A pedal and a tootle

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony. When I looked in my files, I saw that I hadn’t used this fine picture of deer that he sent me a week or so ago.

We had a quiet start to the day but I had managed to get out on my shopping bike as far as the High Street and to come back by way of the corner shop by the time that Dropscone arrived for coffee and scones. We had hoped to find that the suspension bridge had been finally opened but it was still shut and we had both had to take the long way round.

However, Dropscone phoned when he had got home after coffee to say that not only was the bridge now open, but he had been the first person to cross it. Mrs Tootlepedal had business in the High street so she was one of the next people to go over it. I will wait and cross that bridge when I come to it tomorrow.

After coffee, I went out into the garden to do some some dead heading and lawn edging. I took a look round while I was out there.

I liked the nasturtiums at the front gate . . .

. . . and once again found that it was quite hard to photograph a dahlia without finding an insect on it.

A small tortoiseshell butterfly had discovered the sedum . . .

. . . which were still covered with bumble bees grazing placidly.

I had a rough count and reckoned that we had eighty to a hundred bumble bees of various types in the garden.

The butterfly (or a look alike) was still on the sedum ten minutes later but it had turned round.

It was an exciting morning in the garden.

Other insects were available especially on the mint and Michaelmas daisies.

There were definitely times when three was a crowd, but at other times, complex geometry seemed to discourage visiting.

I think that my favourite shot of the morning was this bee visiting a fancy dahlia . . .

I liked it so much that I took another one.

I have never thought of bees as being cuddly before.

There weren’t as many butterflies about as I expected, and this peacock butterfly looked a little part worn.

The dahlias continue to do well, and I liked the subdued colours on a cloudy day in this collection.

I had a last look round . . .

. . . and went in for lunch.

Refreshed by some soup and a couple of bacon and tomato rolls, I got my bike out and stretched my legs with a gentle ride round my familiar Canonbie circuit. The forecast suggested a minor possibility of rain and there were plenty of clouds about as I cycled up from Wauchope Schoolhouse and pedalled over the hill.

I did get one little burst of sunlight on my trip and it came just a I was passing the little wood at Hollows Bridge. It looked so inviting that I stopped and had a wander . . .

I looked at that bench from both sides . . .

. . . but tempting as it was, I didn’t sit down but was soon on my way across the bridge.

I was pleased to be moving again as there were some rather dark clouds looming up, but luckily they stayed away and I got home in the dry.

After a cup of tea, there was time for another walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal. The nerines have arrived with a bang. One day they were hardly visible and the next they were out in force.

Mrs Tootlepedal is going to dig up the sweet peas soon. I will be sorry as they are still flowering, even though the flowers are too high for me to reach easily now.

The sedum was still covered in bees. They had spent the whole day there. The clematis is almost over and I had to look hard to find a decent flower. The lamium is indestructible.

I spent some frustrating minutes trying to get my camera to notice a blue salvia when all it wanted to do was to look at the drive.

I went in to cook mince for our evening meal, then have a shower, then enjoy a sibling zoom, then eat the mince (and tatties), and then take a moment to rest and organise some music.

The music was needed because our friends Mike and Alison came round in the evening, and while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal chatted, Alison and I played recorder and keyboard duets. We are still honing our skills after a year and a half without playing together until recently but on occasion, we both played the right notes at the right time and the result was very harmonious.

Once again, the garden birds were conspicuous by their absence and the feeder hardly went down at all today. As a result there is no flying bird of the day, but I did move my position and manage to persuade the camera to notice the blue salvia at last. It is the flower of the day.

Pastures new

Today’s guest picture is another watery one from my brother Andrew. He visited this lock at Aston on Trent on his walk today.

We woke to a beautiful morning and it was a privilege to be out in the garden . . .

. . . along with peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies.

We had coffee outside with Margaret, and while we sat and chatted, the garden was humming with bees and other insects. The demand far exceeded the supply of flowers and co-operative sharing was the order of the day.

This is a post of few words and many pictures for a reason that will become obvious later.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal felt like a breakout from routine, so we got in the car and drove north for a walk round the Black Esk reservoir, the source of drinking water for our town.

We parked the car at the foot of the dam . . .

. . . walked up to see the elaborate plughole at the top . . .

. . . walked across the dam . . .

. . . and joined the road on the far side of the water.

From there we had a most pleasant four mile walk round the reservoir, in the open on the way out, and through trees on the way back.

