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Archive for the ‘Cycle outings’ Category

Today’s guest picture is another Bermuda view from Joyce.  She tells me that this is the causeway to St George at dawn.

causeway to St George dawn 1

The forecast for today was  not promising but after a very heavy shower overnight with added hail, it was quite a decent day when we got up, and there were none of the threatened icy patches as I walked up to the town after breakfast to do some archiving business.

As I walked back, a buzzing in the sky made me look back towards Whita and I could that the helicopter, which Ada had seen on the ground yesterday, had taken to the air today.  I couldn’t work out what it was carrying though.

helicopter with loo

When I got home, I met Riley, suitably clad for possible rain, just about to take our neighbour Liz out for a walk.

riley

I went in and had coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal and did an easy crossword.  An ice bun may well have mysteriously disappeared during this process.

Then I went for a walk myself.  The forecast offered a twenty percent chance of rain and I hadn’t gone far before I got 100% of a sharp fall of sleet followed by some quite fierce hail.  Luckily I had my new coat on and was well armoured against the slings and arrows of outrageous weather.

And fortunately, the shower exhausted itself quite quickly and I could soon see signs of sunshine.

sun after sleet

I crossed the Becks Burn and followed the road down to the Auld Stane Brig, which I crossed when I came to it…

auld stane brig

…and then walked up the track onto the hill on the other side of the Wauchope Water and enjoyed a tree as I went.

tree on warbla slope

Although our local hills were snow free, the higher hills further up the valley were showing a light covering.

snow up[ the valley

But if you picked the right direction to look, it was a very nice day by now (especially if you were wearing a warm coat).

looking over holmwood

Looking back at the track that I had followed below the fields on the opposite side of the valley, it was hard to believe that I had been in a hailstorm not long before.

looking over becks

I enjoyed a bit of lichen on a boulder…

warbla lichen

…and the view up the Esk Valley…

view from warbla

…and was just about to head down hill to the town when that buzzing was audible again.

The helicopter was back at work.

helicopter with load

It was carrying a big bucket but behind it on the ground, I could see that what it had been carrying when I saw it in the morning, the ubiquitous portable loo for the convenience of the pylon workers.

loo on whita

It delivered its bucket load and headed back.

helicopter going

I could see the pylon on which the work is being done.  It stands beside the sixth green on the golf course and Dropscone is forbidden to play while the helicopter is at work.

pylon on golf course

It returned remarkably soon with another load…

helicopter returning

…and I stood watching on the hillside while it made several trips.

When it was away getting a fresh load, I looked around.

windmills craig

I was using my Lumix which has a very good zoom lens to take the helicopter pictures and I pulled back to show you just how far away I was.

whita in sunshine

You can see the pylon on top corner of the golf course directly below the monument.  Considering that I was holding the camera in a rather cold hand with no support, it is evident that the Lumix is a wonderful camera for wandering photographer.

A look at the map tells me that I was about 0.8 of a mile away.  I walked down the hill a bit and rested the camera on a walks direction post to get as good a close up of the helicopter as I could.  This let me see that it very fairly calls itself a “Skyhook”.

helicopter close up

I had a late lunch when I got home and then, as the weather still seemed pretty good, I got out my bicycle and pedalled eleven miles at a slow pace with so many clothes on that I found it hard to move my legs at all as in spite of the sunshine, the windchill made the temperature a virtual one degree C.

The busy day continued when I got home with first a visit from Mike Tinker and his finely honed tea radar and then the arrival of my flute pupil, Luke with his flute.

After Luke had gone, there was just time for some brisket of beef with nourishing vegetables, expertly cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal, for my tea and then it was time for the January Camera Club meeting.

We had a new member and enough old members to make for a good meeting with a fine selection of photographs from both home and abroad to entertain us until the tea break.  After that we settled down to watch a very well put together audio visual presentation of his holiday in Thailand which Sandy had prepared.  That rounded off an enjoyable meeting and a pretty full day.

It was so full indeed that I had no time for bird watching and so the snowdrops beside the dam are taking the place of any flying bird of the day.

snowdrops

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan.  She was visiting Tunbridge Wells recently and admired the fine station clock there.  She didn’t arrive at the station by train though, as she had had to get there on a bus from Tonbridge owing to works on the line.  So, it is not just us who have a bad effect on the railways.

