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Archive for the ‘Walking’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from East Wemyss where it seems that the sun shines  frequently.  Our son Tony got a new camera for Christmas and sent me this picture to show that it is working well.

tony's trees

There was a complete lack of sun here today and after singing in the church choir and having an early lunch,  I went for a short walk which proved the point.

low clouds

When I started my walk the clouds had almost covered the town completely and as I walked on the clouds got lower…

very misty trees

…and lower….

eskdaill street in cloud

…so if I hadn’t had the flash on my camera, I would have been pushed to record anything much as I strolled along.

As it was, I could see a fine burst of lichen on a tree trunk…

cript lichen

…an old seed head…

old seed head

…and a promise of spring to come….

mew needles

…as well as some pixie cups on a post at the Auld Stane Brig…

cup lichen

…and a crop of curiously damp lichen on the bridge itself.

lichen with raindrops

In fact there was so much lichen about that at times it seemed almost to be dripping off roadside walls.

wall lichen

There was enough light to see the Auld Stane Brig itself,

auld stane brig

Considering  that many of our bridges are old and most are made of stone, it is hard to work out why this bridge got the name of The Auld Stane Brig in particular when it could have been applied to so many others.  Still, it is a bridge, it is old and it is made of stone so I shouldn’t grumble.

The clouds were soon back down again and the only colour of the day….

misty tree

…was provided by Mrs Tootlepedal’s developing crochet blanket on the kitchen table when I got home.

crochet

I look forward to a whole colour symphony when she is finished.

Peering out of the kitchen window during over lunch, I could see that there were more birds than usual about.

They were mostly chaffinches…

chaffinch arriving at feeder

…both male and female…

three chaffinches

…but sparrows and goldfinches put in an appearance too.

sparrow and arriving chaffinch

I didn’t have long for my walk or any bird watching as we had to go off to Carlisle for the first meeting of the year with the Carlisle Community Choir.  By this time, the clouds had really hit rock bottom and we needed both front and rear fog lights on the car to get us safely to the meeting.

We began work straight away on songs that we will take to a competition in Manchester in March and I will need to start learning my part off by heart as it takes me a long time to get songs to stick in my memory.

As I write this post in the evening, the clouds are still pressing down on the town and the air is full of the plaintive cries of pink footed geese as they circle overhead.  I hope that they finally find a safe landing.

In spite of the gloom, I did find a flying chaffinch of the day today.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my ex colleague Marjorie who sent me this picture of a misty Schiehallion taken during her highland break over the festive season.

schiehallion

We woke to another chilly grey day here but the weather forecast suggested that a little sunshine might be available in the afternoon.  This turned out to be one of the forecasters little jokes but it didn’t matter as we had our own little ray of sunshine today in the form of a visit from our friend Sue.

She came in time for a coffee and not only were we pleased to see her, but we were pleased to see a small flock of birds at the feeder to entertain us as we sipped and chatted.

busy feeder

There was a constant coming and going for a while…

birds coming and going

…with visits from jackdaws to the fat ball feeder as well.

jackdaws in elder

In order to work up an appetite for lunch, we went for a walk to the top of Whita Hill after coffee.  Well, in fact, we went for a drive up to the White Yett and then walked the three quarters of mile up the easy track…

sue and mrs t on whita

…to the summit.

The track has a fine collection of boulders with colourful lichens at the bottom….

lichen at mcdiarmid memorial

…and an even more colourful set of lichens on the wall at the top.

lichen at whita summit

I took a worm’s eye view of the lightning conductor that is embedded in one side of the monument…

worms eye view of monument

…looked over the wall at the mist shrouded valleys to the south….

view over tarras

…and then we walked gently back down the track and admired the MacDiarmid memorial outlined against the Ewes Valley.

mcdiarmid memorial and ewes valley

The memorial celebrates the life and work of Langholm’s most famous poetical son, Hugh MacDiarmid.

mcdiarmid memorial

The sculpture is in the form of an open book and is constructed in Corten steel and bronze. Corten is a weathering steel which oxidises on the surface; it forms a protective skin and therefore requires no maintenance and to my eye, it looks thoroughly at home among the hills which MacDiarmid loved.

When we got home, Sue tried out our new bench and declared it to be very comfortable even in January.