We passed a large quarry which we thought might well have provided the rocks for the construction of the dam.

I took a selection of photographs as we went round. I put them in here without further comment in the order that I took them. The wooden bridge crosses the Black Esk river as it joins the reservoir at the top end. The water is very low and much of the top of the reservoir has no water in at all.

The pictures in the panel below are from the wooded section at the top of the reservoir . . .

. . . and the next two show just how low the water level is.

We saw wild flowers on our way . . .

. . . and I was happy to see some fine lichen on the rocks on top of the dam itself as we walked across.

There was not much water to be seen coming out to supply the Esk river at the bottom of the dam.

It was a very good walk and we certainly hope to come and do it again, preferably when there is a bit more water in the reservoir.

When we got back to the dam, the alert Mrs Tootlepedal spotted two or three swallows who had not yet made the journey south.

We made out own journey south back to Langholm without incident, and had a well earned cup of tea with a slice of bread and bramble jelly when we got home.

I didn’t have a great deal of time to laze about, as I needed to get my evening meal cooked and eaten in time to be picked up by my recorder playing friend Susan. She very kindly drove us both to Carlisle where for the first time for a year and a half, our ‘regular’ recorder quartet met and played at Jenny’s house (with the window open for good ventilation).

Being extremely rusty, we took pieces at a very sedate pace, but we still thoroughly enjoyed meeting some familiar music after a long absence. Susan and I didn’t get home until after ten, hence the many pictures and few words in this blog.

The flying bird of the day is a buzzard from our afternoon walk.

Crossing the Lyne

Today’s guest picture comes from sunny East Wemyss. Our son Tony thought that it was a particularly calm if rather hazy day on the Forth of Forth.

We had a calm and sunny day here too today, after some seasonally appropriate early morning autumnal mist.

Under the circumstances, a bike ride seemed to be a good idea. I let the mist burn off and the temperature rise, and finally got going a little later than I intended, but still before coffee time.

I left Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden in the company of butterflies.

I decided that my knees had been having life a bit too easy with flat rides lately, so I took to the hills today. They weren’t big hills but there were a lot of them as I headed for England by back roads. Before I could get to England, I had to cross the Liddel Water at Penton. I looked at the river both ways from the bridge . . .

. . . and the bridge from the river.

The red cord across the river belonged to a group of firemen who were on a training exercise. It was a peaceful spot . . .

. . . but I left the firemen to it and headed on up the very steep hill into England. At a 10% gradient, if only for a very short while, it is near to my limit these days, but I got up it and managed the long but less steep gradient that followed.

I was happy to stop for a breather and pictures of a seed head shining in the sun together with a moth or butterfly hanging on in a big bunch of mint. Mint seems to have done very well this year.

Once I got out of Liddesdale, I found myself crossing several more streams and rivers, all of which have steep descents, a bridge at the bottom and a steep ascent on the other side.

Luckily, the weather was perfect, the views good, the road surfaces well maintained, and there were objects of interest to distract me on the way.

My target was the castle and church at Bewcastle. The castle sits in a farmer’s field and he kindly lets visitors walk round unimpeded. The castle was originally built in the eleventh century near the site of a Roman fort. It was destroyed and then rebuilt in the mid fourteenth century and lasted for 40 years before it was captured by the Scots and left a ruin.

I was interested to see that a lot of the lower facing stones from the remaining outer wall had obviously been ‘quarried’ for building use in later years . . .

. . . and there is not a great deal of the interior left standing.

The church is in better condition but the present building dates from 1792, 500 years after the first recorded church here.

The chief glory of the church is the Bewcastle Cross, which you can see in the picture above.

Research on a local website tells me that the Bewcastle Cross, with its cousin at Ruthwell on the Solway coast, are probably the finest to survive from Anglo-Saxon Britain. Their style looks to Northumbria, and beyond there to Rome and Syria, rather than to Galloway and Ireland. They are likely to date from after 675 when this area (formerly known as Rheged) had come under Northumbrian sway.

I took pictures of the carvings on all four sides of the cross.

The church car park was full of cars. It turned out that their drivers were not church goers but a rather large party of walkers who filled up the whole road as I approached the castle and only gave way rather reluctantly.

I was a bit worried by a large sign on the road that I intended to take next: ROAD CLOSED. This is the second time that this has happened to me lately, but I shouldn’t complain as it does mean that surfaces will good to bicycle on when the work is done. A friendly postman had told me that the work was only patching and not total resurfacing. He thought that a cyclist might be able to get through, and he was right . . .

