Posts Tagged ‘ivy’

Today’s guest picture is another Christmas cracker from my son Tony in Edinburgh.

edinburgh christmas

We had been promised that temperatures would start to rise by today but it turned out that this happy state of affairs was delayed and the lawn was frosty again when we woke up.

It took until about 7 o’clock in the evening for the thermometer to creep up to 4°C but as it had been dark for several hours by then, this was not much use.  The Met Office is promising us 9°C for tomorrow but we are not counting any chickens yet.

It has occurred to us that Christmas is coming and we had better do something about it so I spent the morning writing Christmas Cards, occasionally breaking off to make coffee and/or  look out of the window.

The cold weather had not discouraged the birds.  Chaffinches were having a hard time with goldfinches.

goldfinch and chaffinch

goldfinch and chaffinch

And with other chaffinches too.

chaffinches and siskin

A pair of starlings after the pink pellets were above such petty squabbling.


It was a better day for taking portraits than action shots.


After lunch, I went out for a rather tentative walk.  I wasn’t expecting to find much of an improvement on yesterday’s icy roads but in the event, with a bit of care here and there, walking was no problem at all and I was able to get 3.7 miles in by the time that the light had faded away.

I walked down the town side of the river towards Skippers Bridge and felt a good deal of fellow feeling for the greenkeeper at the Old Town Bowing Club.  His green looked more likely to host a curling match than a bowling competition.

frozen bowling green

Then I passed our sewage works, which are discreetly screened by a very nice variegated ivy…


…and stopped to check out an unusually coloured lichen on a fence at Land’s End.


It was well worth a closer look.


When I got to Skippers Bridge, I looked upstream and was struck by how unexpectedly colourful the view of the old distillery was in spite of the misty conditions.

Langholm Distlliery

Looking up at the bridge from beside the Tarras road provided a less colourful picture but I never tire of looking at this bridge and I hope that patient readers don’t mind another look too much.

skippers bridge

I continued along the Tarras road but here I had to be a bit more careful of icy patches as it is a damp road and there is very little traffic along it.  It has been closed for many months by a landslip further along.

I was able to get my eyes off the road surface for long enough to see that this was another spot with lot of hair ice about…

hair ice

…and I took a picture of an affected branch lying on the ground to show what it looks like to a casual passer by.

hair ice

You might easily pass it by thinking that it was a fungus of some sort or even a splash of paint.  I have seen some looking like a discarded white paper bag.

At the bottom of the hill to Broomholm, I faced a choice.  Either I could run the gauntlet of the icy road again or choose the track up Jenny Noble’s Gill and take my chances going  through the woods.

I didn’t fancy falling on the tarmac so I opted for the cross country route.

The local weather station suggested that the humidity was 98% and there certainly was a lot of moisture hanging about.

misty trees

I took a picture when I got into the birch wood and the flash fired automatically.  It seems to have picked up a lot of spots where the moisture was concentrated enough to reflect the light.  It definitely wasn’t raining and the moisture was not on the lens of the camera.  Odd.

birch wood

There may not be any leaves on the trees but that didn’t stop an old oak from looking pretty colourful.

mossy oak

But mostly, it was misty.

misty trees

I stopped at the Round House to enjoy the view over the town….

misty view from Round House

…and found that nature had engineered a reverse Brigadoon.  In the story of Brigadoon, a picturesque village appears magically out of nowhere.  Today our picturesque town had vanished entirely.

It was gloomy enough by the time that I got back to the Suspension Bridge for the lights on the Town Bridge to be twinkling brightly.

Town bridge with lights

I was glad that I hadn’t tried to walk up the Broomholm hill because Mike Tinker, who had dropped in, told us that he had driven up it earlier in the day and had found it a hair raising experience as the road was at times completely covered by ice.  As it was, I got round my walk in very good order, the side benefit of the frost being that once again the boggy bits of the path were frozen over.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came and we played through the first movement of our new sonata without a mistake.  We were quietly pleased with ourselves.

Our food adventures continue and Mrs Tootlepedal made a very tasty leek and ham pie for tea.

