling wrapped up like a Christmas parcel.

As I came down Caroline Street in the early evening sunshine at the very end of the ride, my neighbour Irving popped out of a side road and ambushed me.  You can see that I like to wear clothing that passing motorists can’t fail to notice.

biker

Thanks to Irving and Libbie for sending me the picture

Mrs Tootlepedal made a sausage stew for our tea and another day of the crisis passed off peacefully.

In the continued total absence of flying birds at our feeder, the non flying bird of the day is a ‘shopping trip’ gull in the midst of the very sparkly Esk river this morning.

gull in sunshine

Footnote: members of the camera club have sent me some pictures for our virtual gallery while the club is not meeting and they can be seen here: www.langholmcameraclub.org

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He is quite unhappy that his work as a painter and decorator has been unceremoniously stopped by government order but no provision for helping the self employed to pay their bills has yet been put in hand by the authorities who are happy to pay the wage bills of large firms.  The sea at East Wemyss today looked a little angry too.

waves at wemyss

We had another dry day here and we are in danger of forgetting the awful weather of February.  It will come as a shock when it starts to rain again.

We should have been in London today attending the civil partnership of our daughter Annie and her partner Joe but circumstances did not permit it.  However, we were able to see them in the registry office immediately after the ceremony through the wonders of video calling.  They looked very happy (and civil).

We spent a quiet morning in and around the garden while we were waiting for the call.  There was a thin cover of cloud, thin enough to let some weak sunshine through and all our neighbours were busy in their gardens too.  I sieved some compost.

Things are progressing slowly towards full springiness and new signs are about, like this berberis…

berberis

…and the first of the fritillaries.

frist fritillary

The forsythia enjoyed the such sun as there was…

forsythia close up

…and a sparrow and starling took in some rays as well.

starling and sparrow

There were quite a few bees of various sorts about and I caught two of them visiting the hellebores.

two bees n hellebore

We had some conversation over the garden fence with our neighbours Irving and Libbie.  They introduced us to Boris the badger who had been getting a fresh coat of varnish.

wooden badger

He didn’t say much.

After lunch, I went for a short walk.  There were no birds visiting the feeder in the garden at all, so I thought that I ought to see what the waterside might provide.

I spotted a dipper in the Wauchope but it was living up to its name so well that I would have needed an underwater camera to get a picture of it.

A black backed gull was more conspicuous…

black backed gull flying

…as he roared across to the water to join his partner….and looked very pleased with himself when he got there.  She looked demure.

black backed gull pair

There were only a couple of black headed gulls about and the sole oyster catcher flew off without waiting for me to get a picture so I was feeling a little underbirded until some loud song at the Sawmill Brig brought a grey wagtail to my attention.

grey wagtail

And as I walked across the Castleholm, a pheasant passed me by.

pheasant castleholm

And I felt that my walk in search of birds was very satisfactory.

I was well sheltered from the wind and the weak sunshine gave off a little warmth so I was in no hurry to get home and could take time to enjoy the light on this mossy tree…

castleholm tree with ferns

…and to realise when i got closer that it was not just moss.  It had a whole garden on it.

ferns on tree

There was a lot to enjoy with heartening signs of growth on all sides (and a handsome fungus too)…

wild flowers and fungus

…but the high spot of the walk home was seeing this flash of colour in a tree…

view of nuthatch

…and finding, when I looked more closely, that it was a nuthatch.  It obligingly flew to another tree nearby so that I could get better shots of it.

nuthtach posing

It was very busy.

nuthatch on branch

As I got near to our house, I found Mike Tinker washing his car in his drive.  He asked me whether I would like to see something interesting so of course I said yes.  I followed him to his back garden (at a satisfactory ‘social’ distance) and he showed his Wollemi pine.

A Wollemi pine is one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants dating back to the time of the dinosaurs and Mike is privileged to be growing one in his garden.  He is very excited as it has both male (left) and female (right) cones on it.  I was impressed to say the least.

wollemi pine with cones

I saw a few other people out walking and we all gave each other a wide berth or changed direction when we came towards each other.

I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden when I got back and we went in and had a cup of tea.

Since the days are getting longer and it was still relatively warm and dry, I got my bicycle out and added another fifteen miles to my month’s cycle mileage.  I found, when I got out of the shelter of the town, that the wind was quite brisk but I got the benefit of it on the way back and covered the last five miles home at an average speed of 19.7 mph  I wish that I had known that as I was pedalling.  I would have pushed a little harder to get the magic twenty miles an hour onto my bike computer.