. . . though it was a bit of a squeeze. I wondered what a welfare vehicle might have inside it.

Once past the road works, the road was well surfaced, traffic free and an absolute treat to cycle along (there was a lot of downhill at last).

When I came to the road junction at the end of the moor, I turned right and swooped down to this fine bridge at Kirkcambeck . . .

. . . which I crossed again from the other side a few minutes later when I discovered that I should have turned left and not right.

I had printed out a map for my trip but it was so small that I found that I could hardly read it without my bifocals on, which of course I didn’t have with me. A great deal of earnest peering got me back on the right track, and I cycled down from the hills to the Solway plain through Hethersgill and its church . . .

. . . built as a chapel of ease in 1876.

Although the scenery was not so interesting, and there was a lot more traffic, my knees were extremely pleased to find themselves on roads with gentle gradients for the twenty miles home. A lot of the ups and downs in the previous miles had been caused by the crossing of the White Lyne, the Black Lyne and their tributaries. All these streams had come together when I crossed the River Lyne itself on the road to Longtown. I paused on the bridge to enjoy a honey sandwich and the pastoral scene.

I cycled steadily home up the main roads, stopping once or twice for more refreshment and to give my legs a much needed rest.

When I got back, I discovered that Attila the Gardener had been in full attack mode and a large fern near the bird feeder had bitten the dust. The plants in the garden have learned to be light on their feet and the sensible ones dodge out of the way when they see her coming. She is planning for next year.

I took a stroll round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal and found that there are flowers left in the garden . . .

. . . and the bees and butterflies are enjoying them as much as I do.

But by far and away the most popular flowers are the sedums. They were astonishing this afternoon.

The visitors seem mostly to be white tailed bumble bees but there are others too.

The birds had not been visiting the feeder while Mrs Tootlepedal was working on the fern nearby, and they didn’t seem inclined to come after she had finished, so there is not a single bird picture today and the flying bird of the day is a dahlia.

Footnote: I append a map of the bike trip with an elevation chart so that you can see why my knees were pleased to get to the flatter section. Those interested can click on the map for more detail.

Picking the low hanging fruit

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He went to Tamworth to go skiing in the SnowDome, but found it was closed for a private function. Ever one to turn a disappointment into an opportunity, he went to visit Tamworth Castle instead.

We had another gloomy and grey day here today, and it was lucky that I had useful things to do on the computer after breakfast because it was raining outside. By the time that we had had our coffee, the rain had stopped, so I went out to do some dead heading and looking at things.

I very much enjoyed seeing a bumble bee backing carefully out of a snapdragon . . .

. . . and once again I had to be careful while I was dead heading the dahlias as there were a lot of bees and other insects getting every last drop of nourishment out of the flowers.

It is noticeable that the only flower in the panel above not to have visitors is also the fanciest. Insects tend not to like fancy flowers as much as photographers do.

In the absence of the sun, I had to rely on flowers to brighten my day. They did a good job.

I have not been dead heading the poppies . . .

. . . so we are hoping for a good crop of self seeded poppies next year. We can always hope.

Another foxglove has arrived very late on the scene.

I worked as a dead header’s assistant while Mrs Tootlepedal dived boldly into the middle of thick vegetation. The task of the assistant is to point out any dead heads that the dead header has missed. She is always grateful for this.

I had another look round just before lunch.

The new fake tree has been attached to the fence post to give the birds a resting place when the feeder is busy and they have to wait for a perch. The stems are not rooted and the leaves will soon fall off.

When I had looked at the birds before coffee, I found that two ungrateful greenfinches and a chaffinch preferred the old twigs to the new willow . . .

. . . while a sparrow preferred the feeder pole itself . . .

. . . and another greenfinch didn’t hang about waiting at all.

The feeder was quite busy then, but for some reason the birds stopped coming later in the day, and even though I refilled it, I didn’t see another bird on the feeder.

Butterflies were to be seen, but they were few and far between. Our purple buddleias are almost over, so a small tortoiseshell tried the red one today.

The calendulas are going over too, but there are still enough around to remind me of how good they look.

The yellow crocosmias round the front lawn are pretty well at their peak.

It was a good day to have a cheerful soup for lunch, and luckily Mrs Tootlepedal had made a tasty ham broth which went down very well.

