The moor and mist

Today’s guest picture shows some fine flying birds. They are officially sanctioned street art in Derby, and were captured by my brother Andrew.

After yesterday’s uncharacteristically sunny day, the weather gods reverted to type and produced a grey, windy, and wet morning here. On the other hand it was very warm for the time of year.

We were in no hurry to get out and about, and I waited until after coffee with Margaret before I cycled round to the corner shop, grateful that the rain had stopped for a while.

I had a look at the bird feeder after lunch and found a goldfinch who looked as fed up with the weather as I was.

After a calm moment . . .

. . . things got much busier . . .

. . . and a goldfinch flew round in circles trying to find a spare perch.

I’m going for a guided walk over the moor on Saturday, so I thought it would be a good idea to give my legs a bit of practice by having a walk today. I studied the forecast with considerable interest. It said it was going to rain very heavily all afternoon. However, when I looked at the cloud map, it seemed as though Langholm might be on the very bottom edge of the rain area, so I thought it worth the risk, put on my magic waterproof trousers, and went for a walk around Whita.

It is good to see plenty of water flowing down our rivers after so many weeks with just a trickle in them . . .

As you can see from the picture above, the clouds were down on our hills, and although it wasn’t actually raining, there wasn’t much in the way of views as I walked up the hill, and none at all when I got to the White Yett and looked over the Langholm moor.

At 900 feet above sea level, I was well in the cloud here, and although it wasn’t raining, it was fairly moist as I walked down towards the track to Middlemoss. Ahead of me, a couple parked their car at the start of the track, got out, walked a little way down ahead of me, and then stopped and looked around.

They were looking at the wild goats and the wild goats were looking at them.

I left them to their mutual admiration and walked on down the track.

When I came to the Tarras Water, the ford looked a little too exciting for me . . .

. . . so I walked down the riverbank and took the less exciting bridge option.

Although it was undoubtedly still a very dull day, I was out of the cloud now, and able to look around as I walked along the track past Cronksbank and back down to the Tarras Water again.

A field of bracken beside the river was just turning gold, and it added an unexpected touch of colour to the grey day.

I took the track from Broomholmshiels back to the town, and found a couple more bursts of colour on my way . . .

. . . and another fine fungus caught my eye, even it wasn’t so striking as the red toadstool.

I had done a few miles by this time, and the need for a cup of tea and a slice of fruity malt loaf was more pressing than the urge to take more pictures, so I headed home as fast as I could. I was helped in this resolve by the fact the zoom function on my little Lumix had given up the ghost, and I fear the camera will have to go to the repairers. Luckily, I had my phone with me and a lot of the pictures in this post were taken with the camera on the phone and not the one in my pocket.

It was too dark on such a gloomy day to take any pictures in the garden when I came back, so the consumption of the cup of tea and the slice of fruity malt loaf signalled the end of my active participation in life until tomorrow, when it may brighten up in the afternoon.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

Going somewhere

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce and shows people having a row in Lossiemouth Harbour in the north east of Scotland.

The optimistic forecast for better weather today proved to be quite correct, and we woke up to blue skies and bright sunshine. Life is rarely quite perfect though, and a temperature of three degrees Celsius was a bit of a shock when I went out to test the air. It meant that I had to wait for a while until the thermometer crept up to 6 degrees before I set out for my projected bicycle ride. A nice slice of toast and an enjoyable crossword helped me pass the time.

All the same, I was pretty wellwrapped up in spite of the sunshine when I set off down the main road south.

Just before I got to Longtown, I turned off and headed to cross country towards Gretna Green, stopping on the way when I came to the Black Sark.

Although there was plenty of water in the river, things were a lot calmer than they were when we went for our wet walk a couple of days ago. A van was parked on the bridge, and it turned out that a countryside ranger was installing new steps for the footpath which runs along the river bank.

Although the steps were not finished the Ranger kindly let me try them out . He told me that he’d seen a couple of otters just below the bridge when he arrived in the morning . Sadly there were no otters by the time that I arrived . 

I headed onwards towards Gretna Green and found that a wedding was in progress beside the curious sculpture at the visitor centre.

I imagine that it is supposed to represent enduring love, but it always looks to me much more like the bungled burial of an unfortunate partner after a serious domestic dispute.

