Treading carefully

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. Because of the current restrictions, he has to walk very locally as we do, but he found both a fine tree and a fine day today.

We had a fine day here too, but as it was back to being below freezing (-3°C) when we got up, we had to watch our step again when we went out of the door.

I stayed indoors in the morning as a result, and dawdled a lot of time away as well as doing three quarters of an hour on the bike to nowhere. Because my Lancashire correspondent Paul has been doing some interval training on his indoor bike, I did make an effort to put in a few bursts myself today. This had a marked effect on my pulse, so the efforts were very well spaced out!

I had a look at the birds before I got on my bike and found that the feeder was in shadow and the garden behind in the sun. This led to some rather odd colour effects as a pair of chaffinches chased each other away from the feeder…

…and another flew quietly in.

A rough bunch of starlings stayed in the walnut tree to catch some rays.

A blue tit and the peanut butter feeder were both in the shade.

As you can see, it had begun to thaw by this time but it remained pretty cold for the whole day and the temperature is back to -3°C again as I write this.

There were not many birds about at when I had finished cycling, and I was pleased to see a robin and a dunnock on the ground in the absence of any seed eaters at the feeder.

After lunch, I decided to go for a walk for a change. I set off rather nervously as I didn’t know whether I would find renewed icy conditions or not. As a precaution, I had my Yaktrax in my pocket, but in the end I didn’t need to put them on as there were only a few seriously icy patches and I was able to edge round these successfully. All the same, I had to be careful and not look round too much as I was walking.

I decided to walk ’round Potholm’ and started off up the road that runs along the top of a steep bank above the river. Every now and again, a dip in the fence beside the road indicates a spot where the banking has slipped a bit.

…but as the road is still there, I live in hope that it is not going to give way entirely as I walk along. I noticed one of the old fence pipe joints. The pipes are both screwed into a joining collar in this method.

There are wooden fence posts further along and one of them caught my moss fancier’s eye.

As I turned onto the road to Potholm, I took a picture of yet more moss, this time acting as a fringe to a fine crop of spleenwort on a wall.

When I came along this road on the last day of December, the mist had almost been down to the top of this tree…

…so it was quite a contrast today.

A helicopter flew past, going low over the hill, as I ambled along the road. When I looked at my picture of it on the computer, I wondered if it was carrying a camera.

As long as the road was in the sun, I could walk along with confidence and look around to see sights like this on one side…

…or this on the other…

…but when I came to shady corners, I had to take my time.

I was pleased to arrive at Potholm Bridge safely…

…and even more pleased to find that the track up the hill from the farmhouse was in excellent walking condition….

…and it almost felt springlike as I went up it.

When I got to the Longfauld track at the top of the hill, there were plenty of icy puddles to remind me that it was far from spring yet.

…and a frozen cone made the point too.

But I still enjoyed the view up the valley…

…and the mossy floor of the wood on the other side of the track…

…and this very unusual ice on a puddle.

I also met some tremendously white fungus growing on a dead log.

I was near the bottom of the Lodge walks when I met an old friend and while we talked, a robin tried very hard to make us take a photograph of it, finally popping up onto a fence a few feet away to make sure we couldn’t miss it.

I don’t know if this is the same one that I met while talking to friends two hundred yards further up the Lodge Walks a couple of days ago. If not, perhaps the Lodge Walks’ robins are competing to see who can get the most pictures taken.

I kept an eye out for interesting waterside birds as I walked home along the river but didn’t see any.

Tea and toast soon restored me to full strength and in the evening I was able to cook trout for our tea and a new batch of 30 ginger biscuits after the meal. On this occasion, I got to them with my phone camera…

…just before the biscuit quality inspector arrived. She gave them her seal of approval.

With possible snow in the forecast and temperature not supposed to get above 3°C for the next week, I am afraid that patient readers are in for a lot more local walking. I must try to find somewhere different to walk.

The flying bird of the day is familiar too.

Ah well, it can’t be helped.

Moss, moss and more moss

Today’s guest picture was sent to me a bit ago by my neighbour Liz’s sister-in-law, Elaine. I should have used it earlier but I forgot. It shows a monkey puzzle tree at Powfoot with cones, something that I have never seen before.

The thaw continued here, which was very welcome, but it came with rain and very heavy clouds which were not so welcome.

Once again, the weather was so miserable that an hour on the indoor bike seemed like quite a cheery way to spend some of the morning. Luckily I found an enjoyably varied hour of jazz record requests downloaded from the radio to keep me entertained.

I did have a look for birds after coffee but it was hard to see them in the very poor light, especially the little brown dunnocks scurrying past against a brown background.

The goldfinches put in a brief appearance…

…and they were joined by the usual chaffinches.

A sparrowhawk whizzed through the garden without catching anything but that put paid to bird watching so I went and made some lentil soup for lunch instead.

