Posts Tagged ‘Langholm Moor’

Today’s guest picture comes from my neighbour Gavin, who is on a trip to see family in the USA.  They have been been visiting Yosemite.


There was some every nice sunny weather when we got up but the wind soon got up too and if you weren’t in the sun, it was decidedly cool.

Being Sunday, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir and I made a lamb stew for the slow cooker.  I didn’t go cycling when I had finished though as there were more important things to do today.

Needless to say I had my mind on turning compost so that I could start getting my new bins installed.  By going very carefully, using a small fork and taking frequent rests, I managed to empty Bin D, turn Bin C into Bin D and then turn Bin B into Bin C.

In the rests between turning, I looked into tulips.



It’s wonderful to get such a variety  of shades and styles but I notice that they all have six stamens.  There’s probably some tulip rule about that.

I had the occasional sit down inside as well which let me watch the birds for a bit. Female chaffinches were to the fore…

female chaffinches

…and a siskin wisely bailed out before being run into by a determined male chaffinch.

siskin and chaffinch

Out in the garden, the dog tooth violets are in full swing.

dog tooth violets

I even saw a butterfly but as I didn’t have my camera with me, you’ll have to take my word for that.  I saw a couple of butterflies while I was out cycling yesterday so I am hoping to see a few more in the garden soon.

When Mrs Tootlepedal came home, we had some lunch and then we loaded up the car with clippings from the yew and two box balls which had been savaged by Attila the Gardener and took them off to the council dump near Annan.

When we got back, Mrs Tootlepedal suggested that we should take a trip up to the Langholm Moor and see if we could see the goats that people keep tell us we are missing. We had hopes of perhaps seeing a hen harrier too, although it had clouded over by this time.

It was very hazy so there were no views to be had and as we drove over the hill to the county boundary, there were no goats either.   We did see a buzzard high in the sky above us but we turned for home feeling that once again, we had missed the goats.

 I stopped the car as we came down into the Tarras valley in order to take a rather gloomy shot of one of my favourite bridges…..

Tarras Bridge

…and while we were stopped, the sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal thought that she saw a goat on the far side of the river.  When I looked, I saw another two so we drove over the bridge and looked around.

We didn’t have to be very sharp eyed to see a lot more goats.

Tarras goats

There were goats and kids all over the place.  I don’t how we had missed them on our way out.

One of the kids was bleating furiously and I could hear an answering bleat from some distance away.  When I looked down the bank, I could see a goat sprinting along the far bank of the river.

Tarras goats

It came to the bridge and went tip tapping over it with no regard for trolls at all….

Tarras goats

…and was soon reunited with the kid.

The goats weren’t at all bothered by us and I was able to walk along the road side snapping away without disturbing them.

Tarras goats

I don’t often get a chance like this so I overindulged a bit.

Tarras goats

These are genuinely wild goats but they were very calm today.

Tarras goats

Tarras goats

Tarras goats

They were as curious about me as i was about them.

Tarras goats

Tarras goats

Tarras goats

Although we could have happily stayed and watched them for quite a lot longer,, we left the goats in the hope of seeing a hen harrier before the light faded…

Tarras goats

…and drove on.

Before we left, I did take a picture of a sheep which was standing nearby so that anyone who is having trouble in separating their goats from their sheep can tell the difference.

tarras sheep

We didn’t see a harrier, just another buzzard circling in the sky but we did see several grouse.  Sadly, the light had gone too far to take a picture by this time.

When we got home, I took some advice from Mrs Tootlepedal, borrowed her spirit level and set about demolishing the old compost Bin B and installing the bottom layers of the new bin.

I got the bottom section level….

spirit level

…installed the next layer and started turning Bin A into the new Bin B.  It was a pleasure to use such a handsome new bin.

compost bins

…and we soon had three layers of the new bin filled.

compost bins

Here are Bins A to D in a row.

It just remains to finish turning Bin A into Bin B (which has two more layers to put on if needed) and then build the new Bin A.  With a little good weather, that should happen tomorrow.  The beauty of the modular bins is that I never have to lean in deeply to dig out the compost and I never have to lift the compost any higher than is absolutely necessary.  These are important considerations for a man with a bad back.

We settled down to eat our lamb stew and watch the Masters golf tournament with a feeling of a day well spent.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch catching the morning sun..