After lunch, we went back to the bramble patch beside the Tarras Water to see if we could pick enough blackberries to make some bramble and apple jelly. Someone else had had the same idea but there were enough left for us to make the outing worthwhile. Some of the fruit was in peak condition.

I leaned over the bridge when we got back to the car and noted yet again how low the water is.

On the way home, Mrs Tootlepedal kept a sharp eye out for more briars in the hedgerows, and we found two good places to stop and add to our haul. As the second lot was growing over one of my favourite walls, I had the chance to take a picture of moss and lichen to add to my general sense of happiness.

I was hoping to see the red fruiting bodies on the lichen but they are still under development.

We did some weighing when we got home, and found that when we added yesterday’s small pickings to today’s larger harvest, we had over three pounds of berries. This was enough to make some jelly so I added three apples from our garden and stewed the fruit. I have a highly sophisticated jelly bag . . .

. . . consisting of an upturned occasional table and an old tea towel. It works well enough though.

Later in the evening, I made four and a half pots of jelly, a good reward for braving the briars and the nettles.

During the day, I took a view of the front beds from the garden gate . . .

. . . and an aerial view of the front garden from an upstairs window. The garden may be getting autumnal but it has not faded away entirely.

That is a outdoor coffee table leaning against the bench in the background. We haven’t been moved to sit outside for our coffee for a while now. Although we need rain, a little sun would not go amiss either.

I didn’t get a chance to catch a flying bird today so I was tempted to use a picture of two very noisy military helicopters which flew over the garden in the early evening . . .

. . . but in spite of an appalling racket which made them sound as though they were just over our rooftop, they were too high to get a good picture.

A nearly flying greenfinch will have to do.

A gift from nature

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan. She is on holiday in Norfolk and was diverted through circumstances beyond her control from her original destination of Great Yarmouth, which is by the sea, to Swaffham, which is in the middle of nowhere. A consolation is the elegant tower on the church of St Peter and St Paul in Swaffham. It went up early in the 16th Century on the eve of the Protestant Reformation.

We had another very grey day here with the occasional sprinkling of very light rain. It was decidedly cooler than it has been, and I needed a jacket on when I went out on my bike to go shopping.

I had quite a busy morning, putting a week of the Eskdale and Liddesdale Advertiser index into the Langholm Archive Group’s database after breakfast, visiting the chemist, the ironmongers and the corner shop before coffee, and mowing the middle lawn after coffee.

I did some shredding of the trimmed hedge, and while I was at it, I picked a few more blackberries before they all got cut down.

I finally got a camera out just before lunch and looked at the birds. There were several to look at

Sometimes all the interest was over there . . .

. . . and sometimes it was over there and over here.

As usual, where there were siskins, there was discord.

I had a walk round the garden before sitting down to a sardine sandwich for my midday meal.

I am very pleased to find that the heavily pruned fuchsia on the back wall of the house is thriving, and Mrs Tootlepedal is very pleased with the health of the geraniums in the chimney pot. The French marigolds seem to last for ever, and we have one yellow nasturtium among a host of red ones.

I found two dahlias with no insect visitors today . . .

. . . but I did find a bee trying to work out where the nectar is in this pompom dahlia . . .

. . . . and four bees having no problem with the sedum.

If it is as busy as this before it has even come properly out, what will it be like when it is in full bloom?

The helenium had a lone visitor.

After lunch, I persuaded Attila the Gardener to take a break from hedge destruction, and we drove down to the banks of the Tarras Water for a little walk. I had thought of a cycle ride but it was rather chilly, quite windy and definitely grey, so a sheltered walk in the company of Mrs Tootlepedal seemed like a much better bet.

It was definitely an autumn stroll. Secretly, I was hoping to find some wild blackberries and I had brought along a small container just in case. We saw a few blackberries but nothing to get excited about so we turned our attention to the proliferations of seed heads on every side . . .

. . . and Mrs Tootlepedal collected a variety of seeds to plant in her mini wild flower meadow in the garden. There were one or two knapweeds still in flower . . .

. . . as well as the occasional ragwort, cats ear and sneezewort, along with a very tattered fungus, the only one that we saw.

As we walked along, I spotted a good clump of brambles, and although we hadn’t come prepared for bashing about among the thorns and nettles, we were able to pick nearly a pound of blackberries in a few minutes before walking on. The best brambles that we saw were not pickable though as they were hanging off the edge of a cliff above the river.

We left them to hang there and passed open areas . . .

