Posts Tagged ‘Langholm Sings’

In contrast to yesterday’s Antiguan sun, today’s guest picture shows a typical day in Derby.  My brother Andrew was suffering in the rain there a couple of day ago.


We had another very welcome dry day here today and things are even beginning to hint at drying out a little.  A bit more warmth would help the process.

A brisk wind also helps and we got that today, the downside being that it was a pretty chilly breeze and it made the day which was theoretically warm at 10°C feel a good deal colder.  Still, it was a useful day for a pedal and some gardening so we were happy.

My fairly speedy bike was still in the bike shop so I went out on the slow bike and stuck to skulking 18 miles twice up and down the Wauchope valley, as far out of the wind as I could stay.

I was impressed by the dedication of a flock of sheep to getting their strength up and stopped for a shot…


…and as I always look closely at a wall when I am leaning over one to take a photo, I took some lichen pictures while I was at it.

lichen on wall

I like the variations in colour, shape and style that the lichen on our roadside walls provides.

Otherwise, I kept my head well down in the crosswinds on the ride and didn’t take any more pictures.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had completed some errands round the town and was busy gardening.

She is very pleased with the early crocuses this year and so am I.

There are some brighter ones about…


…but the bulk of the flowers are a delicate pale violet and I like them both for themselves and when they mingle with the snowdrops.


And because I like eating it, I was very happy to see that the rhubarb is looking very promising.


Then I went inside and looked out.  The kitchen makes a warm and comfortable bird hide and supplies good coffee too (Rwandan today).

I looked high…


…and low.


After lunch, I went off for a walk.  It had been gently sunny while I had pedalled along in the morning but the clouds had come over for my walk and it was a grey afternoon.

Pathhead track

Snowdrops provided some cheer both at the start and near the finish of my walk.


On grey days, I tend to keep my eyes on the foreground and ignore the views and there is always something to help to pass the time.

This wall provided a home for some luxuriant moss.

mossy wall

And a birch tree had a neat circle of script lichen.

script lichen

As always, walls are a never ending source of delight and today I came across a growth which I hadn’t seen before.  It is the coral like structure on the left in the panel below.  I think that it must be lichen but I am by no means confident about that.

lichen on wall

On the other hand, I am confident about this.


This is definitely cladonia lichen.

I had already stopped at a promising piece of wall before I had noticed the tiny spots of red so either my lichen radar is improving with practice or I was just lucky because I didn’t see any more along the the wall.


It really is very red indeed.

I started and finished my walk with a visit to the Kilngreen in the hope of seeing some oyster catchers.

There was a pair at the Meeting of the Waters when I was on my out but they flew off with a gull before I could get too close…

oyster catchers

And there was a pair (probably the same pair I would imagine) in the same place when I came back an hour later and they flew off again, first to further up the bank of the river…

oyster catcher

…and then again to join the gulls on the fence posts.

Luckily one of them flew right past me.

oyster catcher

When I saw that I wasn’t going to get close to them, I took a shot through an arch of the Langholm Bridge which gave me a lot of pleasure even on a grey day.

Langholm Bridge

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden again when I got back and I fell easily into a supervisory role.  It is a suitable role for me as it doesn’t involve doing anything else but walking around and saying, “That looks good.”

In the evening, I went to sing with our local choir and enjoyed myself not least because I am sitting next to my cello playing friend Mike who is an excellent singer and keeps me right.

He remarked that he and his wife have been enjoying the frog pictures on the blog so here is one from today, especially for them.


The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull which  flew by while I was tracking the oyster catchers.  It has almost got its spring black head.

black headed gull


Oh and the title of the blog refers to a telephone call which I received from the bike shop this evening to tell me that the fairly speedy bike has got a two inch crack in the frame so it is time to say farewell to an old friend. Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out that it is just as well to discover a crack like that when it is in the bike shop and not when you are going down hill at 30mph.

I don’t remember exactly when I bought the fairly speedy bike, a Giant SCR, but I must have had it for over ten years so it will have done about 40,000 miles at least.  It has been a good servant, comfortable and reliable and I will be very happy if my new bike turns out to be as good.

I am going to look at getting a replacement suitable for a elderly gentleman with no great bike handling skills but who enjoys getting a few miles in over a year. Like Two Ton Tessie O’Shea used to say about herself, it will be built for comfort more than for speed.  I know my limits now.


Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture is an impressive sea cave from Dropscone’s Irish holiday.


