Birdwatching by the motorway and the scenic route home

I woke on Friday morning to find some rather wet snow outside. It had melted by sunrise. We drove up to Edinburgh to spend the weekend with a friend and stopped for a break at Johnstonebridge Services. On the way in we had to stop to allow some geese to cross the road. I was photographing them as they hunted around for melted puddle to get a drink when a guy sitting in his van told me that they are always around and in the summer have their goslings with them. They are not wild geese but are clearly resident in the vicinity.goose-at-johnstonbridge-13-jan-2017-1-of-1
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I do a lot of bird-spotting rather than watching as I am driving or sitting on a train. Today we had seen a large starling murmuration just south of Carlisle. There are usually ducks at the pond at Tebay Services and I have photographed them on previous occasions. They are mostly Mallard with a few interlopers.
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In summer bird food is sold at Tebay to discourage people from feeding them bread which is not nutritious for birds. The guy in the van at Johnstonebridge also told me that Black-headed Gulls nest on the island in the middle of Killington Lake so later in this year I will make a stop there to see them. Fortunately we heard in time that an accident had closed the A702, so left the motorway at Moffat and drove up the A701 as the sun was setting.
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We spent Saturday showing our friend around some of the parts of Edinburgh she had not seen on a previous visit. Sunday morning saw us in North Berwick> The Scottish Seabird Centre is here, down at the harbour but we did not have time to go there today. These Herring Gulls came over to see if we had anything to eat, better than the piece of plastic one was waving around.
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The Bass Rock is home to the largest colony of Northern Gannets who are named after them: initially Sula bassanus now Morus bassanus. In summer you can do a boat trip around the rock in an open boat. Choose a calm day to do this as it can get a but rough on the side away from the shore. We did it many years ago and it is something I would like to revisit in the summer.
From North Berwick we drove to Haddington, over to the A68 and then the A7. The snow had disappeared from the lowland areas.
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There was still some on the Eildon Hills where the hill sheep were scraping it away to find grass. Descending into Langholm we encountered mist.
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Mist, cloudy greyness and rain were our companions for the remainder of the journey.

Maps and books in London

On Tuesday evening, we took a train to London and as normality had been restored after the previous day’s strike, it was only a short Tube journey to reach our hotel. We had come down to see an exhibition at the British Library so that was our first destination on Wednesday morning. En route, I popped into Waterstones near UCL as it sells remainders and some secondhand books as well as new. However, I did not find anything on this occasion. We have an extensive collection of old maps but this exhibition focussed on the 20th century when the use of maps became widespread and was influenced by war and peace, trade, the movement of people and technological development. There was a large collection of many different maps, some familiar, many not and the exhibition is is on until 1 March. Photography was not allowed so this is an image from the exhibition website:
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Afterwards, we walked to Spitalfields and visited what has been described as ‘London’s newest and innovative bookshop’. Libreria opened in 2016 and the books are organised in a very idiosyncratic way with some mini-collections curated by different people. They also hold events from time to time. When I came to pay for my purchase, two attempts to do this electronically failed due to problems with their broadband and I had to use cash. This was quite a surprise as I am used to very slow broadband speeds at home but did not expect to find this in London.
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Spitalfields has lots of street art, curry houses and vintage stores on Brick Lane which warrant further exploration at some point.
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I find specialist shops fascinating and spotted this bag shop on Commercial Street.
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Walking back towards Bloomsbury on the road called London Wall, it is possible to see fragments of the old wall near the Museum of London and the Barbican. There is another section near Tower Hill Tube Station. The hoardings around the Crossrail works had signs listing the archaeological finds dug up during the seemingly never-ending construction project. I also spotted this bindery on Clerkenwell Road that I had photographed a couple of years ago:
Bindery shop Clerkenwell
On the way back to Euston I called in at Skoob Books in the Brunswick Centre. which claims to be the largest secondhand bookshop in London and found a few books. I have never been disappointed here> they once gave me a bag as I was such a good customer.

Finding Books in the Fog

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The northwest was shrouded in fog this morning as we left to drive to York. We were visiting the largest one-day book fair in the UK which attracts sellers from all over the country and having a break from jobs around the house and garden. The focus is on rare and unusual books and also some maps, prints and ephemera. The fog persisted until we were over Saddleworth Moor and the highest point of the English motorway system. As we descended into the Vale of York we could at least see where we were going. This journey across the Pennines and into Yorkshire used to be a regular one around 20 years ago as my parents lived in North Yorkshire for a few years but it was some time since I had crossed the country on this route. Just as on our local portion of the M6, they are also upgrading part of the M62 to a smart motorway so there are several miles of road works north of Manchester. We found the York Racecourse without too much difficulty. I have never been to see horse racing or bet on a horse race but this time last year I had to give a lecture at Aintree Racecourse and here I am this January at another one.
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Some familiar booksellers were there e.g. the Old Town Bookshop in Edinburgh and others I had not visited so far. Some, including one who used to be in Heswall but has now moved to North Wales now mainly sell via the internet and book fairs. I found a few volumes for one of my collections and enjoyed browsing and chatting to some of the sellers. The journey home was largely uneventful other than passing a Rowntrees Fruit Gum tanker. Presumably it was full of sugar syrup but I have not seen one of them before. Now it is time to rearrange the book shelves to accommodate the new purchases. I do have a large box in the study where books I am not going to read again are deposited for the next decluttering trip to Oxfam.

Frosty Hills and Prints in Penrith

Today we were heading south along the Tweed valley enjoying the sun as it gradually rose above the hills.

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There are several footpaths around the Devil’s Beeftub and I saw at least one person on the ridge today. I hope to return when we are not so pushed for time and explore some of them. Still in sub-zero temperatures, we stopped at the Rheged Centre on the outskirts of Penrith. It hosts numerous activities for both children and adults including play areas, workshops, a cinema, cafe, shops specialising in local and British produce and a gallery. We were there as I was very keen to see an exhibition of prints I had seen advertised. Over 380 works from different printmakers are exhibited and there is a lot of information about and a demonstration of printmaking techniques. I am hoping to do more of this and so found it fascinating. These are some of the landscapes on display:
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The exhibition is on until February 26 2017 and is free. We had a bite to eat in the cafe and then returned to the very busy motorway. Looking at the crowds at each service station we passed, we were glad we did not need to stop here. After giving up on the M6 just after the Thelwall Viaduct and finishing the last few miles on the A50, our neighbour’s cat was waiting for us at home.
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New Year in Edinburgh

We saw the New Year in quietly at home as James had worked a 12 hour day and then driven up here on Thursday and we had been out celebrating his birthday with friends on the 30th. The 31st had dawned with high winds which were blowing down all the barriers being erected in the city centre for the Hogmanay celebrations that evening. It then rained for a few hours in the afternoon. I had been contemplating doing some firework photography from Blackford Hill as the weather did improve a little. However, I could see myself slipping in the mud with all my equipment in the dark and thought better of it. New Year’s Day began quietly as some of my neighbours are away and one is a taxi driver who had been working last night. After coffee with friends who popped in to deliver a Christmas present, we needed some exercise and headed up Blackford Hill. The dog-walkers, kite-flyers and some runners were all out and a few others who like me were hoping so see a good sunset. The darkest clouds were moving away to the southwest but the sun remained mostly hidden as it set.
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As we walked downhill towards the Observatory, I spotted this guy who was playing Auld Lang Syne on the top of one of the hillocks.
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