. . . and a fine domed patch of willow . . .

. . . until we came to the thicker woods on the river bank, where a Scots pine stood above the water.

. . . and horsetail flourished under the trees.

We ran out of time and had to head back to the car, but it had been a very satisfying short walk.

The pick of the wild plants for me was this self heal, one of the few in flower.

We got home in time to enjoy a cup of tea before the usual Zoom with my brother and sisters.

If the weather permits, we might go back again tomorrow and take the bramble picking a bit more seriously with an eye on some bramble jelly. Our apples are ripening well so bramble and apple jelly might be in order if we can’t get enough brambles by themselves.

The flying bird of the day is a surprised siskin.

Organ failure (and success)

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who found himself walking along the bank of the River Derwent yesterday.

We had another dry but grey morning here today. It was rather gloomy at first . . .

. . . but it was pleasant enough after breakfast as we cycled to church to sing in the choir. We were a bit worried as our organist Henry had sent a message to say that he was a victim of covid and was self isolating. It was with some relief that we found that he had managed to organise a substitute organist, and we were able to sing our hymns with gusto.

The minister told us that he was going to base his next set of sermons on explaining the gospel of Mark. He added that he expected this to last for about two years. As he spent today’s sermon entirely on chapter one, verse one, this may well turn out to be true.

We had coffee when we got home and then Mrs Tootlepedal adopted the role of Attila the Gardener, while I took my part as Onegesius, Attila’s chief lieutenant. We strode out into the garden to do battle with a hedge of willow, brambles, holly and beech which had grown too big for its boots. By the end of the day, Attila had showed that hedge who was boss.

I only helped as far as lunchtime, but even by that time we had produced three boxes of shreddings for the compost heap.

The birds were about in the garden as well, perhaps inclined to visit after a quiet spell because the temperature had dropped a bit and rain was threatening.

The sight of a greenfinch on the fake tree reminded us that after two years, the fake twigs are looking a bit part worn . . .

. . . and the plan is to replace the old twigs with some new shoots cut from the hedge today.

On the feeder, a greenfinch did some light moaning . . .

. . . but greenfinches are amateurs compared with siskins when it comes to being unpleasant.

Greenfinches are up for a fight though, and when one loomed up behind the feeder, the sitting tenant did not give up without a struggle.

It started to rain lightly just before lunch, so we left the hedge demolition and came inside. A greenfinch on the feeder summed up the day.

After lunch, we watched the final stage of the Tour of Britain which had a dramatic ending as Wout van Aert appeared as if by magic just in time to nip past Cavendish, win the stage and claim the victory for the whole tour.

A robin appeared to celebrate Wout’s victory . . .

. . . and gave me a very hard stare when I complained about it sitting behind a twig.

Inspired by the professional cyclists, I went for a cycle ride myself. I might have been inspired but I wisely limited myself to a fifth of their distance and only achieved about a half of their speed. My enthusiasm was slightly dampened by a light shower of rain just as I crossed the Hill Mill Brig, but I pedalled on and the rain stopped.

I had intended to go up the main road to Mosspaul against the wind and come back with the wind behind me, but when I got to Fiddelton Toll, the wind whistling through the narrow valley was strong enough to make the prospect of grinding up the the last two fairly steep miles to Mosspaul unattractive. I turned right and went along the flatter road towards Carrotrig. It is more scenically interesting too.

All the same, it does have a sting in the tail and to get up to ten miles, I had to do half a mile up a very steep hill which the camera flattens out most unfairly. I was happy to look back . . .

. . . and to my side . . .

. . . before turning and cycling rather carefully back down the hill to join the main road.

The weather was fine as I cycled back down the valley . . .

. . . but looking ahead, I could see that the rain had not gone away.

In fact, the rain was waiting for me at exactly the same spot where it had been on my way out, and it stopped as soon as I got over the High Mill Brig. It was noticeably colder in the rainy patch so perhaps a little wrinkle in the air pressure must have trapped the rain just outside Langholm. It certainly had not been raining on Attila the Gardener as she finished the destruction of the hedge while I was cycling.

And it didn’t rain while I took a wander round the garden. It was fairly damp though.

I found insects on dahlias in spite of the dampness. You have to look quite hard to see the tiny fly on the pink flower.

There were plenty of flowers with no bees and among the pretty dahlias, I was pleased to see a late foxglove and the Lilian Austin rose fully out.