Tunbridge Wells Station

It was another grey day today here with very low cloud again, but as it was calm and reasonably warm, I turned down a very tempting offer of treacle scones and the tale of a trip to Amsterdam from Dropscone and got my bicycle out instead.

There was a light breeze in my face as I set off but it wasn’t enough to blow the clouds off the top of Callister…

mist over Callister

…and it was thick enough on the top of the hill to make me wish that I had cycle lights.

However, it was not long before I was out of the clouds and safely  down the other side  of the hill.  The clouds were still pretty low….

misty pylon gair

…but at least I could see where I was going.

It wasn’t a day for stopping to take pictures and I didn’t take another until I was halfway round my route when a lichen on the motorway bridge at Harker caught my eye when i stopped for half a banana.

lichen on bridge Harker

I was spoiled for choice when it came to bare trees in a field once I had crossed the A7 and headed towards Scaleby.  This one was on my right at one point….

tree near scaleby 1

…and this one was on my left.

tree near scaleby 2

As you can see, the clouds had lifted a bit by this time but I was under slight time pressure to get my ride completed.  I had been pretty slow against the breeze on my way out so I had to keep going on my way home.

It was our 52nd wedding anniversary today and I was hoping to mark the occasion with a 52 mile ride but I miscalculated and ended up doing 53 miles.  Ah well, the route should stand me in good stead next year.

I called in at our corner shop on the way home for some milk and a packet of biscuits so it was a useful if rather elongated trip to the shop.

Garmin route 24 Jan 2020

Click on the map for more details of the ride.

I found Mrs Tootlepedal at work in the garden when I got home.   It isn’t the time for serious work yet and she told me that she had just been faffing around.  I had to check before using this word in a post as it sounds vaguely vulgar, but I find that faffing is a word of impeccable pedigree meaning to blow about indecisively in the wind.  Mrs Tootlepedal confirmed that this approximated to what she was doing.

I had a look round the garden and was rather depressed by a vigorous show of moss in the middle of a lawn.

moss on lawn januray

I like moss but I would also like to be able to see some grass at least.

Signs of life on a viburnum were cheering.

viburnum january

And I hope to get better light soon to be able to take a better picture of the Sarcococca at the back door.

sarcoccoa

The reason for getting the bike ride finished on time was the need to be ready to take Mrs Tootlepedal out to see a film called The Personal History of David Copperfield, which has been well reviewed.   Mrs Tootlepedal had checked the film timings and we arrived in Carlisle on the dot for the programme to start.  All would have been well if the cinema had not been closed because of a fault in their water supply, a secret which they had kept to themselves and not revealed to their website.

We drove home.

And had fish and chips as a consolatory treat for our anniversary tea, followed by plum crumble and custard.  It is not just railway trains that fall to pieces as we approach them.

At the end of the day the feeder remained as full as it had been at the beginning so there is no trace of a sitting let alone a flying bird of the day today.

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s visit to The Newt.  They have made good use of an old tree trunk there, though I don’t think that anyone has cycled far on the bike in the picture.

the newt bike rack

Owing to being a bit dozy when I wrote last night’s post, I didn’t notice that my camera had recorded some garden pictures on its second card, so just to show that there is a bit of life in the garden even in January, here are the pictures that I took before going to Edinburgh yesterday.

garden yesterday

There may have been no birds at the feeder, but once again there were pairs of jackdaws in the walnut tree….

jackdaws in walnut

…whereas today saw the return of a small flock of goldfinches.

goldfinches in walnut

There was not much feeder activity though, partly because there was a good deal of coming and going from the house and partly because of the arrival of the sparrowhawk.

It sat in the plum tree for a moment before flying off empty handed.

sparrowhawk in plum tree

I had spotted the hawk through the kitchen window while I was sipping coffee with Dropscone, one of those responsible for the coming and going.

He arrived bringing not the traditional Friday treacle scones but a large pile of drop scones instead.  We managed to survive the shock.  He had had some eggs which needed using up, he told me.  I would have taken a picture of the large pile of scones but before I could get my camera out, some person or persons unknown had eaten them all.

