Power cut

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony. It was taken in East Wemyss yesterday.

It was a miserable, chilly, grey and drizzly day here, until it brightened up too late to be useful at all.

The seed in the bird feeder hardly went down at all, and the nearest I got to taking a garden bird picture was this fine shot of a great tit which had just flown off.

One of my best, I thought.

I did go for a walk around coffee time, and took my bird camera with me as I had failed in the garden. I thought that I saw a dipper down by the Kirk Brig, but as soon as I got there, the dipper flew off back up the river that I had just hurried down. I took a long shot, sure that it would fly away again if I walked back up . . .

. . . but much to my surprise, it waited until I got back to it . . .

. . . and then popped onto the shore to give me a second view.

Nearby, a mallard paddled serenely up stream.

It was drizzling and chilly, the light was very poor, and I almost went straight home after seeing the dipper. In the end I kept going.

At the Kilngreen, there were gulls on posts on both sides of the river.

The gulls on the fence posts on the Castleholm started to play the game of chasing each other along the posts in a domino effect where they all end up one fence further down than they started.

I had set out with the intention of going for a two or three mile walk, but I found that I hadn’t got any energy or enthusiasm at all, so when I got to the Sawmill Brig, I cut my route short and dawdled home by way of the Duchess Bridge. It was a very gloomy day, not one for taking many photographs. A bare tree summed up the conditions well . . .

. . . but at least the loss of the leaves meant that I could get a better view of the bridge when I got to it . . .

. . . and the hazel catkins on the other side of the bridge made me think hopefully of spring to come.

As I went along the path on the other side of the bridge, I could see that some white fungus which I had seen on a previous walk had developed. It is plainly candlesnuff fungus as readers had suggested.

I was pleased to get home and sit down as I felt unaccountably tired. A much needed cup of coffee restored me a bit.

After lunch, we went off to church for a well attended memorial celebration for Bob, a good friend who had died during the lockdown. He had been a big part of the cultural and church life of the town for many years and is much missed.

As in the case of my recorder playing friend Roy, Bob’s family has had to wait many months until it was possible to invite friends and family to gather together to remember Bob’s rich and varied life. The pandemic has been very hard on grieving families, and in a cruel twist of fate, Nancy, Bob’s wife, told the assembled company that neither of their children could be with us today, his daughter having broken her ankle and his son having caught Covid. However, both children had been able to provide written memories of their father, and these touching and amusing accounts were read out to us among other tributes, and we got the warmth and humour that Bob’s memory deserved.

We walked home from the church with our neighbour Margaret in a reflective mood.

Although the day had brightened up at last, my energy levels had not improved much, and I limited my activity for the rest of the day to sitting around, and then cooking a tarte tatin and making some vegetarian sausage rolls with the surplus puff pastry, The tarte tatin was fine, but the sausage rolls came into the category of ‘more practice needed’.

As there were no birds, let along flying birds in the garden once again, I was lucky to find a mobile gull at the Kilngreen ready to take up the position of flying bird of the day.

Unwrapping trees

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She met these pelicans on a visit to St James’s Park.

We didn’t have any exotic birds here this morning, or any sunshine for that matter, just some grey clouds and a rather chilly looking goldfinch on a wire.

Some goldfinches did fly down to the feeder after a while . . .

. . . and a chaffinch turned up, but the feeder never got crowded. . . .

There is evidence in the garden that the sparrowhawk has been paying us fairly frequent visits when we haven’t been looking, so that is perhaps one reason why the birds are not coming in great numbers.

However, one visitor who did arrive this morning was the ever welcome Dropscone, bringing a batch of his ever welcome scones with him. We disposed of these over several cups of coffee while catching up on family (good) and golf (not quite so good) news.

After he left, we had an early lunch, and went off to join a volunteer squad for the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. After the thorough drenching that I had got at last week’s session on the moor, we were very happy to get some dry and calm weather for today’s meeting at the bird hide. Our task was to remove the no longer required plastic tree guards from well grown trees in a section of the wood near the hide.

We set to with a will, and after some hard work, the wood was looking quite a bit better.

