A quiet day

Today’s guest pictures come from our sons. Tony produced the sweet corn and Alistair was responsible for the carrot. It is good to see them taking after their mother.

We had a slightly circumscribed day today as Mrs Tootlepedal wasn’t quite at her peak and needed a visit to the doctor and a day in bed to recuperate. As a result nothing much happened in the morning.

I had coffee by myself inside and checked on the birds.

Sometimes my efforts to catch a flying bird are not as successful as I would like.

I settled for a calm siskin.

Not all siskins were lucky enough to have such a peaceful time on the feeder.

After coffee and bird watching, I found time to mow the front lawn and check on the flowers after another cold night.

It was cold and windy but occasional sunny spells made the day tolerable, even though the brisk breeze made taking flower pictures a hit or miss affair.

Dahlias and roses have been surprisingly unaffected by the cold nights…

The pale leaves of the tropaeolum on one side of the yew bush make it look as though their season is over, but on the other side of the bush, a different story is told.

The tall aster has more flowers to come and some old daisies, long over, have produced new flowers and even attracted insects too.

I liked the contrast between two clematis, one big petals and small heart and the other all heart and hardly any petal.

These are probably the smallest flowers in the garden at the moment…

A red admiral butterfly on a fading buddleia flower came as a bonus on such a windy day…

…and I saw another couple visiting other flowers as well. I have seen them in October in several previous years, so maybe we haven’t seen the last one this year yet.

After a look at a selection of flowers and friends at the end of the drive…

I headed in for some reheated lentil soup for lunch.

While Mrs Tootlepedal took an afternoon nap, I went out for a 20 mile bicycle ride round the undemanding Canonbie circuit.

I had an opportunity to catch a dunnock at rest before I left.

My back is still giving me occasional twinges, so I was slightly worried that the brisk wind might prove to much for me. Fortunately it was in the right direction to blow me vigorously across the hill and down to the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass at a gratifying speed.

I stopped on the way to note that my favourite tree seems to have lost all its leaves already. It was affected by the late frost so that perhaps explains the early loss of foliage.

While I was stopped for the tree, I looked behind me and saw….

…a sign that my ride might not be entirely rain free.

I pedalled on, hoping to miss any small showers.

Among a herd of cattle grazing in a grassy field, a flock of interlopers caught my eye.

…and I caught their eye, and they rose up in protest.

Having been whizzed down the hill by the wind, I was expecting hard toil and tears on the way home, but the wind eased off slightly, I was often sheltered by banks and hedges, my legs were in a helpful mood, and all in all, the journey home was not too bad at all.

I was very entertained by coming across a lady and a friend who had driven their two cars down a very narrow section of the clearly signposted as now closed old main road. They found themselves faced by a locked gate at the end.

“I am looking for a bungalow I have just bought,” she said to me as I slowed down to cycle through the gap left for cyclists beside the gate. “What is it called,” I replied, trying to be helpful. “I don’t know,” she said, “I only bought it two days ago.” I hope that she managed the reversing up the narrow lane without incident.

The rain which made the rainbow did catch up with me but it was light and soon went on its way, leaving me to arrive home after a small feast of brambles on the way…

….in a sunny spell and in a very good mood.

I love the middle lawn when it is dappled by the shade of the walnut tree,

And I like the clematis that is almost smothered by a philadelphus.

The special grandma rose has never looked better…

And I found an alliterative colourful corner to record…

…with crocosmia, cosmos, cornflower and calendula.

I had an enterataining Zoom with my siblings and then, after her day of rest, Mrs Tootlepedal felt well enough to come downstairs for a light supper and to watch Gardener’s World on the telly. With a bit of luck, she will be up and about as normal tomorrow.

The day ended with a fine cloudscape over the trees (and a lone flying bird)..

I did find one flying bird today who wasn’t hiding behind the feeder so this goldfinch is the flying bird of the day.

Two contrasting walks

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan who visited the famous gardens at Kew and was very impressed by this statue. It leaves Mr Grumpy looking like a little ray of sunshine.

We had a close run thing here with the temperature dropping to a single degree above freezing in the early morning. Fortunately it didn’t linger in the depths and rose fairly rapidly after it had hit its low point, and the flowers in the garden were able to pretend that nothing had happened.

This was a relief, especially as they are looking pretty good for the time of year with more still to come.

After breakfast, we had gone up to the High Street to stand respectfully as the funeral cortege of the widow of an old friend passed along. It is not much, but it is all that we can do at this time.

It was too cold for coffee in the garden and there was a threat of rain later on, so when we got back, I put on a warm coat and went for a walk while the going was good.

The sun obligingly came out as I set off beside the park wall…

…stayed with me as I went along the Stubholm track…

…provided sporadic illumination as I walked up through the Kernigal wood…

…before retreating behind the clouds as I went down the track on the far side.

Apart from a sprinkling of fallen leaves, the country is still looking very lush but I was glad that I had my winter coat on all the same.

There were ominous clouds on the horizon.

With a view to being home before the clouds could deliver any rain, I didn’t hang about twitching my shutter finger too much but I did see some fungus on my way…

…and I kept an eye for brambles to see if it was worth returning to pick some when the weather was better. Unfortunately someone else had been keeping their eye out too and most of the promising bushes had been well picked already.

I noted the bicycle/flower pot at Skippers Bridge. It is almost entirely covered with flowers.

I did find time to drop down to the waterside to take a couple of pictures of the river and the bridge itself….

…and then I clambered back up to the track and looked twice when I saw some remarkably grey sheep in the Murtholm field.

There are quite a lot of acorns about this year which is always good to see…

…and the hazels are covered with catkins.

It was getting greyer all the time so I limited myself to a picture of a crow on a fence…

…and some script lichen on a tree…

…and scurried home.

Where I was very surprised to find an active bumble bee on a dahlia.

I made some carrot and lentil soup for lunch, and not long after it had found a good home, the rain started outside.

It was intermittent though and I spent some time looking out of the window at birds. A sparrowhawk had flown through earlier without nabbing a victim, but it didn’t take long for goldfinches to return to the feeder…

…and for other birds to join them.

Soon it was quite busy

Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been working on the computer while it had been raining, looked up, saw that it had stopped, and decided to go for a walk.

I went with her as I felt that the lull might only be temporary and a man with an umbrella could be a useful adjunct to her stroll.

This was a wise move. It started to rain shortly after we set out to walk down the track to Skippers Bridge, and it rained all the way down and all the way back on the other side of the river until we got to the suspension bridge.

Unlike the morning walk, I kept my camera firmly in my pocket until a colourful window box at the Douglas Hotel coaxed it out again.

Look carefully and you will see that all the colour comes from chillis. Langholm is the chilli capital of Scotland and the Douglas Hotel is at its heart.

When we got to the suspension bridge, we were surprised to see a small flock of swallows still flitting about over the surface of the river. We had thought that they had all headed for home by now. Among the flighty swallows, a dipper stood on a rock.

We had been warmly dressed and the umbrella had done its work so we were reasonable dry when we got home, ready for a cup of tea.

It was still raining when we went down to the Co-op later on to do a little recycling at their recycling bins and a little shopping in the shop.

That concluded the business for a day which had got warmer but gloomier as it went on. A couple more cold nights are forecast, so we cross our fingers again with regard to the survival of the flowers.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

More but less

Today’s guest picture comes from another of Venetia’s visits to local gardens. She came across this fine gate at the walled garden of Cannington.

The temperature duly went down as forecast and we found ourselves with a 10°C (50°F) day. It felt cooler thanks to a north easterly wind and a pervasive dampness in the air. I was in no hurry to get out and about, and when I did stir my stumps, I put on cycling mitts, a warm jacket and a woolly hat for coffee in the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal and Margaret. We were tucked into the shelter beneath the walnut tree so it wasn’t too bad and we were able to enjoy two roses as we sipped and chatted.

At one end of the front lawn Lillian Austin (on the right below) smiled at us and at the other end, Special Grandma defied my pessimism and put out a second flower.

It is six months since we started these socially distanced outdoor coffee meetings and we recalled rather wryly how often we had said then, “Thank goodness this isn’t happening in winter. It would be hard to bear then.”

Mrs Tootlepedal had been much more active than me, and had already cut back and dug up an ailing azalea with a view to improving the soil and then replanting it. She got on with this after coffee while I admired the dahlias which have shrugged off the lower temperatures….

…and are looking as good as ever.

Then I mowed the middle lawn where the grass is still growing well.

I took a wander round the garden when I had finished, enjoying some colourful corners.

There were asters and astrantia….

…rudbeckia and verbena….

…and sedum and fuchsia….

…and I was surprised to find a small tortoiseshell butterfly on the sedum when I looked more closely.

This is about as late as I usually see these butterflies (though occasionally one does appear in early October in some years). It was the only one in the garden today.

There are still some poppies still doing their best to entertain.

I hope that they can survive some predicted low temperatures overnight.

I helped Mrs Tootlepedal do some shredding and took some material to the compost and then had another look round.

It is good to still have two astrantias out…

…and other flowers are not to be ignored either. A late and very tall aster is just starting to produce flowers, the mint is covered with flowers, one of the rhododendrons has got a secret late flower and the inula helenium just never stops. I don’t even have to dead head it.

And more nerines come out every day to join the calendula and nicotiana in the bed along the hedge at the end of the drive. There are doddering dillies there too.

I went off on my shopping bike to get milk, rolls and carrots from the corner shop and then headed indoors and made some sardine pâté to put in the rolls for lunch.

I noticed that the wind was pretty brisk as I cycled to the shop so I was happy to watch the birds for a while after lunch.

Every time that I looked out, chaffinches and greenfinches were flying about….

…but as the light wasn’t very good, I ignored them and took some portraits of birds standing still.

The wind ruffled a greenfinch’s feathers…

…while something annoyed a goldfinch…

…and a siskin got on with the job in hand, or perhaps the job in beak I should say.

The wind seemed to ease off a bit so I plucked up my courage, put several layers of warm clothes on and set out to pedal the twenty miles round the new windfarm.

The wind blew me to the top of Callister and down the other side at a very gratifying speed, and I only stopped to record the first totally bare tree that I have noticed this autumn so far…

…and a small commercial planting of willows a little further on.

When a local wood burning power station was opened at Lockerbie a few years ago, several farmers planted blocks of fast growing willows as renewable fuel for it. However, the economics didn’t work out and many of the plantations have reverted to being pasture again. I see that the power station is still 20% fuelled by willow so perhaps this crop is destined to end up in its boilers.

I was expecting a battle into the wind on my way home past the wind farm, but the wind had dropped a little and it was more across than against so I enjoyed my pedal along the back road.

I could count six completed turbines and three under construction…

…and I was trying to remember how many there would be when the construction was finished when a lady pulled up in a car beside me and remarked on what an eyesore the turbines were.

I rather like therm so I tactfully remarked that they were certainly pretty easy to spot. She told me that the original plan to build fifteen modestly sized turbines had been changed and now they are only building nine but much larger turbines. She sounded as though she would have been happier with the larger number of smaller towers, and even happier still with none.

I was glad to have talked to her though, as otherwise I would have been waiting in vain for the other six towers to arrive. Patient readers may be pleased too, as they have probably seen quite enough wind turbines to be going on with.

The horse in the field in front of the windfarm had changed its mind today.

On my way back, I stopped to photograph a family of grey squirrels that ran across the road in front of me.

Unfortunately they didn’t stop to be photographed but as you can see, I did get a picture of the tree up which they had scampered and disappeared. You can’t win every time.

Thanks to the accommodating wind, I got home considerably more quickly than I have done this route before, and as my back didn’t complain about that, I was very happy, especially as the ride took me over 300 miles for the month.

Mrs Tootlepedal was hard at work in the garden, and I walked round and looked at flowers with her…

…before we went in for a cup of tea and a slice of toast.

The day drew to a close with a sibling Zoom where my sister Mary showed us pictures from two art galleries which she and my sister Susan have visited with suitably socially distanced organisation of visitors.

The weather had improved while I was zooming and Whita was bathed in evening sunshine when I looked out of a back window before our evening meal.

The forecast temperature for the early hours of tomorrow morning is 4°C so we are keeping our fingers crossed for the flowers.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

The first day of autumn

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce. He was looking through his archives and came across this picture of a hotel in Blackpool where he had stayed last year. He wondered whether they had felt the need to change their name this year. (I checked and they have kept the same name.)

The autumn equinox has crept up on me this year when I wasn’t paying attention. The weather has been so generally gloomy for some time, with the exception of this last week, that it has felt a bit like autumn long before the real autumn arrived.

Still, it arrived in style today with a grey, windy and blustery day which no one could have mistaken for summer.

I took the opportunity to give my back a rest from gardening, walking and cycling but as I spent a lot of time hunched over my computer, it probably didn’t do me much good.

I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, using the excellent new program which our son Alistair wrote for us. It is much more forgiving for dim eyes than the older version so I was grateful for that.

I also transcribed a Canzone written in 1612 by Giovanni Battista Riccio onto the computer so that I have got something to play along with during the absence of communal music making.

So it wasn’t an entirely wasted day.

In one of the moments when it wasn’t raining, I went out into the garden and tried to take a few bright flower pictures to cheer up an otherwise dull post.

The Special Grandma rose has nearly made it out but I have my doubts about the chances of any of the other buds making it.

Perhaps the most depressing thing about the day was the Scottish Government’s announcement that visits to houses are banned. This means that as things stand, our daughter Annie will not be able to bring our granddaughter Evie back to visit us in October as she was planning.

Even a delicious evening meal of mushroom risotto cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal could not restore my equanimity.

The birds took a dim view of the day too and these two chaffinches were just about the only visitors that I saw all day.

The seed in the feeder hardly went down at all. I had to look up into the early evening sky to find any flying birds. Some rowdy rooks were passing overhead.

I am going to end on a more cheerful note by putting in a dahlia beside the feeder that I shot while waiting for some birds to arrive.

The last day of summer?

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Gavin who is on holiday in the west of the region. He rightly thought this old church in the middle of a field near Isle of Whithorn might interest me. It was established in the early 12th century by Fergus, Lord of Galloway. It is Cruggleton Church and you can just see it, if you look really closely through the trees.

It was grey and and not particularly warm when we got up, but if you could keep out of the wind, it was warm enough to have our coffee in the garden. Looking at the forecasts to come, this may well have been the last warmish day of the summer and it is downhill from here on.

It was a pity that some twinges in my back kept me from making the most of the day, and I had to move carefully as I wandered round the garden taking pictures for want of anything more active to do.

If this really was the last day of summer, the garden still had plenty to show, both in clusters…

…and in singles…

…and ever hopeful roses.

Apart from flowers, I saw one of the five a day for tonight’s meal…

…and a welcome sight at any time of the year.

There were no butterflies to be seen all day but there were still bees about.

Reading the papers, doing the crossword, drinking coffee, and pottering about the garden took me safely up to lunchtime.

After lunch we enjoyed a cheerful Zoom chat with our younger son Alistair, his wife Clare and their daughter Matilda. Matilda has restarted her ballet classes after school and gave us a delightful display of dancing with a ribbon.

The sun had shone while we were chatting, so after the meeting, while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to combine some shopping and business, I went for a gentle and mostly flat walk. There was the occasional moment when the sun tried to break through the clouds but the promise of a sunny walk came to very little. All the same, there was plenty to see including a pied wagtail at the riverside.

I did think of going straight along the Lodge Walks…

…but decided that I could cope with a short uphill effort which would let me walk along the path above the Lodge Walks wood.

I passed more red campion and some flourishing peltigera lichen on my way up the hill.

The track along the top was still very green…

…and occasional outbreaks of sunshine made for a pleasant walk. Under the trees there were ferns, grasses and flowers….

…signs of the turning of the year…

….and always the hint of something even more interesting round the next corner or over the next rise….

…which in this case was a fallen tree providing an obstacle to my progress.

I placed my hand on the trunk and vaulted easily over the obstruction, or possibly bent low and crawled awkwardly under it, but either way, after dusting my knees off, I was able to get to the end of the track and enjoy the view up the valley.

I turned back towards the town and headed home.

A lone snowberry and a late foxglove caught my eye….

…and some ivy leafed toadflax adorned a gatepost while the large leaves of the Pyrenean Valerian against a nearby wall showed why it does so well when it is established. Nothing much can grow under those all covering leaves.

I walked round the pheasant hatchery and down to the Jubilee Bridge, enjoying the views as I went.

Once across the bridge, I passed under this fine tree on the river bank…

…and was soon back at home, enjoying a cup of tea and some bread and honey. Ray’s gift of honey is going down very well.

A visit to the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal gave me a chance to photograph this lovely rose…

…before I went in to have a look at the birds and get ready for the evening Zoom with my siblings.

The birds were conspicuous by their absence, perhaps as a result of a fly through by the sparrow hawk.

The evening Zoom meeting was most entertaining, with a fine selection of pictures from his walk today shared by my brother, and tales of going to a concert from my elder sisters. One had attended the concert in person and the other online.

I had another look for the birds after the Zoom but the light was fading. The small birds were in a thoughtful mood, perhaps wondering where the sparrowhawk was….

…and indeed it had another fly through as I watched but fortunately the alert birds were quick enough to avoid disaster.

The turnips from the veg garden appeared as a side dish to some delicious liver in an onion gravy for our evening meal and that rounded the day off.

A rather vague siskin is the late flying bird of the day.


Winding up again

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce. He spotted a splendidly rickety bridge on trip up the Megdale valley. I think that I might use the one in the background to cross the stream.

Our spell of dry weather continued and I could find no trace of rain in the rain gauge for the past week. It was grey and cool though, and I had to wrap up well when I went out on my bicycle for an early ride after breakfast. As I went round my familiar Canonbie circuit and the sun wasn’t shining, I didn’t see much to make me stop and take photos, but the view towards the Lake District hills across the Solway was exceedingly clear today, even though Skiddaw had its head in the clouds.

I looked again a little later and was surprised to be able to make out fields, trees and hedges on the slopes of the hill.

My legs were still feeling the effect of Friday’s hilly ride so I didn’t rush but I still got back in time to have a cup of coffee in the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal and Margaret. It was cool enough for us to need to have our coats on but that didn’t impede the flow of conversation. It is remarkable that having met almost every day for coffee since the lockdown began in March we can still find anything to talk about at all.

After coffee, I noted birds perching above my head…

…and then I mowed the front lawn, and then sieved some compost.

There is not much rough compost in Bin D left to sieve now and once Bin D is emptied, Mrs Tootlepedal will have to wait a couple of months or so before any more appears.

When that was finished, I went in for lunch and made a lamb and lentil soup using the last of the slow cooked lamb as a base.

After lunch, the greenhouse grass and drying green needed mowing and bees and butterflies needed pursuing with a camera.

The day was getting steadily brighter and I was spoiled for choice when it came to looking at flowers. I have picked out the cornflowers…

…and some beautifully blue gentians which Mrs Tootlepedal is growing in a pot…

…and by way of a colour contrast, a Japanese anemone and a verbena.

I went in to get ready for my virtual Carlisle Community Choir practice and looked at the bird feeder on my way. The light outside had got quite golden by now, so it was appropriate that there were goldfinches feeding in it.

On the feeder pole, another goldfinch and a coal tit checked for perch availability…

…while down below, a siskin tried unavailingly to shift a goldfinch by the power of abuse alone.

The choir practice went as well as can be expected but there was no sign of the virtual choir performance and I suspect that it may prove too difficult to put our efforts together in a coherent way to get a usable result. Time will tell.

After the choir, I passed up the opportunity to watch the end of the final stage of the Tour and went out for a walk. I felt that it might be a long time before we had another warm, calm and sunny evening and it would be a pity to waste this one.

I walked over the suspension bridge…

…crossed the High Street and walked up the Kirk Wynd. I enjoyed the view up the valley as I went up past the golf course…

…and saw a surprising number of flowers beside the track.

Soon, I could see the open hill in front of me…

…and for a moment I contemplated walking straight up to the monument. Fortunately good sense took hold of me, and I turned left at Whita Well and walked along the track towards the road that I had cycled down on Friday.

In one direction, the camera could pick up three trees on the other side of the road which have such a tenuous connection with the ground that they look as though they are dancing….

…and in the other, it could see that the new wind farm now has six turbines in position. They appear in the header picture to this post.

As I walked down the road, the evening sun picked out some fine pictures for me….

…and I was glad that I had gone for my walk.

As I got near the bottom of the hill, I met two friends who were able to cycle up the hill and smile at the same time. They were on their electric bicycles and there is no doubt that the day of the electric bike has come. I am keeping that option firmly open for myself.

I didn’t go right down to the main road but took a route home that kept me in the sunshine for as long as possible…

…though I got in among the trees at the end as I dropped down towards the bridge back across the river.

I turned to enjoy the view as I crossed the bridge but was distracted by a familiar figure on a rock beside the water.

When I got home, I made the evening meal and watched the presentations for the Tour. It has been a good race to watch and we will miss it now that it is over. Unfortunately, if we want to watch the Giro, which is early in October, we will have to pay money, so we may have to wait for the Vuelta for our next cycling fix.

On some days there is not a flying bird to be had for love or money and on other days, you can’t give them away. Today was such a day.

Here are the multiple flying birds of the day.

Winding down today

Today’s guest picture comes from East Wemyss, the sunshine capital of the world, where our son Tony was out and about early enough to catch the sunrise yesterday.

We had another fine day here today, but the northerly wind was a bit stronger so naturally, it felt a bit cooler. Between the wind, slightly tired legs, and natural indolence, I settled for a quiet day.

I read the papers at length after breakfast and only roused myself when it was time to walk up to Sandy’s and have a cup of his excellent Colombian coffee.

I had a quick look round the garden before I set off. We haven’t had much warm weather lately but we also haven’t much in the way of cold nights so some flowers are quite happily having a second go at flowering. These feverfew daisies are an example.

And the dahlias are really looking at their best.

Looking over the hedge as I walked up the road past the garden, I could see that the weigela is also showing passers by some nice flowers.

Sandy recently went out for a 21 mile cycle ride with no ill effect on his foot so he was in a cheerful mood. He wrote a post on his blog about it too. We had a good chat.

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal and our neighbour Margaret having their coffee in the garden, well sheltered from the breeze.

After the coffee morning had broken up, I got out the mower and took a lot of grass off the middle lawn. It had been left for over a week since I put the fertiliser and moss eating mixture on. I don’t whether the moss has been eaten at all, but the fertiliser has done good work on the grass and the lawn is looking very good for this time of year.

Then I had time to walk round the garden stalking butterflies and bees….

…and admiring the courgettes and chard in the vegetable garden.

Mrs Tootlepedal dug up the last of our potatoes and I picked four small beetroots from a late sowing and took them inside.

The vegetable garden has done well this year, providing us with potatoes, onions, turnips, swedes, spinach, chard, courgettes, runner, broad and field beans, many beetroots, radishes, lettuce, chillies, a few peas and some small carrots. There are still a lot of runner beans, chard and courgettes to come and we have only just started on the leeks. We don’t grow enough to feed ourselves throughout the year by any means but it is still good to have a selection of home grown veg through the summer and early autumn.

Having put the beetroots on to cook, I came out into the garden with my macro lens on the big camera and had a closer look at butterfly…

…and what I think is a hoverfly..

I then visited a honeysuckle….

…and the Special Grandma rose which is another plant having a second go at flowering…

…before going in for lunch.

I was going to watch a bit of the time trial from the Tour de France and then go out for a good walk but the stage proved so unexpectedly interesting that I watched it all, pausing only to check on the birds during an advertisement break or two.

After the stage finished with a result which I don’t think that anyone had predicted, I did get out for a short walk as the shadows lengthened.

It was still a fine day, and above the suspension bridge…

…a mallard enjoyed a little basking on a rock in the river.

I stopped for a while to talk to Grace, a fellow camera club member who had just come back from a wildlife holiday in the north of Scotland, and then walked over the Sawmill Brig…

…whichwas looking a bit autumnal I thought.

I went up the hill and walked along the Baggra track which was still looking very green…

…and which was lined with plenty of interesting things to look at as I went along.

At the end of the track, two trees caught my eye. The first one looks a little odd but it is growing half way down a banking at the edge of the field, and I was only seeing the top part of it.

The second one was on the top of the banking just before I dropped down to follow the main road back into the town.

Beside the main road, I spotted a rather neglected old milestone and a bunch of grass that was mimicking it.

I finished my walk by re-crossing the Sawmill Brig and walking round the Castleholm, where I saw a little outbreak of autumn colour in an otherwise green leafed tree.

I got back in perfect time for tea, the third appearance of the lamb stew, this time with potatoes, chard and courgettes.

I hope to find time to get on my bike for a short ride tomorrow as the forecast is still good and good days should not be wasted at this time of year.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

Over the hills and quite far away

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony’s partner Marianne. She had a striking view from her place of work today.

We had another good day here, but neither quite as sunny nor quite as warm as yesterday. This didn’t matter much to Mrs Tootlepedal who had a great raft of administrative tasks to get through and mainly spent the day indoors. The task were resolved with efficiency and at one moment while she was doing her Embroiderers’ Group’s accounts, I heard say perhaps the most unexpected thing that she has ever said to me; “Accountancy is beautiful!” I took it correctly that she had balanced the books.

I waited for the day to warm up a little and after coffee and a quick check on the bird feeder…

I set out on my bike. I had got as far as 100 yards away from the house, when I remembered that I had forgotten to put a loaf in the breadmaker. I circled round and went back inside and made the loaf.

This turned out to be the best decision of the day, as I changed my mind about where I should go and instead of having yet another excursion to the south and west, I headed up the main road to Hawick instead. When I got to Hawick, a traffic jam in the middle of town, persuaded me to take a small diversion and cross a bridge over the Slitrig Burn that was new to me.

I looked downstream towards the town from the bridge…

…and found a convenient bench on the far side of the bridge where I could sit and have a snack after my first 23 miles of pedalling. The ground beside the bench was covered with fallen little red apples and when I looked up, I saw that I was sitting under an apple tree.

I didn’t try one as I suspected from the fact that they were lying there unharvested that they might well be crab apples. Interestingly, there was not a single wasp or other insect feeding upon them either.

Instead of going back to Langholm by the main road, I consulted my legs and finding them in full agreement, I cycled off up the Slitrig Burn and took the road over the hill and down to Newcastleton, adding ten miles to the return journey.

I passed pigs in the fields in the valley. Well, I didn’t pass them because who could resist the call to stop and record the piglets? Not me.

After a mile or two along the flat valley floor, the road soon starts climbing and I was happy to stop for a breather and a look behind over the rolling border countryside. As you can see, the sky was pretty cloudless by this time…

…but luckily for me, it was still not a hot day, the northeasterly wind keeping things merely warm and perfect for cycling.

Having climbed very steeply out of the valley, I immediately lost height again as the road dropped down towards the Shankend Viaduct over the same burn that I had left before the climb.

I sometimes think the the road makers did this sort of think just to annoy cyclists (but it was probably just to keep landowners happy).

From the bottom of the viaduct at 700 ft, there is a three mile drag up to 1212 ft with gradients occasionally hitting 7% so once again, I was not unhappy to stop and look back while I was on my way up.

It was good to see deciduous woodland regenerating among the commercial conifers.

This was probably only a 30 second stop but it is amazing what a lot of pressure such a short stop takes off the legs and breathing.

On the other side of the summit, a group of enthusiasts have been painstakingly restoring a short stretch of the old railway line and they have got an eclectic collection of rolling stock there.

There are plans to reopen the old railway from Hawick to Carlisle so maybe in the future this will stop being a preservation site and become part of a real railway line again.

From Whitrope to Newcastleton, the road goes steadily downhill and this was very welcome after eleven miles of mostly uphill work. It crosses the Hermitage water by one of my favourite bridges.

The view from the bridge shows the shallow valley that I had been cycling down for a mile or so before the bridge.

I stopped in Newcastleton for a final refuel before the last ten miles back to Langholm. I liked this little bench round a tree…

…only slightly spoiled by the electricity boxes need for the Christmas lights that are strung through the branches above.

I needed the fuel (half a banana, some apple slices, a date and a quava jelly cube), because the road back to Langholm over the moor is hard work, starting with a climb of 400 feet in the first mile with gradients touching 9% at one point. Luckily my bicycle has a sufficiently low gear to let me get up this while sitting in the saddle as long as I don’t rush. Believe me, I don’t rush.

The climb continues at a much more forgiving gradient for another four miles before it reaches the county boundary at 1100 feet. Once again, a look back was welcome.

Did I mention that it was a lovely day?

I ventured into the modern world and took a selfie at the summit.

However welcoming they were, I was leaving the Scottish Borders region. I like the way that my outstretched arms are reflected in my cycling specs.

Unfortunately, it is not a straight run back down to Langholm from the top as the Tarras Water has to be crossed, meaning another drop and climb before the final swoop down from the White Yett into the town. Luckily, my legs were still in a compliant mood and I enjoyed the whole ride from start to finish.

Looking at the map, you might think the the first half is more hilly than the return journey, but the elevation profile tells the true story.

Those interested can click on the pic for more details and a look at the terrain.

When I got home I was just in time to watch the end of the day’s stage in the Tour de France, have a quick wander round the garden….

(If I am going to dead head the sunflowers, I will need a step ladder.)

…and check on the birds,

The siskins were quite quiet at first…

…but soon the usual shenanigans broke out.

I left them to it and went for a shower. Then had we had a zoom meeting with my siblings.

A second helping of the slow cooked lamb stew rounded a very good day off.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Not swinging in the sunshine

Today’s guest picture comes from another of Venetia’s garden visits. She was at Coleford House (in the village of Coleford in the eastern Mendip Hills) when she came across this unusual ball boy on the tennis court.

We had a day of weather about which there could be no possible complaint today.

The sky was blue from start to finish, the wind was light and the temperature just perfect.

Mrs Tootlepedal was confined to the house after breakfast to attend a Zoom meeting for the Langholm Moor buy out group, but I was able to roam the garden.

Once again, the sun had brought out the butterflies in force….

…and many flowers received their attention. Once again though, the red buddleia was the most popular in the morning.

My personal favourite is the peacock butterfly, so it gets a picture to itself.

It was a delight to be out on such a day in Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden.

A rather badly painted blackbird was out enjoying the sun too.

The little red poppies are multiplying and I counted seventeen of them today….

…and I was happy to see that they had tiny visitors, as did many others of the flowers that I looked at.

You could almost say that the garden was a hive of activity, except that we don’t have any hives.

As it happens, I was offered a hive of bees today when I met Ray, an old friend, on my way back from getting milk from our corner shop. I actually stopped to ask him about running as he is a couple of years older than me and still running regularly and I wanted to seek his advice. It turned out that he keeps bees and was looking to reduce his number of hives. I couldn’t take a hive but as he and his wife don’t actually like honey, he gives his produce away and we are now the happy possessors of two jars of his homemade honey. I got some running advice too.

Mrs Tootlepedal came out of her meeting in time for coffee with Margaret and me. I had to leave early though as I was going to play golf with Dropscone at noon and I wanted to get a little practice in first.

The practice went well but my actual golf with pretty terrible with only one of two good shots among a series if awful efforts. In my defence, my back was not in a very reliable mood after some heavy work in the garden recently, and my attempts to persuade it to produce a smooth swing were mostly met with twitches and groans.

Still, it is was good to be up on the golf course again after many years without playing….

…the course was in as good condition as it could be at this time of year…

…and the company was excellent.

I am going to have a final nine holes with Dropscone if the weather permits and then put my clubs away again. I will try to make sure that my back is in better fettle.

While I was a looking for a ball, I spotted a fine toadstool in the rough…

…and Dropscone told me that field mushrooms do grow on the golf course as well, but they are always picked by early risers before the poor golfers can get their hands on them

When I got home, I joined Mrs Tootlepedal in following yet another excellent stage of the Tour de France. It had interesting racing and beautiful scenery and we will have a big gap in our life when it ends this weekend.

After the stage finished, I watched the birds for a while. It was a quiet day at the feeder. The visitors were busy tucking in to the seed.

One siskin was rather shocked by the vulgar noises his friend made while eating.

A chaffinch kept its eyes on the business in hand, or rather, claw.

And a siskin posed for a portrait.

Then there was just enough time for me to nip out for a 15 miles bicycle ride of my own.

The days are getting shorter now and the sun is getting lower in the sky…

…and all around the world is gently turning brown….

…but it is still a pleasure to be out and about on a fine evening.

The turbine builders had been busy today.

Mrs Tootlepedal had harvested leeks and potatoes from the vegetable garden and when I got back, she went out to collect some chard to go with a lamb stew which I had prepared for the slow cooker after breakfast. The leeks had gone into the stew.

I checked on the nerines….

…and then we went in to enjoy the stew with new potatoes and chard. We had some of the field beans which we had picked yesterday too, and the whole meal was very tasty. The slow cooker is hard to beat when it comes to lamb stew. I cooked some rhubarb to have with ice cream for afters.

We are promised more good weather tomorrow. I won’t try to play golf though!

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Back to grey again

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone. He had to wait on his car journey today to let a very big delivery turn off the main road.

Our brief spell of warmer weather came to an abrupt end and we went back to grey, windy and cool conditions today. As a result, I was in no hurry to get going with the day’s activities and didn’t do anything interesting before coffee. I did cycle round to our corner shop but that can’t be classified as being extraordinarily interesting as I have done this almost every day since lockdown started.

It was too cold and windy for garden coffee so we just had ourselves for company indoors. After coffee, we went out into the garden where we looked at the transplanted hydrangea…

…which seems to have settled in well (so far at least).

In between admiring the staying power of the ornamental strawberries and the lamium (which has been flowering since April)…

…and seeing that the little red poppies had been thoroughly visited by pollen hunters…

…while the cornflowers and Lillian Austin are still producing knock out flowers…

…I did some garden tasks of a moderately useful nature. They included dead heading, which as far as calendulas go is never ending, a little shredding and some harvesting of clover, grass and field beans from Mrs Tootlepedal’s mini meadow.

Then I looked at flowers again. Some sunflowers are beginning to fade…

…but at their feet, the dahlias are still doing well and another zinnia has appeared.

There were no butterflies and few bees today but there were small insects enjoying a day out.

Opposite the sunflowers, at the front door the nasturtium tries to pack as many flowers in as it can while the clematis is just happy to still have a flower or two on the go.

Another clematis is less modest.

But the jewel in the garden at the moment, the Crown Princess Margareta, continues to shine, putting out more flowers every day.

We trimmed hedges and picked field beans…

…and went in to lunch.

After lunch, as it was till cool and windy, yet another interesting stage of the Tour de France claimed our attention. I got restless though, and as the riders approached the bottom of the final climb of the day, a huge task, I popped out to see if I could walk to the top of Warbla and back in the time that they took to get to the top of their mountain climb.

They had 14 miles and 5544 feet to climb, I had 2.7 miles and 626 feet to climb and descend.

I might just have done it if I hadn’t had my camera with me. As it was, I was tempted to stop every now and again. There was pixie cup lichen on the park wall…

…yellow sheep to appreciate…

…wild flowers beside the track up to the gate onto the hill…

…a view over the valley of the Becks Burn to enjoy…

…traffic on the track to negotiate…

…not to mention the distraction of a distant view of the new wind farm, with bits of a windmill , possibly the very one that had detained Dropscone, lying on the ground…

…and finally two views from the summit, a distinctly autumnal view in one direction…

…and a frankly disappointing view up the valley in the other.

I didn’t stop at all on the way down but it was no good, the race had finished before I had got back to the park.

Mrs Tootlepedal reported that it was actually painful to watch the cyclists going up the final stages of their climb as it was so steep and the effort required was so great.

We had a cup of tea to recover, and then went out into the garden to prepare the soil for the replanting of the irises which had been moved to make way for the new hydrangea. This is hard work as the ground is full of stones from the days when it was a yard, and Mrs Tootlepedal is resolved to dig up as many of them as she possibly can. I have noticed that the ground seems to have got further away when it comes to stooping and digging things out as I have got older.

We had a pleasant Zoom meeting with my three sisters, and I shared some lovely sunny pictures from a holiday we had had with two of them in Marseilles a few years ago, a much needed antidote to the grey weather.

After the meeting, I realised that I had completely failed to watch any birds during the day. The feeder was quiet as all the small birds had gone home to bed by this time so I walked out into the garden to see if any bigger birds could be seen.

A rook sat on an aerial and a pigeon chose a wire…

…while blackbirds preferred our neighbours’ roofs.

The forecast is for sunny weather again tomorrow, and I hope that it is right as I have arranged to play another game of golf with Dropscone.

The flying birds of the day were very far away.

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