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Posts Tagged ‘Gretna Green’

Today’s guest picture comes from a recent visit to Liverpool by my brother Andrew.  He found it in a colourful mood.

liverpool

After some very grey days, we had a much more colourful day here today.  The sun shone and the wind dropped and it looked liked a good day to go outside.

As usual, I found a number of things to do indoors before getting organised, and of course, the birds needed watching.

I hadn’t had to fill the feeder for a couple of days, and although it was getting near the bottom today, it was still of interest to the chaffinches.

chaffinch panel

Seeing these two pecking at the last of the seed made me go out and change the feeders over.

two chaffinch little seed

The new feeder, well filled, proved attractive to chaffinches too.

chaffinches at full feeder

I finally ran out of excuses and got my bike out and set off up the Wauchope road.  I passed a man with a tractor with a flail attached, and found out that he had been doing quite a lot of violence to anything that he could reach beside the road.  It was lucky that he was on one side of the road and I was on the other as I might have had some difficulty getting past the debris that he left behind.

flailings on road

I decided to turn off at the first opportunity and I was soon heading uphill, away from the carnage and with my favourite view behind me.

Blocxh view january

Although the 40 mph winds of yesterday had subsided, there was still a brisk breeze left behind and I had to battle my way down the hill to Gretna Green where I was happy to take a rest and look at the clasped hands sculpture at the Old Blacksmith’s Shop tourist centre.

gretna handshake

There wasn’t a tourist to be seen today as I took a picture of the art work.  I can see what it is supposed to symbolise and newly married couples often have their picture taken under its arch, but it always looks rather creepy to me as though someone has been buried under ground and is praying to be let out.

But there are some very decorative berries in the hedge at the entrance.

gretna berries

Ignoring the cross winds, I pedalled down the new road beside the motorway into England and when I reached the outskirts of Carlisle, I turned and headed back towards Greta, going through Rockliffe.

The wind was still across but now it was marginally behind me so I made good progress.

This tree in a field at Rockcliffe looks as though it has had some battles with strong winds itself.

rockliffe tree

The wind was certainly ruffling the waters of the Esk as it flowed under the railway bridge before it meets the Solway.

troubled esk at metal bridge

Once I had reached Gretna, the way home was plain sailing as I cycled up the main roads to Canonbie with the very helpful wind pushing me along.

I turned off onto the old main road to Canonbie which has triple delights, like these three trees at Grainstonehead…

three trees grainstonehead

…and the three shaggy cows in the field, two of whom were more interested in eating than having their picture taken…

two cows at canonbie

..but one was in a more accommodating mood.

one cow at canonbie

I took one last stop for a drink and snack before getting back to Langholm and noticed some healthy peltigera lichen on the wall against which I had propped my bike.

peltigera lichen irvine house

I saw that I had done 43 miles by the time that I got back to the town and was pedalling on up the main road, thinking happily that 50 was a nice round number when we had a vote and my legs voted for stopping.  I am a democrat so I turned back and ended up with a satisfactory 45 miles for the outing.

Mrs Tootlepedal had also made good use of the better weather by going for a good walk and getting some light gardening done while I was out.  She was very cheered by seeing an actual bud forming on a daffodil in the garden.  There may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Still, we needed to replace a little of the energy expended and very fortunately she had bought some cream which, when whipped up, went perfectly with meringues.

A goldfinch arrived at the new feeder.

goldfinch at full feeder

I had a shower and then went out to investigate a claim from a blog reader that there is a small murmuration of starlings in Langholm.  The claim turned out to be quite true.

starlings over esk

By some murmuration standards, it is a small flock but it still had about a couple of hundred birds in it at its busiest.

starlings over esk 2

The starlings circled round above the Esk at the Town Bridge and from time to time, other things caught me eye.

Ducks and gulls took to the air, Mr Grumpy supervised more ducks on the river and the moon shone in the background.

duck, gull, heron and moon

In order to capture the moon, I had to make the sky dark but as you can see in the picture below, it wasn’t really as dark as that.

After they had finished murmuring, the starlings fell out of the sky in dramatic fashion and disappeared into a remarkably small bush in front of Greenbank.

starlings landing

I got home in perfect time to have a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal.  Our friend Mike dropped in for a cup and helped us out by eating one of the remaining meringues.

There is talk of snow on the hills tomorrow morning but I will only believe that when I see it.

The flying bird of the day is one of the chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows a Nottingham Inn dating from 1493 which my brother Andrew passed on his way to the university there.