While the hedge work was going on, we got an unexpected bonus. It turned out that the wild brambles had quite a number of ripe blackberries on them. There were enough in the end for me to put them in with some apples from the garden, and to have stewed apples and blackberries with custard for pudding after our evening meal. This was a good way to end the active day.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch with its eye on the prize.

Footnote: A reader asked recently if Mrs Tootlepedal used seeds from her salvia. She hasn’t done so before but the enquiry sparked her curiosity, and we looked to see whether our salvias were producing usable seeds. They are. The seeds pods are to be found on the stem below the flowers and the seeds are easy to shake out. You can actually see a seed in a pod in the right hand picture of the panel below. Mrs Tootlepedal is going to try growing the seeds. Our friend Mike Tinker says that he has successfully grown his salvia seeds.

Plenty to do and see

Today’s guest picture comes from my Welsh correspondent Keiron. It shows a fine rose grown by his wife. It is flourishing in spite of or because of quite a bit of recent rain.

We had another day here with a grey morning and a sunny afternoon. It was warm and dry though, so after a slow start to the day, we got busy.

I started my effort with some dead heading, badly needed as I have been slacking on the job over the past couple of days. Then, while Mrs Tootlepedal cycled off to do some shopping, I mowed the greenhouse grass and the vegetable garden paths.

I had time for a walk round the garden before lunch. I saw that the Lilian Austin rose was looking promising. When I looked later, the sun in the afternoon had encouraged it to open.

Although things are definitely beginning to wind down for the year, there is till plenty of colour to be seen . . .

The yellow dahlias in the top right of the panel above are well over six feet high now. Mrs Tootlepedal doesn’t keep a lot of dahlias over winter, preferring to grow them from seed on the whole, but she likes the the yellow ones in the top left corner so much that she may well keep them.

The garden is full of bees and flies and occasional butterflies making the most of the flowers . . .

You have to look closely sometimes to see all the visitors. Even before the carder bee arrived, there were six small insects on this dahlia.

I put my camera down and got the push mower out and mowed the front lawn. It had quite a lot of grass on it in spite of the lack of serious rain lately.

After lunch, we took a break from gardening and watched the Tour of Britain cyclists pass through familiar parts of the the country on their way from our neighbouring town of Hawick to Edinburgh.

When they had finished, we went back out into the garden where the sunshine had encouraged new visitors . . .

. . . and did some more dead heading, and then, while Mrs Tootlepedal set about weeding and hoeing the vegetable beds, I went for a walk.

I started by checking to see if our impatiens noli tangere beside the Wauchope Water was still in flower. It was.

I took pictures with my camera and my phone and it was interesting to see how different they thought the colour of the flowers was.

My camera:

My phone:

I love the way that these flowers seem to swim through the air like fish.

Unfortunately, it looks as though this pretty plant is likely to be swamped by an invasive Himalayan balsam growing beside it.

I continued my stroll by going along Gaskell’s Walk, over the Auld Stane Brig and coming back home by way of the track across the Becks Burn.

I crossed three wooden bridges and an auld stane one too.

I saw haws, hips, sloes and seeds . . .

. . . a few fungi beside the track through the wood and blackberries beside the lichen garden on a fence post . . .

. . . inquisitive cattle . . .

. . . and silhouetted sheep.

I was a it worried by the silhouetted sheep, as their background was a large and threatening cloud which bid fair to spoil my day. I increased my pace a bit, but I need not have worried as the cloud passed harmlessly by, and was soon to be seen on the far side of Whita . . .

. . . leaving me and the monument in the sunshine.

There were some good views on my way. (As always, a click will bring up the bigger picture)

I liked the sun on the willowherb seed heads on Gaskells Walk, the impressive crop of crab apples on the Becks track, and a fine clump of marsh woundwort as I came down past Holmwood.

I rounded my outing off with a shot of our neighbour Liz’s garage which is showing the turning of the season.

Pompom dahlias welcomed me back to the garden.

Once again, the garden birds were conspicuous by their absence so there is no flying bird of the day today. I have put in a floating flower instead.

Welcome home

Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s visit to Porthleven in Cornwall.

It was a day which started with low cloud and rain . . .

. . . and ended with sunshine and the return of Mrs Tootlepedal.

In between, Dropscone came round for coffee bearing first rate scones (and leaving with runner beans), and I had a walk round the garden . . .

. . . a visit to the shop when the clouds began to lift and the rain stopped . ..

. . . a check on the blue tits at the feeder . . .

