A good block

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who did some bird spotting in the centre of Derby today.

It was another pretty dreich day here when we got up, and it wasn’t a great surprise considering some more overnight rain, that I found Mary Jo’s rain gauge pretty well full to the brim when I looked later in the morning.

That makes eight and a half inches since the just before the beginning of November and the paths and tracks are often getting quite soggy when we go for a walk now.

We were happy to sit and read the papers after breakfast and I didn’t stir until just before coffee time, when I had a look at the birds.

The feeder was a bit busier today from time to time…

…but mostly the pace was sedate….

…with time for the birds to look around.

This picture shows that bird photography can be a bit hit and miss…

…as I took both pictures from the same place with the same camera settings. The sparrow came out well, while the coal tit is not so good. Maybe the light was just a little bit better when the sparrow was at the feeder, or maybe my camera just likes sparrows more than it likes coal tits.

There was quite a lot of posing going on as usual…

…and a blackbird and a a jackdaw showed contrasting amounts of confidence while exploring the lawn.

Because of the drizzle, we didn’t have coffee in the garden, but the drizzle petered out and I went on a flower hunt in the garden before lunch. I had to look quite hard to find any.

We had an early lunch and then got into the car and drove down to the Hollows. Loyal readers will know that the Fairy Loup waterfall disappeared underground a week or two ago, leaving just bare rock at the popular beauty spot. We had heard that somebody had managed to block up the entrance to the subterranean channel and that the Byre Burn was once again flowing over the fall. We thought that we would check to see if this was true.

We walked along the old road from the Hollows, enjoying bursts of colours from berries and moss…

…and then turned up the track beside the burn through the woods.

We could hear the waterfall before we could see it, so it was no surprise to find it in action again.

We walked along to where the hole had been and found that whoever had blocked up the hole had done a comprehensive job.

It will be interesting to see if the water finds its way back into the hole again.

We walked on up the track until we came to the road and then crossed the bridge and walked back through the woods on the other side of the valley.

This is where we passed the sheep in the header picture.

The track was in much better condition than we had feared, and apart from one soggy corner, we arrived at the bench at the top of the hill above the sawmill without any trouble.

We paused at the bench to enjoy the view over the sawmill and across the Esk valley…

…before tottering cautiously down the steep steps to the woods below.

There are some pretty mature spruces in this part of the wood and they are a pleasure to walk through….

…on an excellent path.

We got down to the old road and followed it back over the burn again to the Hollows.

It is very fortunate that there are bridges over the Byre Burn at about a mile apart, so that if you go up one side and back down the other, you get a nicely varied two mile walk. With our little extra bit added on to get to and from the Hollows, we enjoyed a two and a half mile walk today. What made it even better was that the rain held off and we were well sheltered from any wind, so it was a pleasant outing for a November day.

And we passed some items of interest on our way along the old road back to the car.

We combined our walk with a trip to the Co-op on the way home and arrived back in good time to have a Zoom with our son Alistair and our granddaughter Matilda in Edinburgh. She is going to a Gaelic school in Edinburgh and read us a story out of a Gaelic book today (in Gaelic) and then provided us with a translation. We were impressed.

As I write this in the evening, the wind and rain are back, rattling round the house in a depressing way. We were very lucky to have found a gap in the weather for our walk, especially as it looks as though it will be very hard to find a dry moment over the next two days.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Passing clouds

Today’s guest picture comes from East Wemyss where our son Tony pointed his camera right across the Firth of Forth to pick out the Bass Rock, seventeen miles away just off the East Lothian shore.

After quite a bit of noisy overnight rain, it was a relief to wake up to a dry morning here. I was a bit tired so I was happy to forgo the thought of a cycle ride in a chilly wind and take a very short walk round to the shop instead.

Sandy then came round for coffee and a biscuit. We had a good chat and enjoyed the sun when it was out. As we talked though, a line of cloud drifted by. This may have removed a little bit of heat but it provided a light show that was too good to miss so I went in and got a camera.

The show lasted longer than we expected as the clouds slipped past us in a very artistic way.

It was a pleasure to look at in real life…

…and the camera found it exciting too.

This was Sandy’s favourite moment…

…but there was a lot to choose from, as a hazy cloud higher in the sky that the rain clouds below, acted as a reflector for the sun’s rays.

I thought this dramatic moment was the best.

I am sorry to put in so many pictures of the same thing, but the weather gods may never line up this set of circumstances again. I thought that it was worth recording fully.

After coffee, I went up to the town to collect a prescription from the chemist and passed our resident long standing gull on the way.

I had to admire the zeal with which the shrubs along the river bank at the Kirk Brig had been given crew cuts.