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from my daughter’s visit to the Chelsea Flower Show.  Heaven knows what the wonderful flowers are.

Chelsea Flower Show

We are enjoying a spell of warm, dry weather which is extremely welcome.  It is letting Mrs Tootlepedal get some really useful gardening done and it is letting me get some good cycling miles in.

It was sunny from the start of the day and I took a moment before getting the fairly speedy bike out to have a look round the garden.

As always, I was happy to see a bee.  They love the Dicentras.

bee on Dicentra

I would be even happier if there were a lot more bees about but in spite of the good weather, they are still very scarce.

Our neighbour Gavin took a break on his customary morning walk to give two of his friends a guided tour of the garden.  They were impressed that Mrs Tootlepedal does all the work herself.  I am impressed by that too.

There are a lot of birds in the garden at the moment.  Mrs Tootlepedal doesn’t regard house sparrows in a very friendly light as they eat her young plants if she doesn’t protect them well but I am very happy if they pose nicely for me.

male sparrows

Males on the fence…

female sparrow

…and a female on the feeder

Hedge sparrows or dunnocks are often to be seen creeping about under plants in the borders.  I caught a young one under the feeders today.


Siskins are still the most frequent feeder visitors…


…but they have to fend off the occasional incursion by sparrows….

sparrow and siskin

…and everybody gives a starling a wide berth.


I didn’t have a moment to look at the flowers today because I had only a limited time to complete my cycle ride.  I set off up the A7 to the north with two plans in mind – either go straight up the road against the wind for twenty miles and enjoy a whizz back down with the wind behind or else take a more circular and hilly route and avoid having to pedal into the wind for too long.

The forecast had promised a reasonably light wind but after eight miles butting into it, it seemed quite strong to me and after a pause to look at Ewes Church…

Ewes Church

…I turned right at Fiddleton and headed for the hills.

There is a stiff climb out of the Ewes valley….

Ewes valley

…and on to the ridge at the top…


…but it is well worth it, both for the views when you are up there and the steady descent down to Hermitage Water and the Castle on its bank.

Hermitage castle

The run back down the road to Newcastleton with the breeze now behind me was most enjoyable after the slow progress over the first sixteen miles.

I passed several bridges of various sizes on my way from Fiddleton to Newcastleton and stopped for two of them.


The water in the rivers is very low.  The fisherman are crying out for some rain.

I stopped in Newcastleton to buy a strawberry tart from a handy cafe as I needed a bit of fuel for the last leg of my trip, 10 miles over the moor with a thousand foot summit between me and Langholm.

I had designed my route in the hope that the brisk breeze would help me over the hill and my hopes were realised in full and the ten miles passed without any trouble.  If I had had more time to spare, I could happily have spent an hour or two just snapping away at all the wild flowers.  But time pressed and I settled for a view of Tinnis Hill…

Tinnis Hill

Its characteristic shape and position make it a familiar landmark from many miles away to the south and west.

…and an impression of the quiet road that I followed.

Langholm Moor

Getting near the summit

There was so much bog cotton about that at times it looked as though it had been snowing.

Bog cotton

The sting in the tail of the road across the moor is the valley of the Tarras.  It gives an extra up and down when you are almost home.


One more river….

The bog cotton and and some very colourful moss gave me an excuse for a breather…

bog cotton and moss

..and more wild flowers gave me another.

wild flowers

The climbing and the wind made for a pretty slow average speed for my outing but it had been such a pleasant trip that I wasn’t too sad about this……but all the same, I scurried down the last hill and just managed to creep up to exactly 12 mph for the circuit which gave me some respectability (but not much).

Those interested can see more about the route by clicking on the map below.

garmin route 29 May 16

I should add that the weather information that Garmin have added to the route map was wrong in every respect except the wind direction and even that was a bit more from the north than they show.

I just had time for a shower, a change of clothes and lunch before we set off to Carlisle for a combination of shopping and singing.  The shopping went very well.  The singing was not quite so good as our usual conductor and accompanist were missing, as was quite a good proportion of the choir.

With our concert coming up next week, it left us a little under prepared but those present gave of their best for the substitute conductor and it also gave us a chance to meet the young lady who is going to be our new accompanist from September onwards.  She did amazingly well considering that she was sight reading everything today.

