Driven to despair

Today’s guest picture is a composite of chillis grown and photographed by our sons Anthony and Alistair, with one grown by Mrs Tootlepedal and photographed by me.

The title of this post was meant to be a lightly amusing reference to the fact that I played golf with Dropscone today for the first time in nine years, but it has got overtaken by the despair I felt when the three quarter written post for today vanished into thin air. I am so used to the posts being auto-saved that I didn’t notice that it doesn’t seem to be happening now. I have had to start again as a result. I may not have the patience to try to recreate the extensive ramblings that went down the plughole so if this post seems a bit terse, I apologise.

The golf did happen though and I enjoyed it a lot, in spite of losing a ball following my first tee shot which disappeared into impenetrable trees.

Dropscone is good company and the course has wonderful views to console a golfer who is playing badly. I hit just enough good shots among many, many stinkers to keep myself happy. I took a few picture with my phone as we went along.

After some early morning mist, the clouds started lifting as we started playing.

It is a hilly course but the views get better as you climb up.

I sneaked a look over the fence up the Ewes Valley…

…while Dropscone considered the problem of threading his drive up the sixth between the trees ahead.

I am happy to report that on this occasion, we both got our tee shots through the gap.

I end this brief look with a shot of Dropscone on the last tee, prior to him finishing his round with a par three. I did not get a par!

Even after such a long break form the game, I had an enjoyable nine holes and although I am not tempted to take up the game again seriously, I hope that Dropscone will find the time and patience to put up with me for another round or two before the summer is over.

He came and joined Mrs Tootlepedal, Margaret and me for coffee in the garden after the golf, the first time that we have had coffee with him since the lockdown started.

After coffee, I trimmed the clematis above the garage door with Mrs Tootlepedal’s help to stop it climbing into the gutter, and then I mowed and edged the middle lawn, dead headed poppies and calendulas and took pictures.

In spite of quite a lot of rain…

…which had depressed the garden as well as us (3 inches on Mary Jo’s rain gauge), the warm sun and the still conditions allowed a lot of flowers to perk up a bit, even fragile ones.

Although it was disappointing not to see hordes of beautiful coloured butterflies on the buddleias, there were some customers.

While I was putting clematis shreddings into the compost, I noticed that snowberries have arrived and the chives are producing new flowers.

I took a picture of some of my favourite dahlias and went in for a late lunch.

Mrs Tootlepedal wasn’t feeling very well today, so after lunch, I took a picture of a sparrow flexing its bird kicking leg as it approached the feeder…

…and then I waited for our corner shop to open so that I could go along to get food for our evening meal. While I waited, I trimmed the climbing hydrangea which has an even more determined grip on the gutters than the clematis…

…and discussed an attempted fraud by phone call with our neighbour. She had received the call and was worried in case she had given anything important away. I felt that she was not in danger but I advised her to contact her internet provider which she did. She was reassured by their response. These phone call scammers are very ingenious and persistent. It is most depressing.

I got to the shops and was thinking of going cycling when I was distracted by the arrival of two butterflies, a small tortoiseshell…

…and a peacock.

After a quick look at the feeder…

…which wasn’t nearly as busy as it had been in the rain, I finally got out on my bike for a short ride down to Canonbie. A belted Galloway lifted its head to say hello as I passed…

…but I didn’t stop for many other pictures as I was trying to keep up a good pedalling speed. I was tempted by the orange hawkweed at the bus shelter at the Hollows. Somehow, I don’t think many people use this shelter.

When I got home, I had time for a last walk round the garden while the potatoes were cooking for a corn beef hash.

It has been very nice to have a warm summer’s day.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

A short break

Today’s guest picture in another Lake District bridge from Paul. This one is Goody Bridge near Grasmere (he thinks).

We were promised another wet day here and we got one. It rained persistently all morning and our chief activity was looking out of the window and saying, “It’s raining. “

It was very windy too and Mrs Tootlepedal went out into the garden (in the rain) very early on to see if she could save some battered sunflowers. There were survivors but one of the biggest bit the dust.

When I went out to photograph the damage much later on, I took a lupin picture too just to put a bit of colour in the post.

There was nothing else to say about the morning.

After lunch, the rain got lighter and I watched the birds for a bit. The feeder was very busy and there was a good deal of competition for perches.

A very soggy goldfinch made several efforts to find an empty perch…

…and when I looked around, I found that it was under pressure from a youngster which was flapping its wings at its parent in a very demanding way on Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree. The goldfinch did get to the feeder and hung on to it under enormous pressure before rejoining the still demanding youngster on the feeder pole.

I have never seen a bird swing right round a perch like that before.

The mayhem continued….

…but I left them to it and went for a walk.

The forecast had suggested that there might be a window for a walk between half past two and four o’clock, and for once, it was absolutely spot on.