A gnarly crossword helped to fill in the rest of the morning.

After lunch, I had a look at the birds and saw a blue tit nearly knocked off its perch by the sheer force of a chaffinch approaching. It just hung on.

The favoured side of the feeder varied as time went by.

There was a certain amount of off feeder posing going on.

As always, actually hitting the spot when landing on a feeder on a windy day took concentration…

…a lot of concentration.

I left the birds to it….

…and went for a walk.

I had a choice of routes…

…but took none of them, heading up through the Kernigal wood instead, enjoying the trees and the views, both on the way up…

…and the way back down towards the river at Skippers Bridge.

There were trees still with leaves…

…and there was fungus on the ground and lichen on a wall…

When I got down to the river, I didn’t go straight back home but made a short diversion along the river bank path….

…where I got a different view of my favourite bridge.

I had ordered a new phone and I had to get home before it was delivered as they said that proof of identity would be required, so after my diversion, I headed back without stopping for more pictures. Of course, when the phone was delivered, there was no call for any proof of identity but as the deliveryman knew very well who I was, perhaps that was understandable.

Mrs Tootlepedal had had a busy day. She had put another slab in place in her drive project, and spent a good deal of time writing up the minutes of her meeting yesterday so we were both happy to relax as the light faded and let another day slip into history, broken only by a sibling Zoom meeting and a second helping of the excellent slow cooked lamb stew.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

Slow cycling, slow cooking

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia. She came across this well decorated gate on a recent walk near her home.

The day started off looking a bit grey, but it didn’t take long for the promised sun to appear. When it arrived, I got changed for cycling and Mrs Tootlepedal goodly stayed in and prepared some lamb and vegetables for a slowed cooked stew.

It was still a bit chilly, but as the sun was shining I went out in windproof socks and a glow of anticipation (zeugma…or possibly syllepsis).

The sense of anticipation was slightly dented when I found that I had forgotten to put on my cycling helmet. I had to turn back after going only a quarter of a mile.

I had noticed that the Pool Corner heron was in its favourite spot though.

Having turned round to to go back to pick up my helmet, I kept going in the same direction and went round my Canonbie circuit in the opposite direction to my usual practice.

This should have meant a speedy spin down the hill and through the village but slippery leaves on the road, barriers across the road to discourage motorists from using the bike path, a long wait at the traffic lights at Canonbie, and the disinclination of my legs to get going so early in the day all made for leisurely progress.

And a stop to say hello to the Canonbie cows.

As well as sunshine, the forecast had predicted brisk winds, but in this respect I was happy to see that they were wrong. I had a light breeze in my face on the way down and only a gentle shove in the back on my way up the hill towards home.

My route home took me between neatly trimmed beech hedges…

…and past a tree which was exceptionally well supplied with branches.

I stopped to check on the fine fungus at the top of the final hill before the town and found that it had grown bigger…

…but had not been nibbled by anything at all. I wonder if it is poisonous.

I got back in time to join the garden coffee party…

…for a cup of freshly made coffee and several crisp coffee biscuits. Although there was no need for blankets or umbrellas today, it got a bit chilly as the sun went in and the wind got up so we didn’t last quite as long as usual.

I had a look round the garden when we finished, and recorded a few flowers doing well…

…and three roses trying their best.

I went in and looked out for birds and found that the sun had come out again. A goldfinch was doing a little basking.

After lunch, we drove a couple of miles up the Wauchope road to collect some bracken. Mrs Tootlepedal uses this to cover her vegetable garden beds during the winter so that they don’t get compacted by rain or snow.

After we had cut enough to fill our car boot, we went for a walk through the little wood that sits on the bank of the Wauchope Water.

The Wauchope looked peaceful enough today…

…but it not always so gentle as several trees which had been swept down from a collapsing banking into the river showed.

This is a favourite spot for fungus and there was plenty to see today, although we had come a little to late to see them at their best.

It is a lovely little wood for a short stroll…

…whichever way you look…

…though we had to be careful when we took the path round what looks likely to be the next tree that ends up in the water.

We came out at the bottom of the wood and walked back to the car through the field, admiring the contrasting needles on larch and spruce.

Just in case anyone is worried that we might have taken more than our fair share of bracken, we did leave a bit behind.

We had another walk round the garden when we got back and I took a picture of a rather feeble flower…

…just so that I could say this will be probably be the phinal phlox phlower of the year. Small pleasures!

A large pleasure was finding that Lillian Austin has been keeping two lovely flowers going under the protection of its leaves.

I went in and had a last look for birds at the feeder. This was as near as any got.