After a heavy eight days of cycling, singing and gardening, we were very pleased to have a sit down when we got home.

The flying bird of the day is another siskin.

flying siskin



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Today’s guest picture shows some delightfully green weeping willows in Parliament Hill Fields in London.  They were noticed by my sister Mary.

Weeping willows, Parliament Hill Fields

We woke to a beautifully sunny day and as darkness fell, it fell on a beautifully sunny day and in between…it was beautifully sunny.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent a happy day in the garden doing all sorts of useful things.  She only left to collect some more manure from her new manure mine.

I had a little problem in the morning.  I was hoping for a cycle ride of a reasonable length but with the morning sunny but decidedly cool and the afternoon promising to be nice and warm, the choice of suitable clothing was a tricky one.  In the end, I waited until midday when the temperature had risen enough to let me make a sensible choice.

I wandered round the garden while I was waiting.  The sun had brought things out.



When I finally got going, I varied my usual route.  With the wind being on the gentle side, I decided to take the hilly route north out of the town following the Esk valley.  Luckily the gentle breeze was on hand to blow me up the hills to Eskdalemuir.  I stopped to take a picture of the Girdle Stanes, one of the stone circles beside the route.

Girdle stanes

At Eskdalemuir, I turned left, climbed out of the White Esk valley and headed towards the Black Esk and beyond.  I got a nice prospect or two as I went over the hills.

View from above Eskdalemuir

You are never far from an electricity wire round here!

I had my lunch at an ugly bridge over the Dryfe Water north of Lockerbie.

Dryfe water

I was walking about trying to find a way down to the river bank to take a picture of it as it is obviously a repaired old stone bridge, when a kind lady emerged from a nearby house to ask if I was lost.  I told her that I was just trying to photograph the bridge and she was very surprised.  “We hate it,” she said.  She told me that the original parapet had been demolished by an articulated lorry and looking at me in a sympathetic way, offered me a cup of tea.  I reluctantly turned it down and she told me I could find a much nicer looking bridge a short way along the road.

She was right.

dryfe water bridge

It involved a short diversion from my route and a plunge down to the river with the consequent climb back up but I thought that it was well worth it.

Generally, it was a most enjoyable ride with wild flowers beginning to appear in quantity in the verges.  I saw celandines on my left as I went out and on my right as I was homeward bound.

wild flower verges

The gorse was looking good too.


As I neared home, I was quite surprised to find that the new windmill is visible from several places.  They have worked fast and the twirly bit on the top is now in place.

Ewe Hill windmill

A final six mile downhill and downwind section finished off my ride in fine style.  Those interested can click on the map for more details.

garmin 19 April 2016

Mrs Tootlepedal was resting from her gardening endeavours when I got back so after a cup of tea and a shower and a quick check on the bird feeder…

redpoll and siskin

A redpoll managed to dislodge a siskin from a perch.

…we drove up onto the Langholm moor to see if we could see any hen harriers.

We saw a buzzard flapping along above the skyline but it wasn’t long before a hen harrier appeared too and after some sparring…

hen harrier and buzzard

…drove it off.

It was very pleasant up on the hill in the warmth of the early evening.

On our way down, we stopped at the quarry where I had seen the toads spawning. I was interested to see what might have developed but there was no sign of toads and little sign of ‘toadpoles’.  Only one of the puddles seemed to have any life at all…

toad spawn and duck

…and we wondered if a pair of ducks, who seem to be resident in the quarry, are happily dining on them.

The low sun picked out the shrubs beside the lawn when we got home…


…and Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out this charming daffodil to me as we took a final walk round the garden.


Did I mention that the tulips were out?


And there are more to come.


A starling watched us as we walked about.


We were both quite pleased after a busy day that we had no activities in the evening other than a quiet sit down.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.


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Today’s guest picture shows a frozen pond in the sunshine which was passed by my sister Mary on her way to breakfast at Kenwood the other day.


In spite of a chilly start to the day, there was no ice about here and a pause before the forecast rain let me get out for a brisk walk with Sandy.   It was a very gloomy day so I was more concerned with getting some exercise than taking pictures but we had cameras in our pockets so we stopped from time to time as we walked the five miles past Potholm and back on the other side of the river.