It was warm enough by now for me to take a top layer off before I cycled down to the shore of the Solway Firth and looked across at the Lake District hills.

The recent rain seemed to have cleared the air and the view was much better than usual.

Cycling on through Gretna, I passed one of the churches built for the enormous workforce that arrived in the area to work in the cordite factory during the First World war.

The shadow cast by the clock face took me aback, and I needed some time to work out that the clock stands out from the wall by quite a distance.

Leaving Gretna, I cycled along the Solway shore until I came to Annan, where I stopped for a bite to eat and a chance to admire the fine bridge there.

The tide was in so the river above the bridge was full but very calm.

From Annan, I took a quiet back road . . .

. . . to Brydekirk. Then I joined a busier road down to another bridge across the River Annan, this time at Hoddom.

The was a benchmark on the bridge and lots of the invasive Himalayan balsam beside the river.

Looking up at the sky as I had a second honey sandwich to keep me fuelled up, I was struck by the clouds above.

Leaving the River Annan behind me, I now turned for home by way of the burnt out church at Hoddom Cross . . .

. . . which has some fine trees near it . . .

. . . and then I passed through Ecclefechan, Middlebie and Waterbeck. The road from Ecclefechan to Waterbeck is very undulating, and I was so busy pedalling that there was no time to take pictures.

I took a last look at the flat farming country near Falford before starting the climb up Callister and the return to our local hills.

I was going to arrive at Langholm a couple of miles short of my intended distance, so I took a diversion up to Cleuchfoot, which let me enjoy the light and shade as the Glencorf Burn comes down to the road.

This diversion was just enough, and the cycle computer ticked over to 50 miles as I came through the garden gate.

I had a walk round the garden before going in and saw that flowers had survived the heavy rain . . .

. . . and there were even a couple of butterflies to be seen.

Mrs Tootlepedal kindly made me a cup of tea and then I went for a shower. Looking out of an upstairs window, I was once again impressed by the late Michaelmas daisies.

I didn’t have much time to look at the bird feeder today but I found a moment to spot two sparrows . . .

. . . and a rather casual dude landing on one foot.

Down below, a dunnock was picking up fallen seed.

A sibling Zoom and some more apple fritters finished off a very satisfactory day, though the cold morning was an unwelcome reminder that summer is well and truly in the past.

There is no flying bird today so its place is taken by a goosander swimming in the River Annan.

Footnote: I append a map of my bike ride. Those interested can get more details by clicking on the map.

Going nowhere

Today’s guest picture is another from one of my brother Andrew’s walks. He knows that I like canal bridges. This one is on the Trent and Mersey canal.

We had a day of rain here today . I wouldn’t say that it rained heavily all day, but when it wasn’t raining heavily, it was raining fairly heavily. To add insult to injury, just as the end of the day occurred , the rain stopped . 

As there were two inches of rain in Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge when I looked after breakfast this morning, I think we can say that we’ve had quite enough rain for the time being. Luckily, tomorrow does look as though it’s going to be a better day.

As it was cold and occasionally very gusty outside, there was very little temptation to do anything else except skulk about inside the house. I did look out of the window from time to time, and saw a jackdaw on the bird feeder before coffee.

The morning was uneventful, though Margaret came round for coffee and I walked round to the shop in the rain. Quite surprisingly, the rivers had actually gone down a bit, and were doing a very good job of draining the rain away.

I looked out at the birds again at lunchtime and saw some rather indistinct chaffinches in the gloom.

It seemed to have been a long time since I last went for a cycle ride, so I pulled myself together and went for a ride on the bike to nowhere in the garage for an hour in the afternoon.

The nearest that I got to going out into the garden was standing at the back door after my bike ride and peering through the rain at any flowers that I could see.

Sadly, the French marigolds look as though they have run out of steam but the sedums are looking very well.

The dahlias are gradually fading away but there are quite a few hanging on.

It wasn’t a day for dead heading.

The sweet peas on the fence are doing their best but I wasn’t tempted to go out and pick them for a vase.

The sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a dunnock creeping about behind a flower pot.

It came out for a moment . . .

. . . but soon crept back under the leaves for shelter.

A collared dove braved the rain in its search for a snack.

Up above, a greenfinch and a sparrow looked as gloomy as the weather.

