Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Time to leave home

I last photographed my swallows in the second week of July (see here) and I thought they were still a little way off fledging. So when I discovered an empty nest on Saturday, I feared the worst.

However, arriving home on Monday I was surprised and delighted to find four youngsters huddled together sheltering from the teaming rain on my satellite dish just outside of the shed where the nest is. This website suggests that swallows fledge between 17 and 24 days. And it could certainly have been that, given how quickly time goes by when one is watching the Tour de France!

For the past couple of mornings I've seen them sitting on the telephone wires close to the house, with the parents still bringing them food.

Success? I do hope so.

Greater spotted woodpeckers are regular visitors to Skip, but are rather shy and are off on the first sign of movement. However, I did manage to catch this juvenile enjoying the peanuts, with one of my many great tits apparently in a bit of a tizzy having been displaced from 'its' feeding station!

Pics © Skip Cottage

Sunday, July 22, 2012


The Leadhills and Wanlockhead Light Railway was opened in 1901, to Leadhills, and 1902 through to Wanlockhead. The standard gauge branch line joined the Caledonian Railway's main Carlisle-Glasgow line at Elvanfoot. It was built primarily to serve the lead mines in the area, but there was also a regular passenger service serving the communities of Leadhills and Wanlockhead. The line closed in 1938.

Only a very small part of the line remains in use today - a narrow gauge railway from a depot at Leadhills, see here.

It's a friendly place, with opportunity to see the workings of the signal box!

Glengonnar Halt is currently the end of the line.

Looking back down the line towards Leadhills.

Hugh Stewart on the platform at Glengonnar.

Perhaps one day the line will achieve its ambition of pushing through to Wanlockhead.

It may be small, but it's a treasure. And a fine day out!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I'm rather fond of the scarred countryside around the villages of Wanlockhead and Leadhills. The last mine in the area closed in 1951. Now there is a brilliant museum in Wanlockhead, Hidden Treasures, the Museum of Lead Mining. The Southern Upland Way runs through the village.

Here's a little reminder of the trackways that were used above and below ground. If you are interested at all in industrial archaeology, then this is the place!

A ticket for the museum includes a visit underground in part of the Lochnell Mine. Here guide Robert McCafferty explains the safety procedures.


Robert our guide had a wealth of stories to illustrate the working conditions over the 150 years of the lifetime of the Lochnell Mine. Here's a tableau showing a miner operating a windlass used for accessing a lower level. 

An intrepid explorer?

Straitsteps cottages now house displays to compare life in the 18th and 19th century.

There's lots of curling interest in the area. Here is a display of a number of unusual 'wee stones'!

There's gold in the hills too. Here Julie Hall demonstrates to Christine and Hugh Stewart basic panning techniques. Great fun!

Right, having had my lesson too, I've bought the equipment, got my license, purchased my anti-midge spray, and I'm off to find my fortune.

Wanlockhead is certainly a great day out. Leadhills is interesting too. More about that visit to follow.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Colour at Skip

If you look carefully you will see that the Virgin Pendolino has just run over the pot of gold on the West Coast Main Line! I do like rainbows.

First flower on my Bishop's Children that I grew from seed, see here and here. I have a few in the borders, and some in containers. I am sure I am not alone in saying that I would like to see some sun this summer.

Still, a few nasturtium seeds can give a lot of reward even as the rain comes down.

 I've had lots of blue and great tits on my feeders this month, but this is the first goldfinch.

And I'm pleased to report that the swallows that were checking out my shed (see here) eventually decided to set up home. I didn't want to say anything before now, but the eggs have hatched (three I think), and here are two of the chicks thinking I am the bringer of food. Actually, the parents have been working hard to keep the weans fed, even during the day. Fingers crossed.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blue Skies at the Citadel

We haven't seen many blue skies so far this year, so I thought to record this one yesterday. It was a bright day at Carlisle's Citadel Station yesterday!

Every Wednesday over the summer months, Statesman Rail runs 'The Fellsman', a steam excursion from Lancaster to Carlisle and return, using the scenic Settle - Carlisle line. Any of three locomotives (44932, 46115, 48151) stabled at Carnforth can provide the power, and it is always the question which it is going to be. Yesterday it was LMS 8F Class 2-8-0 no 48151.

Having parked the passenger coaches, the locomotive, with its support coach, runs round in reverse through the station on its way to turn round at Upperby.

Good to meet up again with an old friend, Pamela. She is a Mark 1 Open First Class carriage, built at Swindon in 1962-63.

Here's a peek into Pamela's secrets. It may be somewhat expensive, but this is the way to travel! The tables are all set, complete with wine, for the meal on the return leg of the trip.

48151 picks up the parked carriages, and waits for the Manchester Airport - Edinburgh DMU to clear, before moving over to Platform 3, ready for the return leg.

Having contributed to Carlisle's economy, excursion passengers are ready for the run home.

This pic is crying out for a caption.

How about, 'Yes, my name really IS Thomas'.

Or, 'Are you the Fat Controller?'

It is really very special to be able to get up close!

Everyone is on board, and it looks all set for a good run back to Lancaster, with just a water stop scheduled at Appleby. Watch what the excursion looked and sounded like in videos here and here.

Photos © Skip Cottage 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Brian's Gallery

My friend Brian Alderman moved to the Yorkshire Dales some four years ago, after he retired as a schoolteacher. We curled together in the 1970s, and share an interest in gardening, amongst other things.

Brian is a talented artist and I am quite jealous of his ability and enthusiasm. He began exhibiting his work locally in 2010. His recent project has been to convert part of his home in Burtersett, near Hawes, into a gallery and working studio. You can see how this has progressed on his website here, where you can also find his contact details.

This weekend the big sign has gone up over the entrance. The 'official' opening of the gallery won't be until September, but until then you can see Brian's work on display, usually Thursday - Sunday, 11.00 - 16.00.

Join me in wishing him every success in his new venture. Do make a point of visiting him if you are are in the Dales.

Although most of his work is of the countryside in the Yorkshire Dales, Brian will undertake commissions. He did this oil painting for me of a curling match on the Lake of Menteith, and this has pride of place in Skip Cottage. I never tire of looking at it!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Summer Rain

All this rain we've been having has made the garden green, but it's not been a pleasant summer so far. It was hard to find a sunny spell to take some photos!

I haven't been out in the garden very much. However, the pond - as full as its ever been - got a new edge last week.

There's little colour as yet, even in the containers.

The poppies have tried, but the rain quickly destroys the fragile petals. Let's hope summer comes soon!

Photos © Skip Cottage