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Arrived

We have arrived in London. Regular readers will be surprised to hear that our train was half an hour late.

We were told that this was because of speed restrictions between Rugby and Milton Keynes. A reluctance to go to Milton Keynes is quite understandable of course and as it will lead to us getting half our ticket price refunded, we kept calm.

I had time to go for a short walk before we left Langholm and take a couple of pictures on the way.

It was a gloomy day so leaving Langholm was not a wrench.

I am not going to miss many birds while I am away by the look of things.

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who noticed these sculptures of  full stop on a recent visit to the South Bank of the Thames.

full stop sculpture

Our day looked like this when I got up…

burst

…but it had become rather cloudy by the time that we got to church….

sunday cloud

…and it had disappeared entirely by the time that we got out.

sunday mist

Rather disappointingly, the foggy conditions remained in place for the rest of the day and the temperature hardly rose above freezing.

At the church, the minister remarked during his sermon that it might be a good idea to pray for the church choir.  We didn’t entirely know how to take this.

When we had got back from church and a cup of coffee had found a good home, I set out for a short misty walk with the intention of taking some moody pictures.  This plan would have gone better if I had put a card in my camera.

The short walk became a very short walk and I arrived home in a disgruntled mood which was not helped by the continuing absence of birds at the feeder.

quiet feeder

However, on this occasion things did improve, and a couple of minutes later the first birds of the day arrived…

feeder visitors

…and it was not long…

busy feeder

…until enough had arrived to cause queues to form.

chaffinch queueing

There was soon quite a rush…

goldfmnch queueing

…and even a hint of arguments developing….

siskin and chaffinch

…but the rush soon evaporated and a few lonely chaffinches were left…

hanging on by toenails

…practising landings.

chaffinch nearly landinf

Still, the thing about chaffinches is that they like spreading their wings and thus make good subjects for a feeder photographer.

four chaffinch anel;

After lunch, we went off through the chilly mist to Carlisle for the weekly meeting of our Carlisle choir.  At one stage the mist threatened to become thick fog but it relented and by the time we got to Carlisle, it was brighter and there was no mist.

Our musical director had suffered a tyre blow-out on the motorway in Glasgow on her way to lead the practice.  She hadn’t come to any harm but was unable to get to us so our accompanist took the task on, playing and conducting simultaneously with great verve.

We worked hard for her and as a result, we had a most enjoyable sing.

I was a bit worried that we might have to face freezing fog on the way home but although the temperature was hovering around zero, there was only one small patch of mist and the drive back was not too bad at all.

We are going away tomorrow for a few days to visit Evie, our younger granddaughter, so posts will be potluck from the phone.

In the meantime, I was happy to find a genuine flying bird of the day today, even though the misty conditions didn’t let me get a crisp picture.

flying chaffinch

Today’s guest picture comes from a Welsh correspondent Keiron.  He saw this fine tree in Ystradgynlais a day or two ago and thought that I might like it as I am fond of trees.

Ystradgynlais tree

It was a sunny day here today, but as it was also freezing when we got up, we were in no hurry to get the active part of the day going and sat and read the papers after breakfast until it was time for coffee.

The birds were not very active either, and the only birds that came near the feeder in the morning were a pair of chaffinches.

frosty chaffinch

Stimulated by our cup of coffee, we leapt gently into action and went for a walk.  We did think of a drive to a start point but we couldn’t think of one which we both fancied so we settled for the walk from the town up the River Esk to Potholm and back again.

We had done this walk three weeks ago an a very gloomy day so this time we decided to go round it in the opposite direction, starting by crossing the river by the Langholm Bridge.

There were plenty of gulls to be seen on the river when we looked from the bridge….

view from Langholm Bridge

…and I had my bird camera with me, so we stopped for a moment to enjoy the black headed gulls in flight and on the ground.

four gull panel

It was a grand day for a walk, and if you could get out of the chilly wind, there was even a hint of warmth from the sun.

Although we were walking a familiar route, it didn’t stop us enjoying the sights as we went along through the woods…

road to Holmhead

…over culverts….

bridge on Longfauld track

…and past tree plantations.

young spruce in winter

The views up the valley were delightful in the sunshine.

view of Milnholm

Rather to her surprise, Mrs Tootlepedal had read recently that beech tree leaf litter is slow to rot and does not contain much in the way of useful nutrients  and with that in mind, the clear ground under the beech trees which we passed was explained.

beech wood longfauld

I have always liked the openness of beech woods but I had never understood that the beech leaves themselves were probably suppressing the competition on the forest floor.

There was not a lot of fungus to be seen but I liked this colourful clump on a tree stump at Potholm..

tree stump fungus

…and this pale outbreak on a growing sapling near by.

fungus on sapling

As I had my bird camera with me, we kept an eye out for buzzards on the way.  The sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal spotted quite a few, but they were circling high in the sky and my 300mm lens could not get very close to them.

two high buzzards

At one time, we could see five at the same time, but all them out of range.

