Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

Today’s guest picture harks back to my siblings’ visit at the start of this month and shows Skelwith Force in the Lake District.  It was taken by my sister Mary.

Skelwith Force

Skelwith Force

We had another day of mixed sunshine and showers here with some impressive cloudscapes.  Plans were once again slightly frustrated but the day worked out well enough in the end.

I was due to fill the Moorland bird feeders for some friends who are on holiday and since the light was good when I went up, I was looking forward to spending some productive time in the bird hide there.

However, when I had almost finished filling the feeders, a minibus full of school children drew up and the project leader told me that it was  a school visit.  Plan A went into the bin.

It was still quite bright when I got home so I decided to convert Plan A into Plan B and go and visit the nuthatches but by the time that I had made a pot of coffee for Mrs Tootlepedal and myself, it had clouded over and started to snow.  Plan B hit the bin too.

Plan C involved crosswords, catching up with business and making soup.  It worked well.

I did find a moment to admire an a gymnastic siskin….


…and watch a siskin and a redpoll circling warily round each other.

siskin and redpoll

After lunch, the skies had cleared.  Although it was still pretty chilly for April (6.5°C), the wind was much calmer than yesterday so I put on many layers and took my slow bike out to give the solid tyre another test.

Needless to say, it started snowing lightly as soon as I left our front gate but rather than junking Plan D, I kept going and was rewarded by a small pool of sunshine which very politely kept pace with me as I pedalled along.  All around there were showers and looming clouds…

clouds at the Kerr

…but for nine of the fourteen miles of my ride, I managed to keep away from them.

I didn’t stop much because it seemed a pity to risk being caught up by the rain but I did like the sight of this young Belted Galloway who was as curious about me as I was about it.

belted galloway

The weather to one side of the road smiled upon a pleasant prospect…

View at Ryehills

…but on the other side, more black clouds loomed.

Clouds at Ryehills

My luck couldn’t hold out for ever and as I ground up to the highest point of my ride, I was overtaken by a hailstorm.

Fortunately, the hail was the softest and most gentle that I have ever met so I was spared getting painfully pinged and because it was hail rather than snow, I didn’t even get very wet. To make matters better, I soon cycled through it and came out on the other side.

Since the sun was out again, I stopped at my favourite little cascade on the Wauchope to show that although the weather has been very cold lately, we haven’t anything serious in the way of continuous rain for several weeks and the rivers are very low.

Wauchope cascade

This was a different view taken last December after two solid months of downpours.

wauchope cascade

The low water let me get a close shot of the deformed rocks beside the river…

wauchope rocks

…and a look down stream to a more peaceful stretch.

Wauchope below Bessie Bells

The birds had been very busy at the garden feeders and I had to fill them when I got home.

As well as a bird on every perch and more waiting on the pole and in the plum tree, there was a huge squad of scavengers on the ground too.

scavenging birds

I can count thirty birds here.  There were often more than fifty in the garden at once

The garden was very pleasant, sheltered from the wind and bathed in occasional sunshine.

Flowers competed for attention.


A pulsatilla

Drumstick primulas

Drumstick primulas

Mrs Tootlepedal had painted our back stairs in the morning and was busy in the garden in the afternoon so she was quite ready for a cup of tea after I had had a shower.

Dr Tinker, whose tea detecting system was working perfectly, arrived just in time to join us.  He is going to look after Mrs Tootlepedal’s greenhouse plants next week while we are taking a short break from Langholm life.

As we sipped, we looked out of the window and saw some quite heavy snow so I was pleased with the timing of my ride.  The ground is warm enough and the snow showers short enough that we haven’t had problems with snow settling.

The sun was soon out again and when I was upstairs, I took the opportunity to lean out of an upper window and get a different angle on the birds.

goldfinches and siskins

I suppose that I was having a bird’s eye view from up above.

goldfinches and siskins

Mrs Tootlepedal has planted out her onions and is protecting them against the inclement weather with a row of cloches.  I could see them out of my window too.

onion cloches

In the evening, we went to sing with our Langholm choir and  had a good time getting some polish on pieces which we are going to sing in two concerts next month.