There was a selection of houses to look at…

Breckonwrae, Milnholm and Potholm

Breckonwrae, Milnholm and Potholm

…a feast of colourful lichen on the walls beside the road….


…a collection of fungi on an old fallen tree…


…and a couple of very big puddles to go with some snowdrops at Potholm.


The farmers must be in despair about how wet the land is.  In spite of a few dry days recently, it has only taken a day or two of wet weather to produce puddles in almost every flat field.

There were sheep to look at….

sheep in pen

…and to be looked at by as we went along.


By the time that we had got to Potholm, our river crossing point, the drizzle had started and we were pleased to be among trees for most of the rest of our walk.


On our way we passed a lonesome pine beside our trail and a tune came unbidden into my mind.

lonesome pine

As we went down the hill towards the Lodge, we came across another example of one of those things that you have passed many time without seeing. Deep in the woods there is a large bridge that I don’t remember noticing on any of the many occasions that I have been along this track.

Langfauld Bridge

You wouldn’t think that you could miss a structure this impressive but the parapet is pretty well at the road level and there are many little streams to cross on the way so this one is not particularly significant.  Maybe there are other bridges that I haven’t noticed as well.  I will check more carefully next time that I come this way.

The rain was getting more persistent as we neared the town so there was just time for a final moss and fungus shot or two after we had crossed the Duchess Bridge…

moss and fungus

…before we parted company at the Scholar’s Field and we both headed for home.

You can see Sandy’s view of the walk here.

When I got home, I was quite ready for a cup of coffee and a slice of toasted fruity malt loaf, a good reward for a wettish walk.

I recovered enough to take occasional looks out of the window.

A chaffinch has joined the blackbirds in the fat filled coconut shell appreciation society.


It started to rain in a more serious way but this did not discourage the birds.

siskin, chaffinch and goldfinch

“He’s behind you!”

There were plenty of flying birds….

busy feeder

…but not much light.

I made some lentil soup for lunch and then we considered the possibility of an outing in the car as a break from the rain.  A look at the weather map showed us that it would have to be a very long drive so we settled for an afternoon in.

I had to find and print out three pictures for an upcoming Moorland Festival to which the camera club are contributing a small photographic exhibition.  The down side of taking a lot of pictures is the time it takes to search through them to find the ones you want.  (I have over 9000 images on just one of the SD cards in my cameras at the moment.)

The search for, the printing out and the framing of the pictures together with some time spent putting music into the computer for our Monday  trio group filled up a damp afternoon very satisfactorily.

Some readers may wonder what Mrs Tootlepedal does in the evenings while I play with my photos and write these meanderings.  She is often hard at work practising her stitching skills.  Her latest work involves tiny flowers.

Ally's embroidery

You need a lot  of patience and a good eye for this sort of thing.

The high spot of the evening was a telephone call from Dropscone who told me that thanks to getting time off for good behaviour, he had been released from hospital and was safely home.   I hope to see him in person tomorrow for a cup of coffee and a health update.

The flying bird of the day, caught in the morning gloom, is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture arises from some coloured wools that Dropscone gave to Mrs Tootlepedal.  She converted some of them into a colourful edition of Shaun the Sheep and the picture shows Leo, Dropscone’s grandson, giving Shaun a warm welcome.

Leo and ShaunThere has been some wet and windy weather in Britain over recent days but by and large, we in Langholm have escaped unscathed and today was no exception, with occasional sunshine and light winds.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to see Matilda and I put the day to good use at home.  I started by putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and then went out into the garden to enjoy the pleasant weather.

I stood back from the flowers for a picture or two.


Mrs Tootlepedal has several clumps of Rudbeckia about and they are thriving.


She loves the blue of the salvias

I took closer looks too.

nasturtium and astrantia

A contrast in loud and soft between Nasturtium and Astrantia

I couldn’t go past the poppies.

poppy with astilbe

Poppy with astilbe


And poppy with poppy

I had just gone in again when Dropscone arrived bearing scones.  He has fully recovered from his mountaineering exploits and is back playing golf in good style.  He hasn’t lost his touch with the scones either.

After coffee, he went off to play golf with a friend and I watched the birds for a while.

A coal tit is never absent for long these days.

coal titSometimes they may be seen in concert with a blue tit.

blue tit and coal titOn the old feeder, the traffic was heavy.