The forecast suggested that I might get a short dry spell in the afternoon, so I put on my big coat and went for a walk, choosing a fairly sheltered route as there was some gusty wind about.

A burst of fresh looking moss on the park wall brightened up the start of my trip…

…and there were many bits of lichen and moss elsewhere on the wall to keep me happy. I liked the suspended water droplets too.

I went up the hill and along the top of the banking above the park and was very pleased to find that the track was entirely ice free.

It wasn’t particularly warm at 46°F/8°C so the disappearance of the hard packed ice in a couple of days was a good deal more rapid that I had thought that it would be. The forecast says that we are going to go back to just below freezing tomorrow morning and evening but nothing like the low temperatures of last week.

With the ice gone, it was a good day for a walk but it wasn’t really a day for taking photographs at all. However, a little colour in the alder catkins along the Murtholm track caught my eye…

…and once again I was surprised by how little water there was in the river when I stopped for a look at Skippers Bridge.

There had been enough run off from the hills to turn the water brown but the snow from up the valley can’t have been very deep.

I noticed a cunning device used to join up the hollow pipes that make up the road side fencing.

This is a new bit of fencing that has been put up at the recent land slip with metal pipes running through holes in concrete posts. Previously I have noticed that sections of pipes have been screwed into each other. I thought that I ought to keep an eye out to see if this method has been used elsewhere. (This shows the effects of nine months of lockdown!)

I may have been short of sunshine and hill views on my walk, but I certainly wasn’t short of moss. There was moss on the walls, on fallen trees, on standing trees and on track banks.

I did see some trees which didn’t seem to have a lot of moss on them.

There was moss on steep slopes…

…and there was moss filling hollows in the woods.

I was definitely better off in the mossy woods than I would have been on the exposed hill tops today…

…but it started to rain even in the woods so I pressed on homewards, stopping to brighten my day with a flash photograph of some striking lichen on a fence…

…and a shot of the Christmas lights on the Town Bridge which emphasised how dark it had got by quarter to four.

Luckily the rain didn’t come to much and I got back from my three and a half miles walk if not quite dry, then certainly not soaking wet. A cup of tea and a slice of toast made up for the early arrival of the darkness.

The rest of the day was as unmemorable as the weather, except for a cheery Zoom meeting with my siblings, so I have nothing to say about it.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch battling through one of the more rainy spells in the morning.

Welcome gloominess

On a dull day here, a cheerful guest picture was needed, so I have gone back to early December when Laura, my Lake Michigan correspondent, was at Weko Beach, Bridgman at the right time of day.

For the first time for what seems like weeks, it wasn’t freezing when we got up. I stood outside the back door after breakfast hearing nothing but the gentle drip of snow and ice thawing.

It still wasn’t very warm though, so I was quite happy to spend 50 minutes staring at the wall of the garage on the bike to nowhere instead of risking stray icy patches and penetrating damp chills on my road bike.

Low cloud was firmly clamped down on our hills and it was very gloomy indeed, so from a photographic point of view it was an unattractive day, but from a not falling over when you went outside, it was a much better day than the recent sunny spell.

The bird feeder was poorly attended and I didn’t find much to look at apart from a pair of blue tits on Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree.

As a result of this, I decided to go for a short walk in the hope of finding a flying gull. The tops of our hills were not the place to be today…

…so I stuck to well cleared low level paths.

Even though the ice in the dam behind the house had melted away…

…and the main road was completely clear…

…so much so that I briefly regretted not having gone cycling, there were still a lot of very icy areas….

…which made me pleased that I hadn’t..

…and the grass, which looked green enough, was a snare and a delusion. Although the lying snow had melted away, the frozen ground underneath was now covered in a sheet of ice which made it worse to walk on than the icy paths.

In a marked contrast to yesterday, instead of snowy views, I saw snowberries on my stroll today…

…and instead of pines picked out by snow and sunshine with a blue background, I saw dull outlines against a colourless sky which might just as well have been black and white.

I walked up the unfrozen section of the Lodge Walks and fell into conversation with two friends at a gate. A robin joined us and perched on the gate post a few feet away from us…

…and then tried several different positions in an effort to provide me with the killer shot.

It then leapt down to the road and ran about around our feet. Robins are not shy birds.

As I crossed the Sawmill BRidge, I noticed that the Ewes Water was still pretty low in spite of the snow melt, and it was amazingly clear too…

I looked down river from the Langholm Bridge at an almost entirely snow free bank and church…

…and got home in time for a little action on the drive project before lunch. The frosty weather had caused one of the slabs that had been put in as part of the project to rock when trodden on. Thanks to the thaw, we were able to prise it up and Mrs Tootlepedal put enough sand under it to get it back on the level again. It may need further treatment when the ground dries out, but it will do for now.