. . . another look at the flowers . . .

. . . lunch, and a bicycle ride.

It looked as though it was going to rain again, so I dressed for wet weather and needless to say, it stayed dry and the sun came out half way round. I thought that I would try to go round my 20 mile Canonbie circuit without stopping at all, but the sunshine on the hills as I came back down to Wauchopedale proved too much for me and I cracked.

I had a cup of tea with our neighbour Liz when I got back, and then, since I hadn’t taken any cycling pictures, I went for a short three bridges walk.

In spite of our recent little bits of rain, the rivers have rarely been lower, with the mighty Wauchope is reduced to a trickle as it goes under the Kirk Brig to join the Esk

On the Esk, today’s fashion was for standing on a rock . . .

. . . though I was very pleased to find a sitting duck (which I shot).

The afternoon could hardly have been more different from the gloomy morning . . .

. . . and I saw a friendly gull, who took off and made a fly past as I walked along the Kilngreen . . .

. . . distracting me for a minute from my observations of the many wagtails which flit along the rocks beside the Ewes Water, and occasionally stop long enough for a picture.

On the Castleholm, there were signs of impending autumn . . .

. . . the occasional wild flower . . .

. . . and resin exuding from the noble fir cones.

I spurned the chance of a rest on my way . . .

. . . and admired the style of the sole competitor who had entered the man and dog race.

I spotted a popular flower on the Scholars’ Field . . .

. . .and got home in time to make some cauliflower cheese and eat it before going off to meet the London train and Mrs Tootlepedal at Carlisle Station.

She arrived only a few minutes late, and as you can imagine, I was very pleased to see her.

Our drive home was uneventful, and there was just enough light left for a tour round the garden before we went in and gratefully collapsed after a long day.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is that obliging gull at the Kilngreen.


Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia who is still in Cornwall. She wondered if tourists were entirely welcome at Porthleven harbour.

We had a curious day here in Langholm today. After a teaspoonful of overnight rain., it was grey, humid, still and warm. The whole day had the feel of the calm before the storm, as though something rather ominous was about to happen. As it turned out, nothing happened, it was an excellent day for drying the washing, and the day just went on being calm, grey and warm. Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that she is trying to get adjusted to the experience of seeing rain fall out of the sky during her stay in the south.

My morning was brightened by the arrival of Sandy for coffee, and by the arrival of fresh supplies of coffee beans and tea leaves in the post from my supplier in Carlisle.

When Sandy was leaving (with more runner beans), he noticed a green bottle fly feasting on a fallen plum on our lawn. I went and got my camera.

Then I combined dead heading, sieving compost and walking round taking pictures.

The starlings and blackbirds have eaten most of the berries on the rowan tree now, but they always seem to do it behind my back. This starling perched on the tree for a while but then flew off.

I had to go in because I had some very tedious business to do at my computer. Then I had a rather late lunch because an electrician turned up to repair our oven and two lights just as I was about to eat my tomato and lettuce sandwich.

While he was working, I had another walk round the garden. As well as the starlings eating the rowan berries, the nasturtiums are eating our kitchen window bench.

I caught a glimpse of a painted lady butterfly, but it saw me and flew off, The bees and small tortoiseshells are not so shy.

The bird feeder is hardly in demand at all in this spell of warm weather . . .

. . . and this was the only bird that I saw at it all day. It was ironic then that two large bags of bird food were delivered in the early afternoon.

Once I had got the bird food safely put away, I got changed into my newly washed and dried bicycling gear and went off for a pedal.

The wind was exceedingly light, not enough to turn the turbines of the Solwaybank windfarm as I went past. With the temperature just over 20°C (70°F), conditions were perfect for cycling and for the second day running, I managed to go a little faster than I had expected. It started to rain lightly as I left Langholm and I wondered if a thunderstorm was on its way, but by the time that I got to Callister and looked back . . .

. . . it had settled down to being grey and dry again.

There is not much in the way of flowers in the heavily mown verges at the moment, but I did see this sedum in a ditch as I came up to the hill on my way back past the windfarm.

And I thought that for once, the camera did show how the steep the hill that I was about to climb was.

Luckily, it is quite short and I was soon at the top.

Once there I found the truth of an old saying being demonstrated.

The road past the back of the windfarm is very undulating, with hardly a metre of flat road for several miles, so I am often quite pleased to stop on top of one of the little hills with the excuse of looking back to take a photograph.

When I got home, I found that the busy bees were busy as ever . . .

I have been doing a little watering and it is good to see that Mrs Tootlepedal’s lettuce bed has gone from this . . .

. . . to this . . .

. . . in three weeks. (Notice how Mrs Tootlepedal’s special friends, the sparrows, sit on the plank at the edge of the bed and peck the lettuce leaves.)

I will be doing some pecking of my own soon.

I wandered around taking a few more flower pictures . . .

. . . and noted that the insects like the dahlias as much as I do.

As I hadn’t been able to catch a flying bird at the feeder through the window, I spent some time in the garden trying to catch a passing flying bird (failed) . . .

. . . or get a half decent picture of a flying insect (failed again).

I gave up and went in and cooked my evening meal, making use of the newly repaired oven.

Although it matched the very grey day quite well, as this was my best flying bird of the day . . .

. . . I thought that I ought to put in a flower of the day too, just to end the post on a better note.

A hot ride

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He found a picturesque lake to sit beside while having his lunch today.

In spite of the continued absence of Mrs Tootlepedal in the south, the sun shone in Langholm today. Our local weather station recorded just under 30°C for a brief period in the afternoon but it was generally at about 24°, a very pleasant temperature, especially in September.

I couldn’t make quite as much of the day as I would have liked because it was time to produce the monthly newsletter for the Langholm Initiative, and that took up a lot of the morning. The early afternoon was too hot for much outside but I did make occasional forays into the garden.

My first outing was at midday. Just when I think that all the roses are going, another one pops up.

And there are more to come, if the weather holds.

I saw a new fly today. Google thinks that it might be a Liorhyssus hyalinus, but I would be happy if anyone knows better. It seems too far north for it.

A little late burst of campanulas are making a pretty picture but I had to stand in front of them and cast my shadow before I could take the picture.

The sweet peas don’t know when to stop, and the house is filling up with them.

My flower arranging skills are rather basic.

After lunch, I went out to check on the butterflies. There were several to be seen.

I spent some time trying to catch a flying bee leaving the sedum without much success.

I let other cyclists take in the heat of the day as I watched an interesting stage of the Tour of Britain, and then I went out for my own ride while the day cooled down. It was still 80°F when I left.

As there was a light wind blowing from the south, I decided to cycle round my 20 mile Canonbie route by going down straight down to Canonbie first, and then coming back over the hill to Langholm. My thinking was that the route down by the old main road against the wind would be quite sheltered, and the wind would blow me home up the hill.

This worked out very well. I got down to the end of the bypass at an excellent speed, and then he combination of the warmth which made my muscles a bit more elastic than usual, and the helpful wind got me back home much more quickly than I expected. Even going up the hill at Tarcoon . . .

. . . wasn’t the struggle that it often is, though I was happy to stop at the top for the look back.

I was enjoying my cycling so much that I only stopped for a couple of pictures. This one may not look much . . .

. . . but when I see it, I know that there are only three and a half miles to go, and almost all of them downhill.

When I got home, I found that our neighbour Kenny was kindly strimming our side of the dam.

The wooden cage on the right bank is protecting his lupins. Amazingly, they are in flower even at this late time of year.

I was just about to go in when a slightly embarrassed lady came into the garden to say that her son had kicked his football over the hedge and into a very wild part of the garden, and could he possibly have it back. I guddled around in the bushes and found the football. I only gave it back to her on condition that she took some runner beans as well.

I went in and had a cup of tea and then made a last tour of the flowers.

The snapdragons are still full of life . . .

. . . and the dahlias are still covered in insects.

This may now be my favourite dahlia, especially in the evening light.

Mrs Tootlepedal has planted yellow crocosmia round the front lawn and it is doing well.

I am easily mystified by nature so I can’t tell you why the Japanese anemone looks great but doesn’t attract insects . . .

. . . while a rather battered dahlia of much the same colour is fighting them off.

I had a last look at the sky . . .

. . . and went in to have my evening meal.

The flying birds have been very backward about coming forward on these last two sunny days so a very blurry flying butterfly is the best than I can offer today.

Footnote: Mrs Tootlepedal went south to see her mother who was beginning to fail a bit at the age of 105. She and her brother sat with their mother for an hour yesterday afternoon, and in the evening, the old lady passed peacefully away in her sleep, so it was a well timed visit. I will take it as read that readers of this blog will have great sympathy for Mrs Tootlepedal, so please feel no necessity to add a comment.