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Posts Tagged ‘Water of Milk’

Today’s guest picture is another captured by our son Tony’s new camera, showing that it (and he) can take close ups as well as the larger picture.

oznor

It was bright and chilly when we got up and after breakfast, I went out to look for the lost perch from the feeder.  I found it easily enough and screwed it back in place and then sat back and waited to see some obliging bird land on it.

I waited in vain.

empty feeder

It was a very quiet bird day indeed and I had to look hard to see a single chaffinch in the plum tree.

lonely chaffinch

In the end, I gave up bird watching and had a cup of coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal and then went out bicycling.  The thermometer had scraped up to 5°C but the wind was light so I took a more adventurous route than usual and headed up the road to Bentpath.

This involves a sharp climb at the start of the ride but does provided some excellent views like this favourite, looking towards the Gates of Eden just after the first climb.

gates of eden

Our hills are generally rounded and smooth but there are occasional outcrops and those who know tell me that if I was patient enough, I might see a peregrine falcon on this crag near Bentpath.

crag at benty

I continued on through the village and headed up the Esk valley towards Bailliehill.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of the tree planting tubes which the foresters use to protect deciduous trees when they plant them and I was interested to see how well they do their job.  Almost every tube in this group seemed to have a healthy tree sticking out of it.

new trees in tubes

Conifer forestry was very evident too as I cycled up the river and I took this shot to show the impact that farming has on the view.  Where there is a flat place by the river, a ‘holm’ as it is called round here, there is always a field on it, usually with added sheep….

filed beside esk near king pool

…but where there is no holm , the uncultivated ground runs right down to the river and is often planted with spruce and/or larch.

esk looking back to lyneholm

I took these contrasting two shots from the same spot, looking first up and then down the river.

When I got to the top of the hill at Bailliehill, I turned south to go over the watershed between the Esk and the Water of Milk.

I stopped at a cattle grid for a drink and a banana.

cattle grid

The cattle grids are necessary to keep stock in the right place on unfenced roads and they can fairly rattle your teeth if you go over them too fast.

There were no cattle about today so I didn’t have to worry about bumping into one on the road but I had to keep an eye out for potholes, though the road was in better condition than this view back along it makes it look.

road from bailliehill

Although it looks a bit desolate on the top of the hill, I had not gone more than a mile further before the countryside had changed and I was cycling among pleasant green pastures and there was enough water about to make the Water of Milk recognisably a river in the making.

water of milk

I was able to look across at the Ewe Hill wind farm and check the wind direction.  Happily it showed that I would be helped home by the breeze.

ewes hill windfarm

I left the Water of Milk when I crossed the bridge at Paddockhole….

paddockhole bridge

…and headed back towards Callister Hill and Langholm.

I stopped on the way up Callister at a spot where a good view up towards Winterhope and a chance for a breather on a steep climb are equally welcome.

view from back of callister

I was now looking at the wind farm from the other side.

The last time that I took this route was on a cold and sunny day early last year and on that occasion, I made a choice to extend my trip by taking a diversion from the direct route home, met an ice filled pothole and hit the deck.

Under the circumstances, I thought long and hard about taking another diversion this time but as the temperature was a couple of degrees higher, the roads were drier and my legs were very cheerful, I risked turning off three miles short of Langholm and going over the hill to join the main road at Canonbie, adding ten miles to the journey.

Needless to say, I hadn’t gone far along my diversion before the sun ducked behind some clouds….

looming clouds

…although it was by no means as gloomy as the camera makes out.  All the same, once the sun went in, it felt a lot colder so I didn’t hang about taking any more pictures but pedalled steadily on.

The ride added 35 miles to my skimpy total for January but as I had done the last 15 miles in just under an hour, I was quite satisfied with both the views early on and the pace towards the end.

There were still no birds about in the garden when I got back but the sun came out as soon as the bike was safely put away in the garage and the sky was full of fluffy pink clouds.

fluffy pink cloud

In the absence of interesting birds and garden flowers, I took a picture of the bowl of hyacinths which our friend Liz had given Mrs Tootlepedal at the new year.  They are flourishing.

hyacinth in flower

Although the days are just beginning to get noticeably longer, they are still don’t last very long so I lit the stove in the front room and settled down to putting two of the Carlisle choir songs onto my computer so that I can start learning them.  Learning words and music is a protracted and sometime painful process, full of small steps forward and giant leaps backwards.

The flying bird(s) of the day are the only two chaffinches which approached the feeder when I was looking out of the window before cycling so I feel very lucky to have captured them at all. They have been carefully balanced for gender and left and right tendencies in the pursuit of political correctness.

two flying chaffinches

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The guest picture of day comes from my brother Andrew, who looked up when he was visiting York Minster.

York Minster

Once again, we woke to a gloomy, damp day but it had the goodness to stop raining while I visited the dentist for a check up.   It was pleasantly warm as I walked home having been given the all clear but the garden was still looking fairly damp when I got there.

nasturtiums

However, it was still and dry enough to tempt some insects out…

bees and butterflies

…and if you look closely, you can see three beasties collecting pollen from the poppy above at the same time.

insect on dahlia

I can’t make up my mind whether these rather fluffy yellow things are bumble bees or not.  I don’t think that the ones on the poppy are but I am less sure about the one on the dahlia.  Once again, I hoped to be helped out by knowledgeable readers.

My daughter has been in Portugal for a short break and very kindly sent me a tin of genuine Portuguese sardines so we had some very tasty sardine pâté for our lunch.  She knows that my brain needs all the help it can get from oily fish.

After lunch, the weather brightened up a lot and we walked to our church in glorious sunshine to celebrate the life of Charlie Edgar, a member of Mrs Tootlepedal’s Church Choir who died recently.  Mrs Tootlepedal  has had a long association with Charlie, both through the choir and the local amateur operatic society of which he was a mainstay for many years.   We sang two cheerful hymns and heard a very fine eulogy written and read by a friend so although memorial services are by their nature not something that you look forward to going to, this one was a very fitting tribute to a good man.

In spite of the sunshine, it was still a bit too soggy to contemplate some mowing when we got home so after a pause to catch up on the highlights of yesterday’s stage of the Vuelta on the telly, I got the fairly speedy bike out and did a very modest vuelta of my own.

It was perfect cycling weather – warm, sunny but not too hot and with a light wind to provide a little cooling when needed.

I went out of town up the Esk Valley and enjoyed the views as I went.

Gates of Eden

The ‘Gates of Eden’

Bentpath

Bentpath

Telford Library

The Telford Library at Bentpath founded to provide local antimony miners with books to read

As I pedalled up the road towards Bailliehill, I stopped to admire the heather..

Heather

…and looked back at the Esk in the valley below.

Esk at bailliehill

Soon, I had climbed out of the Esk valley and had dropped gently down to the start of the Water of Milk…

Water of Milk

Whereas farmers get very basic bridges, I got a fine stone bridge to cross a small tributary a bit further along.

Bridge near water of Milk

The road rose up from beside the stream and as I pedalled along, I could look across and see the tops of all six of the new windmills on Ewe Hill on the other side of the valley.

Ewe Hill Windmills

I was very pleased to see that they were indicating that I would have what wind there was at my back for the last ten miles of my journey.

As I rode up the hill at Callister, I passed some birds who are planning a trip of their own quite soon.

swallows

While I pedalled along, I reflected that the bicycle really is a wonderful invention.  A day or two ago, we watched the finest runners in the world run the Olympic marathon on flat roads.  Today, I went about the same distance over much hillier terrain and under my own steam in a time some ten minutes quicker than they had managed.   Running is a very pedestrian way of getting about, as they say.

Those interested in the route can click on the map below.

Garmin Route 23 Aug 2016

I was hoping to go for a little flying bird walk when I got back but the clouds had returned and the light was not promising enough to make it worthwhile so I wandered round the garden instead for a few minutes….

rudbeckia and nicotiana

Rudbeckia and Nicotiana are adding to our pleasure with colour and scent respectively

cardoon

A second cardoon has flowered

sweet peas

The better weather had brought out more sweet peas

…and then went in to have a shower and make baked eggs in spinach with a cheese sauce for our tea.    I had some very tasty cheese to hand so this rounded off the day very well.

After tea, we watched the highlights of today’s stage of the Vuelta so we had a double helping of cycling to enjoy.  It looks as though it will be an interesting race.

We are promised a day of sunshine tomorrow.  We are very much looking forward to that.

The flower of the day is another in the long line of poppies.  I find them very hard to resist.

pink poppy

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows a hyacinth macaw which my Somerset correspondent Venetia met.  She didn’t meet it in Somerset though.  She is currently in the Pantanal, the Brazilian wetlands.

hyacinth macawWe had a first rate autumn morning here, with blue skies and a crisp temperature.  At 6°C this gave me a problem.  Cycling was on my mind but 6° is quite chilly and requires special clothing at my age.  However, this would mean getting far too hot later in the ride so I delayed my start until the thermometer hit 10° and this took enough time to let me get the crossword finished and to eat a couple of slices of toast to fuel me up for the ride.

When I got going, I had an open mind about my route but as I pedalled along, the beautiful day and cheerful legs got me thinking of a few hills and fifty miles.

Paddockhole

It could hardly have been a better day

I had a couple of bananas and a few dates and raisins with me so I could choose any route that I wanted. I was heading west but I turned off just before Lockerbie and headed south. I picked up a new bridge for my collection when I crossed the Water of Milk at Kettleholm.  (I don’t make these names up by the way).

Kettleholm bridgeThe views were very good today.

Looking to CriffelAnd I stopped at Hoddom where I saw that rarity this year, a ripe blackberry beside the River Annan….

bramble at Hoddom

Very tasty it was too

…and a crop of Himalayan balsam, a beautiful flower but a pest.

himalayan balsamThere was a fisherman on the far side of the bridge.

Hoddom BridgeI had another view of him as I crossed the bridge.  He had a companion a bit further along.

Hoddom BridgeI expect that the fisherman thinks that sitting on a bike for hours on end is as odd as I think standing up to your middle in a river is.

My way home took me through Brydekirk, Ecclefechan, Middlebie and Chapelknowe and at Chapelknowe,  I had the choice of a direct route home or adding a few more miles and a couple of modest climbs by going up to Kennedy’s Corner and back over Callister.  I had enough puff left to choose the harder route and clocked up 54 miles and two and a half thousand feet of climb which was a satisfactory way of making use of a beautiful day.   I cycled well within myself and my average speed of a modest 13mph reflected this.

Those with time hanging heavily on their hands can see the route and details here.

I had enough energy when I got home left to take a cup of tea and a dainty biscuit with Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike Tinker who had dropped in and then for a quick walk round the garden.

There are still several clematis doing well.

clematisAnd the sedum was playing host to a great number of this sort of bee today.

bee on sedum

I would think that there might have been as many as twenty bees on the plants.

Of course I might have noticed a few poppies too.

poppiespoppies…and the star of the day.

poppyThe better weather had got them to lift their heads up well.

I also had time to watch the birds for a few minutes.

busy feeder

There were plenty to watch.

The birds have got used to using the feeder hole with no perch as you can see in the picture above but I was very impressed by the smash and grab technique of the chaffing below.

chaffinchThen there was time for a bath and my tea before Susan kindly came and picked me up for a trip to our recorder group in Carlisle.  All five of us were present and we had a good play with some music which we had never played before mixed in with some old favourites.

For some reason, I am slightly tired and so will spare the reader any more rambling thoughts.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture has been postponed in favour of a picture of my old friend Arthur Bell striding across the golf course which he tended, planted and weeded as though it was his own back garden for many years.

ArthurThis picture was taken three years ago and his work on the golf course both as gardener and a player….

Arthur…was very much on my mind when Mrs Tootlepedal and I attended his funeral service at the Carlisle Crematorium this morning.  I will miss him.

We were given a lift down and back by the Tinkers and sat with them for an excellent meal at the Eskdale Hotel after the service.  The funeral service was a private affair and there will be a public memorial service for Arthur on Friday.

When we got back home after the lunch, it was a fine breezy day so I took a quick walk round the garden.  The combination of the recent wind and today’s sun had left some of the crocuses battered to the ground but still smiling.

fallen crocusOthers were still standing.

crocusesAnd other flowers were available too….

aconite and primula…but nothing new had arrived.  Some of the crocuses had withstood the strong winds in fine style.

crocusesFor some reason which I can’t explain, the birds were almost completely absent from the garden all day and the seed level in the feeder hardly moved at all.  It can’t have been the builders because for the first time since they started, there were no men at work today at all.  (They should be back tomorrow.)

In the absence of birds, I had a quick look at the pond and there were hardly any frogs there either.  One frog lurking under the bridge stopped long enough for me to get a quick snap.

frogAs there were no birds to watch, I decided to go for a pedal.  The thermometer claimed that it was a mild 10 degrees C and with the sun out too, it should have been a day to cast off the heavy winter clothing but there was still a stiff breeze blowing and as it was one of those mean and cutting winds, I kept myself well wrapped up.

I headed out over Callister and cycled on down the other side and past Paddockhole until I could look back across the Water of Milk on one side of the road…

water of milk…and admire the windmills on Minsca on the other.

minscaAs you can see, there was a mixture of clouds and blue sky and I was grateful for my warm clothes when the sun was in and pleased with the views when it came out.

Water of MilkWith the wind and sun behind me, the road back looked inviting….

Minsca road

blog7…but in a very unsporting manner, the wind dropped and I had to work quite hard to get home.

This might account for the very modest speed that I managed for the ride but it might also be down to the extra weight that I am carrying around with me at the moment.  I shall have to do a lot more cycling and a lot less eating to get back to where I was before December.  Still, 26 miles is a new best for my knee so I was pleased with that.

I have been trying to increase my distance with every cycle outing since I was able to get back on my bike but I think that I will stop doing that now in case I put too much pressure on the knee and get discouraged.  Any miles will be welcome.  If I get a calmer, warmer day, I will try for a longer ride.

In the evening, I got my second lift to Carlisle of the day, this time from Susan, as we went to play with our recorder group. Our librarian Roy had picked out a good selection of music and we had an enjoyable play.  Among the pieces was a quintet which Roy had composed himself.  It was quite difficult at a first reading but it will be well worth playing again.

I only got the briefest glimpse of a flying bird today and this was it.

chaffinch

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Today’ guest picture comes from another stroll along the Regent’s Canal in London by my sister Mary.

Canalside walk to Little Venice 12.09.14 003Langholm was the birthplace of the Scottish poet Hugh McDiarmid and some enterprising local people had organised a walk today with stops at appropriate spots around the town where readings of his poetry took place.  It started at his memorial on the hill at the White Yett and descended into the streets of the town thereafter.  It had many stops and I was very surprised when I went to check its progress in Henry Street  to find it bang on schedule.

This was important to me because although my knee wasn’t up to joining the walk, I had been asked to read one of the poems outside the Langholm Library.  I cycled up in plenty of time and had a few minutes to enjoy an exhibition in the Town Hall gallery of fashion hats, pottery and textile art.  I read my allotted poem to a small gathering of walkers and as they went on their way….

walkers and talkers….I went round to the front of the Town Hall where a group of enthusiastic campaigners were trying to whip up support for the Yes side in the forthcoming referendum.

Yes campaignersWhile I was doing this, Mrs Tootlepedal was getting organised for a meeting of her embroiderers’ group in the afternoon which was getting a talk from one of the organisers of the Great Tapestry of Scotland.  She told me later that this was one of the best talks the group had ever had. They are going to visit the Tapestry later in the year.

Sandy had told me that he had seen some fine toadstools when he had been out cycling yesterday so I resolved to go and see them for myself while Mrs Tootlepedal was at her talk.  I had to wait for a while to get my phone charged up and this gave me time to mow the front lawn and take a picture or two.

A Japanese anemone in the shade and a Shirley poppy  in the weak sunshine.

A Japanese anemone in the shade and a Shirley poppy in the weak sunshine.

I was very pleased to see a flower on a fuchsia bush which I feared had given up the ghost and I thought it went well with nerine.

fuchsia and nerineWith the phone partly charged, I set off on a toadstool hunt.  As this involved a 25 mile fairly hilly, circular ride, I was hoping that my legs and breathing would be in a co-operative mood.

garmin 13 Sept 14As it turned out, they were both in excellent form and I thoroughly enjoyed my pedal in perfect conditions, warm and with a light wind in the best possible direction.

Sandy had told me that I would find the toadstools after about nine miles of pedalling, halfway up a hill and just past a quarry.   This seemed pretty specific to me and I hoped that I would be able to find them.

I passed the quarry and kept a beady eye out for fungi and was just getting the feeling that they might have grown and disappeared in a day when a flash of colour in the grass beside the road brought me to a halt.  I was rather disappointed.

fungi at BailliehillIt was a toadstool but no one could honestly describe it as fine and I was wondering as I pedalled on whether Sandy had been hallucinating from the effort of pedalling up the long hill.  Round the next corner though, it was clear that he had been perfectly sane.

fungi at Bailliehill (4)I couldn’t miss these.

fungi at Bailliehill (2)fungi at Bailliehill (3)There must have been about thirty or forty of them in a flat, open part of the grassy verge.  Why they should grow there and nowhere else along the road is a mystery to me.

fungi at Bailliehill (5)It looked as though they were a source of food to some animal or other.

I pedalled on even more cheerfully than before.  Once over the hill, I stopped to take a picture or two of my favourite little valley where the Water of Milk starts its journey to the sea by passing Craighousteads Farm.

Craighousteads Farm

Craighousteads Farm

Looking upstream

Looking upstream

Looking downstream

Looking downstream

It was another hazy day and in spite of a hint of blue sky straight above, it wasn’t a good day for taking pictures of views.

When I reached Paddockhole, with eleven miles to go, I found that I had cycled along very comfortably so far because the light breeze had been at my back.  From this point on, I had to make a rather more determined effort to keep my speed up but the wind was so light that the Minsca windmills were only just turning and I got home in very good order.

In the garden, it was a day of compost interest.  Mrs Tootlepedal has been busy sieving last autumn’s compost and putting the result onto the flower beds.  She has been so busy that she has emptied a bay in the compost area.  As a result, we have started turning the next batch of compost into the empty bay.  It is amazing how just one or two turnings can speed up the composting process.  She has also been pruning a large philadelphus and we have been shredding the cuttings from that so there will be no shortage of compost next year.

For once, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had a quiet night in and we were able to enjoy highlights of both the Vuelta and the Tour of Britain after tea.

All this pedalling and poetry left me with little time to watch the bird feeder and a flying chaffinch looking at me with suspicion from under its wing was the best that I could do for flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch (10)

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Today’s picture, taken by my friend Bruce on an excursion earlier this week, shows a slight leak in some water works creating an ice sculpture by the roadside.  It goes to show that despite the sunshine, the mornings are still pretty chilly.

ice sculpture

We had another day of dawn to dusk sunshine, with a chilly start and a slight warming as the sun rose.  A brisk north easterly wind made sure than we didn’t get too comfortable and shed any clothes.

When Mrs Tootlepedal went off to her church choir practice, I thought it right to get on my knees too but eschewing anything spiritual, I spent the time scrubbing the kitchen floor.  I scored some credit for doing this but that was set against a mountain of debit in not doing it more than once every ten years.  While I was in a virtuous mood, I also put a week of the newspaper index into the database,  cycled up to the High Street to order more bird food and then went to help my friend Arthur solve one of those niggly computer problems that come to baffle people who don’t play on their computer every day.

All in all, I thought, a useful morning.  Then I made it even better by lending a hand in the garden where Mrs Tootlepedal was spreading muck and compost on the raspberry bed, pruning the gooseberries and generally getting things ready for the new season.  My role was compost carting and pruned cane shredding.  Nothing is more satisfactory than seeing some of the compost made last year being ready for use.

I found a moment in the midst of all this activity to look out of the upstairs window.

brambling

A brambling in the plum tree enjoys the morning sunshine

chaffinch getting stick

A chaffinch gets a verbal warning while still some distance off.

chaffinche getting stick

This one got closer before getting the abuse

Generally it was a day for widespread wings.

widespread wings

We went in for a late lunch and then, while Mrs Tootlepedal returned to her gardening activities, I got wrapped up and set off on the fairly speedy bike to battle with the wind.

I chose to go out to Paddockhole first.  This gave me 10 miles with the wind behind me as a gentle warm up.  I had to make an enforced stop on the top of Callister when a glance down at my bike computer to check my speed showed that it wasn’t there any more.  Luckily it had fallen off only a few hundred yards back along the road and I found it and replaced it quite easily.

I only stopped once more to catch the first lamb that I have seen this year taking in some rays in a well sheltered paddock at Dunnabie.

spring lamb

From Paddockhole, I headed north up the valley of the paradoxically named Water of Milk.  Owing to the stiff hills and the strong wind, I was more tempted to stop for the occasional photo opportunity on this part of the trip.

The valley of the upper reaches of the Water of Milk

The valley of the upper reaches of the Water of Milk. The road can be seen snaking along the side of the hill on the left of the river.

I couldn’t resist yet another gate.

gate

The blue string is obligatory.

It is a lovely part of the country and as I took it slowly into the wind, I had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.  I was pleased to pass a farm that had figured in the newspaper edition of 1884 which I had been working on in the morning.

At the head of the valley, the road crosses the watershed before descending into the valley of the River Esk.

watershed

An unfenced road, my favourite sort. The verges are still very soggy though.

The view from the top of the hill looking north showed the hills of Ettrick still holding a fair bit of snow.

Ettrick hills

I was grateful for some of shelter from the trees as I left the moorland and plunged down into the valley.

Bailliehill

This is Bailliehill

From here, the last ten miles home were not as badly affected by the wind as I feared and I completed the 26 mile journey in 5 seconds under my target time of two hours.   It was a real treat to do a good circular ride rather than the poky out and backs that I have been doing lately.

Mrs Tootlepedal had just finished her gardening when I got home and we enjoyed a celebratory cup of tea and biscuit with a slice of her walnut and banana cake.

I had a quick look round the garden for any new signs of spring and found a couple more potential crocuses.

potential crocuses

I just had time for a refreshing soak in the bath before my flute pupil Luke came and once again showed that he knows how to practice properly as he had made more progress.  I have every hope that he will sail through his forthcoming grade exam.

After that it was time for tea and then a  trip to Newcastleton with Sandy for a camera club meeting.   I had put in one or two rather feeble efforts for the competition because I had been in a rush to get material ready and Sandy had put in none so we weren’t surprised not to trouble the judge.  He was a painter rather than a photographer and it was interesting to hear his take on the entries.  I have learned a lot  about photography by going to the camera club meetings and I shall try to make a better effort in the competitions next year now I know what to do.

Our way there and back was illuminated by a gloriously bright full moon and I nipped out into the garden to take a quick snapshot of it when I got home.

full moon February 2013

300mm, f40, 1/800th, ISO 2000: frame cropped but moon not enlarged.

The good light in the morning let me catch a crisp flying chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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