A little flock of goldfinches arrived to take over the feeder . . .

. . ., and two of them took a dim view of a chaffinch trying to join them.

I had a shower after my bicycle to nowhere, and then a forgettable day faded away, although I did make apple fritters for afters at our evening meal.

With a high of 10°C, three quarters of an inch of rain and wind gusts of 30 mph today, it won’t take much for tomorrow to be a better day. If the forecast is to be believed, we will see some welcome sunshine. Fingers crossed.

The flying bird of the day is a rear view of one of those late afternoon goldfinches.

Heavy rain

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. One of his sons took him on a walk to visit this church at Bredon on the Hill yesterday.

I found another inch and a half of rain in our rain gauge when I got up and had a look today. Not content with that, it rained as hard as it could during the morning, especially while I was outside.

After breakfast, I had to walk down to the Langholm Initiative office on newsletter business, and it was lucky I had a large golf umbrella to protect me from a very heavy shower. When I came back across the suspension bridge, I could see by looking at the two tone river that there had been more rain up the Wauchope valley than up the Esk valley.

We had coffee with our neighbours Liz, Ken and Margaret, and then I ventured out once again.

It was raining even harder as I went round to the corner shop. I hadn’t brought my phone with me because of the very wet conditions, so I can’t show you a picture of the water bubbling up from the drain covers in the middle of the road as I went along Elizabeth St. This picture of the bird feeder, taken from the shelter of the house when I got home, will have to do.

The rain did ease off while I made some potato soup for lunch, and there were better conditions at the bird feeder . . .

. . . and I was delighted to see a little wren popping about on the fake tree.

I was not so happy to see that the sparrowhawk had come back for his lunch on our lawn again.

I know that birds of prey have to eat like every other bird, but it is rather sad when it is our small birds that are taken. If the hawk comes again tomorrow, I will take down the feeder for a day or two so it doesn’t make a habit of visiting our garden.

After lunch, we decided to go for a walk to stretch our legs in the hope that the next shower would take its time before arriving. I had a quick look round the garden before we left and was pleased to see the Lilian Austin rose having another burst of life, along with handsome dahlias and the striking lily . . .

. . . but my current favourites are the wonderful tall Michaelmas daisies.

It may have stopped raining, but there was no shortage of water on our walk. (Click on an image for the fuller picture.)

I visited my favourite cascade at Bessie Bell’s. I didn’t like to get too close to the action.

Having looked at the swirling river above the cascade . . .

. . . Mrs Tootlepedal turned for home, but I kept going.

Looking back, it might have seemed like a peaceful, sunny day . . .

. . . but water was running off the hillsides all along the road and there was a brisk wind.

I wandered up the road, enjoying the sights and sounds as I went.

There were small things to enjoy as well.

I was hoping to find some hazelnuts to pick, as Mrs Tootlepedal is very fond of hazelnuts, but I only saw a few, and most of them were too high for me to reach. There were a lot of very ripe blackberries, and I did pick one or two of those to eat as a refreshment from time to time.

I walked up as far as the little cascade below Wauchope Schoolhouse . . .

. . . and then I too turned for home.

There was more to see on the way back.

The weather was kind and it stayed dry for the whole six miles, quite often with some welcome sunshine too.

I got home in time for a cup of tea and a slice of toast before our regular Zoom with my brother and sisters. It started to rain shortly after I got in, so our walk was well timed.

We are due to have another wet and windy day tomorrow so I will have to start thinking about the bike to nowhere if this unfriendly cycling weather keeps going. It might get better towards the end of the week so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow, trying to find a free perch on the feeder in the morning rain.

A singsong Sunday

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She found a very nice day for a walk in the park earlier this week.

We didn’t have a generally nice day here today, though it did have some sunny moments. The trouble was that when it wasn’t sunny, it tended to rain, sometimes, quite heavily.

It was rather grey after breakfast when we were getting ready to go to sing in the church choir. There were plenty of birds at the feeder though, including a blue tit and a coal tit who both hid round the back of the feeder in a mean way.

The chaffinches were more co-operative.

We decided to risk cycling to church and got there and back again without getting rained on.

There was a good turnout by recent standards at the church choir, and as it was our harvest festival with small children in the congregation, we got both a short service and several enjoyable hymns to sing. We came home in a very good mood.

