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Posts Tagged ‘cycle outings’

Today’s guest picture comes from Tony.  He was impressed by the power of some ivy which he found eating a castle turret.

ivy covered turret

I had a day neatly divided into three parts with a wide variety of weather to experience.

My day started when I crossed the suspension bridge in grey, slightly misty conditions.

suspension bridge

I had a bit of business to do in the town but it didn’t take long and I was soon on my way for a three  bridges walk.

When I got to the Kilngreen, the gulls were have a bath…

gulls in water

…and the rooks were looking for food in the grass.

rook kilngreen

At 4°C it was cool but there was little wind so it was a good day for a walk.

After seeing some very interesting moss on my walk yesterday, I had another look at moss on a wall today but found nothing unusual.

moss ewesbank

I did find an interesting lichen though.

lichen lodge walks

It was my intention to walk round the pheasant hatchery and I made good progress along the road beside the field, noticing this device for tightening fence wire…

fence gadget

…and wondering whether a black and white setting would give a truer picture of the day than colour as my camera always tries its best to make the colour look as colourful as possible.

bandw phesant hatchery road

I had just got to the top of the pheasant hatchery and was considering this old tree surrounded by potential youngsters in tubes…

old tree and new trees

…when a cacophony of whistles and banging made me aware of the presence of a group of people who had arrived to reverse the production of pheasants by shooting them.

This is not the sort of shooting that I am comfortable with so I took myself and my camera back the way that I had come, crossed the Duchess Bridge out of range of the guns and waited until I had got home before doing some of my own shooting of birds in the garden.

plum chaffinch crop

A stout sparrow took the chair…

sparrow taking the chair

…while stupid chaffinches wasted time and effort arguing when there were free perches available for all.

quarrelling chaffinches

I made some lentil soup for lunch and and ate it.  After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents and I went for a bicycle ride.

The temperature was still only 5°C but the sun had come out and the day was transformed from dull grey to full colour as this view over the Bloch shows.

sunny view from bloch

Sadly, it only took about another two miles for the weather to revert to grey as the sun slipped behind a bank of cloud and mist rose up from the valley.

misty clouds

I was going round my Canonbie circuit and coming up the Esk through the village, I began to wonder if the mist would get so thick that cycling might be dangerous.  However,  as I left the village and began the gentle climb up to Langholm, the mist thinned out and I could see Hollows Tower clearly, although the trees behind were still rather vague.

hollows tower

Looking up the road, the low mist was still lying but there was plenty of blue sky up above…

misty hollows road

…and by the time that I got back to Langholm, I was in full sunshine again.  I pedalled on through the town and up the A7, hoping to get a sunny view up the Ewes valley but that bank of cloud got in the way again and only the hills at the top of the valley were clear with mist rising from the fields again.

misty ewes valley from a7

I turned and cycled home in the gathering gloom….

misty warbla

…and got there not a moment too soon as within half and hour, the mist was so thick that I couldn’t see past the end of our road.

I made myself a sausage, onion and leek stew for my tea and then my friend Susan kindly appeared to give me a lift to our recorder group in Carlisle.  I was worried that thick mist might make the journey uncomfortable but it had thinned out and we drove down without too much difficulty.

We enjoyed a good tootle (and excellent biscuits) with the group and found that the mist had cleared away before our return to Langholm, where I found Mrs Tootlepedal back from her trip to Edinburgh.

In between all this, I had a go at the ‘blowing down a straw into water’ recommended by my speech therapist.  It was noisy and splashy and fun so it won’t be hard to remember to do it twice daily for the next seven weeks.  After that, I hope to be able to sing like a bird…

…though I probably still won’t qualify as the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie who has been baking bread.

annie's bread

I had a day full of action but very little of it was in front of the camera – it was not a case of “Lights, camera, action!”

It was damp and drizzly after breakfast and there were still occasional mournful cries of geese to be heard.   It seemed a good day to have coffee with Sandy and he dropped in on his way to Carlisle,  He brought a gift of Christmas cake, made by a friend who doesn’t like Christmas cake and whose husband can’t eat it for health reasons.  In spite of this slightly dubious pedigree, it tasted very good.

When Sandy left, I set about making marmalade and as this involves a lot of sticky work and a sharp knife, I didn’t have the opportunity to pick up my camera or look out of the window for a while.  When I had got the mixture simmering, Mrs Tootlepedal kindly agreed to watch over it, while I went for a pedal.

The drizzle had gone and the clouds had lifted and as the thermometer showed nearly 10°C, it would have been a perfect day for cycling if there hadn’t been a twenty to thirty mile an hour wind blowing.

As it was, I put my head down and pedalled three times up and down the road to Wauchope Schoolhouse, keeping as far out of the wind as was possible. On one of the repetitions, I went though the town and out of the other side just for a bit of variety but I don’t have any time to spare and got back home after 22 miles in perfect time to add the sugar to the pan and cook the marmalade.

I took only two pictures on my ride, one at each end of my up and down route.

high mill

wauchope schoolhouse

I had a look for some birds while the mixture was boiling but there was not much to be seen and not much light to see it in anyway as the skies had clouded over again.

chaffinch

two goldfinches in plum tree

Once I had potted the marmalade…

marmalade

The pale bits are lemon rind which I added as a novelty this year.  You have to use the juice of two lemons so I thought that I would chuck the rind in too.

…I had a shower, came down to have a cup of tea with Mike Tinker who had dropped in and then played some enjoyable duets with my flute pupil Luke and finished the active part of the day with a plate of venison stew which Mrs Tootlepedal had cooked for our tea.

All in all, it was a useful and sociable day, even if there was not much of a photographic record of it.

I did get a sort of double flying bird of the day picture but the main thing that it shows is that I have lost a perch from the feeder.  I will have to remember to look for it tomorrow.

chaffinch and goldfinch hovering

I should say that Sandy has posted a couple of splendid galleries of his trip to Thailand which can be seen here.

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Today’s guest picture comes from our younger son Alistair.  He came across these Christmas baubles in the Botanical gardens in Edinburgh.  As they were the size of footballs, he was quite impressed by them.

baubles botanic

We didn’t have much sparkle here as it was another grey and chilly day.  Any brightness was provided by the arrival of Dropscone (with scones) for coffee.  When he left, he was thinking about going to play golf as the temperature was around 5°C and I thought that it was just warm enough for a pedal.

Although it has been cold, it hasn’t rained recently so the roads were dry enough for comfortable riding and I had a calm pedal round my customary Canonbie route.  I had thought of going a little  bit further but was happy to settle for just the twenty miles as hands and feet were getting quite cold by the time that I got home.

Between not wanting to stand around getting even colder and the very poor light, I was intending not to stop for any stop for pictures but I was brought up short by a new sign beside the road at Hollows.

canonbie walk board

Some enterprising group has encouraged the council to put up a set of signs along a popular walking route from the village.  They are nicely done.  This one has the added benefit of being placed near a set of some slightly mysterious stone sculptures which have been anonymously placed in a little wood beside the river.

carving 1 hollows

There are disconcerting when you first see them as they are so unexpected.

carving 2 hollows far

The inscription on the helmet is quite apposite.

carving 2 hollows

When I got home, I took a picture of the first snowdrops of the year which are on the bank of the dam at the back of our house.  They have arrived a week or two earlier than usual this year.

snowdrops by dam

In the garden, the magnolia buds are looking healthy and ready to burst.

magnolia bud

I had lunch and tried to catch a bird at the feeder outside the kitchen window.  It was one of those days however when the very poor light and the flighty behaviour of the very few birds that were about meant that I didn’t take a single garden bird picture, a very rare occurrence.

In the end, I went for a short walk just for the sake of finding something to look at but I had left it too late and the already poor light had got even worse.  I pointed my camera around all the same.

This gull had found a taller spot to sit on rather than the fence posts at the Kilngreen and was on top of an electricity pole.

gull on lectricity pole

There were no gulls at the Kilngreen when I got there and after a pretty dry spell, there wasn’t much water in the rivers either.low water

I had to use the flash to take pictures of lichen on the sawmill Brig parapet…

bridge lichen

…and some spleenwort on the wall by the Lodge gates…

spleenwort back

…but there was just enough light to note that a mole had been busy down here too.

moles by lodge gates

I have a soft spot for trees that seem to have been cobbled together from small pieces.

many treed trunk

And I liked the combination of different bark colours, moss and lichen on this tree on the Castleholm.

moss and lichen on tree

But all in all, the cold and the greyness didn’t encourage me to linger and I soon got home again.

I had made some ginger biscuits in the morning and although they weren’t as successful as my last batch, they were quite suitable for dunking in a cup of tea so I did just that.

Since our Carlisle choir starts again this Sunday, I spent a little time doing some singing practising and then had another cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike Tinker who had come to call.

As Mike’s wife Alison is not back to full piano playing fitness after injuring her shoulder, there was no music in the evening and Mrs Tootlepedal and I spent a quiet evening in.

I couldn’t find a flying bird in the garden today so this distant shot of gulls flying across the Esk this afternoon is my best effort at a flying bird of the day.

flying gull flock

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Joe and shows our daughter Annie crossing a bridge in the highlands when she came to it.

highland bridge

I was anxious to make up for the defect in my spreadsheet calculations by having a 30 mile plus cycle ride today so I was pleased when I got up to find that the temperature had stayed at a very temperate 9°C, the wind wasn’t whistling and the rain was staying firmly in the clouds.  Under the circumstances, I left Mrs Tootlepedal to represent the family in the church choir and set off to visit a well known bench in Newtown, twenty miles away.

I reached the bench without any undue excitement….

Newtown bench

…had a drink and a few raisins and set off back home again as it wasn’t a day to linger about taking in some rays.

I stopped at the bridge over the Esk in Longtown..

Esk at Longtown

….out of respect for my legs which were muttering under their breath at this point.

And got home in good order after finally (and definitively) reaching 4000 miles for the year.  My secret target had been 4200 but the pulled leg muscle in November put paid to that and 4012 miles will just have to do.

It was made up of 153 rides with 320 hours in the saddle, meaning an average distance per ride of 26.2 miles at an average speed of 12.5 mph.  As 827 of the miles were done on my slow bike while I was waiting for my new bike to arrive, the average speed for the new bike will be a bit higher than that but not a great deal.

It was still warm and dry when I got home so after a nourishing plate of duck soup and some bread and cheese, I went out for a walk with Mrs Tootlepedal.

We chose a modest two bridge walk up one side of the river and down the other. Mrs Tootlepedal strode out bravely, ignoring the trees leaning over the path….

Riverside path with Mrs T

…and the ones that had leaned finally and fatally in the woods along side.

fallen trees beside the river

This bank of the river spends a lot of its life in shade and the trees are very mossy to say the least.

mossy tree

But they are very much alive and the catkins and buds on a birch beside the Duchess Bridge were looking very healthy.

birch catkins

We crossed the Duchess Bridge…

Duchess Bridge

…passed a fine show of ferns…

ferns

…and walked onto the Castleholm track through a gate with a garden of moss on the gatepost.

moss on gate close up

Looked at more closely, the moss seems rich and lush.

moss on gate

Further on, the trunk of a Scots pine showed evidence of wear and tear…

pine tree trunk

…and a fallen birch was playing host to a splendid set of birch polypores.

birch polypore

To my eye, this tree on the bank of the river had the look of a samba dancer with a skimpy backless costume of fern.

tree with ferns

We crossed the Jubilee Bridge and took the track behind the school where we came across what looked at first sight to be a shrub in full flower…

pernettya bush

Mrs Tootlepedal’s sharp eye noticed that the colour came from berries and not from flowers….

pernettya berries

…and she correctly identified it as a pernettya, presumably a garden escape.

Although it was still quite early when we got home, the gathering gloom made taking pictures of birds on the feeder impossible so I didn’t even check to see if there were any about and it wasn’t long before the curtains were drawn and we settled down for a quiet evening at home.

Mrs Tootlepedal cooked gammon and egg for tea and it was very satisfying to have a serving of home grown marrow on the side.  The marrows were picked a long time ago and have survived very well in a cool place with no special care required.

In the absence of a garden bird, the non flying bird of the day is one from the Castleholm.  It sang very loudly and continuously as we walked down the path but it was too far away for a good identification.  We wondered if it might be a blackbird or a thrush.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

singing bird in tree

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Today’s guest picture is another one from Joe and Annie’s recent Highland holiday and shows what you get if you arrive at the top of a mountain, namely a view of more mountains.

top of mountain

Our welcome spell of relatively mild weather continued today but once again, the morning was very grey and there was even a little drizzle early on.   I was very happy therefore to entertain Sandy to a cup of coffee when he came round to collect the Archive Group projector and a copy of a 1967 parish magazine for scanning.

Sandy and I haven’t been going for any walks lately because he has been having trouble with his feet and as I enjoy these walks, I was glad to hear that he is going to seek medical advice.  I hope that he gets good treatment and that we will be able to resume some walks again early next year.   He taught me almost everything I know about photography and it is always an education to see what he sees when we are out and about.

Scott, our ex-minister, has obviously lost control of his coffee radar since he has left Langholm as he arrived for a surprise visit only after Sandy and all the coffee in the pot had gone.  I wasn’t even able to offer him a cup of tea as I was changed and ready to go out on my bike when he came.  At this time of year, there is no time to spare as it gets dark so early so I left him chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal and went off pedalling into the distance.

It was still very grey and as I went over Callister, I was swathed in low cloud.  it wasn’t long though before the clouds began to lift….

clouds lifiting off windmills

…and there was a good patch of blue sky in the direction that I was heading.

tree at Giar road

There had hardly been any birds in the garden in the morning so I was pleased to come across a great flock of starlings near Waterbeck.  They rose like a vast animated carpet from a field as I passed.  By the time that I had got my camera out, many of them had settled in some trees.

starlings at West Craigs

I was soon pedalling along in what passes for bright sunshine in the winter and although some of the remaining clouds looked a bit sinister, I had sun with me for the rest of my ride.

cloud and sunlight

As well as the big flock of starlings, I passed a large array of hundreds of geese in a field near Chapelknowe.  I think that these are pink footed geese which visit Scotland for the winter from Greenland and Iceland.

geese in field at Chapelknowe

My legs were in a helpful mood today and after a hard working first ten miles with some climbing and the wind against, the last 20 miles of my ride were much flatter and with a friendly wind now assisting me and my legs in full working order, I fairly whizzed along (by my standards).

I stopped for a breather at Half Morton with ten miles to go.  There is a convenient wall there for propping up bikes and riders, not to mention a fine tree to admire.

tree at Timpanheck

My final pause was to take a view, a favourite not just because  of the neat framing of the hills round Langholm but also because when you see it, it means that there are only five miles to go to a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

Low cloud over Langholm

I found Mrs Tootlepedal at work in the garden when I got home and there were a few chaffinches on the plum tree too.  Mrs Tootlepedal soon went in and the dratted chaffinches remained firmly stuck in the tree and only came down to the feeder when the light had gone too far for decent photography.

chaffinches in plum tree

In the evening, we were visited  by Mike and Alison, as is customary on a Friday, and since Alison’s injured shoulder is still preventing full piano playing, we settled for some wine and beer drinking and general conversation instead of music.  The early renewal of Friday evening music making is another of my New Year’s wishes.

The lack of flying birds is getting to be embarrassing and I didn’t get one at all today.  If there was any flying, it always seemed to be right behind the feeder.

invisible flying bird

 

 

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Today’s guest picture from my brother Andrew shows the Christmas skating rink in Derby.  These seasonal rinks have become very popular and we passed one in Edinburgh on Thursday.  I would think that skating on a wet day like this would encourage the skaters to stay upright at all costs.

derby skating rink

It was calm and misty when we got up and the goldfinches on the plum tree were outlined against the greyness.

misty godlfinches

Although we are still short of finches, there are larger birds about all the time.  This collared dove seems to have missed out as it came down with two other doves and they made faces at it and flew off.

collared dove

We flew off ourselves, although it was low level flying by bicycle as we went to church for the Sunday Club’s nativity service.  The mist was lying over the town as we got to the river.

sdr

The nativity service was charming so we enjoyed the service although there was not much for the choir to do.

When we got home, more large birds were about in the shape of a small platoon of jackdaws pecking away at the lawn and making holes in it.

jackdaw right foot up

They were putting their best foot forward.

jackdaw left foot up

I was very happy to see a couple of coal tits back collecting sunflower seeds but there was no sign of blue or great tits about.

coal tit

Mike Tinker tells me that they have had blue tits visiting but they have not had a great number of finches at their feeder.

We had moments of action today but the feeder is still going down very slowly.

busy feeder

After a cheese and tomato toastie for my lunch, courtesy of the George Foreman grill, I left the birds to it and spent an hour on my bike.

It was the first day for sometime with little wind and I enjoyed myself by visiting this tree twice, making for a fourteen mile ride.

Wauchope schoolhouse tree

I was extremely pleased to manage 14 miles in just under an hour but even with only a light wind, I found myself getting chilly and losing feeling in my fingers in spite of my warm gloves so I stopped after two turns up the road and went for a walk with Mrs Tootlepedal instead.  We did three bridges.

The hardy hill cattle weren’t feeling the chill and were chomping away on the very top of Castle Hill.

cows on top of Castle Hill

There was plenty of water coming down the Esk…

ripple in river

…and the black headed gulls were back on their posts at the Kilngreen.  A reader has asked what benefit they get from perching on the posts and I had to admit that I have no idea why they like it there.

Maybe it is just that it gives them a good view of the passers by.

gulls on posts

We had a look for dippers or other birds as we paused on the Sawmill Brig but there were none to be seen so I looked at lichen instead.

lichen on Sawmill Brig

We took the new path round the Castleholm and stopped to looked at the pair of noble firs at the corner of the path.  I have tried to find out about these trees.  One of the pair has a lot of these under every new set of needles…

noble fir flowers

…and I think these are the male strobili.  The other tree seems to bear the female cones and few if any male strobili but I don’t know if this is just an accident or a normal thing when there are two trees close together.

We found a cone that was well past its best.

noble for cone

Following Joe’s very fine picture of our daughter standing in a loch which appeared in yesterday’s post, I tried to encourage Mrs Tootlepedal to stand in the middle of the river today so I could try for a similar shot.

She was not enthusiastic and headed for home.

Mrs T stepping out

The cold was settling down on the Castleholm and a fine mist covered the cricket ground as we headed for our final bridge.

mist on cricket pitch

We were pleased to get into the warmth of the house where our one metre high Christmas tree has been decorated by Mrs Tootlepedal.

christmas tree decorated

I like a reflective bauble.

christmas tree baubles

We discovered that we had missed the delivery of our Christmas fare from the butcher while we were out.  I had got muddled and thought it was due tomorrow.  We were rather alarmed by the thought of just plain bread and butter for Christmas dinner but fortunately a phone call caught the driver before he had left the town and the situation was saved.

Sandra's woodpeckerIn answer to my question as to whether other local bird feeders were short of birds, I was sent this picture of a visitor to her feeder by Sandra who lives on the edge of town and gets regular visits from nuthatchesand the woodpeckers.

Another reader from the country tells me that that they too are getting woodpeckers and nuthatches, while a correspondent from Canonbie says that they have been short of birds this last week.  It seems that though there are plenty of bigger birds about, finches have seriously dropped in numbers for the moment at least.

 

I did manage to find some goldfinches on our feeder today and here is one of them as flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He was watching this team of rowers battling into a very strong wind during the recent storm when he heard unsympathetic onlookers on the bank shouting, “Faster!”

nottingham rowers

The wind had dropped here today but it was still raining when we got up.  I looked at Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge in the evening and found that there has been three inches of rain this week.

I went along to the producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre after breakfast and replenished our supplies of cheese, honey and fish and meat.  There were plenty of stalls and a good crowd of buyers so every one seemed happy.

When I got home, I peered at the birds and found that most of our visitors were goldfinches again…

_DSC8869

…with the now familiar coal tits in evidence…

_DSC8871

…and the jackdaw with the white feathers too.

_DSC8874

The rain persisted all morning but I had a stubborn crossword to struggle with so the time passed and after lunch, the rain eased off and I got ready to go out for a cycle ride.

I was just leaving when my neighbour Liz phoned and told me to look at her garage roof.

I looked and saw two partridges.  The partridges are birds that are put out for shooting parties to take pot shots at so these two had sensibly got out of the woods and into the town where they will only be subject to people shooting them with a camera.

_DSC8879

I hoped that when I got back from my cycle ride that I would find them in the pear tree in our garden and thus solve the Christmas present question.

There were still a few drops of rain about when I set off up the road but it wasn’t too cold, the rain soon stopped and the wind was behind me so I was contented enough.

The light didn’t improve though and I only stopped once on my 12 mile ride.

P1150754

A quick walk round the garden when I got back also only produced a single shot. The snowberries seemed appropriate for the first official day of winter.

P1150756

The partridges were in our garden when I cycled in, but I alarmed them and they scurried off so I didn’t get a chance to put out seed to tempt them into the pear tree.

I didn’t have long to get changed.

The town’s Christmas lights were due to be switched on and our choir had been asked to go and sing carols with a group of players from the Langholm Town Band.  Mrs Tootlepedal came with me and we squeezed onto this little platform outside the Town Hall, looking for all the world like a Punch and Judy show.

P1150758

We sang twice and in between efforts, I sneaked along the road to see the reindeer in the yard of the Buck Hotel, regular visitors to his event.

P1150764

This one was getting a feed of lichen.

The High Street was very festive with a good crowd out to welcome Mrs and Mrs Santa Claus, listen to the band and see a variety of entertaining turns as they gathered outside the Eskdale Hotel waiting for the  big switch on.

P1150769

The lights came on right on schedule and the Christmas tree looked very fine.

mde

Cars had to make their way carefully between the throng…

sdr

…and there was some of the fun of the fair for younger people.

sdr

There was even a flurry of snow but it has to be said that this came from two ingenious snow guns.

P1150774

It was a very cheerful event.

I enjoyed a small fillet of sea bass for my tea, a fish that I had never cooked before.  I will certainly cook it again as it extremely easy to cook and it turned out to be very tasty.

The varied activities, combined with unusually interesting programmes on the telly in the evening, left me feeling that winter hasn’t been bad so far.  Long may this happy state of affairs continue.

The flying bird of the day wasn’t available so a posing partridge is standing in.

_DSC8876

 

 

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