Dropscone reported that the crows were still stealing golf balls on the golf course..

When he left, I tried to catch a bird at the feeder, but even when one or two did appear, they were so nervous that they flew off as soon as I approached the window.

It was a relatively calm day with a hint of blue sky and when Mrs Tootlepedal returned from the shops with some bananas, I took two of them, put them in my back pocket with some guava jelly cubes and went out for a cycle ride.

I wasn’t feeling particularly bright when I set off but the great Dr Velo soon put me to rights and I decided on a slightly more adventurous route than usual, heading onwards due west when I had got  over Callister, adding a bit more climbing than customary to my journey.

This is the view as I set out into the wide blue yonder on the far side of Callister.

tree at Falford

I stopped after ten miles and ate half a banana and a small cube of guava jelly and reflected on the subsidy regime which led to the planting of many small clumps of commercial conifers in the middle of pastureland.

view at Grange

My ride today was a story of rivers and streams, large and small.  Once I had climbed out of Wauchopedale by going over Callister, I dropped down into the valley of the Water of Milk…

Water of Milk

…home to two wind farms.  This is the Ewe Hill farm….

Ewe hill wind farm

…and some rolling countryside.

water of mile curves

I love the way the river curves along the valley floor but I am slightly less enamoured by the way that the road goes up and down as it winds along the hillside above.

I reached the top of the last little hill and stopped to note the pretty little church at Tundergarth.

Tundergarth church

I was following the hilly road to Lockerbie, home of the most unreliable station in Scotland, but I didn’t go as far as the town but turned off three miles earlier and followed the Water of Milk down this quiet back road.

road to castlemilk

I liked this back lit tree on the way.

tree near old A74

I was getting near to the major road and rail routes between Carlisle and Glasgow by this time.

This is the railway going over the Water of Milk on a modest viaduct…

railway viaduct water of milk

and this is my back road going under the motorway.

motorway bridge old A74

I followed the old main road to the south as it runs alongside the motorway and railway and saw the railway crossing another viaduct, this time over the Mein Water, which like the Water of Milk, joins the River Annan a few miles to the west.

railway viaduct near eaglesfiled

After a run down the old road, I came to Kirkpatrick Fleming and took the the road back towards Langholm.  It is a gently undulating road and I crossed the Logan Burn, the Cadgill Burn, the River Sark and the Glenzier Burn before dropping into Eskdale and following the course of the Esk for the last five miles north to Langholm

I couldn’t stop to take many more pictures on this section as I was running short of time to get home before it became too dark to cycle safely without lights, but I did have a pause with ten miles to go for a last half banana at Half Morton church.  There is a Korean Pine in the churchyard there.  The cones do not fall off the tree and the seeds are spread by birds or animals which feed on them.  This crop had been well eaten but there were still some cones relatively untouched.

korean pine in winter

I was helped by the wind to get home and the road was much less hilly than the first half of my trip.  This was reflected by the fact that the twenty miles out, over the hills and into the wind, took me 1 hour 47 minutes and the second twenty miles back only needed 1 hour 26 minutes.  That’s what I call a well chosen route.

The house was empty when I got home because Mrs Tootlepedal was at the Buccleuch Centre enjoying a tip top tip toe experience at a screening of the Sleeping Beauty by the Royal Ballet.  With the accompanying chat and two long intervals, this screening took her longer to sit through than it had taken me to cycle 40 miles.  We both considered that our time was well spent.

As I was splattered with grit from a passing gritting lorry as I cycled up the A7 back into Langholm, I expect that it will be a frosty morning tomorrow, so it will be touch and go whether I get another cycle ride or have to go for a walk instead.

I completely failed again and two collared doves looking down at the feeder from the electricity wires are acting as flying birds of the day today.

two collared doves

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Today’s guest picture comes from a recent visit to Liverpool by my brother Andrew.  He found it in a colourful mood.

liverpool

After some very grey days, we had a much more colourful day here today.  The sun shone and the wind dropped and it looked liked a good day to go outside.

