The day turned upside down

Today’s picture is a mystery. I was looking out for waxwings when I saw this bird. Any suggestions as to what it might be?

It was another brilliant but very cold morning and Mrs Tootlepedal and I saw this flight of geese flying westwards over Langholm, perhaps headed for Caerlaverock.



I t was far too frosty to go bicycling so, in a reversal of normal practice, I did my archiving in the morning to keep up with my schedule and went cycling after lunch.

turning point

It was still only 4º when I set out at 2 0’clock so I stuck to the main road southwards. I went through Canonbie village and along down towards Longtown. I had hoped to get a cup of tea from the food stall in the lay-by at my turning point but the stall was just being closed up as I arrived.

I headed back to Canonbie and stopped to take this shot of Canonbie Church, which was looking very nice, I thought, in the low sunlight.  It was only 3 o’clock but it felt like evening

pathThe route home, like yesterday, took me up the morning run in reverse and because the road did not seem icy, I went along the new cycle path.  This picture shows the very end of the old road where it was cut off by the new road which you can see coming down the hill from the left. The cycle path uses the extreme right hand edge of the old road.



Here you can see the new road and the cycle path side by side. The path runs past a lay-by where considerate motorists leave broken glass from time to time to make cyclists’ life more interesting. The path ends just before a blind corner and leaves you with a narrow and dark section of the main road to negotiate before you get to Skippers Bridge.


I got home in the gathering gloom and used my new back light as a precaution on the last bit of the main road back into Langholm. You have to start early now if you want to cycle in the afternoon.

Mrs Tootlepedal, meanwhile, had take the car up to the White Yett and gone for a walk on Whita Hill round the back of the Monument. She was looking for signs of the boundary markers for the Common Moss. They are not easy to find. Among other pictures, she took this fine shot looking down towards the Castle Craigs.whita

Although I have said before that the birds do not seem to come to the feeders on bright frosty mornings, they proved me wrong again today and were out in force. I count five goldfinches in this shot and this was one of the quieter moments.finchesI also liked this blue tit which stood very still for me which is rare.bue tit

In the evening, I went slot car racing. All the tracks were working well, and all the cars were in good condition. This is not always true, as electrics are very moody. When they do work, it is great and a first rate night of racing was had.

Nuclear reaction

Toady’s picture is a goldfinch. We had a flying visit from a few waxwings this morning but I don’t want the goldfinches to feel neglected.finch

It was Sunday, the weather was cold but reasonably fair so it was out with the bike after giving the morning an hour or so to warm up to 5º. Mrs Tootlepedal went off to plant some community daffodil bulbs as part of her contribution to the Big Society. She would like to point out that she was doing this before Dave C thought of it would be a good idea.

I had been getting some nasty noises from the drive train when I went out on Wednesday on the speedy(ish) bike so I had given everything a good clean and applied some severe weather lubricant to the chain. This had a wonderful effect and the drive was as smooth as butter today.

windmillsI went off up the Wauchope Road towards Lockerbie and at the top of Callister paused to take this shot of the power source of tomorrow. There is a lot of criticism of wind power as being inefficient but I see it as an outward and visible sign of the recognition that something must change in the way we live, even if windmills are not going to be an important part of the future. (As a side remark, I may say that if you are a cyclist, you find claims that the wind doesn’t blow enough to power windmills regularly to be obviously untrue, as it is always windy when you are out on your bike… Or at least it seems like that.)

I turned left at Falford and went down towards Waterbeck. Before I got to the village, I turned left and followed one of my favourite pieces of road through the tiny settlement at Gair. It’s my favourite because the road here had been extensively resurfaced and for about two to three miles has the finest surface to ride on in the whole district. I have been puzzling to think why this very quiet stretch should have had such good treatment and it occurred to me today, because I was thinking about windmills, that perhaps it has been done up because they are going to be putting in some more windmills round here soon and perhaps they are going to use this section of road to bring them in. We shall see.

Anyway, I went through Eaglesfield, across the motorway and took the road towards Annan. At the top of the hill I could see a bit of the past in energy generation.chapelcross1

This is Chapelcross nuclear power station and they are very slowly and, I hope, very carefully, demolishing it. It was built as part of the arms race to provide tritium for nuclear weapons. The power it provided was a side benefit. It never provided power at an economic price but it was a big local employer and is much missed.  Bring on the wave and tide power machines.

