A full day of reading, singing and walking

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He passed the Derby Islamic Centre on his walk today.

The temperature had dropped quite a bit overnight here and there were interesting patterns on the Velux window in the bathroom when I got up.

Happily for us, it was not icy when when we went out after breakfast to walk to the church. We enjoyed the sunshine.

As well as singing the hymns with the choir, I had the task of reading the lessons and also of reading out the sermon supplied by our stand in minister who is busy at her own church in Canonbie on a Sunday morning. It was quite hard work doing both, but the hymns were excellent, so I enjoyed the service.

After a coffee when we got home, I looked to see what business was like on the bird feeder.

A siskin was doing a very good impersonation of Jean Paul Belmondo smoking a cigarette in a moody French film

Lots of chaffinches and the occasional sparrow were flying about .

A quick check in the garden produced a starling and a blackbird on wire and roof, with a sparrow checking out the grooming habits of another starling on the holly tree

A pigeon flew overhead.

Back inside and looking out, the sun picked out a female blackbird, a male chaffinch, and a goldfinch whose sex I cannot determine, but possibly a male..

Even with my electric bike now available, I thought it was too cold at four degrees for a cycle ride, so I went for a walk before a late lunch instead.

I didn’t have a great deal of time to spare before our visit to the Carlisle Community Choir practice in the afternoon, so I bustled round the five mile Potholm walk without stopping to take too many pictures on the way.

Gulls at their post on the Kilngreen caught my eye, as did a stranger among them, possibly a black backed gull in winter plumage.

When I got to the North Lodge and looked up the valley, a hint of white on a distant hill turned out to be a dusting of snow.

It was snow and ice free at my level though, and the walking was very good.

The sky had clouded over at the start of my walk, but the sun came out as I got up towards Potholm and I enjoyed the views over the river.

I was a bit taken aback as I went down the hill towards the bridge at Potholm to find that a landslip had nearly taken away the track.

It was safe enough to pass the landslip by, and I hope that they don’t feel the need to close the track. It would be greatly missed by the walkers who enjoy going ’round Potholm’ as I was doing today.

At the bridge, I found that the river was high enough to cause the trees on the bank to have their feet in the water.

In the nearby fields, sheep were not looking particularly happy about having turnip for their lunch

The sun had gone in again as I walked along the road past Milnholm, and I only saw this one last glimpse of it on my way home

The metal poles which make up the fencing along the road to Langholm were well covered with green mould and I took a picture to try to show this. The camera was less was less impressed by the greenness than I was, so I wasted time on the photo editor again this evening. The result is not true to life!

A blackbird greeted me when I got back to the house.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy making parsnip soup while I was out walking, and it made for a very welcome lunch. I had worked up quite a good appetite and my walk recorder told me that I had only stopped for two minutes in total to take pictures on my walk. I had gone quickly enough that there was enough time left to have another look at the birds before we went to Carlisle.

Siskins were back.

The drive to the choir in Carlisle went very well, and the practice was good too. We are learning three new songs, so there was plenty of work to do.

The temperature had dropped to just above zero by the time that we drove home, but the roads had been well gritted and there was no danger of ice. A simple meal of salmon cooked in butter and lemon by Mrs Tootlepedal made for an excellent end to a busy day.

The flying bird of the day is two sparrows, coming and going simultaneously.

Getting goosed

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Caroline. She has a welcome touch of spring in her garden already. Of course she is 350 miles south of us so it will take some time for spring to get up here at its alleged speed of 2mph. Even that seems a bit optimistic, as we don’t usually see a daffodil until late February.

I’ve had a puncture in the front tyre of my electric bicycle ever since I went for a ride to check that the puncture in my back tyre had been correctly fixed and picked up another thorn. A combination of very cold weather, the Christmas holidays and idleness has stopped me doing anything about it until today when I took my bicycle down to the bike shop in Longtown to get it repaired.

The sun was shining brightly, so I went for a walk while the mechanic was at work. After some heavy overnight rain, there was a lot of water flowing under the bridge when I crossed the Esk.

I walked through the town, passing yet another bank branch that has closed forever, a severely pollarded tree and a much more expansive one by the river.

It was a bright day, but there was a piercing wind blowing so I didn’t stop long beside the bridge before heading down river, passing a bench which had its own swimming pool attached today.

The day felt a lot colder than it looked when I got down to the spot where the river runs past the old gravel pits . . .

. . . which are now large ponds. Today they were full of water . . . and a few ducks, possibly pochard or widgeon. They were a long way away.

I walked round the ponds as briskly as I could in the muddy conditions, and then headed back up the river towards the town. A flash of white on the water told me that there was a male goosander to be seen. I would have got a picture of its partner too, if they hadn’t both flown away rather rudely.

I enjoyed the views up the river as I went back towards the bridge . . .

. . . and I was accompanied by the honking of several small batches of geese flying over my head. It is more usual to see the geese in quite large skeins so I wondered if the brisk wind had split them into smaller groups.

I was quite pleased to get into the shelter of a scrubby wood as I got nearer to the town, although the state of the path did call for quite a lot of puddle jumping

The honking of the geese got louder as I went along and soon I could see a lot of them feeding in a field on the other side of the river. From time to time they rose up and flew about . . .

. . . before putting their flaps down and settling back into the field

There was still a lot of water going under the bridge when I got back to the bike shop after an extremely bracing three mile walk.

My timing was good and I only had a moment to wait before my fully inflated bike was returned to me. I got it into the back of the car just as a very heavy shower of sleet rolled over, and I left Longtown under a magnificent rainbow right across the road. I would have liked to have stopped to take a picture, but stopping in the middle of a busy road is not recommended.

I looked at the feeder when I got home. It had been hardly touched yesterday so I was quite pleased to see that it had gone down quite a bit already, and there were a number of birds interested in getting it down even further. I filled the feeder up again.

Birds arrived regularly, though there were no greenfinches to be seen today. Perhaps the strong wind discouraged them and caused the sparrow to mistime its landing on the perch.

In spite of the bitter wind, I did think of trying out my repaired electric bike in the afternoon, but characteristically, as soon as I mentioned this to Mrs Tootlepedal, great curtains of rain swept across the garden. I took the sensible decision to put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database instead.

Other tasks, both useful and footling filled up the rest of the day. The weather did not get any better. It is raining again as I write this, and it is going to be another cold day tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is one of the Longtown geese captured by my pocket camera’s zoom as best as it could.

A shady friend

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He found some Egyptian geese in the grounds of Nottingham University today. He thought that they looked as though they were pining for a bit of Egyptian warmth on a day of biting wind.

We had a dry morning here but it was quite chilly too at 4°C when we got up. The temperature did rise to a heady 8°C as the morning went on, and as there were no birds visiting the feeder to distract me, I had an early lunch and got my bicycle out. The forecast talked of winds gusting up to 25 mph so I didn’t plan an expansive outing. To make matters worse, as soon as I got outside, it started to rain. I went back in.

However, the rain turned out to be just a little joke by the weather gods, and it soon stopped when they had had their fun. I set off.

In the event, the wind was quite noticeable but the forecast gusts were very few and far between, so I got on much better than I had expected, and (relatively) soon found myself cycling up Callister hill in bright sunshine . . .

. . . with a shadowy friend to keep me company

As it had turned out to be a sensible day for a cycle ride, I turned left at Falford Bridge and went round the 21 mile Solwaybank loop via Gair. This was a good route choice and having battled along for the first seven miles, the rest of the route was more wind friendly.

Talking of battling, I have a little bike computer to tell me how slowly I am going. Today it decided off its own bat to compare my speed while I was going up Callister Hill into the wind with several previous efforts. It definitely doesn’t help to have your bicycle telling you, “Ooh, you’re going very slowly, aren’t you,” as you plod up a hill.

Having crossed the Kirtle Water at Falford, I crossed the Hotts Burn at the school a mile or so further on. It winds its way gently down a little valley beside the road . . .

. . . though when I looked more closely at the picture above on my computer, I could see that it might find its way blocked in the not too distant future.

The two streams that I had crossed meet as they pass under a bridge at the aptly named Between the Waters Farm.

It has a couple of fine trees standing in its fields.

With the wind behind me once I had passed through Gair, I cruised up the hill and passed the windfarm at Solwaybank. If all goes to plan, it is due to be greatly extended, and then almost all my way home will be among turbines. The road past Solwaybank House will be still be sheltered by its trees though . . .

. . . but my favourite view of the last section . . .

. . . will be interrupted.

I thought that I could see a faint rainbow ahead of me here, and Mrs Tootlepedal told me later that they had had a very sharp shower in Langholm while I was out pedalling. I was lucky today and although the sun went in as I went over Callister, the rain stayed away and the sun shone on the hills as I came back down into the Wauchope Valley.

As with my walk yesterday, I crossed a great number of bridges on my outing today.

I went from the catchment area of the Wauchope Water over Callister and into the Kirtle Water valley, then up past the windfarm and into the head waters of the River Sark, soon to become the border between England and Scotland, and finally, back into Wauchopedale again. I have made a gallery of some of the bridges. I would have put more in if I had remembered to stop and take pictures of them.

I don’t know what has happened to our small birds at the feeder. They just didn’t turn up at all today. I had to go our into the garden after I got back from my cycle ride to find a job lot of bigger birds hanging about on the walnut tree and the electric wires.

It wasn’t nearly as windy today as it was yesterday so I don’t think that I can blame the wind. Perhaps there is a sparrowhawk around and that is putting our birdseed visitors off. It was very odd. We shall see what tomorrow brings.

After a cup of tea and a slice of toast, we went to the Co-op to do a bit of shopping for the store cupboard and then Mrs Tootlepedal made a new dish for our evening meal. She had found an unusually straightforward recipe in a newspaper food supplement. As it didn’t require the purchase of exotic ingredients only available in the specialist shops of major cities, she was able to follow the recipe as it was. It was a chickpea, potato and spinach concoction and I enjoyed the result a lot.

Today was only my second bike ride of the year and as we are heading back to sub zero nights, I don’t see myself adding much to my mileage total for quite a while. Bring on the walking boots. It is easier to go walking on wet and windy days as putting on a coat and boots is less trouble than putting on all the gear required for comfortable cycling in bad conditions. People mock MAMILs (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) but good cycling gear is important. I am an example of a VOMIT (Very Old Man In Tights) and I don’t care who laughs at me.

The flying bird of the day is a fleeting jackdaw.

Six bridges!

Today’s guest picture is another stolen from contributions sent to me for the last camera club meeting. This is a view that Stan took when he was up a hill in the Ewes Valley. It shows just how flat and narrow the valley bottom is.

Our spell of very mixed weather continued today, and it was raining when we got up. It was windy and not very warm so it didn’t qualify as a good day in any respect. Probably because of the very gusty wind, there weren’t even many birds about to keep me entertained so it was just as well that Dropscone arrived for coffee, bringing treacle scones with him.

He is getting quite excited about going to Malta for a holiday next month. He is flying by Ryanair and he is busy trying to workout how many layers of clothing he can wear and how many things he can carry in his coat pockets to avoid having to pay excess baggage charges.

The sun came out as he left, and I spotted a rook sitting on top of the walnut tree . . .

. . . before it flew off, giving a demonstration of how to open and close its wings as it went.

Down below, a single chaffinch sat at the bird feeder.

I made some lentil soup for our lunch, or rather the soup maker made some lentil soup for our lunch, and then I had another look at the birds. There was still very little traffic at the feeder, with only the odd bird appearing every now and again.

One of our regular pair of dunnocks and a collared dove in the plum tree added a little variety.

The sun went in, and with the wind still gusting very heavily and with a threat of rain in the air, I once again chose to go for a walk rather than battle the elements on a bicycle.

I chose a well sheltered low level route and packed in as many bridges as I could on my way, crossing the Esk four times and the Ewes twice. I have put a gallery of the bridges below in the order that I crossed them.

When I got to the Kilngreen on my way out, I saw that the ducks had sensibly taken to the high ground at the Meeting of the Waters.

When I got to Holmhead, I found a gathering of beaters ready to go out for a pheasant shoot. I enquired a bit nervously about where they were going to be shooting but found that it was a good distance up the Ewes so I would be safe continuing my walk.

Safe but a bit damp and gloomy.

It had started to rain as I walked up from the Jubilee Bridge to the Duchess Bridge, but it had stopped as I took this path above the woods, and there was even a hint of blue sky for a moment . . .

. . . but it was only a hint and later on, a sheep and I agreed that it was a pretty miserable day.

Still, it wasn’t raining and the temperature had gone up a degree or two, so I passed the rugby ground (Langholm Rugby Club unbeaten so far this season) . . .

. . . and walked along the Baggra before turning for home. (My photo editor might have tampered with the picture of the track a bit.)

There wasn’t much colour to be seen but there were trees to enjoy . . .

. . . and small bits of colour in moss and lichen on the wall . . .

. . . but it wasn’t a day that cried out to be photographed.

When I had crossed the High Mill Brig, I walked back to the town along the road. There has been a lot of talk on the radio recently about electric car charging points and how there aren’t enough of them, but there were four unused double charging points at the Kilngreen this afternoon, all in working order. Electric car drivers are obviously driving in the wrong areas.

I did think of adding to my bridge count by walking down to Skippers Bridge but my legs voted against it and I went straight home after I had crossed the Suspension Bridge.

I might have counted two more bridge crossings on my walk as I crossed the little bridge over the dam behind our house twice on my outing . . .

. . . but I thought that that might be cheating.

While I had been out, Mrs Tootlepedal had been patiently sewing in an upstairs room.

She is making a dance costume for our granddaughter Matilda.

I found a mixture of pointless and useful things to do for the rest of the afternoon before sitting down to enjoy an excellent fish pie made by Mrs Tootlepedal for our evening meal.

The flying bird of the day is one of the few chaffinches that visited the garden today.

Second sight

I have stolen today’s guest picture from some which Big Deev sent me to show at the Camera Club meeting on the theme of winter.

The day started well in three ways: firstly, it wasn’t raining, secondly the replacement lens for the Archive Group microfiche reader arrived in the post, and thirdly, when Nancy and I tried it at the Archive Centre, it not only fitted the machine perfectly but enlarged the microfiches to exactly the right size for comfortable reading. Nancy settled down to do some data mining and I went home.

When I got back home, I put the unwanted lenses in an envelope and Mrs Tootlepedal took them up to the town to post them off for me while she also got some other business done. We had a cup of coffee to celebrate when she returned.

I had filled the bird feeder earlier and found that siskins were not backward in coming forward

In fact the feeder was very busy whenever I looked today, and goldfinches soon arrived to upset the siskins.

Siskins are easily upset . . .

. . . and are very likely to start arguing among themselves whether or not there are there are goldfinches about.

I sprinkled some of the fallen seed from underneath the feeder onto the middle lawn and once again the chaffinches were very happy to get their snack there and avoid the unpleasantness at the feeder. I counted about twenty of them at one time.

Then a quick look round showed me that we had just over fifty small birds in the garden, feeding on the lawn, clustering round the feeder, and sitting waiting on the plum tree. Greenfinches had added to the number.

It started to rain and there was one particularly heavy but short shower of hail so I was pleased that I hadn’t gone out cycling. After lunch, I did something in a rush on the computer and made the sort of simple mistake that is easy to recognise, but on this occasion only after I had done it. I had to ring up my bank to cancel my debit card, and it was little consolation when the nice girl at the bank said, “It happens all the time.” It did bring out one of the benefits of banking with the local building society, in that I was able to phone up and speak to a real person within minutes of realising my error.

Then Dropscone came round with his laptop for some assistance with printing out travel documents because his printer was not working, and I was pleased because it gave me something useful to do on my computer.

All this took time, and when I found that the sun had come as Dropscone left, I did consider a bicycle ride but there was a chilly and brisk wind and not enough time before it would become dark. I went for a short walk instead.

The sun was low in the sky, and the shadows were already quite long as I walked up past Holmwood to take the track to the Becks burn.

I met another camera club member, Stan, and his two dogs coming in the opposite direction. He told me that he had hoped to go along the Beck’s track too but his older dog had had other ideas and was on strike.

The low sun picked out the drainage ditches on the hill across the valley . . .

. . . and a tree below the track

Once I had crossed the burn, which was surprisingly low after yesterday’s rain, I went down the road to the Auld Stane Brig enjoying the sights as I went, including a very vivid fungus on a mossy tree stump . . .

. . . an outstanding tree . . .

. . . the old bridge itself . . .

. . . and quiet water in a little in a little seasonal pond beside the rough water pouring under the bridge

It was still sunny as I walked down the road . . .

. . . but by the time that I had crossed the bridge and started walking up the hill on the far side, I was in shadow and the sun was disappearing up the valley

I picked out another tree . . .

. . . before pressing on down to the Stubholm and coming back by the newly cleared riverside path to the park.

I had found a couple of horses strangely attracted to gates on my way round.

I managed to squeeze three miles in before getting home just in time for tea and toast. This was the first afternoon when we could definitely notice that the days are getting a little longer at last. It was encouraging, as were the sights of some buds in the garden and a flower on the winter honeysuckle

I made some smoked haddock kedgeree for our evening meal, and though I probably could have used the new air fryer for the job, I reverted to old fashioned methods and made it using two saucepans on the hob. It tasted very good.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch carefully circumnavigating a siskin

Definitely dreich

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He came across this unusual bird a day or two ago.

It was raining today when we got up, and things didn’t improve as the day went on. As it was cold and pretty windy too, the best thing to do was to stay inside. Fortunately both our neighbour Margaret and my walking friend David, who was delivering a bottle of his excellent olive oil, joined us for coffee, and as Sandy also popped in for a moment, we were well distracted from the weather for a while.

I had filled the feeder earlier and had a look at it when our visitors departed. It was damp out there, but there were plenty of birds about.

A siskin headed off as a sparrow loomed up behind it.

And a sparrow and a goldfinch had a ‘who can look most miserable’ competition.

A greenfinch turned up too . . .

. . . but it was rather a depressing scene, so damp that the seed wasn’t dropping down inside the feeder properly. I left the birds to it and went off to catch up on the news. That was even more depressing.

After lunch, I went up to the town, clutching my umbrella against the wind and the rain. I did a little shopping and paid a routine visit to the health centre and then came straight home again, without any wish to extend my outing beyond what was strictly necessary.

I noticed as I crossed the suspension bridge that it had obviously rained more heavily in the catchment area of the Wauchope Water then it had in the catchment area of the River Esk. The difference in colour where the rivers join shows this.

I looked at the Wauchope as it flowed under the Kirk Brig . . .

. . . and noted the complete absence of any background hills in the composition.

I thought that I ought to pay tribute to my golf umbrella which was keeping me dry on a very miserable day so I let it sneak into the shot as I looked back up the Wauchope towards the Park Brig.

To tell the truth, the wind was gusting so strongly at this moment that I couldn’t have kept the umbrella out of the shot even I had wanted to.

Once safely inside, I didn’t go out again except to collect some logs so that I could light the stove in the front room to keep me warm while I entered a week of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group database, caught up with my correspondence, practised some choir music, read blogs, and prepared this post later in the evening.

Our local weather station recorded an inch of rain today but we should get a much drier day tomorrow, although it will be quite windy.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, the poor quality of the picture perfectly matching the poor quality of the weather.

Footnote: I know that shouldn’t really complain about the comparatively harmless weather here when there are serious floods across the world in Western Australia and California, but all the same, a miserable day is a miserable day, and this was a miserable day. You can only complain about the weather that you get.


Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony who kindly forwarded this picture taken by his partner Marianne from her place of work this morning. Some workplaces have better views than others.

I had to be up and about quite sharply today. The new lens for the Archive Group microfiche reader had arrived and I went up to the Archive Centre to meet Nancy and put the lens to the test. After waiting for the best part of a month for the lens to come, it was a great disappointment to find that it didn’t fit our machine. I rang up the firm when I got home and they apologized and promised to send me one that fits. The pain of the failure was slightly eased by the view of a beautiful morning as I left the Centre.

At the concert last night, a visitor from Hawick had left a book at the box office in the hope that someone who knew Dropscone would come to the concert, take the book, and deliver it to him. I was that man, and I called in to deliver the book on my way home. A fine example of small town life.

When I got home, I filled the feeder and once again a lone goldfinch was the first to take advantage of the seed.

Other birds could be seen around the garden.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre to help out with putting brochures into envelopes while I entertained Sandy over coffee. The early sunshine didn’t last long come, and Sandy only just got home before it started to rain.

I looked about in the trees for more birds when Sandy left. A couple of black birds perched in the plum tree but wouldn’t stop still long enough for me to get a picture of them posing.

I then spent the rest of the morning getting ready to go for a bicycle ride, not going for a bicycle ride because it was raining, going for a bicycle ride because it had stopped raining, stopping cycling after a few hundred yards because it was raining again, and then eating lunch in a bit of a bad mood.

I looked out of the window from time to time to see what the weather was doing and saw a couple of greenfinches.

After lunch, I changed my cycling trousers for walking trousers and went for a walk, dressed for getting wet as the forecast for the afternoon was pretty poor. Naturally, it didn’t rain at all until I was early home, so I enjoyed my walk although I could easily have been cycling instead.

The Esk is not very full in spite of regular rain but it is quite lively.

There was a small flock of black headed gulls at the Kilngreen, with a lone black backed gull among them, standing out like a sore thumb.

I walked along the main road to the Rugby Cub and then, instead of taking the Newcastleton road up the hill, I took a track through the woods . . .

. . . coming out into the open to find that there was a little sunshine about, but not where I was.

I passed three dancing trees beside a sheep fold, and was amazed once again that they had survived another year in spite of their tenuous connection with the ground.

It was 5°C and there was a brisk and chilly wind blowing, so I was stunned to meet a young fellow wearing shorts and no jacket while walking his dog. I wasn’t tempted to take my warm coat off though.

I went round my favourite pine trees . . .

. . . and walked along the side of Whita Hill, more or less following the line of the pylons to Whita Well. Then I took the quarry track . . .

. . . along to the stile at the wall. At the stile, I paused and looked back over the town. My phone camera makes the day look quite a bit brighter than it actually was.

I continued to follow the line of pylons, actually going right underneath one at one point . . .

. . . on my way to join the new track down to Broomholmshiels.

It would be nice if the track followed the pylons over that hill in the distance but it dives down to the right and leaves the pylons to go their own way.

I took the road down the hill to get home and only stopped once as I passed the fine display of mosses, ferns and lichens on the wall beside the road. I thought that if I looked over the wall at just the right place, I might I might find a fruiting lichen. I looked over the wall in hope, and I did indeed find the lichen. It is very tiny and I had two goes at taking its picture.

The light was fading fast by this time and a light rain had begun to fall but it didn’t spoil the enjoyment I always get from this little bend in the road just before Skippers Bridge. There is something about the gentle curve that is irresistible.

I went home by way of the Murtholm and the newly cleared path along the river to the park . I glanced down the river bank just before I got to the park and saw an unexpected spot of colour. The zoom on my camera showed me that it was a fine fungus.

Although I had really wanted to go bicycling today, a six and a half mile walk with a bit of uphill in it was not to be sneezed at. I was quite tired by the time that I got home but there was no time to sit about and groan as I had to prepare for the camera club meeting in the evening. I tested the projector, downloaded some photographs which members had sent to me, chose some photographs for my own selection, and then made some macaroni cheese for our tea.

The meeting went well, with a lot of good photographs for the ten members (one of them a newcomer) to enjoy. The projector also behaved well, which was a relief.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, caught in the nick of time.

Musical pews, chairs and seats

Today’s guest picture comes from our granddaughter Evie who recently took her parents to enjoy the lights at Kew Gardens. As she is only three, it is possible that she commissioned one of her parents to take the actual photograph.

It was dull but dry when we got up, and Mrs Tootlepedal and I took different options when we went to sing in the church choir. She cycled but I walked with an umbrella in case it was raining when we came out. It was raining when we came out so I was quite pleased with my option.

There was a slightly bigger than usual congregation in the church and seven singers in the choir who made a joyful noise. As the hymns were generally both tuneful and cheerful, and the sermon wasn’t too long, I thoroughly enjoyed the service.

I filled the bird feeder when we got home, and after a reviving cup of coffee, I had a look to see if there were any takers for the seeds. A goldfinch was tucking in . . .

. . . and there were more birds waiting in the wings.

The feeder got quite busy and any spare perches were soon snapped up.

A greenfinch thought that it was too busy and rested on a nearby twig rather than compete for a place at the table.

I put the ingredients for a leek and potato soup into our new soup maker and while it cooking, I noticed that it had stopped raining. I took a little camera out into the garden to see if the pixie cup lichens held any water after a rain shower. It turned out that they are probably too small to let a raindrop in, let alone store one

Having come out into the garden, I I stayed out long enough to find a thriving peltigera lichen on the lawn . . .

. . . and then continued my wanderings past encouraging growth on a tree peony and in the rhubarb patch.

There are green shoots on every side. I think that these ones are snowdrops in waiting.

As well as different lichens, there is plenty of moss to be found in the garden.

We planned to include a little shopping on our trip to Carlisle for our Community Choir practice and as this meant an earlier start than usual, I came in from the garden to enjoy the freshly made soup with bread and cheese for lunch. Although I had to buy the leeks for the soup, the potatoes came from our garden, and we still have quite a lot left in store which is very encouraging.

I had time after lunch for another look at the birds. The greenfinches had got tired of waiting and were flying in from all sides now.

A sparrow arriving on the feeder found that it had chosen an empty hole. A greenfinch didn’t let it get more than one foot down before showing that it wasn’t welcome.

And then there was just time for another quick walk round the garden to add to my moss and lichen collection of the day. I liked the different varieties of moss hanging over the edge of the pond . . .

. . . and although a patch of lichen on one of the path slabs looks quite dull at first sight. . .

. . . a closer look makes it seem much more interesting (to me at any rate).

I scattered some of the fallen seed from the feeder on to the middle lawn, and then took a look at the wall of the house . . .

. . .before going in and looking back out to see a greenfinch in control on the refilled feeder . . .

. . . and a blackbird and a collared dove enjoying the scattered seed

The shopping on the way to the choir practice went well, though it would have gone even better if both Mrs Tootlepedal and I had not forgotten one of the things that we had meant to buy.

Several new people turned up at the choir practice, and with 69 people singing, the most for a long time, we nearly exhausted all the chairs in the community centre where we practice. For one reason or another we have been singing the same songs for some time, so it was a treat to get some new music to sing today.

We didn’t have much time to linger over our evening meal when we got home, because we had tickets for a Viennese Gala concert given by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra at the Buccleuch Centre.The orchestra had brought down a good complement of players and I think that there were about sixty musicians tonight. The program included included old favourites and one or two less well known pieces, and it was conducted and played with terrific zest and finesse. As it was introduced by a man who was both charmingly amusing and an excellent tenor, the whole evening was one of undiluted pleasure.

When we got home, I was able to finish off an excellent day with a selection of cheese, one of which I had purchased in the afternoon.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

A much better use of some sunshine

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Alistair who has visited his local park. It shows that Mr Grumpy’s relatives are branching out in Edinburgh.

After some heavy overnight rain, it was a relief to wake up to a dull but dry morning today, with the temperature well above freezing.

In these dark days at the turn of the year, we are in no hurry to get up and rush about, so we had a quiet time er the newspapers after breakfast until coffee. I did fill the feeder and the birds were far from having a quiet time themselves. As is so often the case, where there are siskins about, there is rude behaviour.

I only watched the birds for a minute or two, but there was enough action to keep my shutter finger busy.

In the more peaceful world underneath the feeder, I saw two sorts of pigeon.

I was just thinking of what I might do with my day when I looked out of the window and saw that the sun was shining. A check on the forecast showed that this might continue to be the case for at least a couple of hours, so I forwent my lunch, ate a banana and a slice of bread and marmalade, put on my cycling clothes, and went off for the first pedal of 2023.

Because there was a noticeable wind coming from the south I went down to Canonbie by the direct and sheltered route and not by my more usual route across the open hill. As I went across the river, I could see that the overnight rain had raised the river level considerably.

Nevertheless, because it was the middle of the day, there was even a little heat from the sun as I pedalled along, and I was happy to stop and take pictures to show what a nice day it was as I went through the Hollows.

The wind wasn’t as fierce as the forecast had suggested it might be, but I was still pleased when I got to the bottom of the Canonbie bypass and turned onto the road to Glenzier with the wind now helping me.

Once again I was happy to pause on my way to take pictures, this time of some of the many trees beside the road.

I liked the effect created by the muck spreading on the field.

I was glad to see that the rain had washed any thorns from the hedge clipping off the road

A conifer for variety

The clouds behind this tree made me decide not to take too many more pictures but to concentrate on pedalling for a while.

The rain had deposited quite a lot of water in the seasonal ponds further along my route. In fact, the one at the bottom of the Tarcoon hill was spreading over the road.

There were no ducks swimming about on it, but it still made for a very pleasant pastoral scene.

If the main road to Dumfries had been relatively quiet on our trip yesterday, the back roads that I was on today . . .

. . . were even quieter and the views were pretty good too.

I don’t think that I met more than half a dozen cars on the last 11 miles of my journey today.

The second seasonal pond was duck free too today.

Sadly those background clouds crept over my head and the sun disappeared just before my final photographic pause to admire some unexpectedly bright bushes beside the busy burn at the Kerr.

I bustled on home after that, but not quite fast enough to get my average speed over 12 mph. Still, it was a very enjoyable outing. I included a short diversion down to the river in the town when I got back to the town to try to take another picture of the high waters, but rather surprisingly, the level had dropped quite a bit while I had been cycling so I kept my camera in my pocket.

Mike Tinker dropped by as I got into the house, and we had a cup of tea and an exchange of news with Mrs Tootlepedal. When Mike left, I spent some useful time finishing off putting a week of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group’s database, and practising some singing in preparation for returning to our choirs tomorrow.

A quiet evening in followed.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

Not the best use of some sunshine

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Elizabeth, last seen organising the Whisky Run here on New Year’s Day. She was at home in Linlithgow yesterday when a goldcrest cannoned into her window, stunning itself in the process. She held out a helping hand, and it soon recovered and flew off. It is a beautiful but very tiny bird.

goldcrest in hand

The weather gods will have their little laugh, and knowing that I had to go across to Dumfries for a hospital visit today, they organized some blue sky and sunshine just to annoy me.

I got up rather late this morning, and between having coffee, grappling with the crossword, and getting ready to go, I only had time for a very brief look at the birds. It was goldfinch city today.

goldfinches on feeder

I had my camera in my pocket while I waited for Dropscone to come and pick me up, so I had a look at the lichen beside the drive to pass a minute or two.

pixie cup lichen
pixie cup lichen

Luckily for me, Dropscone had an appointment at the same hospital as me and almost at the same time as mine, so he very kindly gave me a lift across. He is an excellent driver, and I had a very comfortable journey with time to look around at the beautiful weather as we went along.


The main road from Annan to Dumfries is often very busy with lorries going to and from Ireland, but we had the road almost to ourselves today.


There are expansive views over the Nith Valley as you approach Dumfries.


To make a good journey even better, we found found an empty parking space in the usually very crowded car park at the hospital. I was seen very promptly and I had time for a coffee before the consultation and a wander round the grounds afterwards. I came across this small stone circle . . .

stone circle sculpture

. . . and wondered what it was all about. There was a handy notice to answer my question.

stone circle sculpture

Hmmm. I liked the little stone circle but I find it quite easy to remember the people who love and protect me without standing anywhere in particular.

Dropscone soon appeared from his consultation, and the drive home was as painless as the drive out had been, although we had to put up with a shower of rain on our way.

Needless to say, the weather will be taking a turn for the worse tomorrow, and we are in for another wet and windy week ahead if the forecast is to be believed.

It was too late to go for a walk by the time that I had got home, so I spent some time putting more of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database. The new lens has come for the microfiche, and if it is suitable, it means that the data miners will be able to get back to work. I had better try to reduce my backlog of sheets as soon as possible.

The flying bird of the day is not flying. It had been flying but it was resting when I saw it.