As usual, I found a number of things to do indoors before getting organised, and of course, the birds needed watching.

I hadn’t had to fill the feeder for a couple of days, and although it was getting near the bottom today, it was still of interest to the chaffinches.

chaffinch panel

Seeing these two pecking at the last of the seed made me go out and change the feeders over.

two chaffinch little seed

The new feeder, well filled, proved attractive to chaffinches too.

chaffinches at full feeder

I finally ran out of excuses and got my bike out and set off up the Wauchope road.  I passed a man with a tractor with a flail attached, and found out that he had been doing quite a lot of violence to anything that he could reach beside the road.  It was lucky that he was on one side of the road and I was on the other as I might have had some difficulty getting past the debris that he left behind.

flailings on road

I decided to turn off at the first opportunity and I was soon heading uphill, away from the carnage and with my favourite view behind me.

Blocxh view january

Although the 40 mph winds of yesterday had subsided, there was still a brisk breeze left behind and I had to battle my way down the hill to Gretna Green where I was happy to take a rest and look at the clasped hands sculpture at the Old Blacksmith’s Shop tourist centre.

gretna handshake

There wasn’t a tourist to be seen today as I took a picture of the art work.  I can see what it is supposed to symbolise and newly married couples often have their picture taken under its arch, but it always looks rather creepy to me as though someone has been buried under ground and is praying to be let out.

But there are some very decorative berries in the hedge at the entrance.

gretna berries

Ignoring the cross winds, I pedalled down the new road beside the motorway into England and when I reached the outskirts of Carlisle, I turned and headed back towards Greta, going through Rockliffe.

The wind was still across but now it was marginally behind me so I made good progress.

This tree in a field at Rockcliffe looks as though it has had some battles with strong winds itself.

rockliffe tree

The wind was certainly ruffling the waters of the Esk as it flowed under the railway bridge before it meets the Solway.

troubled esk at metal bridge

Once I had reached Gretna, the way home was plain sailing as I cycled up the main roads to Canonbie with the very helpful wind pushing me along.

I turned off onto the old main road to Canonbie which has triple delights, like these three trees at Grainstonehead…

three trees grainstonehead

…and the three shaggy cows in the field, two of whom were more interested in eating than having their picture taken…

two cows at canonbie

..but one was in a more accommodating mood.

one cow at canonbie

I took one last stop for a drink and snack before getting back to Langholm and noticed some healthy peltigera lichen on the wall against which I had propped my bike.

peltigera lichen irvine house

I saw that I had done 43 miles by the time that I got back to the town and was pedalling on up the main road, thinking happily that 50 was a nice round number when we had a vote and my legs voted for stopping.  I am a democrat so I turned back and ended up with a satisfactory 45 miles for the outing.

Mrs Tootlepedal had also made good use of the better weather by going for a good walk and getting some light gardening done while I was out.  She was very cheered by seeing an actual bud forming on a daffodil in the garden.  There may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Still, we needed to replace a little of the energy expended and very fortunately she had bought some cream which, when whipped up, went perfectly with meringues.

A goldfinch arrived at the new feeder.

goldfinch at full feeder

I had a shower and then went out to investigate a claim from a blog reader that there is a small murmuration of starlings in Langholm.  The claim turned out to be quite true.

starlings over esk

By some murmuration standards, it is a small flock but it still had about a couple of hundred birds in it at its busiest.

starlings over esk 2

The starlings circled round above the Esk at the Town Bridge and from time to time, other things caught me eye.

Ducks and gulls took to the air, Mr Grumpy supervised more ducks on the river and the moon shone in the background.

duck, gull, heron and moon

In order to capture the moon, I had to make the sky dark but as you can see in the picture below, it wasn’t really as dark as that.

After they had finished murmuring, the starlings fell out of the sky in dramatic fashion and disappeared into a remarkably small bush in front of Greenbank.

starlings landing

I got home in perfect time to have a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal.  Our friend Mike dropped in for a cup and helped us out by eating one of the remaining meringues.

There is talk of snow on the hills tomorrow morning but I will only believe that when I see it.