Nottingham 1493

It was calm and dry when I got up but it wasn’t warm.  John in the shop called it ‘fresh’ and my neighbour Liz called it ‘snell’ and at a miserly 6°C when I set off on my bicycle, I agreed with both of them and had to be well wrapped up.  I had remembered to pick up the key for the camera club meeting in the evening and this had given me an excuse to let the temperature rise a bit but it was still cold enough to make me glad of every layer that I was wearing.

I had had reports that there had been a landslip along the road to Lockerbie and indeed, I passed a sign saying ‘road closed ahead’ as I left the town.  I went to have a look.

Lockerbie road landslip

Not a pretty sight!

One of our other local roads has been closed for years after a landslip so everyone will hope that there is a bit more action in this case as it is a well used road.

I didn’t go any further along the road but turned back and went over the hill past the Bloch.  I was anxious to see whether there were signs that the sun would come out later in the day so I looked at the clouds ahead of me…

cloudscape

…and behind me…

cloudscape 2

…and wondered if I was going in the right direction.

When I got to the top of the hill, I could look down on the Solway which was the intended destination of my ride.

mist over solway

That wasn’t water that I was looking at, it was a blanket of mist…

mist over solway 2

…shrouding the English shore.

Still, mist rises in my experience so I pedalled on down to Gretna Green where a piper in full rig….

Gretna piper

…was cheerfully waiting to have his picture taken with a happy couple who had been just married at the Old Blacksmith’s Shop and were posing under a handy sculpture nearby.

happy couple

By the time that I got to the English side of the Solway, the mist had disappeared…

Solway moss at Burgh

…but sadly the sea had gone too.

I was puzzled once more by a roadside sign which says: When the water reaches this point maximum depth is 2 feet.

Solway moss at Burgh 2

I have never been able to work out quite what it means but as the tide always seems to be out when I cycle here, it hasn’t mattered.

In the absence of any sea to photograph, I turned inland and circled round to make my way home.  Although I was now heading into the wind, it was so light that I was able to keep my average speed up all the way back to Langholm.

I stopped for a picture or two on the way.  This road near Rockcliffe turns sharply right just ahead so I suppose this qualifies as a colourful corner…

colourful corner rockcliffe

…and although I hadn’t seen any geese in the fields on my way down to the Solway, I saw plenty in the pond at Longtown on my way back.

geese at Lontwon pondgeese at Lontwon pond 2

I took an autumn colour shot at Irvine House…

irvine house

…but resisted the urge to take yet another Skippers Bridge shot and got home after 62 miles feeling tired but happy.

I had time for a quick walk round the garden in the sun…

garden flowers Oct 15

Cheerful survivors

little white flower

A very pretty little white flower in thee back border

BENCH SUBMERGED BY NASTURTIUM

There’s a bench under there somewhere

…and a look at the birds…

CHAFFINCHES ON FEEDER

It was mainly a chaffinch day at the feeder

open and shut chaffinches

They came in open and shut versions.

…before I had to sit down and choose 15 pictures to show at the camera club meeting in the evening.

Then Luke came for his flute lesson and I passed on some of the insights into breathing that I had got from my singing lesson.  They apply to flute playing too.

The camera club meeting went well, with 10 members turning up and some very interesting images to look at.  We are going to try some portrait photography at our next meeting.  I hope to learn a lot as portraits are not my strong point, to say the least.

Mrs Tootlepedal returns tomorrow so whatever the weather holds, it will be a bright, bright day.

The flying chaffinches of the day are once again gender balanced.

FLYING FEMALE CHAFFINCH

flying male chaffinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie who is in Venice working.  She caught La Serenissima in a less than serene mood.

Venice storm

A bright start to the day here soon faded to grey but at least it didn’t rain.  It was decidedly chilly for the time of year and I was pleased to have a visit to the dentist after breakfast to keep me off my bike.

When I got back, I watched blackbirds for a bit.  A small group were eating our plums but were not grateful enough to pose properly while actually pecking the plums.

blackbirds on plums

In a neighbouring back yard, another set were devouring rowan berries but I got my camera settings wrong and messed up a couple of ‘beak and berry’ chances.

blackbirds

There are plenty of berries left….

blackbirds

…so I hope to get another chance.

I looked at two good clumps of flowers at the back of the garden before I went back in.

Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia

Japanese anemones

After coffee and a slice or two of bread and marmalade, the lack of rain made even a chilly day too good to resist and I got my fairly speedy bike and set off.  It was cold and grey, I was cycling into the breeze and the distant hills were so shrouded in mist that it looked as though I was heading into a rain shower.

My spirit was very weak and I nearly turned for home.