Mrs Tootlepedal didn’t have quite the same confidence in the forecast as me and left me to go on my own.

The rain had actually stopped but it was still not a day for any views with the tops of our hills in or touching the clouds.

It was still windy too as I went along the track to the Becks Burn so I took a picture of a gate which was unmoved by rain or wind.

There were lots of wild flowers to enjoy in the gloom as I pottered along.

When I got to the Becks Burn, I walked a few yards upstream to see how much water was going over the little cascade there. There was so much that I couldn’t get down to look at it from below the falls and had to peer nervously over the edge from above.

When I went down to the bridge, I could see that the water was still eating away at the bank where a walkway has been undermined…

…and I took extra care as I walked past the spot.

The bridge across the burn is still looking pretty sound though….

…and I was greeted by a delightful natural arch on the other side.

I crossed the burn and walked down the road to the Auld Stane Bridge, exchanging glances with this fine looking horse on the way.

And then, rather than go home by Gaskell’s Walk again, I climbed up the hill to meet the track down to Stubholm. I turned off that track and walked through the Kernigal Wood…

….to the Hungry Burn before going home past Stubholm.

More wild flowers were to be seen on the way.

And I thought that this one was worth a picture of its own.

There was quite a lot of fungus to be seen too, some in the darkest parts of the wood, but not quite enough to fill a full panel so I have thrown in some moss on the park wall too.

When I got to the bottom of the hill down to the park, I was pleased to see a good number of yellow balsam flowers out.

These are very pretty flowers that hang down from the stems of the plants.

I got home in perfect time as the rain started again as I turned into our street.

We had scrambled eggs with the first courgette fritters of the year for our tea. I am hoping for a good crop of courgettes because Mrs Tootlepedal cooks a mean courgette fritter.

If the forecasters are right, the week is going to end with much better weather than it started with. I certainly hope that they are right.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin, happy to find a free perch..

Summertime and the living is soggy

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony and shows the start of yet another sunny day in East Wemyss. How we could do with some of his weather.

If you like colourful garden pictures with shots of delightful countryside and cheerful birds then this is not the post for you.

It rained all day, and as a day there is nothing more to be said about it. Mrs Tootlepedal ventured out to do a bit of shopping and failed to obtain the chief purpose of her trip. I stayed in.

Well to be fair, I did go out far enough to take two pictures in the garden just to get a tiny bit of colour into today’s post but that was as far as I got.

The camera makes the day look much brighter than it actually was and the light was appalling for a summer day….

…but our morning was brightened by a visit from Scott. His coffee radar was working perfectly and the cafetiere had just been filled as he arrived.

The best that I could do in the way of pictures was to go upstairs and look at the birds from an upper window There was no shortage of birds to look at.

They weren’t very cheerful though. A chaffinch set the tone for the day, kicking a siskin off its perch

…and a greenfinch was pretty brusque too in disposing of the chaffinch.

There were quieter moments…

…and possibly some of the birds were just too wet to quarrel.

A siskin wisely had a careful look to see if the coast was clear….

…and a sparrow thought that he had found a peaceful moment….

…only to get a nasty shock a minute later.

When I looked at this picture on the computer, I saw that this passing siskin had been ringed…

…and was reminded of the time when Cat Barlow put nets up and ringed about fifty siskins in our garden in two days.

Greenfinches kept arriving to the annoyance of siskins…

…and I could have kept watching all morning….

…if hadn’t wanted to go downstairs to make potato soup for lunch.

All the bird pictures from the upstairs window were taken in the space of eight minutes, so it was just as well that I stopped when I did or this post would never have ended.

After lunch, I did some singing exercises as my voice is in very poor condition after no choirs for four months. Then I entertained myself with some tutorial videos on how to get the most out of my photo editor. This will be very useful if I can remember any of the things that I have learned.

It is still raining as I write this and the forecast is offering me plenty of excuses to rest indoors again tomorrow. With a bit of luck things are going to get better after that.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin at full stretch.

A late stroll in the sunshine

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia. She ventured over the border into Wiltshire to find this fine gate at Courts Garden in Holt.

After a brief effort over the last few days, the weather gods stopped even pretending it was summer here today and dropped back into very cool temperatures and occasional rain again. It was ‘jumpers on’ for coffee in the garden.

Luckily our neighbour Liz still had her gazebo up so we met in comfort in there. We were chatting away when in a rare outbreak of reverse scone radar, Scott the former minister of the parish turned up. He was not looking for scones but bringing a bagful with him. We made him very welcome.

After coffee, we went back into our garden. I had received a letter from Lillian Austin’s representative to say that my suggestion in yesterday’s post that she may be past her best is irresponsible defamation. I am therefore happy to print this picture of her appearance today to show that I was quite wrong in what I said.