The flying bird of the day is one of the chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s recent musical outing.  As well as singing with sackbuts, she saw an angel playing a trumpet.

venetia's weathervane

We are strictly rationed to only one fine day at a time at the moment, so it was no surprise to wake to a very gloomy morning with additional drizzle today after yesterday’s sunshine.

For some reason (Mrs Tootlepedal suggests that it may have to do with too many birthdays) I was a bit tired and took a long time after breakfast in my dressing gown to get up, make coffee and visit the corner shop.

I had hoped to go for a walk in the late morning and give my new coat an airing but the drizzle was of that particularly depressing kind which discourages enterprise.  I stayed in and spent time sorting music for church and Carlisle choirs tomorrow.

And occasionally looking at the birds.

We are not getting a lot of birds at all which is concerning.  I see that I was complaining about the lack of winter birds last year too so it is not just a passing phenomenon.  There were some birds today, goldfinches, siskins and chaffinches.

three birds on feeder

The light was poor and I had a struggle trying to get a flying bird of the day, though I thought that this effort was pleasingly reminiscent of Woodstock, the bird in the Peanuts cartoon strip

diving goldfinch

For a decent flying bird, I need to to have enough birds so that queues form for the perches.  When there are vacant perches, as was the case today, the birds arrive very quickly and I was usually too late…

rising goldfinch

…and the birds had got too close to the feeder.

nearly flying goldfinch

The drizzle eased off and I had a look round the garden for signs of life.

new growth

There is still plenty of potential leek soup out there.  Mrs Tootlepedal tries to keep exposed soil well mulched over the winter.

old leeks

She had used her new vegetable chopping device to help make some very tasty vegetable soup for lunch and after I had enjoyed eating some with bread and cheese, I went out for a cycle ride.  It had stopped raining completely by this time.

The wind hadn’t stopped blowing though and I found the first few miles straight in to the breeze very hard work.  I sensibly turned off and with the wind now across and slightly behind, I pedalled happily across the hill and down into the Esk valley.

The wind was in the perfect direction and helped back up the hill into Langholm.  It was very gloomy and I only stopped once to add another tree to my collection.

tree

Once I got home, I felt that I had done enough for the day and passed from afternoon tea and the last of the Christmas cake into an evening meal of fishcakes and broccoli without noticeably moving at all.

Because of the lack of sunshine and photographs today, I am going to break with tradition and use a photograph from yesterday which escaped from my filing system to fill out today’s post.  This was the sky at dawn.

sunset

We are going to London in a couple of weeks and I booked the railway tickets today.  The route has recently been transferred from one operator to another, and although I had received a reassuring email from the new operators saying that the changeover would be seamless as far as booking went, I feared the worst.  Oh ye of little faith!  Everything went perfectly smoothly and the tickets are booked.  This is not the same company that runs the Lockerbie train.

I gave up on goldfinches for the flying bird of the day and  looked to the heavens to catch a jackdaw in the walnut tree instead.

flying jackdaw

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Today’s guest post comes from Venetia who recently went on a music making spree where among other activities, she sang while someone played a sackbut.  What is a sackbut?  This is a piece of a sackbut:

sackbut

The forecast was right and we had a sunny day here.  As is often the case, with winter sun comes winter chill and it was a meagre three degrees when Dropscone arrived for coffee, wishing that he had remembered to put on his gloves before cycling across the town.

His treacle scones were as good as ever, unaffected by the advancing of the years.  He had played golf on Boxing Day on an outing with a small gang of fellow golfers and as he had come equal first, he had enjoyed the outing immensely.  He had then driven to London and back to see his oldest son and I was quite exhausted listening to his adventures.

Luckily, scones and coffee revived me enough to watch the birds for a while when he had gone.  In spite of the sunshine, it was too early for bird watching and the feeder was still in deep shade.

goldfinch in shade

There was plenty of sun on the top of the walnut tree though.

sunny bird on walnut

On the feeder, a goldfinch took a sceptical view of another bird’s boast of flying twenty miles before breakfast…

quizzical goldfinch

…while a chaffinch pulled off a nifty one footed landing.

chaffinch one foot landing

Just to make sure that I took advantage of the sunshine, I had got dressed into my cycling gear and drank my coffee with Dropscone in full cycling garb.

I didn’t wait for the sun to arrive at the bird feeder but got out my bike and pedalled off into the wide blue yonder…

…where there were twisted trees…

tree at wauchope SH

…and a flock of fieldfares in a field…

fieldfare bigholms

…and gorse beside the road.

gorse at gair

My progress was slowed both by the chill in the air (3.7°C) when I set out and by a brisk south westerly wind making me work hard.  Still, if I am working hard because of the wind, so are our turbines and I was happy to take the rough with the smooth.

windfarm

The strong wind meant that I had to concentrate on the pedalling if I was to get any miles in so I didn’t stop to take many pictures today.

However, we had noticed the Station Inn at Kirkpatrick Fleming when we passed on our way to Lockerbie yesterday and as well as a smart new sign…

station at KPF

…it has a locomotive too, ironically sited in the car park.

train at station at KPF

The sign on the tender says that it is a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket, the winner of the Rainhill Trials.  The notice also said that I was welcome to stand on the footplate for photographic purposes at my own risk.   I played safe and stood on the ground.

train at station at KPF 2

Needless to say, thanks to the march of progress, there may be a Station Inn at Kirkpatrick Fleming but the railway station was closed in 1960.

There have been many exhortations and promises since the last election on the subject  of ‘bringing the country together’ and I thought that I would add my contribution to the subject with this picture.   It shows that it will be hard to bring the countries of the union much closer together as hardly any distance currently separates Scotland on the left of the stream from England on the right.

england and scotland

Maybe Boris will build a bridge.

When I think of it, there is already a bridge and I crossed it a mile or so further on.

These Scottish trees caught my eye while I had stopped to take the border picture…

tree on springfield road

…and these English trees neatly spaced along a hedgerow made me stop again.

tree on Milltown road

I didn’t stop too long though as a glance behind me showed some threatening looking clouds looming up over Gretna…

clouds over gretna

…so I made encouraging noises to my legs and pushed on.

In spite of my encouragement and the faintest hint of some drizzle, my legs demanded a rest before the final little hills into Langholm and I stopped for one last tree at Irvine House.

tree at irvine house

The thought of a cup of tea gave me enough strength to add a couple of miles onto my journey when I got back to Langholm and I reached the nice round number of 40 miles (at a very moderate pace) for my trip.

By the time that the dream of a cup of tea had become reality, the light was fading fast.  I was looking out of the window and listening to my friend Alison on the phone as she told me that she and Mike were too bothered with colds to be able to make their traditional Friday evening visit when I realised that an odd looking bird on the lawn with its back to me was in fact a sparrowhawk waiting to fly off with its prey.  It had flown off long before I could put the phone down and pick up a camera.   Alison remarked that the sparrowhawk doesn’t seem to visit their garden which is only 100 yards away from ours.

Following a hint from a blog reader, we watched the first episode of a new version of Worzel Gummidge on catch up telly in the evening.  It was very charming and we enjoyed it (though it did suffer from a distinct lack of Una Stubbs in the cast list).

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, caught indistinctly in the morning shadows.

flying chaffinch

 

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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.

canada new year

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.

gill near craigcleuch

It was misty in the valley below me as I walked down towards the Burnfoot Bridge over the Esk.

esk at craig

I noticed a couple of horses in a field beside the road near…

ponies at craig

…the racehorse training establishment.

racetrack at craig

Passing the training track, I came to the Burnfoot Bridge, and having crossed it…

burnfoot bridge

…I plodded up the second long hill of the walk, looking back down the misty valley which had been my outward route.

mist on langholm road

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.

cottage at henwell

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.

cattle at henwell
I approached the Gates of Eden, which I have often photographed on more sunny days from across the valley..

gates of eden spetember

The Gates in September earlier in 2019

…though they didn’t look quite so inviting today.

gates of eden henwell

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…

langfauld 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.

town band new year

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….

redpoll and siskin

…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.

astonished flying chaffinch

A collared dove looked down from above.

collared dove

And Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out the walnut tree was dripping with big black birds.

jackdaws in walnut

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.

fiddleton toll

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.
flying chaffinch

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