With four choral engagements, two with the Langholm choir and two with the Carlisle choir, in the next two months, we have plenty of homework to do.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches that I looked down on.

flying goldfinch




Read Full Post »

My Glastonbury correspondent, Venetia, sent me today’s guest picture.  It is a sign of the times, being a mock funeral procession to mourn the closure of the last bank branch in the town earlier this month.  Glastonbury bank closure

After several chilly and rather grey days of north easterly winds, the wind completely changed and blew from the west…and we got another chilly, grey day….but dry so mustn’t grumble (much).

It wasn’t as cold overnight as they had suggested that it might be so there was no danger of icy roads but the cold wind was more than enough to keep me happily occupied in making a spaghetti sauce in the slow cooker and then enjoying a cup of coffee before going out on my bike.

It was still only a miserable 5°C but I was well wrapped up so I was warm enough.  I managed to find a circular 20 mile ride which avoided most of the potholes and enjoyed it in a gentle way.  I stopped on the Hollows Bridge when I saw what might have been a suspicion of green in the trees beside the river.

Esk at Hollows

The bright green on the left is the Mill’s Archimedes screw, turning merrily and providing pollution free power.  Every home should have one.

I didn’t have much time when I got home because Sunday is Carlisle choir day and we had pencilled in a shopping trip on the way.  I had a quick walk round the garden.

The euphorbias are thriving.  I love their little crab’s claws…


…and often wonder what evolutionary advantage they brought.


The chilly weather is holding back new arrivals but I was pleased to see that it hasn’t affected the health of the fritillary.


A dogwood showed a little tightly wrapped parcel of future cheer…


…and a tree peony also seems to be going in the right direction.

tree peony

While I made and ate a jam sandwich or two for my lunch, I was able to stare out of the window.  Sometimes it was all siskins….


…and sometimes it was all goldfinches…


…and sometimes it was  multicultural.

siskin, redpoll and goldfinch

I feel rather sorry for the chaffinches which had the almost uninterrupted use of the feeders over the winter but have been pushed out by the newcomers more recently.  They had a small fightback today.


…but they haven’t learnt the value of co-operation even now.


We duly went off and did our shopping and singing.  The shopping was very successful but the singing had a double handicap as our substitute conductor had nearly lost her voice and our accompanist’s train was late for the second week running (or not running in this case).

However we all tried our best, a microphone was found for the conductor, the accompanist turned up and we started to learn a new song so the time wasn’t wasted.

I got yet another opportunity to photogrpah my new friend when we got home.


There were some birds down there a minute ago!

It posed before it went off disappointed.


I am fairly sure that this is an adult male bird

The spaghetti sauce from the slow cooker turned out to be quite tasty  so a grey and chilly day was not so bad as it might have been.  The forecast says that it might get a little warmer for the next few days.  That would be very nice.

I had two choices of flying goldfinches as flying bird of the day but it seemed unfair to pick one over the other so I have put them both in.

flying goldfinches

Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture is another from Dropscone’s visit to Crail to act as referee at a golf competition earlier this month.  As well as looking as the fine views, he also saw some golfers.  There may be worse places to play golf than Crail.


They forecast a chilly night and we got one.  They forecast a fine day and it certainly started out with brilliant sunshine.  It was too cold to bicycle after breakfast (for me at any rate) so I waited until I had had a coffee and an éclair before setting off.

I went past the new windmill site and was impressed to see that a second section had been added to the tower.

ewe hill windmill

The fact that we will have three wind farms on the hills round Langholm may be connected to my feeling that the wind is always blowing when I go cycling.  They probably put the turbines here for a good reason.

The wind wasn’t too bad today but it was still chilly and still coming from the north east.

I managed to choose a route where it was across or behind me for the most part and as long as the sun was out, cycling was a pleasure.

garmin 16 April 2016

My legs weren’t quite as enthusiastic as I was so I had plenty of time to look at things as I went along.

This rather unassuming bridge carries the main north south motorway over the main north south railway.


I like the way that no money at all has been wasted in making it look attractive but as it is perfectly functional it is probably perfectly beautiful.

There were signs of spring.

signs of spring

But what exercised my mind most were signs of heavy showers.  I had one or two brushes with the fringes of showers and decided to limit my ride to 40 miles and get home before I got really wet.

Things looked a bit tight with nine miles to go. I stopped to take a triptych with showers to the left and right and hope straight ahead.

shower clouds

I felt a bit smug until a bend in the road took me into the shower on the left.  As it was a heavy hail shower I got a thorough pinging.  It was all the more annoying that I could still see the nice blue sky and sunshine no distance away to my right.

I was a bit worried that the road might end up covered in hailstones and get slippery  but luckily things eased off after a couple of miles and I got back into enough sunshine to see me home.

It had really chucked the hailstones down in Langholm while I was away and it did so again shortly after I got in…


…so I considered myself lucky to have got off so lightly.

I had a late lunch, admired all the excellent work that Mrs Tootlepedal had done in the garden before the hail had come on and then went off on a nuthatch hunt.

The clouds had gone and it was a quiet sunny day by now.

I met an ex pupil looking up into the tree when I arrived at the nuthatch nest.  He asked me what bird it was that was singing so loudly.  I was able to tell him that it was a nuthatch and he, with his comparatively young eyes, was able to spot it among the branches for me.


It’s partner soon appeared carrying material for the nest.  As the bird on the left was making all the noise and the one on the right was doing all the work, I take it that that lets us know which is the male.

After a while, the worker appeared from the nest,  had a look around, climbed up the tree and posed triumphantly.


I walked on.

I peered inside the hollow tree trunk beside the Lodge Walks.  The large fungus is still thriving but the small red button like ones have vanished without a trace.


There were more primroses than before and they had been joined by some wood anemones.

primrose and anemone

The walls were as interesting as ever, a garden in themselves.

Lodge walk walls

I didn’t see Mr Grumpy or any oyster catchers on the Kilngreen but I got an unexpected treat instead.  In the Clinthead Garden, a bird was so busy pecking up worms that it didn’t mind how often I clicked away.

I am not the world’s most reliable bird spotter but I think that this is a mistle thrush.

mistle thrush

As an added bonus, I thought that I could just make out a first hint of green on the poplars beside the river in the park.


For a short walk, it was very good value.

The sunshine had brought out a tulip of two in the garden when I got home.


It says that it going to freeze again tonight so we are keeping our fingers crossed for the plants.

The redpolls were back on the feeder again today and they must now be considered regulars.


As you can see, there are at least two of them and I think that there may be more.


It is hard to tell one small bird from another.

There was a moment of almost perfect geometry on one feeder.

goldfinch and siskin

We have had some large birds in the plum tree lately with visits from rooks and sparrowhawks.  Today’s example was a pigeon.


They always look faintly disgruntled to me.

For some inexplicable reason, I feel a little tired as I write this and am intending to have an early night.

The flying bird of the day was a disgruntled goldfinch leaving in a huff when it found that the feeder was busy.

flying goldfinch

Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from a visit by my Newcastle correspondent to the Washington Wildfowl Centre (the real Washington, not the one in America).  It was ideal as one of her children is a wildlife fan and the other likes Lego.  Win, win.

Washington wildlife centre

I am trying to make inroads into my newspaper index backlog by making sure that I put a week into the database before I am allowed out on my bike.  I managed to put a week in this morning and then make bread and go for a routine visit to the health centre before making some vegetable soup for lunch so there wasn’t much time for pedalling…or looking out of the window.


A sober minded pair of goldfinches taking things quietly.

It wasn’t that there weren’t a lot of birds about….

plum tree chaffinches

…(I counted 32 in this shot (including our brambling) and it was like this for most of the day) it was just that I didn’t have time.

I finally got the bike going after lunch.  The forecast had suggested that there might be some heavy showers about so I was very flexible in my route planning.  This was just as well because there were some very black looking clouds about when I got 10 miles out of the town.

gloomy weather from Gair

The advantage of cycling over walking in this sort of weather is that you may have the legs to outrun or dodge some nasty looking weather so after a quick stop to admire a gorse bush…


…I picked a route that looked to pass between a couple of the least aggressive looking rain showers.  It worked out well because after a fifteen minute splash through rain, I came out on the other side into first a light drizzle and then some pleasant sunshine.

I kept a weather eye out for any more threatening formations and picked a route that got me home dry.  It wasn’t always a certainty…

View from Corrie's Mill

Both shots taken from the same spot. I had come from the blue sky and was heading towards the black clouds.

…but some careful zigzagging brought me out above the Wauchope valley with four miles to get home in beautiful sunshine.

Wauchope valley view

I even had time to stop and admire some wild flowers in the verge.


I was pretty pleased with my navigation as I had expected a thoroughgoing soaking more than once on the way round but I was even more pleased to find that the 35 miles had taken me up to exactly 500 miles for the month.  I haven’t managed to hit this magic figure since September last year and indeed only managed it that once in the whole of 2015.  Perhaps this is an augury that we are in for a better year of weather in 2106.  I hope so.

Feeling that the post would be a bit colourless, I popped out into the garden to take a couple of flower pictures before tea just to brighten things up a bit.

grape hyacinth


I had time for a shower and a quick meal and then we went off to a practice for our local choir, Langholm Sings.

We were delighted to welcome two new members to the choir and I was particularly pleased as one of them was a tenor with a nice voice who can read music.  Such people are very scarce.

We had a useful practice and got through a power of work so that rounded of a busy day very well.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

An update on my son Alistair’s health:  He went to the doctor who diagnosed (this is the technical term) ‘gunk’ in the bottom of his lungs and gave him some big pills. The medicine is working and he is feeling quite a bit better.  He very much appreciates the kind thoughts that have winged his way across the ether.

Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from a flying visit to York by my brother.  He felt that the York Art Gallery is built very much in the style of a railway station.  This is probably appropriate for the city which is the home of the National Railway Museum.

York Art Gallery

Sandy is recovering slowly from his operation but is not able to walk far or drive yet so I started the day by giving him a lift to the health centre and we followed that up by a restorative cup of coffee and a hot cross bun.

We were visited by our lone brambling while we sipped and chatted.


When I had taken Sandy home, I had a walk round the garden.  The continuing low temperatures (there was ice on the car windscreen when I went to fetch Sandy) are not doing anything for the spring growth but the daffodils are battling bravely…


…and other plants are doing the best that they can.

chinodoxa and crocuses

More chinodoxa are coming and many crocuses are hanging on well past their sell by date..

I stopped wandering around and sat down to put a week and a half of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  The edition recorded the founding of the Langholm Golf Club and for the first time golf clubs were advertised for sale in the town. It is sobering to think that otherwise sound people have been wasting time on the golf course ever since.

After lunch, I took a moment to notice a busy group of siskins…


…before getting ready to go for a cycle ride.  I was just taking the fairly speedy bike out of the garage when a heavy shower and a blustery burst of wind made me put it back in again.  I retired to grapple with a tricky crossword until he rain stopped.

It wasn’t long before I was on my way but with dark clouds looming and a brisk wind blowing, I settled for three sheltered seven mile laps of my ‘outdoor gym’ up to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back.  I nearly settled for just one as it rained for a lot of the first lap but it stopped before too long  and the sun came out for the second two laps.

After a cup of tea and a slice of sour dough bread and raspberry jam with Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been hard at work in the garden, I set out for a quick walk along the river.

A pair of oyster catchers were in the same place as before, one having a bath and one keeping a look out.

oyster catchers

The look out was up to the job and as I tried to creep up on them, they tiptoed delicately away.

oyster catchers

I walked on over the bridge and onto the Kilngreen, where an indignant sparrow gave me a very hard stare for invading his space.


A few yards away, a pied wagtail was enjoying the evening sunshine on a rock beside the river.


I was hoping to see a dipper but I had to make do with another pair of oyster catchers…

oyster catchers

…unless it was the same pair again and they had flown up river and got ahead of me.  This lot flew past in close formation when I came near them.

oyster catchers

The evening was the best part of the day by far and I paused on the sawmill bridge to look back down river…

Langholm Bridge

…and then took the new path round the castle to the Jubilee Bridge.  There were various pine cones to be seen…

pine cones

…and of course various pine trees too.

pine trees

It was no hardship at all to be strolling along the path.

New path

After crossing the Jubilee Bridge, I noticed a fallen tree and was struck by the fact that it was still very much alive in spite of being horizontal.

fallen tree

I had a closer look at the buds.

fallen tree

If I had fallen over, I might have got discouraged but this tree was looking very perky.

The spells of sunshine and showers have been very disconcerting for a committed meteorological moaner like myself.  Just as I am working up a really good rant about the wind and the rain, the sun comes out and I get a lovely walk.  The cool variable weather is set to continue so I suppose I must learn to be grateful for the good moments and ignore the bad.  It is certainly a lot better than the continual wind and rain of the winter months.

The flying bird of the day is a chubby chaffinch who looks as though he has been visiting the feeder a lot recently.

flying chaffinch

Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture shows Scarborough Bay where my brother was enjoying enough sun to bask  (but not enough to swim).


I had carefully studied the weather forecast for today and it suggested that if I rose early, ate my breakfast promptly and got out on the bike in good time, I would enjoy pleasant sunshine and light winds…and then when I had gone twenty miles to the west, I would be able to turn for home and have a strengthening wind behind me for the trip home.

It sounded too good to be true.

These plans are easy to make and easy to break but for once, I actually followed this one to the letter.  The morning sunshine made the old gravel pits at Longtown fairly sparkle.


The road at Gretna was lined with celandine.


And when the time came to change direction at Annan, the wind duly strengthened and blew me home under the little railway viaduct at Kirtlebridge.

kirtlebridge viaduct

Although the traffic was light and I hardly saw a lorry all day, the back roads were busy with tractors making the most of the good weather.  I saw my first rolled field at Eaglesfield, always a good sign of spring.

rolled field

Altogether it was a very good ride and the 45 miles had the added benefit of taking me over 400 miles for the month.  This is a psychological boost with a few days still to go.

Those interested can find more details of the outing by clicking on the map below.

garmin 25 Mar 2016

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal was also making good use of the weather and had spent the morning in the garden on a major tidying and re-organising mission in the bed at the end of the drive.  She is going to plant it with flowers for cutting for the house this year.

I did my bit by digging out the last of the old kitchen compost and distributing it on various beds in the vegetable garden.

The birds were as busy as Mrs Tootlepedal.

busy feeder

I had a look round for some flowers and found some old…

hellebore and crocus

…and some new.


There are a lot of other flowers almost out so I hope to get some more photographic excitement the next time we see the sun.

Leaving Mrs Tootlepedal to her toiling, I went for a short walk in the hope of seeing some of the riverside birds.

Before I saw any birds, my eye was taken by a sprig of delightful blossom beside the river.

cherry blossom

I didn’t need to go very far before I saw a pair of oyster catchers on the stones beside the Esk.

Oyster catchers

For once, they didn’t scamper off and this time they let me get quite close.

Oyster catcher

I like the subtle contrast in colours between the legs, the beak and the beady eye.

On the other side of the town bridge, a wagtail was wagging its tail on a rock in the Ewes.

pied wagtail

As I was snapping away at the wagtail, a pair of dippers flew past me but they were gone before I could turn round.

I shot a duck by way of consolation.


I continued my walk onto the Castleholm.   There was lots to look at.

moss and heather

hazel and bramble

I crossed the Castleholm and walked up one side of the river, over the Duchess Bridge and back down the other side.

Esk paths

It was a lovely spring day as you can see.

