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Posts Tagged ‘Buccleuch Centre’

Today’s guest picture comes from my Newcastle correspondent, Fiona.  She travelled as far as Durham, took a trip on the river and looked up at the cathedral as she drew near.

Durham

It was a dull, often rainy and always windy day today so I wasn’t unhappy to spend most of the morning going off with Mrs Tootlepedal to get our eyes tested in Longtown and following that with a trip to buy bird food and a visit to a local garden centre to look at but not buy decorative bark chippings.

The eye tests went well and Mrs Tootlepedal received the thumbs up for her cataract operation and is now just waiting for her new  glasses to arrive.  I was much the same as ever and my old glasses will do for another year so we were both happy.

While we were not buying decorative bark chippings, we had a toasted tea cake and a cup of coffee in the garden centre cafe so it was a morning well spent.

Mrs Tootlepedal had business to do on the computer when we got home as part of the very bureaucratic administration for her Embroiderers’ Guild group so I set up the tripod in the kitchen, made some soup and watched the birds.

Feeling that our old bird feeders were getting on a bit, I had bought a shiny new feeder at the bird food shop.  I put it out and waited for visitors.

goldfinch on new feeder

A goldfinch was among the first but it was soon joined by a chaffinch…

chaffinch approaching new feeder

…a blue tit…

blue tit on new feeder

…another chaffinch….

another chaffinch and the new feeder

…and another blue tit…

blue tit coming to new feeder

…and another chaffinch!

flying chaffinch at new feeder

It had passed the bird magnet test.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s admin took some time and when she had finished, I settled down to do some admin of my own for the Archive Group.

When I had finished, it was time for a cup of tea and we were joined by Mike Tinker who had kindly brought round some more liquid fertiliser from his wormery for the benefit of our garden.

The day had always been warm for the time of year and since it wasn’t raining, we went out to do a bit after gardening when Mike left.

I was looking around at one point and saw a green blob on the ground.  C;loser inspection showed that it was a fallen walnut and more inspection found many more fallen walnuts.  The walnuts don’t always contain much in the way of a kernel as we live too far to the north for reliable development but this year, after the warm summer, we may be luckier.

walnuts in the garden

I hope we will be as Mrs Tootlepedal likes walnuts a lot.

I noticed other things too.

Mrs Tootlepedal was keen for me to take a picture of the Virginia creeper on the fence as it is now at its best, even on a gloomy day like today…

vigini creeper

…and it tends to disappear very quickly once it is over.

We dead headed the dahlias but even they are beginning to show a little wear and tear.

sunny reggae dahlia

The rose mallows made a great show when they came out in July but they have faded away and now only one or two are left.

rose mallow

Two surprises were to be seen, one rather late – a fresh foxglove in the back of a bed…

late foxglove

…and one very early – a wallflower which has lost its internal clock altogether.

early wallflower

It shouldn’t have come out until next spring.

After tea, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to act as a volunteer front-of-house person at the Buccleuch Centre and after a while, I went along to buy a ticket and watch the show there.  It was a screening of a concert by Jonas Kaufmann, the celebrated tenor,

He is a wonderful singer and he was joined by a sensational mezzo soprano called Anita Rachvelishvili and they sang a selection from Cavalleria Rusticana (which I could take or leave) followed by numerous well known Italian songs which were absolutely delightful.

Anita Rachvelishvili’s ability to switch from a full blown operatic style to a much more intimate style for the songs and excel at both bowled our audience over and as Jonas is a great treat whatever he sings, we had a really good evening.  What put the icing on the concert for me was that the members of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, who were providing the accompaniment, seemed to be enjoying the music as much as the audience.

We are promised heavy wind and rain from our first named storm of the autumn tomorrow so we are keeping our fingers crossed that the reality turns out to be not as bad as the warning.

