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Posts Tagged ‘crocus’

Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon.  He is offsetting the disappointment of the disappearance of all his normal work thanks to the coronavirus by taking healthy walks along the beautiful Esk between some humdrum jobs which he has taken to fill the gap.

Jocks Pool Simon

I took a walk in the garden after breakfast.  It had been frosty when we woke but the sun made things feel quite pleasant…

forsythia

…and a scilla had added a little more colour to springtime.

scilla

There was shopping to do, so while Mrs Tootlepedal combined shopping and business, I pedalled round to the corner shop passing the oyster catchers at their regular spot beside the river on the way.

two oyster catchers

I like a reliable bird.

After coffee, we went out into the garden where Mrs Tootlepedal did some vegetable bed preparation and I did some compost sieving.  The compost, from the back end of last year, was some of the best that I have made and I put this down to some careful attention to layering green and brown material in the original bin and not letting it get too wet.

We checked on the forced rhubarb and decided that it looked good enough to pick a stalk or two. Its colour was wonderfully fresh.

forced rhubrab

Although it was warm enough to garden comfortably in the sun, the morning cold was not gone and when I tipped some rainwater out of the wheelbarrow, the evidence of the underlying chill was plain.

ice from barrow

A glittering starling serenaded us from the top of the holly tree as we  worked.

starling on holly tree

We went in and Mrs Tootlepedal settled down to some administrative work on the computer while I made some lentil soup for lunch.

And kept an eye on the birds.

perching chaffinch on stalk

I got an unusual view of a wood pigeon.

back vire pigeon

There were no siskins in the garden at all today and not many goldfinches either.  This left the field clear for the chaffinches, who gathered on the plum tree…

two male chaffinches sun

…and flew into the feeder uninterrupted by the hostility of siskins.

Both male…

flying chaffinch male panel

…and female chaffinches  took advantage of the peace and quiet.

flying chaffin female panel

I had been waiting for the day to warm up a bit before going cycling but even though the sun was still out after lunch…

chionodoxa and crocus

…and there was a crowd of chaffinches basking in it on the plum tree…

chaffinches in plum tree

..the thermometer refused to rise above 6°C so I put on several layers of bike clothing and then went back in and put on some more when I saw this cloud looming up over the town.

clouds over Langholm

A few drops of rain fell as I set out but I persevered, and the clouds, although still quite impressive,  looked a bit more friendly as I approached Callister.

clouds over callister

And by ten miles, they looked more friendly still.

cloudscape gir road

Out of the sun, it felt chilly but there always seemed to be a bit of sunshine ahead.  Here it was lighting up the pylons that I would follow for the next few miles.

pylons in the sun

Things didn’t look quite so good when I got over the hill and headed down towards the Solway Plain, but the rain shower was a good few miles away so I cut my intended route short, turned away from the dark clouds, and headed for home.

clouds over gretna

It looked like a good decision as I passed this pastoral scene at Half Morton…

half morton

..but life is seldom perfect and I had to pedal through a few miles of light rain not long afterwards.

However, it didn’t last too long and it certainly didn’t dampen my spirits.  This was because my spirits had been considerably dampened already by arguments with my legs.

They were in a very uncooperative mood and I got into trouble with OFFLEG (The office of the regulator of Leg use by Elderly Gentlemen.)  It turns out that in this day and age of politeness, you are no longer able to call your legs “Old Celery Sticks” or “Soggy Spaghetti” when they refuse to help you get up hills.  Ah well, I will be nicer to them when I go out next and hope that that makes them work better.

Still, I managed 26 miles at a very modest pace and that has taken me almost to 600 miles for the year.  After the appalling weather in February, that is not too bad so I shouldn’t complain.

Mrs Tootlepedal roasted the rhubarb with a little sugar coating for a dessert with our evening meal.  The colour was an attractive translucent pink and the taste, enhanced by some custard which I made, was not bad either.

We should have been visiting Matilda in Edinburgh today but we had to make do with a video call in the evening instead.  Matilda and her parents seem to be surviving ‘house arrest’ very well.  Al and Clare are both working from home and they are making use of on line material and help from her school to keep Matilda entertained and learning at the same time.

