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Archive for the ‘Views’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who started the new year by visiting the strangely named Locko Park where he met a fine lake.

Locko Park

Our year here started with a brilliantly sunny but rather chilly day.  I would have liked to have taken part in the eight mile walk/run event that starts the Langholm year off but a combination of stiff muscles and sore feet persuaded me that a bike ride would be a better bet.

After a late breakfast, a little cooking and dawdling my way to coffee, I saw that the thermometer had climbed to 5°C so I got my cycling clothes on, got out my bike, leaned it against the car while I filled my water bottle and then looked at the car windscreen.

It was still covered with ice.

I put the bike back in, took my cycling clothes off and went for a walk.  The roads may well have been 99% clear of ice but it is that other 1% that I am hoping not to meet this year.

My idea was to walk to the top of a 1000ft hill and admire the views and so I headed up Meikleholm Hill (859ft), intending to go along the ridge and onto the next hill, Timpen (1069ft), and get my views there.

I passed some fine fungus…

Meikleholm track fungus

…and was soon looking at views from about 656ft…

Esk valley from Meikleholm

…but not long afterwards, I found myself looking at the enquiring heads of cattle peeking over the skyline and looking back at me.

For the second time today, I changed my plan. I retreated.

I lost about 100 feet and found a cattle free but steep route to the top of Timpen.  There were a number of views available and the air was remarkably clear for once.

I looked north along the ridge….

view from top of timpen 4

…and down into the Esk valley curling among the hills.

view from top of timpen 3

Nearer to me I could see the river running through the fields of Milnholm.

view from top of timpen 2

Going further round, I could see Castle and Potholm Hills making a barrier between the Esk and the Ewes Water on the far side.

view from top of timpen 1

And going round further still, I could look back down on the town, 800 feet below.

view of langholm from top of timpen

It was warm enough in the sunshine for me to unbutton my jacket, put my gloves in my pocket and still feel rather hot after the climb.

Coming back down the hill, I chose a cow dodging route using a mountain biking trail through the woods on the shady side of the hill.

bike track down Meikleholm Hill

The track was well maintained and although it was much colder out of the sun, it was a pleasure to walk along a track that I had never used before. I ended up down on the road about a mile out of town and took the path above the river that leads to the Duchess bridge (part of Walk 2 of the Langholm Walks).

Trees had fallen across the track but some kind person had come along with a chain saw and cut a Tootlepedal sized hole in the trunk…

walk 2 path

…so I was able to arrive safely on the flat of the Castleholm and walk along the tree lined Lodge walks in the sunshine.

lines across Lodge walks

I crossed the Sawmill Bridge and strolled along the Kilngreen.  There were many gulls on the fence posts but as I got near, they flew off and only one remained.

gull on post

I feel fairly sure that if I had had my flying bird camera with me, they would all have stayed glued to the posts.

Looking back up the river, I could see the sun  tipping the hill with gold where I had stood an hour earlier taking in those views.

Esk and Timpen

One of the really good things about our hills to my mind, is the ease with which one can get up and down them without requiring a mass of time and special walking kit.  I did find my two walking poles very useful though as the grass on the shady side of the hill was still frosty and slippery in places.

I tried to catch a flying bird in the garden when I got home but they were nowhere to be seen and this shy character was the only bird available.

chaffinch hiding

I collected Mrs Tootlepedal who was at work on her rocking horse restoration project and we went off to see Mike and Alison Tinker and wish them and their daughter and her family who were visiting, a happy new year.

We had a sociable new year drink and some good conversation and Mike and his daughter Liz, who is a professional horticulturalist, pointed out that two days ago, the blog had wrongly called this shrub, which we encountered on a walk, a pernettya…

pernettya bush

…whereas Mike actually has a pernettya in his garden and it looks like this…

pernettya

…and what we had seen two days ago…

pernettya berries

…was a Symphoricarpos or snowberry.  I apologise deeply for the error which must have appalled many readers who were too polite to point it out.

I was slightly envious when I saw a steady stream of birds visiting Alison’s feeder as we sipped and chatted.   Liz presented Mrs Tootlepedal with a bowl of hyacinths as a new year’s gift and I hope this will appear in future posts when they burst into flower.