My hopes of finding some flying gulls at the Kilngreen was fully realised as they flew up as I approached and then passed in front of me several times, some up in the sky…

…some low over the river…

…and some in between.

I think that many parents must have been taking their children to feed the ducks during the lockdown and so the gulls were expecting me to be carrying bread too.

I had soup and the last of Mrs Tootlepdal’s soda bread for lunch and then had another look to see if there were any garden birds about.

The answer was that there were very few, and only a blackbird waited long enough to get its picture taken.

The Carlisle Community Choir has started its new session of virtual choir practices and there was a good turnout of members to greet the new year when I logged on later in the afternoon. Our conductor is considering a second go at a virtual performance. I hope she gives it a try as I enjoyed our first effort, and the result was better than we all expected. It will motivate me to try to get my voice back into something like singing condition again.

As Mrs Tootlepedal took on the cooking duties for our evening meal of the last of the Christmas ham, I had nothing to do for the rest of the day, but I did it very well.

It is going to get quite a bit warmer and rain tomorrow according to the forecast, so perhaps our paths may become usable again without special footwear.

One of the middle layer of the Kilngreen gulls is the flying bird of the day.

Icing on the cake

Today’s guest picture comes from Annie and Joe who had taken our granddaughter Evie down to the river Thames to enjoy the golden evening light.

The temperature fell very low (-10C, 14F) last night here, and when I looked at our thermometer just before midday, it was still pretty chilly outside our kitchen window.

Once again, I took the sensible option after breakfast and went for a pedal in the garage.

Things didn’t go quite to plan as I pedalled for what was obviously about half an hour before looking at my phone and finding that I had only been going for 18 minutes. On some days, indoor pedalling is like that. I pulled myself together though, clamped my headphones more firmly on my head, and managed to last for fifty minutes in all before cracking and going for coffee.

After coffee, I went to look at the birds. I wondered whether the cold would keep them away, but there was a decent turnout today.

Considering how many sparrows appear in the veg garden in spring to eat Mrs Tootlepedal’s young vegetables, it is surprising how few turn up at the feeder in winter to eat my seeds. One came today…

…along with some familiar figures like this coal tit…

…and blackbird.

Chaffinches again made up the bulk of the visitors…

…and a robin made several appearances (or possibly two robins making some each).

Mrs Tootlepedal had got a recipe for soda bread from a friend and she set about making a loaf at lunchtime. In anticipation of a slice of this bread with some raspberry jam at tea time, I set off to work up an appetite.

It was quite nippy when I started and I found that the cold overnight temperatures had frozen part of the dam behind our house, and where the whole dam wasn’t frozen, the cold had created artistic icy fringes.

With that in mind, I wasn’t totally surprised to find some ice floating down the Esk when I got to the Meeting of the Waters…

…and there was more upstream.

In spite of the ice in the river, the pavements had been very well gritted and cleared so I was able to walk in comfort up to Whitshiels. The road from there up the hill to the White Yett was a different matter though…

…and I put my Yaktrax on before walking up the hill. In spite of the ice, I was following in the footsteps of several other walkers and I was passed by a couple of brave motorists who were coming down the hill very carefully.

The effort of walking up the hill was amply repaid by the views. I could soon see that fresh snow had fallen on hills up the valley…

…and I got some lovely views as I went.

Walls had been picked out by the snow…

…and I thought that my favourite clump of pines deserved a picture of their own.

My favourite view was as good as ever.

I got to the White Yett and tackled the icy track up to the monument.

From there, I looked across the Langholm Moor to Tinnis.

In spite of the sub zero temperatures, walking up the road had been quite pleasant but once I turned on to the hill track, it became plain that I had been sheltered from a very astringent wind so I wasn’t tempted to hang around at the top of the hill (and the light wasn’t very good for views down to the town anyway) and soon set off back down the track.

I didn’t fancy going home straight down the steep face of the hill in the tricky conditions, but I thought that the diagonal track across the Birnie Braes that I had come up the other day would be more comfortable, so I took it.

It had been well trodden and was both easy to follow and safe to walk on, and I soon found myself able to stop and look around as I descended. To the west, the skies were cloudy and mist was rising from the Nith estuary as I looked past Warbla and the Solwaybank windfarm towards Criffel in the distance.

Although it was still before three o’clock, it had the feel of evening as the sun was low in the sky behind the thin clouds. I like to pay tribute to the producers and conveyors of the electricity that makes this blog possible, and I thought that they made striking pictures today..

As I got near to the golf course, I stopped for one last look at Warbla and the view…

…and hopped over the fence on to the golf course to walk down to the town.

I found that I wasn’t the only one on the golf course having fun, as several sporting young ladies were sledging down the practice fairway…

…supervised by proud but nervous (“don’t go ever the edge!” “watch out for that tree!”) parents.