“Much of Scotland is due to be battered by high winds and heavy rain as the first named storm of the season sweeps in. The Met Office has issued weather warnings and said Storm Ali could bring winds of 80mph and a danger to life from flying debris. An amber warning is in place for large parts of the country between 08:00 and 17:00 on Wednesday. Travel disruption and huge waves in coastal areas are also expected.”

The storm is named after Mrs Tootlepedal so it might well be quite impressive.

Meantime, the flying bird of the day is a tiny coal tit who will have to keep out of harm’s way tomorrow.

flying coal tit

 

 

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Our friend Gavin must have been in Yorkshire today as he sent me this shot of the breakaway in the Tour de Yorkshire going through Leyburn for my guest picture.

tour de yorkshire

The promised better weather arrived today but it took its time and didn’t really arrive until the afternoon.

As a result, I cycled along the road to the producers’ market in just a hint of drizzle.  Still, the purchase of fish, cheese and good meat cheered me up.  The trouble with buying seasonal local food though is that it is seasonal and local so there was no honey or venison at the moment.  It makes the anticipation for their return to the market all the keener.

Mrs Tootlepedal wasn’t letting a little dull weather spoil her gardening and spent almost all of the day hard at work.  I helped where I could and took time out to mow the front lawn and take a few pictures.

Mrs Tootlepedal said today that she sometimes wishes that she could freeze garden time at this time of year because she loves the colourful state of things so much.

I took a  few pictures to try to capture some of that feeling.

Who could resist this?

tulips and daffs

Mind you if the colour was like this all the time, maybe we wouldn’t appreciate it as much as we do when it comes after a long, cold, grey six months.

The tulips are in full swing.

tulips

In all shapes and colours….

tulips

…and designs.

_DSC3809

And some have friends too.

fly on tulip

We have dead headed daffodils by the bucket full but still plenty survive…

daffs

…to take their place as daffodil of the day.

daff

There are other colours, even though they are not as prominent as the tulips and daffs.

pulsatillasilver pearviolet

And I was pleased to see bees busy all over the garden, although the fruit pollination is what I like to see best.

bees in garden

While I was looking at flowers, creatures big and small intruded into the frame.

The small were very small.

insects on flowers

And the big came in the form of a blackbird which flew onto a garden seat a few feet away from me, gave me a very hard stare and then did its keep fit routine…

blackbird

…breaking off to give me some more hard stares from time to time.

And in between, a lone butterfly appeared.

comma butterfly

I think that this is a comma, a rare visitor for us.

In the afternoon, we were visited by Mike with his daughter Liz and her husband and daughter.  Liz is a professional gardener and had come to look at a sick shrub to suggest a course of action.  Targeted pruning was suggested and Mrs Tootlepedal will put this into action.

The expert party went on to look at a gift which Mrs Tootlepedal has recently received.  They considered what should be done with it…

bamboozled

….but I am sorry to say that they were bamboozled.

In between times. the feeder was busy with siskins, goldfinches, chaffinches and redpolls…

redpoll and siskinsredpoll and chaffinchgoldfinches

I had to refill it.

Mrs Tootlepedal reported that she had been watched by a robin while she worked which is good news because we haven’t seen one around for several weeks.

When we needed a rest, we watched bits of another good stage of the Tour de Yorkshire bike race on the telly.   I didn’t envy the riders at all as they ground up the 1 in 4 slope at Sutton Bank.  Even these superb athletes had to go at a very sedate pace to get up such a hill.   I would have needed a lift in a car!

In the evening we went to the Buccleuch Centre to listen to a jazz trio led by a very good lady singer who has lived locally for the last few years and with the piano played by our Langholm Sings accompanist, Nick.  He turned out to be a very accomplished jazz player with a great sense of rhythm and good invention and as the singer and bassist were very good too, it was just my cup of tea and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

In all the gardening, I didn’t have time to get a solo flying bird of the day so once again it is a pair, this time seen from behind.

siskin and chaffinch flying

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s sister, Elizabeth, who took advantage of a recent sunny day to climb up a hill and look down on the town.

Liz's picture of Langholm

Our warm spell continued but in the absence of any sunshine.