Our thaw continued and there was no snow to show on the lawns when we woke up.  It was still fairly chilly and grey with occasional rain so we are not breaking out the spring champagne yet.

It took the siskins a bit of time to get to the garden this morning but there were plenty of them when they finally arrived….

siskins and goldfinch

…with the occasional goldfinch and chaffinch trying to gatecrash the party.

siskins and chaffinch

There were no blackbirds or robins in sight when I looked out of the kitchen window but I did see a lone dunnock.


I don’t know if the low level birds are put off by the siskins, who are quite noisy or whether they have found somewhere else to go for the time being.  Life is full of inexplicable mysteries.

After coffee, I girded my loins and got my cycling gear on and of course, it immediately started to rain.   I had a marmalade sandwich while I waited and when the rain stopped, I set off.

The rain started again.

But it didn’t last and by the time that I was three miles up the road, things looked a lot brighter.

Bloch view

I thought that this narrow back road over the hill down to Canonbie might be clear of snow so I pedalled on cautiously and apart from some wind-formed snow sculptures beside the road at Tarcoon…

snow at Tarcoon

…there was little snow to see let alone to worry about.  As the sun had come out, it wasn’t a bad day for a pedal at all, though the brisk and chilly wind made me grateful to be very well wrapped up even in the sunshine.

I was quite keen to get home before any more showers arrived so I didn’t stop for any more pictures.  Although the skies clouded over before I got to Langholm, I arrived home dry and cheerful

A quick walk round the garden revealed crocuses trying their best…


…and a pond full of frogs.  They all dived under the water as I approached except this one who waited for a portrait.


It is a source of wonder that a frog’s eye is so prominently reflected on the surface of the pond but it can be a bit annoying for the happy snapper.

It wasn’t hard to see a lot of moss almost everywhere I looked in the garden.

It was on trees, piles of stones….

garden moss

….paths and lawns.  It sometimes feels that if we don’t get a good long dry spell sometime soon, we will gradually be engulfed under an inexorable tide of moss.

After lunch, a man arrived and hitched up the dam bridge repairers’ tea shack and office to his pick up…..

dam bridge repairs

…and drove off with it.   The road closed signs were also removed during the morning so we are almost back to normal again.  Just the railings to come.

It was a bit gloomy outside in the afternoon so Mrs Tootlepedal thought that a walk might be more cheerful than scratching around in a cold, damp garden and we went off to view the felled wood at the Becks Burn.

Of course, there was moss to look at on a wall as we walked along…

moss on wall

…and we liked the very vivid green of the expanding layer around the edge of this clump.

As we walked up through the field from the road, we could see that the Beck’s Burn was running freely with a combination of melted snow and rain…

becks burn bridge

…and Mrs Tootlepedal, who hasn’t visited the felling before, found that the view ahead was dramatically changed.

becks burn wood

We went up for a closer look, passing a striking tree stump on the way.


A bench had been placed on the edge  of the felled area.  If it was me, I would have turned it towards the view of Warbla to the left but as it was…becks burn wood

… it was looking at this.


Not the most exciting view in the world.

As it started to rain, the prospect was even more gloomy than usual.

On the far side of the burn, Mrs Tootlepedal spotted the steps and railing that were part of the walk through the wood before the tree eaters arrived.

becks burn wood steps

I wonder if they will try to re-instate the walk when the felling has finished.

We didn’t stop to explore further because of the drizzle but as soon as we turned for home, it brightened up again…


…and we got home just before the rain re-started.

We passed this rather  artistic tree stump on our way.

mossy tree stump

We had paused to chat to a friend in the street outside the house when we were interrupted by a huge flurry of wings and an entire flock of siskins rose out of our garden and flew off.  It was an impressive sight as there must have been well over 50 birds.

In the evening, I went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our local community choir.  We spent the evening singing operatic choruses in preparation for a concert with our local orchestra next month.  These are fun and quite difficult to sing really well (perhaps because everyone thinks that they know them and they don’t pay enough attention to the score) but they are not as satisfying as singing ‘proper’ choir pieces in four part harmony.

There is a possibility of more snow overnight but we hope that if it does snow, it won’t come to much.  Fingers crossed again.

It was too gloomy for good solo flying bird of the day shots so a sparring duo has got the honour instead.

chaffinch and siskin


Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who went to Margate to visit the Turner Gallery, which can be seen in the background of her  shot.