I made the last of Mrs Tootlepedal’s chicken cacciatore into a curry with added mushrooms for our tea and then we waited for the prime minister’s address to the nation with some foreboding.  The foreboding was justified as the upshot was a lockdown for an indefinite period, a rather depressing but necessary situation.  Honestly, it is not too bad for a retired couple like us but it is a lot harder for people with young children and/or jobs to do so we feel a lot of sympathy for our children and their problems.  It will also not be very jolly to say the least for my sisters and step mother who live in the middle of cities.

As we are officially allowed out for exercise once a day. I will be able to have a walk or a cycle, weather permitting, so I am lucky.  And Mrs Tootlepedal will have her garden so she is lucky too.

The flying bird of the day is a crow which was having a drink at the river and flew off as I approached.

flying crow

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  On a clear day recently, he was able to look across the Forth and see North Berwick.  We haven’t organised a holiday there for this year yet.  This may be the closest we get to it.

north berwick

On a normal Sunday at this time of year, we would go to Church to sing in the church choir in the morning, and then go to Carlisle to sing with Community Choir in the afternoon.  Thanks to the dreaded virus, both church and community choir are closed for the foreseeable future and time hung heavy on my hands.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy with community buy out work, but I just mooched around feeling hard done by, not even being able to raise enthusiasm for a walk or even compost sieving.

On the bright side it was another sunny and dry day (after another frosty start) so I did wander around the garden where I found a lot of the potential tadpoles developing well.

developing tadpoles

The cold mornings are not encouraging new growth so I had to make do with daffodils…

daffodil in sun

..and chionodoxas for floral cheer again.

chionodoxa clump

The silver pear is offering signs of hope…

silver pear march 22

…and a single flower on the head of a drumstick primula hinted at good times to come.

first primula flower

Mrs Tootlepedal and I were sitting on our new bench enjoying the warmth of the sun when we heard the buzzing of a bee.  I rushed to get a camera but only managed a very fuzzy shot of the buzzer.

faint bee

Any bee is welcome though.

Taking a last shot of a fancy cowslip, I went in to make lentil and carrot soup for lunch.

cowslip

After lunch, I stirred myself enough to get my bicycle out in the hope that the good Dr Velo would offer a cure for my blues.  It was not very warm in spite of the sun and the temperature was still in single figures, but the wind wasn’t too bad.

The blue sky was almost cloudless and the good doctor soon began to work his magic, helped perhaps by the fact that I had chosen a very easy route, my favourite Sunday ride down the main roads to the Roman Wall and back again.

As I passed the junction at the start of the Canonbie by-pass, I thought that I heard people hooting at me but when I looked up, I saw it was a skein of birds flying overhead.  I stopped and got out my camera but they were well past me before I could press the shutter.

gaggle

I cycled over the bridge at Longtown and was pleased to see that work has started on repairing one side of the bridge at least.

It is not  a very photogenic ride but a bright bracket fungus on a tree stump did make me stop…

barcket fungus newtown road

…and I was happy to see young lambs at the far side of the field.

two lambs

It was a clear day and I could see the final fling of the northern English fells in the distance.

north england hills

I got to Newtown, my twenty mile turning point, and was glad of a rest to eat a banana while sitting on my customary seat…

newtown bench

…and admiring the daffodils round the old village drinking fountain.

newtown pump with daffs

The wind had been in my face the whole way down so I was fully expecting the weather gods to play their usual tricks and either change the wind direction or let it die away completely on my return journey.

On this occasion though they were at their most benign, and after taking 90 minutes for the southern leg, I only needed 79 minutes for the return to the north.

I paused for this fine English tree…

longtown road tree

…and for the Welcome to Scotland sign at the border.

welcome to scotland

It is not an impressive gateway to our beautiful country, comprising as it does of a scruffy lay-by, two litter bins and a slew of ill matched road signs.  To add to the lack of warmth in the welcome, the illuminated digital sign up the road was telling people to stop doing all this travelling around anyway.

“Ceud mìle fàilte” as they say.

Mrs Tootlepedal had had a busy afternoon split between business and the garden but she had finished by the time that I got back so I nodded at a blackbird perched on the greenhouse…

blackbird

…and went in to join her.

Mrs Tootlepedal hunted out some more of her chicken cacciatore and we had it with rice for our tea.

I had tinned peach slices with Mackie’s excellent ice cream for afters, and that rounded off a day that ended with me feeling much better than when it had begun.

I had thought that the skein of birds that flew across me when I was cycling were geese of some sort but a closer look on the computer showed me that all my flying birds of the day were not geese but swans.

gaggle closer

It’s not often that all your geese are swans.  It was lucky that I saw them because there was hardly a bird at the feeder all day.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon.  He is offsetting the disappointment of the disappearance of all his normal work thanks to the coronavirus by taking healthy walks along the beautiful Esk between some humdrum jobs which he has taken to fill the gap.