I had a busy morning, starting with a trip to the producers’ market to stock up on meat, fish and cheese, which with the help of any amount of good advice from concerned onlookers, I managed to accomplish.

Then there was just time to greet the return of the goldfinches to the feeder after a day off…

goldfinch

…before I got the slow bike out and went for a fifteen mile ride. I had a job to do after lunch so  I had a choice of a shorter ride in the morning or a longer one in the afternoon.  The forecast wasn’t very positive so I chose the short morning ride.

Unlike yesterday there were no views available….

View from Megsfield

….so I kept my eyes down today.  I stopped near the top of Callister on my way out to see what a bit of roadside wall might hold.  It turned out that it held quite a lot.

Every lichen seemed to have a red tip if you looked closely enough, whether it was tall and stringy…

lichen on Callister wall

…or short and fat among the moss…

P1080670

…or so tiny that you could hardly see it all.

lichen on Callister wall

I stopped at the bottom of the hill on my way back when I saw some clumps of wild primroses near the new bridge at Westwater Cottage.

wild primroses

So I had to have a look at the bridge while I was there…

Collin Bridge lichen

…and some very fine lichen on the parapet…

Collin Bridge lichen

…as well as a potential wild flower in the grass verge.

wild flower

My choice of a fifteen mile trip turned out to be well judged as it started to rain just after I got home and it kept raining until seven o’clock in the evening.

I had time to walk round the garden before the rain started and had another go at doing justice to the pulmonaria but the camera always seems more interested in the back of the plant than the front.  I shall keep trying.

pulmonaria

The magnolia was poking its nose out….

magnolia

…and so was a surprise frog in the pond.

frog

I chased after a bumble bee with no success so I took a picture of the developing primula and went in.

primula

Once in, I looked out.

The goldfinches were back in good numbers and blowing each other away in style.

goldfinch

Some, but not many, siskins joined in the fun…

goldfinch and siskin

..and once again, there was always a queue for a perch.

flying goldfinch

…with the chaffinches at the back of it.

_DSC3016

We had the usual suspects, goldfinches, siskins and chaffinches with a couple of redpolls arriving after I had put the camera away but I did see one unusual bird in the plum tree.

At first I thought that it was  a sparrow…

reed bunting

…but that didn’t look quite right so I had a close look when I put the picture on my computer and I think that it is a reed bunting, though I am always open to correction from knowledgeable readers.

reed bunting

It is a pleasure to have new visitors to the garden.

I did my lunchtime task, which was to open the meeting room for the Embroiderers’ Guild in the absence of Mrs Tootlepedal and then retired home in heavy rain to waste the rest of the afternoon watching the early stages of the third round of the Masters golf tournament.

I cooked a smoked fish kedgeree for my tea and then went off to the Buccleuch Centre for a concert where I met Sandy.  I was very vexed during the afternoon when a friend rang up to ask if I was going to the party to find that I had inadvertently double booked myself as I was also supposed to be going to a choir member’s birthday do today.

This was embarrassing but as the choice was driving thirty miles in the rain to the party which however enjoyable would go on very well without me or walking 200 yards to the Buccleuch Centre where I had bought an expensive ticket, I chose the short walk.

I just hoped that the concert would make the choice worthwhile.

It did.

It was by YolanDa Brown, a jazz, reggae, soul fusion saxophonist backed by a very well drilled, skilled and creative quartet.  You can find YolanDa on Youtube  and very pretty she sounds but the recording does no justice at all to her live show which was sensational.

It was loud and at times the rhythm was so funky that you risked breaking an ankle if you tried to tap your foot but the flow of inventive music was so overwhelmingly immersive that I came out at half time feeling pretty euphoric.  The whole thing was like being caught in a landslide of joy.

YolanDa is personally very charming as well as being extremely accomplished and she managed without any strain at all to get the entire largely elderly audience on its feet and rocking to a reggae beat.

The second half was better.