There were well over 200 to get rid off and they gave the squad plenty to do . . .

. . . but rather amazingly, and with very careful packing, they all fitted into the boot and the back seats of Kat’s big car.

The team celebrated with a drink of Ribena and a chocolate biscuit.

Picture courtesy of Kat, our team leader.

There will be plenty more of this work to do for future volunteers as there has been a lot more new planting since the larches at the bird hide were felled.

The track down from the bird hide to the wood where we were working . . .

. . . was well supplied with fungus.

The bird hide itself is still looking rather forlorn.

It used to sit at the head of a larch grove, and I have spent many happy hours inside it waiting for woodpeckers to appear .

But it doesn’t look as forlorn as the commercial forestry across the valley.

It is in the hope of preserving more of our local environment from disappearing under a blanket of spruce, with the subsequent clear felling, that the buy-out team are currently working hard at raising the funds to purchase the second part of the moor, thus extending the nature reserve to protect and develop our environmental diversity as much as possible.

We had given another volunteer a lift up to the bird hide and by the time that we had dropped him off at the Kilngreen, we got home too late to go out for a walk with enough light to take pictures, though it was light enough for a quick stroll round the garden in pursuit of late season colour.

The star of the show was a Welsh poppy.

As we are expecting a big drop in temperature next week, this may be very nearly the last we see of that persistent little red rose.

After a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal, I put the darkness of the late afternoon to good use by entering a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group’s database before it was time for our regular Zoom with my siblings.

My knees stood up very well to the volunteering, and are hardly complaining at all tonight.

I am sad to report that the expert who thought that I might have seen an eagle on my walk yesterday, changed his mind when he got a better look at the photograph, and now thinks that it was a buzzard. Never mind, I will keep looking out for an eagle. They have been seen locally recently.

Today’s rather indistinct flying bird is definitely not a eagle.

Genuine tidying up

Today’s guest post comes from my friend Dropscone, the golfer. He has found several new hazards on the golf course lately. At least they save on mowing costs.

We had a dry but grey day here, and once again I had to take things carefully to avoid making my knees worse. My knee felt pretty good in the morning, so it was hard to be restful on a good cycling day. I was helped by the fact that Sandy came round for coffee w. This gave me a good reason to sit and chat instead of scampering about.

He left to visit a friend in Carlisle, and at the same time, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help show an interested party round the moor and the proposed Tarras Valley Nature Reserve.

This left me with time on my hands, so I put a brisket of beef in the slow cooker, and then had a very gentle test pedal round to the corner shop to stock up on vital supplies of dates and honey. That turned out to be quite enough pedalling for the day.

There were no birds to look at when I got back, so I had an early lunch and then considered my options. I could continue with my tidying up in the front room (which had not got very far yesterday), or I could go outside and sweep fallen walnut leaves off the lawns. I chose to sweep leaves for a while, and then, intoxicated by the fresh air, I went for a walk.

After the success of yesterday’s short and flat outing, I went a little further and added a little uphill for today’s effort as I strolled round the Becks Burn walk. It felt fine at the time, but as I write this, my knee is suggesting that I might have gone a step or two too far. I will try to rein myself in tomorrow.

I stopped a lot as I went round. There were fungi, a couple as big as soup plates, to admire . . .

. . . and I liked the contrast between the trees as I looked across the field to the Wauchope Churchyard.

There were larch needles on one side of the rather battered looking Becks Burn bridge, and unsettled sheep, numerous catkins, and a wild rose on the other side.

All but one of the trees round the Auld Stane Brig have lost their colour, but the lichen garden on the post at the end of the bridge is flourishing. You can see the post itself at the near end of the parapet in the bottom picture in the gallery below.

I had to walk back to town along the road as Gaskell’s Walk is still closed because of the unsafe bridge. This took me round Pool Corner, a colourful spot at this time of year thanks to the many larches.

I passed a beech hedge on the way, and I enjoyed the demonstration of the fact that young beech branches keep their leaves while old branches shed their leaves. The lower branches are cut back every year which keeps them young.