A robin in a tree at Potholm as we came down to the bridge was more co-operative and sang loudly to make sure that we didn’t miss it.

robin at Potholm

On the bank below the robin, snowdrops were talking about spring.

snowdrops at Potholm

We stopped at the bridge for a small snack…

potholm bridge

…and then we headed homewards along the road.  The fields were astonishingly green.

green fields milnholm

A  young cow regarded us with curiosity.

cow on potholm road

And the wall beside the road offered a feast of lichen.

six lichen on potholm road wall

At the end of the Potholm road, we joined the main road back into Langholm.  It is lined with concrete posts which hold the metal bars which stop errant cars falling down the steep slope into the river below.  Two of the posts caught my eye.

two concrete fence posts B709

We got home after 5.4 miles, quite ready for a cup of tea.  Mrs Tootlepedal had enough strength left to cycle down to the Co-op to do some shopping so that she could make a dahl for our evening meal and I had enough strength left to eat it.  It was very good and rounded off a peacefully pleasant day very well.

One of the Kilngreen gulls is the flying bird of the day,

flying gull

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

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony and shows the sun shining in East Wemyss.  He tells us that it does rain too and you can indeed see a puddle in the picture.  He tells me that his phone does the rather dramatic editing without being asked.

wemyss teasels

A brief blog today as there was little opportunity for taking photographs in the continued absence of any birds in the garden.  This is very strange.

We went to Edinburgh as we usually do on a Thursday but this time, we added another family member to our collection and had lunch with our elder son Tony and his partner Marianne.

We were very pleased to get to Edinburgh at all as the railway company that runs the trains through Lockerbie reached new depths of incompetence today and having cancelled two early trains through a train fault and driver shortage, then had to close the line entirely south of Carlisle because the overhead lines had collapsed.

We drove the forty miles to Tweedbank instead and caught a slow (but more reliable) train to Edinburgh from there.  Luckily the weather stayed calm and dry and the traffic was light so the drive up was  a pleasure and the drive back in the dark was no great hardship.

It was Tony’s birthday today so we stood him lunch and bought him a nice steak for a birthday meal when he got home. He wants to point out that he is not fifty yet.

Our transport woes for the day weren’t quite over because after our meal with Tony, the bus we were travelling on to get to Matilda’s broke down and we had to change to another one.  We got there in the end though and enjoyed lending a helping hand in the completion of not one but two jigsaw puzzles.

matilda jigsaw

Matilda had taken part in the annual show put on by her dancing school last Sunday and someone kindly took this lovely picture of the dancer prepared for action.

matilda ballerina

The show went very well and Matilda was presented with a rose for being the most improved pupil in the ballet class.  She was modestly proud.  We were very proud.

The forecast says that we might see some sunshine tomorrow so I am hoping that it will be warm enough for a bicycle ride.,

The only bird in the garden that I saw before we left for Edinburgh was one of our resident dunnocks.  This is the second day running that a dunnock has had to stand in fro the flying bird of the day.

dunnock on wire

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset corespondent, Venetia.  She visited the wonderfully named ‘The Newt’ estate where she came across this excellent sinuous bridge.

bridge the newt

Although we are not completely free from the threat of wet and windy weather yet, we awoke to a grey but dry day today.  The wind was still too brisk to make cycling fun though.

After breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal had some business to attend to and I went to our shop for supplies.  We had a cup of coffee when we had both returned and then we went for a walk.

Mrs Tootlepedal likes a bit of novelty in a walk if she can get it, so we drove three miles out of town and embarked on a walk up the track alongside the Esk from the Burnfoot Bridge to the Bentpath bridge and back again.

burnfoot and benty bridges

Burnfoot Bridge on the left and Bentpath Bridge on the right.

It was a well chosen route as it was sheltered from the brisk and chilly wind for the most part.

Although we were not far from Langholm, it was noticeable that the walls were built in a different style to the ones round us, using smaller stones probably collected from the river.

burnfoot track wall

The end of one of the walls gave a neat demonstration of their sloping construction.

wall end westerhall track

We didn’t see much of the river itself as there are trees along the bank all the way, but we did get some very pleasant views of the rolling country on the other side of the track.