Jocks Pool Simon

I took a walk in the garden after breakfast.  It had been frosty when we woke but the sun made things feel quite pleasant…

forsythia

…and a scilla had added a little more colour to springtime.

scilla

There was shopping to do, so while Mrs Tootlepedal combined shopping and business, I pedalled round to the corner shop passing the oyster catchers at their regular spot beside the river on the way.

two oyster catchers

I like a reliable bird.

After coffee, we went out into the garden where Mrs Tootlepedal did some vegetable bed preparation and I did some compost sieving.  The compost, from the back end of last year, was some of the best that I have made and I put this down to some careful attention to layering green and brown material in the original bin and not letting it get too wet.

We checked on the forced rhubarb and decided that it looked good enough to pick a stalk or two. Its colour was wonderfully fresh.

forced rhubrab

Although it was warm enough to garden comfortably in the sun, the morning cold was not gone and when I tipped some rainwater out of the wheelbarrow, the evidence of the underlying chill was plain.

ice from barrow

A glittering starling serenaded us from the top of the holly tree as we  worked.

starling on holly tree

We went in and Mrs Tootlepedal settled down to some administrative work on the computer while I made some lentil soup for lunch.

And kept an eye on the birds.

perching chaffinch on stalk

I got an unusual view of a wood pigeon.

back vire pigeon

There were no siskins in the garden at all today and not many goldfinches either.  This left the field clear for the chaffinches, who gathered on the plum tree…

two male chaffinches sun

…and flew into the feeder uninterrupted by the hostility of siskins.

Both male…

flying chaffinch male panel

…and female chaffinches  took advantage of the peace and quiet.

flying chaffin female panel

I had been waiting for the day to warm up a bit before going cycling but even though the sun was still out after lunch…

chionodoxa and crocus

…and there was a crowd of chaffinches basking in it on the plum tree…

chaffinches in plum tree

..the thermometer refused to rise above 6°C so I put on several layers of bike clothing and then went back in and put on some more when I saw this cloud looming up over the town.

clouds over Langholm

A few drops of rain fell as I set out but I persevered, and the clouds, although still quite impressive,  looked a bit more friendly as I approached Callister.

clouds over callister

And by ten miles, they looked more friendly still.

cloudscape gir road

Out of the sun, it felt chilly but there always seemed to be a bit of sunshine ahead.  Here it was lighting up the pylons that I would follow for the next few miles.

pylons in the sun

Things didn’t look quite so good when I got over the hill and headed down towards the Solway Plain, but the rain shower was a good few miles away so I cut my intended route short, turned away from the dark clouds, and headed for home.

clouds over gretna

It looked like a good decision as I passed this pastoral scene at Half Morton…

half morton

..but life is seldom perfect and I had to pedal through a few miles of light rain not long afterwards.

However, it didn’t last too long and it certainly didn’t dampen my spirits.  This was because my spirits had been considerably dampened already by arguments with my legs.

They were in a very uncooperative mood and I got into trouble with OFFLEG (The office of the regulator of Leg use by Elderly Gentlemen.)  It turns out that in this day and age of politeness, you are no longer able to call your legs “Old Celery Sticks” or “Soggy Spaghetti” when they refuse to help you get up hills.  Ah well, I will be nicer to them when I go out next and hope that that makes them work better.

Still, I managed 26 miles at a very modest pace and that has taken me almost to 600 miles for the year.  After the appalling weather in February, that is not too bad so I shouldn’t complain.

Mrs Tootlepedal roasted the rhubarb with a little sugar coating for a dessert with our evening meal.  The colour was an attractive translucent pink and the taste, enhanced by some custard which I made, was not bad either.

We should have been visiting Matilda in Edinburgh today but we had to make do with a video call in the evening instead.  Matilda and her parents seem to be surviving ‘house arrest’ very well.  Al and Clare are both working from home and they are making use of on line material and help from her school to keep Matilda entertained and learning at the same time.

I had a choice of flying birds of the day but I chose this back view of a male chaffinch to fill the role.

flying chaffinches

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Today’s guest picture is another from Mary Jo’s trip to New Zealand.  It shows South Taranaki Bight, a fierce place, Mary Jo says.  She is back in Canada and having to spend a fortnight ‘self isolating’ on her return to the country.

South Taranaki Bight

We were promised a dry day and we got one so that was a bonus and then a woodpecker appeared on the plum tree after breakfast, a very rare occurrence indeed…

woodpecker on plum tree

… so that was another bonus.  It was altogether a very good start to the day.