I have had some good sledging on that slope in bygone years.

I was able to take my Yaktrax off as I left the golf course and walk safely home on well cleared pavements.

At just under five miles, it hadn’t been a long walk, but the ice on the river and road, the snow on the hill and the merry cries of the sledging children had made it seem like a real winter adventure so I was very cheery when I got home. This cheerfulness was greatly increased by a slice or two of Mrs Tootlepedal’s freshly baked wholemeal soda bread with my afternoon cup of tea. I felt that I had earned them.

It got dark early so after my soda bread and raspberry jam, I sat at my computer and put some more of the newspaper index into the Archive database.

I cooked the last of the Christmas chicken from the freezer in an onion and mushroom gravy for our evening meal, and followed that up with peaches and ice cream. All things considered, and in spite of the best efforts of politicians and pandemic to make our life gloomy, I felt that this was definitely a day to enter on the credit side of the great ledger of life….and outside, it is warmer now than is has been all day, and the thermometer is supposed to stay above freezing all day tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a questing chaffinch.


Well shod

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. On one of her recent walks, she passed this fine example of a Victorian gothic building at Holly Village in Highgate.

After another sub zero night here, we had a fine dry day which struggled to get above zero, though it did manage to climb to 2°C for three hours in the middle of the day. (It is back down to -4° as I write this….and going down further as the night goes on)

Under the circumstances, fifty minutes on the bike to nowhere seemed quite a sensible way to pass the time in the morning. Mrs Tootlepedal had to make a trip to the town on business which she did very carefully, both as far as the ice and the virus were concerned. Then she did some cycling to nowhere on her own indoor cycling machine when she got back.

After cycling, coffee and recovery, I watched the birds for a while.

Two robins appeared and chasing about ensued. The victor came back and perched for me.

Unlike yesterday when the snow seemed to have encouraged visitors, perhaps the colder weather was keeping them away today as there were few about in the morning. The peanut butter feeder is obviously not so frozen that it can’t be pecked as a dunnock turned up and had a snack.

A jackdaw on top of the walnut tree looked a bit fed up with the weather but it is hard to tell what the starling was thinking.

A robin returned but whether is was the same as the previous poser, I cannot say as all robins look the same to me. This one was obviously a round robin. They are wonderful birds for changing their shape and can look slim and sleek one minute and perfectly circular the next.

We had an early lunch, and after I had checked on the birds and found quite a few chaffinches out now that it was a bit warmer…

…we went for a walk.

Mrs Tootlepedal had acquired a set of very reasonably priced studded overshoe crampons on her visit to the town and she put them on before we set off.

It felt colder today in the town than it had felt on the top of the hills on my last two walks, but it was no hardship to be out…

…and we were rewarded with a ‘big sky’.

The cold doesn’t discourage the lichen…

…and the icy path round Gaskell’s didn’t discourage Mrs Tootlepedal now that she was properly studded.

I looked across the valley to Meikleholm Hill…

…where my missing Yaktrax is lying among the tussocks, but as I had my new set on, I too could walk along the track with confidence.

My hands got very cold for some reason, even though I was wearing my cycling gloves so I didn’t take many pictures on the walk. When we got to the road, we found that it was pretty clear and we took our anti-slip devices off and walked home safely…

…taking great care over one or two icy patches on the way.

The ground is like concrete after so many frosty days and we had a walk round the garden when we got home to see if anything was showing. Some brave early daffodils are keeping their heads up…

…but the eternally sprouting broccoli has finally given up and hung its head.

I liked the effect of the snow on a golden box ball, making it look like a green Christmas pudding…

…and I looked rather sadly at the garden bench which has seen neither coffee nor conversation for weeks.

I was pleased to get indoors to warm up my hands and when they got a little less cold, I looked at the birds again and found a coal tit pecking at the peanuts…

…while a blackbird scavenged for broken sunflower hearts.

A few chaffinches arrived. A male came with such force that he seemed to blow a female off the other side of the feeder.

Another stood on the sidelines and watched the action.

The weather stayed fine and if my hands hadn’t got so cold the first time, I might have been tempted out for another walk, but I stayed in and put some of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database instead.

Later in the afternoon, when I looked out of the window, I was rather sorry that I had not gone out because the light was perfectly lovely…

…but I was still pleased to have done some useful work.

On the vaccine front, my stepmother has had both her shots and my youngest sister is getting her second shot tomorrow. My two older sisters are still waiting to see of they will get their second shot as originally promised, but as they haven’t been told that they are not getting it, they are quietly hopeful. Our neighbour Margaret has received a date for her first dose, so things are moving along generally which is encouraging.