As the light faded, I practised my flute a bit, sang a little, and put some of the newspaper index entries into the Archive Group database.

I got an email to say the our Langholm choir is hoping to provide a virtual performance of a song for a virtual Christmas concert so perhaps I had better put in some more actual singing practice.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s slow cooked lamb stew was superb and it rounded off a day which had had just about as much variety as we can get into a day as things stand.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

A quiet but busy day

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by our son Tony. It shows that not only does the sun shine frequently in East Wemyss but crops grow well there too.

The sun wasn’t shining here today and nothing much is still growing. Still, it was reasonably warm and it didn’t rain during the day, so we weren’t complaining.

Not that Mrs Tootlepedal had any time to go out in the morning, as she had a lengthy on-line meeting with other members of the buy-out group while they consider the mountain of work to be done now that the money has been raised to buy the land. It is daunting but so was the fundraising and I have no doubt that they will rise to the challenges ahead.

I practised being as quiet as a church mouse while she was busy and only made one outing and that was just as far as the garden.

Things are winding down. The winter jasmine is doing well but the last clematis is fading, the blackbirds are steadily eating the cotoneaster berries, and the fuchsia flower are almost all to be found on the ground.

The outstanding flower lives in the vegetable garden. The purple sprouting broccoli looks indestructible.

The birds had taken the hint from me and were very quiet too. There were some birds on the walnut tree but they didn’t come down into the garden.

A lone goldfinch looked round warily as if wondering where everyone else was.

When we were speaking to a neighbour on the street later in the day, he complained that he had bought a new feeder but no birds were coming to it all, and he hadn’t had to refill his feeder in two weeks. Maybe there is still plenty of food to be had in the countryside and there is no need for garden feeding at the moment.

I made some leek and potato soup for lunch and after lunch, we went for a walk.

Mrs Tootlepedal had received a very charming gift of several packets of chocolates from a supporter of the buy out who had been shown round the moor by the group and wished to give something to congratulate them on the successful outcome. I went with Mrs Tootlepedal when she delivered the gifts to her fellow members.

Fortunately the members involved live in a neat direct line from our house down to Skippers bridge so we walked down the river and back again.

When we visited Mairi, we found that she leaves her apples on the tree for the benefit of the birds…

…and she is lucky because this variety clings to the branches for a long time.

We passed my favourite lichen on a fence rail on our way…

…and we considered what a strange thing it sit that the same continuous rail should have two such different lichens within yards of each other….and none at all a few yards further on.

As the autumn leaves fall, a passer-by gets a better view of Skippers bridge as they approach it from the north…

…and a better view of the river itself as he walks back.

I kept an eye out for fungus and saw this crop on a tree stump…

…as we took the riverside path home.

We passed a tightly clustered melancholy thistle…

…and a generously expansive umbellifer…

…before we walked under one of the last trees with leaves still on outside the Co-op…

…and then some of the last leaves still on slender stems beside the Dye House.

Mrs Tootlepedal liked this colourful set.

Looking across the river, we could see a small tree bucking the general trend.

Since there was quite a lot of conversation on our way, the walk took us nearly up until the light had gone, and it was time for for a cup of tea and a slice of toast and raspberry jam when we arrived back.

Mrs Tootlepedal still had more work to do, and I minded my own business quietly until it was time for the regular sibling Zoom. My eldest sister had had a cataract operation in the morning so it was good to see her safely home after her hospital visit and in a very cheerful mood too.

They are offering us a hint of sun tomorrow morning before some rainy days to come. I hope that they are right because our recent gloomy weather makes the already short days seem even shorter…and there are still about six weeks to go to the shortest day.

Between the poor light and the bird scarcity, I didn’t make a good job of the flying bird of the day so I have put in two bad jobs instead. Sometimes you just have to take what you can get.

It was a pity that the blue tit was heading for the back perch not the one that you can see. A few inches makes all the difference to the focus as I have the aperture as wide as possible to catch the movement in poor light.

Lace up

Today’s guest picture is another from Laura in Michigan. It shows St. Joseph Lighthouse, St. Joseph, 20 miles from where she lives. Her husband cycles there and back she tells me. It certainly looks worth visiting.

We had a day without rain, wind or sun. Meteorologically it was a low scoring dull day. Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy morning on buy-out business, and I had a very idle morning doing nothing more exciting than cycling to the shop and back again.

I checked on the flowers, which are getting more tattered every day, but I was very pleased to see the Special Grandma had managed to come out again. (One of the flowers is a jackdaw.)

I didn’t have a great variety to choose from so I scraped the barrel a bit today to get to my round dozen.