I had a choice of flying birds of the day but I chose this back view of a male chaffinch to fill the role.

flying chaffinches

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Today’s guest picture is the final one from Venetia’s Moroccan trip.  It shows a gecko basking in the sun.

gecko

It was another grey day here but slightly warmer and not actually raining as I walked to church in the morning.  Our bus driving organist had been called to do an an extra shift owing to shortage of staff in Edinburgh but a late replacement appeared so we had accompanied hymns even if they were not the ones that we expected.

I went out into the garden when I got home to check on frogs.  Once again there were none to be seen so I had to make do with a pulmonaria and a bit of colour on a viburnum…

pulmonaria and buds

…and some lawn talk with my neighbour over the garden hedge.  Another sign of spring.

Things in the garden are developing very slowly in the continuing damp, grey and cool weather.

I went back in and watched the birds for a while.  There has been a brisk demand for seed over the past few days and I have been kept busy refilling the feeder.

A siskin watched a queue of chaffinches filing past…

siskin watchinmg chaffinches

…and although this siskin has got its head stuck into the seed, its tail and wing position show that it is fully aware of the incoming chaffinch.

chaffinch and siskin

A bird needs to be alert as there is no knowing when a passing chaffinch might decide to give you a hefty kick.

all action siskins

Quieter scenes were also available.

chaffinch on pole

In both directions.

siskin on pole

We had a second helping of tomato soup for lunch and I printed out 200 more envelopes and covering letters for Mrs Tootlepedal.  These are going to go down to Canonbie where other people will deliver them.

When I looked, I saw that the seeds had dropped below the top perch level and a helpful chaffinch had to explain to a pal that the seed was down here now.

chaffinch too high

Mrs Tootlepedal hadn’t come to church as she was busy again delivering brochures in the town for the proposed community buy out.  She is not alone in this work and one of the team came round to collect more envelopes.  While she and Mrs Tootlepedal mulled over the work in hand, a heavy shower of rain swept through the garden and by the time that they had finished talking, it had gone.  Good timing.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off in the car to deliver envelopes to some of the outlying houses in the area and I didn’t go with her to help as I wanted to go cycling.  There was alarming talk on the news websites of old people in the UK being made to remain in their homes for a long period in the not too distant future so I wanted to get some exercise while I still could.

I got my cycling gear on and just as I was going to go out, it started to rain. In normal circumstances, I might have got fed up and stayed a home but having told Mrs Tootlepedal that I couldn’t help her, I thought that I ought to actually go for a bike ride, so I set off.

I chose a route up the Ewes valley as this meant that I would start with the wind and rain at my back and not get discouraged too soon!

The rain persisted but never came to much so I quite enjoyed my wind assisted cycle up the hill to Mossspaul.

I wasn’t intending to stop for pictures in the rain but this unusual little waterfall in the middle of a field caught my eye.

unexpected oxbow waterfall ewes

When I looked at the scene more closely, I could see that I was watching a geography lesson in action.  All the makings of the formation of an oxbow lake were before me.

oxbow lake ewes

It is not often that you see that.

There was plenty of water running off the hillside and every little stream was busy.

stream at mosspaul

When I stopped at Mosspaul  after ten miles, I took a moment to enjoy this pine tree…

pine at Mosspaul

…before setting off back down the hill to Langholm.  I had feared that it might be an unpleasant battle with wind and rain but the rain had eased off and the wind came round a point or two and was often more across than in my face.

All in all, it was a much more enjoyable ride than I had expected when I started out, and as I managed to average just over 14 mph for an outing for the first time this year, I was a happy man when I greeted Mrs Tootlepedal who had returned from her post outing and was busily folding the letters which I had printed earlier.

She didn’t need any help so I went for a short  walk.  The day had dried up and there was even a hint of sunshine.

monument in late sun

Waterside birds are paired up.

three bird pairs

And other signs of spring are to be seen.

three sings f spring

The birds still look as though they are finding life…

oyster catcher in esk

…a little chilly…

heron

…but the crocuses on the Kilngreen are certainly brightening things up.

kilngreen crocus panel

The sun didn’t come out so I didn’t dilly dally but willow and moss made me pause for a moment or two…

willow and moss

…and I went to check on the hazel catkins beside the Esk on the Castleholm.  When I last looked, there were several female flowers but very few catkins.  Today, there were a lot more catkins but I had to look very hard to find a flower and in the end, I only saw one and it was nowhere near the catkins.

The weather seems to have confused the hazels.

hazel catkin and flower

I made some corned beef hash for tea and we settled down for a quiet night in.  It had been strange to have no Carlisle Choir to go to but at least we had got the delivery work and a cycle ride done between us so we hadn’t wasted the day.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, approaching the feeder with the confidential manner of a head waiter at a posh restaurant.

flying goldfinch

Footnote:  The Coronavirus news is everywhere. 

Yesterday I read a headline that said “Borders Shut” so I thought that we had been closed down without us knowing about it.  It turned out to be about the closure of international borders in Europe not the border counties of Scotland.  Phew.

Today it said “UK over 70s to be confined to home for a long period”.  That was most unwelcome.  Closer reading showed that in Scotland, us old folk will be allowed some freedom to toddle about outside if we are prepared to ca canny, which we definitely will do.  Phew again.

Don’t think that we aren’t taking this seriously, because we are. 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia.  These are just a few of a large flock of white storks which she saw flying over her in Morocco.

Venetia's Moroccan storks

As it was Friday, Dropscone came round for coffee but in a big turn up for the books, he brought no treacle scones with him.  Plain scones were the order of the day.  He claimed that problems with the Chinese supply chain had led to a lack of treacle in the town but I have my doubts about that.  The plain scones were very satisfactory so I had no complaints.

When he left, I battled with a tricky crossword rather than taking some much needed cycle exercise.  Then I wasted a little more time by looking round the garden.  There is  colour but another three inches of rain recorded by Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge…

crocus, primula

…explains why most of the crocuses have given up the unequal struggle and are lying flat on the ground.

I made some lentil soup for lunch (Mrs Tootlepedal was hard at work of course) and watched the birds before and after eating it.

Here is a perching siskin, just for Mrs Tootlepedal.

perching siskin

Two greenfinches cvisited the feeder…

two greenfinches

…and the rather battered blackbird foraged for seed below.

wounded backbird

I did catch some feeder action.

feeder activity

In the end, I couldn’t waste any more time and got my cycling gear on and went out for a pedal.  The wind had changed from the prevailing west winds of recent days to an easterly wind today, still chilly but not too strong.

I find it a bit hard to get motivated to cycle these days when the temperatures is in single figures and a chilly wind is blowing, so I chose a route with the wind behind me as I set out to give me early encouragement.

This proved a good idea and I enjoyed the ride a lot.

I stopped for a minute or two at every five mile mark and took a picture, ate some guava jelly and had a drink of water.

Here are the five mile pictures and some details of the ride to give you an idea of how much difference a hill or an adverse breeze makes.

5 Miles:  338ft of elevation gain but a following wind: 26 minutes.

Picture: Two buzzards flew round over my head.

buzzards

10 miles: 250 feet of elevation loss with the wind still behind:  20 minutes, my fastest 5 miles of the trip.

Picture: A hint of blue sky but not enough to make a French sailor a pair of trousers.

blue sky

15 miles:  An elevation loss of 91 ft and with the wind still behind, 21 minutes.

Picture: The rather odd looking mismatch between the porch and church in Eaglesfield.

Eaglesfield church

20 miles: A net elevation loss of 58 ft (pretty well flat) with the wind now across. 23 minutes.

Picture: An alder catkin looking good.

alder catking old A74

25 miles:  Another flat section, more or less dead straight with an elevation loss of 59 ft, wind still across. 23 minutes.

Picture: An old mill and forge converted to accommodation to take advantage of the Gretna wedding trade.

mill at gretna

30 miles: Turning for home.  Wind across but more helpful than not: 171 ft of elevation gain.  28 minutes.

Picture: The international border bridge between Scotland (this side) and England (over there)

sark border brodge

I looked over the bridge to see if Boris Johnson had managed to bring the nations of the UK closer together as is his stated wish, but the gap between the banks remained exactly the same as ever. Must try harder.

river sark

I had stuck to my plan of only taking pictures every five miles up to this point but I cracked when I saw the last tree in England just before I went back into Scotland…

last tree in England

…the first lambs of the year at Glenzier…

first lambs glenzier

…and this charming little hill at Ryehills Farm.

raehill trig point

I got back to business again.

35 miles:  A net gain of 156 ft (some of it steep!) and a reasonably helpful wind,  28 minutes.