On the down side, it was only 6°C and with a brisk wind blowing, it felt pretty chilly for mid March.  I was determined to go for a cycle ride, but I wasted some time on doing the crossword and looking at goldfinches and redpolls on the feeder….

feeder picture

…while vainly hoping that it would get warmer.

After I had had a cup of coffee and it became apparent that it wasn’t going to get any warmer, I finally set off on my cycle ride.

I was hoping to go a reasonable distance and my plan, in the face of the brisk west wind, was to go as far west into the wind as my legs would stand, and then to get blown home again.

This plan took me past the Chapelcross Nuclear Power station near Annan.  It is being decommissioned very slowly.

This was it in 2010….

chapelcross1

…and this was it today.

chapelcross

When I got to Annan itself, I was intending to take a moody shot of the high water running under the bridge over the River Annan but I got distracted by rabbits and shot them instead.

rabbits at annan bridge

I left Annan and followed the coast road to Powfoot where I hoped to see the sea.  However, following Mary Jo’s example, the sea was self isolating.  Indeed, it was so far out that it looked as though it might be quite possible to walk to America.

sea at powfoot

I looked across the Nith Estuary towards Criffel…

criffel from powfoot

…noted a daisy and some salt marshes…

daisy and marsh powfoot

…ate a honey sandwich and headed for home.

Battling into the wind, which was gusting at 25mph, had kept my outward speed to a measly 11.2 mph.  Floating home with the wind behind was a much more sprightly affair and I was happy to stop to record my first sighting of blackthorn blossom this year…

 

blackthorn

…and a generous clump of lesser celandine beside the road.

celandine

I was even more happy to stop to admire the church at Kirkpatrick Fleming as it is halfway up a steep hill.

 

kpf church

I had two more convenient stops, the first with the barrier of this motorway bridge to rest my bike against…

motorway brodge kpf

…and the second with these steps set into the churchyard wall at Half Morton to rest my bottom on while I had my second honey sandwich.

wall at half morton

After that, it was a case of pressing on, though I did make one last stop to record an outbreak of lambs at the Hollows.  You don’t often see lambs in jackets but it has been cold and wet so perhaps it is a wise move from the farmer.

lambs at Hollows

I was able to up my average speed thanks to the kindly wind and I managed 14.1 mph on the way home.  This meant that I just squeezed under four hours of cycling time for my 50 miles journey by a few seconds.

It was still only 6°C when I got back.  I had hoped for a little warming sunshine on my trip but it remained cold and grey and I was pleased to have been well wrapped up.

The sun did come out after I got home.  Mrs Tootlepedal was out too and she had left me a note to say that she was up on the moor looking for hen harriers.  She got back soon afterwards but with no sightings of harriers at all.  She had done some useful gardening while I had been off cycling though.

I watched some more reliable birds.

warring birds

It was a pleasant evening so after I had had a shower, I went for a little three bridges walk.

I expected blossom and there was blossom beside the river….

blossom beside esk

…and I hoped for interesting waterside birds but there were only ducks.

They are paired up at the moment and I saw a hopeful third party getting short shrift when he tried to muscle in on a spoken for lady.

two pairs of ducks

As I crossed the sawmill Brig, I noticed that it hadn’t taken very long for lichen to start to colonise the new parapet stones which were installed in 2016..

lichen on sawmill brig

I liked this moss which looked as though it was gently snoozing on a more established wall a few yards further on..

moss on wall

It was still cold but the evening sunshine made it feel more cheerful than it actually was.

sunny castleholm march

When I got home, we had venison stew for our evening meal and we both felt that we had earned it.

Reducing our social interactions drastically has not been so bad for me because I have always got Mrs Tootlepedal to talk to.  Of course it is not so satisfactory for her as she has got me to talk to.  I managed to irritate her  so much at one time yesterday that she looked at me witheringly and summoned up the worst insult she could think of. “You’re just like Boris Johnson!”

I was chastened.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

For those interested, details of the ride can be found by clicking on the map below.

garmin route 18 march 2020

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Today’s guest picture is the final one from Venetia’s Moroccan trip.  It shows a gecko basking in the sun.

gecko

It was another grey day here but slightly warmer and not actually raining as I walked to church in the morning.  Our bus driving organist had been called to do an an extra shift owing to shortage of staff in Edinburgh but a late replacement appeared so we had accompanied hymns even if they were not the ones that we expected.

I went out into the garden when I got home to check on frogs.  Once again there were none to be seen so I had to make do with a pulmonaria and a bit of colour on a viburnum…

pulmonaria and buds

…and some lawn talk with my neighbour over the garden hedge.  Another sign of spring.

