Back again

Today’s flower is a Michaelmas daisydaisy

Although I managed to get round the morning cycle ride with Dropscone quite comfortably, a little back pain from when I got out of bed got progressively worse during the day and it has certainly ruled out cycling tomorrow. I am hopeful that it is just a spasm and a judicious mixture of rest and exercises will get me back to functionality soon.

shreddings While I was out replenishing my stock of coffee beans and delivering booklets to the Archive Centre, Mrs Tootlepedal donned her wellies, leapt into the dam behind the house and cut down great quantities of shrubs and small trees. This lead to a good pile for the shredder and a handy collection of kindlers and small logs for the fire in the old sitting room. We need to have a fire in there to keep the end wall as warm and dry as possible in view of the shortly to arrive gales and rain.

While I was clipping the shrubs into shape, Mrs Tootlepedal was off again. She went back to the bed at the Townfoot to continue the attack on unwanted vegetation as part of a  small party of volunteers of mature ladies. I would, of course, have offered to help out if it hadn’t been for my bad back.

bookletsThe rest of day was of necessity pretty quiet for me but I managed to finish printing off some booklets for the Archive Group and the Tourist Information Points in the town.

These provide a source of income for the group except for the Cycle Routes leaflets which are a public service and for which I get some reimbursement. I enjoy doing these but it will be good when the new Town Heritage Trail booklet is completed as the present town trail booklet is rather skimpy. I am in the process of making a second cycle route booklet but doing the maps for it is a tedious process which I keep putting off.

The picture below shows the Kangoo with Mrs Tootlepedal’s tool on her return from her hard work at Townfoot.


Twice as much fun

Today’s flower is a climbing nasturtium seen on a yew clipped to look like a chessmanclimbing nasturtium

nasturtium flowerThis is the flower of the climbing nasturtium seen above. Mrs Tootlepedal is particularly fond of this delicate flower and was anxious in case it did not come into bloom before the end of the season. However, it has done her proud

.orange nasty

She has a good range of nasturtiums in a variety of shades dotted about the place and I particularly liked this one I found lurking under some other plants.

In the morning I took advantage of what was promised to be the last of the rainfree days to get on the bike. It had rained a little during the night but the morning weather was excellent once again. What was not so satisfactory was the increased windspeed as this not only made cycling a bit harder but also presaged a change in the weather after several days of calm. I was expecting a stiff breeze so I chose a route that would blow me home and my choice was good for I did the 20 miles down to Houghton, near Carlisle at 14.4 mph but did the same 20 miles on the way back at over 17 mph. Considering that it is definitely uphill, although not greatly, on the way home, I was pleased with my route. It has been a good week for weather and for cycling and I have done 245 miles and about 3500m of climbing.

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal was keen for a pedal, so after lunch we set off back down the road into the wind to Canonbie for refreshments at the tearoom at the Canonbie Bridge. We went along the Penton road to avoid the traffic on the A7. It is a hilly route but very quiet with some lovely views. We passed the aptly named Windy Hill farm and my old school at Canonbie on the way. That seems like another life now and I suppose it is because it is 16 years since I stopped teaching there. After our refreshments we whistled home up the old A7 with the wind behind us. Immediately on arrival, Mrs Tootlepedal jumped into the car and drove back to Canonbie to pick up her high visibility waistcoat which she had left in the cafe thus rather negating the joys of the bike trip.

As a special treat we had a bramble and apple crumble for our pudding using our own apples (for the first time this year) and some bought and some home picked brambles. It was delicious.

More than a ton

Today’s flower is a white potentilla which is in the garden not along the back wall of the house like the yellow ones
white potentilla

There was no cycling today because I wanted to play golf and I no longer have the puff to cycle in the morning and play golf in the afternoon. I went to the local producers’ market instead and bought some fish, some soap and some mince. The fish for me was smoked haddock as we have no visitors tonight and I can eat kedgeree, the odour of which pervades the whole house, if we have no B&Bs. I then printed out copies of some of our Archive Group leaflets which we sell for our funds. While I was doing this, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to be a judge at the Benty Show at Westerkirk.

golf clubhouse
Langholm Golf Club

She got back for lunch and I promptly went off to play golf with my golfing partner Arthur.  We were attempting to complete a competitive round of strokeplay for the first time for ages. In my case it was over two years. In strokeplay you have to count every shot and finish every hole. It’s very hard work.