As well as the jackdaw, we had had a slightly less welcome visitor when the sparrowhawk had returned to the garden for its breakfast…

…which consisted of an unfortunate goldfinch.

The goldfinches didn’t seem too upset by their loss though, and an hour later they were back at the feeder and tucking in.

There weren’t a great many birds about today but both a blue tit (or maybe blue tits) made many appearances…

…as did a coal tit (or coal tits).

There were a number of blackbirds about too. Males with both yellow beaks and black beaks…

…and females looking very elegant.

There was a minor moment of excitement when I went into the garage to get my shopping bike and was waylaid by a robin who had obviously been in there all night. We persuaded it to leave and then the moment I turned my back, it dived back into the garage again. Mrs Tootlepedal had gone on an errand by this time, but I managed to get the robin to leave, and sensibly shut the garage door. I just had time to take a picture of the uninvited guest…

…before another robin swooped down and the pair flew off at speed. An anxious parent, I surmised.

After lunch, I went for a walk up a hill. Mrs Tootlepedal had bought me a new pair of shoelaces and I thought that I ought to give them a run out. They worked well as I puffed my way up the Kirk Wynd past a forest of rosebay willowherb, and climbed on up to the monument on top of Whita.

As I went up, I looked back over the town towards Warbla….

…but got a bit of a shock when I looked further round and saw some very gloomy weather down the valley.

I decided to look the other way where the prospects were a bit better.

The path from the top of the golf course to the monument is quite steep at times so I was happy to have an excuse to stop and capture a hardy tree defying the wind and sheep and still clinging on to the hillside.

There was not much to see in the way of wild flowers but there was plenty of fungus to keep me happy. I saw examples on the Kirk Wynd, at the top of the golf course, half way up the hill and near the summit.

I didn’t linger on the summit as it wasn’t really a day for views…

…but made my way down to the road at the White Yett and set off towards the town. I passed the wall that I had walked up not long ago…

…and thought about walking back down it today.

But time was getting on and the weather was looking a bit gloomier, so I kept to the road for a bit longer until I got to my favourite pine trees…

…where I turned onto the hill and visited the three dancing trees.

They really are only lightly connected to the earth below their feet.

There was a hint of drizzle in the air so I was pleased to find myself on this track down to Whitshiels…

…as it both sheltered me from the drizzle (which soon petered out anyway) and gave me an opportunity to add some bright fungus on a tree stump and a mossy gate to the fungus I had just seen on one of the dancing trees and in the field nearby.

I got down to the main road and walked home along the river, enjoying some varied leaves on the way.

It was a walk of just over four miles, but for a short walk, I think that it packs a lot in, and it certainly worked up an appetite in me for a slice of bread and raspberry jam and a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal when I got home. She had been doing some more levelling work on the drive while I was walking, but was back at the computer again on buy-out business when I got in.

As well as buying shoe laces on her morning outing to the town, she had also visited the butcher’s and bought a mountain of mince. I cooked mince and tatties for our tea and later in the evening we watched some clever cooks making fantastic ‘artistic jelly’ cakes on Bake Off.

The ground and garden have been able to dry up a bit in recent days but we are soon going to be back to more changeable weather so I have been grateful to get some good cycling and walking in while the going was good. Any half decent day in November is a bonus.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch with flaps down for a landing.

Rising above it

Today’s guest picture is another from Simon’s Saturday walk in the northern English fells. His route took him to High Cup Nick, a well named and famous viewpoint.

There was no possibilities of any views in Langholm when we got up this morning, as the town was wreathed in mist. It was calm though, and warm for the time of year at 50°F (10°C) overnight and through the morning. As a result, I stirred my stumps and went out for a cycle ride at nine o’clock.

My legs felt that this was a bit early in the day to be larking about so I took things quietly and enjoyed the autumnal scenes as I went round Pool Corner.

I don’t have lights on my bike so I was a bit worried about how thick the mist might be when I got to the hill at Callister. I have a bright yellow jacket on so I am pretty visible in normal conditions, but I don’t cycle when there is fog.

It turned out that I didn’t need to worry as the road lifted me above the mist as I climbed the hill. I stopped and look back down Wauchopedale.

Another cyclist was coming up the road behind me and you can see how conspicuous a bright yellow jacket makes him.

I looked over at the wind farm and found that the mist still had business to do with the turbines…

…and I particularly liked this defiant blade poking through on the top of the hill.

It was a different world though on the other side of the hill, and the sun was shining as I pedalled up the road to Gair…

…although when I looked over, I could still see a bank of mist behind me….

…giving the scene an interesting lighting effect.

There was no hint of mist when I got round to the far side of the wind farm…

…and if my counting is correct, they have finally erected all fifteen turbines. It looked as though the big crane was being dismantled.

Now I am just waiting until they start to turn and produce useful electricity.

A little further down the road, I noticed that the power lines were a bit overloaded…

…with starlings.

With the light wind against me on the way home, it took me quite a long time to get back, but I was quite pleased to get back at all. On a very narrow section of road among the trees, a farmer driving a mini jeep didn’t slow down as he passed me, leaving me with about two foot of road to wobble along on.

I had just recovered my equilibrium, if not my temper, when his partner on a quad bike came tearing round a blind corner even faster. The quad bike is small and would have left me plenty of room if she hadn’t been on my side of the road and heading straight towards me. She saw me in the nick of time and veered away while I made use of the off road parking, or the ditch as it is usually known. Luckily, there was some soft ground before the ditch and I got my foot down in time to avoid a tumble.

There was a cry of, “Sorry!” as the quad bike disappeared at speed but no return to see that I hadn’t come to grief. On the other hand, she must have got a bigger shock than me, because I saw her coming quite a bit before she saw me.

No harm was done and the encounter added excitement to an otherwise humdrum ride.

I got back in time for coffee in agreeably warm sunshine with Margaret and Mrs Tootlepedal. We enjoyed the coffee and conversation and also the colourful leaves on the shrubs beside the old bench.

The garden was full of busy birds and a collared dove and a starling rested for a moment on the wires overhead.

It really was a lovely day for November and a little rose beside us was enjoying the sunshine too.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been shoogling gravel in the drive while I had been out cycling but there was no time to do any more once coffee was over as we had to go off to Dumfries straight after lunch. I stole a moment to check on the bird feeder before lunch…

…but there was no time for anything else.

The drive to Dumfries went smoothly and Mrs Tootlepedal was in good time for her appointment at the new infirmary (which appears in today’s header picture). While she was consulting with the consultant, I wandered around the extensively landscaped car park enjoying the young trees…

…and the good display of flowers still on show.

I was very taken by a notice board with attached bike tools and an available pump for the convenience of anyone who had cycled to the infirmary and then had a puncture or a breakdown.

It would be interesting to know if this facility has ever been used but it certainly shows the right spirit in my view.

The only flaw in the car park was an obvious failure of planning which had led impatient motorists to cut through the middle of a bed….

…rather than walking the few extra yards round the edge.

I picked Mrs Tootlepedal up after a successful consultation and we drove smoothly home. It is a sign of how soothing driving an electric car is that I was very happy to pootle along in a large queue of traffic for several miles.

The light was fading as we went along but the upside of this was a spectacular sunset as we passed through Gretna.

We got home to news that progress is being made on one the covid vaccines under development, and while this was not an instant cure by any means, it did provide some more cheerful hopes for the future.

We are promised another gentle day tomorrow, although it may well rain. I suppose that we can’t have everything.

The flying bird of the day is a starling soaring over our garden.

Another sock trial

Today’s guest picture comes from Canonbie friend Simon. He took to the northern English fells yesterday and came across this handsome beck near High Cup Nick.

Simon was lucky that he went on his walk yesterday because there was a change in the weather today and the hills and towns in our area were covered in low cloud and rain. Langholm was no exception and there was no temptation to think of a cycle or a walk in the morning.

I did look out of the window and saw a pack of goldfinches on the feeder…

…and a blue tit practising its hard stare.

When the rain eased to a light drizzle, I popped out into the garden to see how the flowers were doing.

Another of Angie’s Michaelmas daisies has joined in the fun and some old favourites are hanging on.

The rosemary continues to be covered in its tiny flowers, which is highly unseasonal, but most of the nerines have gone to berries, though one is still looking cheery.

We took the opportunity to repair Mrs Tootlepedal’s petrol driven rotavator. A little plastic dome, which needs to be squished to prime the carburettor, had split but she had managed to source a replacement. It turned out to be more simple to fit that we had feared, and Mrs Tootlepedal hopes to put the rotavator to use on her drive works as soon as the weather permits.

I made some lentil and carrot soup for lunch, and it went down well with bread and cheese. I recently made an online purchase of seven different cheeses from a cheese specialist in Glasgow so we are spoiled for choice when it comes to cheese eating.

Looking at the forecast, it seemed that there might be a window of opportunity for a walk without too much rain after lunch. The forecasters were spot on, and it had stopped raining by the time that I put my coat and cap on and set out to test my new waterproof socks by walking along some muddy tracks.

Jackdaws pair for life and this couple on a wire outside our house looked deep in conversation.