Picture:  Curious bulls near Wauchope Schoolhouse.

bloch bull

40 miles:  Back down the hill into the town with a couple of miles through the town and back added to round off the distance.  Net height loss of 188ft, sheltered from the wind. 21 minutes

Picture:  The view of the bridge over the dam and the gate to Wauchope Cottage,  always a welcome sight.

 

dam bridge

I reached a heady average speed of 13.5 mph after 15 miles with the wind behind me, but the changes of direction and the hills on the way back home, took their toll and I ended with an  average of 12.5 mph.   Towards the end of the trip, the wind obligingly moved round a few points so it wasn’t against me as much as it might have been and this made the ride very enjoyable.  I still wouldn’t mind a warm day though.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and among some familiar pieces, Alison and I tried out a new sonata by Daniel Purcell.  It sounded promising.

After playing, the general conversation turned to the virus and its effects.  A lot of things have been cancelled; Mrs Tootlepedal’s embroidery group, the camera club meeting, the Carlisle Choir and the Langholm Choir, the forthcoming performance by our local operatic society, Mrs Tootlepedal’s and my proposed trip to London to visit Evie, and train trips to Edinburgh to see Matilda.

Life will be quiet.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from one of our neighbour Liz’s morning walks with her dog.  They visited a lovely little waterfall on the Becks Burn.  As this involves quite a bit of scrambling, she deserves great credit for getting the shot.

waterfall becks burn Liz

I started the active part of my day by cycling round to the shop to get some milk.  I took the slightly longer route along the water side in the hope of seeing something interesting.

I though that a one legged oyster catcher  counted as interesting…

oyster catcher one leg

…and the first riverside blossom of spring was actually exciting.

cherry blossom by river

When I got back home, it wasn’t long before Dropscone arrived for morning coffee bringing his trademark Friday treacle scones with him.

He has recovered from his recent holiday and is back in the golfing groove again.

After Drospcone left, I walked up the hill to visit Sandy who has three more weeks to go before he is mobile again after his foot operation.   He is suffering a bit from cabin fever but I think my visit must have done him good because he says he always feels more cheerful when I leave.

It was lunch time when I got back and I had a few moments after lunch to watch the birds.  The chaffinches were in a twisty mood today.

bendy flying chaffinches

It had been near zero first thing in the morning and in spite of some sunny weather, the temperature had only crept up to 6°C by this time.  All the same, new crocuses were out in the garden….

white crocuses

…the silver pear is getting ready to flower….

silver pear bud

…and a couple of frogs were relaxing in the pool…

frogs on pond

…so things felt quite spring like.  In spite of this, I had to wrap up warmly before I went out on my bike.  I chose a different route today as I felt that my legs might be up to a few more small hills than usual.

I embarked on a “four dale” outing by starting out along the Esk, stopping to show how calm the river was at Skippers after a dry week.

skippers bridge March

I then went up and over and back down into the Tarras Valley, where I followed the route of the old railway.

In a better organised world, I would have been cycling on a beautifully maintained cycle path from Langholm to Carlisle using the disused trackbed instead of trying to get a shot of the old railway bridge at Mumbie through a mess of fallen trees.

railway bridge at Mumbie 1

I got a better view of the bridge from above.

railway bridge at Mumbie

At Claygate, I headed over to Liddesdale on a very undulating road which made me grateful for excuses to stop and admire trees….

tree on claygate road (2)

…sunshine behind me over the hills round Langholm…

view of solway from Calygate road

…a tall bridge over the Archer Beck…

Archer beck bridge

…and a distant view of the Solway in sunshine behind the Gretna wind turbines.

view from claygate road

Happily, the sunshine caught up with me and picked out a final tree for me to photograph…

tree on Claygate road

…before I got to Harelaw and turned to follow the Liddle Water down Liddesdale to Canonbie and beyond.

After the Liddle had joined the Esk, I stopped to have a look at the railway bridge over the Glinger Burn.

railway bridge A7

I was standing on the main road bridge that Simon had been under when he took this guest picture that appeared in the blog two weeks ago.

simon's bridges

Like today’s guest picture, he must have done some good scrambling to get down there.

Having gone down stream in general on my ride, I turned off soon afterwards and headed back across country towards home.

I stopped for a snack and a drink at this bridge….

 

beck burn bridge

…which spans the Beck Burn.

beck burn

As a name for a stream, this lacks a little originality as it is like calling a stream, the Stream Stream as a beck and a burn are the same thing.

I had the light breeze behind me now and pedalling uphill towards Tarcoon was not as hard as it might have been with the wind against…

hill at Tarcoon

…and the clouds that had been there at the start of my ride had been blown away by the breeze so that the ride back to Langholm looked inviting.

view from Tarcoon

I was hoping to do 30 miles and my bike computer said that I had done 30.08 miles as I entered our drive.  I thought that my route planning had been pretty good.

I was glad to get inside as the temperature had dropped back to a chilly 3° in spite of the sunshine.

Mrs Tootlepedal had spent a very busy day on community land purchase business but she still had the energy to cook a very tasty toad in the hole for our tea, and I was sufficiently invigorated by that to be able to play duets with Alison when she and Mike came round for their usual Friday evening visit.

As Alison says, it is always fun to play duets but I think it would be even more fun if I played better so I am resolved to try to make time for some serious flute practice next week.  The forecast is full of rain for the whole week, so it should be easier to find time than it has been in this past week of good weather.

I have made reasonable use of the good week and with a hundred miles of  cycling, I have done almost as much already in March as I did in the whole of February.

A sunny chaffinch makes a suitable flying bird of the day to sum up five days without serious rain.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She saw this early show of daffodils on her walk to Kenwood House today.

dav

We were up and about quite smartly today as our church organist had arranged a choir practice in the morning as he had a day off work.   When we got to the church, we found other members of the choir hanging about on the bridge so it was obvious that Henyy had not arrived yet.

This gave us the chance to chat, admire the ample lichen on the bridge parapet…

lichen on church bridge

…and look up at two oyster catchers who perched on the church roof and laughed at us down below.

oyster catchers on church roof

A bird on the tree beside the bridge was doing more than enough singing for all of us.

thrush at church

Henry arrived after an horrendous drive down from Edinburgh, and as it turned out that he had had a very late night last night when the bus he was driving broke down, we were very sympathetic and did our best in the choir practice to keep him happy.

When we got home, I had a moment to exchanged nods with a chaffinch in Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree…

chaffinch in fake tree

…before I went off to visit Sandy for a coffee.  Understandably, he is getting a bit bored, cooped up in the house as he is, so I helped him out by eating several of his ginger biscuits.  This seemed to cheer him up.

I didn’t have time to do much when I got home as we were going out to a patrons’ lunch at the Buccleuch Centre.  The patrons’ lunch always comes embellished with a speaker and this month we listened to an encouraging talk about the project to build a new sports centre and swimming pool in the town.  The organising committee have gone about it in a very methodical way, and there seems to be much more chance of it actually happening than I had thought.  I hope that they succeed, as I would like to be able to go for a swim.

When we got home, the sun was out and the flowers were grateful.

crocus snowdrop crocus

I should have gone cycling but the forecast had a bit of rain in  it and the wind was quite breezy so I wasted time watching the birds and doing a tricky crossword and pretending that I was a cyclist.

I was pleased to see a chaffinch giving a couple of siskins a lesson in how to eat seed neatly.

chaffinch eating neatly

One of the siskins didn’t seem to be very interested.

A female chaffinch seemed a bit put out to find herself not just being abused by a siskin as usual but by a male chaffinch as well.

chaffinch being shouted at

This male chaffinch was in the zone though and paid no attention to a rude siskin.

chaffinch and siskin

There was plenty of action at the feeder as a counterpoint to my lack of action indoors.

I liked the optimistic air of this chaffinch as it circled round to the far side of the feeder.  It was due to be disappointed when it found that there was siskin already there.

chaffinch looking round corner

I finally managed to get myself moving and set off on the bike rather late in the day.  It was cloudy and cold but the wind wasn’t quite as strong as it has been lately.  I just pottered along and stopped to greet some reliable gorse flowers on the road to Cleuchfoot…

gorse cleuchfoot

… and admire these artistically posed sheep on the bank above the gorse.

artistic sheep

When I got to the top of Callister, I found a rather curious cloud formation.  It looked as though the clouds were breaking apart and had had to be tied together with a bit of old rope.

clouds with binder twine

The clouds did part enough on my way home to let a tall cyclist accompany me for a while.

shadow cyclist

And by the time that I got to the bottom of the hill, the light was gorgeous.

tree bigholms

There must have been some clouds still about though, because not long afterwards, I looked up to see this.

wauchope rainbow half

There was a complete bow, but unfortunately I was too close for my little camera to get the whole thing in…

wauchope rainbow most

…so I took three pictures and when I got home, Photoshop kindly stitched them together for me.  Not perfect but not bad, I thought.

wauchope rainbow stitched

I had hoped to do twenty miles but it got dark and rather chilly so I settled for eighteen miles instead.  I should have gone out earlier!

Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy when I was pedalling and she was very happy to have done some good organising in the garden.

After tea, she invited me to go back to the Bucceuch Centre with her where the film of Downton Abbey was showing.  I couldn’t raise much enthusiasm for spending time with the gilded classes so I stayed at home while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to enjoy herself in the company of a very loyal blog reader.  As the blog reader is in the church choir and also sat next to us at the patrons’ lunch, she and Mrs Tootlepedal may well have run out of conversation before the evening is out.

I got two sunny possibilities for the flying bird of the day today and as I couldn’t choose between them, I have….

flying chaffinch

…put them both in.

flying chaffinch close

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He took his son Nick on a ten mile walk up as many hills as he could find.  Nick is going on a Nepal trek soon and needed some practice.  Here is Nick on Ecton Hill at 1211ft.

Nick on Ecton Hill

My morning walk to the (corner) shop once again took me along the river.  The weather had improved enough for the oyster catcher to get its head in the air.

oyster catcher sideways look

The weather forecast was a lottery today and trying to find out what was going to happen depended entirely on when you looked at it, as it changed every hour or so.  This made planning a dry cycle ride tricky.  It was supposed to rain at eleven and be sunnier in the afternoon, but it didn’t rain at  eleven and the sun came out at twelve and lit up the siskins.

_20S7433

Sunshine is always welcome but does pose shadow problems for me.

_20S7438

There was plenty of action but not enough to call for two feeders, so I took one back in and washed it thoroughly.

_20S7440

The sunshine was a great motivator though, and I had a very early lunch and went off on my bike to add a few miles to my meagre monthly total.   February has been a rotten month for my cycling as it started with dizzy spells which kept me off the bike and just as I recovered from them, the rain and gales started and didn’t stop for two weeks.

It was a novel experience to be cycling in the sunshine.

I wanted to record that it was a  colourful day compared with yesterday’s monochrome ride so I took a picture of a tree.  Because it was not raining or snowing, I was able to look at the result on the camera and much to my surprise, I found that it wasn’t colourful at all.

dead tree bw

Behind my back and without my permission, the camera had gone into monochrome mode and that explained the extreme lack of colour in yesterday’s landscapes.  I apologise for misleading readers but I would say in my defence that it was a pretty monochrome day and curiously, my photo editor still insists that the picture above is in RGB colour so the camera must be withholding secrets even from Photoshop.  I like the monochrome tree anyway.

Still, I moved the dial on the camera back to its proper setting and took a picture of some more trees.

two trees chapelhill

The sunshine became rather variable as I pedalled round my customary Canonbie circuit..

tree beside Canonbie by pass

…but it was shining when I got to Hollows Bridge and found that there was still a fair amount of water flowing down the Esk.

esk at hollws brodge

On the other side of the bridge, a fragile tree looked as though it might plunge into the river at any time.

old tree hollws bridge

The roads were generally quite dry but there were still puddles about and shortly after I had passed this one…,

puddle auchenrivock road

…I was forced to stop at a traffic light.  This had been put up to cope with yet another roadside landslip.

I could see trees at dangerous angles…

landslip with trees irvine house

…and as the road is close to the bank of the river here,  trees had been pulled out of the soil as the bank collapsed.  The road was just intact but barriers were encouraging the traffic to keep away from the affected side of the road.

The wood on the other side of the road has recently been felled and these trees are not so sheltered from the blast as they were.  I don’t know how long these unaffected trees will last…

surviving trees at irvine house

…or the ones that perch in a lonely fashion on the steep bank on the other side of the road.

tree at irvine House

During the second half of my ride, it had started to rain once or twice but I scowled so furiously at the clouds that the rain apologised and went away.  I was enjoying myself so much that when I got back to Langholm, I was thinking if adding some extra miles but this time it started to rain seriously, with a bit of snow thrown in for good measure, so I took the hint and went straight home.