After a pause at Chapelcross for a banana and half a Kit-Kat, I headed downhill to the coast road between Eastriggs and Gretna.  I took this picture of a side road in Eastriggs. EastriggsThe road sign says Melbourne Avenue. I had already passed Ladysmith Road and I was soon to pass Ottawa Road, Calcutta Road,  Delhi Road, Brisbane Road and Vancouver Road. This imperial nomenclature reflects an earlier arms crisis. During the first world war, the world’s biggest factory was built along the coast between Gretna and Annan to make cordite and Eastriggs was one of the villages built to house the workers.

I headed on through Gretna and the Gretna Green and took a back road from there into England. I try to take interesting pictures of my trips but I thought I ought to include a glimpse of the sort of quite dull back roads that I use a lot.back road

This is the road between Cubbyhill and Battenbush and is typical of the back roads to the south and west of Langholm. I joined the A7 for a short while until I got to the border where I stopped to take this picture of the toll house there. toll houseI include this because toll houses figure largely on my cycle rides. There is one at each end of Langholm, one eight miles north at Fiddleton and this one which is eight miles south.

I left the new A7 as soon as I crossed into Scotland and headed up to Langholm using the route of our usual morning ride in reverse. The journey worked out at 44 miles and I went at a steady 15.5 mph because my hip was a bit sore after playing golf yesterday.

In the evening, I put in a week of the E&L. Owing perhaps to the recent change of editorship in the paper, it was packed with stuff and it took me ages to type it in. I hope the new editor doesn’t keep this up or I shall be exhausted not to mention the poor archivists who have to write it all down in the first place..


From hero to zero

Today’s picture was taken by my sister Mary on holiday in the Lake district last weekend. She thought it would make a good addition to the tree trunk pictures favoured by Mrs Tootlepedal.

tree trunk

waxwingsThe day dawned brilliantly and to make things better, the waxwings returned to the walnut tree. They came and went in small flocks for the best part of half an hour before moving on to berries new.





I am still trying to get a nice crisp picture of a single bird but they won’t come and sit on a telephone wire nearer the house which is the only way that I’ll get a good shot.

The slightly different sky colour is down to my photo editor as I try to get the sharpest picture.


Being Saturday, I had an early lunch and Mrs Tootlepedal took me up the the golf course as she needed the car to go to the Embroiderers’ Guild meeting in the afternoon.

Dougie, the competition organiser on the practice green

It was a great day for golf once again. We have been lucky as far as the weather goes in recent weeks.

Dropscone and Tootlepedal wearing matching hats

Although the sun was out, the temperature was chilly at the start because of a nippy wind and woolly hats were the order of the day. I am wearing mine courtesy of a generous gift from Dropscone who acquired them on a trip to Germany to visit old swimming friends.

Throught the luck of the draw, I played with Dropscone in a two ball. I managed a great start, hitting the ball steadily up the middle and not missing any putts. I thought this might be going to be my day. 18 points is the standard score for 9 holes and I had scored 12 points after the first four holes.

All good things come to an end though and I only managed to add nine more points over the next five holes. Even so 21 points was a good score at the half way point.

Dropscone approaching the second green



Dropscone has been having lessons and was attempting to put them into practice. The result of this was a slightly uneven round marked by some fine tee shots as the lessons paid off. As an additional bonus, no dogs ate his golf balls. (See his comment on Thursday’s blog)

The second nine holes was a disaster for me as I could only scrape together the same number of points in nine holes as I had managed in four holes on the first nine. Dropscone improved slightly but neither of us took anything from the sweep at the end of the round.



I consoled myself by snapping this toadstool below the sixth green. Dropscone can be seen lurking in the background.




I had a couple of ginger beers in the clubhouse and then trudged rather sadly back home in some drizzly rain which had appeared from nowhere to round off a bad end to the afternoon. At least I could look back on some wonderful views from the course which made up for the rotten golf.