I am getting rather stout.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch





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Today’s guest picture is another from Ada.  She thought that a good burst of almond blossom might cheer us up.  She saw it on her recent holiday in Tenerife.

Almond blossom

We have got a bit of blossom indoors here at the moment.  Mrs Tootlepedal brought some snowdrops in from the garden and was amazed by how quickly they opened out.


As usual on a Sunday, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir and I set about making a lamb stew in the slow cooker.  I used some rolled shoulder which Mrs Tootlepedal bought last week at our producers’ market and I was a bit worried that it might be too fatty but when we came to eat the stew in the evening, it was delicious and it really suited the slow cooker’s treatment.

Following my thoughts about the following wind discouraging birds from landing on the feeder, I changed the feeder to the other side of the pole so that they could land upwind and perhaps for this reason, chaffinches arrived in force.

chaffinches landing

A goldfinch sneaked onto the feeder and sat there unruffled by chaffinches arriving…

chaffinch and goldfinch

…until the he feeder got too busy.

chaffinch and goldfinch

Sometimes very busy indeed.

chaffinches landing

I like to try to get out for a cycle ride on a Sunday morning but it was very cold and a boisterous easterly wind made it feel even colder so I settled for a walk down to Skippers Bridge and back, keeping as sheltered as I could.

The clouds were high and if you could keep out of the wind, it was quite pleasant….

Church bridge and Caroline Street

…but if the wind caught you, it brought a tear to the eye.  In general the walkers that I passed were very well wrapped up and keeping their heads down.

I had my head well down when I noticed this splendid lichen display on the arm of a metal bench beside the river.


I was crouching down to examine a tree stump a little further along when a passer by shouted cheerily at me, “Taking an arty shot eh”

I had to admit that I was and this was it.

tree stump at Land's end

I showed it to him and he was mildly impressed.

I was impressed by the amount of ivy clinging to a tree by the waterside.


When I got to Skippers Bridge, I slithered down the banking and had another look at the works….

skippers bridge

…but they didn’t seem to have got much further than last time that I looked.  Maybe it has been too cold for them.

The scaffolding is an elaborate construction….

skippers bridge repair

…and it looks as though they have dropped in a big rock to help anchor it.  Even on a calm day like today, there is plenty of water coming down towards the bridge…

skippers bridge River Esk

…though it looks peaceful enough on the far side of the bridge.

skippers bridge River Esk

You can see clearly where the bridge was widened in 1880

I scrambled back up the banking and continued my walk home.

I passed clouds of catkins and crowds of ducks….

catkins and mallards

It was rather gloomy and the automatic flash on my camera must have been triggered by the poor light judging by the curiously bright eyes on these two mallards.


My last picture was of a tall tree.


While  was walking along, I heard and saw two oyster catchers, those noisy harbingers of spring, swirling across the fields beside the river.  It was great to see and hear them but not having my ‘birds in flight’ camera with me, I couldn’t record their first appearance of 2017.

There was just time for a little song practice and some lunch when I got home before we had to set off to Carlisle for our community choir practice there.  We combined singing with a little shopping and both were very satisfactory.

We are going to Manchester in a fortnight for a competition with the choir so we worked very hard again today under our regular conductor.  Luckily the songs have some very rewarding lines to sing so the hard work was also enjoyable and the enjoyment was enhanced by the feeling that we had made some good progress.  We won’t win the competition but we would like to think that we will present the choir at its best.

It rained heavily as we drove home but the stew, as I said, turned out well so a cold and wintery day passed pretty satisfactorily.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.


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Today’s guest picture is one from a holiday that Mike Tinker took last year.  It shows a handsome bridge in Rhayader, Mid Wales.

Rhayader Mid Wales

I had requested a better day after our recent dreich spell and my plea was heard and we enjoyed a beautifully sunny day today.  As an added and unexpected bonus, the temperature was well above freezing from the very start and had I been better organised, I could have been out and about straight after breakfast.

However, at the moment I am not sleeping as well as I would like and it is taking me quite a bit of time to get up to speed in the mornings. I needed a cup of coffee and a roll and honey before I could even contemplate starting.

