Over excited

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan. She found these lovely lilies in a supermarket cafe where she was taking a well earned break.

We had a very wet morning indeed here, with steady heavy rain making for a gloomy atmosphere outside. Luckily Dropscone came in at coffee time bringing scones with him, and with the aid of some home made strawberry jam we made the best of a bad day.

Mrs Tootlepedal had gone off under a big umbrella to have her coffee with a set of her ex work colleagues, so when he left, I was on my own. I decided to make some ‘squashed fly ‘ biscuits and found a recipe online and had a go. The results were good enough to make me have another go soon to try to improve on my first effort.

It was still raining after lunch when Mrs Tootlepedal went off under her big umbrella again, this time to go to her stitching group. I found some useful things to do indoors and I was just about to start on some Archive Group work when I looked up to see that the sun was shining.

This was a pleasant surprise, and as I hadn’t taken a single picture in the rain, I picked up my little Lumix and popped out for a short walk, intending to take a photo or two of the rivers for this post. Intoxicated by the unexpected good weather, I got completely carried away and came back after three and half miles with 97 pictures on the camera card.

With a family Zoom to come and with the usual Friday evening visit of Mike and Alison for conversation and music, I was left with little time to sift through the pictures. The rather rushed results of the sifting can be seen here.

As I left the garden, a drooping dahlia summed up the day so far.

There was a fair amount of water coming down the Esk, moving the big tree stump and floating a substantial tree branch along.

Some people stare at the stars and some people look in the gutter.

Of the three rivers that meet in the town, the Ewes water was by far the most animated this afternoon . . .

. . . and it was coming down with such force that it was holding the bigger Esk back.

It was a very odd sight.

On the Kilngreen, three ducks were considering whether it was indeed a good day for ducks as a passer by had suggested to me.

My sister Mary points out that at least I have got all my ducks in a row for once.

An old friend was keeping well out of the way of the rushing torrent.

I crossed the Sawmill Brig . . .

. . . and went up the Lodge Walks, enjoying the sunshine and the views. (To make up the six panel below, I have thrown in a picture of the Wauchope as it joined the Esk, seen at the start of my walk.)

There were some clouds over Warbla, but the grey rain clouds were disappearing overhead, and it stayed fine as I went along . . .

. . . round the pheasant hatchery and up to the North Lodge. (I have got the views mixed up as far as the right order goes.)

I had my wellies on and I needed them, although the tracks and paths were not too soggy. I enjoyed the view up the valley . . .

. . . and I would have liked to go up the Longfauld track but there are still forestry works going on there so I turned back and took the path along the top of the wood above the Lodge Walks.

I saw another of the plants I have noticed lately and I have worked out that it is a white dead nettle. There are a few red campions about still too.

After the wet morning, Langholm looked very peaceful in the late afternoon sunshine . . .

. . . but my walk was quite noisy as it was accompanied by the constant sound of running water. Streams that had been dormant all summer had sprung to life again.

I came home by way of the Jubilee Bridge . . .

. . . and walked down to the Meeting of the Waters again to marvel at the contrast between the peaceful scene of the Esk being held back by the Ewes and the tumult of the river going under the bridge a few yards further along.

I ended my walk as I had started it by walking on to the park bridge and looking at the Wauchope Water flowing freely.

A sunny dahlia greeted me as I got back to the garden.

Playing duets in the evening with Alison rounded off a day that had ended a great deal better than looked likely when it started, though any day with freshly made scones and strawberry jam is quite a good day.

I didn’t have a chance to catch a flying bird so a dunnock watching the river is standing in.

Footnote: I know some people don’t like clicking on things in a post so I have put two very short videos of the river here, out of the way at the end.

A pedal and a tootle

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo, my Manitoba correspondent. She has crossed the Atlantic and is visiting London where she found this interestingly repaired door in Highgate Cemetery.

We had another dry day here, with quite a bit of sunshine to take the chill off a cool morning. We started the day by cycling up to Broomholmshiels to join the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve volunteers. A local sheep welcomed us.

Our task today was to collect acorns for planting in the tree nursery. It was no hardship at all to be among the oak trees.