Margate sands with Turner Contemporary Art Gallery in the distance

I had the job of being the stand in feeder filler at the Moorland bird hide today and it was dry but chilly when I drove up to the feeding station.  The roads were very icy in places so I went with great care.

I filled the feeders and sat in the hide for a while, enjoying the busy comings and goings of the residents.

The chaffinches went for the tall feeder….


…while blackbirds and siskins preferred a little shelter from possible raptors…

siskins and blackbirds

…and the tits went nuts.

tit collection

I tried to catch one of each of the resident tit varieties.  This is a great tit…

great tit


….this is a coal tit…..

coal tit

…and this is a blue tit.

blue tit

We get long tailed tits around the town too but I have never seen any at the Moorland feeders.

As I sat there, I noticed that it had begun to snow and since I thought that the roads were quite tricky enough already, when the snow started to come down more seriously, I upped sticks and went home.

It didn’t take long before we were back to this again…

snowy garden

….so I settled down to work on my computer indoors for the rest of the day.

I put a couple of parish magazines, which Sandy had formatted for me, into the Archive Group website and checked on a couple of other things while I was there.

Then I caught up on my correspondence and turned my attention to hymns.  I have recently joined the church choir and since I don’t know the bass parts, I find it very awkward to put the music and words together for hymns, especially when the music is on one page and the words are on another.  As a result, I am experimenting with producing my own versions with music and words as close together as is possible to see if this helps.

Outside, the workers on the dam bridge seemed to be packing up although the work is by no means complete.  At one stage, a large lorry appeared and removed the container that they had been using as office and canteen.

dam bridge repairs

They were very brisk an efficient and had it swung up and on the back of the truck in no time.  The next time that I looked out, I caught a last glimpse of it as it went off down Henry Street at the bottom of our road.

dam bridge repairs

We are interested to see what is going to happen next.

In the early evening, Peter from our camera club turned up and we spent a frustrating three quarters of an hour unavailingly trying to get one or other of my laptops to talk to his projector via an HDMI cable.  There were plenty of suggested solutions available on the internet but sadly, none of them worked.  Such are the joys of tech.

On a more cheerful note, we switched off the computers and went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our local community choir where Peter is one of the tenors.  We are preparing for a concert with our local orchestra and as a result, we are singing a lot of songs which we know quite well.  This makes for a relaxing evening.

The forecast suggests that we might get a better day after a wet start tomorrow.  I hope so.

There was an almost complete absence of birds in the garden today for some unknown reason so the flying bird(s) of the day come from the Moorland feeders and are the best that I could do on a gloomy day.

Moorland feeder in snow

There was at least one walking bird about in the garden though.

footprints in the snow

It was almost certainly a wood pigeon.


Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who was on my brother Andrew’s birthday trip at the end of last month.  This is the Severn at Worcester.

River Severn at Worcester

We had a beautifully sunny morning here.  There was still a bit of snow around and as I had to go up to the Moorland Feeders to act as a fill-in feeder filler, I was a bit worried about icy roads and parked the car and walked the last section.

I needn’t have worried as the road was pretty clear…

Broomholmshiels road

….but with views like this….

Broomholmshiels view

…it was a pleasure to be on foot anyway.

The bright sunlight brought warmth to a zero degree morning and shone through the window when I sat in the hide after filling the feeders…

moorland feeders

…but it was no help at all for taking photos so I snatched a shot of a blue tit…

blue tit

…and headed home.

It was easier to watch birds there and I was pleased to see the return of a brambling. It conveniently perched in front of a male chaffinch in the plum tree so that readers can get an idea of the similarity and the difference between the two.


Then it politely moved on for an individual portrait.


I spent some time taking badly lit pictures of flying chaffinches…

flying chaffinches

…and finally found a chaffinch and (the same?) brambling who were kind enough to find a little sunshine for me.

chaffinch and brambling

The dam bridge repairers had got their pump going and had installed a pipe to take water over the works.

Dam bridge repairs

They have set up a little coffer dam on the upstream side of the ex-bridge and when there is enough water behind it, the pump leaps into action and sends it over the road and on its way.

After lunch, the sun disobligingly went in but Mrs Tootlepedal and I still went out.

We chose a three and a half mile route through the town, up Hallpath past a very mossy wall indeed…

mossy wall

….(where I could happily  spend time poking about on another walk) and then along the path above Skippers Bridge….

Skippers Bridge

…through the oak woods….