My camera struggled a bit at Pool Corner, deciding that the larches were a different colour every time that I pointed it at them. In the poor light, I didn’t think that it did justice to them at all.

When I got back to town, I walked down to the river in the hope of seeing a dipper. There was no dipper to be seen, and I had to settle for some colourful fallen leaves before heading home . . .

. . . where I found that there is still the odd hint of colour in the garden.

I felt happy with my knee after my walk, so I swept the walnut leaves off the middle lawn and the back path before going inside. When Mrs Tootlepedal got home from her adventure, we put the collected leaves on a couple of the vegetable beds to keep the soil protected during the winter, and the sharp eyed gardener spotted a bright green caterpillar nearby.

We went in and had a cup of tea. Finally I couldn’t avoid it any more and got round to doing a bit of tidying up in the front room. I resisted the temptation to take the music out of the music cupboard and put it back again, and this time I actually tidied some things up. There is still some way to go, but at least I could see that we have got quite a large table in the room, and not just an amorphous heap of stuff. Progress.

Sitting down was the the modus operandi for the rest of the day.

I didn’t see a single bird in the garden today, so the flying bird of the day is an anonymous but large raptor being pestered by a smaller bird. It flew over my head on my walk, and I did the best that I could with my fungus camera.

Footnote: a knowledgeable friend says that the larger bird is probably a golden eagle. They have been introduced to the the area north of us and are beginning to be seen here.

Second footnote. The knowledgeable friend has had a second look and thinks that it is just a buzzard being mobbed by crow. Ah well.

Rest and recuperation

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Caroline. She met this fine example of Halloween yarn bombing when she was out and about in Portsmouth.

We had a brighter and mostly dry day today, which was very welcome in spite of the fact that I couldn’t make the best use of it because I was resting my knee. As a good night’s sleep had helped it settle down well, I wasn’t going to give it the chance to get annoyed again. I had a very quiet day by and large, hardly moving after breakfast until I stood up to make some coffee.

I looked out at the birds while the coffee was brewing, and found a goldfinch looking accusingly at me because I hadn’t refilled the feeder yet.

I went out and repaired this omission, and the next time that I looked, a grateful greenfinch was tucking in.

It was not alone.

Coffee seamlessly merged into lunch and then, as my knee felt relaxed and happy, I went into the front room and started organising my own music. I had finished cataloguing the boxes of music we inherited from our former playing friend Roy, so I thought that it would be useful to add my collection to the catalogue too. This involved taking everything out of my music cupboard, spreading it all over the floor, and sighing heavily.

To put off the moment of truth, I took my knee out for a very gentle three bridges walk, no climbing or rough going involved. The walk went well, and there were no complaints from my knee, though it is reminding me now, as I write this, that it still needs care.

Before I left our garden, I noticed that a Welsh poppy had come out to join the remaining nasturtiums, and the magnolia is quite colourful too.

I walked down to the Esk and caught the last of the leaves along the waterside.

I met a good selection of riverside birds too; a crow on the bank of the Esk, and our resident heron, with a mallard, a goosander and three gulls at the Kilngreen.

I liked the variety of standing methods adopted by the gulls.

The ornamental white berries on the tree in the Clinthead gardens nearby are obviously not attractive to birds as hardly any of them seem to have disappeared.

There is still a bit of colour to be seen among the trees . . .

. . . and these two on my walk round the new path on the Castleholm were in surprisingly good shape.

I crossed the Jubilee Bridge and took the path round the Scholar’s field. A number of blackbirds were guddling about in the leaves at the foot of the fence round the artificial pitch, and they must have found something interesting as a great tit joined them.

The angle from which I was looking at the fence made its poles look much closer together than they are in reality, and when a siskin perched half way up the fence, it created a strange effect.

A blackbird perched on top of the fence to add more interest through the odd looking placement of its feet.

I was most entertained, but my knee mentioned about not standing about for too long, so I didn’t stay to see what would appear next and took it back home.

After a cup of tea, I got serious about the music lying all over the floor, and sorted it into more meaningful piles, duets, trios, quartets, quintets, sonatas, trio sonatas and so on. And then I put it all back in the music cupboard.

It didn’t make the room any tidier (that will come tomorrow, I hope), but it was a useful exercise.

We rounded off the day with a family Zoom with my siblings, a quick evening meal, and finally a choir practice with the augmented church choir. All in all, it was quite a satisfactory day.

I have been so short of flying birds lately, that when I managed to get two half decent shots today, I decided to put them both in as flying birds of the day to celebrate.

More complaints from the knee department

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. A day or two ago, she found himself walking along a canal on what she described as a dull day.

We had a grey and windy day here today, theoretically quite warm, but feeling rather chilly in the brisk breeze. Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy morning writing up minutes and catching up with other Langholm Initiative business. I perfected my idling skills.

In the end, I had an early lunch and went out for a walk before any forecast rain arrived. As far as the weather went, I hoped for the best and dressed for the worst. This turned out to be a reasonable plan as it rained a bit but not much, and the wind turned out be quite biting when I got up on the hill.

For a change from my usual local walks, I drove up to near the top of Callister, left the car, and walked round the Westwater circle. This walk involves either a mile down the road at the start, or a mile up the road at the finish. I opted for the easy start today, so I left the car at 720ft above sea level and whizzed down the hill to 520ft in three quarters of a mile, stopping only to admire the lichen and moss on the wall beside the road.

When I got to the bottom, the view of the rest of my walk looked inviting . . .

. . . and I went rather more slowly but still enthusiastically up the hill towards the larches . . .

. . . passing some exciting moss on another wall on my way.

My route skirted round the bottom of the larch wood and I was soon walking through the narrow entrance to the broader valley beyond.

There was any amount of small brown fungi on and beside the track, and I was pleased to see a tiny rowan tree growing in the middle of the track, although it doesn’t have much of a long term future there.

I came to the end of the deciduous planting in the valley bottom above the house . . .

. . . and found myself in the world of commercial forestry for the rest of my walk.

Among the small brown fungi, I found one larger, paler specimen and an unexpected carpet of pixie cup lichens, growing among the moss and gravel of the track.

As I climbed higher up the valley, the clouds came down lower, and soon we met together. I had to put my hood up against the persistent light rain. This cut down the views . . .

. . . and whenever I looked up a gully among the trees, the clouds were hanging there.

The track loops round the head of the valley at just under 1000ft and heads back to the main road along the other side of the Glentenmont Burn which runs down to Westwater House.

This part of the walk is not so varied as the outward section, so I kept my head down against the wind and the rain and noticed passing lichens beside the track.

I was spoiled for choice.

Fortunately the rain stopped and I was able to look back to see the clouds gently rising . . .

. . . though they hadn’t risen high enough to let the Ewe Hill turbines get their heads into clear air.

The light rain had not been a great bother, even in the brisk wind, as I was very sensibly dressed, but it had made the stones in the track very slippery. In an unguarded moment, I let my concentration lapse and my back foot slipped, and my other knee over extended.

Considering that my foot had only slipped a few inches, the pain in my other knee was quite disproportionate, and for awhile as I limped along, I wondered if I would have to ring the Mrs Tootlepedal Rescue Service and get a wheelbarrow to cart me back to the car. Things weren’t as quite bad as that though, and I pulled myself together, stopped limping, and pottered gently along the track back to the car.

All the same, I was pleased to see the Solwaybank turbines, showing that I only had a mile left to go . . .

. . . and even on a gloomy day with a sore knee, my spirits were lifted by the brilliance of the moss carpet on the track as I came down to the car.

The circular walk is six and three quarter miles, and in spite of the slow finish and quite a few photographic stops, I got round in just under two hours, so I felt that I had had a good outing.

It was getting pretty gloomy as I drove home, and I was surprised to see a walker coming up the road towards me at one point. I was even more surprised when it turned out to be Mrs Tootlepedal who had walked a mile out of town to meet me. I graciously gave her a lift home, and we enjoyed a warming cup of tea when we got there. She had lit the stove in the front room, and we were very snug as the light faded away entirely.

Our friend Mike Tinker dropped in and had a cup of tea to. That rounded off the day very nicely.

My knee is still quite sore I write this post in the evening, and I may have to seriously curtail cycling and walking activities for a few days unless a miracle cure is available. We will see what a night’s rest can do. I feel pretty stupid having said to myself, “My, this rain has made the track slippery,” and then promptly slipping. There is no fool like an old fool.

Talking of old fools, I had a very poor day for bird watching because firstly, there were very few birds about, and then, even when I did get the camera out for a couple of birds, I had the settings still in moon spotting mode. The results were not satisfactory at all. I had to work hard in the photo editor to get any recognisable bird, let alone a flying one.

Quick cooking, slow cycling

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony. Just to show that the sun doesn’t always shine on East Wemyss, he sent us this picture of the moon shining there this evening instead.

There was no sun to be seen in Langholm when we got up this morning. The clouds were clamped down on the hills, and there was a persistent drizzle making life look rather glum, especially for greenfinches.

This chaffinch didn’t seem to mind about the rain so much..

Fortunately for me, Sandy come round for coffee and brought a little sunshine into my day.

After Sandy left, I went round to the corner shop, and then took a moment to watch the birds when I got back.

I can’t make up my mind whether the chaffinch in the bottom frame of the gallery above is coming or going. It has a seed in its beak, so perhaps it has just fallen off the perch backwards.

I put down my camera and turned my attention to making some marmalade. Supplies of the home made stuff are running low. In the good old days when I was an ‘artisan marmalade maker’, I would spend a long time, often with Mrs Tootlepedal’s help, halving, squeezing, preparing and thinly slicing the rind of many Seville oranges, and then stewing the rinds for ages until they were soft enough to start adding the sugar and making the marmalade.

Nowadays, I open a tin of prepared fruit, add water and sugar, put the thing on the cooker, and I have seven pots of marmalade ready in half an hour. It may not quite have the authenticity of the old ways, but there is a lot less mess, and no danger of slicing a finger as well as an orange.

And the marmalade doesn’t taste too bad either.

The speed of this activity gave me enough time to have an early lunch and go out for a cycle ride.

The rain had stopped and there was even a hint that the clouds might be lifting . . .

. . . as I set off to do a gentle twenty miles round my familiar Canonbie route.

I was on no hurry, as my knees were still a bit doubtful about the wisdom of pedalling, so I stopped to take pictures of trees as I went along. Some are still fairly golden . . .

. . . and some are showing that trees have a hard life in our windy corner of the country.

My three favourite trees at Grainstonehead are beginning to slip into winter mode.

As I came across the hill, I saw that the grass was unusually pale. This turned out to be because the seed heads were covered in water droplets.

Once I got to Canonbie, I had to press on a bit. Although I got a welcome bit of sunshine . . .

. . . the sun itself was getting very low. The black lines right across the road in the picture above are the shadows of the fence posts, and this shows just how low the sun was already.

It stayed above the hills for long enough to light up Hollows Tower as I went past . . .

. . . but I was cycling in the shadows, and it had got quite chilly as I made my way home.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been out in the garden clearing off more stones from the front beds while I was out pedalling, but she had gone in before I got back, and we were both ready for a refreshing cup of tea.

I did look round the garden for colour before I went in but there was very little to show.

However, we can’t complain. The weather in the first half of November has been pretty kind with no real frosts and plenty of calm days to make cycling enjoyable. If the forecast is to be believed, it is going to keep warm for the rest of this week, although there might be some brisk winds to contend with.

Thanks to the early onset of dusk, I had time to have a shower and make a sausage stew before the regular Zoom meeting with my siblings. We got an illustrated tour of the five churches of Stamford from my sister Mary, as well as lots of good scenery around Derby from my brother Andrew, so we were well entertained.

The only disappointment of the day was a failure to catch a decent flying bird of the day and this rather shadowy goldfinch was the best that I could do.

Footnote: having just received that lovely picture of the moon at East Wemyss from Tony, it occurred to me to look out of an upstairs window when I went to have my shower to see if we had a moon here too.

We did.

Paying attention

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He finds a lot of well made and convenient wooden bridges on his walks.

After a clear night, we woke to a dry but chilly morning, with a light cloud covering keeping the temperature just above freezing.

The conditions encouraged some birds to visit the feeder after breakfast, and I was pleased to see a siskin, a rare visitor these days.

Other birds flitted about under the feeder . . .

. . . and a couple of coal tits were very active.

On our way to church to sing in the choir, we noted the pair of copper beeches which stand at the entrance to the park. For some reason, they lose and regrow their leaves at different times, although they look as though they are identical trees.

It was Remembrance Sunday today, and we had the pleasure of having the Langholm Town Band in church to play for the hymns at our remembrance service. They were very good.

Because it is not possible to give out hymn books to the congregation at the moment, the words for hymns are shown on the screens which you can see at the front of the church. We had an extra screen today because we had a much larger congregation than usual. Although there were only seven of us in the choir, we sang a hymn as an anthem, so we felt that we had played our part in the service.

We had coffee when we got home, and then I devoted some time to keeping an eye on the bird feeder in between doing the crossword and making some soup for lunch.

For once, the birds were kind enough to turn up while I was watching, and although some gave me a hard stare . . .

. . . others posed for portraits.

I did think about going for a walk between lunch and my afternoon choir, but I received a stiff note from my knees about cruelty to joints. Being a kind and attentive person, I gave them a day off, and confined my outdoor exercise to a stroll round the garden.

If I looked very hard, I could find a flower or two . . .

. . . but I had more fun looking for colour in leaves.

And I looked to the future too.

Unlike me, Mrs Tootlepedal was full of get up and go, and she and went off for a five mile walk round Potholm while I drove to Carlisle to sing with the community choir. She later sent me this picture of a fungus which she met on her way round.

We have been only having hour long sessions so far, but today we agreed to move to an hour and a half from next week, which will be good. A lot of our members are not coming to practices at the moment because either they don’t want to be in a big group, or because they can’t face singing in masks, but our conductor remains indomitably cheerful. I hope that she is rewarded by better turnouts as time goes on. From my point of view, it is good to sing, even with half a choir and a mask on, so I will keep coming.

We are promised a reasonable day tomorrow, and I hope that my knees will be more co-operative so that I can make good use of it.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Paying the price

Today’s picture comes from my Canonbie friend Simon. His work takes him across Europe, and he found the River Rhine under a cloud when he went out for his walk yesterday. It took me a moment to work out that he was above the cloud.

Yesterday ended unusually late for us, or to put it another way, today started unusually early as it was past midnight when Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her outing to the D&G Life awards ceremony. Sad to relate, the Langholm Initiative had not carried off the prize for their hard work on the community buyout of the moor, but the buy out group will always be winners in our minds.

Not unexpectedly we got up a bit late, and by the time that I had got the Langholm Initiative newsletter finished and published, it was past coffee time.

On my way through to the kitchen, I checked on the birds and only saw a single goldfinch.

. . . though there was another bird hiding behind the feeder. The seeds are going down, if a bit slowly, so there are birds about, but they have mastered the art of coming to the feeder when I am not looking. Bird pictures are rare at the moment.

It was a lovely sunny day with light winds, so at midday I got my bicycle out and set off to cycle the 25 miles up to Bailliehill, round the Crossdykes windfarm and back home by Paddockhole and Callister.

I avoided taking yet another picture of the Gates of Eden, and took some sheep in the valley bottom instead.

The fields are still green but the hills are brown and colour elsewhere is fading fast, with only a few colourful trees remaining . . .

. . . and many being completely leafless.

The sun struggles to get up high enough to really warm things up, and every bump in a hillside casts deep shadows even in the middle of the day.

It was all the more surprising then to come upon this radiant vision in the middle of Bentpath village . . .

. . . and I saw nothing to match it further up the valley.

With the low sun to the south west, most views have to be taken looking north or east at this time of year and I had to stop and look backwards or sideways for the rest of the views from my ride.

A curious sheep wondered what I was doing with my camera.

As you can see, it was a lovely day. This was just as well, as the cycling was extremely hard work and I needed distraction from the fact that my knees were very conscious of the amount of hacking and hauling that I had done on the moor yesterday. They were so conscious of it indeed that I had to be extra nice to them to persuade them to get me up the hills. As a result, I recorded my slowest ever time on this route.

Both Mrs Tootlepedal and I were quite tired in the afternoon, so we left the sun to shine outside while we had a quiet sit down inside and the day meandered to a close.

I did check on the birds from time to time, but once again I only saw a lone goldfinch. As a result, it is the sitting bird of the day.

Footnote: I see that I will have to make sure tomorrow that that perch is properly screwed into the feeder before it falls off.

A spruce day

Today’s guest picture comes from ex Archive Group member Ken. He is on holiday in Faro, where he spotted a stork on top of a disused church. Once again, I am happy to have a sunny guest picture on a very dull day here.

My social day started well with coffee and scones with Dropscone. The scones were as excellent as ever. Mrs Tootlepedal was away taking minutes at a Langholm Initiative meeting, so the company was much appreciated.

After Dropscone left, I walked up to the newspaper office in the High Street to take a photograph of an article from an 1899 edition of our local paper for a correspondent. She had found a family mention in the Archive Group’s online index to the paper. It is wonderfully easy to take a photo of an original article and email it to an enquirer.

I had volunteered to help the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve volunteering officer, Kat, in removing some of the unwanted self seeded spruce trees that have sprung up on the moor since the sheep were taken off. Last time I was at an organised activity on the moor, the guided walk led by Mike Tinker, the weather had been wet and windy. I was hoping for a change in the weather today and I got my wish.

Unfortunately, the change was for the worse, and it was even windier and much wetter. We lasted an hour. We had managed to cut and shift a good number of the trees before Kat called it a day and photographed the small band of happy volunteers. She kindly sent me the result.

In spite of the wild weather, we had enjoyed ourselves as you can see.

All the same, I was quite pleased to empty the rain out of my pockets when I got home. Mrs Tootlepedal had bought a treat for me on her way home from taking the minutes. It was a small two cup teapot. The key thing about is that it is that it is made of metal. She doesn’t think that even I can break that.

I had some puff pastry left over from making the tarte tatin, and as by coincidence there were six vegetarian sausages in our freezer, I thought that I would put them together and make half a dozen vegetarian sausage rolls, a new project for me. The results wouldn’t win top prizes for beauty . . .

. . . but they were good eating, with the pastry being crisp and the veggie sausages being very acceptable.

As I always have some puff pastry over when I make tarte tatin, I will try to ensure that there are always some veggie sausages about in the freezer to make use of it.

I settled down to put the monthly Langholm Initiative newsletter together after that.

I took a break from this task to have a short walk in a gap in the rain. It was dry but very gloomy. At least I could see the top of a hill . . .

. . . which had been covered with thick rain clouds when I was up there earlier.

I took a picture of the church. The scaffolding has been removed, the bell is working, and for the first time for ages, we will be able to go in by the front door this Sunday.

The Ewes Water was running faster than the Esk when I got to the Meeting of the Waters . . .

. . . and the mallards were prudently keeping out of the flow.

When I looked at the picture on my computer, it was hard to puzzle out. There seems to be half a duck missing.

There were quite few black headed gulls in their winter plumage on the grassy bank of the river.

I walked up to the sawmill Brig, and was impressed by the fiery colour of a tree beyond it.

Apart from that tree, most of the colours on my walk were very subdued, and more and more leaves are on the ground and not on the branches.

I looked at the Ewes Water as I crossed the bridge, and I was not surprised to finding it running full after the rain overnight and in the morning.

I walked along the new path round the bottom of the Castleholm, and found that the cones on the Noble Fir at the far corner were looking very skeletal.

They had looked like this in September.

It got even gloomier as I walked towards the Jubilee Bridge . . .

. . . and only some fading larch needles tempted my camera out of my pocket again . . .