. . . and although there was not a great crop of acorns, we found enough to be going on with. Mrs Tootlepedal also spotted some fungi in the area of the woods where she was acorn hunting so we all went to have a look. We spotted other fungus on the way. She had noticed the earthball fungus which is on the top right of the panel below. It is poisonous.

She also spotted the great heap of fungus in the bottom left corner of the panel. I took another picture of it. It might be edible but we are not going to try it.

The oaks in this area of the wood are surrounded by birches.

We found a melange of fungi crowded together . . .

. . . at the top of this track on our way back towards Broomholmshiels.

When I had passed Skippers Bridge on the way out earlier, the river had been flat calm and there were some lovely reflections. I stopped on the way back hoping to get a classy photo, but the breeze had got up and the river was covered in ripples. It was still a pleasant place to be though.

I had a walk round the garden when we got back. I liked the back view of the dahlia, and was pleased to see a peacock butterfly.

Then it was time for lunch followed by a look at the birds.

The feeder was doing brisk business. While the chaffinch waited patiently, a sparrow and a greenfinch headed for the same vacant perch.

All the small birds got a fright when a starling flew in, and it looked round to see where they had all gone.

I had done quite a bit of stumbling over fallen branches when I was in the wood in the morning, and this had given me the answer to the question, “Will stumbling around in the undergrowth help a sore knee?” Oddly enough, the answer was, “Yes”, so I got the electric bike out again and went for a twenty mile pedal round Solwaybank Windfarm. My knee got better still as I went round. It is not 100% pain free as I write this in the evening, but it is a lot better than it was.

The weather stayed good for my bike ride, and I had some impressive cloudscapes to enjoy on my way. A long black cloud pursued me round my ride without ever blocking the sun.

It finally slipped away to the south and I finished the ride under friendlier fluffy clouds.

There was a hint of autumn about the tunnel along the road.

. . . and I saw a couple of unexpected plants on my way. I don’t know what the first one is or how the second one got to where it was.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, especially as I had thought that my knee might rule out an outing on my bike.

I had a walk round the garden when I got back. I couldn’t decide whether I liked the front view or the back view of a pair of dahlias better.

A robin was doing push-ups near the compost bins but posed for a photograph before flying off

A starling on top of the holly tree glittered in the sunshine.

After having a shower, putting a loaf of bread to cook in the bread machine and making and eating an omelette for my evening meal, I was picked up by my recorder playing friend Susan and driven off to England. Once there, we played recorder quartets with Sue and Jenny, the other members of our group. We were at Sue’s house today, and we able to enjoy the music, the major improvements which she has made to her house, and the delicious ginger biscuits which she made for us. So altogether, it was an excellent evening.

On a fairly busy day, I was happy that I managed to find a flying bird of the day.

A mystery knee

Today’s guest picture comes from a visit to The Newt by my Somerset correspondent Venetia. She found a fine display of Curcurbitae (gourds to you and me) dangling from a pergola.

We had another cool, dry day here, with quite a bit of sunshine until it started to rain in the early evening. It wasn’t much use to me as a day for an excursion though because I went to bed last night with an unexpected and unexplained sore knee, and rather annoyingly to say the least, I woke up with it feeling worse this morning. It was really painful, and limited my activities a lot. Usually, a few exercises can sort a sore knee, but this one persisted and caused quite a bit of muttered grumbling.

I found that although I couldn’t walk very easily, I could cycle as far as the corner shop and that excursion was the sum of the excitements of the morning. I noticed the sun shining through a dahlia went I went out.

It was a real waste of a day which I had earmarked for a long cycle ride.

I am a great believer in the possibility that almost all my joint pains probably come from my long standing bad back, so I resolved to to give the back a workout in the afternoon in the hope that It would help my knee.

Mrs Tootlepedal was in need of some compost, so I started off my exercises by sieving the last of the compost in Bin D of our composting system. There was enough left in the bin to fill her big red bucket with some over for the wheelbarrow too.

I took a break to look at an insect and some bumble bees . . .

. . . and then went back to look at the compost bins.

Bin D looked rather lonely with no compost in it, so I turned all the compost from Bin C into Bin D.

Then of course, Bin C looked lonely, so I looked at the compost in Bin B . . .

. . . and since it seemed to have rotted down quite well since its transfer from Bin A, I shifted it into Bin C.

A robin kept a close eye on proceedings . . .

. . . and popped into the compost every time that I stopped for a breather, which was frequently.

I found plenty of evidence that workers had been active in helping the material to compost . . .

. . . but luckily the robin didn’t catch one of them.

The compost from Bin B fitted very nicely into Bin C . . .

. . . and the astute reader will have guessed that Bin B now looked looked a little underused.

. . . but enough was enough, and Bin A will have to wait for another day until it is turned into Bin B.

The compost system has worked very well this summer, helped by the dry weather no doubt. We have taken trouble to get a good mix of green and woody material into the compost, and there are a surprising number of cardboard boxes in there too. They rot down very well.

After a break to admire the work that Mrs Tootlepedal was doing in moving plants about and organising the log store lean-to, I got out the hovermower and went over the no-mow square on the middle lawn . . .

. . . and then used it to give the front lawn a trim.

The front lawn is not in very good condition. The dry spell and the jackdaws were not kind to it this year, but considering that it was neither fed nor watered, it hasn’t done too badly.

During the day, I pottered about the garden looking at flowers in sunshine and shade from time to time . . .

. . .and I looked at clematis from both sides. I added a couple more shots . . .

. . . of them before I went in for a well earned cup of tea and a couple of slices of toast and home made bramble jelly.

Contrary to what some readers might imagine, my knee felt a lot better for the back workout. Honesty compels me to add that it is far from cured though. My back is a bit sore too but I have good exercises for that. All will be well tomorrow (I hope).

I saw a greenfinch and a goldfinch near the feeder when I looked.

I had one last look round outside before the rain came. I saw the collared dove back among the starlings on the wire.

I think that it is having an identity crisis.

The dim light was good for having another go at taking a nerine picture . . .

. . . and I couldn’t resist a final pot shot at the gentians.

A cheerful family Zoom meeting followed by the last of the slow cooked stew and some bramble and apple puree in custard rounded off a day that went much better than I had expected when I woke up. Our Epicure apples are delicious this year.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Slow going

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who had a day out in Paris today. She walked along the Seine

I had quite a full day today here without doing anything in a rush. It had got down to very near freezing overnight, so Mrs Tootlepedal was out checking the garden while I was still doing the crossword and entering more of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database. When I had finished that, I did two lots of shopping at different ends of the town, and then said good morning to Margaret who was chatting with Mrs Tootlepedal over coffee.

I had two cheese and tomato rolls for a very early lunch and then had a quick tour round the garden where there was surprisingly little evidence of the low overnight temperature. There was even a bee, some berries and a butterfly.

Then I went out for a cycle ride as my miles for the month are rather behind schedule. I took my road bike to balance up my road and electric mileage. I would have been happier on the e-bike as there was a gusty wind and my legs were very short of stuffing when it came to going into the wind or uphill.

Thanks to my early start, I still hoped to do a decent distance, but having taken an age to do the first three miles uphill and into the wind, I turned off at Wauchope Schoolhouse and went tamely round my familiar Canonbie circuit. I liked this arrangement of birds on the wires at the Bloch.

There were no interesting cows to talk to, and few if any visible wild flowers in the verges so I just kept my head down and pedalled rather slowly on until I got through Canonbie village. There I stopped for some early signs of autumn colour.

I see that some experts are predicting as good year for autumn colour in Scotland but I worry that the very dry weather will make trees go brown rather than yellow and gold. We will have to wait and see.

There was a double flash of really good colour just before I joined the main road at the end of the bike path. It has definitely been a good year for hips and berries.

After taking an unusually long time to do the twenty miles, I got home to find that Mrs Tootlepedal was hard at work in the garden. After a slice of freshly baked bread with marmalade, I joined in with some dead heading and a little lawn mowing. I looked around while I was out there.

On my way to the compost bins, I was struck once again by the deep colour of the crimson clover in Mrs Tootlepedal’s cover crop . . .

. . . and among the many bright crimson clover flowers, I spotted a solitary clover of a more subdued hue.

Back among the flower beds, there was plenty to please the eye.

We went in for a cup of tea (and in my case, another slice of bread and marmalade). I had a look at the bird feeder and saw a greenfinch tucking in to the seed.

I thought I needed a bit of a walk after my disappointingly short bicycle ride, so I went off for a three bridges stroll in the hope of seeing some interesting waterside birds.

Although it was a fine day at this point . . .

. . . interesting waterside birds were conspicuous by their absence, and I was left with only the very neatly mowed greensward of the Kilngreen to photograph.

After crossing the Sawmill Brig, I had the choice of going onto the Castleholm to take the new path . . .

. . . or going up the Lodge Walks . . .

. . . which looked inviting.

However, I could see some dark clouds looming up, so I chose going round the Castleholm to the Jubilee bridge rather than anything more extensive. I looked about as I went. There was spleenwort on a wall, what looked uncommonly like a dandelion, and uneaten and eaten cones on the Noble Fir.

At various times in my walk, I saw a spider’s web on the Jubilee Bridge. an ex dandelion, a disputatious crow in a tree, and the merest hint of a rainbow over the monument.

The rainbow suggested that it might be going to rain on me, and I thought that I was in for a good soaking when it suddenly started to rain quite hard. Then, just as suddenly, it stopped and I got home quite dry.

Here are a few more things that interested me as I went along. The black spots on the leaf turn out to be Rhytisma acerinum, a plant pathogen that commonly affects sycamores and maples in late summer and autumn, causing tar spot. It doesn’t do the trees any harm.

As I looked over the hedge and into our garden on my return, I noticed that the viburnum under the walnut tree is full of flowers.

As soon as I got into the garden, the sun came out again, and I could see a collared dove pretending to be a starling.

The forecast for tomorrow is less windy, so I might be able to get a longer ride in if my legs are prepared to co-operate.

A second helping of Mrs Tootlepedal’s slow cooked beef stew rounded the day off.

The flying bird of the day is probably a goldfinch.

Flying off the handle

Today’s guest picture is another fine bridge from my brother Andrew. He tells me that this is an 18th Century road bridge in Nottingham.

It was decidedly autumnal here today, with a chill in the air when we got up. Both Sandy and Margaret remarked on the need for warm clothing when they arrived at coffee time. Sandy has acquired a mirror for his electric bike and now he is very happy that he can see what is coming up behind him when he is out on a pedal. Although people say that it is all too easy to look back a lot when you get older, it is not at all easy when you are on a bicycle.

We were joined by our friend Nancy who brought round some research from the Archive database which she had done for an enquirer to the Archive Group. She had a cup of coffee and regaled us with an account of a recent trip to Paris arranged by her daughter. We were very envious.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal and I wrapped up warmly and cycled up to the tree nursery at Cronksbank. It is at the end of a narrow road . . .

. . . and up a very steep hill . . .

. . . which the camera flattens out in a most disappointing way. Even on the electric bikes, we have to pedal quite hard to get up it.

There was a bit of sunshine up the valley when we got to the nursery . . .

. . . and by the time that we had finished watering 50,000 or so trees, it was quite a nice day.

Watering the trees is not quite the Herculean task that you might think, as they are very small and very close together.

Mrs Tootlepedal noticed a sweet smelling viburnum beside the old farmhouse as we set off home.

We got home in time for a rather late lunch. I took a picture of the nerines before I went in.

I like the picture because it shows one of the differences between looking at things in real life and through a camera. In this case, real life wins because the eye sees only a lovely row of flowers and the camera sees a hedge and a flower bed with a tiny sprinkling of flowers on spindly stalks in the middle.

After lunch, I had a quick look at the birds and saw sparrows coming . . .

. . . and going.

Then I settled down to produce this month’s newsletter for the Langholm Initiative.

I broke off in the middle of this work to have a Zoom recorder lesson with our granddaughter Matilda. She had a learned one of her tunes off by heart and played it with great accuracy and verve. I was impressed. She is following a course in a recorder tutor and having mastered B, A and G, we went on to a new note today. To my surprise it turned out to be E and not C as I had expected. That is a change from the old recorder tutors that we used to use. Matilda is now having to learn to use both hands.

The lesson went well, Mrs Tootlepedal joined us for some chat, and then I went back to the newsletter.

I finished it and sent off a preview to be approved by the chair of the Initiative. While I was waiting for a reply, I had a walk round the garden. There was a distinct threat of rain, with some very dark clouds looming up behind a ethereally sunlit monument.

Mrs Tootlepedal was chopping up some kindling for the new kindling rack on the log store . . .

. . . but found that the head on the little hatchet was so loose that it kept coming off. She went in to soak the head and handle in water in the hope that the wooden handle would swell up and get a grip.

I wandered around and the camera caught a secret fly, which I hadn’t noticed, on a phacelia. This was a win for the camera. It has much better eyesight than me.

The leycesteria doesn’t mind the cool weather at all and is flowering freely.

The ornamental strawberries are also doing well. They are very attractive but they have creeping suckers and spread a bit more than the gardener would like.

Even though it looks like a pollen paradise, I rarely see insects on the Japanese anemone . . .

. . . so perhaps the bees know something that I don’t.

The sedum usually has a lot of visitors, but it was cold and windy enough today to have discouraged any bees from dropping in when I had a look.

The prize for the most berries per square metre goes to the Cotoneaster Horizontalis against the house wall.

The newsletter got approval and I sent it off. I hope that it has arrived safely in the inbox of any readers that are members of the Initiative.

Mrs Tootlepedal had prepared a slow cooked beef stew for our evening meal, so a sociable and productive day ended well.

The flying bird of the day is a jackdaw which flew over the garden when I was out in the late afternoon.

No time for a walk

Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie. She is currently in Devon and was very struck by just how low the water was when she visited Wimbleball Lake, a reservoir on Exmoor.

We have had a dry summer here but nothing like as dry as that.

It was dry again here today, though there is a little light rain falling in the evening as I write this post.

We had a full day so there was little time for taking any photographs, let alone for going for a walk or a cycle ride. As usual on a Sunday, we started the day by going off to sing in the church choir. We are still short of a permanent minister and there seems to be no sign of any replacement in the offing. In the meantime, the worship team does a valiant job of providing services for us.

I had time for a look at the birds before we left for church. It was a day for sparrows. I hadn’t refilled the feeder yet . . .

. . . so there was pressure on the perches.

A goldfinch checked to see if there was any fallen seed below rather than compete for a place.

When we got home from church, it was time for coffee. Before I went in, I took a very short walk round the garden in the sunshine. A busy bee was at work on an Icelandic poppy . . .

. . . and the Lemon Queen was busy too.

I took a picture of a glowing geranium . . .

. . . without noticing that it had two flies on it. I saw them when I looked at the picture on my computer later on and thought that they deserved a space of their own.

Although we had completed and filled the log store yesterday with the help of Tony and Marianne, there was a lot of tidying up still to do today. We set to work after coffee.

We cut and chopped up so many unwanted old boards for kindling that Mrs Tootlepedal thought that the log store should have a kindling shelf added to it. As we had some chicken wire of just the right size for the job, this thought was swiftly translated into action. The kindling rack and the tidying up took us up to lunchtime.

There was no time after lunch for even a short walk, as our Carlisle choir had called for a longer practice than usual with a view to our upcoming concert in two weeks.

Before we left, I checked on the birds and found a dunnock perched on the fake tree . . .

It sat there long enough for me to take a second photograph.

The two and a half hour long choir practice stretched my voice to its limits,. It was worth it though, as we got through a power of useful work. With another extended practice next week, we should be in reasonable shape for the concert. This will be our first proper concert since the lockdowns so we are all a bit rusty still. Our new conductor has had very little time with us and is dealing with songs that we have practised with our old conductor, so she had a lot of work to do too. She remarked that it might be helpful if at least some of us could look at her while she was conducting us. This was a very novel idea.

The nights are drawing in now, so there was no time for a photographic walk when we got home.

The flying bird of the day is one of the morning sparrows.

A productive visit

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He enjoyed some perfect weather on a group walk beside the River Dove today.

We enjoyed a sunny day here too. This was a good thing, as it was the day of the Langholm Agricultural Show on the Castleholm, an event all too often plagued by equinoctial gales and rain.

Mrs Tootlepedal was up and about early, taking her marrow to the show.

I was up and about a little bit later as I went to the corner shop to buy food for lunch for visitors to the house.

We had time before they came to have a walk round the garden in the sunshine.

(The nerines were in the sunshine too, but the camera couldn’t cope with the brightness so I had to stand in front of them.)

This red admiral butterfly tucking into a dahlia caught my eye,

When I tell you that our visitors had taken this picture before they left home . . .

. . . regular readers will know at once that our son Tony and his partner Marianne had left East Wemyss to come and visit Langholm.

They arrived safely and in perfect time for a cup of coffee and an oatmeal and raisin biscuit.

Then they got a walk round the garden too.

There was a good turnout of butterflies by now and we spotted walnuts and a queue of bees too.

Above our heads, a starling and a collared dove looked around.

Mrs Tootlepedal made some lentil soup for lunch, and it went down well with a selection of cheese, ham, tomato and bacon butties.

I had put out some lunch for the birds too.

Tony and Marianne’s plan while they were here was to go to visit an old friend in the afternoon, but sadly he was overcome by illness, and they stayed with us instead.

This was their misfortune but a great treat for us. First, Tony checked that our wireless linked smoke alarms were working correctly (which they were), and then inspired by his enthusiasm, we all went out and created a new log store. This was a scheme that Mrs Tootlepedal had been mulling over for some weeks but with four people on the job, the task of clearing the old and ramshackle log store and creating the new one went far more smoothly and quickly than expected.

Marianne took a picture of some of the work in progress (you can see a glimpse of the old log store in the background) . . .

. . . and the new store was soon constructed from scrap wood and put in position . . .

. . . and all our rather eclectic collection of logs was added to it.

Cuttings too small to store are going to continue to live in a big bag.

With the work completed and everything tidied up, we went in for a well earned cup of tea. The birds were busy coming and going for their afternoon snacks.

It was a lovely afternoon, so when we had been refreshed by our tea, we decided to go for a short walk to the park and back. Just as we were leaving, Tony got a business call which gave me time to look round the garden.

A bee was visiting the astrantia.

We enjoyed the view down the Wauchope Water from the park bridge . . .

. . . walked down to the banks of the River Esk . . .

. . . walked round the far end of the park, looking back at the church . . .

. . . noted multi coloured laurel berries and some fungus on a tree stump . . .

. . . and pottered home again, quite content with a little walk on a lovely evening.

I cycled up to our local fish and chip shop and acquired four fish suppers for our evening meal, a rare treat for us.

Before the light faded, Tony and Marianne left to head back to the sunshine capital of Scotland. It had been very good to see them for the first time since we visited them there in May.

Those of you who have noticed the header picture in today’s post will have realised that when she went to collect her marrow from the show, Mrs Tootlepedal found that she had won second prize. As the marrow had largely grown without any special help from her, she was very pleased.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

A fine memorial

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Caroline. She came up from Portsmouth to meet my other two sisters on the south bank of the Thames for coffee, a catchup and a meal. She took a picture of Waterloo Bridge on her way to meet them.

We had to get up and organised quite promptly today, as Mrs Tootlepedal had a meeting on Langholm Initiative business at nine o’clock. The meeting was brief and went well, and the mist was still rising off the hill went I went through the town to collect a prescription and buy some beef.

It was definitely an autumn morning . . .

. . . which was appropriate as it is the Autumn equinox today.

I had time when I got home to have a look round the garden.

I like the late flowering tall daisies, and we are very pleased with the fuchsias which have done really well this year after several disappointing seasons.

The sunshine brought the best out of the dahlias. They have not been discouraged by wet and cold nights.

The white clematis at the front door is positively thriving.

Deserving frames all to themselves in my opinion were the late poppy . . .

. . . and the very promising Charles Ross apples.

There were no butterflies at all today, but still quite a few bees . . .

. . . and we spotted a little nest of caterpillars chewing their way through a nasturtium as we left the house on our e-bikes . . .

. . . on our way up to the bird hide in the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve.

I had been asked by Margaret, the ex-chair of the Langholm Initiative, to come and take some photographs as a family planted some trees in memory of their brother who died recently and left the Nature Reserve a generous donation in his will.

Two of his brothers and their wives had come to plant the trees . . .

. . . and they all took part.

Nine rowans and a hawthorn were planted in the hope that at least one would survive the vicissitudes of wind, weather and plant eating creatures to be a fitting memorial for Robin who had loved nature and the outdoor life with a great passion. It was a very touching occasion.

When we got home, it was time for lunch and for a look at the birds. I had filled the feeder in the early morning, and the seed level had gone down far enough to create a feverish atmosphere by this time . . .

. . . with a competition to see . . .

. . .who could shout loudest . . .

. . . and some regrettable sparrow kicking.

A robin bought a touch of serenity to the scene.

After lunch, I checked the forecast, and finding that it said that the weather was set fair, I went for a cycle ride. I took my road bike to even up my electric and pedal powered miles for the month so far.

My legs were feeling the effect of three days of walking, so I went along quite slowly and kept my head well down until I looked up at the twenty mile marker and got a surprise.

You don’t see one of those unless there is also some rain about. I looked behind and saw a shower looming up.

I looked ahead and saw a wet road and some gloomy prospects.

The trick would be to cycle fast enough to avoid being caught up by the shower behind, and slowly enough not to catch up with the rain in front. As I had stopped beside the churchyard with the Korean pines in it, I had a look at them too.

The cones don’t fall off to spread their seeds but are eaten as they stand on the branches. The church is now a private house.

I got going again, and I must have picked the right speed because I didn’t catch up with some very dark clouds ahead of me . . .

. . . and I didn’t get rained on from behind. When I looked across the fields towards Langholm, I was amused to see that Whita had its own personal cloud.

I passed over many wet sections of road, so I was extremely fortunate to get home dry. To my surprise, Mrs Tootlepedal told me that it hadn’t rained in Langholm at all while I was out. She had done some useful gardening.

My sister Caroline had got home to Portsmouth safely and was able to join us for the regular sibling Zoom in the evening. My brother had had his Covid booster today so I think that Mrs Tootlepedal and I are the last in line. We will get our jab early next month.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

An improving day

As we had a very wet and grey morning here, I am pleased to have an East Wemyss dawn as the guest picture of the day by way of a contrast. Tony was up early again.

It was so wet here in the morning that Dropscone came round in his car for coffee instead of cycling as he normally does. The treacle scones were just as good as usual though. When he left with some runner beans, I did some cooking. I made a batch of oatmeal and raisin biscuits and a pot of potato soup. The biscuits were good but the soup could only be classed as rather dull.

I had a look to see if the birds were enjoying the weather and found several candidates for the most miserable bird of the day.

One sparrow was not bothered. It was tucking in regardless.

The feeder got busier as I watched.

After lunch, I put a good number of entries into the Archive Group newspaper database, finishing one week and starting another and then, since the rain had eased off, I took a damp walk round the garden. It was so gloomy that the nicotiana thought that it was the evening and had stayed out.

The tall daisies were my favourites today.

A check on the forecast suggested that the rain might have finally passed over us by this time, so I put on my walking boots and went for a stroll. By agreement with my legs, no hills were to be involved today and I started along the river where I met two wagtails . . .

. . . several ducks . . .

. . . and my friend Mike Tinker who was also out for a walk. We chatted for a while and watched one of the wagtails and the water going under the Town Bridge.

I walked on up the main road to the High Mill Brig. There, under a watchful eye from a spyhole . . .

. . I walked up round the field to the end of the Baggra. I had company in the form of a pheasant.

It was remarkably dry underfoot in spite of the heavy overnight rain . . .

. . . and I had leisure to look around as I went along.

During this part of the walk, there were some early autumn colours to be enjoyed.

I came down on to the Castleholm where I could see the preparations for the Langholm Show which takes place this Saturday.

Sticking to low ground, I went across the Castleholm and the Jubilee Bridge, round the Scholars’ Field, where young girls were getting some football coaching, along Eskdaill Street, and then up to Pool Corner and along to the Auld Stane Brig. It was good to see some water running down the rivers and streams.

At the Auld Stane Brig, I turned and headed back towards the town along Gaskell’s Walk. Fungi in various states of health and disrepair could be found here.

Rabbits have been busy in the banking beside the new path.

At the Stubholm, I rejected the opportunity to take the quick route home and went along the Murtholm to Skippers Bridge before walking home on the other side of the river. I picked a few hazelnuts for Mrs Tootlepedal as I went along, and looked across the river just before I got to Skippers.

I found interest along the way.

I was surprised that some fungus which had looked very fresh when I saw it yesterday, had started to go over today.

I found that I had done six and a half miles by the time that I got home, further than yesterday but with only a third of the ascent.

After our evening meal, we went out to a practice for a centenary concert which the Langholm Amateur Operatic Society is presenting next spring. Rather to my dismay, the musical detector told us that not only will we will have to learn the songs by heart, but there will be movement too. This may prove to be more than I can cope with. I enjoyed the singing though.

It was an unusual experience to walk home in the dark. We have not had a night out for a long time.

There is a miscellany of flying birds today.

Fame at last.

Today’s guest picture comes from my walking friend Mark. It shows a curious old gentleman who went with him on a walk yesterday.

We were up and away promptly after breakfast when we cycled up to join the volunteers at the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve tree nursery. The last few trays of seedlings needed to be transplanted to bigger trays and added to the many thousands of trees there.

Those with sharp eyes and a familiarity with BBC Scotland TV programmes may spot a well known face in the background. The presenter Dougie Vipond, with a producer and a cameraman from the programme ‘Landward’ had come along to film a segment which should be broadcast next month. He interviewed Jenny, the estate manger . . .

. . . and then the producer and cameraman wandered about taking ‘colour’ pictures to go behind the commentary.

All three of the visitors were very pleasant, open and undemanding. We watch Landward regularly anyway but we shall watch this programme with special interest when it comes on.

The sun came out from time to time while the filming was going on and the countryside looked good.

With the camera crew departed and the final seedling tree transplanted, we made our way home for lunch.

We had a quick look round before we went indoors.

The Special Grandma rose is having a final fling . . .

. . . and although there were no butterflies about, there were still quite a few bees to be seen.

I filled the feeder, but there was not enough demand to create squabbles today and all was very peaceful.

When I was walking yesterday, I made somewhat hard work of the outing. I had felt the lack of walking miles in my legs. As it was quite windy and rather grey after lunch, I thought that perhaps it would be a good idea to get a few more walking miles in this afternoon rather than battling the breeze on a bicycle.

I set off over the river, through the town and up the Kirkwynd in the direction of the monument on top of Whita Hill.

As you might expect with only two days to go until the autumn equinox, there are no great patches of wild flowers left but there were still plenty to see if you stopped and looked.

So I stopped and looked.

And as I came on to the open hill, there was lichen on a wall and fungus among the grass.

There were also a few spots of rain and I could see a light shower drifting across the town and up the Ewes valley. Luckily for me, the wind kept the rain away from me and I got to the monument without getting wet.

In spite of the grey skies, there was even a moment of sunshine as I walked along to the end of the ridge and looked over the Solway plain.

Turning to my right, I followed a mountain bike track down the hill until I got to the new timber extraction track which goes down to the wood where we were pulling out unwanted rhododendrons last Saturday.

Work will soon be done to narrow the track to walking width but at present it gave me a broad and easy route to walk down the steep hill, with an excellent view on the way.

There were wild flowers here too, the last of the bell heather and many of the widespread little yellow tormentils.

I didn’t go straight back to the town along the Hallpath when I got to the felled wood, but doubled back to the Round House . . .

. . . took the track down to the old railway through the oak wood . . .

. . . and came down to Skippers Bridge. I looked up the river from the bridge . . .

. . . and then took the riverside path to the suspension bridge, passing invasive Himalayan balsam in profusion and a fine outburst of fungus behind the Co-op.

Oddly enough, my legs felt a great deal better today after yesterday’s exercise and they coped with five miles and 100ft of ascent without any complaints.

Mrs Tootlepedal is amazed at how heavily our runner beans are now cropping after a summer when they produced no beans at all. We had beans with our evening meal.

The regular Zoom with my brother and sisters finished the day off. It looks as though it might be quite a wet day tomorrow so I should be able to catch up with the Archive Group work that I have missed.

I had two rather unsatisfactory candidates for the flying bird of the day. I couldn’t chose between them so I have put them both in.