I took this picture of the walnut tree this morning while I was waiting for some waxwings to re-appear. walnut


Lapping it up

The first visit this year of a siskin. The weather was horrible and it was difficult to get a good picture but now that they have arrived, I should get an opportunity soon.


Dropscone phoned early this morning and as the weather was very windy and pouring with rain, we agreed to give the morning ride the go by.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I passed the time by staring at some waxwings which had returned again today. The day was so gloomy that there was no hope of getting a good shot of an individual bird today.



I ate a leisurely breakfast, had three extra slices of toast, waited for the rain to stop and then got my slow bike out. When it is as windy as this, I like to keep as sheltered as possible so I rode up to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back three times to make up my twenty miles.

Pool cornerI took a picture for each lap. This shows the caul at Pool Corner and gives a good idea of how much rain there had been overnight. The wind was straight in my face going up to Wauchope Schoolhouse and on the heavy bike, I was reduced to 6 or 7 mph from time to time even on the fairly level sections. The secret is to get in a very low gear, pedal steadily and think of something else as you go along. Of course, It is a different story coming back downhill and downwind.


On the second lap, I captured this relaxed herd of belted Galloway calves. They were so small that they almost looked like pigs. They are very strongly marked and the white stripe could easily do duty in a soap powder ad, it is so bright. I did take another picture on this lap but while I was taking it, a large lorry passed me and threw up a six foot wall of water from a puddle which absolutely drenched me and spoiled the photo.

heronI noticed this heron on the third lap. It is also at Pool Corner. When it saw me, it stared at me for a while and then got up and walked slowly into the wood behind.

I completed the 20 miles at 11mph which gives a good idea of how tough I found the going. As usual, a good cup of coffee helped ease the pain.

After lunch, the task of the day was to fix my reclining chair which had unceremoniously  deposited Mrs Tootlepedal onto the floor last night. When we took it to bits, we found that the central holding piece to which the legs are attached had broken. Surprisingly, it was only made of plastic. I took it up to Latimer’s to ask them to send for a replacement part and even more surprisingly, they said they couldn’t get one because the chair was too old. It is a sign of the times, as the old fogies say, when a chair that is a bare eight years old, is too old. What does that make me? (No need to answer that.) In the end, and after several journeys to and from Latimer’s, a solution was found. We took three jubilee clips, joined them together and then squeezed the legs and the plastic block together again. The chair seems to work well. Dr Tinker sat in it tonight and never fell off once.

When the chair repair had been completed, I took a few moments off to look at the feeders. Mrs Tootlepedal longs for new and more exciting birds but I am quite content at the moment to look at what we have already.crowdThere is quite enough activity to keep me interested. The different birds, as I have remarked before, seem very happy to share the feeders and this makes for varied viewing.

Here is a siskin and a bluetit….

siskin and tit…and here is a goldfinch and a siskin.goldfinch at siskin

In the evening, Mike and Alison Tinker came. They had just returned from a short holiday near Oban where the weather had been challenging to say the least. While Mike enjoyed a small French lager and conversation with Mrs Tootlepedal, Alison and I waded into Handel in C and then Handel in a minor. The evening was rounded off by a small hot chocolate for the ladies (as the Pub Landlord might say) and a small lager for me.

Wet and windy

Today’s flower is a cotoneaster snapped last weekend. I may have used it before but I am so fuddled that I can’t remember.


I had to go and give a drop or two of blood this morning to check on the dreaded cholesterol.  My bad cholesterol has not been bad but my good cholesterol has been far too low. This is very unfair since it is supposed to be encouraged by exercise of which I take a reasonable amount. Anyway I have been put on statins and today’s test was to check whether the pills have been working. Of course there is no way of knowing if I could stop taking them if the results are good because drug companies never do any research into the effects of stopping taking their products unless they know it means bad news for you. If the results are good, I am tempted to stop taking the tablets and get another test to see what happens…..but I probably won’t.

waxwingsAs you can see, the waxwings were back again today. They are most handsome birds. I think they like the walnut tree because it must be one of the few tall trees in our part of New Langholm in among the gardens. They fly off in small groups, presumably to pick a berry or two, and then they return and pose for a bit. Then suddenly and without warning, they all go off at once.

The waxwings have made us famous and we got a mention in the local paper on their account this morning. I have sent the paper the picture above and wait to see if they publish it next week.