Things in the garden are developing very slowly in the continuing damp, grey and cool weather.

I went back in and watched the birds for a while.  There has been a brisk demand for seed over the past few days and I have been kept busy refilling the feeder.

A siskin watched a queue of chaffinches filing past…

siskin watchinmg chaffinches

…and although this siskin has got its head stuck into the seed, its tail and wing position show that it is fully aware of the incoming chaffinch.

chaffinch and siskin

A bird needs to be alert as there is no knowing when a passing chaffinch might decide to give you a hefty kick.

all action siskins

Quieter scenes were also available.

chaffinch on pole

In both directions.

siskin on pole

We had a second helping of tomato soup for lunch and I printed out 200 more envelopes and covering letters for Mrs Tootlepedal.  These are going to go down to Canonbie where other people will deliver them.

When I looked, I saw that the seeds had dropped below the top perch level and a helpful chaffinch had to explain to a pal that the seed was down here now.

chaffinch too high

Mrs Tootlepedal hadn’t come to church as she was busy again delivering brochures in the town for the proposed community buy out.  She is not alone in this work and one of the team came round to collect more envelopes.  While she and Mrs Tootlepedal mulled over the work in hand, a heavy shower of rain swept through the garden and by the time that they had finished talking, it had gone.  Good timing.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off in the car to deliver envelopes to some of the outlying houses in the area and I didn’t go with her to help as I wanted to go cycling.  There was alarming talk on the news websites of old people in the UK being made to remain in their homes for a long period in the not too distant future so I wanted to get some exercise while I still could.

I got my cycling gear on and just as I was going to go out, it started to rain. In normal circumstances, I might have got fed up and stayed a home but having told Mrs Tootlepedal that I couldn’t help her, I thought that I ought to actually go for a bike ride, so I set off.

I chose a route up the Ewes valley as this meant that I would start with the wind and rain at my back and not get discouraged too soon!

The rain persisted but never came to much so I quite enjoyed my wind assisted cycle up the hill to Mossspaul.

I wasn’t intending to stop for pictures in the rain but this unusual little waterfall in the middle of a field caught my eye.

unexpected oxbow waterfall ewes

When I looked at the scene more closely, I could see that I was watching a geography lesson in action.  All the makings of the formation of an oxbow lake were before me.

oxbow lake ewes

It is not often that you see that.

There was plenty of water running off the hillside and every little stream was busy.

stream at mosspaul

When I stopped at Mosspaul  after ten miles, I took a moment to enjoy this pine tree…

pine at Mosspaul

…before setting off back down the hill to Langholm.  I had feared that it might be an unpleasant battle with wind and rain but the rain had eased off and the wind came round a point or two and was often more across than in my face.

All in all, it was a much more enjoyable ride than I had expected when I started out, and as I managed to average just over 14 mph for an outing for the first time this year, I was a happy man when I greeted Mrs Tootlepedal who had returned from her post outing and was busily folding the letters which I had printed earlier.

She didn’t need any help so I went for a short  walk.  The day had dried up and there was even a hint of sunshine.

monument in late sun

Waterside birds are paired up.

three bird pairs

And other signs of spring are to be seen.

three sings f spring

The birds still look as though they are finding life…

oyster catcher in esk

…a little chilly…

heron

…but the crocuses on the Kilngreen are certainly brightening things up.

kilngreen crocus panel

The sun didn’t come out so I didn’t dilly dally but willow and moss made me pause for a moment or two…

willow and moss

…and I went to check on the hazel catkins beside the Esk on the Castleholm.  When I last looked, there were several female flowers but very few catkins.  Today, there were a lot more catkins but I had to look very hard to find a flower and in the end, I only saw one and it was nowhere near the catkins.

The weather seems to have confused the hazels.

hazel catkin and flower

I made some corned beef hash for tea and we settled down for a quiet night in.  It had been strange to have no Carlisle Choir to go to but at least we had got the delivery work and a cycle ride done between us so we hadn’t wasted the day.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, approaching the feeder with the confidential manner of a head waiter at a posh restaurant.

flying goldfinch

Footnote:  The Coronavirus news is everywhere. 

Yesterday I read a headline that said “Borders Shut” so I thought that we had been closed down without us knowing about it.  It turned out to be about the closure of international borders in Europe not the border counties of Scotland.  Phew.

Today it said “UK over 70s to be confined to home for a long period”.  That was most unwelcome.  Closer reading showed that in Scotland, us old folk will be allowed some freedom to toddle about outside if we are prepared to ca canny, which we definitely will do.  Phew again.

Don’t think that we aren’t taking this seriously, because we are. 

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