Driving home

We left Edinburgh and the haar behind this morning and by the time we reached a friend’s house between Pathhead and Lauder, it was warm and sunny enough to have our coffee outside in the garden. After that we scooted over the hill on a B road between Lauder and Stow to the A7. These cattle were hoping to get some shade from the heat by sitting under this tree but it was not yet in leaf. Highland Cattle with their heavy furry coats are not designed for hot weather.
Cows under tree near Lauder 1 9 May 2015-1
All the way down the A7 the grass verges were full of dandelions in bloom and gorse in bloom on the hillside. There is a saying dating from some time from the 19th century that when gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of fashion. No worries about that today. We found a picnic spot just south of Langholm next to a path that led down to the River Esk. It is supposed to be a fishing spot but fish tend to hide in good weather so no-one was fishing today.
River Esk near Langholm 9 May 2015-1
The motorway part of the drive was uneventful until we got closer to home when due to delays and accidents we got off and drove over the Manchester Ship Canal by the Warburton Bridge and very slowly towards home as the motorway was closed and the surrounding roads gridlocked. Warburton Bridge 1 (1 of 1)
The bridge always reminds me of some we crossed on Route 66 and maybe we will find some more on the Lincoln Highway in a few weeks time.

Starting our journey north

The hawthorn and cow parsley were in full bloom as we left yesterday after James had finished work. As soon as we saw the M6, it was at a standstill heading north. Fortunately the new roundabout at the junction makes it much easier to turn round and head for the A50 which we did. The usual rush-hour Audis and BMWs were overtaking despite my reasonable speed for the conditions. Eventually we were over the Warburton Bridge and back on the motorway only to be slowed down again in South Lancashire due to an accident. We saw a coastguard boat heading north on a trailer and bizarrely for the time of year, a snow plough heading south. A few miles south of Tebay, the last hour of sunlight lit up the fells and there was a perfect rainbow which would have made a great photograph had I been able to stop. The rest of the journey was uneventful and we arrived in Edinburgh in the late evening. Today was spent doing some essential shopping (getting drenched in the process) and getting organised for the journey to Skerray tomorrow. I have packed lots of books and the watercolours to keep me occupied if it rains. This evening will be spent in a more relaxing fashion, having dinner with some friends.


Sunshine, wintry showers and some very bad driving

Winter had returned by Saturday and I had caught the virus James had over Easter so things were not looking good. I had enough energy to keep our lunch commitment that day with friends at the Scottish Malt Whisky Society (while it hailed outside) but did little else for the rest of that day or Sunday morning. We left after lunch and the cherry tree I had photographed on Thursday had now lost most of its petals due to the wind and rain. On the A702 we could see that some of the Moorfoots and Tinto had a covering of snow but the sun was shining and if we had had the time to exploit them, there were several photographic possibilities as we drove past the Pentlands. After visiting a friend in South Lanarkshire (when it hailed again) we were back on the M74 in sunshine. South of the border it began to rain heavily and the traffic began to pick up. Signs began to warn us of delays south of junction 21 and I had pondered leaving the M6 at the M61 and going round the M60 to the A34. James then advised avoiding that route as there was a Manchester City/Manchester United match at Old Trafford that afternoon. We carried on and somewhere near Preston saw an amazingly bad manoeuvre involving leaving the motorway up the off ramp and returning to it via the on ramp. I would have forgiven them had it been an unmarked police car on a job but James pointed out that this was unlikely as it had a personalised number plate. Further south, fields of oilseed rape were flowering in the sunshine. We saw a DeLorean on the back of a truck which looked like it was in the process of being customised like the one in Back to the Future. The warnings about delays persisted so we left at junction 21 and followed the Irlam Royalettes Morris Dancers Bus to the Warburton Bridge. This cantilever bridge always reminds me of some we crossed on Route 66. We paid our 12p and were soon across and on the way home. Just as we were about to leave the A50 we observed another example of bad driving when someone overtook several cars at a crossroads and was very lucky to avoid anyone coming in the opposite direction.Warburton Bridge 1 (1 of 1)

Under a full moon

On Friday, I emerged from the second hand bookshop after a couple hours of loading books on for internet sales, thinking how ironic it was that an Amazon-avoider like myself was now selling books on their marketplace (albeit for a charity). It was great to see blue sky and sunshine outside. Back home to to pick up James and the dog and then we hit the road. Before the motorway I got a quick look at it and could see there were major problems so we diverted on to the A50 and crossed the Warburton Bridge, paying the 12p toll.The cantilever bridge reminded me of some of those we crossed on Route 66. Back on the M6 and south of the Ribble, there was a huge black cloud and heavy rain, but a rainbow over to the right, promising better. Its promise was kept as by the time we reached Cumbria the sun was out again and the hills glowed in fantastic winter colours. Despite it being December, there was still no snow to be seen on any of the hills we passed. Approaching Beattock, there were frequent signs warning of snow on Sunday so we will wait and see. On the A702 there was a full moon hanging in the sky heralding a change in the weather but no problems this afternoon and we arrived without any problems.
Full moon A702 1 (1 of 1)
Today we endured the inevitable crowds in town for some essential (a book fair) and some Christmas shopping, fortified by a coffee in Valvona and Crolla, one of my favourite shops. A lighter moment was spotting the latest mural by St John’s Church.
St Johns Mural

Going slow for Congleton Choral Society

Yesterday was the day I decided to do my fund-raising venture and drive from Smallwood to Edinburgh via B roads rather than the usual motorway route. We left at 7am and the first few miles were towards Swettenham, a village with a great pub and a church the Choral Society used to sing in at Advent. However, on this occasion we passed it by and made our way towards the Warburton Toll Bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal. We paid our 12p toll and once across had to do a few miles on the A57 before picking our way through Winwick, Newton le Willows and Wigan. In Wigan, we had a brief stretch of the legs and bought the paper before carrying on towards and around Preston. Once past Preston it was much easier to head over to Longridge and Clitheroe where we had a coffee stop and short dog walk by the river. Our route continued through Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria passing many small towns and villages. One had a Passion Play in the town centre and we were listening to the Bishop of Bradford’s Good Friday message on the radio. In Cumbria the radio signal vanished so I put on my Easter music CD which started with Mascagni’s Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana which had sung in our last concert. Lunch was eaten beside Pendragon Castle near Kirby Stephen but unfortunately the castle was closed to the public as the building was deemed to be dangerous. We had to be content with a photograph. Under the blue sky the spring flowers were amazing.  Sheep and lambs were sleeping in the sun in fields and on the hills. We crossed the border on the B6318 and were again on more familiar roads via Langholm, Eskdalemuir, Traquair, Peebles, West Linton and through Midlothian to Edinburgh. James calculated that we had completed the 310 miles with an average speed of around 33 miles per hour. We followed several tractors and farmers feeding their stock, waited for rabbits, pheasants and sheep to move from the road and even two Buddhist monks who were walking in the middle of the road at Eskdalemuir. We saw places we would love to revisit with more time to explore. Although I did not feel tired when driving and felt that I could have carried on further, as soon as I stopped, I felt quite exhausted. 
Welcome to Scotland B6318Blackthorn at Pendgragon