Burnfoot track view

As we walked on, the rough track became a smooth road and we entered the grounds of the Westerhall estate, which has impressive stone gateposts at each end.

westerhall estate gates

A little sunshine at this point made the walk even more enjoyable.

westerhall road 2

Westerhall has some lovely woods and interesting buildings among them.

westerhall buildings

The grounds are well looked after and a broad grass avenue leads up the hill away from the house. The sharp eyed will be able to spot another little building in the distance at the top of the hill.

westerhall ride

In fact several grassy paths lead through the woodland with some rather grand steps on the way.

westerhall steps

We stuck to the road though…

westerhall road

…and walked on until we got to the church and churchyard at the village of Bentpath.

westerkirk mausoleum and church

Among the graves, some bearing the names of many different members of the same family, there is a mausoleum designed by Robert Adams which was built for John Johnstone.  The mausoleum is a fine example of the use of the Greek Doric Order in a building. It actually contains the remains of John’s father, Sir James Johnstone of Westerhall (1726-94). The mausoleum is built in ashlar, with a prominent lead covered dome. The front features two pairs of columns supporting a pediment and frieze decorated with ox-skulls.

You can still see the ox skull decorations and one of the gravestones beside the mausoleum has a spectacular show of moss and algae.

Westerkirk churchyard

On our way through the estate, we had seen a good looking example of an orange witch hazel….

westerhall witch hazel

…and when we got to the bridge at Bentpath, there was an even finer yellow variety.

witch hazel at bridge

It was just behind a very nicely situated bench…

seat at benty bridge

…where we had a sit down and a snack as it was one o’clock and lunchtime.  I had bought some dates with me but Mrs Tootlepedal had gone for a banana.  To make things perfect, we only needed a glass of wine and a loaf of bread but we hadn’t brought those.

We didn’t stop for long and were soon on our way back to the car.

We stopped to admire the very unusual semicircular bridge over the Kirk Burn…

kirk burn bridge westerhall

…and the Kirk Burn itself which was splashing down towards the Esk in fine style.

westerhall kirk burn

The grounds of Westerhall have a lot of good looking rhododendrons and azaleas and we intend to come back when they are out in the spring.  In the meantime, a big patch of dogwood was giving a little winter colour.

westerhall dogwood

I had taken nearly fifty pictures on the outward leg so we didn’t stop for many on the way back.  We did stop to look at buzzards circling too high in the sky to be within camera range.  Mrs Tootlepedal had seen a hen harrier hunting over the hill as we drove towards Burnfoot on our way to the walk and she thought that she might have spotted it again as we walked, but it flew out of range before she could get her binoculars on it so it may just have been another buzzard.

The sight of Burnfoot House tucked in below Douglen Hill…

 

burnfoot and dowglen hill

…signalled that we were nearly at the end of our walk.

We had covered just under four and half miles and thanks to taking many photos and watching many buzzards, we had spent almost exactly two very rewarding hours in going the distance.

By the time that we had had a bowl of soup and a cracker with cheese when we got home to add to our very light lunch at Bentpath, the light was beginning to fail.  Mrs Tootlepedal did go out into the garden with a view to doing something useful but it was too gloomy and too chilly and too windy so she came back in.

Perhaps because of the stiff breeze, gusting up to 40 mph according to the Met Office, there were no birds on the feeder at all today when I looked.  The only bird that I did see was this dunnock in the mirk of the late afternoon, and so it is the non flying bird of the day.

dunnock

Music has charms

Today’s guest picture comes from my fellow veteran cyclist Paul.  He likes the Lake District and visited this very fine looking vegetable garden at Lingholm in the summer a couple of years ago.

veg garden Lingholm

It was much calmer when we got up than we had feared it might be, and it soon became apparent that the storm had passed us by.  In fact, I was just thinking that I perhaps ought to have gone for an early cycle ride rather than inviting Sandy round for coffee when a sudden very heavy shower persuaded me that I had made the right decision.

The shower had stopped by the time that Sandy came and we had a pleasant chat over coffee and biscuits.  It started to rain again just as he left and it kept raining, with occasional  short breaks, for the rest of the daylight hours.  I stayed indoors.

The birds didn’t like the weather much and there was no sign of them until a small flock of goldfinches suddenly settled in the walnut tree around midday.

goldfinches in walnut

Even then they were reluctant to come to the feeder and it took a couple of minutes until the first one flew down.

goldfinch in rain

But it soon got onto the feeder…

goldfinchon feeder in rain

…and within another minute, it was all action…

busy feeder in rain

…with queues.

busy feeder and pole

It was still a miserable day though.

siskin in rain

I made some soup for lunch and then spent a happy afternoon at my computer  transposing some trios down a fourth to suit a different set of recorders.

The reason for the transposition was that that one of the usual recorder quartet was poorly and there were only three of us at our monthly tootle tonight.  With due respect for the missing member, it was quite a treat to play some different music and the three of us had a most enjoyable time.  As a result, it didn’t feel like a wasted day in spite of the rain.

All the same, we are badly in need of a spell of settled reasonable weather.  Sadly, the forecast is for more changeable windy and wet weather so I don’t know when another cycle ride will take place.  I just can’t summon up much enthusiasm for cycling when it is cold, wet and windy.

I hope to squeeze a walk in between showers tomorrow.

I did manage to catch a rather gloomy goldfinch as flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch