Posts Tagged ‘Eskdale’

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia who came upon a horde of ladybirds on one of her visits.  This picture shows just a few of the insects that she saw.


It was a bright but chilly morning here and I had to scrape ice off the car windscreen after breakfast before I could drive up to the Moorland bird hide to fill the feeders as a substitute for Sandy who is still on holiday.

There was a lot of mist about along the river and enough of it had spread up the hill to the hide to give me a rare treat when I got out of the car, a mistbow.


It soon faded away and I set about filling the feeders and then lurking in the hide to watch the residents emptying them again.

I did a brisk business with tits.  Here are a blue tit and a coal tit taking in some peanuts…

blue tit and coal tit

…and here is a great tit waiting to take its turn.

great tit

I had to wait a while for a greater spotted woodpecker to arrive but when one did, it posed very graciously for me.


There is almost always fungus on the ground near the feeders at this time of year.

Laverock fungus

Coming out of the hide to go home, I found that the hide was in sunshine and the valley below in mist.

mist from Laverock

I plunged bravely into the valley and the mist and headed for home.

mist from laverock 2

Although the temperature was only 3°, the day was very calm and it felt much warmer than it should have done.  In the circumstances, it seemed too good a day to waste indoors so in spite of it being nearly coffee time, Mrs Tootlepedal agreed to come for a drive up the hill road on Whita.

We were soon back above the mist and looking down.

mist from hill road

It was well worth the effort.

misty trees hillhead

We drove up to the White Yett and looked back over the Esk and Ewes valleys.

mist from white yett

We parked in the car park at the MacDiarmid Memorial and  I walked a little further up the hill, passing this delight on the way.

dewy spiders web

From there, I could see the mist lying over the rivers below.

mist from whita

I would have liked to have stayed longer and to have taken innumerable shots in pursuit of the perfect mist picture but it really was coffee time by now so we headed back down the hill.

We stopped for a moment at the Kilngreen where Mrs Tootlepedal had been asked to say what she thought some bright red small fruits were in the garden there (amazingly deep red crab apples most probably was the verdict).

I took the opportunity to look around.  It really was the most perfect day.

kilngrren sunny morning

And we were now….

mist on Timpen

…looking back up at the mist.

mist on Castle Hill

Coffee and ‘things to be done’ called us and all too soon we were back in the car after a light lunch and heading for Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents.

Matilda, her mother Clare and I went to the Botanical Gardens to feed the ducks…

Matilda feeding ducks

…but we were a bit slow off the mark and bells were ringing for the closure of the park almost as soon as we had got there.

Still the ducks got their rice and we had our fun and it was still a good day for a walk so we weren’t too unhappy.

Alistair, Matilda’s dad, is a dab hand at making tasty pizzas so we had an excellent evening meal before catching the train home with a tricky crossword to while away the time.

In all the going up and down, I had little time for the birds in our own garden but I did catch a flying chaffinch while the feeder was still in the morning shadows.

flying chaffinch



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Today’s guest picture comes from Irving who found a place without trees at Castle O’er.  Not an easy thing to do.

Castle O'er

After deciding a couple of days ago  that I wasn’t going to take part in the annual New Year’s Day “Whisky Run” because of the snowy conditions, I changed my mind entirely when the snow disappeared as quickly as it came.  As a result, I leapt out of bed this morning to greet the new dawn, put on my walking shoes and set out after breakfast.

The Whisky Run is a friendly affair that accommodates both serious runners and gentle walkers, the only condition being that you should try to start out at a time that will bring you to the Market Place in Langholm as near 11 o’clock as possible.

The main route takes the participants up the road on the west side of the River Esk, crosses the river at Burnfoot and then brings them back by track and road on the east side of the river along the Langfauld and then finishes along Langholm’s High Street.  At just over 8 miles, it is the longest walk that I have done (as far as I can remember) since I did the same event last year.

I left myself plenty of time to do the walk and got round in two and a quarter hours, having paused to take a few picture on the way.

By the time that I had got to the far end of the route and had turned for home, the sun had made an appearance and picked out the windmills on the far side of the valley..


I looked back across the river at our local racehorse trainer’s track.


I got near to the Gates of Eden but didn’t go through them.


I liked the way that the sun had picked out a single field further down the valley.


The track was in better condition than I had feared and I stopped and looked back at Golf and Bauchle Hills behind me…


…and across to my favourite spot in the whole valley.


I passed a merry group of walkers who had gone for the shorter five mile option, including Mike Tinker on the right in the green,.  He was one of the founders of this popular event more years ago than he cares to remember.


I stopped to look back at a view…


…which I had seen in very different circumstances only three days ago.

View of Potholm from Langfauld

I continue to be amazed at the swift disappearance of so much snow so quickly.

I arrived a bit early and was able to watch bands of runners enjoying making the finish….


…and after a while I got the opportunity to take a group photo of some of the runners and walkers…


…and watch Alison, my Friday night orchestra, present the prize to the winner, flanked by the second and third placed runners.


While we waited for the prize giving, we were entertained by the Town Band which was doing its annual New Year’s Day perambulation of the town.  It paused to play for us….


…and then proceeded with further perambulating.


Mrs Tootlepedal, having arrived at the Market Place ready to help Alison with the finish, found enough volunteers already in place and went off to bicycle round the five mile route herself.

I made some potato and leek soup and peered about to see of any birds had survived the Hogmanay celebrations.


The goldfinches were back, though the arrival of an argumentative siskin caused a little bafflement on the perch.


There are still plenty of blackbirds in the garden.



The day was mild enough at 5°C for Mrs Tootlepedal to brave the occasional short shower and do some digging in the garden as a start to her 2018 great gardening improvement scheme and it seemed a pity to me not to make use of a possible cycling day myself so while she delved, I pedalled off on my slow bike.

My major plan for the start of the new year is to lose some of the unwelcome weight that two slack months in November and December have piled on.

The best way to lose weight for me is to eat a little less and exercise a little more but since I like eating a lot, it tends to be a bit of a problem if the weather is not co-operative.  Ten miles on the slow bike is not much but it is better than nothing….and I only had a small plate of fish pie for my tea.

I saw a few things on my way.


It was lunchtime at the cow cafeteria.


Moss and a fungus on an old tree stump.


Alder catkins.

I took the New Hampshire Gardener’s advice after failing to get a good picture of the catkins on the tree and picked this twig off and laid it on a wall stone to get a better contrast with the background.

Then I looked at the wall stone and took a picture of it as well.



I avoided any showers and had a most enjoyable leisurely ride.  When I got home, I prepared a cycling spreadsheet for 2018 and entered my first few miles into it.  Having narrowly failed to make 4200 miles last year, I will try again this year so there are just 4190 miles to go. Here’s hoping for some good weather!

One of my resolutions for the new year is to go on more exciting outings with Mrs Tootlepedal.  We just didn’t do enough in the  way of getting out and seeing things last year, mainly because of the weather so I am determined to do better in 2018.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.




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Today’s guest picture is a second helping of vegetables from our daughter’s allotment.  She is obviously doing a good job there.  Mrs Tootlepedal is very envious of the beetroot.

annie's veg

I didn’t have very much time to look at our veg today as it seemed to start to rain as soon as I went out into the garden in the morning.  It didn’t rain very hard and soon stopped after I went in but when it had done it two or three times,  I took the hint and gave up any thoughts of flower pictures or lawn mowing and devoted myself to crosswords, music and occasional ill tempered muttering instead.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to see Matilda in Edinburgh and I avoided the garden and any more rain by making for the hills (or at least one of the hills).

Now that I was clear of the garden, the weather got much better and I was able to enjoy the flowers beside the track as I walked up to the Meikleholm Hill.

Meikleholm flowers

There were no cattle on the hill so I was free to walk where I liked and the sheep took my presence very calmly.

sheep on Meikleholm

I was vaguely hoping that I might see a lot of orchids as I walked round the side of the hill but the hillside was covered in tormentil for the most part….


…and it was obvious that I was a few days too early for the orchids.  One or two were to be seen in an early stage….

vetch and orchid

…and there was more vetch than orchids to be seen.

I climbed gently round the back of the hill until I came to the gate on the col….

Meikleholm gate

…which marks the divide between Wauchopedale and Eskdale.

Eskdale was looking beautiful.


I did think about going through the gate and further on along the ridge but there were enough grey clouds about to persuade me that  a route nearer home might be advisable.  Indeed as I walked over the top of Meikleholm Hill back towards the town, the wind became very gusty and the temperature dropped a little so I feared the worst.

Whatever the weather, it is a treat to walk along the top of this hill….

Meikleholm Hill view

…and I soon got some splendid views across the town (click the pic for a bigger view).

Meikleholm Hill view

This side of the hill was covered in low growing cow parsley….

Meikleholm Hill

And although I saw one or two early orchids, the vetch was still easier to spot.

Looking across the Esk to Castle Hill, I could see a big scar made by clear felling the woods there.

Tree felling in the Longfauld

After a last look up the valley…


I love the gentle curves in this view and the many shades of green

…I left the open hill and took to tracks through woods and along meadows for the rest of my walk….and of course, the sun came out.

tracks and paths

On my way I saw a red admiral butterfly basking in the sun….

tracks and paths

…a wall engulfed by spleenwort…


…decorative wild flowers….


…and I crossed bridges both small…..

walk 2 bridge

…and large.

walk 2 bridge

I got home after a four and a bit mile walk in a very cheerful state of mind as I hadn’t expected to get such good walking weather.

When I went out into the garden to pick some spinach leaves for my tea not long after I had got back though, I found it was pouring with rain!

After tea, Susan came and we went off in her car to play recorders with our group in Carlisle.  We are meeting monthly now and it is an extra treat to meet and play when it is not quite so routine as it has been for many years.

The standard of biscuits with the après-tootling cup of tea has not dropped so it was a satisfactory visit all round.

No flying bird or bee today.  Instead a yellow dung fly takes the starring role.   I met it on the hill and I think it was finding a place to lay its eggs

dung beetle



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Today’s picture of a willy wagtail from Western Australia was kindly sent to me by a reader called Jennifer in return for a copy of Susan’s nice picture.  This is a very fine picture and  a very nice gesture.

Willy Wagtail

The question this morning was, ‘Would it be warm enough for a pedal?’  The thermometer said 3.5°C when I looked at it first but a cup of tea later saw it rise to 3.6°  and not long afterwards, it hit 3.7° so things were looking good.   Dropscone arrived and we compared the number of layers that we were wearing.  I won with three on my bottom half, four on my top half and two under my helmet.  Combined with a buff, good gloves and overshoes, I felt ready to face the day.  It was hard to walk with all the stuff I had on but once on the bike, I was fairly mobile.

We went up the Wauchope road with a steady wind behind us and were quite comfortable until our turning point at Waterbeck.  From there until we got home, we were facing a really chilly north wind and I was grateful for every scrap of material that I had on.  We arrived in pretty god form and, as it was Friday, there were treacle scones to go with the coffee so all in all, it was a good ride for the first really cold pedal of the year for me.

The birds were feeling the chill too judging by some very puffed up greenfinches on the feeder.


After coffee, I went up to the town, dropping some sales money for the Archive Group off at Nancy’s on the way.  It is nearly our year end and we will have to arrange an AGM next month.  The AGM used to last two minutes but now we are a registered charity, we have to do things by the book and it takes a bit longer.   While I was on the High Street, I negotiated a good deal for bulk bird seed that will save me a trip out of town to buy it.

A robin and a brambling brought some colour to the garden when I got home.

robin and brambling

We had a pair of high wire artistes too.

blackbird and starling

The flowers are still doing their best.

Japanese Anemones and marigold

A pair of Japanese anemones and a marigold

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal once again went off to work and I had time on my hands so I packed my camera gear in the car and drove up to the Moorland Feeder Station to try the wireless gizmo out again.

Sadly, even the wireless gizmo can’t magically make the sun shine on the opposite side of the trees so I had to place the camera in the best position I could find without shooting directly into the light.  Having set it it up, I retired behind the screen and sat and waited.   Any number of tits visited the feeder that I was focussing on and the odd chaffinch too.

chaffinch and great tit

I was clicking away when a movement just in front of me caught my eye.  The powers that be were having a laugh at my expense.  A woodpecker was at a feeder right in front of me.  I snatched up sandycam which I had with me, turned it on and watched in dismay as the battery dead sign came up and the screen went black.  Still I had several entertaining minutes watching the young bird pecking away and chuckling under its breath.

I waited for about 20 minutes and finally a woodpecker appeared near my selected feeder.  I think it was unsettled by either the click of the mirror on the camera or else the focussing ray that it uses, because although it circled the feeder, in the end it went away without visiting.  It was pretty chilly in spite of the sunshine and I was beginning to think about going home when another woodpecker appeared and after doing some more circling about,  finally landed on the spot marked X.


I thought it was worth waiting for.

It flew away quite quickly and I had to make do with a perky pair of coal and great tits.

coal and great tit

It wasn’t long though until another woodpecker arrived and sat for the camera.

Woodpecker on tree

Or possibly the same one again. My woodpecker recognition skills are not great.

After an hour, I packed up because I wanted to get out into the open while the bright sun was still shining.  It has been rare this year.

I drove back to the town and paused to replenish my cheese stocks at the deli and collect a full battery for sandycam from home.  Then I drove up to the White Yett and walked up to the monument.   There was more than one photo opportunity up there.  For some I used my Nikon.

Looking back up Ewes from the track as I climbed towards the monument.

Looking back up Ewes from the track as I climbed towards the monument.