The first hint of yellow in our sunflowers was spotted today….

…but there was no sign of any peacock or tortoisehell butterflies at all, and I had to make do with a white butterfly on a clover flower.

When the butterfly moved on, I took a closer look at the flower.

It is amazing to see what goes on in the garden that you might never notice if you didn’t have a camera in your hand.

I couldn’t help noticing the fine crop of Sarpo potatoes that Mrs Tootlepedal collected when she dug up the first of our main crop potatoes.

There is something essentially very satisfying about planting a single potato and getting this many back.

After lunch, I had time for a good look at the birds and I enjoyed watching a variety of visitors.

A young blue tit persuaded a siskin to leave without even having to kick it.

While an older blue tit was amazed by a chaffinch’s poor table manners.

Another siskin wasn’t so easily scared by a sparrow, and showed it just where to go with a nonchalant wave of its wing.

It was good to see plenty of chaffinches about as they have been a bit scarce for a while. They were very busy.

And it is always a pleasure to see a greenfinch, birds which were badly hit by a disease for a time but which seem to be recovering in our area at least.

It was another day of unreliable rain showers and having decided to keep the washing hanging out when a smattering of rain arrived just before lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal was relieved when it stopped after a few minutes, and was very cross when the washing got soaked in a sudden downpour half an hour later.

We left it hanging in the rain and drove off to Longtown to hand back a tool we had borrowed from the bike shop and visit the recycling facilities at the community centre while we were there. Needless to say, the rain had stopped by the time that we were three miles out of Langholm. On the plus side, the sun was still shining when we got back, and the washing had dried significantly.

I had been bothered yesterday evening and today by a mystery twinge in my upper arm, so I was quite easily able to persuade myself to have a quiet time in when we got home and I occupied myself by doing a simple drawing for the sibling Zoom challenge. Since I am chronically unable to draw, this task filled up all the time to the Zoom meeting.

After the meeting and our evening meal, which included a couple of Mrs Tootlepedal’s potatoes, I went for a walk. It was a lovely evening by this time, sunny and calm.

I did look at a couple of wild flowers, ivy leaved toadflax and wild geranium on my way…

…but mostly I just enjoyed looking at trees and lush greenery as I strolled round Gaskell’s and Easton’s walk.

Even the wider views involved trees.

It was a time of light and shade as the sun crept down towards the hills…

…but it was still sunny enough to give me a grand view of the suspension bridge framed by trees when I got to the park…

…and the lone tree left in front of the church stood proudly for my final picture of the walk.

My day of rest seems to have had a good effect on my sore arm and as it is due to rain all day tomorrow, I may well get another chance to let it fully recover before I do anything silly to aggravate it. A case of every cloud having a silver lining perhaps.

The flying bird of the day is one of the chaffinches.

Occasional rain

Today’s guest picture comes from Gunta, a blog reader who lives on the west coast of America. She has combined two of my favourite things, a flying bird and a fuchsia, in one fantastic picture.

We had a perfectly nice, almost summer day here today with the temperature at a very acceptable 15 to 17°C which is not too hot and not too cold.

I was able to go out after breakfast and enjoy the garden. No flower has done better recently than the Wren which seems to put out more beautiful roses almost every day.

A yard or two away, and given exactly the same tender care by Mrs Tootlepedal, Lillian Austin, after a promising start, has struggled to put out more than one half decent flower at a time.

Why this should be so is one of those intriguing mysteries that make gardening so much fun (or drives gardeners mad).

More cornflowers are appearing as the days go by.

The only fly in the ointment on the weather front was a marked tendency of short rain showers to appear at inconvenient moments. Once came as we were having our garden coffee and conversation and cut the meeting short. Annoyingly, once again it stopped almost as soon as we had broken up and gone our separate ways.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I went back out into the garden. I was on a butterfly hunt and found a peacock butterfly on the buddleia. I didn’t have time for a good picture though, as a small tortoiseshell arrived and knocked it it off the flower. I have never seen this behaviour before. There were plenty of other flowers on the bush available for landing.

Both the butterflies disappeared quite soon afterwards and were replaced by white butterflies.

I did the usual dead heading and helped Mrs Tootlepedal clear old flowers from the back of the house along the dam. We pruned the old wood from the blackcurrant bush and I picked some gooseberries for stewing. It rained on us from time to time.

Although the butterflies had gone, there were plenty of other insects buzzing around the garden.

Mrs Tootlepedal has been growing Bulgarian red carrot chilli peppers but they haven’t turned red yet. As she has been advised that they are less hot if you pick them when they are still green, I picked one and used it in a lentil soup which I made for lunch. It was quite hot enough for our tastes so picking it green was probably a good decision. It gave the soup a good flavour.

While the soup was cooking, I went back out into the garden and found a mixed bag of butterfly and bee…

….took in the combination of lupins and poppies outside the greenhouse…

…noticed a blackbird on the new bench among the fallen privet flowers…

…and enjoyed a burst of sunshine with the dahlias.

I had scrubbed the tray under the bird feeder and filled the feeder with seed earlier on so when I went back in, I had a look to see if any birds were grateful. One chaffinch was checking things out carefully before having a nibble…

…but soon there was a good crowd there and I was pleased to see a fine colour mixture as a redpoll and a blue tit shared the seed with a yellow siskin.

I was even more pleased to see a robin as I haven’t seen one in the garden for a long time.

After lunch, I went out to mow the front lawn and when I was about half way through the job, it started to rain again. Once again, it was only doing it to annoy and it soon stopped and let me finish the mowing while Mrs Tootlepedal came out and trimmed the lawn edges.

I just had time before the usual Carlisle Choir Zoom rehearsal to nip out and take a picture of the parish church bell tower for my friend Mike Taudevin (who was wondering if there was any visible evidence of new cracks in it), and on my way home, I stopped to take a picture of a very pretty flower which our neighbour Charlotte has planted beside the bridge over the dam.

The choir practice was as much fun as singing by yourself instead of with eighty other people can be, and when it finished, I went out for a late cycle ride. Following the pattern of the day, there were quite a few dark clouds about so I took a rain jacket with me. Luckily, I didn’t need to put it on and I had a slow but enjoyable pootle round my regular Canonbie run.

Belted Galloways were hiding in the long grass as I passed…

…and on the other side of the road, three trees stood out against some dark clouds which were fortunately going away from me and not towards me. The breeze that was rustling the leaves on the trees would soon be behind me.

My friend Gavin had been very impressed by the daisies on the Canonbie bypass when he had driven by them this morning and I stopped to show that he was right to be impressed.

When I got home, I sat for a moment on the new bench to admire the freshly mown and edged front lawn in the evening sunshine…

…and had another look at the delightful combination of nasturtium and clematis beside the front door…

…before going in to have an evening meal of roast ham followed by stewed gooseberries and cream.

So, all in all, in spite of the occasional rain, not a bad day at all.

A chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.


Today’s guest picture comes from South African exile Tom. He wasn’t able to visit Langholm for the Common Riding this year so went for a walk at home yesterday instead. Like the early risers in Langholm, he enjoyed a fine sunrise.

After yesterday’s untypical heat, we were back to more normal summer temperatures today with a brief mid afternoon peak of 70°C.

After breakfast, the garden was full of the sound of swifts. They seem to be feeding young in the eaves of our house.

They came and went very ‘swiftly’ though, and were hard to pin down.

We didn’t just have one or two. Small flocks swooped repeatedly past the window, emitting their characteristic screeches and I did my best to catch them as they whizzed past.

A more sedate bunch of starlings sat on the power line at the other end of the garden.

And in between, dahlias smiled.

We had a very pleasant morning coffee meeting sheltered from the breeze and shaded from the sun in our neighbour Liz’s gazebo, which had been erected for a family gathering yesterday. And there was cake.

After coffee, we did some gardening. Mrs Tootlepedal was altering some of her compost bins and I turned the contents of my Bin C into Bin D and tucked the results up snugly.

After yesterday’s visit from brightly coloured butterflies, it was the turn of white butterflies to browse on the buddleia today.

More sweet pea flowers have appeared…

…and this gave my pocket camera a chance to show off. The sweet peas are protected from the sparrows by plastic netting. You can see some in the picture above behind the flowers. What you can’t see is the mesh in front of the flowers which I was shooting through. The camera correctly guessed that I wasn’t looking at the mesh and managed to erase any trace of it without me even asking. When I am trying to photograph wild flowers though, and the camera ignores the flowers and only focusses on the leaves, I am not so impressed with its intelligence.

I did a lot of poppy and calendula dead heading too. The various poppies have responded well to regular dead heading.

After lunch, we decided to go for a walk. The sun had gone in, but it was still a pleasant day. Mrs Tootlepedal suggested a walk to Boykenhope Head. We had done part of this walk last August without going as far as we had hoped, so we intended to go the full distance today.

We drove the few miles to the foot of the valley and parked the car before setting off on foot.

We saw plenty of colour beside the tracks as we went along and I have put a selection into a panel.

Mrs Tootlepedal gets the credit for spotting both the wild thyme and the orchid.

There was a mass of heather getting ready to come out and some fine moss and ferns too.

And there was a bridge.

Our plan was to get to the abandoned house at Calkin…

… and take the lower of the two tracks which you can see behind the cottage. This follows the Boyken Burn up to the head of the valley where there is another abandoned house. Then the plan was to continue on to the newer forestry road and come back by way of the upper of the two tracks in the picture. It was a very good plan.

Unfortunately, the plan couldn’t cope with the fact that there was a very large and formidable bull which we came upon standing just round the first corner in the middle of the lower track. It was giving us a hard stare. It might well have been the mildest natured bull in the world but we weren’t going to test that out. We took the upper track.

Luckily the bull couldn’t see us thanks to the lie of the land and we progressed in peace. Down below on the other side of the burn, the cows and calves were disturbed by us, and headed for higher ground.

The upper track involved quite a bit of climbing…

…as we had to go up to a height of 1150 feet through the woods.

But the rewards were some splendid views across a sea of trees to distant hills…

…and some intriguing views down the steep side of the valley to the track below which we should have been walking along.

It was very peaceful up in the hills and we felt that we were miles from anywhere, so we were a bit surprised to come round a corner and find that there was wind turbine just over the top of the ridge in front of us.

We hadn’t realised how close we were to the back of the Ewe Hill wind farm. As we walked on, we passed another couple of turbines but their gentle rotation and the soft murmuring of their working parts didn’t disturb our pleasure at all.

We had hoped to visit the old house at Boykenhope Head, but using the forestry track instead of the track straight up the burn left us with a considerable drop back down to the house from the top of the valley and we didn’t fancy using the straight track back in case the bull was still standing on it.

In the end, we felt that we had climbed enough and turned back without visiting Boykenhope Head and walked back the way that we had come. This was not dull because of course, we got different views on the way back as we were facing in the opposite direction, and we met interesting things on the way, like this caterpillar…

…which might be a peacock butterfly in the making.

Less welcome when we got back down the hill was the sight of the bull, now standing firmly in the centre of the upper track. We made a prudent diversion over a fence and into a field of sheep. It was a big bull.

We were pleased to get back to Calkin….

…and enjoyed some moments of fantasy as we thought about what it would be like to buy it, do it up and live the simple life there.

As we still had three gates to go through before we got back to the car, Mrs Tootlepedal felt that life might not be quite so simple after all.

A check on the computer when we got home showed that we had walked just over seven miles so we had had a good outing even if we hadn’t visited our intended target.

It was just as well that I had been watching the swifts in the morning as the traffic at the feeder was non existent whenever I looked at it today. The flying bird of the day is therefore a swift.

A most uncommon riding

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Gavin. He was up on Whita Hill at the crack of dawn to see the 2020 Common Riding. The semi jubilee cornet (he was cornet 25 years ago) with the right and left hand men took the town’s standard round the monument in a symbolic gesture and the proceedings for this year were concluded by 6AM.

It is the last Friday in July today, Langholm’s Great Day, and the whole thing was done and dusted long before we got up. It was typical of the weather gods’ sense of humour that we got a near perfect day, warm, dry and mostly sunny, when there was nothing to celebrate.

Faint echoes of what should have been happening floated across the town, as people had family gatherings in their gardens, small groups of bandsmen played the familiar tunes in other gardens, and recordings of past Common Ridings could be heard through open windows.

We had coffee in the garden with Margaret but we had to cut it short today because it was too hot and sunny for comfort!

While we were sipping and chatting, I leapt up from time to time to record the butterflies passing through the garden.

After coffee, I picked out a few floral stars…

…and some of the less spectacular supporting cast too.

The trouble with having a lot of garden time on my hands during the lockdown has been the temptation to take photographs of the same flowers day after day, and of course, the garden doesn’t change much from day to day. I apologise for returning to old favourites so often, but it is hard not to be struck by their continuing beauty. I could just take fewer pictures of course but then that would leave me with more time to watch the telly in the evening. This would be very bad as it just leads to me shouting at the programmes and upsetting Mrs Tootlepedal. Expect more flowers again tomorrow.

There were quite a few swifts skimming over the roof of the house but I wasn’t quick enough to catch any, so I had to settle for a cheerful chaffinch in the plum tree.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I spent some time picking out more pictures from trips to the Langholm Moor and Tarras Valley to send off to a group which is going to publish an article in their magazine about the moor. This fully tested my filing system but we managed to find some.

I watched the birds for a while. Sparrows were out in force and arguments were going on before they even got to the feeder itself….

…where queues were forming.

A pigeon perched on an old sunflower stalk.

It grew steadily hotter in the afternoon until it peaked at about 30°C. Under the circumstances, Mrs Tootlepedal was not too unhappy about making a quick visit to her manure mine and then having to wait in the house for a telephone call while I went for a longer walk. Fortunately there was a brisk breeze blowing and the temperature dropped as the time went by, so my walk was more comfortable than I had expected when I set out.

Although there was no procession through the streets this year, the crown maker has nevertheless produced a crown, and some of our roses went into the making of it. It is on display in a local shop and I passed it by on my walk.

Normally by this time of day, well over a hundred horses and riders and thousands of people would have galloped and/or walked up and down the Kirk Wynd but today it was unmowed and undisturbed.

I was quite upset when the upper part of the Kirk Wynd was savagely cut back not many months ago. I thought that the clearing had been excessive, but I am happy to admit that I was wrong and new growth has come more quickly than I expected. As I walked up past the golf course, there were plenty of wild flowers beside the track.

A sheep tried to hide behind a thistle when I got to the open hill…

…but I spotted it all the same.

When I came to the line of pylons which have recently had their cables renewed, I found that there was a neat pile of parts waiting either to be added or removed.

I looked up to see the monument, my intended destination….

…and set about reaching it by the tried and tested method of putting one foot in front of the other (very slowly).

I enjoyed the views as I went up…

…even though it was a rather hazy day.

When I reached the top of the hill, I walked thee times round the monument in tribute to the Common Riding, and then came back down the hill on the gentler gradients of the track down the fence and then the Birnie Braes.

The heather really does look as though it might put on a show this year after several very poor years…

…and I always enjoy passing the neatly constructed cairns along the track.

My route took me back to the top of the golf course, and rather than going back down the track that I had come up, I walked down the golf course itself.

It looked very inviting, with an added ringlet butterfly in the rough…..

…though the greenkeeper will probably not be as happy to see a small flock of rabbits beside the second green as I was.

I stood on the first tee and looked up the fairway…

…and remembered the many, many times that I had stood there with a totally misplaced sense of hope in my heart in years gone by.

When I got down to the High Street, it was hard not to feel sad at the lack of a stage for handing out the flag in front of the Town Hall, the lack of bunting everywhere, and the total lack of life on what should have been our busiest day of the year.

It was only a three mile walk but I felt that I had celebrated the Common Riding as best that I could in these subdued virus times.

After our day of warmth, the temperature is due to drop back down again tomorrow, and it has been raining outside while I have been writing this post. Today may have constituted the shortest summer on record.

The flying bird of the day is another sparrow.

Not the usual musical evening

Today’s guest picture is another of Paul’s Lake District studies. It shows a relatively new bridge over the River Derwent.

The forecast said it would be raining here when we woke up, and the forecast was quite right. After two days without rain, it was a bit sad to be back in what has been typical July weather here.

It was a morning for looking at birds from the comfort of the sitting room while the birds discussed the ins and outs of climate change.

There was a good bit of traffic and the seed in the feeder was in demand.

Whenever a perch became free, there were birds ready to take their place at the table.

A redpoll kept a check on what was going on.

To be fair it wasn’t relentless rain and it came and went, allowing me to get to the shop and back in a dry moment, and to have a quick walk round the garden…

……where things were unsurprisingly a bit wet.

After lunch, I had another look at the birds.

I watched a young blue tit waiting for an opportunity, getting on to the feeder pole, snatching a seed and going off to peck at it in privacy.

As you can see from the bird pictures, it had stopped raining and in spite of a rather gloomy forecast that said it hadn’t stopped raining, I preferred the evidence of my own eyes, got my bicycle out and set off in a hopeful way to go as far as I could without getting soaked. I might have been encouraged to take a chance by the fact that this was that rare thing, a day without any wind.

I had gone about couple of miles when it started to rain! Quite heavily. So much for my decision to ignore the forecast. I got my rain jacket out but before I could even put it on, the rain stopped as suddenly as it had started and I had the rest of my ride in good conditions.

It was such a pleasure to be pedalling in peaceful conditions that after I had had a look at the heather on the hill….

….I didn’t stop to take any other pictures for the first fifteen miles. When I did stop to capture the charm of Kirkpatrick Fleming church, a car driver also stopped in the middle of my picture while he answered a call on his mobile phone. Such is life.

I passed up a lot of opportunities to take pictures of wild flowers but I did notice a fine hedge with bindweed and that the prospects for the bramble picking season look good.

I headed out to Eastriggs, and once again enjoyed the trees there that show the normal wind direction quite clearly…..

…even when there is no wind blowing.

I leaned my bike against the wall of the Devil’s Porridge museum in the village and ate a banana beside the fireless locomotive Sir James.

Refreshed by the banana, I took a trip to the seaside, but unfortunately the sea was out, so far out indeed that it wasn’t really visible and all that could be seen was just the channel of the River Esk running along the shore. The plus side was a very calm shot of the Lake District hills on the English coast opposite.

There may not have been any sea to see but there was a wonderfully large and confident flower on the edge of the shore.

Standing nearly a metre high and with flowers the size of a small saucer, it needed some research when I got home. Mrs Tootlepedal and I think it might be a rough hawksbeard. As always, I am open to correction from knowledgeable readers.

Leaving the absent sea behind, I pedalled on through Gretna and into England and then back through Longtown and into Scotland. My last picture, taken from a bridge, shows the road to Old Irving which now runs under the new Auchenrivock diversion.

I had two motivations to take this picture, firstly it is quite a pretty corner and secondly the warning lights on my legs’ control console were flashing “LOW ENERGY LEVELS – STOP NOW”.

The brief stop for the picture was enough to let them recharge and get me home after 51 very enjoyable miles.

Mrs Tootlepedal had got some useful gardening done while I was out but she had been sent indoors by more rain, so I had had the best of the weather. We went out to pick some courgettes for our tea and while I was out, I had a look around.

Two perfect flowers appealed to me.

And for once the light was sympathetic to my effort to take a picture of St John’s Wort which my camera finds hard to cope with usually.

The day had ended a lot more satisfactorily than it had begun.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Footnote: Today’s blog title refers to the fact this this is Summer Fair Night, the evening before Langholm’s greatest day of the year, the Langholm Common Riding. The streets this evening should have been full of the music of the town’s brass and pipe bands, and the once a year appearance of the flute band should have been heard welcoming back exiled Langholmites returning for Langholm’s great day.

Tomorrow, the flute band should awaken the town at 5 o’clock to start the ceremonies off but all this has fallen victim to the coronavirus, and the Common Riding with its cornet bearing the town standard, the bands, the train of over a hundred mounted followers, the streets lined with spectators, the athletics, the dancing, the wrestling and the horse racing will not happen. There may be muted and secret celebrations but for many townspeople, tomorrow will be a day of great sorrow.

To get a flavour of what we will be missing, you can look here.

Another fine day

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew in Derby. He spotted a local heron having a day on the tiles.

We could hardly believe our luck here when we had a second dry day in succession. We made good use of it.

Mrs Tootlepedal drove up to the Langholm Moor, where she and other members of her group were interviewed by a man from the John Muir trust for an article in the trust’s magazine. The trust are giving a substantial donation towards the buy out and were interested to visit the moor to talk about the moor and listen to the hopes and plans of the buy out group.

I had a walk round the garden and doffed my hat to the Queen of Denmark who was looking regal…

….saluted the first sweet pea, safe from the depredations of the sparrows in its cage…

….noticed that the zinnias are still building their starry internal garden fences…

…enjoyed some familiar colour…

…nodded at a dunnock on the lawn…

…and went out for a bicycle ride in spite of a quite boisterous breeze.

Soon after I left the town, I was caught up by another local cyclist who politely pedalled along with me for a while. He had whizzed past me while I was on my walk yesterday, and he told me that before he met me, he had been blown clean off the road into the verge by one of the gusts, luckily without coming to any harm. I was more glad than ever that I had been walking and not cycling.

There are mysteries about when you pedal. Why does great burnet grow so richly…

…in just one spot on my ride. You can find it elsewhere but not in these quantities.

I battled into the wind for 15 miles, turned so that it was now a crosswind for the next ten miles, and finally got a good push home. Perfect route planning though I say so myself.

The middle section of my route took me roughly down the course of the Kirtle Water, which I crossed by this bridge before Eaglesfield.

The water is still very brown after the recent rain, but the river was quite peaceful and reflective.

On the other other side of the village, they were gathering the harvest in.

I crossed the Kirtle Water again at the aptly name village of Kirtlebridge. Looking up stream from the bridge that I was on…

…I could see a potted history of the subservience of transport planners to the might of the motor vehicle.

I was standing on the ‘old main road’ which bypassed the even older road behind me which runs through the village itself. My main road has in turn been bypassed by a newer dual carriageway which in turn has been overtaken by a motorway crossing the new bridge which you can see, leaving the dual carriageway as a service road. So, four roads within a hundred yards of each other, all going in the same direction, all needing maintenance and a perfectly good railway running parallel to them all.

I didn’t stop a lot but I had to pause to record this wonderful bed of calendulas at Gretna…

…and I ate a banana beside the old gravel pond at Longtown…

…now looking quite picturesque and complete with both swans and geese.

I had to add an extra mile through the town when I got to Langholm to make my ride come to a neat forty miles. However hard I tried over the last few miles though, I couldn’t quite get my average speed up to 13mph after a very slow start into the breeze.

It would be nice to get a reasonably still day before the end of the month to let me add to my monthly mileage in peace.

Mrs Tootlepedal was hard at work on her computer when I got back, but she told me that she had had a most enjoyable meeting on the moor.

I had a walk round the garden where I enjoyed Sweet William, hand painted by nature using the splatter technique…

…and a perennial wallflower looking a bit more subdued.

On the back wall of the house, the fuchsia branches are loaded with flowers.

I mowed the middle lawn, and took another look around in the very welcome sunshine…

…and went in to have a shower and a shave, ready to look my best for the sibling Zoom.

After the shower, I watched the birds for a while. A siskin wondered what a greenfinch was up to.

Although there were some busy moments…

…traffic was generally light and I found myself looking at a hosta below the feeder instead of birds.

The sibling Zoom went well with a good selection of shared pictures and riddles helping to add variety to our conversation. (The solution to my riddle was ‘cheese’. Now there’s a surprise.)

Mrs Tootlepedal dug up some very tasty carrots from her vegetable garden and we had them with liver and onions for our evening meal.

The flying bird of the day technically isn’t actually flying but it was certainly fleeing.

Blown off course again

Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie and shows a fig from her garden.

We had a day without rain today and very welcome it was too. Sandy came down to join us for coffee, and thanks to the very strong wind, we had a morning coffee meeting inside, the first time since the lockdown began. It felt most unusual.

We were joined by our neighbour Liz and I burdened her down with rhubarb before she left. While I was out by the rhubarb patch, I noticed that a better looking red admiral butterfly had discovered the buddleia.

And I discovered that the cornflowers have started to come out.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy with community buy out work, so I did some gardening on my own account with breaks for flower shooting.

In between dead heading and admiring poppies…

I pruned the last of the espalier apples, trimmed a short hedge and mowed the drying green and the vegetable garden grass….

…and the front lawn too.

It is hard to ignore the dahlias at the moment. They seem to get more beautiful each day.

I filled the bird feeder and went in to watch the avian action from the sitting room window. I saw a sparrow sandwich…

…and a greenfinch vs siskin melee…

…which ended with the greenfinch in command of the perch.

I had been hoping to get out for a cycle ride since it was a dry day, but as we were eating our lunch, a fierce gust of wind sent garden chairs cartwheeling along the drive so I thought again, and decided that a walk would be a better idea. Somehow, walking in a strong wind is not so discouraging as cycling into one is.

Leaving Mrs Tootlepedal crouched over her computer doing more community buy out work, I set off to walk round the ‘Whisky Run’, a walk that I last did on New Year’s day. It involves walking up the Esk valley on the road north out of town, crossing the Esk by way of the Burnfoot bridge and then coming home on the other side of the river along a track (after a little climb up a hill on a back road).

The first mile, along a tree lined road, doesn’t have any views, so I took a picture of a fine lichen and some herb robert…

After that, it is a very open walk with views almost all the way, including one of my favourite views, ‘The Gates of Eden’.

It was a day of sunny intervals, as the weather forecasters say, and occasionally I got a sunny view like this one of the Esk and the road that I would take on my way back on the other side of the valley. (It passes the white cottage.)

The Burnfoot Bridge always seems to be a bit grander than the narrow road on which it lies deserves.

Still, I crossed it when I came to it and walked up the hill on the other side. There has been recent felling here, and the rosebay willowherb has leapt into life in place of the trees.

More views were available when I got to the top…

…before taking the track back home.

This is what the Gates of Eden look like from up close.

The road just squeezes through the gap between the hills.

There were cattle on the hill beside the unfenced track when I left the road, but they were only mildly curious as I walked past them and soon went back to grazing. I didn’t stop to take any pictures of them though and was happy when I reached the comparative safety of sheep.

I kept going for five miles without stopping for more than a moment or two to take pictures, so when I came to this bench above Potholm…

…I was happy to have a short sit down and a snack.

After I left the bench, the track was tree lined for a while, and I kept an eye out for wild flowers in the absence of a view….

…but soon I was at a place where more recent tree felling has opened up views for walkers.

A look at a field across the river…

…showed clear evidence of our recent rain.

The rain had encouraged some fungus to grow on a bank a bit further down the track.

The forecast had suggested that there was a fair chance of some rain in the late afternoon, so I stopped stopping to take pictures and concentrated on getting home from this point. There were one or two faint spells of drizzle (or spells of faint drizzle) but I completed the eight and a half miles without getting wet. In fact, the sun was shining brightly when I got back to the garden.

Mrs Tootlepedal was still hard at work on her computer when I got home, but she came out into the garden where I picked beetroots and turnips and she collected courgettes for our tea.

In spite of the occasional blue skies, it was not a warm day with the temperature once again only just creeping over 15°C/60°F. As a result, it was a perfect day for walking and I really enjoyed my outing. I have been trying to get a walk or a cycle ride in every day during the lockdown to avoid boredom as much as anything else, but the effort has been very satisfactory from a fitness point of view.

All the same, I was quite tired after a fairly active day and the flying bird of the day reflects this. It is having a quiet moment too.

The Tiny Potager

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