I had made a beef and mushroom stew in the slow cooker in the morning so we were well supplied for our evening meal when the time came.

In the absence of any flying birds, I can offer an echelon of gulls who returned to their posts as soon as I had got too far away to photograph one individually.

zig zag gulls

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone.  He sent it to me to show that his daughter Susan is not just a fine recorder player but a good cook too. This is her beef Wellington.

Susan's beef wellington

We had another warm and dry December day here but the 35 mph wind in the morning was a forcible reminder that we should not expect too much good weather in the winter.

I had plenty of time therefore to watch birds through the kitchen window as I idled the morning away but once again birds were in very short supply and no photo opportunities beckoned.

The wind eased off a little around midday and as my cycle stats spreadsheet told me that I only had twenty three miles to go to reach three hundred miles for the month and that at the same time I would hit a significant annual target too, I decided to get my bike out and battle with the breeze.

I thought that skulking in the valley might be the best policy so I started by cycling up to Cleuchfoot along the Wauchope road with a view to doing two or three repetitions in the valley bottom depending on the weather.

The Glencorf Burn never fails to please me as I cross over the bridge on my way to Cleuchfoot…

Glencorf burn

…and I was fully expecting to cross it again in a short while.  However, by the time that I got back to Langholm after eight miles, the wind had dropped to a very tolerable level so instead of coming back up the Wauchope road, I cycled straight through the town and took the main road north.

The sun was out and the traffic was light and I headed northwards in a cheerful mood.  It is a very scenic route and there is plenty to look at on the way.

I stopped at Ewes Church….

ewes kirck

…where the church bell hangs in a tree and not in the bell tower.

ewes kirk bell

Behind the church, one of several little glens winds up between the hills.

Ewes kirk vallwy

At the next gap in the hills, a stone tells of a vanished tower and an intrusive apostrophe.

little monument

This is the valley where the tower once stood.

Little valley

I went as far as the old toll house at Fiddleton….

Fiddleton toll

…and took a look round at the hills at the head of the Ewes valley.

To the east…

Fiddleton hills 3

…to the west….

Fiddleton hills 2

…and to the north.

Fiddleton hills 1

And then I headed back south to complete a most enjoyable 25 miles.

The only flower still in bloom in our garden is the winter jasmine…

winter jasmine

…but there are plenty of signs of potential flowers to come.

december green shoots

Once inside, I was happy to find that Mrs Tootlepedal had made another pan of duck soup so I had a late lunch and looked out in hope of seeing a few birds.

I did see a lone greenfinch…

greenfinch

…but it wasn’t in any danger of getting knocked off its perch by the crowd.

I was so pleased with getting to three hundred miles for the month and hitting  a significant annual target that after a shower, I sat down at my computer to put my twenty five miles into my cycle stats spreadsheet and do a bit of gloating.  The smug look was soon wiped off my face though as I discovered an error in a vital column which meant that although I had indeed hit the 300 mile mark for the month, I was still thirty miles short of my annual target.  Oh catastrophe!

Mercifully, the weather forecast predicts reasonable weather for tomorrow but it will be a shock when the legs find out that that they have to go out again.  I hope that they won’t complain too much.

Along with the lone greenfinch, a single chaffinch flew by and it takes the honour of being the uncontested flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another one from Joe and Annie’s recent Highland holiday and shows what you get if you arrive at the top of a mountain, namely a view of more mountains.

top of mountain

Our welcome spell of relatively mild weather continued today but once again, the morning was very grey and there was even a little drizzle early on.   I was very happy therefore to entertain Sandy to a cup of coffee when he came round to collect the Archive Group projector and a copy of a 1967 parish magazine for scanning.

Sandy and I haven’t been going for any walks lately because he has been having trouble with his feet and as I enjoy these walks, I was glad to hear that he is going to seek medical advice.  I hope that he gets good treatment and that we will be able to resume some walks again early next year.   He taught me almost everything I know about photography and it is always an education to see what he sees when we are out and about.