Oak trees

….then down through the birch woods…

Birch trees

…past all sorts of exciting things….

hair ice and liverwort

Hair ice and liverwort

…until we got back onto the road beside the Esk.

We passed a gate which has a very ornamental stone surround but no wall at either side of it.   It must have been a meaningful gate at one time as we noticed that it has a benchmark engraved into its surround.

Old gate and benchmark

I took  the inevitable picture….

Skippers Bridge

…and then we crossed the bridge and walked home along the Murtholm track, which is well supplied with catkins.


Then we took Easton’s walk, which had a small but elegant icicle patch…


…and finally, we went through the park and got home.

After a cup of tea, we settled down for a quiet time.

When the working party had gone home for the evening, I nipped out to check on the progress on the bridge.

Dam bridge repairs

Bridge?  What bridge?

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre for a screening of Tosca and I went to the Day Centre for the first meeting of the year of Langholm Sings, our community choir.

Another tenor has joined the choir so I took the opportunity to sneak off and join the basses.  I had a good time, particularly because I was sitting next to my cello playing friend Mike.  He is an excellent fellow to sit beside as he is very musical and sings well.  I could relax and follow his lead.

On the minor injuries front, I can report good progress.   My face has healed up enough to let me have a shave today.  This was very welcome.

Through the good graces of Photoshop, I managed to find a bit of colour on one of the chaffinches from this morning and he is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinches

As you can see, the lawn is still covered with snow.


Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from Irving who found the wonderful double rainbow when he went to look at his sheep.


We had such a sunny day here, that we were able to find a bit of a rainbow inside our house when a sunbeam glanced off a bevelled mirror edge and onto a closed shutter.


Mrs Tootlepedal spotted it at exactly the right time because a minute or so later, it had disappeared as quickly as it had come.

The glorious sunshine came with freezing conditions and the temperature never got above 2°C and was as low as -4 in the evening on the road to Waterbeck for our concert.

I took advantage of the sunshine to go for a short walk in the morning in the hope of getting some snowy scenes.  It looked quite promising with a sprinkling of snow on Whita….

whita in snow

…and I walked up the hill in the hope of seeing more snow clad hills.  Sadly, the snow was thin and lacking sparkle.

trees in snow

Something about this snow covered dead branch beside the track appealed to me…

snowy twig

…but I was not tempted to sit for a while on the bench at Whita Well because the wind was exceedingly nippy.

snowy bench

I passed a gorse bush looking magnificent…

winter gorse

…but was disappointed when I got to a spot where I could look up the Ewes Valley.

Ewes in snow

For really snow capped hills, I had to peer into the distance up the Esk valley.

cows and snow

The cows did their best to console me by posing conveniently on the horizon of Castle Hill.

horizon cattle

Perhaps because I was a bit nervous about the concert in the evening and perhaps because the chilly winds had upset my asthma a bit, I was very tired by the time that I got home and did very little for the rest of the day apart from making a pot of soup and looking out of the kitchen window for a moment or two.

The light was unhelpful, being too shady or too bright but I was pleased to have a visit from a starling…


…and a goldfinch fairly sparkled in the plum tree.


There were not as many birds as yesterday but a good number of chaffinches kept the feeders busy….


…and a robin made an appearance too.


As usual, a greenfinch carried off the trophy for looking most disagreeable.


After an afternoon’s rest and a plate of Mrs Tootlepedal’s excellent fish pie, we went off to Waterbeck, taking Mike Taudevin with us for the Langholm Sings concert in the church there.

We had a varied programme of congregation carols, choir carols, sentimental songs, a selection of Abba hits, solo singers and readings so if the audience didn’t care for one thing, another thing soon came along.

There were more in the audience than in the choir, which is always a plus point, and as far as I can tell, the audience enjoyed the concert.  Apart from one piece where we weren’t quite as together as we should have been, we sang as well as we could expect so the choir enjoyed themselves too.

Now for a day of rest before our Carlisle choir concert on Sunday.

flying chaffinch

Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture is from our daughter Annie who is working at the Macao film festival (someone has to do it).  This is the view from her hotel.


Once again, a guest picture provides a marked contrast with our weather here.  It was very gloomy and rather windy all day.  It wasn’t quite as wet and windy as we feared but it seems to be making up for that as I write this in the evening and I can hear the wind sighing and moaning outside as the rain batters at my window.

After a few day of cycling, I was probably wise to take the opportunity of the poor weather to have a most restful day today.

I got up late. idled about, ate a cheese sandwich, made some rolls and went to bed.  In between times, I peered hopefully out of the kitchen window into the gloom.

There were some birds brave enough to face the windy conditions.  A few chaffinches came to the plum tree first….


…and then hit the feeder…


…and tucked in.


It wasn’t long before, to the chaffinches’ dismay, a greenfinch turned up.

chaffinches and greenfinch

And then more came in determined mood….


…and sometimes, very determined mood.


But there was room for them all.


I only saw this one goldfinch….


…but I didn’t watch for long and went off to practise songs and put an accompaniment for the new sonata for Luke and me onto the computer.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre to watch a screening of a Hockney exhibition which she thoroughly enjoyed.  His vivid colours brightened her day a lot.

In the early evening, we had the AGM of the Archive Group and it passed off very peacefully and briefly as usual.  The members are extremely sensible.

Later in the evening, I poked my nose out of the door for the first time in the day and went off for the final Langholm Sings practice before our concert of Friday.  If we all concentrate, things should go reasonable well.

We are hoping that the weather will let us get to Edinburgh tomorrow to visit Matilda but there is talk of snow as soon as the wind dies down.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch



Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie.  She was very taken by this festive shop front.

festive shop

We had a slightly warmer but very much greyer day today with only the occasional glimpse of sunshine.  It was still pretty chilly when I walked along to the producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre to buy those necessities of life, fish, cheese, honey and venison.

I added a luxury or two in the form of some haggis and a pound of mince.

The arrival in the last two months of a cheese man from Cumbria with an enticing selection of farm produced cheese has brightened my life immeasurably.  Sadly, owing to being somewhat overweight after an inactive November, I can only look with longing at the cheese that I have purchased as eating it would make me even stouter.

I looked out of the window when I got home in the hope that the finches would have returned.

There weren’t many about  and the reason for their absence is still a mystery.  I don’t think it can be a sparrowhawk threat as the robins were still about and quite happy to pose on a twig.


And there were several dunnocks….


…a coal tit….

coal tit

…and more robins…


…as well as a fruitarian blackbird.

blackbird with apple

A few chaffinches did finally arrive…


…with some looking as though they had had a big night out when it came to staying steady on the perches.


But on the whole, there were just a fraction of our usual visitors.

With cheese in mind, I had an early lunch and got the fairly speedy bike out.  I had intended to do thirty miles but it took me so long to put on the many layers of clothes required to keep me warm and the toil of trying to pedal with all the layers in place meant that I was quite pleased to have an excuse to cut the ride down to twenty miles.

The excuse came when I turned onto a narrow road and found not only a man cutting hedges, always a risk to cyclists as hawthorn twigs tend to end up in the road, but also large mounds of semi frozen slush over the road as well.

I turned for home….but not before taking a picture of a passing tree…


…and the nearby farm.


I stopped once again on the way home to look up the valley towards Winterhope….Callister view

…and noticed more windmills on the top of the hill than I expected.


I haven’t been along this road in this direction for some time but as far as I can remember, there weren’t as many turbines as this last time I came past.  The row on the right weren’t turning in the wind so I think that they must have been added to the Ewe Hill windfarm fairly recently.

I was even more pleased about cutting my trip short when I got home and it occurred to me that I was supposed to be singing with our local choir in the Market Place as part of the festive fun which goes along with the switching on of our Langholm Christmas Lights.

When I got to the Market Place, our leader Billy was looking around anxiously for some singers.


The Market Place was en fete….

lights switch on

…and though it might look a little sparse at first sight, there were further stalls along the High Street, carved bears waiting round corners…..

carved bear

…and Santa’s reindeer behind the Buck Hotel.


Many shops were offering little drinks and snacks  and a good number of people were on the move, enjoying the treats.

Quite a few singers turned up and we had a hearty unaccompanied swirl through several unison carols to the delight of a small but appreciative audience.  After a pause for refreshment, a number of players from the Town Band arrived and we sang another set of carols with them, this time to a larger but equally appreciative audience.

I don’t like to have too much excitement in my life at one time so when we had finished singing, I made my way home without waiting for the lights to be switched on.  The celestial lighting was more than good enough for me.


I had fish for my tea.

It looks as though the weather might be kind enough for another pedal tomorrow so December is turning out very well so far.

With not many birds to watch, this greenfinch was the best that I could for the flying bird of the day.

flying greenfinch

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »