Posts Tagged ‘Murtholm’

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia.  She was delighted to spot a squirrel in her garden.  She points out that it was so cold that the squirrel was using its tail to keep its ears warm.

venetia's squirrel

It rained heavily here over night but it had stopped by the morning and we got a relatively calm day.  Along with the gentler winds, the temperature had dropped too and it was just over 3 degrees C at breakfast time.

My back had decided to sulk and it took me some time to get it loosened up but this did give me a moment to watch the birds.

The robin auditioned for the Christmas card spot…

robin on stalk

…and chaffinches approached the feeder with great concentration…

angel flying chaffinch

…and sometimes even with suspicion.

sloped flying chaffinch

The goldfinches were eating elsewhere today and we got a siskin instead.

siskin and other bird

A blue tit proved to be less sunflower seed orientated than the other birds and tried the fat balls and the peanuts as well as the seed.

blue tit on nuts and balls

By midday I had eased off my back enough to go out for a gentle stroll.

Our new minister was going to be inducted to the parish in the evening and the church heating was on as I went by.  I could only just restrain myself from saying, “Holy smoke!” as I passed.

holy smoke

In spite of the heavy overnight rain, the river was not high when I got to it, although there was enough water going down to make a decent ripple….

water in esk

…and the line of debris on the far bank suggested that it might have been quite high earlier on.

I walked down the river and came to my favourite piece of fencing at Land’s End.  The fence itself is unremarkable but it is home to a beautiful lichen which is really enjoying the present weather.  This little patch, about an inch across, was on the edge of a  bottom bar…

fence lichen land's end

…and a few yards further on, I found a bigger patch covering the whole width of a top bar.

fence lichen land's end 2

I approached Skippers Bridge from the north…

skippers in December

…and when I had crossed over and begun my walk back up the opposite side of the river. the sun came fully out and lit up Timpen Hill.

timpen from murtholm

Everything looked more cheerful in the sunshine and I marvelled at the intricate tracery of oak branches on one side of the track….

oak banches

…and the intricate tracery of the iron gates of the farmhouse on the other side.

murtholm gate

The sunshine even made a big puddle in the field look quite beautiful…

murtholm puddle with fence

…and the bare trees at the far end of the Murtholm looked delightful too.

trees at end of murtholm

As I came into the wood, a pigeon stood frozen under the trees.  It was quite happy to sit still and let me take its picture so I suspect that it may not have been very well.

pigeon in wood

I had a quick lunch when I got home and after checking that the temperature was still safely above freezing (it was 3.8°C), I went out for a short cycle ride.

I had originally planned to go a bit further but the late start to my walk and the brief afternoon light kept me down to 11 miles.  The light was still good for a while and gave the bulls at Wauchope Schoolhouse a golden gleam.

bullocks in golden sunshine

It began to cloud over though and as I passed Westwater, only a patch of larches was getting any sun.

larches at Westwater

I didn’t hang about as it was pretty cold with the sun behind the clouds and I was satisfied that I had least got some stretch into my legs.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had pruned the roots of the Christmas tree and put it into its pot.  We will let it rest in the garage now until Christmas Eve.

christmas tree in pot

When I went inside, I spent about quarter of an hour on my bike to nowhere in the garage to make up for my short outdoor excursion.  To be honest, I could quite easily have done the extra quarter of an hour outside if I had wanted to as Mrs Tootlepedal went out and cycled about the town quite happily for a bit of exercise after we had had a cup of tea.

In the evening we went to church for the service of induction for our new minister.  The small church choir of nine, enhanced by four members of Langholm Sings, sang the Hallelujah Chorus as a processional to start the service off and all things considered, it went pretty well.

The induction service itself was a serious business and a lot of ministers from other churches in in the presbytery had come along to lend their support.  I had never been to such an event before and didn’t realise that both the minister and the congregation had to make solemn promises about belief and good behaviour before the minister could start work.  I hope that everybody sticks to their word.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the weatehr and train services will let us go to Edinburgh tomorrow and visit Matilda.  Neither are very reliable at the moment.  There is even talk of snow.

The flying bird of the day is a curious chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Bruce’s recent trip south and shows a public sculpture in Sheffield.  The sculpture is called ‘Double Helix’.   I like the sculpture but don’t know how it got its name as it looks more like a contorted screw eye than a double helix.

sheffield sculpture

Our slightly warmer weather continued today but so did large quantities of rain which fell from the sky with gusto during the morning, making everything soggy again.

As the rain was accompanied by a very brisk wind, even when the rain stopped the day didn’t feel a great deal better.

Happily, while the rain was at its worst….


…I had the pleasure of Dropscone and Sandy’s company for a cup of coffee and a scone.  They are both off to southern European sunshine islands for holidays shortly and so they didn’t mind the weather here as much as I did.  It makes going abroad more fun if the weather is horrible at home.

The rain stopped after lunch and I was able to go out into the garden to capture the daffodil of the day….


…but it was too wet to wander about or do any lawn care so I came back in and watched the birds.

They were very busy again today but you can have too much activity so I settled for some quieter portraits of our regulars today.




A greenfinch turned up and was probably quite surprised to be treated with an unusual lack of respect by both siskins and chaffinches.

greenfinch being hounded

The siskin flew away and the chaffinch just bounced off so the greenfinch continued feeding quite unruffled.

Mrs Tootlepedal was helping at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop over lunchtime and when she came back, the weather was too unsympathetic to garden so she went for a rest and after doing some computer work, I went for a walk.

It was still very windy but it was warm enough to make walking a pleasure if you could get out of the wind.

I walked along the park wall to see if the red tipped lichens were enjoying the warmer weather….


…and found that they were thriving.

I thought that it would be better to walk along the top of the bank at Stubholm rather than along the rather soggy riverside path so I went up the track and along the top of the wood.   I am impressed by the fact that only some of the trees on this steep bank have fallen over so far.

tree on bank at Stubholm

When I got down to the Murtholm fields, I could see that quite a bit of rain had fallen….

puddle at Murtholm

…so it was no surprise to find an oyster catcher in one of the fields (in a rare moment of sunshine)…

oyster catcher and lambs

…as well as traditional sheep and lambs.

The willows are starting to show along both banks of the river.


And there was plenty of water coming down the river past the old distillery building.

Langholm Distillery from Skippers

As it got near Skippers, it was foaming and boiling…

Esk at Skippers in spate

…but the new bridge repairs are holding up well and the bridge is still standing.

Although the river was quite high, it wasn’t high enough to need all three arches of the bridge.

skippers in April

I entertained myself by looking at lichen on the bridge parapet (right frame in the picture below)…


…and a very pretty sort on the fence at Land’s End (in the left frame).

I stopped off at the Co-op to acquire some fish cakes for my tea and then walked back to the suspension bridge.  Looking  up river from the suspension bridge, I could see that the Langholm Bridge was using all three arches…

Langholm Bridge in april

…and looking downstream, I could see three goosanders on the gravel bank beside the Wauchope.


I was expecting them to get up and swim away when I got close but obviously they thought about swimming much as I had thought about cycling in these conditions and they were fast asleep and going nowhere.

The garden continues to show a little more colour each day…

spring flowers

…and I was happy to see the dicentras coming out as they are great bee magnets.


It was far too wet and windy for bees today though.

When I got in, I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal that it was warm enough to be out in the garden in spite of the wind and we spread a little manure about in a helpful way and then she stayed outside doing useful tasks for a while before the wind blew her back inside.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal settled down to some serious sock darning while I looked through my pictures and tapped away at the keyboard for this post.  In this throwaway age, it is rather reassuring to be able to wear well darned socks.

We are told that it is going to get suddenly very warm for the time of year tomorrow afternoon and then stay quite nice, if a bit cooler, for the next three or four days.  I hope that this turns out to be true.

Following my success in thinking about things and then seeing the things that I had thought about appear, I bought a lottery ticket along with my fish fingers this afternoon.

I am going to have to think a bit harder it seems.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin





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Today’s guest picture finally reveals Bruce’s horses in all their beauty.  They are the Kelpies at Falkirk  and well worth a visit if you haven’t seen them yet.  They are huge.


Our spell of sunny weather continued and the drop in temperature continued too, with the thermometer struggling to get over 2°C today and a brisk northerly wind making it feel even colder.

I went for a short walk in the morning, wearing several layers of clothing but still feeling a chill if I was out of the direct sunshine.

I was pleased to come out of the woods beside the river and get onto the track…


…along the Murtholm fields.


The light was golden once again but the sun struggles just as much as I do to get up in the morning so we are living in a world of long dark shadows.

Still, some recent tree felling means that I got a much better view of Warbla as I walked along than used to be possible.


The strong sun and dark shadows make taking photos of ‘things’ difficult.


The contrast is too much as the two pictures from and of the Skippers Bridge show.

skippers bridge

The lichen on the bridge parapet was easier.

skippers lichen

skippers lichen

There was plenty to choose from.

I climbed up the wooden steps from Skippers Bridge onto the old railway track and made my way home past an old oak…

oak tree

…and the view from the Round House…

View from Round House

When I got home, I found that our new neighbour Irving had got someone to trim down the top of the holly tree at the end of his garden.

holly tree clipping

It still looks as though there is plenty of room for birds in it.

After lunch, we set off to drive (very carefully) to Lockerbie to catch the train to see Matilda and her parents.

As I was waiting on the platform (the train was a few minutes late as usual), I noticed the clocks on Lockerbie Town Hall.  It is good to have several clocks to help you tell the time but it would be even better, I thought, if they both showed the same time.

holly tree clipping

The train journey was very smooth and comfortable and I took the time to shoot three shots through the window as we travelled.

At the top of Beattock summit, we pass through a perfect forest of windmills….

view from train

I read on the internet that there are over 200 windmills on this stretch  of hills and there are few hills untouched.


A little further on, I saw a small amount of snow on the Tinto Hills.


We arrived safely in Edinburgh and were warmly welcomed by Matilda, who regards flash photography with justified suspicion.

Matilda and Al

However, she borrowed some dice from her father and we enjoyed rolling a couple and counting the total spots shown.  She has promised to teach me the rules for shooting craps soon.

After some more play, Al and Clare and Matilda took Mrs Tootlepedal and me out to a very nice Italian restaurant on Leith Walk and treated us to a splendid joint birthday meal.

Feeling very well fed, Mrs Tootlepedal and I walked off a few calories on the way to the station and caught a very punctual train back to Lockerbie.  As the thermometer was showing 0°C when we got to the car, we took a slightly longer but wider and smoother route home.

I failed to take a flying bird of the day and don’t have anything to put in its place.  Oh the shame.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my former colleague Ada.  She encountered this sturdy cobweb on a walk today.


It was grey and slightly drizzly at breakfast time but that didn’t matter to me as I was due to send two hours in the Welcome to Langholm Office, potentially offering advice to locals and visitors alike.

As I was not much occupied with advising, I was able to put two weeks of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group database which was pleasing.  I did have a little official work to do as well.  An anxious local motorist came in to tell me that the traffic lights which regulate the one way system on Skippers Bridge weren’t working.    I had encountered this yesterday and naturally assumed that “something would be done about it” without any input from me.

Now though, since it was obvious that nothing had been done, I rang up the road managers and reported the fault.   They thanked me and gave me an incident number, presumably so that I would feel important.  I felt very proud.  The lights were working when I walked over the bridge later in the day but whether my call and that outcome had any connection, it is impossible to say.

Nancy, the Archive Group treasurer and dedicated data miner called in just as I left.  She had been in the Archive Centre adding more data to the heap needing entering into the database.  It was dry as I walked back to the New Town with her and I was able to run a mower over a very soggy drying green when I got home while Mrs Tootlepedal went off on her bicycle to collect some river stones for her new path.

The forecast had been for a dry afternoon so I was thinking of a cycle ride myself but by lunchtime, both the forecast and the weather had changed and it started to rain.

I stayed in and practised songs instead.

That finally got boring and since the rain had stopped for a while, I went for a walk.

I snapped a dahlia…


…and a poppy…


…in the garden as I went out and I had got about two hundred yards down the road when the clouds descended over the hills and it started to rain again.

I was feeling rather obstinate and decided to continue my walk down to Skippers Bridge to check the lights in spite of the drizzle.

I was dry enough in the woods and used my flash to capture this script lichen on a tree beside the path.

script lichen

When I got to the track along the fields on the Murtholm…

Murtholm track

…I weighed up the situation and decided that a little rain wouldn’t hurt me and walked on.

The autumn colour has started to show properly but the misty conditions didn’t let me make the best of it.  I tried anyway.

misty autumn colour

Langholm Distillery in autumn

I crossed the bridge when I came to it and walked back along the other side of the river.  The rain was very light and my walk was well sheltered so I was glad that I had decided to keep going.

Skippers Bridge in autumn

I passed a fine fungus on a tree stump at Lands End….

fungus on tree stump

…and enjoyed the seed heads and the last of the flowers that help disguise the sewage treatment works from the public gaze.

sewage works flowers

There is a sensational drift of late daisies beside the river here.

autumn daisies

I kept trying to catch the colour on the river banks as I went along….

Esk autumn colour

Esk autumn colour

…while trying to keep raindrops off my lens with varying success.

As I came up to the suspension bridge, the trees on the far bank looked quite cheerful…

Suspension bridge trees

…but the view from the bridge itself…

Misty view of Esk

…suggested that the direct route home and a cup of tea and a biscuit might be the best plan.

I was surprisingly dry after two miles in a light drizzle so I was very satisfied to have got some exercise in on such a dreich day.

In the evening my flute pupil Luke came and we put in some good work on a piece by Quantz which requires sophisticated counting although the notes are relatively easy.

I had picked some spinach from the garden earlier and I used it to make a baked spinach and egg dish with cheese sauce for my tea.

I made too much but ate it all and then had to lie on the sofa and groan for a while until I had recovered.

We hope for better weather tomorrow.  I need to work off the big meal.


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Today’s guest picture, kindly sent to me by Tuckamoredew from Edmonton, shows a fine snow sculpture.  He says that he enjoyed the mild weather while viewing the snow sculpture show.   There is mild and Canadian mild.

snow sculpture

For the second day running I was not a fair weather cyclist but whereas yesterday the weather was fair and I was not a cyclist, today I was a cyclist but the weather was far from fair.

By arrangement, Dropscone arrived an hour later than usual for our morning pedal.  This was lucky because it was a very gloomy morning and the extra hour let a little light seep through the clouds.  The postman had delivered some new cycling tights earlier in the morning, guaranteed to be warm and weatherproof so a temperature of 4 degrees C and some light rain gave them the perfect opportunity to show what they could do.  Rather to my surprise, they turned out to be both warm and weatherproof.  One of my better buys.

The ride itself was a gentle 20 mile jaunt to Waterbeck and back.  Dropscone was on his slower winter bike which was very welcome to me as it meant that I could just pootle along behind him on my speedy bike without the usual effort to keep up with him.

We had some very un-Mediterranean like scones with our coffee afterwards.  These are just one of things of which I am going to have to reduce my consumption (with regret).

To make an effort, I bought myself a tin of minestrone soup for my lunch.  I suspected that the contents would include all sorts of dubious ingredients but in fact, it was very pure, low in  salt and no added sugar or other fillers.  This probably explains why it didn’t taste of anything very much.  I will have to get busy cooking my own soups for lunch again.

After lunch,  I filled the feeders, spread a few pellets and retired to watch.

The universal robin was back.

robin on bench

The jackdaw early warning system wasn’t in operation and the blackbirds only had the chaffinches to compete with for the pellets.  There were quite a few blackbirds about…


…and if they had spent less time chasing each other off the lawn….


…and more time eating, the chaffinches wouldn’t have got so much.  Interestingly, it was the females who were chasing the males off.

The chaffinches were more peaceful.


One or two sparrows appeared too…


…but didn’t join the crowd on the lawn.

The weather had brightened up a lot by this time so instead of getting on with my work, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went out for a walk.  We started by going round the garden so that she could show me the first garden snowdrop of the year.


Then we headed through the park, stopping to be amazed by the fortitude of a dog having a swim in the Wauchope…

swimming dog

….before going up the track to the Stubholm.  We walked along the top of the bank before dropping down to the Murtholm fields.  I was hoping to see some herons there and I wasn’t disappointed.


They looked a bit incongruous in the middle of the field.  I tried to sneak in for a closer shot but they flew off.

flying herons

Our route took us round the edge of the field and we were able to get a closer look at them a few minutes later.


We left the waterside and climbed up a track, through some fields and over a small stream…


…until we joined the track through the Kernigal woods.

Kernigal track

The woods have not escaped from the recent windy weather…

fallen tree

…and they are home to some of the most moss covered trees imaginable outside of a swamp.

mossy tree
We admired a good many fungi and lichens but the low light meant that the resultant pictures weren’t very good.  One thing that I have learned is that you need to photograph a fungus from above and below for identification purposes…


…but I still couldn’t find this one in my little book.   For fungi shaped like this, it tells me a lot about what sort of ground I should be looking for but nothing about ones which are growing halfway up a small tree.  I shall persevere.

This one was growing on a fallen branch.


I couldn’t find it in my little book either.  I will buy a bigger book.

When we emerged from the wood, the weather was closing in again and the tops of the hills were swathed in cloud.

cloudy hills

I just had enough energy left to do a little (too little) work on my toast before tea.  While I was doing this, Mrs Tootlepedal was practising playing the spoons with the aid of a YouTube video.   If I am found gibbering in the street, moaning, “The spoons, the spoons,” you will know what caused it.

We had some delicious slow cooked minced beef for our meal but in honour of the new diet direction, we ate it with tagliatelli instead of tatties.

After tea, I went off to Carlisle with Susan to play with our recorder group.  We were all six present and as usual we played a good variety of music which was laid before us by our librarian Roy.  Fortunately for us, he has a house full of recorder music.

Among the blackbirds, sparrows and robins, I found a flying chaffinch.

flying chaffinch






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Today’s photograph is an obliging fieldfare posing for Bruce on Sunday.  This was one of a large flock.


I was one of a small flock (two) of cyclists going to Waterbeck this morning.  Dropscone had brought his speedy bike and was in determined mood with the result that we went round the run eight minutes faster than we did on Friday in much the same conditions.  My Little Book of Rheumatism for Beginners says, ‘You may find that you are a bit tired in the morning.’  They didn’t know the half of it.  Still I wasn’t so tired that I couldn’t eat the excellent scones on offer with the coffee.

After coffee, while the energetic Dropscone went off to play golf, I tried to put the lessons from last night into practice and get some really sharp photos.  I would have been better off trying to play golf.  I had taken the fat ball fortress off in an effort to attract starlings.  That succeeded but they wouldn’t stand still long enough for me.  Maybe I’ll try a spot of glue on the twig next time.


I did get a very sharp shot but sadly it was of the peanut holder but not of the bird eating the peanuts.

blue tit and peanuts

Still, it does show that the birds can winkle the nuts out of the narrow mesh.

I gave up and settled for shooting blurry chaffinches for fun.

Chaffinch landing

Euphorbias stay much stiller than birds.


Mrs Tootlepedal had been at work again in the morning, covering for a colleague who is poorly and when she came back, we had lunch and then went up to the Moorland Feeders.  Gavin had come in with some raffle tickets in the morning and he had told me that there was a new flat feeder on show there and I was keen to see it.

Flat feeder

It was already attracting birds but they were only the same ones that use the hanging feeders.  I will have to return to see if more unusual species discover it.  It was rather cold and grey so I didn’t linger long and the only worthwhile picture I took was this one of a house across the valley on our way home.


The length that the power companies go to put wires across every possible view is truly amazing.

I was rather grumpy at my failure to take any good bird pictures and when we got home, Mrs Tootlepedal prepared to go back to work and I stomped off for a walk.  It didn’t take long for my mood to lighten as there was still plenty of autumn colour about, even after the recent snow and rain.  A lot of leaves have fallen but a lot have not.

Beechy Plain

These are the Beechy Plains in the woods beside the Esk

Once out into the open on the fields of the Murtholm, there were fine views in every direction.  Here is a sample.

contrast in colour

Part of the pleasure is in the contrasts between the bare trees, the evergreens and the deciduous.

colour contrast 2

Especially when set against the surrounding hills.

Trees and hiils

Where the track came near to the river, I stopped to watch a little colony of ducks on a small stony island.


On the opposite bank there was a vivid splash of white flowers.


On my way back, I discovered  that they were daisies.


Mrs Tootlepedal says that they make a show every year.

Eventually, I came to the main road at Skipper’s Bridge.  Mrs Tootlepedal and Sandy had pointed out that there was a set of steps beside the bridge that lead down to the river.  I had never noticed them before but I made use of them now to get down to the very edge of the water.  I had both my Nikon and sandycam with me and I tried them both on the view down river from the bridge.

Esk NIkon

This is the Nikon shot

sandycam Esk

This is sandycam at work

I went back up to the bridge, crossed it and went down to the bank on the other side of the river.  I put sandycam to work.

Skippers Bridge

And a closer look at the old distillery building.


I was walking past the distillery on my way home when I met my flute pupil Luke’s grandfather who lives there. We had some useful conversation about Luke’s progress and Arthur revealed that he had bought a bass recorder to enable him to play duets with Luke when he had mastered how to play it.   I thought that this showed the right spirit.   Looking back from where we were talking, I felt that even a road junction with traffic lights looked very presentable at this time of year.


Further on my way home, I looked back across the river towards the woods that I had walked through earlier.

Riverbank woods

It’s funny how the eye can ignore the bare trees in the left foreground when contemplating this scene but the camera picks them out unerringly.

I got home a lot more cheerful than when I had left and my mood was improved even more by young Luke at his lesson where once again he showed continued improvement.  The cheeriness was doubly enhanced by a plate of mince and potatoes for my tea and a most enjoyable evening of sonatas by Telemman, Loeillet and Schickhardt with Mike and Isabel on cello and piano.  I am spoiled for music just now with three recorder playing sessions and a choir each week.  By the end of the day I was completly cured of glumness regarding the failure to take sharp bird pictures.  Try, try, try again will be my motto.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch and may be seen in the top right hand corner of this view of the busy feeders at the Moorland Station.

moorland feeders

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