Scott, our ex-minister, has obviously lost control of his coffee radar since he has left Langholm as he arrived for a surprise visit only after Sandy and all the coffee in the pot had gone.  I wasn’t even able to offer him a cup of tea as I was changed and ready to go out on my bike when he came.  At this time of year, there is no time to spare as it gets dark so early so I left him chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal and went off pedalling into the distance.

It was still very grey and as I went over Callister, I was swathed in low cloud.  it wasn’t long though before the clouds began to lift….

clouds lifiting off windmills

…and there was a good patch of blue sky in the direction that I was heading.

tree at Giar road

There had hardly been any birds in the garden in the morning so I was pleased to come across a great flock of starlings near Waterbeck.  They rose like a vast animated carpet from a field as I passed.  By the time that I had got my camera out, many of them had settled in some trees.

starlings at West Craigs

I was soon pedalling along in what passes for bright sunshine in the winter and although some of the remaining clouds looked a bit sinister, I had sun with me for the rest of my ride.

cloud and sunlight

As well as the big flock of starlings, I passed a large array of hundreds of geese in a field near Chapelknowe.  I think that these are pink footed geese which visit Scotland for the winter from Greenland and Iceland.

geese in field at Chapelknowe

My legs were in a helpful mood today and after a hard working first ten miles with some climbing and the wind against, the last 20 miles of my ride were much flatter and with a friendly wind now assisting me and my legs in full working order, I fairly whizzed along (by my standards).

I stopped for a breather at Half Morton with ten miles to go.  There is a convenient wall there for propping up bikes and riders, not to mention a fine tree to admire.

tree at Timpanheck

My final pause was to take a view, a favourite not just because  of the neat framing of the hills round Langholm but also because when you see it, it means that there are only five miles to go to a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

Low cloud over Langholm

I found Mrs Tootlepedal at work in the garden when I got home and there were a few chaffinches on the plum tree too.  Mrs Tootlepedal soon went in and the dratted chaffinches remained firmly stuck in the tree and only came down to the feeder when the light had gone too far for decent photography.

chaffinches in plum tree

In the evening, we were visited  by Mike and Alison, as is customary on a Friday, and since Alison’s injured shoulder is still preventing full piano playing, we settled for some wine and beer drinking and general conversation instead of music.  The early renewal of Friday evening music making is another of my New Year’s wishes.

The lack of flying birds is getting to be embarrassing and I didn’t get one at all today.  If there was any flying, it always seemed to be right behind the feeder.

invisible flying bird

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is from our son Tony and shows that the temperature was lower in Fife than it was here this morning.

frosty wemyss walk

We had been promised a day of freezing fog so it was a pleasant surprise to find no fog and a temperature of two degrees above zero when we got up.   It was still too cold for cycling though as I am resolved not to risk hitting any icy patches this winter so I had a relaxing morning of chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal and making ginger biscuits.

I had a good deal of time to stare out of the window and was happy to see one or two birds making a welcome re-appearance at the feeder.

I caught a great tit in the plum tree…

great tit in plum tree

…a redpoll on the feeder…

redpoll in december

…and a blackbird on the ground below.

blackbird head

There were visits from a robin and a blue tit too but these went unrecorded as they were too quick for me.

The jackdaws were back again…

jackdaw on chimney

…but there was still not a great number of finches.  I met two neighbours this morning, one of whom reported that his garden was short of small birds and the other who had many sparrows but no finches.

It was still only 2°C at lunch time but it was such a nice day that a walk was in order even if cycling was not on the menu so after  a cheese and chutney sandwich, I set off to walk up to the monument.

There were no flowers to be seen except the occasional gorse bush but some bright lichen on a small bush beside the track caught my eye.

lichen on Kirk Wynd

I was resolved to see if I could walk up the hill to the monument without stopping but one or two views compelled me to pause for a second or two.

ewes valley december

This is what lay ahead.

up to the monument

Although the ground looks a bit rough, there is a path all the way to the top and I was soon looking back on the lower hills across the valley…Castle hill

…and it didn’t take me too long to get to the top of the hill and look over the wall across the Tarras valley.  The camera makes it all look rather flat but it would be very hard work to walk across the moor, down across the river and then up to that hill in the distance which is quite a bit higher than Whita.

tinnis hill

Looking out to the west, I could see Criffel, 30 miles away, rising above a sea of mist over the Nith estuary.   We were obviously getting the best of the weather.

