Four good things

Today’s guest picture is that very rare thing, a picture from Mrs Tootlepedal’s camera.  It shows the world’s finest baby in the arms of her paternal grandfather yesterday.


After a short spell of rain yesterday, the weather returned to being kind and the sun was shining again today.  We hung around until we had got some news of Clare’s progress which was ‘good but not out of the woods yet’ and then we set out for a short pedal.

Before we left, I took a short tour of the garden…


…and stared out of the kitchen window.


A redpoll trying to compete with the tulips for colour.

As far as the cycling went, the strain of being a grandmother was too much for Mrs Tootlepedal and she turned for home after three miles.  The wind may have had something to do with it too.  She made up for the brief nature of the ride by picking up some more of the never ending litter on her way home.

I pedalled on another three miles to the top of Callister and enjoyed a wind assisted return, stopping from time to time to take pictures of wild flowers at the roadside…l




…and moss and lichen on the field walls.



There is a wonderful variety to be seen.

red lichen

I don’t know what this vivid orange  stuff is.  It was so bright that I thought that it was paint at first.

When I got home, Dropscone dropped in to report that he had been for an extended and hillier version of the morning run and  he very kindly presented me with a cauliflower which he had purchased at a very reasonable price.  I ate it for my tea later in the day.

After lunch, Sandy came round and following a suggestion from my friend Bruce, we went off with Mrs Tootlepedal for a walk along the Liddel Water.  This required a drive across the hill to Newcastleton and then a short extension to Kershopefoot.

Kershopefoot is the spot where the border between England and Scotland comes down from the hills, following the course of the Kershope Burn and joins the Liddle Water.

Kershope Burn

The Kershope Burn is a small stream to carry such a large responsibility.

We crossed the border on this new bridge.

Kershopefoot bridge

Our route took us along the English side of the Liddel Water.  It was a warm day but not sunny and the walking was very pleasant.  We had many things to look at as we went along.  There were signs of spring.





River views.



Views across the river of the Scottish side.

Liddel view

The sun was shining in Scotland but not in England



We didn’t get a very close view of this bird and wondered if it was some sort of sandpiper.  Information gratefully received if any reader can help us.

For the photographically interested, I took all the pictures on the walk with my Nikon J1 compact camera but used an F1 mount with a 300mm lens to take the bird above.  It gives a lot of zoom power but because it doesn’t have a view finder it is hard to hold the camera steady and look at the screen.  I will have to carry a tripod if I want to use it seriously.

Bruce had tempted us into taking the walk by sending me a picture of a rustic bench on the riverside.  A reader had thought it looked uncomfortable so Mrs Tootlepedal and Sandy tried it out when we came to it.

Sandy and Mrs T on the bench

They look pretty relaxed.

It was only a short walk but Bruce had been quite right, it was well worth doing and I think it is a walk that we will revisit later in the year.

We called in to fill the Moorland feeders on the way home as it was Sandy’s day to do this and we got back to Langholm just as it started to rain which made us feel extra pleased with our outing.

It must have been a good outing because I had to discard a tremendous number of pictures to get down to the meagre ration that I allow myself for a post.

In the evening, we went to the final Langholm Sings choir practice for our concert on Sunday and had a hard working, well organised session.  We have a dress rehearsal with the Langholm Concert Orchestra on Sunday afternoon and then the performance is in the evening.   If we can sing as well as we did this evening, all should be well.

The flying bird of the day is another siskin.

flying siskin



Holding the baby

No guest picture today but pride of place to the new arrival who is seen in the arms of her grandmother.  Mrs Tootlepedal seems surprised to find that she is quite used to this sort of thing.


As you can see, we went to Edinburgh to visit Alistair and Clare and their daughter.  It made for quite a long day so this will be a commensurately brief post.

We had some time to kill at home before setting out as visiting hours are strictly limited so we went for a quick pedal up to Westwater and back after breakfast in lovely sunshine and a brisk wind. The briskness of the wind was demonstrated by the fact that it took us longer to get home downhill than it did to get out uphill.

I looked round the garden for a change in the weather was forecast for the end of the day and the sunshine was too good to waste.


A delicately coloured new set of tulips looking good.


The new anemone looking brighter than ever.


A wallflower looking very energetic

The recent spell of dry sunny weather has certainly given the garden flowers a chance to shine.  The garden was full of birds too.

A blackbird was in full voice in the walnut tree.


A chaffinch nibbled a twig on the plum tree.


And a goldfinch enjoyed the sun as much as we did.


A chaffinch applies the brakes as it approaches the feeder.


And a jackdaw surveys the scene.


When the time came, we drove to Edinburgh leaving the garden, the birds and the sunshine behind.  By the time we got to Edinburgh, it was cold, misty and starting to rain.

We were able to ignore the weather in the pleasure of seeing our grandchild.  She was snoozing peacefully in her mother’s arms.  The birth has been very hard work for Clare but we were pleased to find her out of bed and sitting up and as as cheerful as someone who has had an exhausting experience and no sleep all night could possibly be.  Both Mrs Tootlepedal and I were allowed to hold the baby and we were reminded of what a miracle of nature a tiny baby is.  We didn’t want to exhaust Clare completely so after the baby was laid in its cot….

baby in cot

….we left Clare to rest and took Alistair off for a late lunch in the hospital cafe.

Alistair and Clare are still mulling over the perfect name for their daughter.

Although it rained all the way home, we had a very traffic free drive back to Langholm and the day was rounded off for me by being taken to Carlisle by Susan to play with our recorder group.

Rather than write the same ‘thank you’ many times, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who took the time and trouble to make such generous comments on yesterday’s post.   It is very heart warming to have such kindness.

I did catch a flying bird before we left for the big city.

flying chaffinch

Another new visitor

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my son Alistair and shows the little girl that makes Mrs Tootlepedal a grandmother.   Our best wishes go to Alistair and his wife Clare.  We hope to go to visit mother and baby quite soon.


The arrival of our grandchild was a much more complicated affair than we had all hoped for and we are waiting for further reports from the hospital before allowing our joy to be unconfined.

Meanwhile we carried on.

I went out on the morning run with Dropscone but on this occasion we had to call for the assistance of the MTRS (see footnote)  when Dropscone got a puncture at the farthest extent of our circuit.  We have had so few punctures over the years that neither of us was carrying a spare tube on this occasion.  In a heartless way, I left him to wait for the broom wagon and cycled on by myself.  We managed to reassemble just in time for coffee and scones.

The sunny weather was still with us and although the wind was quite brisk, it wasn’t chilly as well and for the first time this year, I was dressed a bit too warmly for the conditions.

While I had a shower after coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal went off for a short pedal herself.  She combined this with a bit of roadside litter clearing as she went along.  The appetite of motorists for throwing rubbish out of their windows is insatiable.

A new tulip turned up today to add to the collection.


It was joined b y a very attractive anemone.


The existing tulips weren’t to be outshone though.


I never failed to be amazed by the tremendous variety there is among flowers of the same family.

After lunch, Sandy appeared and we set off in the car with Mrs Tootlepedal to show her one of our favourite walks.  We went to Hagg-on-Esk and walked back along the bank of the River Esk to Irvine House following the fishermen’s path.  Mrs Tootlepedal was captivated by the walk.  Even though most of the trees are not in leaf, the scene was still charming.

Esk near IrvineHouse

Esk near IrvineHouse

Esk near IrvineHouse

We were hoping to see some birds as we went along and we were not disappointed.

There were goosanders swimming…


…goosanders standing…


…and goosanders flying off before I could get a decent shot.


There were dippers standing on rocks beside the river…


…and in the middle of the river…


…and flying off before I could get a decent shot.


Sensible people were using binoculars to enjoy the scene…..

Sandy and Mrs Tootlepedal

Sandy and Mrs Tootlepedal bird watching

…and not trying to take pictures with a lens that is too heavy for hand held shots.  Still, I enjoyed myself a lot while trying.

Part of the paths goes past some well shaded damp rocks and I wondered what this prolific growth on one of the rock faces might be.


We got home tired but happy and had a reviving cup of tea and a biscuit.  (I should mention that the biscuits which often appear in this blog are almost always out of a packet of 600 individually wrapped rather small caramelised biscuits of the sort which you often get given free with a cup of coffee in a cafe.  They stay remarkably crisp in their wrapping for months.  Mrs Tootlepedal bought them for me for my birthday.  A present that keeps on giving)

After Sandy went home, we went out into the garden.

A lithodara has come into bloom and was attracting bees.


I weeded the strawberry bed, added a little growmore and then covered the soil with a mulch of home-made compost.  Mrs Tootlepedal paid a visit to her manure mine and when she returned, she topped the bed off with a light covering of manure.  The gooseberries got some manure too and I am already looking forward to the coming of the soft fruit season.

While we were working, there was a tremendous squabble between three male blackbirds.  It was quite an ongoing feud but as soon as I went in for my camera, they stopped fighting and disappeared.  As soon as I put it away, they came out and started again.

I had to be content with the female of the species in the evening sun.

blackbird on bench

Meanwhile, we are keeping our fingers crossed that Clare makes a swift recovery from her very hard labour and that we can go up and see her, Alistair and the baby in the very near future.

Mrs Tootlepedal had hoped that being a granny would save her from being shoved off any buses but research into the lyrics reveals that she is still in danger.  She is disappointed.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.


*MTRS = The Mrs Tootlepedal Rescue Service, an invaluable resource for the stranded cyclist.

A garden visitor

Today’s guest picture is from my brother Andrew and is another canal shot from his recent visit to Amsterdam.  I take the view that you can’t have too many canal shots.

Amsterdam canal

It was another dry day but with some cloud cover and a brisk north easterly wind, it felt quite chilly and I didn’t set out on the bike straight after breakfast but waited for a while.  I headed north up to Mosspaul with the intention of getting the benefit of the wind on the way home and things worked out as planned.  I took a laboured 55 minutes to puff steadily up the hill and a brisk 29 minutes to scoot the ten and a half miles back down.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had come back from singing in the church choir.  She had been thinking of going for a pedal herself but the lure of a dry day and the garden proved too strong and she spent most of the day toiling and tilling and transplanting.

I acted as official tulip photographer.  There were large clumps…


….small clumps….


…and inside workings.


She has got quite a lot of tulips about and there are still other varieties to come out.

I had to put a bit of blue in to balance the reds and yellows.

grape hyacinths

In the afternoon, I went to fetch our friend Jean who is a bit limited in her mobility at the moment but who wanted to come and see the garden.

Jean in the garden

After an extensive tour, she settled down for a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

We were well sheltered from the wind in this corner of the garden and it was very pleasant to be able to sit outside and chat as we drank our tea.

While Jean was walking around the garden, I took a couple more flower shots.

Dog tooth violets

Dog tooth violets

Silver pear blossom

Silver pear blossom. We can’t look forward to eating silver pears as it is ornamental only.

I didn’t spend my whole time snapping flowers.


As Jean was getting ready to go, Sandy arrived, ready for a walk.  Mrs Tootlepedal drove Jean home and I got organised to go out with Sandy.  We decided on another nuthatch hunt and went back to the Castleholm.  At our first stop we caught a fleeting glimpse of a nuthatch…


…but when we looked at the nesting hole, we didn’t see a nuthatch in residence but a blue tit.

blue tit at nuthatch nest

It was busy taking nest material in and out.

blue tit at nuthatch nest

blue tit at nuthatch nest

We will follow events here with interest.

We walked on to another couple of possibles nests but saw nothing at either, not even a blue tit.

We had to console ourselves by admiring the wonderful lime trees.

limes on Castleholm

Sandy dropped me off and almost as soon as I had got in the door, Mrs Tootlepedal suggested a trip to the moor to look for  hen  harriers.  I agreed on the condition that she would drive and off we went.  We parked in the best spot for viewing harriers and didn’t have to wait long before one appeared low over the horizon.


It was too far away for my camera so Mrs Tootlepedal watched it with her binoculars as it skimmed first just above and then below the top of the hill.

I snoozed gently until woken by cries of, “There it is!”


“Over there, to the right….oh it’s gone behind the hill again.”


“No there it is….to the left now….no it’s gone behind the hill again.”

When we had had enough fun playing this game, we drove down the hill again, stopping to watch a buzzard hunting near the road.


When it soared away…


…we drove on.

The spell of sunny days seems to be coming to an end soon according to the forecast but it has been a real treat and we have tried to make the best of it with gardening, walking, cycling, bird watching and smiling.

The flying bird of day is a little siskin making for the feeder and passing the rather rusty pole that holds it up.

flying siskin




Recovery position

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my friend Bruce who had taken a walk along the banks of the Liddle Water.  He thought that this opportunity for a rest might tempt me to take the walk too.

Liddle bench

I had intended to take advantage of another day of glorious weather to go for a good cycle ride but for reasons probably not unconnected with old age and cycling 40 miles yesterday, I didn’t manage to work up enough pep to go anywhere. Mrs Tootlepedal though was as bright as a button and hard at work in the garden on and off all day.

This tulip was almost as bright as she was.

red tulip

Luckily Sandy called round at coffee time and at least got me out of the house.  Our intention was to go to the moorland bird feeders and set up the cameras on tripods.  Then, using our remote controls, some nice sharp pictures should have been possible in the good light.  Unfortunately we were not the first to think of visiting the feeders and when we got there, two visiting bird watchers were getting settled in.  It seemed too awkward to try to get set up when they were watching the birds so after a quick shot of an oversize perching bird…


…we went off for a walk along the Tarras instead.

This didn’t offer much in the way of birds but it was delightful in its own right, with interest all along the way.

There were tadpoles in the giant puddles….


They will be struggling if it doesn’t rain soon.

…old men on vintage tractors….

John Murray talking to Sandy

John Murray talking to Sandy

…charming glades…

beside the Tarras

…and the ever present music of the Tarras Water.


It was time for lunch when we got home and the down side for me of walking through the woods came when I had to have a good long rest after lunch to get my breathing back into good order.

There is a lot of pollen about at the moment and the garden is full of the sound of bumble bees.

bee in garden

I took some perching birds at different times.  The bird on the right below was down by the Tarras and I don’t know what it is.  It was singing lustily and I am sure a kind reader will tell me its name.  It might be a willow warbler.

perching birds

I had just about recovered from my post lunch slump when we were visited by a flock of cyclists.

Callaghan cycle club

From left to right these are William, Lorne and Sarah.  Two of them are Dr Tinker’s grandchildren and the cousins of Maisie, New Zealand’s finest and the other is their father.  One of them is on the bike in the picture for the very first time.  Yes, it is Lorne, who was interested in trying out my belt driven bike.  He is a cycle commuter and a serious pedaller.  Sarah has been cycling for ages…well for two days now under her own steam.

Liz, their mother, has taken away a portion of my sour dough starter and is going to have a try at making a loaf with it on Monday.

After the cyclists left, Sandy reappeared and we went off on a nuthatch hunt.  Liz had seen one earlier in the afternoon on the Castleholm and as there are two known nesting sites there, we went to see what we could see.

We drew a complete blank at the first site so we moved on to where Liz had made her sighting.  This tree looked promising…

tree on castleholm

…and we soon saw a nuthatch and I was able to snatch a hurried shot.


It was on a branch with a nest sized hole in it but we were amazed to see that it wasn’t the nuthatch that was using the hole, it was a blue tit.

blue tit

Liz had told us that she th0ught that the nuthatch had been sounding very indignant so perhaps this was why.

The nuthatch conifer was surrounded by golden trees.

Castleholm trees

Closer examination showed that these were lime trees and not covered in leaves but by a multitude of flowers.  The white tailed bumble bees were extremely interested and the trees were loud with buzzing.

bees on lime trees

We walked on to another nest site and once again saw a nuthatch.  I was too slow to get a picture this time but you can see the one that Sandy took on his blog.  I had to make do with a nearby thrush.


It was another beautiful walk and the only fly in the ointment was discovering in the car on the way home that I had lost my spectacles somewhere on the walk.  It was obvious that I had dislodged them while manouevering my camera bag about so Mrs Tootlepedal and I cycled back to where the walk had started and finished and to my delight, we found the specs unharmed right beside the place where Sandy’s car had been parked.  I can see clearly now.

Although I was personally quite slow all day, I did get the chance to catch a real burst of speed on the Castleholm.

run rabbit run

The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull which we met on the way to see the nuthatches.

flying gull




Today’s guest picture, taken by my sister Mary a few days ago, shows a bed of tulips in St James’ Park, London and it just goes to show that however many lovely tulips Mrs Tootlepedal has in her garden, the Queen can afford more.  A lot more.

St James's Park

The weather continues to behave very well for the moment and we had a day of unbroken sunshine for which we are duly grateful.  Mrs Tootlepedal is still finding retirement very much to her liking and suggested a pub lunch today.  I was very happy to agree.  When she said that she was bicycling to the pub and it was in Rockcliffe, twenty miles away, I was very happy literally to go along with that too.

It was chilly first thing so we were in no hurry to set out and I was able to find a moment to admire a goldfinch in the plum tree.

goldfinch in plum tree

The goldfinch seemed to be admiring the blossom

We took a straightforward route on our way down to Rockcliffe, using the bike path to Canonbie, then the main road to Longtown and then National Cycle Route 7 which happily goes right past the pub entrance.

Crown and Thistle

The pub’s name, the Crown and Thistle is appropriate for an establishment so near to the border between England and Scotland.

Once we got past Longtown, we were on very quiet country roads….

Cumbrian by ways

… with the occasional grand house to look at as we passed.


This is the curiously named Justicetown

The modern world was not far away however and we had to cross first the busy M6…


…and then the busy mainline railway.  We had to wait at the level crossing while trains passed us in both directions.

level crossing

We weren’t exactly dawdling ourselves and arrived for lunch having averaged nearly eleven miles an hour for the nineteen mile journey.

The lunch was excellent….

Crown and thistle

Mrs Tootlepedal enjoying a plate of locally sourced Cumberland sausage and mashed potatoes

….and we took our time over it.  After coffee (and ice cream for me) we went down to the meadow which runs down to the bank of the river Eden and enjoyed the peaceful scene.


The rock cliff which gives the village its name.

River Eden

A house with a view

Rockliffe church

Rockliffe church

On a day like to day, it looked like the Garden of Eden indeed but on a wet and windy winter’s day when the waves are battering against the sea wall you can see at the back of the meadow, it might not be quite so inviting.

Still, we didn’t think of that but just enjoyed it all.  Soon we got organised and started for home.  We took a different and less direct route back, passing through Gretna and Glenzier and ending up by coming back down the Wauchope road.

We passed plenty of wild flowers as we went…

wild flowers

…but the most interesting was this line of tiny flowers near Gretna.

tiny flowers

Any suggestions as to what they are would be welcomed.

In contrast to the busy M6, we passed the bridge which once carried the main road between England and Scotland over the River Sark, the border between the two countries.

Border bridge

The whole ride was a delight, the temperature being pleasantly cool in spite of the sunshine but it was still a good moment after 40 miles when the hills of home came into sight at Wauchope School with only three miles of gently downhill road to go.


Our speed home, with  more distance and some gentle climbing to do, hadn’t matched our outward pace but we completed the cycling part of the 43 mile trip in four and a half hours. Add in the time for lunch, banana breaks and the visit to the river at Rockcliffe and it had taken a bit over six hours in all.   We did a bit of crossing as we went – the M6 twice, the railway four times and the border four times as well.

This was the furthest Mrs Tootlepedal had cycled in one go for a year or two but she had enough energy left to get out in the garden after a cup of tea and a shower.  I joined her there to look for flowers to shoot.


Tulips everywhere.


A magnolia is just coming out by the front gate.


There were still birds sitting in the plum tree.


It was such a lovely day that it was a pity to go inside at all so we drove up onto the Langholm Moor where we were able to catch a few fleeting glimpses of hen harriers.  I was also very pleased to see a grouse.  Huge sums of money have been spent trying to encourage the return of grouse to this moor so it was good to be able to prove that at least one is about.

red grouse

To be fair we did see another one as well.

If Mrs Tootlepedal’s retirement is going to consist of pub lunches and forty mile cycle rides in the sunshine, I am going to enjoy it a great deal.

I did manage to find time to catch a flying bird of the day in the evening sun.

flying chaffinch






Talking legs

Today’s guest picture is another lovely canal shot from Amsterdam.  This is one of my sister Mary’s views.


After the excitement and sunshine of the past couple of days, today was relatively dull in more than one way.  It was cold and grey and windy.  Nevertheless I was thinking of a cycle ride but before I could set out, I got into a conversation with my legs and was quite easily persuaded by them that a day of rest might be a good idea.   The strong wind outside had a hand in this decision too.  If your legs start talking to you, it is often a good idea to listen to them.

Mrs Tootlepedal is made of sterner stuff than me and went off by bike to visit an indisposed choir member to pick up some overdue library scores from her.  As this involved a journey of 16 miles, the first eight straight into the teeth of a very strong wind, I can only take off my hat and bow graciously in admiration in her direction.

In her absence, I entertained Dropscone to coffee.  He had brought the scones twenty miles in his back pack by bicycle for the occasion.  He is cycling well at the moment and as a result of buying a superior bike computer that records his pedalling cadence, he has upped his stroke rate considerably and is whizzing along.

After he left, I was visited by a choir member who has taken on a solo at our concert.  This is his first solo effort and he came for some additional practice with my computer as accompanist.   He is growing in confidence and I am sure that he will do himself proud.

I didn’t get the camera out until Mrs Tootlepedal had returned safely from her journey with the missing library books and even then, the poor light made things difficult.  The birds were eating as though there would be no tomorrow…

busy feeder

…and it was hard to find a solo bird in the mêlée.


I gave up the unequal task and went to put a week of the newspaper index into the database for the Archive Group.  We have had another contact this week from someone looking for her antecedents who had found the database of great use and this encourages us to keep up our work.

I had collected out car from the garage in the morning and so it seemed like a good idea to give it a test run and we took the opportunity to do a little shopping in Hawick, a neighbouring town.

When we got back, the day had brightened up a bit and the birds had quietened down a bit too.



I took a stroll round the garden but the really brisk wind made the flowers hard to catch in a still moment.  I got a few.


A rather battered looking wallflower

drumstick primula

A drumstick primula nearly fully out.


And my favourite tulip thinking about coming out.

The birds weren’t entirely relaxed…

siskin stamping

…but this frog was keeping very calm among the pond weed.


Nearby, a pond skater stopped its restless movement for a second or two.

pond skater

After a nutritious evening meal of haddock, I went off to the Archive Centre with Sandy (Jean was not well and stayed at home)  where we put in another week and a half of the newspaper index.  We rewarded ourselves with a glass of wine at the Eskdale Hotel.  The chief charm of the Eskdale is that there is a small room with comfortable chairs and no television or ambient music playing.  It is most relaxing.

When I got home, I joined Mrs Tootlepedal in watching a potentially interesting programme on soil but it was spoiled by the fact that the presenter emphasised..every….single…word…that…he…said….and the producer obviously had a very short attention span and thought that we all had too.

The weather is due to get back to sunshine tomorrow so a bike ride beckons, legs permitting.

There was no satisfactory flying bird today so this fuzzy redpoll will have to do.


As an afterthought, I find that I meant to put this bee in our garden into yesterday’s post but forgot so here it is today instead.



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