. . . before the rain came on as I neared hom. I scurried in, stopping to record the winter jasmine at the back door as I went.

I went back to working on the newsletter until it was time to give Mrs Tootlepedal a lift down to the Initiative. She was looking very spruce as she had a smart dress on. The community buy out team has been nominated for an award at the D&G Life magazine’s annual do in Dumfries, and she is part of the party going to the ceremony.

They are streaming the awards live so I may be able to see if they win later in the evening.

The strong winds and the rain kept the birds away from the feeder today, and an old friend is standing in for the flying bird of the day.

Tunnel vision

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She took it though a bus window as she passed Trafalgar Square this week. It is very obvious that central London has not returned to anything like the usual pre-covid crowds of tourists.

In spite of a rather gloomy forecast yesterday, today turned out to be mostly fine, with not a hint of rain until the late afternoon.

It was still quite chilly when we got up, so I put my usual delaying tactics into place before going out for an unexpected cycle ride. The crossword, coffee with our neighbours Margaret and Liz, and washing the bird feeder all filled in the time until midday.

It was a comfortable 8°C when I finally got going, and the wind was so light as not to be either a hindrance or much of a help. I only needed eight miles to get up to my 4000 mile total for the year, so I settled for a gentle 20 mile loop round the Solwaybank wind farm to take me there.

The needles are coming off the larches, but there were still plenty left on the trees as I headed up and over Callister.

As I passed the field of coppiced willows near Conhess, I was impressed by their growth. The individual plants are well above six foot tall now. That is quick growing when you think what they looked like in March this year.

The turbines at Solwaybank were not turning today, but they have been placed in a breezy spot as this tree shows.

It was a clear day, and from the top of the hill beside the windfarm, I could look across country to see Tinnis Hill in the distance. I had cycled past it yesterday. Beside my feet, a lone buttercup bloomed.

The great joy of this route, is the tree lined section of road when you have passed the wind farm. I was just in time today to catch the last of the autumn tunnels.

Feeling that these two tunnels would be hard to beat, I didn’t take any more pictures until I was happily back in our own garden after completing 4012 cycling miles for the year so far.

I had a search for flowers in the garden before I went in, and managed to round up six rather scruffy specimens, with some berries and box ball thrown in to make up the panels.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy gardening while I was out pedalling. She has been digging over the front beds and removing as many of the large stones which infest the ground as she could.

I had a slice of bread and bramble jelly for a light lunch, and then went off for a walk with Mrs Tootlepedal. She wanted to look at some of the very young spruces growing on the moor, so we drove up to the White Yett and walked along the track to the Castle Craigs.

If you like cairns, this is the walk for you.

We found some varied lichen . . .

. . . and fungus and striking vegetation too. We couldn’t work out what the fresh looking green plant was.

It had got rather gloomy by this time and there was a threat of rain. The moor was looking at its brownest . . .

. . . so we didn’t linger long. Mrs Tootlepedal rtested out the bench beside the Castle Craigs cairn for a minute or two, and then we walked back to the car. This was a good policy because there was a hint of drizzle on the car windscreen as we drove home.

I took a picture of a fungus in the garden a day or two ago. Mrs Tootlepedal had told me where to find it, but when she looked at my picture, she said it was not the one that she had seen. We went to investigate and found that there were indeed two crops of fungus at the same bin.

It was a double fungus fest.

When we went in, I cooked a tarte tatin. Later in the evening, I couldn’t find my mobile phone although we looked everywhere. It was a complete mystery as I had definitely used it after we had come back from our walk, Finally, the astute Mrs Tootlepedal diagnosed the situation correctly, and found missing phone hiding in the pocket of my tarte tatin apron.

Although I had washed and filled the feeder in the morning, it hadn’t attracted many customers at all, even when we were out. Some birds had obviously visited, as the seed had gone down a little . . .

. . . but they had not come at a moment when I was looking out of the window.

As a result, the flying bird of the day is also the only bird that I saw all day. The quality of the image is not good, but beggars can’t be choosers and it is a flying dunnock. A flying dunnock doesn’t appear on the blog very often! (The last one was two years ago.)