We had a lively sibling zoom meeting and then I finished the day off with corned beef hash while Mrs Tootlepedal dined on a lightly boiled egg.

To no one’s surprise, the flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Surface dressing

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Alistair and shows some careful modern art minimalist snowmanship.

We woke up to a light snowfall which was dusting the garden….

…interesting a chaffinch…

…and had given the church a new look when I went to visit the dentist in the morning.

I was pleased that my dental visit was still on, despite more stringent lockdown regulations, as hopefully it will lead to the eventual arrival of my two new front teeth and I will be able to smile again.

Because I had had to get properly dressed to go to the dentist, I couldn’t face taking all my clothes off again and putting my cycling gear on for a trip on the bike to nowhere when I got home, so I spent the rest of the morning drinking coffee, eating biscuits and watching the birds.

Perhaps because of the snow and a slightly warmer day, there were plenty of birds to watch today, and not just chaffinches of whom there were a lot…

…but some welcome goldfinches too. They sent out a harbinger and then they all joined in.

Other birds were available in the walnut tree and on the ground….

…but mostly it was chaffinches again, sometimes busy…

…and sometimes in relaxed conversational mode.

There was posing going on…

…but curiously, no demand for the peanut butter today.

A fortnight late for the Christmas card shot, a robin stood in the snow.

I made some leek and potato soup for lunch, and then as the snow had stopped and the clouds had lifted a bit, I went for walk.

I put my Yaktrax on my wellies and headed for the top of Whita. On every side as I climbed the track, I could see mist hanging in the valley, but the mast at the top of the hill was in the clear so I plodded on.

Considering that the white on the track that you can see in the pictures is just a thin skin of snow on a sheet of ice underneath, I was pleased to find the the welly/Yaktrax combination worked well and I went up without even a slip.

I was a bit disappointed that the snow hadn’t done a better job of turning the trees white but they were quite picturesque even so…

…and I stopped for my favourite one near the summit.

For the second day running, I met a man at a trig point…

…and Barry and I stood and chatted for some time. To the south, England was covered in mist again…

…and to the north, Langholm looked blue and rather chilly.

I was hoping that the clouds would part and reveal a winter wonderland as there was plenty of blue sky above us in places, but sunlight was strictly rationed today and only drops were handed out by the weather goods.

We should have been on Whita, but only half way up….

…or further up the valley where there was a drop of golden sun beyond the mist from time to time.

I waited in vain for a breakthrough though, and after a last look at Whita…

…I headed back down the track.

I don’t want to give the impression that I was disappointed to have made the effort to get up the hill. I wasn’t. It was calm and beautiful in a subdued way on the summit, and as it was a world away from the political and virus situation, it was definitely the place to be.

Once I had got past a traffic jam on my way off the hill…

…I took a diversion through the Kernigal wood and down the track to Skipperscleuch.

As you can see from the previous efforts, the misty conditions made the light too dim for cheerful photographs so I stuck my camera in my pocket when I got down to the river and concentrated on walking home from Skippers Bridge without falling over. In what can only be described as a triumph, I managed to complete the five miles while remaining continuously upright. Mrs Tootlepedal was very impressed.

On my walk and in our drive over the course of the day, I saw several intriguing prints in the snow.

I don’t know what the animal tracks are in the top right picture. They were in the Kernigal wood and were tiny, too small for a dog.

All this walking about in snow and ice is quite tiring, so I was quite happy to finish the day off with some high class sofa surfing and a meal of trout and sauteed potatoes to round things off. There may have been a late appearance of ice cream and peach slices too.

In spite of the appearance of the goldfinches, I couldn’t catch one in the air so a chaffinch is the flying bird of the day yet again.

Getting the picture

Today’s guest picture comes from my South Africa correspondent, Langholm exile Tom. He is tormenting me with pictures of delicious looking table grapes almost ready for picking. I love grapes.

We had another in our series of cold days here after another icy night, but by way of compensation, there was hardly a cloud in the sky all day. As we are in state of lockdown, this wasn’t quite as useful as it might have been, and I spent 50 minutes on the bike to nowhere after breakfast while waiting for our groceries to be delivered. It is very good of John from our corner shop to offer this service, but as cases in our area are going through the roof, it is a really good thing that he does.

The 5o minutes cycling takes about three hours when getting mentally ready and recovering with coffee afterwards are factored in so that filled up a morning at home pretty well.

In spite of the sunshine, the cold seemed to have discouraged the birds and a lone blue tit was the only visitor at the feeders that I saw before lunch..

As well as the groceries, my new pair of Yaktrax arrived in the post today which was a pleasant surprise. I fitted them with a pair of straps left over from old cycle pedals in an attempt to ensure that I didn’t lose another one and set out after lunch to climb a hill and see if I could find the one I lost. I felt it was pretty certain that now I had a new pair, the old one would turn up immediately, but although I tried to follow my route precisely, disappointingly there was no sign of it.