There were hardly any birds to distract me and the strong light made the re-appearance of Zorro the Chaffinch the high or perhaps the lowlight of the morning.

Zorro the Chaffinch

I had a wander round the garden,  A crocus has appeared, snowdrops are actually coming properly out and the rhubarb is more fantastic than ever.

rhubarb, snowdrop and crocus

I did finally get going, armed with two bananas and a tuna roll with a side supply of apricots and dates.  The view at Wauchope School was a lot more inviting than the last time that I came up the road…

Wauchope School

…and I headed out into the country with a light heart.  Fairly heavy legs but a light heart.

I was headed west and once you get out of our local hills, the land turns to gently rolling fields…

Middlebie road

Looking back towards Waterbeck

I went through Middlebie and Ecclefechan and headed for Hoddom Castle.  The road towards the Castle is flat and straight and I found myself pedalling head on into a noticeable wind.  This was a bit of a trial so I tried the Donald J Trump method and declared loudly to anyone who might be able to hear me, “I am not pedalling into a headwind.  The wind is behind.  It’s fine.”

Strangely, it didn’t work.  Obviously the alternative truth is not all that it is cracked up to be.

I did get within sight of the castle in the end…

Hoodom Castle

…and  stopped on the bridge over the River Annan to enjoy the view.

View from the bridge at Hoddom

I crossed the bridge and cycled on towards the next crossing of the river at Brydekirk.  The powers that be have put a lot of thought into the naming of streets and buildings in the village.


This is the cause of all this naming.

Brydekirk Bridge

I crossed the bridge when I came to it and had a banana and half a roll on the other side.  I was right beside a fine ivy plant.


And as you know, I am a sucker for a nice piece of moss on a bridge parapet.

moss at Brydekirk

By this time, I had turned enough to have the wind now across or behind me for the rest of the journey but this didn’t seem to speed my legs up very much.

From the top of the hill looking towards Eaglesfield after I left Brydekirk, I could see a fine crop of windmills, half at the old established windfarm at Minsca…


…and the other half randomly scattered across the country at the new Ewe Hill wind farm.

Ewe Hill farm

I think there are still a few more to be added to this lot.

I cycled down to Gretna on back roads, hoping to see some of our migrating geese in the fields but on this occasion, all my geese were swans…


…and there wasn’t a goose to be seen.

On my way to Gretna, I passed these trees…


…whihc would be very helpful to the confused traveller as they clearly show the direction of the prevailing wind.  South west.

When I got to Gretna, I had thought of going back across country and clocking up fifty miles but time began to press on me a bit thanks to my late start and my legs weren’t exactly over enthusiastic about any more unnecessary hills so I headed back up the main road, taking the quieter bike route through Canonbie…

Canonbie Church

It was a golden winter afternoon

…and limiting my ride to 47 miles.

It did give me the opportunity to admire a set of fisherman’s steps leading to the river at Broomholm…

fishermans steps Broomholm

…and the extensive scaffolding now in place at Skippers Bridge.

skippers bridge scaffolding

They have taken it through the arch and round the other side where the damage is.

skippers bridge scaffolding

I had a cheerful chat to two of the engineers supervising the task and asked them to take care of our bridge and make sure not to knock it down.  They assured me that they would take care.  Indeed, one engineer, a charming lady, told me that they really liked and admired  the bridge.  This was good to hear.

I got home and had a cup of tea and a biscuit with Mike Tinker who had dropped in and then after a good soak in the bath and a light curry for my tea, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to the Buccleuch Centre to watch a Woody Allen film, ‘Café Society’.

It went at a gentle pace, was well acted, beautifully set and costumed and had some (not a lot) of good jokes.  The great man obviously couldn’t work out how to finish the film so he didn’t bother and just let it drift away but it was none the worse for that and I enjoyed it a lot.

My favourite joke went something like this:

A pedantic and rather upset character say, “Socrates says the unexamined life is not worth living,”  and after a slight pause adds, “The examined life is not up to much either.”

As it was our 49th wedding anniversary yesterday, this was our anniversary treat.  We might do something a bit more flashy next year if spared.

The camera may not lie but it does often conceal quite a lot from the casual viewer.  Zorro the Chaffinch seen earlier in this post came straight from the camera.  Photoshop reveals that the camera knows who the masked intruder really is.

flying chaffinch

Herbert the Chaffinch unmasked

Details of the cycle ride may be found by clicking on the map below.



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Today’s guest picture is another from Irving’s Brecon canal trip.  I think that these are these are the top two locks in the Llangynidr flight of five.   I do like a nice lock and this picture has two.

Canal locks

After our bright snowy interlude, we reverted to more normal weather and woke up to a grey morning after a night of rain.  As you might expect, the view of Whita from our back window showed how much of the snow had gone….


…but somewhat surprisingly to those who haven’t seen it before in these conditions, our  front lawn retained its white blanket.

front lawn with snow

Now that our Carlisle choir is back in business for the new sessions, Sundays have taken on a familiar shape.  Mrs Tootlepedal goes off to song in the church choir and I prepare something for the slow cooker for our evening meal.  It was a beef stew with carrots and parsnips in a red wine gravy today.

While I am cooking, I keep an eye on the birds.


The siskins have become regular customers.


The blackbird allowed me to take him in a less aggressive pose today

On a perfect Sunday, I would go for a pedal after the cooking is over but today there were some very icy patches on untreated roads so cycling wasn’t an option for a timid person like me and I decided on a very careful walk down to Skippers Bridge and back instead.

There had been a bit of drizzle earlier on but it was dry when I set out.  The rise in the temperature led to a very misty morning.

Christine in the park

The going underfoot was generally rather treacherous so I had to keep my eyes firmly fixed on the next step ahead which meant that not much other than icy puddles caught my eye.

I did stop to enjoy some misty trees as I went along the Murtholm track.

Murtholm mist

It would probably have been a good day to be on top of one of our hills looking over a sea of mist in the valley below but getting to the top of a hill in the icy conditions might have been a problem. I was happy to walk slowly along the river, walking poles in hand.

I was aiming for the Skippers Bridge where contractors have been felling some trees beside the river as a preparation for fixing the cutwater which was damaged in the big flood a year ago.  They were going to start some work on the masonry on Saturday but the freezing conditions meant that they have had to postpone this.

The view from the bridge to the north hasn’t changed….

Langholm Distillery in mist

…but some trees have been cut down on the south side…

Skippers Bridge

…giving me a little clearer view of the right hand arch.

Looking downstream, I could see that a low flying duck might well keep below the mist…

Esk from Skippers in mist

…though I didn’t see any ducks trying this out.

I walked back on the other side of the river and an ice free pavement let me look around a bit.  I saw what I took to be a very bright piece of ivy…


…though it was surprising to see it at this time of year.

After a while, I had to forsake the riverside path as it was too icy to be safe for an old man and walked past the Co-operative Store instead.  The trees on the far bank of the river made a striking picture when I looked over the buildings there.

Trees over Co-op

I managed to get home without slipping over which was satisfactory as I don’t want to add to the current queues at the A&E department at the hospital in Carlisle.

There was a great contrast in the weather from yesterday as I went over the suspension bridge.

Esk at Langholm

We had a light lunch (just as well after yesterday’s feast) and set off to Carlisle to sing with our choir. It was a thoroughly worthwhile trip because we included a little useful shopping on our way to the practice and the practice itself was one of the best we have had.

We worked hard on two songs, both of which were challenging in some ways but relatively easy to sing as far as the harmonies went and both of which were taken at a comfortable pace.  This is very important to me because I find singing very quick songs hard work as I find my brain lagging behind my mouth and many wrong notes tend to materialise as I struggle to keep up.  Andante Moderato is my favourite tempo.

We got home safely, in spite of one or two misty moments on the road back and the slow cooked stew turned out very well.  To provide a coda for an enjoyable day, Mrs Tootlepedal made some semolina pudding.  A very sound decision.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows seasonal fun in Leicester Square, London.  It was enjoyed by my sister Mary.


It was a much better day today with a lot of sunshine and less tooth trouble.  On the down side it was only just above freezing and actually getting colder as the sun came up so Dropscone and I settled for an unearned coffee and scone session.

A picture of the feeder taken at ten o’clock against the background of a frosty lawn gives an idea of the chilly nature of the morning.

chilly chaffinch

By the time we had finished coffee, things were a bit brighter and a robin  appeared as if on cue.


The feeder was kept steadily busy and I liked the chaffinch on the top left in the picture below who didn’t let the absence of a perch deter it from getting well stuck in.

headless chaffinch

Further out from the house, the sunshine lit the fat ball feeder and attracted a jackdaw.


Starlings are notorious for being able to copy sounds of other birds and things they hear about the garden.   A weird collection of clicks, whistles and buzzes directed my attention to this one.


The sun finally reached the sunflower heart feeder at midday and a blue tit took advantage of a lull in the chaffinch storm to pick up a seed and make off again.

blue tit

For some reason, the goldfinches like to perch on the very top twigs of the plum tree when it is sunny and it was no different today.


Between doing the crossword and eating scones with Dropscone, I had an unproductive but enjoyable morning and I was just thinking of going for a walk when Sandy rang up.  He hadn’t had his lunch so I delayed going out until he arrived.  In the interim an ominous bank of clouds appeared out a blue sky and I could even see a rainbow to the north of the town.  I feared that once again our magical ability to make it rain was going to be in evidence.  However, in response to my cheery mood, the clouds took the hint and pushed off and  Sandy and I had a sunny outing.

We went up to the Moorland bird feeders first where a small flock of greenfinches put on a display of bad temper combined with aerial acrobatics.




You will notice that just as in human life, there is always one on the sidelines egging the other two on.

There was a visit from a woodpecker to enjoy.


And a coal tit visited my little pile of seed on a pole for a quick takeaway.

coal tit

As you can see from the many rings on display, a lot of these birds are regular visitors to the Moorland feeders.

It was pretty chilly sitting around and the sun was sinking all the time so we didn’t stay too long and soon drove on down to the banks of the Esk beside Hollows Tower.   The tower was looking very fine in the low sunlight and I took many excellent pictures with my big camera which I am sure you would have admired immensely if I hadn’t managed, in a moment of madness, to delete them all from the camera card before I got them onto the computer.

Luckily, I had Pocketcam with me so at least I have a record of our visit.

Hollows Tower

The tower on the banks of the Esk

Hollows Tower

The tower and the holiday cottage beside it.

As we walked back along the riverside, we were impressed by the amount of ivy clothing one of the river bank trees.


Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that this is very mature ivy.

With a glance back at a fine single tree….

tree at Hollows

…we got in the car and drove home for a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

We are only two weeks and a bit off the shortest day now and although we don’t have anything like the months long night of the northern countries, the days seem to be over almost before they have started.  I see from the BBC’s weather page that we got seven and a half hours of daylight today but it seemed much less.

In the dark of the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to our choir.  We have three performances to give over the next three weeks, starting on Saturday with a guest appearance with the Langholm Town Band at their Christmas concert.  The band secretary told me that apart from the sheer pleasure in hearing us sing, the invitation was based on a hope that we might add a few more people to the concert audience with our presence…..so if any local reader is likely to be kicking their heels at home on Saturday night, come and give us some support instead and hear the band too.  Tickets are very reasonably priced.

The choir practice went pretty well, considering that our conductor Sean has only just come out of hospital after a hernia operation and was far from well.  I took on a bit more conducting than usual as a result and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Bearing in mind that we are a choir that takes all comers without auditions, there are moments when we sound really good and I wish that I had had an opportunity like this years ago as it turns out that I like singing.  Whether the people sitting near me enjoy it as much is quite another question.  Mrs Tootlepedal and the sopranos were in great voice tonight,  giving the full treatment to the descants in the carols.

For the flying bird of the day, I caught another chaffinch in the air just before it landed.




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