Arthur on the eighth tee

As you can see from the elegant swing on the left, Arthur was in good form and though he complained about not being able to hit the ball properly, he end up with a net 71 which was the best score of the afternoon.

On the eighteenth

On the right you can see how pleased he was to have made it round with relatively little difficulty.

Dropscone drives off the seventh

While on the course, we caught a glimpse of Dropscone and his playing partners who were ahead of us and I took this shot of his controlled swing off the seventh tee. It had not done him much good, he told me afterwards, because he had returned a poor score.

I had hoped to be able to break a hundred but my first nine holes included an 8, a 7 and a 9 which made it hard. In the end, I played much better on the second nine and posted a gross score of 102 so I nearly did it.

The boys in the back room

I enjoyed myself a lot because I had had very low expectations and I hit a few decent shots.

After the game, we went to see what the boys in the back room were having, and Arthur and I joined them for a small non alcoholic beverage (ginger beer in my case).

The day was completed by a delicious plate of kedgeree for my tea and a quiet sit through yet another showing of the Bourne Ultimatum on the telly.

Another night out

Today’s flower may or may not be a saxifrage (Mrs Tootlepedal says)  but it is from the rockerysaxifrage

It has been another day of beautiful weather for which we are grateful. Mrs Tootlepedal has even had to start watering the garden in parts. Dropscone was taking his youngest boy back to college in Edinburgh so I went round the morning run myself in an average time. It served to loosen up the legs after the big run on Wednesday. In the afternoon I did my weekly stint in the tourist information point and was rewarded by a steady flow if tourists needing information but not so many that I couldn’t complete the Guardian crossword and the Herald sudoku.

billy and mark
Billy and Mark

Not long after I got back home, our visitors for the night appeared. They were two more end to enders and had come from Tebay. They were in very good condition and had obviously not been overstretching themselves. They are pictured here lurking behind a bed of cosmos drinking tea and a curious pink concoction which is obviously doing them good. Unlike many of our cycling visitors, they are not “doing it for charity” and I think this is really sensible as  judging from our experience of some of our other end to enders, very often “doing it for charity” puts a huge strain on the cyclists.

During the early evening, I sieved a little of this year’s early compost and it looks pretty good. I think the compost plans are going well. Mrs Tootlepedal is using last year’s kitchen compost for digging in and she will use this compost for mulching. Just wait until the worms get going. We will be in compost heaven.

In the evening we went to the Buccleuch Centre for the second night running. This time it was a piano trio and a singer playing and singing the music of Doris Day. It doesn’t sound like much a night out but it turned out to be most enjoyable. The musicians were more than competent and the singer put the numbers over with verve and charm. Mrs Tootlepedal and I were probably the youngest in the audience and the house was a bit thin so there wasn’t quite the atmosphere that the performers deserved for their efforts but once again it shows how lucky we are to have the Buccleuch Centre at the end of our street. As a bonus, Walter, the resident sound man, had got the sound levels perfect for an old grump like me.

Sublime night out

Today’s flower is probably a spirea Mrs Tootlepedal saysspirea

It was a day of business and pleasure today. Mrs Tootlepedal spent the early part of the morning getting ready for tonight’s  visitors, while I wisely did not get under her feet.  This is a skill I have almost perfected over the years when she is working.cake I did however have the privilege of making a set of dainty cakes (under supervision) for the visitors. For a first effort, it came out very well and Mrs Tootlepedal added the icing which, of course, made it perfect.

After this excitement, we went outside to do some shredding. As well as shrubby cuttings, we put  remaining compost from last year through as well. It had got rather dry and was composting very slowly. Combined with the green stuff from the shrubs, it should move on well. Pleased with how this had gone, we added some very lumpy semi composted moss from last year and this went through well. It will be interesting to see the results in another month.

Mrs Tootlepedal then spent the afternoon in good works with two other volunteers, first helping to tend to a flower bed at the entrance to the town and then watering  the approximately 80 hanging baskets in the High Street. I was waiting for our visitors who turned out not only to be cyclists going for a run tomorrow but also music lovers going to the same show this evening at the Buccleuch Centre as us. Obviously our sort of customers.

The show in question was the visit of Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham to Langholm. They are frequent visitors to the Buccleuch Centre and they are always welcome as the packed house tonight showed. Their show is a wonderful combination of good jokes, some of them venerable antiques, and magical music. If any of the readers of this blog have not heard them play and enjoy traditional music played brilliantly, then I would consider that their life is a little bit duller than it should have been. You can see then at but it doesn’t really show what they are like in person. They create such an atmosphere of good will that you can easily believe that they are playing just for you. As one of our visitors said, it is almost as though the audience feels that they own a bit of Phil and Aly. ….and all this is only 200m away from our back door and with comfortable seats and the music played at a very sensible volume through good speakers. Life holds no more.

Doing a ton

Today’s flower is a lamium

A very straightforward day today. I set out at 9am, cycled 101 miles and got back at just after 5pm. I did not mow any lawns and I did not do any archive work.

Gretna out

I went down the A7 and turned off to Kirkpatrick Fleming where I turned down the old A74 to Gretna. I had a very welcoming day as I was welcome to nearly every place I went through. This was an international trip and I found myself welcome to England though what I would do with it, I just don’t know. I went from Gretna to Carlisle down the new service road they built when they upgraded the Cumberland Gap to motorway. I was delighted to see a flock of lapwings or peewits on the Solway shore as they have been very rare round here lately. There was a lot of lorry traffic on the service road which was explained when I saw that the vehicle check area on the Motorway was in use.

River Eden

At Harker, I left the new road and headed across to the A7 and then down past the Houghton Garden Centre to Linstock. At the Linstock roundabout there were a number of police cars for no reason that I could see.

As those who went through Carlisle in the old days know, there is only one bridge across the Eden, but I used this footbridge in Rickerby Park and then I slipped through the centre of Carlisle and out the other side with very little bother. I climbed out of Carlisle and took the road that runs parallel and close to the M6 on the West side.


Shortly afterwards I passed the back entrance to my brother Andrew’s second home, the Southwaite Services. As you can see, if times get hard he can stop staying at the Travel Lodge and start working there instead. There are always vacancies.


After 40 miles, I stopped at this handy pub in Calthwaite. Unlike the phantom PH in Dalton yesterday, this one was open, did serve beer (Speckled Hen, half pint for medicinal purposes only) and also a nice cup of coffee and a plate of home-made blackberry and apple crumble with custard. Not the most common order at 12 noon by the expression of the man behind the bar.

in the forest
Hutton in the Forest

I headed onwards to the motorway roundabout at Junction 41 where, in order to make the full 50 miles out, I swung round and headed up towards Sedbergham.

Sign to Hutton End

This was God’s own country or at least my own country as every second place was called Hutton this or Hutton that. There was Hutton Roof and  Hutton in the Forest but when I got to a sign saying Hutton End, I thought it was time to turn back and head for home.

The Pot Place

Heading for home was made more pleasant by the fact that the wind, though very light, was now behind me. I whistled along the first few miles but, needing some fuel for the journey home, I was pleased and excited to see a set of buildings with the bold sign “The Pot Place” but discovered that it in fact sold pots and nothing much more stimulating.

tea room
The Tea Room

However it does have a very pleasant tea room and there I had a plate of “Highland Soup” (from the Albanian Highlands I think, since it was like no soup I had ever eaten in the Highlands of Scotland, though it was very tasty) and of course a reasonably nice cup of tea (usual complaints apply).

An unwelcome visitor

I retraced my route and when I got to Linstock, I saw what had caused the police presence on the way out. It was quite a sight. I didn’t like to hang around and rubber neck too much so I can’t tell how much damage the lorry had done.

River Sark

After this excitement, it was back to Gretna where I took the opportunity to marvel at the grandeur of the River Sark which provides the boundary between England and Scotland.

Thanks to the wind, I wasn’t too tired at this stage but somehow the last 17 miles home still proved quite an effort. When I arrived, my bike computer told me that I had done the journey home 2 minutes faster than I had done the journey out. This so-called negative split is always pleasant to achieve, however small, because it shows that there is still a bit of life in the legs at the end of the day. The whole journey took 6hrs 38mins of cycling time at an average of 15.3 miles and hour. I thought that was quite satisfactory as I have only gone faster over 100 miles when I was on prescription steroids for polymyalgia and on steroids you simply never get tired at all.

As a footnote I should say that I was told I was welcome to Scotland when I went through Gretna on the way home, so now I have two countries.

Welcome to Scotland


An arty cup of tea

No flower picture today because I haven’t worked out how to put another picture on a page when I have a gallery.

Another beautiful day dawned and our Italian visitors decided to go for a walk to the monument and beyond. I lent them our 1:25000 walking map which is centred on Langholm and off they went. They told us that they had found our B&B from the Langholm Walks website which, in turn, they had found from a Lonely Planet guide to walking in Southern Scotland. Very satisfactory.

At about 10am Mrs Tootlepedal declared that it was a day for a cycle ride  and so we bustled about, chose a route, printed out the map, got our cycling gear on, put the bikes in the back of the Kangoo and so on and so on and finally managed to actually leave the house about 12 noon. We had chosen to go to Lockerbie and tour round Dalton and Hoddam, returning by way of  Kettleholm. This was a good choice as the route was interesting and gently undulating with only two shortish stiff climbs. An added bonus was that the wind blew gently behind us on the way back to Lockerbie. I had spotted the magic letters PH on the map in Dalton so I was hoping for a stop with refreshments there. When we came to it, it turned out to be basically a Thai restaurant and locked. A Thai appeared and was very uninterested in opening up to serve us coffee so we decided to make a short diversion to the Art Cafe which is half a mile from the village centre. This was a good idea because I was able to have a toasted tea cake which always improves any day.

The short diversion to the cafe added a mile to our journey and when we returned to Lockerbie, we had covered 17 miles. This was new country for some of the route and I think we will probably tour the area again. There is a gallery of pictures at the foot of this blog from our tour.

When we got home, I mowed both lawns and had a cup of tea with Mike Tinker who called in while I was mowing.  In the evening Mrs Tootlepedal went with Mike to a Bonnie Langholm committee meeting while I put a week of the newspaper into the Archive database.

Up country

Today’s flower is a ligularia

It was a really lovely day today and the forecast was for light winds so I deserted Dropscone (who went to the gym instead) and set off for a circular 50 miles by Eskdalemuir and Lockerbie. I pottered gently up the hill to Eskdalemuir in rather chilly but brilliantly sunny weather, taking care not to fall of when coming down the Crurie Brae. At Eskdalemuir,  I turned left to cross the hills to Lockerbie. This is one of my favourite pieces of road, not least because it has an excellent surface as it has been looked after to cater for the forestry traffic.  It is an undulating ride as it crosses the grain of the rivers and streams but you can get full value out of the downhills because the bends are gentle and there are no potholes. This makes the uphills far less of a grind.

I stopped in Lockerbie for some chips which I ate on a bench on the station platform. The chips were excellent but the result was not so good as it was hard to get going after eating them as all my energy seemed to be set on digestion rather than pedalling. I went down the old A74 to Kirkpatrick Fleming, turned left and headed for the A7 which took me back home. The whole ride was completed at a rather gentle 14+ miles an hour but I hadn’t hurried and the chips had slowed me down. On checking the distance on Autoroute, I found that I had done 53 miles.

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden, digging compost into the veg beds for next year. We had a nice cup of tea and a dainty cake under the walnut tree and then I went for  a relaxing bath. While I was there, our visitors for the next two days arrived. Unusually for us, they are a young Italian couple who are holidaying in Scotland. They couldn’t have picked a better week because the weather looks set fair.

shoppingWhile Mrs Tootlepedal went to the shops to purchase the necessaries for the visitors’ breakfast, I spent some time admiring my first two ripened peppers from the greenhouse. peppersWe have been keeping the greenhouse doors more shut this year than before and let the roof ventilators do their job unaided. This has kept the temperature up  and this is the first year that I have got the peppers to go a true red. I was  also  able to eat a late strawberry which ripened in a hanging basket in the greenhouse. Unfortunately I had eaten it before I was able to photograph it.

All about the wind

Today’s flower is an astilbe

REPAIRSOur visitors had a bad start to the day when Oliver found that he had broken a spoke and that he had not got the tools to do the necessary repair. It was Sunday and the local bike shop is closed. Even Dr Tinker, our local bike wizard, hadn’t got the tools and so Oliver was left with a quandary. Should he try to cycle 50 miles to Innerleithen into a whistling gale on a broken bike? There is little or no mobile phone connection on the Eskdalemuir road and he was carrying some rather sore leg injuries as well. In the end, after consultation with Emily, the pair agreed to accept a lift from Mrs Tootlepedal for them and the bikes to the Innerleithen bike shop which had agreed to do the repairs. When Mrs Tootlepedal returned, she said that the road was littered with debris from trees in the heavy wind and she wondered whether they would actually find it possible to complete their journey to Dunfermline. Time will tell (and a postcard).

While she was being the good samaritan, I did what I could to get the B&B ready for tonight’s guest. After that, I sat and watched the Grand Prix on the telly. hedgeBecause it was still too windy for a pleasant ride, I took the electric hedge trimmer out and trimmed the roadside hedge. donkeysIt is always a satisfying job. Finally, when the wind had abated a bit, I went out on the bike to put in a few evening miles. The day was absolutely gorgeous apart from the stiff breeze. The evening light is indescribable but I doubt if there is better light anywhere in Britain. I took my camera and went to visit some donkeys that Dropscone and I pass on our morning run

Craig Hill Windfarm

….and in addition, because it was such a windy day, I took photos of both our local windmills just to show that the high winds make someone happy.

Minsca Wind Farm

You can see what I mean about the light.

It was an ill wind

Today’s flower is yet another of the many clematis with which Mrs Tootlepedal adorns the garden
another clematis

The day started with a nice lie in as we had no B&Bs and continued in a leisurely fashion for me, although Mrs Tootlepedal was very busy preparing for tonight’s visitors. After a while I got organised and went out for a short ride because it was very windy and showers appeared. I rode 5 miles up the Wauchope Road into the teeth of the wind and then turned and whizzed back at an average of 23 miles and hour. I stopped in for a cup of tea and then did the same thing again. As I went up the hill, my legs felt rather tired and I thought it was the penalty to be paid for the earlier whizzing along. When I turned to come home, I realised that the wind had got even stronger and this time I came home at an average of 24 miles and hour. Then I had a little lie down. Then I got up and mowed a lawn.

We had tickets to go to a performance of The Boy Friend by our local youth group (very good). However in the course of the afternoon, our visitors, who are end to end cyclists, rang up to say that because of the head wind they would be late arriving. This meant that Mrs Tootlepedal and a neighbour went to the show and I waited for the cyclists to arrive. It was nearly nine o’clock when they arrived and they admitted that they had come close to catching a train home at one point.  They are going to Dunfermline tomorrow, into a head wind again, and it will be a hard day. Fortunately it looks as though it will stay dry unlike today. I hope to catch a picture of them as they depart tomorrow morning.

I am enjoying a small plate of raspberries and cream for my supper every night. Long may this continue.