I should say that the audience was not large, especially for a band which was on a world tour including, Australia, America, Europe, Morocco and Langholm but the band didn’t stint and obviously loved playing the music as much as the audience enjoyed listening to it.

I walked home a happy man…and the rain had stopped.

The flying bird of the day is one of our loyal band of chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from  Dropscone’s recent seaside holiday on the east coast.  He climbed a dune to look at the beach and saw five people, two dogs and half a million razor clam shells.

razor clams

We had a third and bonus sunny day as the weather turned out better than expected.  It was frosty again at dawn so I was happy to entertain Dropscone (and scones) for coffee while the temperature climbed slowly up to cycling levels.

Before coffee, I had an early walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal and we saw the first bumblebee of the year.

bumble bee

It was so bright that it was hard to miss.   I think that it is probably a tree bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum.

After coffee, Dropscone went off to play golf and I looked out of the kitchen window while making some carrot and parsnip soup for lunch.  Rather to Mrs Tootlepedal’s surprise, the parsnips came out of the vegetable garden after a hard winter in pretty good condition.

Rather to my surprise, there was a steady supply of flying chaffinches and some convenient sunshine for them to fly in.

We try to run a gender neutral blog so here are male chaffinches, both horizontal and vertical…

flying chaffinches

…and females with wings in and out.

flying chaffinches

Flying birds are like buses, sometimes you don’t see any and sometimes they all come at once.

After lunch, I went out for a pedal.  Because my throat was still a bit rusty, I started carefully but it soon became obvious that cycling was doing no harm so I put a bit of effort in.  For once, the wind was light and I enjoyed every mile of my usual twenty mile trip to Canonbie and back.

There were a few signs of life in the verges at last.

dandelion

I stopped to admire a handsome tree at the Bloch….

bloch tree

…and some cows in a field who were happy to sit for a picture.

cows

This one took her duties very seriously.

cow

In times past, I would have been worried to see cows lying down as this was thought of as a sign of impending rain but this is a myth and the sun stayed out for me, giving me a fine view of the northern English hills in the distance.

view from tarcoon

I took another picture of the lambs at the Hollows.

lambs

Who could resist them?

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had been very hard at work in the garden on her new design for the middle lawn and its surrounds.

new garden plan

It takes a lot of skill and energy to lay paving stones.

I had a look round while she toiled.

The winter aconites were soaking up the sun..

winter aconite

…and a welcome hint of a flower or two could be seen on the drumstick primulas.

drumstick primula

Dr Tinker, who was walking his daughter’s dog, Bob arrived in nice time to join us for a cup of tea and half a dainty cake.

In the evening my flute pupil Luke came and we made some progress which was helped when I found out that it wasn’t us but the computer that was making a mistake in one movement of the sonata we were playing.  GIGO.

I was expecting to go and play trios in the evening but the playing was cancelled so I went off with Mrs Tootlepedal to see a screening of Lady Windermere’s Fan at the Buccleuch Centre.  I didn’t know what to expect but in the event, I liked the slightly stylised  production a lot.  The setting, costumes and lighting were unfussy and bright (a very unusual thing in modern productions as far as I can see) and you could hear every word spoken. As the words are by Oscar Wilde this was a Good Thing.  What came over very clearly was the relevance of the play to Wilde’s own life and this gave genuine pathos to a witty production.

The flying bird of the day is one of the busy chaffinches and for once, the photograph has not been cropped at all which shows how favourable conditions were this morning.

flying chaffinch

My twenty miles today got me over three hundred miles for the month of March.  This is as much as I did in the first two months put together so things are looking up a bit. 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Dropscone’s niece Hilary.  It is of an Egyptian Vulture.  It was taken at Zurich Zoo on Saturday and makes Mr Grumpy look like a little ray of sunshine.

It is of an Egyptian Vulture. Taken at Zurich Zoo on Saturday.

Little rays of sunshine were in short supply here today as this was the view when we got up.

snowy garden

It wasn’t even good quality snow, just a soggy flump which turned to slush as it fell.

wet snow

It snowed quite a lot more during the day without adding to the sum total of snow on the ground at all.

Sandy came round for coffee as we are going to give an illustrated talk about the Archive Group in Canonbie tomorrow and we had to settle the details.  After he left, I walked through the slush up to the Archive Centre and made some copies of a DVD of the History of the Mills and Railway in Langholm.  We are going to show the DVD tomorrow and with luck, we might sell a copy or two for funds.

I had a look at the birds when I got back but things were still pretty gloomy.

goldfinch

The snow hadn’t stopped birds arriving but there weren’t very many.

busy feeder snow

I was pleased to see a couple of greenfinches.

greenfinches

After lunch, there was a moment when the sun came out so I put on my wellies and went for a short walk.

Whita snow

The hills looked better with a hint of sun on them…

snowy monument

…and if I had been feeling better, I would have rushed up to the monument while the going was good.

As it was, the recovery is still a work in progress so I settled for a very slow walk at a low level, taking my puffer before I set out and creeping up the only hill on my route.

Although it was very slushy rather than crisp, there was still a scenic view or two to be had.

Langholm Bridge snow

Sadly the sun didn’t make much of an effort and it soon clouded over.

Snowy scene

But snow brightens things up.

Ewesbank stream

It was an odd sort of walk.  There were fairly snowy bits….

Pathhead path

…with extensively snowy views to the left…

snowy whita

…but when I turned the corner at the end of the field, there was hardly a flake of snow to be seen.

path along top of woods

I was glad to have the shelter of the trees for the rest of my walk as it started to snow again and the wind got up so I would have been thoroughly wet if i had been in the open.

As it was, I kept my head down, admired a striking jelly fungus in the heart of the wood….

jelly fungus

…and got home, reasonably dry and content.

Even a short walk is lot to take on at the moment and I found myself fast asleep in front of the telly for most of the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening, I had to decide whether I was fit enough to sit through a live screening of Rigoletto from Covent Garden at the Buccleuch Centre.  Mrs Tootlepedal was not up for a night out yet so I hummed and hawed about going and in the end, at the very last moment, decided that it might be worth the trouble.

I make a lot of decisions of variable quality but this was one of the very best that I have made recently.

The first scene in this production is appalling, treating the audience as if they are incapable of any imagination and showing the actors no respect at all but thereafter, the brooding setting and singing of Dimitri Platanias as Rigoletto and Lucy Crowe as Gilda transformed it into an evening of wonder and emotional satisfaction for me.

And when I came out, the town was carpeted with a fresh blanket of crisp white snow.

Henry Street in snow

The flying bird of the day was a tricky proposition and the only one that I could find was hiding.

busy feeder snow

 

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Today’s guest picture is the second portrait of Tony’s dogs by Tash.  It looks as though the dogs had had a New Year’s splash even if Tony hadn’t.

Tony's dog

We were promised better weather today and we got it but it took some time to arrive as we were covered in mist for most of the morning.

I had an early start as I had to take our car to the garage.  It had been sending us intermittent signals of distress through the dashboard display recently.  Intermittent distress signals can be very annoying as they always disappear as soon as you take a car to the garage and that is what happened on this occasion.  The garage’s diagnostic machine though is very smart and can tell what a car was thinking yesterday as well as today so the garage was confident that they could get to the bottom of the trouble.

I walked home and had breakfast and then there was a pause in the day as I waited for the mist to go.  It was too thick for safe cycling and at 2°C, it was a bit chilly anyway.

This gave me a chance to do a tricky crossword and occasionally look out of the window.

The robin was upset by being substituted by a chaffinch in a recent post so it made sure I got its best side today.

robin

The other birds weren’t posing.  They were too busy trying to get at the seed.

busy feeder

Although the picture is not of good quality, I liked this shot of a siskin sizing up its chances of knocking a goldfinch off a perch.

siskin

The mist thinned enough after coffee for me to put my cycling gear on and get the fairly speedy bike out.  Mrs Tootlepedal went out to do some gardening and after putting away some bread and marmalade and a banana as fuel, I went off up the road, hoping that the mist would clear.

It took its time and while I was going along the valley bottom, things looked a bit gloomy…

Mist over the wauchope

…but as soon as I turned up into the hills, things brightened up and I got above the mist.

Misty windmills

Soon, I could look back and see the mist lying along the Wauchope valley that I had just cycled through.  It looked denser from above than it did when i was in it.

Mist in wauchope valley

Once I got over the hill and looked down into the Esk valley, more mist was to be seen.

Mist in Esk valley

And the windmills at Gretna were up to their knees in it.

Misty windmills gretna

Looking across from Tarcoon, Whita Hill was an island in a sea of mist…

Misty Whita from tarcoon

…and looking ahead to where I was going, a solid bank of mist lying along the Esk made it look as though there might be dangerous conditions for cyclists when I got down to the river.

Mist from tarcoon

But once again, the mist wasn’t as bad when I was in it as it looked from above and although my favourite trees at Grainstonehead  had a misty background….

Misty trees grainstonehead

…by the time that I had gone a couple of miles further, the mist had gone and the river was bathed in sunshine.

Esk at Byreburnfoot

As was the tower at the Hollows…..

Hollows Tower

…and the Ewes valley when I had cycled through the town and out of the other side.

Ewes valley

Having cycled a bit along all our three rivers, I felt that it was time to give my ice cold feet a break and head for home and a bit of warmth.  It was still only a meagre 3°C in spite of the sunshine.

When I got back, I had a look at Mrs Tootlepedal’s new path….

garden path

…and went in for a late lunch, pretty happy with 26 miles on such a chilly day.

Mrs Tootlepedal had got some useful gardening in while I was out.

I kept an eye on the birds while I had my lunch.

I could see seven blackbirds round the feeder at one time but couldn’t get them all in one shot so I took some individuals.

blackbird

One popped up onto a hedge to make things easier for me.

blackbird

The goldfinches had given up fighting and were concentrating on eating.

goldfinch eating

goldfinch

While Mrs Tootlepedal went and fetched the car from the garage (it got a clean bill of health), I had time for a shower and some singing practice and then Mike and Alison came round for their regular Friday visit.  They usually come in the evening but once again, we had something to do in the evening so an afternoon visit with music, conversation, tea and shortbread was arranged instead.  All four were very enjoyable.

Making music in the home is always a pleasure but in the evening, we went to the Buccleuch Centre and got real musical joy in spades.

It was the annual visit to the Buccleuch Centre of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for their New Year Viennese Gala.   We are incredibly lucky to get this treat on our doorstep as the Buccleuch Centre concert is their only appearance in the whole of the  south of Scotland, the other three appearances on this tour being in Dunfermline, Inverness and Stirling.

They don’t stint either, bringing a 60 piece orchestra to play a programme designed to bring joy to the hearts of a full house.

The orchestra’s players are not particularly fond of playing in the Buccleuch Centre because they find the acoustic dry and don’t get the feedback that they would wish but I love listening to an orchestra here because of the superb clarity of the music.  Sometimes a big orchestra just makes a big noise but you can hear every instrument in its place here and the excitement of having a 60 piece orchestra playing only a few yards away from you is immense.

As an ex schoolboy viola player myself, I took a particular interest in the viola players in the Roses from the South, a piece we played with our school orchestra.  It seems a bit extravagant in a way to bring a bunch of talented players down and then just make them go “rest, bom, bom” on the same note for bars on end.  But that’s orchestral music for you and it was wonderful to listen them all.

The flying bird of the day is a crowd.

busy feeder

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is a black and white shot taken by our daughter Annie in Macao.

panda Macao

It was cool but just above freezing with the promise of sun to come when we woke up.

I took a rather surreal picture of the bird feeder while I was making a pot of coffee after breakfast.  A siskin looked as though some avant garde artist had glued its beak to the tube.

busy feeder

Today, being Friday contained a visit from Dropscone bearing treacle scones as a Friday should.  He was a bit subdued as he has been grappling with the bank that holds an account for which he is the treasurer.  Having waited 25 minutes on the phone last night, he had been unable to prove to the satisfaction of the operator that he really was who he is and so he was girding his loins to go into a real bank branch where they will actually recognise him on sight.  So much for the joys of the internet.

He hasn’t got long as the bank is intending to shut our local branch soon.

We were joined by Gavin who was delivering Christmas cards and when Gavin and Dropscone left, I had a look to see if the siskin had come unstuck.

It had.

The feeder was still in the shade but the sun had got to the plum tree…

chaffinch, siskin and goldfinch

…as had a number of finches.  A brisk and nippy north wind was ruffling the goldfinch’s feathers.

There were a lot of blackbirds about again.

blackbird

It takes time for the sun to creep round to the feeder itself…

chaffinch, siskin, goldfinch

…but this robin seemed quite happy in the shade.

robin

When the sun finally got to the feeder, it didn’t seem to improve the temper of the birds at all.

busy feeder

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal drove off to do some shopping and I went for a walk.

I was unable to truthfully say that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky by this time….

cloud over Arkleton

…because this one fluffy little devil hung about in an impertinent way.

Thanks to the sun and the underlying frost, it was a lovely day for a walk as long as you took a little care when you met an icy patch or two.

Whitshiels track

The sun picked out the views and the frost kept the ground firm enough to walk on without having to worry about boggy bits and wet feet.

tree

And, as always on a good day, the views were well worth looking at.  They never lose their appeal to me.  Today, there was a little distant snow to add variety.

Ewes valley

I walked up the track from Whitshiels and then crossed the Newcastleton road and walked along the track to Whita Well and continued along the front of Whita until I got to the stile at the wall.

My admiration for the people who built the walls up and down these unforgiving slopes is unbounded.

Whita wall

The light made even the winter landscape look gorgeous.

Whita

And far to the north, I could see some more serious snow.

view from whita

I passed a very striking set of hawthorn bushes as I went along the quarry track…

hawthorn

…and enjoyed this little dent in the smooth surface of the hill.

Whita

I could look down on the town below me and you can see how low the sun is in the sky with only a week to go to the winter solstice.

view from whita

It was 2pm when I took the picture above and already half the town is in the shadow of the hills.

But where the sun was still at work, the light was delightful.

_DSC0017

I took a new track down the hill back towards the town.  This was terra incognita for me but the track seemed well trodden…

view from whita

…and it led me to a broad ride through a wood just above the town …

Wood at Hallpath

…so my route was well chosen.

I came back into the town past the old south toll house….

 

South toll house

…having started my walk by leaving the town by going past the northern toll house.

By the time that I had got home, I had walked just under four miles and climbed about 214m, reaching a maximum height above sea level of 250m (having started at 80m) so you can see that I got really good value from a modest outlay of effort.

As we had arranged yesterday, Mike and Alison came round at 4 o’clock and while Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike put together Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden cultivator which had come back from a service and needed re-assembling, Alison and I played some music and then we came together to eat some drop scones that Mrs Tootlepedal had made and to drink a pot of tea.

We had played our music in the afternoon because in the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went out to attend the community pantomime, Dick McWhittington, at the Buccleuch Centre.  The test of an amateur pantomime is whether the interval and the final curtain come before you have started to check your watch and this performance passed that test with flying colours.  It had good scenery, a large and enthusiastic cast, several good jokes and some charming moments.  Who could ask for anything more?

To round off a good day, Mrs Tootlepedal had made some sticky toffee pudding for our tea.  I have never eaten this popular dish before but Mrs Tootlepedal’s version was delicious and I hope that I will get the chance to try it again before too long.

I struggled to find a flying bird of the day in the sunshine and shade but I did catch a chaffinch in the end.

chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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