We didn’t cycle today because of the blood test and the generally foul windy, wet weather but Mrs Tootlepedal bravely went for a good four mile walk in the lashing rain and gales in the afternoon.

Mrs Tootlepedal went out again at 7pm to be part of a brains trust at the Ewes WRI but I didn’t leave the house at all today until I went to the Archive Centre in the evening with Sandy. A new  pair of indexers have just started and I am faced with five weeks of the paper to put into the database this week. I got one put in at the Centre tonight but I will have keep up to the mark in the week ahead to stop getting overwhelmed. We then went as usual to the Douglas for a pint of beer research and I have to report that it was excellent tonight.


Not a frost at all

Today’s picture is of an unexpected return of a flock of waxwings, back on the walnut tree at getting up time.morning flock

It was an absolutely gorgeous day but very cold. There was no morning cycling because the temperature didn’t get above 3º  until after eleven o’clock. This gave me the chance to nip downstairs and get the camera and take a few shots of the flock. Through the magic of the photo editor, you can see an individual waxwing below. They are too far away on the top of the walnut tree for me to get a really good shot but the picture does give you an idea of what they are like. They didn’t stay long.


Arthur and Dropscone came round for morning coffee and Dropscone had baked some of his excellent drop scones instead of cycling. Mrs Tootlepedal returned after having her hair cut and joined us so it was a merry company that enjoyed a cup of High Mountain coffee which had been purchased yesterday in Carlisle. During the conversation, Arthur and Mrs Tootlepedal arranged to swap azaleas from the golf course to our garden and vice versa as the size and colour would  apparently be more suitable in their new positions than the old.

When our visitors had left, I set about making minestrone soup. This is a laborious business and I didn’t have my lunch until 1.30. While I was having lunch, a neighbour rang up to ask if I had seen the flock of waxwings on the walnut tree. They had obviously come back again but by the time I looked out of the window, they had disappeared again. Shortly after lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal set out for a walk round the Kernigal and I got the bike out for a trip up the Wauchope Road to the Grange Quarry and back. This is a twenty mile round trip and I chose it because the wind would be behind me coming back, which it was.

The shadows fall at the ten mile mark


It was very sunny when I set off but at the turning point, a miserable cloud came up. It was lying exactly above the road. To each side, as well as behind and in front, I could see the sun but I was cycling in a chilly gloom.




Coming up to Callister, I could see snow on Skiddaw to my right, and the sun glinting on a glimpse of Solway behind me between the dark cloud and the deep shadow.

Snow on Skiddaw and Blencathra


The glint of sun on the Solway in the distance

waxwings again

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal had returned and we were just having a warming cup of tea when a few waxwings reappeared. I rushed out into the road to try to get closer to them and they obligingly stayed put for a while.waxwing




The waxwings were not the only birds in the garden and because the light was so good, I could get a fair shot of a blackbird and I tried to get some action shots of sparrows as well.







When I had finished this bout of photography, we went to see how the worms were doing in the cold. They seem to be surviving and they certainly have produced a vast amount of worm pee which we drew off into a bucket and which will act as an excellent fertiliser when the time comes. It has to be heavily diluted, it is so powerful.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went out to her pantomime rehearsal and I spent some time writing this blog. I leave you with one of the last leaves of Autumn on the plum tree, swaying gently in the sun this morning.


Sight seeing

Today’s picture is of the elusive coal tit at last.

There was no cycling today since I had to go to Carlisle Infirmary for a sight test. Mrs Tootlepedal kindly came with me because I was to have eye drops and would not be able to drive after the test.

There was a striking rainbow over the infirmary as we wandered round the car park vainly trying to find a parking space. In the end I got out and Mrs Tootlepedal drove off to park in a nearby street.

The new Cumberland Infirmary is a handsome building and one of the first to be built under the PFI scheme. Famously the lifts weren’t wide enough at first to take the trolleys but for all that, I think it is a handsome building and I don’t mind going there at all. The eye test was punctual and revealed no problem so we set off to do the town.

We parked the car and I went to visit my favourite shop which is Staples. I managed to contain my buying impulse, which is hard when you are confronted by so many things that would really improve your life like super duper pencil sharpeners and metallic finish envelopes. I did pick up one or two things though. Then on my way back to meet Mrs Tootlepedal, I acquired 500g of coffee beans from Watts’ coffee house and some excellent cheese from the market. This made it a thoroughly worthwhile shopping day for me.


Meanwhile, Mrs Tootlepedal went for a browse round her favourite shop. The Marks and Sparks in Carlisle has two inscriptions on its frontage which are a history lesson in miniature. I always enjoy looking at them.







After shopping, we met as arranged  for a wander round Waterstones. I picked up a book by Lawrence Block, a crime writer I enjoy, and while I was doing this,  I noticed that some wag had placed Tony Blair’s biography in the crime section too. I wouldn’t like to guess whether this was a customer or staff member’s idea.

coffeeWe had a croissant and a coffee in the cafe in the bookshop and then I went back to the car while Mrs Tootlepedal did a little extra browsing.

On our way back home we called in at a new laundry in Longtown to see if they laundered whole downies. They do and no doubt we will give them some business shortly.

Once at home, I did a little archive business and while I was doing it, Mrs Tootlepedal spotted the coal tit you can see above. I rushed to take its picture and for a miracle, it stayed on the feeder for a few seconds before flying away. I couldn’t get the camera on a tripod so the picture is not the best but it is better than anything I have managed with a coal tit so far.

There were no recorders tonight because of holidays and illness and so I didn’t have to go back to Carlisle for a second time today.

Wind up

Today’s picture  of an acacia tree in her town garden was sent to me by my sister Mary just to show that there is colour everywhere this Autumn.Acacia

In spite of dire weather forecasts and reports of gales and snow all around, the weather in Langholm was not too bad if a bit breezy so Dropscone and I set off round the morning ride as usual. It really was quite windy after we left the shelter of the town but fortunately, after a grind down to Canonbie, the wind was behind us on the exposed middle section. Although it was against on the way back from Wauchope Schoolhouse, we managed to get home in good order.

catWe often watch the birds at the feeders while we have our coffee and Dropscone has kindly sent me the picture on the left to demonstrate why his garden is a comparatively bird free zone. I must say that my love for cats can be described as extremely modified at best and non existent at worst. They dig up plants, make messes and chase birds in other people’s gardens. I wouldn’t mind them so much if they kept their depredations to their owner’s premises.



The weather was cold and windy but the feeders here were full of birds. The only thing that seems to keep them away is very bright, very frosty weather.




I keep trying to get a good picture of a coal tit but it, or they, go out of their way to be annoying. I had the camera set up, the focus right, the exposure just so and then a coal tit arrived at the feeder and deliberately went round the back. I don’t know how they do it. I’ll catch it one of these days.annoying


In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went to the AGM of the Langholm Recycling Group. The group is a bit down in the dumps at the moment and only 7 people turned up in all. We are going to have another meeting in April with good advance notice to see if any interest in the future of the group can be drummed up. After the meeting, which only lasted 20 minutes, I went down to the bowling club pavilion to get the track ready for next week’s opening  meeting of the slot car racing season.

Flying around

Today’s garden picture of a holly bush with plenty of berries is a bit of a cheat in two ways. Firstly it was taken yesterday and secondly it is in a neighbour’s garden. We can see it though so I stuck it in anyway.


The forecast had been for a frosty morning with fog but the day dawned brilliantly sunny for the second day running. It was cold but not frosty. The temperature was still at 4ºC at 10 o’clock so I wrapped well and set off on the bike. I had thought of going north up into the hills but with the temperature so low that didn’t seem to be very wise and I set off, like last week, down to Longtown. I went along our morning ride cycle route avoiding the A7 after a couple of miles and going through Canonbie on the old road.

Hollow's TowerThe tower on the left is called Hollows or Gilnockie Tower and some people claim it is the tower of Johnny Armstrong whose grave I visited two or three weeks ago. It isn’t but it is a very fine example of a peel tower.

HollowsLooking across the fields behind the tower, you can see the bank of trees on the far side of the River Esk. They always look very fine in spring and autumn.


After Canonbie I rejoined the A7 and headed down to Longtown. This was one of the first planned towns in England but like Newcastleton across the border, it only came into being when a landlord decided to shift all his tenants into a town whether they liked it or not. It was built in squares with an allotment for every house in the centre of the each square and you can still see the archways on the High Street which allowed cart access to these areas.

From Longtown I headed straight down the A7 towards Carlisle. There had been big floods here on Friday but there was little sign of them today apart from some pools in the fields. At the Motorway junction, I took the road to Brampton and went through Low Crosby and then turned off to circle round Carlisle Airport.

helicoptersIt is more of a field than a port but it was busy today because the army had a set of helicopters parked there while they are doing exercises at Spadeadam nearby.



They weren’t flying today but three little planes took off while I munched a sandwich and a banana.

In the air


The planes look absolutely tiny when they are on the ground and they don’t look much bigger when they are in the air.


There is a car transporter firm near the airfield and at the beginning of the financial crash a couple of years ago, Mrs Tootlepedal and I drove round here and there were what looked like hundreds of empty car transporters parked in every available space. Things must be better now because there were only a few in the yard waiting to go out.

planeThere is an air museum at the airport with a selection of aircraft on display. It is one of the many places I mean to visit sometime.

After passing the airfield, I avoided going back onto the main road by turning left through the pretty village of Irthington.

treeThis led to going up the first hill of the day where i saw this striking tree. The hill out of Irthington is one of those annoying ones where no sooner have you got to the top than you have to go down the other side. When I got to the A6071 I then had to go up the same escarpment again.

NewtownWhen I got to the top of this hill, I was in Newtown where I had stopped and turned round on last week’s ride. It has a pretty green with a convenient seat for tired cyclists.

The day had been almost windless up to this point but from now on a light following wind helped to speed me on my way home so I was soon back in Longtown and on the A7 again. I stopped for another banana at the border and turned off to go back home through Canonbie and the old A7. On my way down I had decided to leave a pretty view at Gilnockie Bridge for the return journey.

EskOf course by the time I got there, the sunhad gone in. Not only that but it turned out that I had managed to put an oily thumb on the lens of the camera. (A very easy thing to do as the lens is right at the top left corner of the body). Hollows


The resulting pictures are not quite the tour de force I had hoped that they would be but I have put them in anyway.


I finished the trip with a little detour up the A7 north of Langholm to take a picture which I will use on the heritage DVD. It is a cottage that, like Wauchope cottage, is all that is left from a sizeable mill for which is was the office. The traffic lights you can see are at a bridge across the Ewes Water that is still called the High Mill bridge today.High Mill

The whole trip worked out at an even 50 miles which is mathematically very satisfying. There is an exciting new tree trunk on Mrs Tootlepedal’s page from her walk yesterday.

This little piggy

Today’s picture is of a flaming berberis in the Autumn sunshine.berberis

The morning dawned frosty and brilliantly sunny. This was the first Saturday in the month and the producers’ market was open at the sports hall and as we had promised Mrs Tinker to pick up some meat for her, off we went to market ourselves. I purchased fish, meat, soap, cheese (cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s) and potatoes. Mrs Tootlepedal was tempted by some home made bread.

sedumI would have showed you many and varied pictures of the market if I had remembered to take my camera but I didn’t so I can’t. However I did get the camera out when I got home because it was such a lovely day. The sedum was crowned with frost but ooks as though it will still survive.


blackbirdI caught this blackbird on top of the greenhouse. They are not the easiest birds to photographs because, perhaps not very surprisingly, they tend to come out black with no definition. The bright sunlight helped today.



frosty morningAs you can see, the start of the day was chilly but by midday it had warmed up and the weather was very pleasant as I went off to play golf in the winter competition. As usual, I played with Arthur but on this occasion we were joined by by Stewart Paisley too. This must have a very good effect on us because Arthur won the sweep for the best score of the day and I got second prize for the second best score. This was markedly different from the week before and was the more satusfactory for that.

While I was out golfing, Mrs Tootlepedal went for a vigorous walk up Castle Hill and back by Potholm. Unlike me, she remembered to take her camera and she has posted a Picasa Album of pictures from the walk. To whet your appetite, I show two below….

…a little furry friend


and a wonderful view of the Esk Valley