Criffel above mist

Looking around I could see a mixture of commercial forest and sheep grazing grounds.  It seems as though we are going to have more forestry and less sheep round here in the future as the grants system makes timber more profitable than meat at the moment.

grazing and woodland

I took a zig zag route back down the hill as the direct route is steep and would have been hard on my knees and as I walked down the track towards the White Yett, the low sun picked out these heather clumps…

heather lumps

…and I cast a long shadow as I went.

big shadow on whita

I didn’t go right down to the road but followed the track that the riders come up at the Common Riding back down towards the golf course.

Below me, I could see that the woodcutters had left the pines standing when they otherwise cleared felled the wood at Hillhead.

pines left at Hillhead

I passed a small tree as i came down the hill.  Trees like this are very scarce where the ground has sheep on it but once the sheep are taken off, trees start to grow quickly.

tree on whita

A little cairn marked my route down the hill…

 

cairn on Birnie Braes

…and I came safely back to the top of the golf course with my knees intact.

Looking down towards England, I could see the Lake District hills in the distance, looming over the mist covered Solway plain.

mist over solway

We were still mist free and the golf course was very peaceful….

5th green

…as I walked down the side of the course without being disturbed by cries of “fore!” or being hit by a golf ball.

I timed my three and a half mile walk well as I got home just as the sun dipped below the hills and a distinct chill came over the town.

Once inside, a cup of tea and some delicious ginger biscuits refreshed body and spirit and I was fully recovered when Luke arrived for some flute playing.  We played the Loeillet sonata which we have been working on and it went very well, with some good ornamentation and some faster tempi.  Although practice hasn’t made us perfect yet, we are definitely making progress.

The forecast is once again offering us fog tomorrow so I hope that we end up with another sunny day like today.

We are well prepared for Christmas Day and intend to have a quiet but jolly time.  I wish all readers of the blog a Happy Christmas and I hope that they have held Santa’s hand firmly when presents were being considered so that nobody is disappointed.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch enjoying the sunshine.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture shows our son Tony’s dogs visiting the castle near his home in Fife.  I may have used this picture before (I can’t remember) but I have put it in regardless to remind myself that Mrs Tootlepedal and I stood in that exact spot last weekend.

dogs at wemyss castle

It was a day of mixed weather but it was dry when I took this shot of a visiting collared dove during coffee and treacle scone time in the company of Dropscone.

collared dove

These may well have been the last treacle scones of 2018 but I hope that there will be many more in 2019.

It had started to drizzle while we were sipping and it was still drizzling when I set off after coffee to put in twenty miles on my bicycle.  By the time that I had gone half a mile, it was raining steadily and I was pleased that I was wearing a peaked cap under my helmet to keep the rain of my glasses.  I persevered though and was rewarded when the rain stopped after twenty minutes.

I had gone out along the Lockerbie road to see if the second of the two repairs to the failing banking had been completed and was happy to find that it had…

second lockerbie road repair

…even if the road patching was a bit rough and ready.   Should we keep on getting inches of rain every week, it will be a tribute to the engineers’ skill if the fence stills looks so regular in the spring.

I went to the top of Callister and then turned back and went through Langholm and out of the other side.  Although the rain had stopped, it was still damp, with wisps of mist rising from little valleys…

misty valley terrona

….and on top of Whita, the monument was swathed in low cloud.

monument in mist

Mrs Tootlepedal was out at a festive lunch with ex work colleagues when I got back so I had a lonely lunch and checked on the bird feeder.

The seed had gone down and there were some lively goldfinches about….

busy goldfinches at feeder

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and set about cooking a plum pudding for our Christmas meal. I saw that the weather had brightened up a bit so I went for a short three bridges walk.

The clouds had lifted from the top of Whita…

whita late december

There are two bridges in this picture, neither of which I crossed.