Luckily my spirit may have been weak but my legs were surprisingly strong and drove me on regardless.  In the end, I had a dry and enjoyable 43 mile ride, though it was so grey that I didn’t stop for any pictures of wild flowers or views.

I did stop at Gretna Green for a snack though and noticed a mound next to the car park which I hadn’t seen before.  It had been spiralised…

Gretna Green mound

…so I followed the spiral until I attained the summit and looked at the view.

Gretna Green view

Not very inspiring.

On the other side, inventive entrepreneurs had constructed a courtship maze…

Gretna Green maze

…though why they think that anyone should want to come to a car park in a rather dull and  flat corner of Scotland to do their courting is a mystery to me.  They probably know best though.

Of more interest to me was a small flock of birds on wires nearby.

birds at Gretna Green

Normally if I see birds like this, I assume that they are starlings but on this occasion there are clearly two different sizes of perchers perching.  I have decided that the larger ones are starlings and the smaller ones, sparrows.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden and I had a wander round there too.  She has been using a bit of compost to improve the soil here and there so I sieved a couple of buckets to top up the supply.

I checked out the new clematis…

white clematis

…and a late burst of flowers from Lilian Austin.

Lilian Austin

There are three in the picture although you can hardly see the two behind.

We have had an excellent crop of plums….

plum

Almost the last of the crop

…and for once we got exactly the right amount.  Usually with plums it is glut or starvation but this year we got a steady supply of sweet ripe plums to eat every day for a couple of weeks, with just enough surplus for a plum crumble last week and today’s special, an oat, ginger and plum bake.  It was delicious.

Cosmos, dahlia and poppies are doing their best to cheer us up….

poppy, dahlia , cosmos

The dahlia is sensational

…and I even saw the very last lupin and some late astrantia too.

lupin and astrantia

I dead headed the poppies and cornflowers and anything else that I could get my snippers on  and took a final look round before going in for a cup of tea and a slice or three of the oat and plum bake.

There are still more flowers to come.

sedum

The sedum is waiting for a bit of sunshine.

Salvia

A salvia looking promising

It was time for a shower after the cup of tea and cake and then, as things still looked rather gloomy outside, we sat and looked at the telly in amazed horror at the amount of rain that has fallen on Texas.   It made our month of August, the coldest for thirty years, look positively benign.

We are getting quite excited here as we are promised some sun tomorrow.

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from our recent week as guests in the south.  Sally and Richard took us to the gardens of this fine mansion, Heale House, which was built in the latter part of the sixteenth century.

Heale house

My ideal plan for the day relied on an early leap out of bed into glorious sunshine and the subsequent late arrival of a weather front.

The wind was forecast to be fairly light so a cycle ride of a reasonable length was part of the scheme.

In the event, the early sunshine was there but it was not matched by the equivalent leap out of bed.  The leap transmogrified into a late stagger and after a lengthy breakfast, I finally got on my bike at ten o’clock.  It was still sunny when I set out but it soon clouded over and I shortened my intended route to thirty four miles and just made it home before the untimely arrival of the weather front started the rain off.

I didn’t have time to stop and stare but I paused for a banana at Gretna Green and admired a pair of fine horses while I munched.

Gretna Green horses

They were the front end of a smart wedding conveyance….

gretna Green carriage

…waiting for another bride and groom to roll off the Gretna Green marriage conveyor belt.

Nearby stands a strange work of art.

gretna green

It acts as a photo frame for pictures of happy couples but it always looks to me like the hands of someone who has been buried prematurely and is begging to be released, perhaps not the most happy metaphor for a marriage.

There was just time for a quick scoot round the garden in some light drizzle when I got back before the rain set in for the rest of the day.

The gloomy weather had put the hoverflies off and the picturesque poppy only had a single small fly for company today.

poppy with fly

Some bright red leaves on the Virginia Creeper seemed appropriate for such a gloomy and autumnal day.

virginia creeper

But autumn brings fruit as well so all is not lost.

apples

A good reward for work with the pollinating paintbrush in our chilly spring

There are still plenty of flowers about…

the cutting bed

Kitchen chimney pot

…and new flowers are coming along.  There are anemones and astilbes among the dahlias now.

anemone, astilbe and dahlia

I thought that I had found a very odd dahlia….

dahlia

…until Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out that I was looking at it from the back.

Not everything in the garden is lovely.  For some reason the Golden Syllabub rose, which has had plenty of buds, has never felt that it was the right time to open out and has looked like this all summer.

golden syllabub

It wasn’t very warm and the clouds had made the day dark and cheerless so it was most fortunate that the authorities had arranged a very interesting programme of Olympic events for us to watch.  We watched everything.

No flying birds today but there is a flower of the day.  It is a dahlia (viewed from the front).

dahlia

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s recent trip to Huntingdon and shows the old bridge across the River Ouse there.

Old bridge over River OuseMy cycling mileage for July has been negligible so my plan was to take advantage of a reasonable forecast for the morning and the fact that I had nothing on my calendar to distract me by actually going for a pedal.  Not all my plans come to fruition but this one did and though I didn’t go as far as I would have liked, I did get out and stretch the legs.

I curtailed my mileage ambitions for three reasons, a regrettably late start, slightly creaking knees and a brisk wind.  I am still recovering from falling into the hole and although I am pain free, there remains a little ankle swelling and knee creaking and I am anxious not to overdo things and set myself back.

As a result, I pedalled gently round a 35 mile circle, avoiding any big hills and not stopping and starting to take photos.  In fact I only stopped once.  That was at Gretna Green where in times past, I have often eaten a banana on a bench in a little grassy space opposite the Old Blacksmith’s Shop with a handy litter bin for the banana skin placed just beside the bench.  Progress has changed all that.  What was once a little green patch is now this….

Gretna Green…impressive but a little chilly and less welcoming.  I suspect that it is intended to be a place where just marrieds may pose for photographs.  Still, I sat there and ate a banana like old times, though I had to walk across the road to find a litter bin.

The run home from Gretna was greatly assisted by having the wind at my back.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been hard at work in the garden while I was out and I walked round when I got home.

Moss rose

A Moss Rose has come to join the other roses.

special grandma rose

The Special Grandma rose had come out too

This rose was given to Mrs Tootlepedal by a friend when Matilda was born and seeing it today reminded me that we had seen Matilda walking freely when we visited her on Wednesday.  Bearing that in mind, she has now been officially upgraded from the WGSP (World’s Greatest Small Person) to WGT (World’s Greatest Toddler) and will be referred to as such in future posts.

Turk's cap lily

There are Turk’s cap lilies all over the garden now.

Looking at flowers with a camera has given me a sense of wonder about their reproductive machinery and how widely varied it is from flower to flower.

campanulaBobbie jamesIt takes all sorts obviously.

After a late lunch, I took a look at the middle lawn.  I was intending to mow it but it looked to be a bit short of nourishment so I spent some time watering in some encouragement instead.  The packet promises me a greener lawn in days.  I wait with baited breath but as our brief spell of warm weather seems to be over for the next few days at least, I am not sure that a little fertilizer will be enough to perk it up.

It got gloomier and windier as the day went on and I was glad that I had got my cycling done in time.  I went inside to watch the real cyclists showing how it should be done in the Tour de France.

While we were watching, we were visited by Mike Tinker, his daughter and her husband and their two children, William and Sara.  Elizabeth is a professional gardener and had brought some cardoons for Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden.  I have no idea what a cardoon is and look forward to finding out.

I had another walk round the garden after the stage finished.  New delights were to be seen.

poppy

The first Shirley poppy of the season

I took a stroll round the back of the house.

verbascum

A verbascum outside the dam door

I was very pleased to see that the Fuchsia on the back wall has recovered from been attacked by the late frost and is covered in flowers.

fuchsiaWhen I came back in, I was drawn to the delphiniums.  Even in the gloomy light with a hint of rain in the air, they looked good, each one a slightly different colour than the one next to it (or so it seemed to me).

delphiniumsI found yet another Turk’s Cap lily looking interesting among the shrubs in the shadows of the back border.

Turk's cap lilyAnd on the other side of the garden, the first day lily had appeared.

day lilyThe final picture of the day was of a foxglove shading from white to pink down its stem.

fogloveThe birds continue to turn their back on the feeder and once again I didn’t see a single flying bird there today.  A sparrow symbolically turning its back on me is the nearest I could get to a flying bird today.

sparrow

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Today’s guest picture is the last that I have at present from my siblings’ visit to Barcelona.  My brother likes museums and art galleries.  This is the Catalan Museum.

Catalan Museum

The forecast was quite promising, the main features being no rain and very light winds so I was looking forward to a decent pedal.  The light winds meant that temperatures were too low to start pedalling after breakfast so I spent a little time peering out of the window at the mist filled garden.

ringed chaffinch

I was interested to see a ring on the chaffinch, the first I have noticed for some time.

I kept an eye on the thermometer and got quite excited when it hit four degrees C but less so when it it subsequently dropped back to 3 degrees.  I considered my options.

chaffinch considering options

A chaffinch meanwhile considered his.

Finally, the thermometer edged back to 3.9 so I piled on as many clothes as I could wear and still cycle and set off up the Wauchope road after a quick stop to buy some fuel for the journey from John’s shop.

First signs were a bit gloomy…

wauchope in mist

…but I pedalled on hopefully, turning left over the hill and eventually getting onto the Annan road.  I stopped in Annan after 22 miles for a cheese toastie and a cappucino and then headed out to the road along the Solway shore.  By this time, the mist had gone and the sky was blue.  It was still chilly but the splendid row of very out of character houses at Cummertrees looked at their best.

Cummertrees

I quote from the Dumfriesshire Companion of Haig Gordon:

There were brash new beginnings at Kinmount when the Yorkshire businessman Edward Brook took over the estate in the 1890s (adding it to his other big acquisition, Hoddom estate near Ecclefechan). He had plans for creating a vast seaside resort between Cummertrees and Powfoot. The scheme never took off but at the east end of the village a flavour of what he had envisaged remains in Queensberry Terrace, a row of properties originally intended as holiday apartments – ‘like a cross between Blackpool and Chelsea’, commented one architectural historian.

Anyone who has seen the mud flats along the Solway shore at Powfoot will not have to think hard as to why this grandiose scheme failed.

I was soon through Cummertrees and Ruthwell and looking across the flat fields towards Criffel and the mist covered Nith Estuary.

Criffel

The skies are big here.

I paused for a moment at the Brow Well…

Brow Well

…a not very appetising looking mineral spring.  It has a claim to fame though as a notice suggests.

brow well

The notice doesn’t add that the poet died shortly after his visit.  He drank the chalybeate waters and was dunked in the icy Solway near here in an attempt to cure his misdiagnosed gout.  I prefer the pills I get for my rheumatic arthritis and feel thankful in this case for the march of medical science.

I enjoyed a little bridge beside the well.

Brow well bridge

This stretch of road is genuinely flat and a great pleasure to pedal along.  My target was the small village of Bankend…

Bankend

…where, in spite of the lovely day,  the bridge had a lot of water flowing under it.  This is the Lochar Water.

Bankend bridge

I would have to liked to have my long lens with me as there was an interesting tower a few hundred yards up stream.

Bankend tower

Isle Tower is an early 17th century stone T-plan tower house, founded by Edward Maxwell of Isle.

I turned for home at Bankend as the days are still quite short and I didn’t want to be caught in the gloaming still pedalling.

As well as big sky, the Solway shore had some big puddles in the roadside fields as well.  This was the biggest of the day.

puddle

You can just see the real sea in the background.

I stopped at Ruthwell to eat my fuel from John’s shop, an egg roll, a banana and a very sticky tray bake.  There was a convenient bench there but it had been designed by someone with very short legs and I kept banging my chin as I ate.

ruthwell

Leaving Ruthwell, I pedalled on tiny back roads down to the shore at Powfoot.  The last time Mrs Tootlepdal and I had been here, a very high tide and angry seas were threatening to overwhelm the car park. Today it was playing host to a group of keen bird watchers.

bird watchers

Once back through Annan, I took the road to Gretna and enjoyed the last of my food on a bench opposite the Old Blacksmith’s Shop at Gretna Green.

Gretna Green

This is just one of three marriage rooms in Gretna and marriage is big business there.  It was the nearest place to the border where English couples could get married under Scottish law and was popular as a destination for eloping youngsters.  Mysteriously, to me at any rate, it remains seriously popular still and is a bus tour destination.

My literal mind looked at the sign on the side of the blacksmith’s shop….

Gretna Green

…and wondered what colour it had been before 1754.

From Gretna, I took a winding trail that led me down to Canonbie and a return to Langholm by the morning run cycle route.

The sky had clouded over by the time that I got home and the temperature was still only a meagre 6 degrees but the light winds had meant that I had enjoyed a very good day out on the bike.   Details of the ride may be found  by clicking on the map.

garmin route 28 Feb 2014

Not by coincidence but by design, my Garmin device recorded exactly 72 miles as I reached my house.  This corresponds with my age and it is my intention in future years to keep cycling at least once a year as far as I am old for as long as possible.

The ride brought my total for February up to 500 miles which is well above target and gives me a little leeway in the month to come.

Mike and Alison, Maisie’s and Frances’ grandparents have arrived back from New Zealand and came round for their customary Friday evening visit.   I enjoyed playing some sonatas on flute and recorder with Alison at the keyboard while Mrs Tootlepedal heard from Mike of their adventures down under.  I hope to have some photos of their trip, which included a visit to Singapore, in future posts.

I did just manage to get a flying bird picture in the morning mist before I left the house.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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