The weather brightened up and a set of goldfinches paid a visit to the feeder while we drank our coffee.

This shocked a chaffinch and stopped him in his tracks.

Within minutes, the goldfinches were replaced by sparrows . . .

. . . who like yesterday’s cows, made sure that they arrived in artistic formations. I was reminded of porcelain vases.

When I looked again an hour later, the sparrows had gone and a tentative greenfinch was checking out the situation.

With the coast clear, more greenfinches followed . . .

. . . in a never ending stream.

After lunch, I took a walk round the garden to see if the heavy overnight rain had left anything standing. The nicotianas and the salvias are more or less over, and a leaf was pointing the way to autumn . . .

. . . but other flowers were very resilient.

The Japanese anemones are looking a bit part worn . . .

. . . and most of the calendulas are gone now . . .

. . . but there was still a bee on a daisy . . .

. . . and plenty of life in the dahlias.

It is a pity that the sedums have come to their peak a little too late to attract any butterflies this year. Even the bees have deserted them, except for one late forager.

I managed to catch almost the last of the salvias just hanging on.

I did a little composting, and then went back inside just in time to avoid getting wet.

I had given myself a lateral flow test this morning because in the afternoon I was going to the first in-person meeting of the Carlisle Community Choir since the lockdowns began. The test was simple enough and the negative result was very satisfactory, although registering the result was more complicated.

Armed with a note of the result, I set off to the choir and the sun came out to cheer me on as I went.

I had purchased a special was,hable singing mask and it proved to be a good buy as I was able to sing quite naturally with it on. About 45 members turned up, and we were dispersed widely around a large room so the choral part of the singing was rather distant. All the same, our conductor was very pleased to be back in front of real people rather than a Zoom screen, and we were pleased to be back in front of her.

I was a good deal less pleased to get a soaking between opening the car door and getting into the house as it started pelting down just as I got home.

I am happy to get back to a two choir routine for a Sunday, but I will try harder to make sure that I don’t waste the time between choirs as I did today. There is plenty of time for a walk or even a short cycle ride if I get organised. Mrs Tootlepedal is not so keen on singing in a mask in a rather anti social situation so she is not coming to the Carlisle choir at the moment.

Mrs Tootlepedal made courgette fritters to go with our evening meal and that rounded off the day very well.

The flying bird of the day is one of the early chaffinches.

A change in the weather

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia. She had a furry rather than a feathered friend at her bird feeder yesterday.

We read a news item today saying that this September had been one of the warmest Septembers on record. It doesn’t look as though October is going to break any heat records, as it has started out being quite chilly and miserable. Additional clothing has been recruited.

We started the day very slowly after the excitements of foreign travel, and I had things to do on the computer, so it wasn’t until nearly lunchtime that I glanced out of the window

The birds seemed quite pleased that I was back and had filled the feeder . . .

. . . but they were probably quite a lot less pleased by the return of the sparrowhawk which had its lunch on our lawn.

Although it was keeping a wary eye out, it was quite happy for me to get several clear shots of it through the open back door before it flew off.

As there were no more small birds at the feeder thanks to the hawk’s visit, I made some lentil and carrot soup for lunch instead of bird watching.

It started to rain quite heavily and we were happy to lounge about after lunch until it stopped in the mid afternoon. The birds had returned to the feeder . . .

. . . and after watching them for a while, I put on my new waterproof trousers and went for a walk. The trousers worked their magic again. Although it rained in the town while I was out, it didn’t rain on me. To make things even more satisfactory, it started to rain again just as I got home.

I had a quick look round the garden before I left. The dahlias did have insects on them today in spite of the rain . . .

. . . and there are still plenty of flourishing flowers to be found.

All the same, it was a pretty gloomy day for a walk, even when the clouds lifted off the hills . . .

. . . but there were autumn leaves and crab apples to look at as I went along the track to the Becks Burn.

The last time that I came this way, I could almost have walked across the burn in carpet slippers. Today, I was glad that I had a bridge to cross. There was a lot of water going under the bridge.

Although the leaves on the trees are still mainly green, there is a definite autumnal feel to a walk now . . .

. . . and a cow that I passed agreed with me about that.

When I got down to the Auld Stane Brig and looked back up the hill, I saw that other cows were posing in the landscape in a slightly unnatural but artistic way, as though sketched in by a Dutch landscape artist.

