Posts Tagged ‘Byreburn’

Today’s guest picture comes from Stephen, my Australian correspondent.  He says that it is easy to see the effects of the bush fires raging in the Blue Mountains while walking the streets of Sydney, especially as the sun comes up behind the haze at dawn.

sydney ash

We were hoping for some sun here today and we did get a slightly warmer day but sunshine was strictly rationed and we got only a very small glimmer now and again.  In spite of the grey skies, our visitor Patricia thought that a walk would be useful after her long sit on the train yesterday so we got in the car and drove down to the Hollows where we set out on foot to visit the Fairy Loup.

This 1.7 mile circular walk starts by going along the old A7, which was closed to traffic after a landslip about 40 years ago. One half of the carriageway remains and it is used occasionally by a local farmer as you can see from the tracks between the layer of beech mast which covered the rest of the road.

old a7 Byreburn Mrs t and Pat

There was interest along the way, with a flourishing crop of vetch and some colourful bramble leaves…

vetch and bramble

…as well as a selection of mosses on a wall….

moss on A7 wall

…and ferns and script lichens as well.

fern and script lichen

The winter months are the best for actually seeing the waterfall at the Fairy Loup but even without the leaves on them, the tree branches are growing so much that a clear view is impossible.

fairy loup November

We have had a dry spell lately and there was really very little water going down the Byreburn.

above the fairy loup

We passed a sensational crop of fungus on a pile of wood chippings.

fungus beside byreburn

Our direction of travel round the walk was well chosen because when we came out of the shelter offered by the Byreburn valley, we found that the nippy wind was behind us as we walked back down the road to our car.

There was even a little sunshine to light up the gates that we passed…

two gates gilnockie

….though it came and went and the clouds were back as we walked through these well clipped beech hedges near the old station.

neat hedge gilnockie

The sun came back to light up the last few yards of our walk and picked out some broom…

broom Gilnockie

…and the trunks of the trees beside the road…

trees byreburn wood

…as well as a thin string of ivy climbing a substantial tree…

ivy byreburn

…and the white lichen making a twisted tree trunk positively shine.

tree byreburn

We didn’t go directly home after our walk but stopped at the Buccleuch Centre for a light lunch in their excellent foyer coffee bar.

I had a look at the bird feeder when we got back after lunch, but there was very little avian traffic and the light was poor again, so I put my bird camera in the bag on the back of my slow bike and pedalled down to the river to see if I could see a bird or two there.

I saw several gulls perched on the electricity wires beside the Esk but they stayed stubbornly put as I watched so I left them to it and cycled over the bridge and on to the Kilngreen.

gulls on wire

There was  more movement here.  A large flock of ducks came rushing down the river towards me as soon as i got near the river, mistaking me perhaps for someone with bread in his pocket.  When no bread was forthcoming, they circled around and headed back up river muttering morosely.

ducks hoping for bread

One late-coming duck flew up at great speed.

swift duck

There were plenty of gulls about and they lifted themselves off the rocks where they were perched and took to the air from time to time.

two gulls

It was chilly so I didn’t spend too long watching them.

When I got home, I put on my cycling gear and went out into the cold garage and cycled on the bike to nowhere for half and hour.  Listening to the radio helped to lessen the tedium of looking at this view.

garage view

In the evening, I took Patricia and Mrs Tootlepedal out for a meal as a premature celebration of my birthday which is tomorrow.

As I have had a persistent feeling all year that I am a year older than I actually am, tomorrow is not going to be a big day as nothing will change….except of course that I might then start to think that I am another year older than I actually will be. For the record, I will be 78 tomorrow and I only hope that if I live to be 90, I will still be able to walk round the Fairy Loup with as much zest as our 90 year old guest Patrica demonstrated today.  She is a wonder.

