Posts Tagged ‘MacDiarmid memorial’

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my brother Andrew, but was taken by his son, my nephew Dan.  It shows the trail along the disused Nottingham Canal.

nottingham canal bridge Dan

We woke to another dry and sunny morning and I got up early enough to have a wander round the garden before coffee time.

The daffodils are all but over but a single fine specimen is still holding its head up high.

last daffodil

The sunshine made the flowers glow.  The trout lilies are on their way out but a few good specimens remain.

berberis, rhody, trout lily and tulips

Among the newcomers is the brilliant blue of the lithodora.  The camera cannot do this flower justice for its absolute blueness.


The cool mornings mean that we are still waiting for the red rhododendrons to come out and other less showy flowers are waiting in the wings too.

garden promis

What there is in the garden is a profusion of sparrows.  They are everywhere.

four sparrow panel

I didn’t have any time after coffee for garden wandering as Mrs Tootlepedal was keen to take a walk to see if we could see a hen harrier up on the moor.

When we walked along the moor road a few days ago, we had not had any sight of the birds at all so we were not over optimistic but after we had driven the two miles up to the White Yett car park, we still walked along the road in hope.

Like yesterday, the Ewes valley was a place of sunshine and shadows…


sunshine and shadow ewes 2

…but when we crossed the cattle grid and looked into the Tarras valley, there were a good many more clouds about, and it looked as though it was raining not far away.

rain up tarras

We were not discouraged though and walked on down the hill.  We were rewarded when a female hen harrier put on a spectacular flying demonstration, more or less straight over our heads…

flying hen harrier female panel

I only had a 300mm lens with me so I couldn’t get a close shot but the light was kind and these cropped pictures give an idea of how good it was to watch the exhibition.

Mrs Tootlepedal, who had her binoculars with her, had a very good view and was extremely happy.

We hadn’t gone very far when we stopped to watch the bird, and the rain clouds were now looking more and more threatening so we nearly turned back to the car.

When we examined to sky carefully though, it appeared that in spite of the wind blowing towards us, the clouds were actually blowing away from us.  Curious.

We walked on, and after a while the sun came out…

tinnis in early may

…and we saw a male hen harrier flying past us in the opposite direction to the female.  He was not so obliging as the female and stayed well up the hill from us.

male hen harrier

When I took my eyes from the skies and stared at the ground, there was plenty to see there too.

moss and blaeberry

Little spruce trees, seeded by chance, had new growth on the end of their twigs that made them look like decorated Christmas trees.

things beside Tarras road

The fluffy headed grass looked like bog cotton to me  but Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is Hare’s Tail and the bog cotton will come later in the year.

We walked down the hill for a while and then walked back up again.

It was a good deal warmer with the wind behind us and the sun out.  The rain clouds  had disappeared and it was a fine day on the moor.

sunshine up Tarras

As we walked back up the hill, we were treated to the sight of the male hen harrier quartering the ground on the other side of the Little Tarras Water.  Although he was clearly visible to the naked eye, he was too far away from my camera.  Mrs Tootlepedal had a good time tracking him with her binoculars.

We were both in a very good mood by the time we had got back to the MacDiarmid Memorial and the car park.

macdiarmid memorial may

The Ewes valley was still a place of sunshine and shadow.

sunshine and shadow ewes 1

We got home in time for a late lunch.

After lunch, I attempted to make a cake, a thing that I have hardly ever done before.  I was following a recipe for a farmhouse sultana cake and I came across one of those mysterious phrases that torment the novice cook: “add milk to the mixture until it has a dropping consistency”.   I find that these days almost anything I touch has a dropping tendency so that wasn’t very helpful.  In the end, I think I erred on the side of stiffness and the cake has come out tasty but rather crumbly.  Practice makes perfect though and I will try again.

While the cake was cooking, it rather unexpectedly started to rain outside.  For a while, it looked as though it even be useful ran and a greenfinch looked a bit disgruntled by it.

reflective greenfinch

It didn’t discourage birds from coming to the feeder though…

busy feeder

…nor did it dampen this male chaffinch’s need to explain to a female just where she was going wrong.

chaffinches talking

But it didn’t last and after getting lighter and lighter, it fizzled out without getting the soil really wet at all.

Grey skies are forecast for tomorrow so with a bit of luck we might get another drop of rain.

On a normal day, this chaffinch might easily have been the flying bird of the day…

flying chaffinch in light rain

…but not today.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s delight takes pride of place.

flying hen harrier female

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew’s permitted walk today.   He was pleased to see such cheerful blossom.

blossom andrew

We had cheerful flowers in the garden here today.  They were pleased to see the sunshine on another rather chilly day with an east wind sweeping down from the far north.

two tulips

I went out to view them after my standard start for the day (another good crossword helped pass the time)

Mrs Tootlepedal enjoyed a coffee and some of my ginger biscuits in physically distanced but socially integrated conversation with our neighbours, while I did some daffodil dead heading in the garden.

Later on, I clipped and sawed the remains  of the pruned lilac and added the logs to our tidy log store.  I didn’t go so far as to wash the bricks again today (though they needed it) but contented myself with a gentle brush.

And of course, I kept an eye open for birds…

dunnock blackbird goldfinch

…and bees.

red tailed bee

The daffodils are fading but the trout lilies are taking their place with some verve.

daffodil and trout lily

The star of the garden today for me was this freshly flowering Amalanchier.


Seeing the ducks in the dam behind the house, I put a little bird seed into the flow and this attracted their attention.

female mallard dam

Mrs Tootlepedal made some tasty green lentil soup for lunch with chicken stock from the recent roast chicken.  There is no doubt that real stock is an improvement on commercial stock pots but we can’t eat chicken all the time just to make stock.

After lunch, I idled round the garden a bit and then went for a walk.

In spite of the nippy wind, it was a good day for a walk and as I wanted to get in a view or two, I resolved to walk  up to the monument on top of Whita Hill.

My route took me onto the golf course where I found an old friend.

oyster catcher on golf course

It wasn’t a brilliantly blue sky day but the light was interesting…

view of ewes valley from golf course

…and although there were plenty of clouds about, I seemed to walk under the sun the whole time.

two trees from golf course

I got on to the open hill at the top of the golf course and took the track up the Birnie Braes which is followed by the horses on Common Riding day.

It was very dry and peaceful today.

birnie braes path

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that is it described as a road 20 feet wide in old documents  but the road has has fallen into disuse and the current path goes to one side of it.

I took this route as it offers a gentler gradient as it goes diagonally across the contours rather than the direct path which goes straight up to the summit.  When it gets to the shoulder of the hill, it joins the vehicle track from the road to the monument and a handy seat has been placed there.

The seat is modest…

seat on whita track

…but the views for a person who sits on it are magnificent.

views from seat on whita track

Looking down to my left, I could see a glimpse of the road up the Wauchope valley which i had followed on my walk on Tuesday.

view of wauchope valley from whita

I arrived at the top of the hill (355m) and paused to enjoy the view…

view from monument

…and inspect the monument, which has some fine algae at the bottom but is pretty clean further up.

monument views

The keen wind made sure that I didn’t hang around too long and I was soon on my way down again, going towards the road and enjoying the contrast between pastoral land on the left of the wall ahead of me and old grouse moor on the right.

view of grouse and sheep moor

I didn’t take the vehicle track back down but followed a charming path through the heather, used by mountain cyclists.

path down whita

There are plenty of cairns to be seen all over the hill and I have put three of them here and a look at one page of the MacDiarmid memorial too.

three cairns and a memorial

When I had passed the MacDiarmid memorial, I followed the road down to the bottom of the hill, passing this unusual tree…

tree copshaw road

…and a delightfully sinuous wall…

sinuous wall copshaw road

…on the way.

On approaching the  town, instead of taking the direct route home, I crossed the Sawmill Brig and headed across the Castleholm towards the Jubilee Bridge in the hope of seeing interesting birds.  I heard a lot of tweets but didn’t see any birds, interesting or otherwise.

However, I was rewarded by this refreshing sight so I wasn’t complaining.

Castleholm trees

My walk ended up at just under five miles and was very satisfying, a joy to the eye, a tonic for the spirit and some healthy exercise too.  Who could ask for anything more?

The mince and tatties made a welcome second appearance for our tea and as I went out and pulled some rhubarb, stewed it and made some custard, we ate like kings and queens to round off as good a lockdown day as we could wish for.

The flying bird of the day is a passing gull.

flying gull

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Today’s guest picture comes from my ex colleague Marjorie who sent me this picture of a misty Schiehallion taken during her highland break over the festive season.


We woke to another chilly grey day here but the weather forecast suggested that a little sunshine might be available in the afternoon.  This turned out to be one of the forecasters little jokes but it didn’t matter as we had our own little ray of sunshine today in the form of a visit from our friend Sue.

She came in time for a coffee and not only were we pleased to see her, but we were pleased to see a small flock of birds at the feeder to entertain us as we sipped and chatted.

busy feeder

There was a constant coming and going for a while…

birds coming and going

…with visits from jackdaws to the fat ball feeder as well.

jackdaws in elder

In order to work up an appetite for lunch, we went for a walk to the top of Whita Hill after coffee.  Well, in fact, we went for a drive up to the White Yett and then walked the three quarters of mile up the easy track…

sue and mrs t on whita

…to the summit.

The track has a fine collection of boulders with colourful lichens at the bottom….

lichen at mcdiarmid memorial

…and an even more colourful set of lichens on the wall at the top.

lichen at whita summit

I took a worm’s eye view of the lightning conductor that is embedded in one side of the monument…

worms eye view of monument

…looked over the wall at the mist shrouded valleys to the south….

view over tarras

…and then we walked gently back down the track and admired the MacDiarmid memorial outlined against the Ewes Valley.

mcdiarmid memorial and ewes valley

The memorial celebrates the life and work of Langholm’s most famous poetical son, Hugh MacDiarmid.

mcdiarmid memorial

The sculpture is in the form of an open book and is constructed in Corten steel and bronze. Corten is a weathering steel which oxidises on the surface; it forms a protective skin and therefore requires no maintenance and to my eye, it looks thoroughly at home among the hills which MacDiarmid loved.

When we got home, Sue tried out our new bench and declared it to be very comfortable even in January.


sue and mrs t at bench

We marvelled at the rosemary, which thanks to the protected spot that it lives in, is still in flower…

december rosemary

…and then we went in to a lunch of curried parsnip soup and cheese flan provided by Mrs Tootlepedal.

Sue is one of the recorder group with whom I have played for many years and after lunch, she and I played a selection of duets while Mrs Tootlepedal got on with the crochet blanket she is making.

All too soon, it was time for Sue to head for home and while Mrs Tootlepedal continued with her crochet, I made an unavailing effort to solve the Saturday prize crossword.  Usually these crosswords yield to concentrated effort but today’s one has got me baffled.  I shall sleep on it and try again tomorrow.

All being well, we shall see Sue again tomorrow as she sings in our Carlisle choir and it meets for the first time in 2019 tomorrow afternoon.  I am looking forward to it.

There are not one but two flying birds of the day today which is cheering.

two flying goldfinches

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