Posts Tagged ‘Hollows Mill’

Today’s guest picture shows the delightful Obelisk Thatched Cottage at Hopetoun, South Queensferry, near Edinburgh.  It was spotted by our son Tony.

Thatched cottage

In spite of trying to get some high quality relaxation in the last two weeks and not actually doing very much on many days, there has been enough excitement to keep me feeling a little less than 100% so I took the opportunity of vast quantities of Winter Olympic fun on the telly to have a very quiet morning in today.

I did look out of the kitchen window at lunchtime to check on the birds.  The usual suspects were about.

goldfinch, siskin and chaffinch

There were a good number of siskins on the feeder at one time and I was impressed by the tenacity of one of them when there was no official perch available.


After lunch, I decided that the day was too good not to go for a cycle ride, the first for a fortnight.  The thermometer showed 6°C so there was no danger of ice and after a heavy shower in the morning, the weather looked reasonable.  I haven’t checked out my fairly speedy bike yet so I got out the slow bike. This was probably a good idea anyway under the circumstances.

As you are not supposed to re-use a bike helmet after it has been banged in a crash and my special biking spectacles were ruined, I had to wear my old mountain bike helmet and some ski goggles.    No one laughed as I set off but that was only because no one saw me go.

selfie ski mask

I was grateful for the protection of the ski goggles because there was a strong and very nippy wind blowing in my face as I went up the Wauchope Road and the goggles certainly keep you very snug.

The sunshine was very welcome but there was enough snow left on the distant hills to remind me that the recent chilly weather had only warmed up a little bit.

view of wauchopedale

The goggles didn’t help when I was taking pictures so I don’t know what I was intending to shoot when I took this one…


…but I liked the result in a strange sort of way when I saw it on my computer.

I think that I was trying to take this picture….

view of wauchopedale

…to show the cloudscape. Luckily the clouds stayed away and I got round dry.

I cut my customary 20 mile Canonbie circle down to 16 miles.  This was more than enough on the slow bike and a windy day.  I seem hardly to have cycled at all in the last three and a half months so I am by no means pedal fit.

I was quite happy to stop for a photo op  or two when I got down to the Esk Valley.  This is Hollows Mill….

Hollows Mill

…which has got both a  working water wheel and an Archimedes screw, thus getting the best out of traditional and more modern technology.

A few hundred yards further on, I stopped at Gilnockie Tower….

Gilnockie Tower

…a fine example of a peel tower.  It has recently become the home of the Armstrong Clan Association and the interior has been extensively restored, with work still ongoing.

Although not fully finished, it is open to the public and I was given a brief tour by Miriam, the helpful guide.

Gilnockie Tower Miriam

As you can see from the external windows, the tower has four upper floors.  The ground floor was used as a store for cattle in the event of a raid.

The first floor is the main hall and has now got a modern stove whihc was keeping the place a lot warmer than it would have been in previous centuries.

Gilnockie Tower

The floor above has been restored as a bedroom.  It has an original discreet privy…


…and a newly made four poster bed.


I went up as far as the third floor, which will be a children’s activity room, and admired one of the new windows.  This gives an idea of the thickness of the tower walls…

Gilnockie Tower

…and also offers a splendid view of the Esk.

Gilnockie Tower view from window

As my distaste for heights makes the joy of climbing up narrow spiral staircases lessen considerably after several flights, I didn’t go to the top floor but you can see a piper who didn’t have my phobias if you visit this link.

There is a very entertaining video on the site which shows the castle and its site to the best advantage.

Leaving the tower, I cycled on past Irvine House….

Irvine House

…and so came home  at the dazzling speed of exactly 10 mph.  But at least I didn’t fall off.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy in the garden working on the new plans for the middle lawn and flowerbeds.

lawn improvements

When I got in, I spent a moment or two looking at the birds.  Greenfinches fly in a gloomy sort of way even on a sunny day…

flying greenfinch

…and they don’t look much more cheerful even while they are enjoying a free meal.


My various cuts have healed up so I was able to enjoy the luxury of a shower which was very welcome.   All I need now is some light winds and warm days and I will be back in full cycling mode.   Mind you, I am well behind my targets.  I should have done at least 400  miles by this time of year (I did 570 by the end of February last year) but I have only done 200 miles so far.  I may have to do what the government does when it fails to hit its targets.  Change the target.

In the evening, I made baked eggs in spinach with a cheese sauce for our tea so all in all, in spite of a slow start, it turned out to be quite a good day.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin



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Today’s guest picture was taken yesterday by my neighbour Gavin, who was walking behind us back from the Market Place after the band had played.  He describes what he saw as ‘a rose between two thorns’.  Rather rude I thought.

Al, me and matilda

We had another lovely sunny day today but with added ice…

icy puddle

…which we haven’t seen for some time.

The wind was light though and Alistair, Matilda and I went to visit the park again.  The play equipment was too iced up to play on so we did walking instead and after some initial wariness in case of slipping, Matilda took to breaking the ice in any puddle we met with great gusto.

Sadly the fun had to go unrecorded as I failed to put a card into my camera.   There were hundreds of puddles so we had a busy walk.

We got back in time for a quick look at the birds….


Dappled goldfinches

….followed by lunch and then all too soon, it was time for our visitors to go back to Edinburgh.  We waved them goodbye and went inside sadly and then a few minutes later, we waved them goodbye again when they had come back and collected a forgotten item.

Although the walk yesterday and two days of grandparenting had both been fun, they had also both been quite hard work and the thought of a quiet sit down was quite attractive.  On the other hand, the weather was so good that a walk seemed almost compulsory.

I rang Sandy and soon afterwards, we drove down to the Hollows in his car.

On one side of the river, Hollows Mill was looking impressive…

Hollows Mill

…and on the other, the little wood where the original tower once stood was looking lovely.

Hollows Bridge wood

Sandy noticed a most unusual bird in one of the trees.

owl at hollows

We parked at the gate to the old road…

Old A7 hollows

…and walked the two  mile circuit along the road, up the Byre Burn track past the Fairy Loup and back down the road past the old station.

The wall along the old A7 was full of interest…

Pixie cup lichen

The biggest and greyest pixie cup lichen I have ever seen

Colour among the moss

Colour among the mosses

…but it was nothing compared to the unexpected appearance on twigs all the way up the Fairy Loup track of any amount of ice hair.

It was everywhere.

ice hair at Byreburn

I couldn’t find a perfect picture opportunity but this was my favourite today.

ice hair at Byreburn

The Byre Burn at the Fairy Loup was running quite calmly…

Fairy Loup

It is very annoying for a man with a camera that there is no view of the waterfall that doesn’t have a branch in front of it. Unfortunately the bank is too steep for an old man to climb down it with a saw in his hand.

The same might be said of the bridge over the burn at the top of the track.

Byreburn bridge

I have never seen a bridge with so many branches in front of it – whatever side you view it from.

We were struck by a rather haunted looking tree in the wood beside the track as we came up to the bridge…

Gothic tree

We didn’t get too close in case it reached out and grabbed us.

…and we liked the ice rimmed leaves of a bramble as we walked up the hill away from the bridge.


Just as we got to the top of the hill at Gilnockie School, there was a tremendous amount of mewing from a buzzard (or two).  It sounded very close but I couldn’t see a bird. Then  the sharp eye of Sandy spotted a buzzard on a telegraph pole in a field.  It flew up onto a tree on the far side of the field and posed.


The Lumix zoom at its full extent.

We walked along the road to the station looking straight into the sun….

Gilnockie road

…hoping that any cars would be able to avoid us as we wouldn’t be able to see them coming.  The camera saw much more clearly than we could.

Once we had dropped back into the woods as we got near the car, the light was kinder and when we got down to the old road again, it was positively golden.

Old A7 hollows

Straight out of the camera, no processing at all.

It is going to be hard for the rest of 2107 to live up to the first two days of the year as far as good walks and fun with family go.

Sandy came back for a cup of tea, a cake and a crumpet and then it really was the time for some serious sitting down.

I sat down seriously.

The flying bird of the day really is a bird today.

flying chaffinch



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No guest picture today I am afraid as no one has sent me one.  Instead, here is an eye popping colour combination of peony and azalea.

azalea and peony

The weather turned out to be a lot better than the forecast and we had a fine sunny day with warm temperatures and a gentle wind.  It would have been ideal for cycling if I could have overcome my feeling that it was going to rain soon and actually gone out pedalling.  As it was. I managed to find little things to do all day which kept me off the bike.

I had a bit of business to catch up on after breakfast and then the joys of mowing grass and turning compost took over.  These day, each of these harmless activities is accompanied by a good deal of sitting down and recovering afterwards which I enjoy almost as much as the activity.  By the afternoon, I had got the message that my body simply wasn’t interested in cycling today so I gave up pretending that I was just about to go out and spent any spare time wandering about the garden with camera in hand.

It was insect day.  This little fellow got so excited by the Icelandic poppy that it fell over and lay on its back waggling its legs in the air.  Not something that you often see.

icelandic poppy

The bees where everywhere during the day.

iris and bees

On the Irises

dicentras and bees

On the Dicentras of course

beans and bees

But also on the broad bean flowers


And getting tucked into the Geranium macrorrhizum

azalea and bees

And, unusually, there was even one on an Azalea

I thought that the broad bean flowers were so pretty that they deserved a picture to themselves.

broad beans

Plus an appearance of Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden string which I didn’t notice when I was taking the shot.

A pale geranium was one of the few bee free flowers of the day.


It was a very nice day to be pottering about the garden and Mrs Tootlepedal made the most of it by being active in potting and planting and tidying and all those other things she has to do to keep the garden looking good.

The best time to look at a mown lawn is in the evening.

front lawn

I gave the middle lawn a little boost and I will give this one some help too as it is looking rather paler than it should be.  Another few warm days will help as well.

My flute pupil Luke came in the evening and gladdened my heart by playing very well as we got to grips with a well known bourée by Handel.

After tea, we had a real treat. We had had a phone call earlier on the day from a lady Sandy and I had met while out on a walk at the Hollows recently.  I must have mentioned  in passing while talking to her that Mrs Tootlepedal has a simple metal detector which she uses in our garden for fun.  She told us that a friend of her son had dropped his wedding ring while helping with the lambing on their farm and they wondered if Mrs Tootlepedal could come and run the detector over the floor of the lambing shed to see if the ring was there.

Mrs Tootlepedal agreed with alacrity and I was very keen to come to as Craig had offered to let me look over his working water mill while Mrs Tootlepedal searched for gold.

When we got there, Mrs Tootlepedal set to work….

Looking for a needle in a haystack

Looking for the ring in the deep straw of the lambing shed.  It was rather like looking for a needle in a haystack

…while I went down to the mill.

Hollows Mill

Hollows Mill on the banks of the Esk

The mill is used for cleaning and grading grain rather than milling flour.  Unfortunately for me the water wheel is undershot and inside the building and as a result, it is very hard to get a good picture of the wheel at work.  I took some pictures of the wheel at rest.

Hollows Mill

Hollows Mill

The present wheel is twenty years old and should last for another twenty years at least.  There is a grand collection of gears, belts and miscellaneous machinery to look at in the mill.

Hollows Mill

Outside you can see the sluice that controls the flow into the wheelhouse, a grand commemorative plaque for the restored wheel and caul and yet another belt driven device.

Hollows Mill

The mill is set in a lovely spot…

Esk at Hollows Mill

Looking up river to the caul for the mill stream

Esk at Hollows Mill

Looking down river to Hollows Bridge

I went back up to the lambing shed to see how Mrs Tootlepedal was getting on.  I wasn’t the only interested spectator.


Swallows kept flying into the shed to see what was going on.

Sadly, although Mrs Tootlepedal’s machine gave some hopeful buzzes, none of them turned out to be a lost wedding ring.

Craig is very proud of the history of the mill where his family have been tenants since the nineteenth century but also has an eye to the future and has installed some solar PV cells on the roof of one of his large sheds and is working on adding some modern water powered machinery to his arsenal as well.

We had a very interesting time talking to him and will hope to visit again.

The non flying flower of the day is an anemone, hand painted by nature.





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Today’s guest picture shows my brother’s scientific rain gauge.  His usual monthly rainfall in Banbury is 2″.  The scientific rain gauge recorded 6″ in one week alone towards the end of last month.  No wonder the people of Banbury were cross.

This week's 6 inches of rain(1)

2014 crept in quietly with no rain and no gales.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I cycled out quietly each in our own direction.  She was set to cycle round the route of the New Year’s Run, an eight and a half mile part road and part track course where the aim is to start at a time that will bring you to the finish at 11 o’clock.  59 walkers and runners and one cyclist completed the course and a good time was had by all.

garmin routeI went off in the other direction, looking to put a few early miles on the clock for the new year.  With a temperature of 4° and light winds, conditions were very comfortable and I pootled along through Gair, Chapelknowe and Canonbie without trying too hard.

One of the benefits of cycling on New Year’s Day in the morning is that the traffic is very light.  I hardly saw a car the whole way round.  Altogether it was an excellent way to start off the new cycling year, though I would have been a bit happier if my average speed had been a mile an hour faster.

The roads had dried out after the storms and I only had to dodge occasional puddles.   I stopped here and there to take a picture.

Bridge at Waterbeck

A bridge over two streams near Waterbeck.

Half Morton Church

Half Morton Church, now a private house.

Hollows Mill

Hollows Mill, a working water mill. You can see the lade rejoining the main river beside the tree.

In spite of the pleasant cycling conditions, it was too grey for taking photos.  I did think of extending the ride a little but I am glad that I stuck to my original plan of 30 miles as the wind got up and it started to rain soon after I arrived home.

By the time I had had a reviving bath, it was very gloomy outside, even though it was not long after two o’clock and there was no chance for a walk or even a shot of the bird feeders.  There was nothing for it but to sink into an armchair and watch endless holiday telly.  This was considerably brightened by an interesting feature on Aberdeen’s win in the European Cup Winners Cup back in 1983 when they were managed by a young Alex Ferguson.  He was fortunate to have had a team in which there were so many players who were not just skilful but intelligent too.

I did manage to take a poor photo or two of the bird feeder before I went out on the bike while I was waiting for the thermometer to hit the magic 4° mark.

chaffinch and goldfinch

A new year but the same old customers.

We seem to have been getting thicker, greyer clouds this winter.  My mind is turning towards spring time already.

tulips seen from the side

A taste of last May

I will start the year by ending as I mean to go on.  Here is a flying bird.  I hope for fresh species to shoot soon.

flying chaffinch



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