The flying bird of the day is one of those Kilngreen gulls looking for a handy rock.

gull landing

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Today’s guest pictures shows an original use for an old pallet.  Our son Tony made the coat rack and sent me the picture.  We hope to see it in real life tomorrow.

clothes hanger

This is an early post as we have a full evening ahead of us with a concert in the Langholm Church involving Langholm Sings and the Church Choir so we are both in action.  Immediately after the concert, we are setting off north to visit our son Tony and sample the delights of East Wemyss.   On Sunday, we are going across to attend a performance of the Messiah in Glasgow led by the ex-conductor of our Carlisle Choir so all in all, it will be a busy weekend.  As the forecast for Saturday includes blizzards, freezing rain and heavy snow. all this may be weather dependant but we are hoping that the weather will be reasonable while we are travelling.

Fingers firmly crossed.

It was a cold and frosty morning here and as the temperature never got above 2°C all day, there was no thought of bicycling.

I spent the morning getting organised for concert and travel and only had a moment to glance out of the window.

blackbird below feeder

In spite of the frost, the ground was remarkably ice free though so I went for a walk after lunch.

To check that the car was in working order, I drove down to the Hollows and started my walk along the old A7.

old A7 Hollows

The wind  had dropped from yesterday and in the sunshine, walking was a pleasure.  I passed some of the greenest moss in the world…

very green moss

…before I got to the track through the woods along the Byreburn.  I had hoped that this might be a good day to see some hair ice (or frost beard as it is sometimes known) as this track is a place where the fungus Exidiopsis effusa has been busy in the past.

The temperature was just right for hair ice formation and there was any amount to be seen all along the path.


It occurs in dead branches…

hair ice (3)

…and is a constant wonder to me.

hair ice (2)

I lifted my eyes from the hair ice for long enough to notice that I was passing the Fairy Loup waterfall…

fairy loup (2)fairy loup

…and soon found myself at the bridge at the top of the track.

byreburn bridge

I took the road for my route back to the car, passing Gilnockie Hall…

Gilnockie hall

…and many sheep, intelligently grazing just beyond the long shadows cast by the low winter sun on the trees.

Gilnokcie field

A short diversion took me along the old railway track past the site of Gilnockie Station..

gilnockie station

…and I walked down through a field so that I could enjoy the golden light of the sun through an old railway bridge.

gilnockie railway brodge

When the foresters fell the spruce and larch woods, they leave the pines…

byreburn woods (2)

…and the deciduous trees…

byreburn woods

…so there is still plenty for the walker to enjoy.

The light had faded by the time that I got home and I settled down to a crossword and looking through my pictures.

There is no flying bird of the day today, just a small perching chaffinch.

sunny chaffinch

For those who are interested, Wikipedia has an article on hair ice here.

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We had such a grey day here that I badly needed something bright for the post so today’s guest offering is another of Tommy cycling in the South African sunshine.  Lucky chap.

tommy in SA

The only colour in the garden today was provided by a few stubborn daffodils who defied the cold and the wind.


It was very depressing after having had a few nearly decent days to go back to mean, cold and nasty weather again.

The birds had to hang on to the feeders…


…and take great care getting on  to the perches.


The encompassing gloom was cheered by the arrival of Dropscone with treacle scones and Sandy to help eat them with our morning coffee.

We were also pleased to see the return of the dam bridge repairers with the new railings, ready to be installed.

Sandy and I arranged to go for a walk after lunch and he duly arrived and drove us down to Canonbie where we parked at the Hollows and walked along the road to the Byreburn bridge.

In spite of very poor conditions for taking pictures, the wall along the old road provided us with plenty of temptations to get the camera out.

fernsmoss on lichengorsemoss and fern

When we got to the Byreburn bridge, we left the river Esk and followed the track beside the burn…

Byreburn track

…with plenty to see as we walked up to the next bridge.


A hint of the coal seams which were mined in days past

fairy loup

The Fairy Loup

fairy loup

The Byreburn

byreburn bridge

Here we left the shelter of the woods and took to the road to make a circular route back to the car.

Once again, there were things to look at as we went along…

gate at Claygate

Gate of the day being threatened by encroaching hedges

gilnockie schoolhouse

Snowdrops at the old school house

Near Gilnockie station

Neatly trimmed hedges, often a feature of our back roads.

…and things looking at us…

mean sheep

…with a very hard stare.

As we got down the hill back towards the Hollows, Sandy noticed a tree beside the road which looked as though it had been the victim of a very bad sewing job by some dendrological Dr Frankenstein…

tree with ivy

…and I enjoyed the sight of a clump of hardy trees hanging by their toenails to the bank high above the river Esk.

Hollows Bridge

We had thought that we might get blasted by the cruel wind as we walked back along the road but by happy accident, the wind was directly behind us and the whole walk was remarkably comfortable considering the conditions.

The Hollows Bridge is hard to see from the road so the best that I could do was to peer through the trees…

Hollows Bridge

…but the consolation was the sight of the little stone carvings which keep appearing on the wooded knoll beside the river.   This set were new since I had last been here.

Hollows Bridge statues

When we got home, the bridge railings had been installed but not quite finished so I took a temporary shot of each side…

dam bridge repair railings

…and then forgot to come out later to take the finished article.

I will try again tomorrow.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went out to a concert in the Church which was raising funds for the restoration of the church organ and the refurbishment of the social club in the town.

The concert featured brass and pipe bands, guest singers from Hawick and a fine selection of local talent.  I am not an out and out fan of pipe bands playing indoors but the concert was thoroughly enjoyable all the same and only the attendance was a bit disappointing.  I hope that those who couldn’t come had something better to do for they had missed a treat.

On a grumpy note, it went on too long.  Two and a half hours sitting in a church pew is enough to let the iron enter anyone’s soul.  I may have remarked before that I have never heard anyone come out of an amateur concert saying, “That was too short.”

Still, it proved that we are not short of musical talent in the town.

The flying bird of the day matches the weather.  Rather a poor effort.


The weather is due to get worse.




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Today’s guest picture was taken yesterday by my neighbour Gavin, who was walking behind us back from the Market Place after the band had played.  He describes what he saw as ‘a rose between two thorns’.  Rather rude I thought.

Al, me and matilda

We had another lovely sunny day today but with added ice…

icy puddle

…which we haven’t seen for some time.

The wind was light though and Alistair, Matilda and I went to visit the park again.  The play equipment was too iced up to play on so we did walking instead and after some initial wariness in case of slipping, Matilda took to breaking the ice in any puddle we met with great gusto.

Sadly the fun had to go unrecorded as I failed to put a card into my camera.   There were hundreds of puddles so we had a busy walk.

We got back in time for a quick look at the birds….


Dappled goldfinches

….followed by lunch and then all too soon, it was time for our visitors to go back to Edinburgh.  We waved them goodbye and went inside sadly and then a few minutes later, we waved them goodbye again when they had come back and collected a forgotten item.

Although the walk yesterday and two days of grandparenting had both been fun, they had also both been quite hard work and the thought of a quiet sit down was quite attractive.  On the other hand, the weather was so good that a walk seemed almost compulsory.

I rang Sandy and soon afterwards, we drove down to the Hollows in his car.

On one side of the river, Hollows Mill was looking impressive…

Hollows Mill

…and on the other, the little wood where the original tower once stood was looking lovely.

Hollows Bridge wood

Sandy noticed a most unusual bird in one of the trees.

owl at hollows

We parked at the gate to the old road…

Old A7 hollows

…and walked the two  mile circuit along the road, up the Byre Burn track past the Fairy Loup and back down the road past the old station.

The wall along the old A7 was full of interest…

Pixie cup lichen

The biggest and greyest pixie cup lichen I have ever seen

Colour among the moss

Colour among the mosses

…but it was nothing compared to the unexpected appearance on twigs all the way up the Fairy Loup track of any amount of ice hair.

It was everywhere.

ice hair at Byreburn

I couldn’t find a perfect picture opportunity but this was my favourite today.

ice hair at Byreburn

The Byre Burn at the Fairy Loup was running quite calmly…

Fairy Loup

It is very annoying for a man with a camera that there is no view of the waterfall that doesn’t have a branch in front of it. Unfortunately the bank is too steep for an old man to climb down it with a saw in his hand.

The same might be said of the bridge over the burn at the top of the track.

Byreburn bridge

I have never seen a bridge with so many branches in front of it – whatever side you view it from.

We were struck by a rather haunted looking tree in the wood beside the track as we came up to the bridge…

Gothic tree

We didn’t get too close in case it reached out and grabbed us.

…and we liked the ice rimmed leaves of a bramble as we walked up the hill away from the bridge.


Just as we got to the top of the hill at Gilnockie School, there was a tremendous amount of mewing from a buzzard (or two).  It sounded very close but I couldn’t see a bird. Then  the sharp eye of Sandy spotted a buzzard on a telegraph pole in a field.  It flew up onto a tree on the far side of the field and posed.


The Lumix zoom at its full extent.

We walked along the road to the station looking straight into the sun….

Gilnockie road

…hoping that any cars would be able to avoid us as we wouldn’t be able to see them coming.  The camera saw much more clearly than we could.

Once we had dropped back into the woods as we got near the car, the light was kinder and when we got down to the old road again, it was positively golden.

Old A7 hollows

Straight out of the camera, no processing at all.

It is going to be hard for the rest of 2107 to live up to the first two days of the year as far as good walks and fun with family go.

Sandy came back for a cup of tea, a cake and a crumpet and then it really was the time for some serious sitting down.

I sat down seriously.

The flying bird of the day really is a bird today.

flying chaffinch



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Today’s guest picture is another from my sister Mary’s portfolio of London’s parks.

regent's park

With the thermometer at 2°C, it was warm enough for yesterday’s snow to be melting slowly but cold enough to keep me off the roads on my bike.  As a result, I girded my loins and did ten very boring miles on the bike to nowhere in the garage.

I am using a low cost magnetic resistance trainer on top of which the back wheel of my slow bike sits.  On the plus side, this gives me a sensible riding position but on the minus side, there is no inertia at all and as soon as you ease off the pressure on the pedals, it slows down instantly.  It is like pedalling through porridge.  There is no free-wheeling and none of the helpful spinning of a flywheel which you get with a gym model.  The result is like cycling constantly uphill and it makes an hour seem like a lifetime.

I was pleased to get off and look out of the kitchen window.


Chaffinches looked down….


…and up


…and all around

You can see that by lunch time,  it had started to rain and sleet.  This didn’t make the siskins any more well disposed to other birds than usual.


It eased off not long after it started though and that was a blessing even if it left things looking distinctly soggy.


By the time that we had finished lunch, it had stopped entirely and after going nowhere in the morning, we thought it would be nice to go somewhere in the afternoon.

We combined the need to put a little petrol in the car and get some shopping done with an excursion to Canonbie for a walk on less snowy tracks.

Though it is only six miles away, the path through the Byreburn wood was almost snow free…

Stream at Hollows

…though the lack of snow was made up for by plenty of water.

The walk up past the Fairy Loup and back down the road turned out to be a sociable occasion as we met the owner of the Archimedes Screw at the Hollows Mill on the way.  He was walking with his wife and tiny baby but was happy to stop and tell us about the workings of the Screw.  He invited us to come and have a view and we will certainly do that at the first convenient time.

There was plenty of brown water rushing over the waterfall at the Fairy Loup…

Fairy Loup

Further up the track, we met two more friends, parents of children at Canonbie School when I was teaching there, and we had another good chat with them.  Their daughter, a grand athlete in her primary school days, has taken to running very seriously and ran 1500 miles in the course of last year.  It made my knees hurt just to hear about her efforts.

We walked on beside the leaping stream….


…until we got to the top of the track and then we headed back to the car by the quieter road.

For a day that looked quite cold….


… and grey….

Hollows hill

…the walking was very kindly.  The unusual absence of anything but the lightest breeze made for perfect conditions for a January stroll.

We filled the car up on the way out and managed our shopping on the way home . When we got back, we enjoyed a welcome cup of tea and a sit down.

We didn’t have all that long to wait though before we were off again.  Our target this time was the Buccleuch Centre, where the RNSO were presenting a New Year Viennese Gala.

The hall was packed and so was the stage, with 60 musicians ready and willing to give us a seasonal treat.  There was nothing unexpected in the concert but the sheer delight of having 60 accomplished musicians playing live music in a good humoured way to an appreciative audience banished any thoughts of rain and snow completely.

As a bonus, there was a sparkling soprano too and when she sang Vilia, Oh Vilia as an encore, you could almost hear the physical and mental strain of the many amateur opera singers in the audience trying desperately not to sing along with her.

The RNSO, our national orchestra, is on a new year tour of some of the most notable towns in Scotland outside the big four cities.  They are visiting Dunfermline (pop. 50,000), Inverness (pop. 46,000), Stirling (pop. 36,000), F0rfar (pop. 14,000) and Langholm (pop. 2,301).  It’s hard to work out but we don’t ask, we are just grateful.

There was a flying bird in action during the morning snow today too.

flying chaffinch

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Today seems to be World Book Day and to celebrate this, my Newcastle correspondent has sent me a picture of her daughter Hannah with just a few of the books she is reading.

book dayThe temperature was a little up this morning.  This would have been welcome if the wind hadn’t also got up and the clouds come down.  This made for a rather gloomy day.

I spent a lot of the day hoping the things would improve but they didn’t.

I started the day by taking our new second hand car to our local garage for a health check.  At first acquaintance, it seems to be so low mileage and in such good condition than I was worried in case it was too good to be true.  I walked home in time for breakfast.

The frogs found the weather just to their liking though and the pond was chock-a-block with them.

frogLater on, I was cheered by the arrival of Sandy on his way back from filling the Moorland Feeders just in time to join us for a coffee.

We wondered whether the weather might be better a few miles south so he drove me down to the Hollows and we took a walk up the track through the Byreburn Wood.  It turned out that the weather was much the same down there, windy with occasional drizzle but the walk through the woods was well sheltered so we didn’t mind.

There was a striking patch of moss on the wall beside the old main road as we walked along the river to the start of the track through the woods.

moss at ByreburnThere has been a ,lot of forestry work in the wood and we were a bit worried about the state of the track.  Our worries were groundless though as the track has been restored to a better state than it was in before the forestry work began.

Byreburn woodThe wood men took most of the coniferous trees out of the plantation but were careful to leave the deciduous trees untouched.  As a result, the wood looked pretty good for one that has had substantial felling, light and airy and very green as we walked along.

The tree felling meant that the little waterfall at the Fairy Loup looked less sombre than before but it still has too many saplings growing in front of it for a photographer’s taste.

Fairy LoupI would like to scramble down to the waterside to get a better view but the bank is far too steep so I took a shot of the minor cascade at the top instead.

Fairy LoupInstead of going back by the same way that we had come, we walked further along the excellent track…

Byreburn wood…admiring a plentiful crop of catkins…

catkins…until we came to the road, which we followed back to the car.  We were exposed to the wind and drizzle once we were out of the woods and frequently wondered about the wisdom of our route choice.

In spite of the drizzle, we really enjoyed our walk and aim to go back and see what the newly cleared woodland will look like in a month or so.

I picked up our car from the garage on our way home and was delighted to find once again that my fears were groundless and that it is indeed as good as it looks.  As soon as we get a good day, Mrs Tootlepedal and I will put our bikes in the back and go off for a jaunt.

It was too gloomy for much bird photography…

chaffinch…and there were very few birds about anyway.  This was in spite of the absence of builders who were working elsewhere in the town today.  I didn’t see a siskin all day.

The frogs were undaunted and at times the noise from the pond was nearly as bad as the builders.

frogThey came in various sizes…

frog,,,and colours….

frog…and there was a whole lot of love about.

frogI spent most of the afternoon thinking about going for a bike ride, going to the back door to check the wind and then thinking about not going for a bike ride.  This pattern was repeated several times. When I wasn’t doing that, I put a couple of weeks of the newspaper index into the database and grappled with an unsympathetic crossword.

I was lucky to look up from my work at just the right moment to catch a robin obligingly perching on the arm of a bench.

robinIt looked rather ruffled but when it turned away a bit, it looked better.

robinIt is quite hard to believe it is the same bird taken within seconds.

Although the builders gave us a miss today, the electrician came in the late afternoon and started his work so that kept us more than happy.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre to see a film about J W Turner and i went up to the Archive Centre with Sandy.  My journey was rather pointless as once again our internet connection refused to co-operate so we retired for a glass of wine and a sulk before coming home early.  Still, I managed to put a third week of the paper index into the database when I got home so I had had quite a productive day in that respect at least and have kept up with the data miners.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s film went on far too long for her to be able to enjoy it.

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

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture, sent to me by a proud parent, shows Maisie, Langholm’s gift to New Zealand, being very pleased to be exactly three years old.  Her grandfather was round for a cup of tea today but hadn’t seen the picture because his electricity was off.


It was a fine day when we woke up and I had great plans for a swift pedal on my speedy bike over hill and dale and then being back before the forecast rain started and in plentyn of time to entertain our guest.  When it dawned on me that the speedy bike was in the care of the local bike shop, I changed my plan  to a slow pedal on the slow bike over fewer hills and dales after a sociable breakfast with our guest.

This did mean that I hadn’t gone more than a mile before it started to rain.  The more determinedly I pedalled onwards, the harder it rained.  By the time that I got to Canonbie after six miles, the roads were running like rivers.  Fortunately, as I turned to come home, the rain eased off and by the time that I was halfway back to Langholm, the sun was out, everything was green and I was drying off.

Near Irvine House

Near Irvine House

bike path

The black clouds receding in the background as I went along the old road.


The daisies are coming out on the banking of the new section of road.

So in spite of the rain, I thoroughly enjoyed my slow pedal.

The ladies were hard at work in the garden when I got home and I wandered round admiring their work and taking a picture or two.


A selection of pale peonies.

There was geometry galore.

honeysuckle and allium

Honeysuckle and Allium, one coming and one going


Triangular Irises

I looked at two flowers of my favourite rose and it is hard to believe that one will lead to the other in the space of a day or two.

Lilian Austin

My attempt to catch the neatness of a pale blue lupin was interrupted.

lupin and bee

After a splendid lunch of green lentil soup and local cheeses, we set out with Pat for a short motor tour and a walk.  The car took us to the Rashiel road end where we admired the wild Irises which were growing in profusion.

Yellow iris

Yellow iris

This is just a small part of the picture.  I didn’t have a wide enough lens to catch the whole scene.

We drove back on to the Claygate road, a lot drier now than when I had pedalled along it earlier, and then went down to the Hollows. Here we parked the car and walked back along the old road…

The Old A7

…as far as Byreburnfoot, where we admired the view of the Esk from the bridge.

Esk from Byreburn bridge

We left the Esk behind and walked up the track beside the Byreburn as far as the junction with the road to Priorhill at the top of the track.  The bank on the far side of the river here was glowing with buttercups.

Byreburn buttercups

And my eye was caught by a wild rose near the bridge.

Byreburn rose

We retraced our footsteps back down the track and then to the car, keeping our eyes out for interest on our way.

ragged robin

Ragged robin


Conifers developing, each in their own way.

Wild flowers

A grass, a Geum and a Figwort


The heavy morning rain was being drained away by the burn

The prize went to Mrs Tootlepedal who spotted an orchid at one point during our excursion.  She wants me not to say where we saw it, so I shan’t.



It was a Marsh Orchid

I should have a mowed a lawn when we got home but the cycling and walking were quite enough for my knees for the day so I contented myself with a final garden shot….

evening garden

…and went in to have a cup of tea and a sit down.

We rounded off the day with an excellent meal at the Douglas Hotel (courtesy of Pat) and a late evening viewing of the International Space Station as it trundled across the sky above the house once again.  I say it trundled because that is how it appears as it goes sedately and silently over our heads but Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is travelling around the world  at 17,000 mph and completes 15 orbits a day.  It will go over us again in an hour and a half.  Some trundling.

My ISS photography has not improved.  I was using bulb mode with a tripod but I had great difficulty in getting everything set up before the thing had moved out of shot and in the end, I had to prop the tripod up with my wobbly hand.  Still practice makes perfect and Mrs Tootlepedal gets an e-mail to tell her when and where it will be visible so I will try to be better prepared next time (and not so near a street lamp).

Here is the flying object of the day.













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