Busy feeder

An incoming sparrow considering its options in the face of full perches and combined siskin hostility


A siskin competing with a siskin…

siskin and chaffinch

…and chatting to a chaffinch

I generally take pictures of flying birds on the right hand side of the feeder where there is space.  On the left hand side, careful navigation is necessary.

chaffinchI put down the camera and went out to sieve a little compost and mow the drying green and the grass round the greenhouse.  I should have mowed the middle lawn too but I got distracted by a crossword and then lunch and never got round to it.

The crossword proved quite tricky and it wasn’t until well after lunch that I finally got some cycling gear on and took the fairly speedy bike out for some exercise.

Following my policy of being a bit less timid about my route choice, I cycled over the hill to Newcastleton.  This has an energetic start to a ride with a climb up onto the Langholm moor right at the beginning.  Having climbed up out of the Esk valley, the road promptly drops down to the Tarras valley and then just as promptly climbs up to the county boundary at 1100ft. I started at 250ft in Langholm and the drop into the Tarras valley cost me 250 hard earned feet so the total climb was 1100ft in six miles and I was happy to stop and take a picture or two when I got to the summit.

Langholm Moor

Looking back towards the monument on the horizon.  The hills have turned brown now.


Looking forward into Liddesdale.

As you can see, there were some threatening clouds about and I was beginning to worry about the wisdom on my route choice but the next four and a bit miles were 750 feet straight downhill to Newcastleton on a road with a good surface and few bends so I whizzed along hoping to beat any bad weather.  My first six miles took 42 minutes, the next four and a bit took 12.

Once at Newcastleton, I turned south and headed for Canonbie.  This is an undulating road with lots of ups and downs so once again I was happy to stop near a minor summit to take a picture or two.


Large portions of this hill are now lying under the M6 extension from Carlisle to Gretna.  The have chopped the top of the hill right off.

Liddesdale road

I had fortunately left the bad weather behind me.

I was quite enjoying the hilly ride so I turned off just before Canonbie and took the strenuous route home.   At 26 miles. the trip was more or less the same distance as yesterday’s jaunt but the climb was nearly double so I was quite pleased to get home in good order.

I had time to make  a sausage stew and have a shower before Mrs Tootlepedal got home and then we had to get ready to go out again.  This time we were going to Australia….but only via the Buccleuch Centre where they were showing a ‘live’ broadcast of a production of Aida on Sydney Harbour.

I love Verdi’s music and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening out but it was the weirdest production I have ever seen.  The singing was fine but being an outdoor production on a huge stage with a vast audience, it was a bit unrelenting in what should have been the quieter moments.  The big ensembles however were tremendous.  Mrs Tootlepedal was particularly delighted to be treated to real camels in the Grand March but I was disappointed not to get elephants.

The production values were odd.  The costumes were a mixture of kitsch Nazi, ancient Egyptian, modern European and fantasy Ruritanian, with the Ethiopian King looking like a bizarre cross between one of Santa Claus’ elves and Bruce Springsteen.  There was a totally mesmerising appearance of a chorus of disco dancing ladies at one point.

Still, any amount of wide eyed amazement at the production values couldn’t diminish the power of the music.  Some of the staging worked really well and the singing was good enough to get us thoroughly involved in the twists and turns of the plot.  What a treat.

My cycling outing got my total distance for this year up to 2500 miles so what with that and scones, lawn mowing and a Verdi opera, I really couldn’t have asked for a better day…not to mention the sausage stew.

The flying bird is a chaffinch going flat out for a vacant perch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother.  He has been a bit unwell lately and unable to go for his customary vigorous walks but he is recovering well and taking pictures in flatter places for the moment.  This is the ferry across Portsmouth harbour.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I took our bikes across on this ferry in 2008.

Gosport ferryThe very encouraging day yesterday turned out to be another false start on the road to warmer weather and we woke up to a familiarly cold, windy, grey day again today.

The change in the weather had brought a great tit into the garden, a very occasional visitor.

great titThe chilly wind put paid to any thoughts of a little loosener on the bike and I entertained Sandy to a cup of coffee instead.  When he left, I put a week of the newspaper index into the database and did a bit of much needed flute and singing practice.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s mother is coming to stay with us for a couple of weeks on Sunday so she was very busy making preparations for this big event.