My new ones worked very well and the straps held them on safely so I enjoyed my walk anyway. I didn’t want to take the same pictures again as I have done this walk twice recently but once you get on the hill, the urge to click away is overwhelming as it is such a beautiful place to be on a sunny day.

Here are today’s efforts, some fresh, some familiar:

A tree, which like the photographer, has seen better days.

The turbines at the Craig windfarm which were standing quite motionless on a still afternoon.

This was awkward as it was cold enough for a lot of electricity to be required for heating. It is not enough for the government to encourage people to put up turbines, serious thought and investment needs to go into storage too. That requires forward planning which is in short supply politically at the moment.

However, politics was washed away from my thoughts by the views.

The town had remained snow free, but there had been more snow on nearby hills overnight…

…although the valley below was very green.

Further up the valley, I could see the corner of the racetrack at our local horse trainer’s establishment…

…which is owned by an enterprising family who are about to start construction of a large cannabis farm to grow medical cannabis. They are promising good employment possibilities for local people, so I hope it works out well.

I walked over the top of Timpen and along the ridge again in the hope of seeing my missing footwear but all I saw when I got to the far end was the ridge along which I would have to walk back again.

This was no great hardship as the ground is still frozen solid and I could walk straight over the boggy bits with a song and a smile.

I went up the little rise to the Black Knowe at the end of the ridge and admired the snow-capped hills to the north again…

…the forestry workings across the valley…

…and my favourite view of the Gates of Eden with sunshine on both sides of the gates today..

I walked a little way along the ridge to the north but stopped when further progress would have meant a considerable loss of height which would have had to have been recovered on my return.

I will try to walk right along it this summer when I have more time for a longer walk.

The walk back to Timpen was uneventful and my only stop was to admire a new gate in the fence.

If I had been lost, the snow on the gatepost would have been a good guide to north-east and south-west.

When I got to Timpen, a kenspeckle figure was leaning on the trig point. It was my friend Stan from the camera club, a great walker and photographer. He had already been on a six mile walk in the morning so it was no wonder that he was taking a breather.

It seemed too good an opportunity to miss so I took a picture of him and his faithful hound…

…and he took a better one of me.

I didn’t look quite so perky ten minutes later when I slipped while shutting the gate onto Meiklholm Hill after getting in a tangle with my walking poles and the gate. I gave myself a painful bruise on my bottom. This was all the more annoying when my Yaktrax carried me safely over all sorts of treacherous snow and ice during the rest of the walk.

I stopped for a view of the sinking sun illuminating the upper parts of the town on the lower slopes of Whita…

…and was amazed shortly afterwards to find a bright yellow buttercup in bloom on the frozen hillside.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal made me a sympathetic cup of tea and I looked about for some birds to photograph. There were still very few about, although a chaffinch or two did turn up at the feeder…

…and there was a collared dove on top of the walnut tree.

I saw a single familiar jackdaw beside the dam out of a back window…

…and out of a front window, I saw a few more picking up scraps which Mrs Tootlepedal had put out on the drive.

When the jackdaws went, a very brown blackbird came to see if there were any scraps left.

For some reason, I was a little tired after my morning pedal and afternoon walk so I went upstairs and had a little snooze before the regular sibling zoom meeting. We are a little depressed by the rising covid numbers all over the country and the conflicting messages about the vaccine, but we stayed as cheerful as we could.

I made bacon and eggs with sweetcorn for our evening meal and followed that with peach slices and ice cream to whihc I am currently addicted, so I was quite recovered by the evening.

Writing this post was interrupted by watching an attempted coup in Washington. My jaw dropped even though I was not entirely surprised. We await developments with unusual interest.

The non flying bird of the day is a female chaffinch at the feeder holding on tight just in case.

More free miles

Today’s guest picture comes from David, a Langholm exile in New Zealand who is the son of our friend Mike Tinker. David took advantage of a beautiful summer day to walk up Mount Vernon and look back down on Blenheim where he lives.

Back in frozen Langholm, I didn’t get the opportunity to cycle to nowhere this morning, as I had to drive to somewhere instead. Another routine visit to the infirmary in Dumfries was required. Mrs Tootlepedal was quite pleased to find that it hadn’t been cancelled and I was pleased that it was a lovely day and the roads had all been well gritted so the drive across was a pleasure. We plugged the car into one of the free charging points in the hospital car park and went inside.

Half an hour later, we were back in the car, and a measly ten miles of charge had been added to the battery. The Scottish government may be keen to entourage electric vehicle ownership with a free boost in the hospital car park, but they certainly aren’t dishing the current out generously.

Still, it was a lovely day and the snow capped hills in the distance were a treat….