 

sue and mrs t at bench

We marvelled at the rosemary, which thanks to the protected spot that it lives in, is still in flower…

december rosemary

…and then we went in to a lunch of curried parsnip soup and cheese flan provided by Mrs Tootlepedal.

Sue is one of the recorder group with whom I have played for many years and after lunch, she and I played a selection of duets while Mrs Tootlepedal got on with the crochet blanket she is making.

All too soon, it was time for Sue to head for home and while Mrs Tootlepedal continued with her crochet, I made an unavailing effort to solve the Saturday prize crossword.  Usually these crosswords yield to concentrated effort but today’s one has got me baffled.  I shall sleep on it and try again tomorrow.

All being well, we shall see Sue again tomorrow as she sings in our Carlisle choir and it meets for the first time in 2019 tomorrow afternoon.  I am looking forward to it.

There are not one but two flying birds of the day today which is cheering.

two flying goldfinches

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Today’s guest picture comes from our younger son Alistair.  He came across these Christmas baubles in the Botanical gardens in Edinburgh.  As they were the size of footballs, he was quite impressed by them.

baubles botanic

We didn’t have much sparkle here as it was another grey and chilly day.  Any brightness was provided by the arrival of Dropscone (with scones) for coffee.  When he left, he was thinking about going to play golf as the temperature was around 5°C and I thought that it was just warm enough for a pedal.

Although it has been cold, it hasn’t rained recently so the roads were dry enough for comfortable riding and I had a calm pedal round my customary Canonbie route.  I had thought of going a little  bit further but was happy to settle for just the twenty miles as hands and feet were getting quite cold by the time that I got home.

Between not wanting to stand around getting even colder and the very poor light, I was intending not to stop for any stop for pictures but I was brought up short by a new sign beside the road at Hollows.

canonbie walk board

Some enterprising group has encouraged the council to put up a set of signs along a popular walking route from the village.  They are nicely done.  This one has the added benefit of being placed near a set of some slightly mysterious stone sculptures which have been anonymously placed in a little wood beside the river.

carving 1 hollows

There are disconcerting when you first see them as they are so unexpected.

carving 2 hollows far

The inscription on the helmet is quite apposite.

carving 2 hollows

When I got home, I took a picture of the first snowdrops of the year which are on the bank of the dam at the back of our house.  They have arrived a week or two earlier than usual this year.

snowdrops by dam

In the garden, the magnolia buds are looking healthy and ready to burst.

magnolia bud

I had lunch and tried to catch a bird at the feeder outside the kitchen window.  It was one of those days however when the very poor light and the flighty behaviour of the very few birds that were about meant that I didn’t take a single garden bird picture, a very rare occurrence.

In the end, I went for a short walk just for the sake of finding something to look at but I had left it too late and the already poor light had got even worse.  I pointed my camera around all the same.

This gull had found a taller spot to sit on rather than the fence posts at the Kilngreen and was on top of an electricity pole.

gull on lectricity pole

There were no gulls at the Kilngreen when I got there and after a pretty dry spell, there wasn’t much water in the rivers either.low water

I had to use the flash to take pictures of lichen on the sawmill Brig parapet…

bridge lichen

…and some spleenwort on the wall by the Lodge gates…

spleenwort back

…but there was just enough light to note that a mole had been busy down here too.

moles by lodge gates

I have a soft spot for trees that seem to have been cobbled together from small pieces.

many treed trunk

And I liked the combination of different bark colours, moss and lichen on this tree on the Castleholm.

moss and lichen on tree

But all in all, the cold and the greyness didn’t encourage me to linger and I soon got home again.

I had made some ginger biscuits in the morning and although they weren’t as successful as my last batch, they were quite suitable for dunking in a cup of tea so I did just that.

Since our Carlisle choir starts again this Sunday, I spent a little time doing some singing practising and then had another cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike Tinker who had come to call.

As Mike’s wife Alison is not back to full piano playing fitness after injuring her shoulder, there was no music in the evening and Mrs Tootlepedal and I spent a quiet evening in.

I couldn’t find a flying bird in the garden today so this distant shot of gulls flying across the Esk this afternoon is my best effort at a flying bird of the day.

flying gull flock

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who visited National Maritime Museum, Greenwich to look at their new Polar gallery.

maritime museum

We kept the cold weather today but it came with a full covering of clouds so there were no glorious views to be had when I went for a morning walk.