We had time for a brisk and chilly walk round the garden.  I took a couple of pictures of the walking wounded.

tulip and magnolia…and one of a new flower.

alpine clematisThis is an alpine clematis Mrs Tootlepedal tells me.

There were still plenty of blackbirds in the garden but this one didn’t look at his best at all.

blackbird with bare chestI made a bit of soup for lunch and afterwards, while Mrs Tootlepedal set about editing our local paper so that it would be ready tomorrow for the readers who produce an edition for blind subscribers, I went off with Sandy for a drive to Newcastleton with a view to doing a new walk over there.

Our route took us over the Langholm Moor and we were pleased to see plenty of interest including a female hen harrier and a merlin but chiefly a large group of wild goats, unusually close to the road.  We stopped.

wild goatsIt was a family group. Usually they would scatter if we got so close but for some reason they just continued munching away as we took pictures today.

An adult patrolled the skyline.

wild goatsAnd an infant sucked its toe.

wild goatsWe drove on and parked in the village beside the river in Newcastleton.  Our walk took us over the new bridge across the Liddle Water.

bridge at NewcastletonI say ‘new’ bridge but in fact this is the third place in which it has been used.  The idea of a second or third hand bridge is quite strange to me but it kept us up very satisfactorily as we crossed it.

By this time the sun had come out and as long as we were sheltered from the wind, it was reasonably warm.

Newcastleton is one of the 7 Stanes mountain biking centres in the south of Scotland and the route we were following was partly on roads but mostly on specially built cycle tracks.  The road part of our walk was very beautiful, passing through deciduous woodland…

Whithaugh…which was carpeted by wild flowers in places…

wild flowers Whithaugh…and picturesque at other times.

WhithaughThis part of our route took us through an outdoor activity centre with a big climbing wall, archery butts, a permanent orienteering course and a 300m zip wire.  Oh to be young again.

When we left the activity centre, we came to the cycle single tracks and followed the up hill trail.

cycle track 7 StanesA lot of work had obviously gone into building these tracks.  I think the the red dots on the trees in the right hand picture mean that they are due to be felled.  There is a balance to be struck between excitement and safety on these trails.

We were able to look back from time to time and enjoy the view across Liddesdale.

LiddesdaleWe walked about 2 miles from the car to the to the top of a ridge where we were able to look down to another car park beside a stream below us.

7 StanesWe will drive to this car park and start from there next time we come.

Our route back down the hill was on the return trail for the mountain bikers and we were very impressed by the control and daring they need to navigate the twists and turns at speed.

7 Stanes trailLuckily for us, there were no cyclists about or we would have had to look smart to get out of their way.  Mountain biking down these sorts of trails is a young man’s game though and the young men must have all been at work.  You see a lot of old men out riding road bikes but having seen these trails, it will amaze me me if any of these mountain bikers survive to be old men at all.

When  we passed through it on out way down, the adventure centre was in full swing with children abseiling down the climbing wall, trudging up streams while ducking under logs and getting lost on the orienteering course. Our calmer walk back down the hill was soon accomplished and we crossed the Liddle…

Liddle…got in the car, and drove back across the hill to Langholm.

To our surprise, the goats were still beside the road and as this may be the best chance we will ever have to see them so close, we stopped again.

wild goatThe family group were busy feeding in the long grass.

wild goatWe added to our collection of things seen with another merlin and a male hen harrier.  Neither was in photographic range by the time we had stopped and got a camera out but it was good to watch them anyway.

We both agreed that it had been an excellent outing.

After tea, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Ewes for a WRI meeting and Sandy and I met again and went to the Archive Centre.  While I had a successful time with an excellent internet connection at putting the newspaper index into the database, the other computer, which Sandy uses, seems to have died and he had a rather frustrating evening not getting his tasks done.

We consoled him with a glass of wine.

Mrs Tootlepedal and her colleagues had entertained the WRI meeting with their prizewinning radio presentation and she came home with the handsome trophy which she will hold for a while before passing it on to another team member.

The flying bird of the day is a rather token view of the female hen harrier which we saw as we went over the hill to Newcastleton.

female hen harrier

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Today’s guest picture shows a newspaper headline spotted in Hull by my friend Bruce, who is on a tour of interesting places in England.  He remarks that it is not a headline that he has seen before.  I remark that it must be hard to keep a flying goldfish in a bowl.

Newspaper in HullIt was a beautiful day today, with fluffy clouds in a blue sky and a very light wind.  It cried out for a cycle ride.  It would have got one straight after breakfast if the temperature had not been too close to zero for fun.  I waited around, looking out of the window occasionally…

robin and chaffinch

There was not a lot to see

…until it had crept up to a mellow 4°C.  I wrapped up well and then went off on the fairly speedy bike.

Rather alarmingly, the fields and the roadside were covered in a thick layer of yesterday’s hail and at places even the road itself was white.  I pottered along slowly and carefully until the very local nature of the storm yesterday was made plain by the complete disappearance of the evidence after a two miles.  From there on, conditions were perfect.

As the forecast for the next few days contains many indications of strong winds, I resolved to go as far as the new knee would let me while the going was good.

For the curious, details of the ride can be found by clicking on the image below.

garmin 25 March 15It was mostly gentle going in a green and pleasant land and as I had omitted to put a card in my camera, two pictures from my phone will have to do by way of an illustration.

River Annan

The River Annan seen on the outward leg of the trip.

Solway sky

The wide expanse of the Solway sky on my way home.

After thirty miles, my leg started to pass remarks so I stopped in Gretna for a bowl of soup and a poke of chips at the Old Tollbar cafe. This is advertised as  the last house in Scotland but it would have been the first house in Scotland had I approached it from the opposite direction.

Thus fortified, my legs stopped their moaning until I was near home.  Then they suggested, quite forcibly, that I give up any thoughts of a neat 50 miler and so I settled for 47.5 miles and a tasty heap of drop scones, freshly made by Mrs Tootlepedal when I got in.

It was such a nice day that I had a walk round the garden.

purple heaven

Colour was not in short supply…

frog spawn

…and frog spawn wasn’t scarce either. 


Not quite a host yet


Signs of life in a spirea

The answer to yesterday plant riddle is that the object was the rhizome of a water lily.  I felt quite a fool to be angrily hooking out a tyre only to find that it was a living plant.

water lilyIn my defence, Mrs Tootlepedal thought it was a tyre too when we saw it in the water and the pond is too crowded with plants anyway.

Flying birds were not available but a starling was back on the holly tree…


About ten bickering starlings flew out of the tree as I got too near.

…and a portly pigeon sauntered about.

pigeonAfter a shower, I drove Mrs Tootlepedal up to the Langholm Moor for a brief bird watching session.  Moorland management was much in evidence when we arrived.  A tractor was mowing strips of vegetation….

Moorland tractor… probably to create fire breaks for the burning of the heather.

MuirburnThis burning is done to encourage new shoots in the heather for the grouse but it is subject to some controversy as a method of moorland management.

Naturally with all this going on not far from where we parked, we thought that there would be no chance of seeing any birds but a short eared owl soon made an appearance and drifted along the bank in front of us.  I followed it so far with the binoculars and then took a couple of shots for the record as it flew away.

owlAnother owl, or perhaps the same one again, if it had sneaked back undetected, made an appearance a bit further away later on.

owlWe also caught a passing glimpse of a merlin, flitting along above the heather so we were very satisfied with our outing.

On our way up to the moor, we had stopped at the Kilngreen to try and get a flying bird picture for the day.  The ducks were happy to stay firmly down to earth.

MallardMrs Tootlepedal strolled along to the Meeting of the Waters to ponder on the flow of the Ewes where it joins the Esk.

Meeting of the waters

It actually flows upstream at the junction.

In the evening, I went off to Brampton to visit the Brampton Community Choir.  They recently advertised for a musical director and then their old MD came back from illness and they unadvertised the job.  He is likely to go away within the next year or so and they asked if I would like to go down and see the choir meanwhile just in case.

It has about 60 members and and makes a good sound.  I sang along with the tenors, sight reading  as best as I could and it was arranged that I should go along in the Autumn and conduct a couple of pieces then to see how the choir and I get along.   I look forward to it.

I did find a gull to help out, under protest, with the flying bird of the day position.

flying gull

PS: While I was looking at today’s pictures on my phone, I discovered one that I took on Warbla the other day and didn’t use.  I don’t usually put in pictures which I haven’t taken on the day but I thought this was worth looking at.  The phone has easily my widest angle lens.

view from warbla

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