As I crossed the suspension bridge, I saw that the willows are still adding colour to riverside views near the church….

…but there was not much to see as I walked down the far bank of the river.

I cut up through Townfoot and walked up Hallpath, where the wall had a selection of St John’s Wort and peltigera lichen to keep me happy.

At one point the road runs between a fine beech hedge and a tall wall. I liked the contrast.

When I got to the muddy track, my socks passed the test of many puddles with flying colours and there were other colours to enjoy as well….

…with the most surprising being some flowers on a broom. They are not what you would expect at this time of year at all.

I walked along through the birch and oak woods…

…until I came to the open hill….

I might have walked on to Broomholmshiels but the way back to Langholm along the riverside road is temporarily blocked, so I turned back the way I came, making a small diversion down through the woods…

…to the old railway and then back up again by the Jenny Noble’s Gill track.

This short up and down proved to more strenuous than I had expected so I stopped stopping to take pictures, except this one where a lone tree had sneaked in among the oaks and birches thanks to gap made for power lines.

Mainly I concentrated on walking without slipping over and got safely down to the road at Skippers Bridge. Although it wasn’t raining, the mist was rising and the bridge looked so grey that I took a black and white picture of it for a change.

I walked back along the road just to check that the road really was closed by roadworks, and found that it was.

In a welcome change to their policy of leaving roads to fall down bankings and then waiting as long as possible before repairing them, the council are fixing this unstable bank before it collapses.

I walked back to Skippers, enjoying the layers of colour provided by a beech tree beside the road…

…and paused for a moment on the bridge to look back down river, where I could see the reason that I had had difficulty in seeing the bridge clearly…

…and then up river to catch the old distillery looking rather romantic in the Gothic gloom.

(The old distillery is in the process of becoming a showroom for a local maker of high quality furniture and if you are interested in that sort of thing, you can visit him here.)

I walked back along the Murtholm and took a final picture of a colourful carpet as I went through the park.

It was very gloomy by now, so I was glad to have got home in the dry.

I had time for a cup of tea and a slice of bread and freshly made raspberry jam before the Carlisle Community Choir virtual rehearsal. Rather optimistically, our musical director has got out some Christmas music for us, but it was quite cheerful to be singing of bells and holly on such a dreary day even if the choir won’t meet to sing such songs together this year..

We had trout for tea and are hoping for better weather tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch. It is sneaking up on another pair who are too busy arguing to notice it.

Jam today

Today’s guest picture is another showing my missed opportunity yesterday. As well as Tessa, my friend Gavin found a moment to rush up the hill, and got there in the nick of time before the mist burnt off. He was pleased that he went.

We got up to a lovely sunny morning today and not surprisingly, considering the time of year, it was pretty chilly with the thermometer at 0°C.

In the sun, it was warm enough to let Mrs Tootlepedal do some cleaning up in the garden before coffee, and for me to check on some flowers after the overnight cold.

The calendulas continue to cock a snook at chilly mornings.

And the verbena looks impervious too.

The dahlias have taken a hit and Mrs Tootlepedal is busy removing them from the beds. This is one of the last survivors.

My neighbour Ken set off on his bike for a ride but it was still too chilly for my taste, and I was happy to sit with Margaret and Mrs Tootlepedal in a sheltered sunny spot for an hour outside while we had our regular coffee and conversation. Out of the sun it was pretty chilly still.

Perhaps because of the cold air, passing aeroplanes were leaving a very clear trail in the sky above us…

…and we saw not just one…

…but two of them…

…going over us while we sat.

One of the benefits of the slowdown in air travel thanks to the virus has been the very clear skies overhead.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal went back to gardening and I went back to wandering around, carrying dead plants to the compost bin from time to time. As well as the large Michaelmas daisy, given to Mrs Tootlepedal by our friend Angie, which has done so well, another from the same batch which has sulked so far, decided that today was the day to come fully out.

Some flowers are trying hard but fading away like the fuchsias…

…and Lillian Austin…

…while others just need a little warmth in the morning to show a lot of life by lunchtime.

According to the forecast, we are in for a week of warmer weather with no frosty mornings so there may be hope for the flowers continuing for a while.

After lunch, I went for a cycle ride. Our thermometer said it was 8°C by this time but it still felt cold so I wrapped up well again and put on a pair of new waterproof socks which I have recently purchased. I hoped that they were wind proof too. Any cyclist will know that there is nothing worse than cold feet on a ride because there is absolutely no way of getting them warm again so this was a test to see if I had spent my money wisely.

There was a light north wind blowing so I headed north up the main road. I always like to be blown home if possible.