I decided to check out a track that has been used for forestry work to see if if it was still walkable.  It turned out to be not too bad at all…

track from whitshiles

…and the woods beside the bottom part of the track hadn’t been felled.  When I came to the felled area….

felled wood at hillhad

…it was far enough away not to provide me with any problems.

I enjoyed a couple of bare trees as I climbed the hill.

bare tree above whitshiels (2)

bare tree above whitshiels

…and three of the pines which the tree fellers have left.  I admire the skill with which they clear an area leaving just a few selected trees still standing.

three pine trees

I was very surprised to see fresh molehills by the road when I got to it as the soil must be pretty thin and the it was hardened by frost as well as you can see from the icy moss nearby.

molehill and frozen moss

The tree felling brings all sorts of different views into play and I liked the wall snaking along the top of the little valley.  It has always been there of course, but with a solid background of uniform conifers, it wasn’t nearly so noticeable.

wall by felled wood

This big bridge for a little conduit has also come out of the gloom.

culvert bridge at donks quarry

The steep banks of the little valley don’t seem to have been a problem for either the original tree planters of the fellers.  I hope that the area will be replanted with deciduous trees in the weeks to come.

 

felling at hillhead

I left the road and walked across the lower slopes of Whita, passing these trees…

two bare trees

…and several flourishing gorse bushes…

three gorse bushes

…until I got to the golf course where I came upon three hardy golfers driving off the third tee.

january golfers

When I got home, I had time for a quick glance at the chaffinches…

two chaffinches

…who were out in slightly increased numbers today…

three chaffinches

…before it was time to drive off to Lockerbie and catch the train to go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.

In a very upsetting reversal of the natural order of things, not only was the train on time but there were plenty of seats for everyone.  As the fare had gone up 25p this week, perhaps the railway company was taking customer satisfaction into account for once.

We had a very nice time playing with Matilda followed by a meal of pasta with a puttanesca sauce provided by Alistair, Matilda’s dad.

It was a calm evening so we walked back through the streets to the station and caught another punctual train home.

The light was very grey in the morning but there was just enough to catch a flying chaffinch of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture from my brother Andrew shows what was on the other side of the lake at Locko Park.

Locko Park (2)

It was zero degrees when we got up and -1 when I came to write this post.  In between it crept up to +1 in the middle of the day.  I didn’t go cycling.

I thought that the chill might bring in more birds and there were a few chaffinches about..

two chaffinches

..but not many.

straight up chaffinch

For one reason or another, we had a very lazy morning with a late coffee.  Then I made a pot of vegetable soup for lunch and I ate a lunch of soup, bread and cheese.  Then, since the sun was shining, I thought that I ought to go for a short walk just to stretch my legs after yesterday’s hilly effort.

It was almost windless and the pool at Pool Corner was a reflection of that state of affairs.

reflections at Pool Corner

The contrast between the cheerful sun shining through moss on a tree branch…

sunshine through moss

..and a frozen fence post beside the road to the Auld Stane Brig was very marked.

icy fence post

As a result, I thought that it might be just the sort of day to find hair ice  if I knew where to look.

hair ice gaskells (2)

I didn’t find much but there were a couple of really good examples.

hair ice gaskells

I could see the cattle that I had avoided yesterday enjoying the sunshine on Meikleholm Hill across the valley…

cattle on Meikleholm

…but on the whole, it was too chilly to spend a lot of time looking round so I took a picture of some dilapidated fungus on a tree and headed home.

decrepit fungus

The reason for the short walk was to make time for a shopping visit to Carlisle to buy supplies to fill up the serious date and prune gap in our storage cupboard.  Mrs Tootlepedal took the opportunity to acquire some crochet hooks as she is going to learn to crochet this winter.

I took a couple of pictures of chaffinches before we set off to Carlisle and I got my camera setting badly wrong and wasted this rare opportunity to get a respectable flying bird of the day…

noisy flying chaffinch

…but I quite liked the pointillist effect that I got by accident.

misty flying chaffinch

The sun was still shining when we arrived back in Langholm so before we went home, we drove up to the White Yett to see if we could see anything interesting.  The light was pretty mellow as we looked up the Ewes Valley on our way up the hill….

burst

…and it was absolutely gorgeous when we got to the top and looked over the moor towards Tinnis Hill.

dig

We dropped down into the Tarras valley in the hope of seeing some of the wild goats but saw none.  Our reward was to see the sun sinking behind the monument as we drove back home…

dig

…well satisfied with our little excursion in spite of the absence of birds.