…and ten free miles are still ten free miles. Mrs Tootlepedal saw two buzzards and a red kite on our way, so we drove home in a contented state of mind and got back in time for lunch and a look at the bird feeder.

The peanut butter feeder is giving me the opportunity to watch coal tits and blue tits. This was a coal tit having a peck today…

…and posing for a picture afterwards.

A blue tit had a nibble too.

Once again, there were not many birds at the seed feeder and those that did appear were almost all chaffinches. They made a valiant effort to get picked as flying bird of the day. The came in upwards…


…on the level…

…and mob handed.

One chaffinch stood aside and let the others compete.

After lunch, I went for a walk, keeping as far as possible to ice free surfaces. The ice is very bad and a local shop is doing a roaring trade selling spikes for worried walkers. I am waiting for my new Yaktrax to come as I prefer them to spikes.

On my way to the Kilngreen, I could see that the gulls were getting all their ducks in a row in a manner of speaking, though some had been driven round the bend, possibly by Brexit….

…but there was no sign of Mr Grumpy, the heron.

I walked up the Lodge Walks and made a circle round the unused sports field. Between every tussock on the pitches there was a patch of icy snow and each patch of icy snow had a jewelled edge…

…so that it seemed almost a shame to tread on them.

In spite of the ice, it was grand day for a walk…

…so crossing the sawmill Brig, I walked up the ice free footpath beside the main road to Whitshiels. Here I tried the hill road but after about 100 metres, I found it too icy for my taste. I came carefully back down and walked along the main road itself up to the High Mill Bridge, dodging onto the verges whenever a vehicle came by.

Once over the bridge, I found that some kind soul had mowed a grassy path beside the safety barrier next to the road…

…so that I could walk up the hill to the lay-by in comfort.

I enjoyed the winter colours of field and hillside…

…and hedges and hills…

…and added a new bridge to my collection.

I found a wide verge to let me walk on safely until I got to this curiously marked stone….

…which may or may not be an old milestone.

I went a little further on and took the look up the Ewes valley which you can see in today’s header picture. The low sun showed that our smooth looking hills are not always quite as smooth as they look.

Then I turned to walk home.

On my way back, I enjoyed a big sky over Whita…

…and the sun sinking behind the pine trees on the Castleholm.

I found an old friend standing mournfully on a rock between the Town and Suspension bridges.

In spite of the sunshine, it was pretty cold out so I was glad to get back home after my four mile outing in perfect time for a cup of tea to warm me up.

Catching up on my correspondence kept me busy until our evening meal, and then a very interesting program about the Tutankhamen excavations delayed the writing of this post so I have had a reasonably busy day for the first day of our new lockdown. (Travelling for medical appointments is permitted.)

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, hard to believe I know.

Slow and steady

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony. East Wemyss has its own special path to the sun.

We had another dry and chilly day here today. It was above freezing all day but only just, so the icy patches were still a peril for the unwary walker. After breakfast I stayed in and pedalled steadily to nowhere on my bike in the garage.

Although I only cycled for about 55 minutes, the process took up most of the morning. Time is spent getting trying to get motivated to do something as essentially boring as cycling to nowhere. Then there is the cycling itself, which is quite boring. Then there is a shower and afterwards sitting around drinking coffee while complaining about how boring the cycling was. I enjoyed it. You can make indoor training more fun with fancy trainers, computers and power meters and screens and then you can pretend to be cycling up Mont Ventoux instead of just staring at the wall. This costs more money than I am prepared to spend though, so staring at the wall it is. I do listen to jazz on my headphones, which dulls the pain.

I did find a moment or two to look as birds as well.

The new peanut butter feeder is getting quite popular with both blue tits…

…and coal tits.

There was quite a lot of decorative posing for the camera today.

And there was a modest but steady stream of chaffinches trying to picked as flying bird of the day.

There was even a dunnock at the seed feeder, an unusual sight as they are more often to be found picking up seed underneath the feeder.

After lunch, I went for a walk. I settled for a dull but generally ice free stroll up the Wauchope road again. Although this was rather a dull choice, it was undoubtedly quite relaxing to be able to stride out without having to look at where I was putting my feet every step of the way.

It also gave me a chance to look around as I went.

The Auld Stane Brig still has its parapets covered in snow….

…and the fence post at the far end still has its little lichen garden on top, with some frozen water droplets to go with it.

I found myself an object of curiosity for a cow.

Where there is a wood or a wall beside the road, there is always something to see but I was a bit baffled when I saw catkins and cones on the same tree. A closer look showed me that a larch and an alder had got their branches intertwined.

I passed the fence post where Boris Johnson keeps his spare hairpiece….

…and further on, an interesting lichen and a pretty seedhead caught my eye.

Across the field from the road, the dilapidated cottage is getting more dilapidated every time that I look.