Mrs Tootlepedal was still slaving away when I got back and she might have been there still had not Dropscone arrived in the hope of a cup of tea and bearing a very competitively priced turnip which he had bought this morning as a gift for the household.  He is a thoughtful chap.

During the day, I had rung up Sandy to find out how he was and received some disappointing news.  He had been all ready to leave hospital but as he got ready to go, he was attacked by such a burst of pain that the doctors out him back to bed again.  I am going down to fetch him home tomorrow if all goes well.

Talking of medical matters, my younger son thinks that I ought to have mentioned that he has been laid low by a terrible cold and has been quite poorly.  I make up for that omission now. Aaah.

In spite of the sunshine, the frogs seem to have deserted the pond for the moment and this was the only one I saw all day.


The frog spawn seems to be developing well though and I hope to have tadpole shots before too long.

For some reason both Mrs Tootlepedal and I felt a little tired after tea and we spent the evening sitting very quietly and  doing nothing.

The flying bird of the day is the two obliging oyster catchers.

flying oyster catchers

Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from a visit to the southern Peak District and shows a view across the Manifold valley.  My brother Andrew was tempted out by the fine weather and who can blame him.

A view across the Manifold river valley

I was tempted out by some fine weather here too but a crisp 6°C ensured that I put a little more time into perfecting the art of procrastination before I pedalled.  Mrs Tootlepedal had gone to Carlisle on the bus to help with the organising of the huge stock of music for our Carlisle choir so I had a little housework to do, a little bread to make, a cup of coffee to drink and a slice of toast and marmalade to eat before setting out.

Just as I was about to leave the house, the sun came fully out and I thought that it would warm things up but perversely the thermometer actually dropped and I was grateful to have a good few layers on as I pedalled up the Wauchope road.

The sky was uncommonly blue above my head but there was a slight haze which might have explained the chilly air.  There was no wind worth speaking off so I was able to have a stress free, gentle twenty mile pedal to Waterbeck and back.  The hills still have their winter coats on…

Winterhope view

..but the lichens on the field walls are at their best.


When I got home, I had time to look round the garden.  There are definite signs of life on all sides.


…although the frosty mornings may be holding things back a bit.

There were other sounds in the garden as well as the normal birds’ twitterings.  Frogs were croaking…

frogs and frogspawn

…and bees were buzzing.

daff with bee

The crocuses were at their best, enjoying the sunshine and ignoring the chilly air…


…and when I looked, almost every crocus seemed to have a bee flying to or from it.

flying bees

With their important packets on board, this was the bee equivalent of all those delivery vans that whizz up and down our roads.

I had a shower and made a little lunch and looked out of the window.

rook in plum tree

A rook made a change from our usual plum tree perchers.

There seem to be more siskins every day now and they outnumbered the goldfinches today.

goldfinch and siskins

The sunshine was so gorgeous that I went out and had another go at taking the definitive flying bee picture (without great success).

flying bees

There was no shortage of models to practise on.

I had better luck with more static bees.

bee on crocus

bee on crocus

That last one was almost flying.  It only had a toe on a petal.

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from Carlisle having done some serious music sorting and not long afterwards, I got into the car and drove back down the road to Carlisle Station.   Carlisle was to see many visits by Tootlepedals today.

I was going to collect my eldest sister Susan who is staying with us for a few days. Her train was a few minutes late so I had a chance to look round the station and I enjoyed the ornate metalwork on the bridge over the lines  at the north end of the platforms.

Carlisle Station

I collected Susan safely and took her back to Langholm.  Mrs Tootlepedal prepared a delicious meal of mince and tatties which we ate and then, rather to my surprise, Susan said that she would like to come back to Carlisle to hear Dropscone’s daughter Susan and me play with our recorder group.   My sister was a very keen recorder player in days gone by but hasn’t played for some years now.

She sat and listened for a while and then, summoning up long forgotten skills, joined us in playing several pieces.  We had an excellent evening of music and it was very nice to share it with a member of the family.

We were all quite tired when we got home for some reason.

The flying bird of the day is a traditional chaffinch.


Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »