Taking it easy

Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s visit to Chester last month.  Chester is a very photogenic town.


Our spell of dry weather continued today, although it was generally rather grey.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent almost all day helping with some archaeological work at the Roman fort at Broomholm, a couple of miles out of the town.  A visiting expert is doing a methodical survey of the site and this requires a grid of cords to be laid on the grass for him to follow to ensure that his machine is covering the whole site and not leaving any gaps.  A team of volunteers rushes about moving the grids as he moves along and it is hard work for them.

I am still not quite at my peak so I was happy to leave her to this and so I stayed at home and  enjoyed some treacle scones which Dropscone brought round to go with a cup or two of coffee.

After he left, I had a walk round the garden.  The sedum has come out but too late to attract any butterflies this year and the nerines are going over and producing berries.

sedum and nerine

The dahlias continue to flourish as we have still not had any cold nights.


And I am able to find fresh raspberries to eat every day from our autumn fruiting bushes.  They are not covered and the birds are happy to leave plenty for me to eat.  They have got a very good flavour this year.

Apart from the white clematis on the fence which is really strong, there are two other clematis in bloom but they are not very spectacular.


I went back inside and spent some peaceful time watching the birds in general and in particular trying to catch a coal tit in flight with variable success.

coal tit in flight

They are extremely nippy little birds.

The sunflower hearts have attracted a lot of customers and I counted ten goldfinches at one time.


Blue, coal and great tits are constantly visiting and it hard to say whether it is a few birds coming often or larger numbers coming now and again.  I have seen four blue tits at once and three coal tits but only one or two great tits at the same time.

blue tits

coal tit

I didn’t catch a great tit in action today.

I was delighted to see two or three greenfinches visiting.

greenfinch and goldfinch

Coal tit and greenfinch close in on a goldfinch

greenfinch and goldfinch

And a goldfinch closes in on a greenfinch

I stopped watching the birds and put on some leek and potato soup to cook for my lunch and then took another turn round the garden.

bee on nasturtium

I was happy to see that we still have some bees about

The soup came out well and fortified by a bowl of it with some bread and cheese, I went off for a short pedal around my now customary Canonbie route.

I was delighted to feel a bit of sunshine on my face shortly after I had got going and then almost instantly dismayed to feel drops of rain.  However both the sun and rain soon disappeared and I was left pedalling along in very light winds under a grey sky.

I really like this tree at the Bloch Farm which is a riot of golden colour….

Bloch tree

…but why only part of the tree has changed colour is a mystery to me.

As I was deliberately not pedalling very fast, my mind began to wander onto the current political situation here and in the United States and the responsibility of the print, broadcast and on-line media for a lot of the mess that we are in and this made me so cross that I found by the time that I had got to Canonbie, almost without realising it, that I was making quite good time.

This wasn’t the plan so I stopped to relax and enjoy the view up river at Byreburnfoot from a grassy bank…

Esk at Byreburnfoot

…and when I looked down, I saw that the grass was well sprinkled with fungus.

fungus at Byreburnfoot

Mrs Tootlepedal’s view that the 20/21 October might be peak autumn colour time seems to be pretty well founded, although there is still quite a lot of green about as well as good colour. I stopped again to see what the view of Irvine House looked like today.

Irvine house

Another day or two or even more perhaps before this scene will be at its best.

I cycled into the town and made a final stop to admire the little burst of riverside colour at the Town Bridge.

Langholm Bridge in autumn

I had time to have a shower and get changed before Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her hard day’s work and then I cooked a smoked sausage risotto and two baked apples for our tea as I thought that she needed a good rest and some looking after.

During the day, while I was  looking out of the ktichen window, I saw blackbirds, dunnocks, sparrows, jackdaws. a collared dove, greenfinches, goldfinches, blue tits, great tits, coal tits and a wren (which posed for two seconds and flitted off as soon as I made a move for my camera).    On top of these there were also some chaffinches…


…but nothing like the number I would expect.  They are usually by far the most numerous bird in our garden and I am beginning to wonder if they have had a bad year.  It may be that there is still plenty of food for them out in the country but I can’t say that I have passed many large flocks of them as I have been cycling around lately.

I checked the RSPB garden bird watch results for Scotland and chaffinches came second this year so there doesn’t seem to be a crisis and we shall see what happens when the weather gets colder.

Meanwhile the flower of the day is a vibrant dahlia (with friend)…

dahlia and bee

…and in spite of everything, the flying bird of the day is one of our few chaffinches.

flying chaffinch






Today’s guest picture was sent to my by my friend and ex-colleague Marjorie who is on holiday in Yorkshire.  It shows a memorial on Lissett  Airfield to the dead of 581 squadron who were based at the airfield there.  You can see the names of the dead inscribed on the sculpture.  I was bowled over by this work.


I read in the papers that this October is likely to be one of the driest on record and I can quite believe it.  We had another dry day today and although it was not a very sunny day, the light winds made it pleasant to be out.

I was feeling a bit better today than yesterday but I still took things easily and spent a very quiet morning doing nothing more energetic than cycling up into the town to order more supplies of coffee and visit Sandy who was manning the information hub in the Market Place.

And I watched the birds.

Since I have added some sunflower hearts to the feeder, we have had an increased number of bird visitors and today the feeders were kept busy.

coal tit, great tit and blue tit

We had steady stream of tits – coal, great and blue – all day.

The number of tits visiting is very heartening as there were hardly any to be seen earlier in the year and there were fears that the bad spring might have caused a big drop in numbers.

The goldfinches seem to have been moulting as they are looking rather scruffy.


They are also just as ready to bicker among themselves as the sparrows are.


But they will share the feeder.

goldfinch and coal tit

Goldfinch and coal tit

Goldfinch and great tit

Goldfinch and great tit

After lunch (sardine pate – but the fish diet doesn’t seem to be improving my brain at all), Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and I got the fairly speedy bike out and went for a very slow pedal.

I was pleased to see that the business of connecting the Ewe Hill wind farm to the grid is getting near completion…

Ewe hill windfarm

Only about a mile or so to go.

…as the turbines have been turning for some weeks without doing anything useful so far.

There was plenty of colour on my route as the hedges are beginning to turn and there was a gorse bush in full bloom near Gair.

hedge and gorse

Thanks to my slow progress, I was feeling quite cheerful and added a mile or two to my customary twenty.  I rode down to Gretna and crossed the border into England over this mighty bridge.

Border bridge

…and then almost immediately turned left and headed back towards Scotland.  I had picked on this route in the hope of seeing some of the barnacle geese that come to our part of the world in the winter months.

As I pedalled up the road back to Scotland, I could hear faint honking that sounded as though it might be geese but I couldn’t see anything.  Finally the honking became loud enough to make me stop and look around and I could just see what might be geese settled in a distant field. I was disappointed as I had hoped for a better view and was about to pedal on when it became apparent that the honking was now in stereo.

I turned round and saw a large skein of geese flying from the west….

barnacle geese

… and as they got closer, the geese in the field flew up to join them with shouts of welcome…

barnacle geese

…and then the whole lot settled back down in the field.

barnacle geese

I wished that I had been able to get nearer to them but as I stood and watched, two more skeins flew over…

barnacle geese

…so I had no shortage of geese to watch.

Pleased with my route choice, I cycled the rest of the way home in a very good mood.

There was more colour on the way….

Milltown of Sark, back in Scotland again

Milltown of Sark, back in Scotland again

…and although my ride had been mostly cloudy, Whita was bathed in sunshine against a grey sky behind as I got near the town.


I managed 33 miles but what with stopping to take pictures of hedges and watching the geese for some time, the ride took me most of the afternoon and there was little time for anything else before I had to make my tea and get ready to go our with Susan to play with our recorder group in Carlisle.

There were four of us this week and Roy produced an excellent variety of music and we finished with a trio sonata by Telemann for treble and tenor recorder with a bass recorder and (electronic) harpsichord accompaniment.  This was a very good way to round the evening off.

My flower of the day is a composite of late October garden colour….

garden colour October

…and the flying bird is a shy goldfinch, hiding behind the feeder.


Plans B, C, D and E

Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s visit to Chester and shows the fine road bridge into the town.

Chester bridge

The forecast was for a fine day and I had a simple plan which involved getting up smartly and going for a good long cycle run.  Unfortunately this excellent plan did not work out.  There was nothing wrong either with the weather or my bicycle but I had one of those rare days when the prospect of a few hours in the saddle just seemed too daunting to contemplate.

Luckily, there was plenty to do instead.

The first thing was to take Mrs Tootlepedal and her bicycle up to the Roman fort at Broomholm where she was helping with a new archaeological survey of the site which is  bigger than previously thought.  The bike was to enable her to come back to the town at lunchtime, when she was due to be a volunteer at the Buccleuch Centre coffee bar.

Having dropped her off, I drove slowly home, stopping for photo opportunities on the way.

It was a beautiful sunny morning and I took two views from the hill above the river.  The first was looking downstream…

River Esk at Broomholm

…and the second, looking across the valley.  I may have put this one through a filter.

River Esk at Broomholm

When I got down to the town, I went on to the Castleholm where the Lodge Walks were looking inviting…

Lodge walks

…and there were plenty of fungi to be seen…


…and the views across the playing field were inviting.


Mrs Tootlepedal reckons that October 20th is the best day for photographing Autumn but as the sun was shining and it may not be out tomorrow, I was happy to settle for the `19th instead.

The next part of the alternative plan was coffee with Dropscone.  On this occasion there were no scones but he had been able to buy some tasty cakes on his way back from a golf meeting in the borders so we enjoyed those instead.

While we were chatting, nibbling and sipping, I was pleased to see a goldfinch arrive.  I had put some sunflower hearts out earlier and it took the goldfinch exactly half an hour to notice them.

great tit and goldfinch

The great tit preferred the fat balls.

After Dropscone went on his way, I got the ladder out and set about clipping the hydrangea back so it won’t upset our guttering.


It has to be trimmed every year or it would smother the house.

Mrs Tootlepedal came and went and I moved onto the next small task which was to spike and sand a little bit of the front lawn.  My first effort a few days ago, when I did quite a lot at once, had left me with a sore hip so I wisely did a smaller section today.

I walked round the garden before lunch.

There were whites….

sun lit flowers

…and there was colour.

bee on poppy

There was moire colour at lunchtime when I had a plate of brown soup.  It didn’t look very appetising but it tasted very good.

After lunch, I sieved some compost and picked some of the Charles Ross apples.  They are very big and some of them will no doubt appear on the dinner table as baked apples later in the week.

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from the Buccleuch centre and cycled back up to Broomholm for more archaeological work.    I did think of a twenty mile bike ride but in spite of the good weather, I still couldn’t face it so I took a picture of a nasturtium…


…and then went for a two mile ride on my slow bike instead.  I rode through the park and along the Beechy Plains…

Beechy Plains

…down to the Skippers Bridge where I saw two anglers patiently waiting for a bite.

Skippers Bridge with anglers

Then I pedalled back up the other side of the river, stopping first to admire a wonderful patch of Michaelmas daisies by the river…

Michaelmas daisies

…and then again when I saw a goosander….


…until finally I came to the Kilngreen.  There I enjoyed watching some argumentative gulls flying this way and that…

black headed gulls

…and chasing each other off the fence posts along the bank.

black headed gulls

There was a curiously coloured duck in the river.

curious duck

I have heard suggestions that there has been interbreeding between the wild ducks on the river and some domestic ducks and looking at this bird lends some credibility to that idea.

Then I went home and enjoyed some tea and toast….and a little cute bird watching.

dunnock and robin

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and we had our evening meal and while she watched the Great British Bake Off, I went to a choir practice with Langholm Sings.  We had a rather small attendance at the choir but a very good practice and it rounded off a day that might have been disappointing if I hadn’t been able to fill it with a number of small but enjoyable activities instead of the planned cycle ride.

The flower of the day is a poppy.


…and the flying bird is a black headed gull rising above the petty squabbles of the others.

black headed gull

Plus ça change

Today’s guest picture comes from a visit to the city of Chester which my brother Andrew made last month.  It shows the choir in Chester Cathedral where he enjoyed a sung evensong.

The choir at Chester cathedral

We had another up and down meteorological day here today.  It started very well with not only bright sunshine when I got up but also a bright moon on the other side of the sky.

moon in daytime

I dithered about a bit, looking at a rather pessimistic weather forecast before deciding that it was so sunny that it couldn’t possibly be going to rain and getting my cycling gear on.  By the time that I had got downstairs, the sun had gone and grey and ominous clouds had drifted over the town.

I went upstairs and changed back out of my cycling gear.

This proved to be a sound move as it wasn’t long before the rain was tumbling down out of the sky.  The sparrows found it fun, though you may not think so from this picture…

soggy sparrow

…but it was fun.

soggy sparrow

Things brightened up though and soon sparrows had their eyes on higher matters.


It was generally too soggy to be splashing about in the garden so I made some bread and some very brown soup for lunch (brown lentils, the remains of some stew etc) and did the crossword.

The brighter weather brought some rare but welcome visitors to the garden.


A goldfinch weighing up the scene

great tit

A great tit considering the options

And one unique visitor.

grey wagtail

I have never seen a grey wagtail in our garden before

Unfortunately, the sparrows didn’t take to the wagtail at all and chased it unceremoniously out of the garden.  This was a pity as they are very attractive birds.

The sparrows seemed quite smug about it all.


After lunch, the sun looked well settled in so once again I got into my cycling gear….

…and this time, I did get out on my bike.  The weather stayed good…

View from the Bloch

…the route was lined with various attractions…

Bloch tree

…the roads dried out as I went round and the wind stayed light so it was a treat to be pedalling along my usual 20 mile route.

The only downsides were the temperature, which remained in single figures so I had to be  well wrapped up, and the need for overshoes for the first time since last winter  because of the many puddles when I started off.

The sparrows had enjoyed the puddles though.

soggy sparrows

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy tidying up the greenhouse while I was out and it looked very neat when I got back. We took a stroll round the garden and enjoyed the colour.

dahlias and virginia creeper

It was such a nice day that I decided not to sit around after my pedal so I rang  up Sandy and suggested a short walk.  He agreed and we went off to follow up a tip from Dropscone.  He had said that if we went up to the golf course we might find a fungus or two.

He was not wrong.

Fly agaric

Except that there were more than two.

Fly agaric

They came in all shapes and colours.

Fly agaric

And sizes.

Fly agaric

They are Amanita muscaria or fly agaric toadstools and our only disappointment was that we didn’t see an elf sitting on or under one.

They flourish under a small stand of conifer trees between the fifth and sixth fairways every year so they must like the conditions there.

We took the opportunity to walk round the course on our way up and back. The views from the course are excellent and offer some consolation when you are playing poor golf.

Esk valley

Seventh green

The two birds that you can see on the seventh green are partridges.  Dropscone tells me rather sadly that the safest place for them, when he is playing like he is at the moment, is in the middle of the green as he will never hit them there.

I could see the poplars on the river bank down below.


It is a pity that the trees in the gap had to be felled because of disease as they made a fine sight when they were all there in line.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off with a friend to the cinema night at the Buccleuch Centre  to watch Bridge of Spies and I settled down to do a little light resting.

There is no flower of the day today but here is novelty from the garden instead.  Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a walnut lying on the ground while we were walking round in the afternoon and when she cracked it open, it was perfect.  It may well be the best walnut of the year, not just because of the quality….


…but mostly because it might well be the only walnut of the year.  We haven’t seen any on the tree (though they can be hard to spot).

The flying bird of the day is that grey wagtail making itself scarce under pressure from the sparrows.

grey wagtail

Today’s guest picture is a second look at the Chew Valley Lake by Venetia.  It shows the surface of the water dotted with what she thinks is a vast quantity of coots.

Chew Valley Lake

We had one of those days today which are politely described as “changeable” but which might more honestly be described as utterly miserable.

To be totally fair, there was a sunny hour in the morning but as I was stuck in the Information Hub not giving information out, the sunshine was wasted on me.  I had passed a colourful gutter on my way to the town centre….

leaves near church

…and enjoyed the poplars in the park as I crossed the suspension bridge…


…but by the time that I came home, the leaves had been swept up by the street cleaner and the rain had started again.

Two hours in the new information palace is a good deal better than two hours in the old hub.  It is warm and comfortable and as you can see the Market Place through the window, there is always something to watch in a quiet moment.

Welcome to Langholm

Sandy came round with a cup of coffee which helped the time pass painlessly.

I took a quick look at the garden before I went in.

viola and clematis

Viola and clematis thriving in spite of a heavy night of rain.

Azalea and hosta

Azalea and hosta showing that it is autumn though

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal headed off for a visit to the council dump and I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and then considered a walk.  I had to go back up to the town to pay a bill so I texted Sandy to see if he would like an outing but he declined the opportunity.

He must have felt quite pleased about this decision as it started to rain as soon as I set out…


It was grand weather for ducks.

….but I stuck to my task and the rain relented after a while and I had a damp but pleasant stroll round the Castleholm and the Pheasant Hatchery.

In spite of the gloom, I snapped away as I went along.

Lodge walks

The Lodge Walks

The felled trees showed why they had had to be dealt with.


More hole than tree in this conifer


A fungus on the felled trunk


A fungus on one of the felled beech tree stumps

In spite of the low clouds, there was no shortage of sights to catch the eye.


A view across the Castleholm


And another

Pheasants at the pheasant hatchery

Pheasants at the pheasant hatchery

Path past pheasant hatchery

The path past the pheasant hatchery

autumn leaves

Leaves beside the path.

View from Duchess Bridge

The view upstream from the Duchess Bridge

The river had risen a lot after some heavy rain.

I looked over the manse wall as I  got near home and enjoyed the sight of one of the minister’s more decorative friends.

minister's chicken

Mrs Tootlepedal had got back by the time that I returned and had even had time to make some delicious scones.  As it started to rain heavily again almost as soon as I got in, I was doubly pleased to be in the kitchen in these circumstances.

My flute pupil Luke came and we enjoyed some duets and then it was time for a quick tea.  Mrs Tootlepedal went out to the Buccleuch Centre to see a ‘live’ presentation of Cosi Fan Tutti from the Royal Opera House and I waited for Sandy to pick me up to go to a Camera Club meeting.

The fact that the rain was coming down in buckets by this time might have accounted for a modest turnout at our meeting but if we were short on quantity, we weren’t lacking in quality at all and had a very good set of pictures to enjoy.  As this was followed by tea, coffee and biscuits laced with good conversation, it was felt to be a worthwhile evening.

The flower of the day is a striking poppy….


…and the flying birds are a flock of the pheasants who would be well advised to learn not to fly up like that as people approach.

flying pheasants

Contained admiration

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia and shows the Chew Valley Lake, a large reservoir in north Somerset. She had an unexpected hour to fill in her schedule and found a good place to spend it.

Chew Valley Lake

Our Scandinavian high seems to have finally slipped away and we had a chilly, grey and sometimes very wet morning.  I found nothing useful or interesting to do with it.  There weren’t even many birds who thought that it was worthwhile visiting the feeder.


A lonely sparrow

After an early lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I set off in the car to visit our friend Sue who had invited us to the official opening of her garden container.  It has required a great deal of very hard work and ingenuity on Sue’s part to acquire the many bits needed to change a shipping container into a garden room that anyone would be pleased to sit in but she has done it…with the help of family and friends (and a good contractor from Langholm).

The container

Sue, Mrs Tootlepedal and Sue’s son Oliver pose for the offical picture.

We were the first to arrive as we had to leave early to get to our choir but there was soon a merry gathering enjoying the very tasty eats and drinks provided and marvelling at the transformation of a metal box into a most relaxing space.

We were sorry to go but with a concert coming, I couldn’t miss a choir practice.

The weather had changed completely from the wet and windy morning and I was able to take a picture of Talkin Tarn which we passed on our way to the party….

Talkin Tarn

The bad weather can be seen receding in the background.

…and a very colourful tree just outside the church where we meet to sing.

colourful tree at Trinity

For some reason neither our regular conductor nor our regular accompanist was available today but the stand-ins were more than up to the job and with the choir on its best behaviour, we had a very good session.

It was too gloomy in the morning for happy snaps and it was too dark for any photographs by the time that we got home so there are no flowers and no flying birds today but as we all agree that you can have too much of a good thing, perhaps it is all for the best.


A pleasant surprise

Today’s guest picture is a reminder from my sister Mary of sunny days in the South of France, captured when we visited Aix-en-Provence not so long ago.

Aix-en-Provence -Cafe where Cezanne and Zola used to meet - called Les Deux Garcons

Today had two good things about it  and one of them was surprising considering that the forecast had been for rain showers all day when I last looked at it.

The first good thing was the arrival of Dropscone for coffee on a Saturday bringing with him the traditional Friday treacle scones. Freshly cooked too.  While we ate and drank, the rain poured down outside but when it came to be time for Dropscone to leave, the rain had stopped.  It still looked pretty gloomy but I ventured out into the garden after a while.

Of course as soon as I said in yesterday’s post that the blackbirds had gone, they came back today…


…and I saw a goldfinch while we were having coffee too.  When I looked over the back fence, I could see that the blackbirds had been busy eating the rowan berries on the other side of the dam which was probably why I hadn’t been seeing them in the garden.

As soon as I got my camera out though, they all flew off leaving a starling to take the rap.

starling with rowan berry

I enjoyed watching some sparrows bathing in the dam while I waited for the blackbirds to come back…

sparrows bathing in dam

…but the blackbirds were camera shy so I gave up and went in and had lunch.

I took a couple of pictures on my way in.


A single snowberry


A lot of marigolds (and some nicotiana and nasturtiums)

While I was preparing lunch, I was entertained by a pair of blue tits on the feeder.

Blue tits

The second good thing about the day was that when I checked the forecast again, it said that it would be dry, possibly sunny later and almost windless in the afternoon.  It was a bit hard to believe after the poor forecast yesterday and the morning rain shower but I put on my cycling gear and ventured tentatively out, ready to turn for  home at a moment’s notice.

It was windless so I pedalled on and although it was grey and autumnal…

Sprinkell road

The road near Sprinkell

…it was good cycling weather.

I stopped for a bridge near Eaglesfield….

Eaglesfield bridge

…with the merest hint of blue sky off to my right.  By the time that I had got to Gretna, the blue sky had become a fixture and the bridge over the Sark was glowing in the sunshine.

Sark Bridge, Gretna

I leant my bike against the parapet and enjoyed a banana while viewing Gretna’s answer to the Rio Grande.


Scotland to the left and England to the right.

I had started out with twenty miles in mind and as I had done twenty five by this time, I headed straight up the main roads back to Langholm with the gentlest of breezes helping me on my way.  It had become a perfect day for a pedal in every way.

I made a little deviation off the A7 to visit Hollows Bridge…

Hollows Bridge

…and see my favourite fiery tree…

fiery tree Hollows

…before stopping off to admire  Hollows Tower.

Hollows Tower

Mrs Tootlepedal was at home by this time after a full day learning about Japanese quilting at an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting so I stopped pootering about and put my head down for the last few miles home.

It was lucky that I did have my head down as I noticed something unusual in the verge as I passed the Middleholms road end.


I stopped and looked around.

Ink Cap

It was a bunch of common ink cap mushrooms at various stages of development

I took the opportunity, since I had already stopped, to cross the road and look across the Esk to where I had lately been taking pictures from the other side.


I managed the distance neatly so that I arrived home bang on 40 miles.  This was very pleasing for a decimally inclined chap like myself.  Then I enjoyed a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal.  We both felt that we had had a good day out.

There was enough light left to watch a coal tit on the feeder….

coal tit

…before I went off to have a shower.

I had put a beef and vegetable stew into the slow cooker in the morning so all that was needed for the complete evening meal was some courgette fritters and Mrs Tootlepedal came up trumps on that front.

Being Saturday, we settled down to enjoy our weekly dose of Strictly Come dancing as we ate our meal and we hope that this week, the worst dancer will get eliminated, something which often doesn’t happen owing to a misplaced sense of irony in the voting audience.

My flower of the day is the Fuschia on the back wall by the dam which I noticed while I was stalking berry eating blackbirds….


…and the flying bird is a berry eating blackbird which flew off before I could photograph it.

flying blackbird