Mrs Tootlepedal was working in the garden and the rain was so local that it had hardly stopped her at all.   I had a look round the garden myself.

four spring shots

..and felt that the flower of the day was the single blossom on the winter honeysuckle.

winter honeusuckle

The sun came out again as I went in.

siskin on feeder arch

Mrs Tootlepedal told me that the helicopter which is taking materials to the pylon on the golf course was back in the air again, so I went upstairs to have a look to see if I could see it.

It was very busy zipping to and fro.  They must have been pleased to be able to get back to work after the strong winds of the past two weeks.

pylon helicopter

As I watched, the rain started again so I shut the window after I had taken this final shot of the helicopter, like young Oliver, going back for more.

helicopter over monument

I was thinking of going for a late walk but the weather seemed too unreliable so I settled down to try to improve the security of the Langholm Archive Group website, a necessity these days when browsers may stop people viewing insecure sites.  This is above my pay grade but I ploughed on and succeeded with two of the three parts of the site but made the third part so bad that my browser had a fit when I tried to view it.

Fortunately, the web hosting company was able to provide a solution when I retailed my woes to them.

Unfortunately, the security certification process has upset the formatting of the sites and I have had to ask for help again.  This sort of thing makes my head hurt.  They have kindly replied but the suggested solution may need me to seek yet more help.

In the meantime, I did find a sunny flying chaffinch of the day. Hooray.

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Today’s guest picture is another from camera club member Simon.  He took a walk along the old railway line to Longtown and managed to find himself under three bridges at the same time, the main road, the old railway and a footbridge.

simon's bridges

The weather, which likes to have its little joke, decided that a day when there was no time for  walk and when Evie was due to go home would be just the day to put on a show of sunshine after a week of more or less continuous rain.

Now I like a joke as much as the next man, but even I thought that this was going a bit far and allowed a smidgeon of bitterness to enter my soul.

Leaving Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie to combine Evie care with talking to the project leader about the proposed community land purchase, I went to church where a diminished choir and a service with few hymns made for a thin singing experience.

As we were preparing for Annie and Evie’s departure after lunch and I had to some shopping, there wasn’t even a lot of time to look at birds when I got back.

Still, it was good to see them perching in the sun.

sunlit siskin

sunlit robin

sunlit chaffinch

When I went out into the garden for a moment, I turned my eyes to the hills and wished that I had had time to climb.

Castle hill with Cattle

In the garden, there were still no frogs to be seen but the first of the miniature daffodils has come out…

miniature daffodil

…the chives are looking promising…

chives early

…and the rhubarb is developing.

rhubarb developing

I used to think that hellebores were a bit dull but in recent years, I have changed my mind.

hellebore backlit

Back inside, there was another moment to watch the birds.  The sunshine hadn’t improved their manners at all…

two siskins vs chaffinch

…but at least one chaffinch made it safely to the feeder and enjoyed a seed.

sunlit chaffinch looking round

After lunch, I had a quick look to see if the sun had brought the crocuses out…

open crocuses

…and then it was time to pack Annie, Evie, the pushchair and an enormous case in to the car and pray that the Zoe would behave and take us to Carlisle.

The Zoe behaved impeccably and we arrived at the station in plenty of time and found that the train was more or less on time.  These days the railway experience wouldn’t be the same without some excitement, so a train from another railway company got stuck at the platform at which our train was due to arrive.  With a couple of minutes to go, there was a rush of pushchair, case and passengers over the footbridge to catch the down train from the up platform.  All was well  though and we got Annie, Evie, the case and the pushchair onto the train and it pulled out on time as we shed a tear and waved goodbye.

It really was a lovely day in Carlisle as they left…

citadel in sunshine

…but we ignored the lovely day and headed indoors to our Carlisle Community Choir practice.  Fortunately, it was a very good session and the tenors recovered some of their self esteem after last week’s travails.

And even better, it was still light as we drove home so we were able to watch a pretty spectacular starling murmuration over our heads as we went back through Longtown.  If we get a decent day, we will try to go down to see the starlings with camera in hand next week.  There seemed to be a lot more birds than when we watched them a month ago.

The house seems very quiet.

The flying bird of the day is a choice between this rather impressionistic study of a goldfinch…

impression of flying goldfinch

…and this neater but duller shot.

flying goldfinch

Take your pick.

I have time on my hands tomorrow: the forecast is for sleet and snow.  Ha ha.

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