My walk had been under grey skies but by the time that I had gone about three miles, the sky lightened up…

…and today I got my walk in without any threat of snow.

I was going to take the road up the hill from Wauchope Schoolhouse in pursuit of a view, but it was quite icy so I settled for a view-less walk six mile in the valley bottom and turned for home. It was a bank holiday today so traffic was very light and I had a peaceful walk back to Langholm.

On my way I stopped to admire a tree that has seen better days…

…and a buzzard that settled in a tree after greeting my approach with alarm.

I was too low in the valley to catch the sun when it came out but I enjoyed its golden light on the trees.

I got home to find that stringent new restrictions have been put in place in Scotland as a response to a rapid rise in Covid infections so any hopes of getting out and about a bit further afield have had to be put on hold for a month or two.

After a cup of tea, I went out to the chemist and the Co-op for some necessary supplies and then settled down to discuss the situation with Mrs Tootlepedal and my brother and sisters through the medium of Zoom. We are all resigned to the new limits which is just as well, as there is no alternative.

The Christmas chicken made a welcome re-appearance from the freezer in the form of a mild chicken curry which I made for our tea.

According to the forecast, we are in for another week of freezing or near freezing weather before a bit more warmth next weekend so I could not have chosen a worse time to lose my Yaktrax. My new pair should arrive just in time for the end of the freeze.

The flying bid of the day is a rather surprised looking chaffinch.

Two unexpected encounters

Today’s guest post comes from my Lancashire correspondent Paul. It shows a fine sunset over Rivington Pike where they have obviously had more snow than we have had a good many miles to the north.

We had another bright and chilly morning here, with freezing temperatures keeping things icy. I tottered out to John’s shop, mostly on dry pavements, but occasionally having to watch out for black ice. He told me of more cases of Covid in the town, so we will have to continue being very cautious.

When I got back, I spent some time making marmalade and watching the birds.

The peanut butter attracted a coal tit this morning…

…while a pair of chaffinches preferred the seed feeder. The one on the left doesn’t look particularly happy to find the same old seeds as yesterday again.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal put out some ham and cheese scraps on the drive and drew in an appreciative crowd of jackdaws.

I had time to notice a blue tit having a look round before tucking into the peanut butter…

…while a female chaffinch posed on a bamboo.

Just to stretch my legs because I hadn’t bicycled to nowhere in the morning, I then went out for a short walk, picking the best cleared pavements and roads that I could find.

At the Kilngreen, a lady had been feeding the gulls…

…so they had deserted their posts.

Just as I came to the far end of the Kilngreen, a car drew up in the car park and Sandy got out. Quite by coincidence, he had decided to take a short walk before going shopping. We wished each other a happy new year and walked up the Lodge walks together until we came to Lodge where a stretch of ice covered road ahead looked threatening enough for us to turn back. A good many other people had had the same idea and the Lodge Walks were busy.

When we got back to the Kilngreen, Sandy drove off to do his shopping, and as it was still sunny, I walked up the main road towards the High Mill Brig.

I was serenaded by a buzzard flying along the top of the trees above the road.

I stopped to take a picture of the bridge when I got there….

…just to show what a lovely day it was. There was blue sky behind the tree beside the bridge…

There is no pavement here, but the road had been salted and was safe to walk along. There was little traffic and as the verges were well frozen, I was able to move on to them easily when a rare car came by.

I was enjoying my stroll and thinking about going a mile or two up the road when I looked up and saw a change in the sky…

…the first clouds of 2021.

As you can see from the picture, I was still in sunshine but this didn’t last and before I had gone a couple of hundred yards further up the road, it started snowing and the hills ahead disappeared from sight.

I didn’t want to walk home on freshly fallen snow on top of icy patches, so I changed tack smartly and headed back to Langholm. The scene at the High Mill Brig was a lot more wintery than it had been a quarter of an hour earlier!

The forecast in the morning had said that Langholm would be right on the edge of the wet weather, and for once they were extremely accurate because, although it sleeted on me for most of the mile back to the Kilngreen, by the time that I got there I was in sunshine again…

…and looking back from the town bridge, there was not even the slightest of hint of the snow clouds that had been following me down the road.

When I got home, the golden late afternoon light was making the chimney pots of Henry Street look like works of art.

I may not have gone quite as far as I had hoped, but I had done almost four miles so I wasn’t too unhappy and a cup of tea and a slice of toast soon cheered me up completely.

I did think of getting on the bike to nowhere after my cup of tea, but strangely the sofa in front of the telly seemed to be exerting some sort of magnetic force and I was unable to get up for some time.

I did take one reasonable picture of a would be flying chaffinch today….

…but sadly, it got its foot down half a second before I clicked on the shutter button, so here is the less satisfactory flying bird of the day.