…and I found a goosander swimming up the fairly turbulent waters of the Esk.

goosander swimming in esk

I love the goosanders’ jagged hair style.

gossander by bank

A gentle sunlight appeared as I walked up to the Town Bridge but I was concerned to see so much debris caught against one of the arches.

trees against langholm Bridge

Once I was on the town bridge, I was able to look up the Ewes Water towards the Sawmill Brig, my next target.  It was hard to remember how gloomy and damp the start of my cycle ride had been, only three hours previously.

Ewes and sawmill brig december

You can see a row of gulls on the posts in the picture above and I was hoping that one would take flight as I walked past them along the Kilngreen so that I could capture a flying bird of the day but they stuck resolutely to their posts.

black headed gull on post

It was really quite a nice day by the time that I had crossed the Sawmill Brig and started walking up the Lodge Walks, admiring this tree on the Castleholm as I went.

Castleholm tree

The little ‘tin church’ was looking very demure behind its picket fence…

Episcopalian church

…and it is just a pity that no use can be found for this charming building.

I continued up the Lodge Walks for a bit..

Lodge walks late december

…and enjoyed the sun picking out some fresh moss…

moss on lodge walks

…and I looked for little splashes of colour on lichen on a gate post.  The spots of red are so tiny that they are hardly visible to the naked eye.

lichen on gate Lodge walks

As I crossed the Castleholm on my way to the Jubilee Bridge, I looked up at my favourite lichen clad tree and wondered once again at the fact that a more or less complete coating of lichen doesn’t seem to affect its ability to produce seeds and new buds.

licheny tree

I didn’t linger too long though as the sun was getting low….

castleholm trees catch late sun

…and the clouds were re-assembling on the top of Whita.

monument in cloud later

Still, considering it is the shortest day of the year, I can’t complain as I had had scones, a cycle ride and a walk.

The only thing missing was a tootle in the evening but Mike Tinker came round to tell us that his wife Alison, my Friday night orchestra, has not sufficiently recovered from dislocating her shoulder to be able to play sonatas yet.  I hope that it will not be too far into 2019 before we can start playing again.

We had a test morsel of Mrs Tootlepedal’s plum pudding in the evening and it was delicious, light, fruity and very tasty.  I am really looking forward to Christmas day.

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

flying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo in Manitoba where they really know how to have a winter.  Her picture shows her cat contemplating the hard life that a rabbit has when it has to scratch up the snow in order to find a blade or two of grass.

cat and rabbit Manitoba

Although we have still got two days to go until the winter solstice arrives, the days still seem pretty short so it was a blessing to get a brighter day after yesterday’s pervasive gloom.  Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy day relating to her volunteering activities at the Buccleuch Centre but I idled about, drinking coffee and doing the crossword until I finally managed to get myself and my bicycle out onto the road.

In fairness, I was waiting for a text message to say when a parcel would be delivered.  They very kindly offered me a one hour slot for delivery but took four hours to tell me when that one hour slot would be which wasn’t entirely helpful.  On the plus side, it did give me time to stare out of the window in the hope of seeing some birds.

Things were very quiet again with a lone bashful goldfinch on the feeder and a single pensive chaffinch on the plum tree.

first birds

But there was more action after a while and a small flock of goldfinches flew in…

goldfinches come back

…soon to be joined by some chaffinches.

goldfinch and chaffinch reappear

I was hoping to catch a flying bird of the day at last but the goldfinches taunted me by doing their flying behind the feeder…

angel goldfinch

…and the chaffinches got in each other’s way.

scrappy chaffinches

The message about the parcel came at last and showed that I had time for a pedal so I pedalled.

It was around 6°C but the wind was light and there was even a promise of some blue sky ahead…

Callister

..though it was still grey on the top of Callister where the workers on the new Solwaybank windfarm were busy…

solwaybank wind farm workers

…preparing for the arrival of the turbines.  They are currently pouring concrete for the bases but  I read on their website that the turbines are not due until mid summer 2019 so I shall stop craning my neck to see if they have arrived yet every time I go past.

By the time that I had got to the bottom of the far side of Callister I could see a hint of sunshine at Crowdieknowe…

sdr

…and as I went along the road towards Gair, passing good looking trees…

gair road tree

…I found myself bathed in the weak sunshine which is all you can expect at this time of year,

I expect that the sheep were grateful too.

view from gair road

A clump of gorse certainly looked very cheerful.

girse near gair

Once I had got to Kirkpatrick Fleming and had turned for home, the sunlit beech hedges along the road were adding a welcome touch of colour to my trip.

beech hedge KPF road

I stopped to admire the very severe haircuts which the council men have given to the shrubs in the graveyard at Half Morton…

 

Half Morton kirkyard

…and took a little breather going up my last hill to enjoy the colour of the trees beside the busy main road.

A7 with larches

Although it was only early afternoon when I got back, the light was already fading and this was the best that I could do to capture a welcome late visit from a robin

dark robin

We also had visits from a coal tit, a blue tit and a collared dove.  This was cheering but there were still very few birds about in total and those that came didn’t linger so I am beginning to think that sparrowhawk activity might be a factor in our current bird scarcity.

My parcel arrived on time and that was the high spot of the rest of the day as by now it was almost dark.  Indeterminate indoor activity saw me through the unforgiving winter hours.

We had home grown turnips and potatoes with our tea.  This is not exactly self sufficiency but it is very satisfying none the less.

Mrs Tootlepedal has gone out to a well deserved small celebration of the work of the volunteers at the Buccleuch Centre as I write this so I shall take the opportunity to do a little singing practice while she is out.

I could only manage a very blurry flying bird of the day but any bird in the blog is better than none.

flying chaffinch gloomy

Tra la la.

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Today’s guest pictures shows an original use for an old pallet.  Our son Tony made the coat rack and sent me the picture.  We hope to see it in real life tomorrow.

clothes hanger

This is an early post as we have a full evening ahead of us with a concert in the Langholm Church involving Langholm Sings and the Church Choir so we are both in action.  Immediately after the concert, we are setting off north to visit our son Tony and sample the delights of East Wemyss.   On Sunday, we are going across to attend a performance of the Messiah in Glasgow led by the ex-conductor of our Carlisle Choir so all in all, it will be a busy weekend.  As the forecast for Saturday includes blizzards, freezing rain and heavy snow. all this may be weather dependant but we are hoping that the weather will be reasonable while we are travelling.

Fingers firmly crossed.

It was a cold and frosty morning here and as the temperature never got above 2°C all day, there was no thought of bicycling.

I spent the morning getting organised for concert and travel and only had a moment to glance out of the window.

blackbird below feeder

In spite of the frost, the ground was remarkably ice free though so I went for a walk after lunch.

To check that the car was in working order, I drove down to the Hollows and started my walk along the old A7.

old A7 Hollows

The wind  had dropped from yesterday and in the sunshine, walking was a pleasure.  I passed some of the greenest moss in the world…

very green moss

…before I got to the track through the woods along the Byreburn.  I had hoped that this might be a good day to see some hair ice (or frost beard as it is sometimes known) as this track is a place where the fungus Exidiopsis effusa has been busy in the past.

The temperature was just right for hair ice formation and there was any amount to be seen all along the path.

sdr

It occurs in dead branches…

hair ice (3)

…and is a constant wonder to me.

hair ice (2)

I lifted my eyes from the hair ice for long enough to notice that I was passing the Fairy Loup waterfall…

fairy loup (2)fairy loup

…and soon found myself at the bridge at the top of the track.

byreburn bridge

I took the road for my route back to the car, passing Gilnockie Hall…

Gilnockie hall

…and many sheep, intelligently grazing just beyond the long shadows cast by the low winter sun on the trees.

Gilnokcie field

A short diversion took me along the old railway track past the site of Gilnockie Station..

gilnockie station

…and I walked down through a field so that I could enjoy the golden light of the sun through an old railway bridge.

gilnockie railway brodge

When the foresters fell the spruce and larch woods, they leave the pines…

byreburn woods (2)

…and the deciduous trees…

byreburn woods

…so there is still plenty for the walker to enjoy.

The light had faded by the time that I got home and I settled down to a crossword and looking through my pictures.

There is no flying bird of the day today, just a small perching chaffinch.

sunny chaffinch

For those who are interested, Wikipedia has an article on hair ice here.

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