I crossed the Auld Stane Brig and, after ducking under a fallen tree . . .

. . . I headed up the lower slopes of Warba. Looking up the Wauchope valley, the weather did not seem very promising to say the least. . .

. . . but it must have been these clouds which slipped past me and rained on Mrs Tootlepedal in our garden.

I paused to admire the skill with which engineers sling power lines across every fine view in our area . . .

. . . and then I walked through the Kernigal Wood, where the trees hide the pylons across the valley. . .

. . . and kept going until I came down to the Esk at Skippers Bridge.

There was a good flow of water running down the Esk, and every bridge that I passed on my way home had a purpose in life.

I walked back to the town up the bank of the Esk, noting flowers on the river bank and lichen on a fence . . .

. . . not to mention more flowers on the hedge which hides our water treatment works from passers by.

After four days with a lot of sitting down involved, I was pleased to have stretched my legs for just over four miles, especially as I had avoided getting wet. As it looks as though it is going to be wet and windy for the next three days, finding this little gap in the weather was very fortunate.

An evening meal of mince and tatties, followed by a dose of Strictly Come Dancing rounded off the day.

The flying bird of the day is that sparrowhawk making off with its lunch at speed.

Footnote: I found a conker in my pocket today which I had picked up on our Thames walk a couple of days ago. It is a pleasing memento of our trip.

Back home

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He has been on a short holiday where among other things, he enjoyed the sight of this church perched on the very edge of Rutland Water.

As we made our way back from Marlow to Langholm, we had a journey of many parts today. We started by being given a lift to the station at High Wycombe by Mrs Tootlepedal’s kind sister-in-law Frankie. We arrived at the station just in time to catch a fast train to Marylebone Station in London. The fact that it was a fast train gave us enough time to visit a Morrocan cafe before walking along to Euston Station where we met my sisters Susan and Mary, and enjoyed a chat with them, embellished with coffee and toast.

The train from Euston left on time and moved smoothly over the 300 miles to Carlisle in three and a bit hours. We had time to visit a bookshop before catching the bus to Langholm.

Our journey ended with a walk from the High Street to our house, crossing over the newly re-opened Suspension Bridge on our way.

The weather was sunny as our train sped north, but dark clouds loomed up over the hills across the valley as we got near Carlisle, and we were treated to a series of brilliant rainbows. They were not easy to catch through the speeding train’s window.

It was sunny while we waited for our bus opposite the Citadel in Carlisle . . .

. . . but there were dark clouds there too and we were treated to another rainbow.

It had obviously been raining in Langholm while we had been away, as there was quite a bit of water in the rivers, so we were a bit apprehensive as we approached the garden gate. There were over two inches of rain in our rain gauge when I looked, but our dahlias had kept their heads up pretty well, and were still smiling.

The tall Michaelmas daisies had survived, although they were leaning over . . .

. . . and the nerines seemed completely undaunted by the weather.

A little red rose was looking bit depressed . . .

. . . but Crown Princess Margareta looked totally cheerful.

The biggest surprise to me was how well the Stargazer lilies were doing.

I didn’t spend long in the garden as a cup of tea and a family Zoom beckoned from indoors.

Although it was brought about by the sad occasion of Mrs Tootlepedal’s mother’s funeral service, the visit to the south has been a good experience. The funeral service itself and the family gathering afterwards were both more uplifting than mournful events. When the riverside walk and the meeting with my sisters are added in, the whole trip will be remembered as a very positive time.

The weather for the next few days looks as though it is going to be both cold and wet, so we may not feel quite so happy to have got home as we feel now.

I hope to get back to normal service in writing a full blog, and reading and commenting on other people’s posts tomorrow.

A riverside walk

After a quiet morning in, I went for a walk on a grey and breezy afternoon with Mrs Tootlepedal and her brother and sister in law who have kindly been putting us up for our stay in the south.

Mike drove us a few miles to Hambleden lock on the Thames and we walked across the river above the very impressive weir and along the river back towards Henley, home of the celebrated rowing regatta.

I append a gallery of rather grey pictures from a grey but very enjoyable walk. We liked the intermittent footpath sign which indicated that our walk would be interrupted if the lock gates were open.

We go home tomorrow.