Old Langholm

The Old Town of Langholm tucked very neatly into the valley below me with the valley of the Wauchope stretching out beyond it.


To the west, the sun was reflecting brilliantly from the waters of the Solway Firth.


The view over Castle Hill and up Eskdale was magnificent.


As I walked back down from the top of the hill, I could see the farm of Terrona below me.

I used Sandycam to take a couple of panoramas of the hills.  I have had to cut them down a bit to fit the confines of the blog.  (Clicking on them will provide a bigger picture.)

Castle Hill

Looking Northwest


Looking north

I am going to have fun printing one of these out.

Dappled hills

I liked the dappled cloud and sun on the Ewes hills as I walked back down the hill.

Just before I got back to the car, I used sandycam to show the McDiarmid memorial, glowing in the low sunshine.

McDiarmid memorial

I got home just before Mrs Tootlepedal returned from work and we enjoyed a slice or two from a loaf of tasty bread which had jumped off a shelf into my bag while I was buying cheese.  I never buy bread but I was glad that I had made an exception in this case as it had a most interesting flavour.

It wasn’t long before looking out of the bedroom window I could see a portent of a chilly night and frosty morning to come.

Moon over Whita

The upright in the middle of the picture is the aerial for the emergency services communications.

I felt that I had made the best possible use of a fine day.  By the time that Alison and Mike joined us for music and conversation in the evening, a light sprinkling of snow had fallen.  We all felt that it was really much too early for snow but it has been a funny year from start to finish so who knows what to expect from now on.

A flying coal tit is Scottish bird of the day though it can’t compare with the fine Australian wagtail.

coal tit








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Today’s picture shows an old friend who’s been hanging around.  I took it just to show that the skies were clear all day for once.

the moon

The day was sunny from the start but Dropscone was gloomy.  His aches and pains meant that he couldn’t cycle today.  I changed my plan,  had two extra slices of toast and a cup of coffee and set off round a familiar forty mile circular  route, going by Ecclecfechan, Gretna and Glenzier.

I hadn’t gone more than three hundred yards before I stopped.

heron at Pool Corner

A heron at Pool Corner

There are several herons along the Wauchope road but this was the only one I saw today.  My route took me over Callister and down to Waterbeck and then to Middlebie and Ecclefechan.  Dropscone had noticed a fallen tree near Dunnabie last time we came along here.

fallen tree

As he said, it was lucky that it fell the way it did and didn’t crush any elderly cyclists who might have been passing.  Strangely it seems to have fallen into the prevailing wind so perhaps it was undermined by flooding from the burn.

Although the glorious sunshine was crying out for photos, I have taken quite a lot on this route before so I limited myself to  a couple taken near Middlebie.

The first shows Burnswark, site of a Roman camp, which I had seen from a distance last week.  It is so flat topped that it looks man made but it isn’t.


From the same spot, I could turn from ancient history to modern technology.

windmills at Minsca

They were certainly earning their keep today as I was cycling into a brisk and chilly north westerly wind.  This worked in my favour as I had a grand swoop from Ecclefechan to Gretna with the gentle rises ironed out by the following winds.  Of course I had to pay for it and the trip back from Gretna was hard work.  My own back is not quite in good order yet and I limited myself to leisure pedalling and averaged exactly 14 mph.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to work in the afternoon and so I went up to Dr Barlow’s bird feeding station to see whether the newly erected hide would be helpful.   I tried out my new lens that gives me great zooming power.  Unfortunately it works at the expense of the autofocus and the exposure is affected as well.  I thought I saw something interesting and managed to get this picture.


More practice required.  It was quite a long way away and in a very shady part of the feeding station.

As I was driving home, the day seemed so gorgeous that a little outing was indicated.  I went up the Eskdalemuir road to Burnfoot and then crossed over Sorbie Haas to the A7 and so home in a short ten mile tour.

Near Peden's view

Near Peden's view

Looking north.

Looking north. The little building on the left is the substation for the Craig windfarm.

Looking up the Esk Valley from near Henwell

Looking up the Esk Valley from near Henwell

Looking South

Looking South from the same spot. Clark Fell and Meikleholm Hill



North up the Ewes Valley

Looking north up the Ewes Valley

When I got back, I had another go at solving my computer program activation problem, speaking to my fifth different person but with exactly the same result.  I had replied to an email they had sent me using the reply button on my email program but their system had refused to even read it because my reply came from a different address even though the reply contained their original email.  I hope I have fixed that problem now and I expect a timely solution to my problem tomorrow.

A man has to live in hope.

I cheered myself up with a picture of the Japanese anenomes which continue to look lovely in sun or rain.

Japanese anenomes


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