Although the setting sun made it feel like evening, it was only mid afternoon when we got in and we sat down to a nice cup of tea and a slice or two of sourdough bread which had fallen into our shopping bag while we were out.

Sandy has been hard at work and I put a couple of 1967 Langholm Parish Church magazines, which he has scanned and formatted, into the Archive Group website.  I note that 448 people attended the communion services in November 1967 and yet the minister was still inclined to complain about poor church attendance from time to time.

It looks as though we are in for a pretty cool spell of weather in the coming days but with little or no rain about,  a good deal more walking than cycling may well occur.

I did manage to get the camera more or less correct on one occasion this morning so there is a flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

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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 my sister Mary and shows that she was in the right place at the right time to catch the sun illuminating a dogwood in Regents Park.

burning bush

December ended as it has been going on recently with a dry, mostly grey and reasonably warm day.  I was taking a break from cycling so I enjoyed the final coffee and scones of 2018 with Dropscone.  He had not lost any of his scone making skill over the holiday period so this was a good way to end the social year.

Along with Dropscone, we were visited by more birds than we have been seeing lately which was also welcome.

Goldfinches were queuing up to get a seat at the table…

many flying goldfinches

…and competing fiercely for the privilege.

flying goldfinches

Sometimes they let their good manners slip in their anxiety to snatch a sunflower heart from the feeder.

stamping goldfinch

And all too frequently, seeds went flying in the midst of all the excitement.

flying bird seed

Although it was pretty grey, it was a pleasant day so after Dropscone left, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went for a walk in the woods.  To give ourselves a good start, we drove a mile or so out of the town and parked next to a large fallen tree that had been sawn up and left beside the road.

Where the trunk had split, it was covered  in white fungus.

rotten tree

We walked up the track past the Longwood fields and passed many trees, some that stood proudly…

Longwood tree

…and some that were curiously knotted and twisted.

twisted tree

When we got to the woods, there was fungus, both big and small to be seen…

fungus in woods

…a dingly dell to cross…

dingly dell

…and a track through the old oak wood to follow.

oak wood

We were only out for a short walk so as soon as we got to the top of the oak wood, we headed back past a river of moss….

river of moss

…and made our return journey downhill through a birch wood that has grown up beside the oaks.

birch wood

We were going to take a diversion on our route back to the car by going along the old railway line, but fallen trees provided an obstacle….

old railway

….that was too low to crawl under and too high to jump over so we retraced our steps and went back by the path along the field.

This gave us the chance to enjoy the sight of a chestnut tree standing in a very neat pool of its own leaves.

chestnut with leaves

When we got back to the road, I took a moment to check out a favourite mossy wall…

mossy wall

…which was rich in interest…

lichen and moss on wall

…for those who like this sort of thing, among whom is numbered yours truly.

We had a walk round our garden when we got home and I was pleased to find that the sweet rocket had managed another flower or two, a single snowdrop was showing a touch of colour and a groundsel was growing in the drive.  The groundsel pleased me for its little patch of colour…

three late flowers

…but Mrs Tootlepedal was not so happy about it and it soon suffered from being comprehensively weeded.

After lunch, the last of the duck soup, a weak sun appeared for a while and illuminated a dove and a pigeon in the plum tree.

dove and pigeon

It also lit up the holly in our neighbour’s garden.

bright holly in garden

I did think of going for another walk to take advantage of the sun but I dithered a bit and by the time that I came to make a decision, the sun had gone and the clouds were grey again.

This was the moment that a robin came out.

robin on chair

I spent so much time thinking of things that I might do in the afternoon and so little time in actually doing anything useful that it was time for the evening meal before I knew it. Still ending the year on a restful note was no bad thing and I should be full of pep when 2019 arrives tomorrow.  Here’s hoping.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the patient and forbearing readers of these posts over the past year for their company which makes writing and taking pictures very rewarding.  I would like also to express special gratitude for those who add their many kind, amusing and useful comments.

The honour of being the final flying bird of the year has fallen to this goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

I don’t usually end with a quote but I think think Robert Burns speaks for many when he wrote to the wee. sleekit, timorous mouse words which apply just as well to the politics of 2018 and 2019:

“But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!”

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