The Ewes valley was looking at its best…

…in the sunshine…

…but soon, there will be many more trees and fewer green hills to see as these signs of preparations for planting show.

Although it was a sunny day when I started, some light clouds came up behind me and by the time that I got to the top of the hill at Mosspaul after ten miles and looked back, it was a different picture.

It wasn’t quite as dramatically dark as the camera makes it seem, but I abandoned any thought of going further and headed for home.

It got gloomier as I went along and the ridge of Potholm Hill looked quite impressive in the fading light.

For a day which had been so bright, it was a disappointment to find it disappearing at such a pace but I got home in good order, helped down the hill from Mosspaul at 17mph by a light but still useful wind. The new socks worked very well.

Once again, I had timed my ride well and was able to join Mrs Tootlepedal, who was resting after more work on the drive in my absence, in watching the final kilometres of the Vuelta stage.

We then were able to take in the developments in the US election before I went off to do some shopping. While i wasn’t paying full attention, 500g of Portuguese raspberries at a handily reduced price fell off the shelves into my basket, and after tea, I converted them into two and a bit jars of raspberry jam.

Quick raspberry jam is the easiest jam to make as it only takes three minutes of boiling once you have put the sugar in, with no need for thermometers. The only requirement is that the jam should be eaten fairly soon after it has been made. After sampling a little on some newly made bread, we don’t think that this is going to be a big problem.

I didn’t get any opportunity to watch the birds at the feeder today but I did see a starling on a wire in the morning…

…and a rook passed at just the right moment in the afternoon to become the (distant) flying bird of the day.

A missed mist opportunity

It was a ‘mist in the valley’ morning here and I should have been up on the hill. Others were more active and for today’s guest picture, keen hill walker Tessa sent me this fine Brocken Spectre which she met in the mist today. You can see why some people might have religious visions.

When the walkers got above the mist, there were some lovely pictures of a sea of mist covering the valley to be had, so I am really sorry that I didn’t do more than look put of the window and say to myself, “There should be a good mist opportunity up there.” My excuse is that I have been spending too much time following the US election and I was tired.

I didn’t waste my time entirely and managed a very chilly ride to the shop in the mist and a peer out of the window at the birds at coffee time.

A small flock of greenfinches arrived and took over the feeder at one point.

And after coffee, I did manage a walk round the garden to admire our home grown autumn colour…

…and to note berries and other seasonal oddities, like the rosemary and mustard flowers…

The berries in the top right corner are on the nerines.

I had hoped that the clematis would survive the frost but after looking promising, it has faded leaving Welsh poppy, perennial wallflower and nasturtiums to keep the colour going.

We are in tier two of the Scottish Government’s covid restrictions and hairdressers are still open. For the first time since March, Mrs Tootlepedal ventured out for a professional haircut.

As the sun had come out by now, and it was a really very agreeable day, I went for a three bridges walk.

The riverside willows are looking good when they catch the sun.

Once on the Kilngreen, I had the opportunity to shoot a sitting duck which I took.

…and added a sitting gull too. (Not wanting to become involved in any arguments, it was sitting on the fence.)

I had to be a bit more alert to get any shot at all of a grey wagtail which was flitting along the side of the river, but it stopped just long enough for a quick snap.

I walked up the Lodge Walks, enjoying what was left of the colour…

…and instead of going through the Lodge grounds, I cut across the top of the Castleholm and enjoyed more leafy loveliness…

…and a large tree stump which obligingly had two different sorts of fungus on its opposite sides.

It’s handy when you don’t have to go far to find a fungus.

I crossed the Duchess Bridge and found a lot more fungus on old branches beside the shady path along the river.

At least, I think that these rather ghostly fingers are fungus.

The schoolchildren were enjoying the sunshine as they played on the Scholars’ Field in their lunch break while I went past, and I enjoyed finding a very fresh looking umbellifer with really good colour…

…and several bees on it.

That was the icing on the cake of a most enjoyable November walk. Any dry walk in November is enjoyable, but a sunny walk on a calm day with added fungus and flowers is especially enjoyable.

I had no trouble in remembering to remark to Mrs Tootlepedal that her hair looked very nice when I got home because it did. Money well spent.

Her broken biscuit fragments on the lawn were still attracting jackdaws and we got another one today with a lot of white about it.

After a lunch of (tinned) scotch broth and bread and cheese, I went for a bicycle ride. It was a day for a longer ride but I had wasted too much time watching nothing happen in the US election developments and got out with only enough time to go round my 20 mile Canonbie circuit. Looking at my records later, I saw that I have only done this normally regular ride twice in the last month, so it was a pleasure to back on track again.

I saw an old friend…

…who was too busy with her own lunch to acknowledge my greeting.

Across the road, a tree asked to be photographed.

As the afternoon light doesn’t last very long now, I pushed on and didn’t stop for another photo opportunity until Hollows Bridge where it was clear that peak autumn colour is long past…

…but as a result, I could get a much clearer views of the mill’s Archimedes screw gently chuntering away making infinitely renewable electricity.

I reached the end of the old road among the new larches…

…and followed the cycle path round the corner and was home just in time to watch the last few kilometres of today’s stage of the Vuelta.

A good walk and an enjoyable bicycle ride had eased the pain of missing out on the mist opportunities, and the day was rounded off well with a good chat with my siblings and Mrs Tootlepedal through the medium of Zoom.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

One to go

Today’s guest picture from our son Tony shows an East Wemyss stairway. Not the ‘stairway to heaven’ but the next best thing.

We had a grey but dry day today and with the temperature well above freezing, it seemed like a good day for both a bicycle ride and putting another slab in place in the drive. I did the cycling and Mrs Tootlepedal did the hard work.

Before I left, I had a look round the garden to see what is still out.

Because of the rather gloomy conditions, it took me a bit of time to get going but I finally left home, leaving Mrs Tootlepedal and Margaret to have coffee in the garden without me.

I went for a slightly longer circular ride than yesterday but I still passed the Solwaybank wind turbines as I went up Callister. I was just in time to see the last of the three blades being attached to the nose cone.

Once again, when I put the picture on my computer, I could see that the tiny dot on the top of the housing is a person, giving an idea of the size of these constructions.

I stopped after ten miles to take an arty black and white shot of a tree and a pylon having an arm drooping contest.

At about 20 miles, I stopped again. A tree had replaced its fallen leaves with a flock of starlings.

My legs were not in a very co-operative mood today so at a handy railway bridge a few hundred metres further down the road, where I could safely lean my bike against a wall, I paused for a rest and a mouthful of guava jelly and dates.

A noise made me look over the parapet and a long goods train rumbled slowly under the bridge. It was mostly made up of containers from a big supermarket chain and it was good to see that some of their goods were going by rail and not clogging up motorways.

The train might have been going slowly, but I was going yet more slowly, even though I finally had the wind behind me after 20 miles of pedalling into it. It wasn’t a very strong wind but it was still welcome.

Not much further on, I was surprised by a dandelion….

…the only patch of colour I had seen in the roadside verges so far. I saw a couple more before the ride was over.

I had chosen a route home in the hope that I would see migrating geese in the fields near the border. I did see a flock of birds which rose up as I approached….

…but they turned out to be gulls. They flew across the road above my head and joined another gang in the middle of a field there.

They were needlessly unsettled by me and soon both lots took to the air with a burst of noise.

There were a lot of them, too many for my camera which couldn’t decide which of them to focus on.

But there were no geese.

At thirty miles, my legs asked for another break so I stopped from time to time to look at what remains of the autumn colour.

Even the trees that have retained some leaves are mostly brown now…

…and the view up the river at Irvine House was sombre.

Youth counts among trees and when I got nearer Langholm, young larches were more cheerful….

…and there was a very bright show of berries beside the cycle path…

…so I arrived home after 34 gentle miles in good spirits.

I got back in time for a late lunch and after that, I went out to supervise the laying of the tenth slab in the drive (sixteen more to go), and lend a helpful hand at one moment.

In between times, I looked at more flowers.

The Icelandic poppies are fighting back after the frost, and are even attracting visitors.

A few campanula flowers, which should not be out at at this time, survived too…

…but I think that my favourite dash of colour was not a flower at all.

In spite of (because of?) my help, the slab was not quite lying correctly and Mrs Tootlepedal, who is a perfectionist, carried on working while I went in and made a cup of tea.

When Mrs Tootlepedal came in, I did have a look at the birds but there were very few about…

…and a goldfinch made a futile effort to get picked as flying bird of the day.

A rook looked reflectively at one of the last leaves on the walnut tree.

And by the time that I had had a shower and we had watched the end of today’s stage in the Vuelta, it was almost time to draw the curtains against the encircling gloom.

I did a little work on a Bach Trio so that I could play along with it on the computer, and then disguised the last helping of Mrs Tootlepedal’s slow cooked brisket of beef as a curry which we ate for our tea.

Following the goings on of the election in American is very tiring, but I am hoping for an early night tonight as nothing seems to be happening at the moment.

In the absence of a domestic candidate for flying bird of the day, that flock of gulls gets the job.