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A good hiding

Today’s guest picture was taken by my friend Gavin’s son Fraser when Gavin went to Yosemite with him.  I gather that you may have to knock other photographers out of the way to take this stunning view.

Yosemite

We had another day of mostly sunny weather but with an even stronger and colder north wind than yesterday so we were not as appreciative of the sunshine as we might have been.  The clear skies had brought low temperatures which had done a bit of damage to tulips and azalea alike.

frost damage

I have been rushing about a bit lately so I had decided that this would be a day of mainly doing nothing.  This gave me the opportunity to take a few bird pictures and see if I had learned anything from last night’s camera club meeting.  I tried to get some slightly sharper flying shots.

flying siskin

flying chaffinch

flying goldfinch

…with variable success but with enough progress to keep me trying.  For some reason, the flying birds went better than a sitting redpoll.

redpoll

In this way, I passed a leisurely morning though the sunshine got me out into the garden for long enough to do some dead heading of daffodils and mowing of the greenhouse grass.  It is very satisfying to find myself throwing the dead headed daffs into a sparkling new compost bin.

After lunch, the lure of the sunshine drew me out for a walk.  I took a fixed lens pocket camera with me in an effort to take some better quality pictures here too.

I was a bit handicapped though by the changeable conditions.  I was just heading up past the golf course and this stunning garden escape…

berberis

…with a view to going up on to the hill for some expansive views when the wind became even gustier, the temperature dropped and it started to sleet with a vengeance.

Luckily there was a handy tree under which I was able to shelter until the shower had passed.

The open hill had somehow lost its attraction so I headed down Drove Road (so called because it allowed those driving livestock through the town to avoid the toll bars in times past) and waited for the sun to come out again.

It didn’t take long to arrive and I walked along a picturesque path….

Lamb Hill gate

(I was looking for black and white opportunities but the colours were so delightful that I didn’t find any)

Lamb Hill path

(See what I mean?)

Lamb Hill path

…..until I came to the hill road and walked down that to the main road and set off away from the town towards the High Mill Brig.  I had to cross this handsome little bridge under the main road at Whitshiels….

Whitshiels Bridge

…before getting to the High Mill Brig…

High Mill Brig

…which became a subject for experiment later on.

I crossed the bridge when I came to it and took the path above the fields on the other side of the river to get back to the town.

Ewes valley

Click (if you want) to get the bigger picture as I looked back down towards the Ewes Water

The path was dry underfoot and had several high quality gates along it…

Pathhead gate

 

…but the brisk wind blew the next sleet and hail shower along before I had got to the end of it.  Once again I was lucky to find a suitable tree to hide under and although i could have done with a few more leaves on the bare branches to shelter me from the storm, it kept me dry enough to enjoy the rest of the walk home when the sharp sleety shower had passed.

I passed the old Episcopal Church….

Episcopal Church

…and waited in vain for a sight of nuthatches before giving up and heading for home before the next shower came.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy day today, helping at the Buccleuch Centre both at lunchtime and in the evening as well as doing a lot of gardening and some preparation for interior decoration.    She showed me a gardening disaster when I got back from my walk.  The Ballerina tulips had suffered badly from the morning cold which had attacked their stalks just below the flowers so many of them had lost their heads entirely…

Ballerina tulip.

…and ended up in a bowl in the kitchen.  This was a tragedy as they had looked at their best yesterday evening.

Mrs Tootlepedal has put in a request for less fighting birds and more peaceful scenes of perching so I got the camera out again and had another go.  I filled the feeders and the wind immediately blew the lid of one of them open which gave an opportunity to an enterprising pair of birds.

redpoll and siskin

Other birds waited in the plum tree, swaying about  in the brisk breeze…

chaffinch

…and the flying bird of the day is a pair of matching perching redpolls (who had been flying earlier).

redpolls

I completely failed in my effort to to take fewer but better pictures today.

A rewarding day

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew’s walk up Blencathra last week.  He got this splendid view of the Lake District as he climbed.

Lake view

We were promised a chilly day with a brisk north wind and we got it.  Luckily we got some very bright and cheerful sunshine for most of the day so as long as you were out of the wind, life was sweet.

I was out of the wind for two hours in the morning but out of the sunshine too as I was sitting in the Welcome to Langholm office, catching up on putting the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group database (now at over 80,000 entries).  I did welcome the occasional visitor too so it was time well spent.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden when I got back and I had a look at the azalea, which has survived a couple of chilly mornings very well….

azalea

…and one of the developing fantastical tulips….

parrot tulip

…which is unfolding very slowly.  I just hope that another chilly night tonight won’t discourage it entirely.

I went in and made some sweet potato soup for lunch and then ate it.  While the soup was cooking, I watched some appalling behaviour outside.

goldfinch and siskin

Shouting and kicking. The siskin toppled the goldfinch off the perch.

goldfinch and siskin

But another goldfinch soon returned the compliment.

It was too windy for an enjoyable cycle ride so I went for a walk with nuthatches in mind.  Sadly the nuthatches didn’t have me in mind at all and were conspicuous by their absence.  I was cheered up though by the appearance of the running rails for the Castleholm horse racing track which have appeared…

Horse racing rails

…and are waiting to be erected.

Having failed with the nuthatches, I thought that I might have a look for a dipper at the Sawmill Brig and this time, I was luckier.  It wasn’t plain sailing though as the dipper was living up to it’s name…

dipper

…but it did pause for a breather on a rock once or twice.

dipper

The rock was a bit too far away for a good shot but I had a lot of fun watching the dipper dipping.

Further downstream, after pausing for a cold ice cream from the Kilngreen van, I crossed the town bridge….

The Esk from Langholm Bridge

…..and was entertained by birds flying rather than swimming.

Large numbers of swallows and martins were swooping up and down the river.  I panned the camera vigorously in trying to get a shot or two of them in the air as they passed me and an interested onlooker might well have thought that my underwear was on fire as I twisted and turned violently.

swallows and martins

You have to be really lucky or skillful to get a good picture  of a flying swallow!  I did my best.

An oyster catcher was a more available target for my lens.

Oyster catcher

I walked on down the river, stopping to admire the cherry blossom….

cherry blossom

….and crossed the Kirk Brig and walked through the park and then along the river through the woods.

As I went along, the plaintive quacking of a duck could be heard.

duck and duckling

There were half a dozen tiny ducklings scooting about in all directions paying no attention to the quacking duck.  I wondered if something had frightened them.

I wasn’t really looking for ducks though. My target was early bluebells…

bluebell

…on the banks above the river.  I found some.

bluebells

They are not fully out yet but there were enough to make a pretty picture or two….

bluebells

…or three.

bluebells

I was rather surprised to find that I was walking in broad sunshine and light snow at the same time as I went along the Stubholm track but the snow faded away and the sunshine persisted so I continued my stroll by going along Gaskell’s walk.

In spite of the cold wind and the flurry of snow, it felt like spring in the sunshine.

Gaskells in spring

blackthorn

The countryside is definitely beginning to look greener now…

Meikleholm hill

…and my walk was very green.

Gaskells in spring

The bare trees will soon be covered.

tree

I got home and then immediately went out to collect our car from the garage where it had been serviced.  To my relief, no major faults were reported and I drove it home in a good frame of mind.

I got home in good time because not long afterwards, I looked out of the window and a snowstorm was raging.  Luckily, it was a storm in a teacup and was soon past.

My flute pupil Luke came and improved the day even more as he worked very hard and listened very carefully.  I am expecting good progress over the next month or so.

In the evening, I rounded the day off with a meeting of the Langholm Camera Club where we were treated to a very interesting demonstration of photo editing techniques by an ex professional photographer who has recently joined out group. He had much sound advice to impart and I only hope that I will be able to take it on board and improve my pictures.

I often put not very good pictures on the blog just to show things that I have seen rather than for the quality of the photographs but there is no doubt that I should set myself some targets to improve the quality of shots where I do have time to worry about settings and  composition.  I hope that readers will see the results in time.

The flying bird of the day is a study in yellow.

flying siskin

Today’s guest picture shows another fine waterfall seen by Dropscone on his holiday in Skye.

Skye waterfall

We had the second bright but slightly chilly day in a row and once again, musical activity got in the way of cycling.

I did get out for a morning ride but only after I had put a lamb stew into the slow cooker and time limited by the need to be back in time to go to choir in the afternoon.   I nipped round my standard 20 miles down to Canonbie and back and, as it was London Marathon day, I was pleased that I had managed to go a little bit faster than the elite runners even if I didn’t go quite as far.

I didn’t take my camera but got it out as soon as I got home to celebrate the brilliance of the tulips which were enjoying the sunshine in the garden.

tulips

tulips

tulips

tulips

I think that they were at their best today and as we have a week of chilly weather with north winds to come, I may not see them as generously open again for some time.

tulips

tulips

My favourite tulip of the moment is the Ballerina…..

ballerina tulip

…and they looked so good today that Mrs Tootlepedal resolved to buy some more and plant them out for next year.  I am in favour of that.

The tulips rather overshadowed the other flowers but this little pulsatilla did its best to get into the act.

pulsatilla

I filled the feeders when I got back from my ride and after lunch, I took a moment to watch the birds before we went off to Carlisle.

We have a steady supply of redpolls at the moment.

redpolls

This one stared rather haughtily at me when I took its picture but soon went back to eating

redpolls

They had an active day

siskins

As did the siskins

The feeders are always busy at the moment and my supply of seed is disappearing in double quick time.

busy feeder

Representatives of our present customer base, chaffinch, goldfinch, siskin and redpoll

The choir rehearsal started badly, as our conductor and our accompanist were delayed on the train again.  The Sunday service from Glasgow is most unreliable.  However, they made up for lost time when they did arrive and we had an extremely brisk practice with a little extra time added on to the end.

We are working on a new modern song and it is one of those, as Mrs Tootlepedal remarked, where if you get to sing a note which is actually on the beat, it comes as a blessed relief.

Because of the extra time taken at the practice, we didn’t stop to take photographic advantage of the sunny evening as we went home but bustled on as quickly as we could and settled down to enjoy the lamb stew from the slow cooker when we got back.

While the potatoes were cooking, I watched some of my lawn care assistants at work on the middle lawn.

jackdaws

There should be no moss left at all soon, thanks to the jackdaws

I have still got a few miles to do on my bike if I am to keep up to my schedule for the month so I am hoping that there are a few kind days left in April.  This month is traditionally supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb but having seen the forecast for next week, I don’t think that this will be a traditional month at all.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for a few calm moments.

The flying bird of the day is a traditional chaffinch in the best of the sun.

chaffinch

 

 

 

 

Playing day

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary and shows Mr Grumpy’s London cousin trying (successfully) to outdo a work of art in the background in Hyde Park.

Hyde Park. Mr G's cousin trying to compete with artistic installation

There were touches of frost to be seen when I got up.  However, it was cheerfully sunny and the day got warmer as it went on.  It might have been a good day for cycling but I had arranged to go with my recorder playing friend Sue to a “playing day” organised by the Roxburgh branch of the Society of Recorder players in Denholm, about 30 miles north of Langholm.

Sue arrived very promptly after breakfast and kindly offered to do the driving, an offer which I was glad to accept as I have done enough driving lately.

The playing was conducted by Helen Hooker, an accomplished player, teacher and conductor and she provided us with an excellent selection of music from Schmeltzer to Moon River by way of Bach and Steve Marshall.  As well as providing good music, Helen offered us some very sound advice as how to play the pieces which, as far as I possibly could, I followed.

Both Sue and I enjoyed the playing and we took advantage of the fine weather to go for a walk along the River Teviot during the lunch break.

It is very useful for me to have a keen wild flower enthusiast to walk ahead of me and spot the wild flowers.

Sue

She goes to wild flower courses and knows what she is talking about.

I am sure that I saw many more flowers today than I would have done if I had been walking by myself.

Here is a selection of what we passed.

wildflowers

Pretty little flowers

wildflowers

Bigger showy ones

dead nettle

Fantastically furry ones

wildflower

Some were under development

There were some mysteries.

dandelion and yellow flower

At first we thought the flower on the left in the panel above was just another dandelion but a closer look showed that it clearly wasn’t.  Mrs Tootlepedal thinks that it might be a garden escape.  The dandelions were in great form.

The most mysterious plant of the day was one that covered a woodland floor at one point.  I took several pictures of it.

white flower

The flower stalks were triangular and tall so that the flower heads bent over.  There seemed to be several flowers in turn on each stalk, leaving behind the shiny yellow spheres which you can see in the bottom right panel.  The foliage in the bottom left panel is from another plant.

I would be more than happy to have my store of information increased by any knowledgeable reader who recognises this flower.

As well as flowers, we were able to watch a pair of goosanders scoot up stream under the eagle eye of a buzzard…..

P1110407

…while we sat on a bench and ate our packed lunches.  There were oyster catchers heckling the buzzard and delightful views as well…

River Teviot

…so the time passed quickly and we had to return to the village hall at a brisk pace.

I had enough time for a river view on the way…

River Teviot

…and a glance at Minto Hill.

minto hill

The bridge at Denholm is fine….

Denholm Bridge

…and it was a pleasure to walk across it twice.

We passed a neat thatched cottage in the village….

Denholm

…though Sue remarked that it had a fashionable ‘green’ roof and we were nearly brained by some enormous catkins….

Denholm catkin

…as we went back to the hall.

The afternoon session was as good as the morning had been so we were very well satisfied with our day as we drove home.

And did I mention that we saw some excellent lichen too on our walk?

lichen

Denholm is a great place for this yellow lichen and the hedge plants are covered with it.  I was hoping to show Sue some script lichen but there was none to be seen and the best that I could do was this.

tree lichen

When I got home, I had a quick look round the garden…

azalea, tulip and primula

…where it looked as though the flowers had been enjoying the sunshine.

tulips

Mrs Tootlepedal’s mixed bed of tulips is developing.

I saw the first potentilla flowers on the plants along the dam at the back of the house…

potentilla

…and these will be the first of many as they stay in flower for months.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been very busy in the garden while we were tootling but she had enough energy left to cook a meal of mutton chops for tea and that rounded off a day which was firmly entered in large letters, underlined, on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

I just had enough time before I sat down to eat to look out of the kitchen window.

flying goldfinch and chaffinch

Note: I discovered during the day that Helen Hooker is not just a very good recorder player and teacher but a fanatically keen and expert photographer who has been posting pictures every day for many years.   You can see the record of her journey to Scotland here.

It is well worth a visit.

 

 

 

Seen and gone

Today’s guest picture shows a fine waterfall visited by Dropscone and family on his Skye holiday.

Skye waterfall

In spite of a forecast of rain, we had yet another dry, cool day with a brisk wind until the evening.  I should have gone cycling (my neighbour Ken did 40 miles in the morning) but I was feeling lazy so I had a cup of coffee with Sandy instead

After coffee, I combined doing the crossword with some lawn mowing and compost shredding and occasionally looking at the birds.

greenfinch

A greenfinch dropped in

I had yet another go or two at photographing the rosemary.

rosemary

The slightly different colours reflect the fact that I tried with two different cameras.

I did some deadheading too and looked at flowers as I went round.

tulips

The chilly weather means that daffodils and tulips are still our staples but I was pleased to see a butterfly although I couldn’t get a very good picture of it.  It was struggling to get enough warmth to fly.

white butterfly

Mrs Tootlepedal was in Attila the Gardener mode and started on giving our topiary chicken a very severe haircut after lunch so I had plenty of clippings to put through the shredder.

I had to stop though when Sandy reappeared for a prearranged outing.

We went up to the Moorland bird feeders at the Laverock Hide in the hope of seeing something interesting.  We did see a couple on unusual sights.  A hare ran across the clearing right in front of the hide and a goshawk made a pass up the clearing and then flew across it later on. All three of these events were good to see but unfortunately too quick for catching on camera.

One thing we couldn’t miss was the male pheasants….

pheasant

…strutting around and pestering the females.  Some of the females were chased about on the ground and got rather ruffled while others took to the trees to escape unwanted attention.

female pheasants

Of course there were plenty of small birds to see too.

chaffinch, blue tit and robin

After the goshawk had thoroughly cleared the clearing for the second time, we gave up and went down to the Castleholm to see if the nuthatches were at the nest by the bridge.

Two were to be seen.  One arrived at the tree and flitted from branch to branch before perching and singing furiously.

nuthatch

It flew off and almost immediately, another nuthatch emerged from the nest hole, gave a backward glance….

nuthatch

…and flew off.

After a moment or two the first nuthatch returned with something in its beak…..

nuthatch

…which it dropped into the nest hole without entering and then it too flew off and all was quiet.

We waited for a bit and then the call of teatime became too insistent and we left.

We did see some promising bluebells on our way to the nest….

bluebells

..and some fine primroses on our way back to the car.

primroses

…as well as any amount of attempted growth on the trees.

leaf buds

There had been a lot of waiting for some indifferent bird pictures but seeing the nuthatches and goshawk had made the outing worthwhile.

When I got home, the formerly plump chicken….

topiary chicken

…had been reduced to this….

thin chicken

…by Attila but she is hoping that the end result will be a slimmer and better looking bird.  Think of it as a work by Brancusi meanwhile.

A little sunshine had arrived rather late in the day and it lit up a tulip for me….

backlit tulip

…before I went in for my tea.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came and Alison and I played music in a style which fairly accurately reflected the lack of practice opportunities for us both during the preceding week.

It is the London Marathon on Sunday and while we talking about it after playing, Mike revealed that he had run no less than seventeen marathons in his younger days.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I were very impressed indeed.  We knew he had run several marathons but had no idea that he had done so many, quite a few in under three hours, a very respectable speed indeed.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch about to give a siskin a hard time.

flying goldfinch

 

 

Now we are three

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother’s current visit to the Lake District.  He walked to the top of Blencathra on Tuesday and found himself in quite crowd.

blencathra

We had another dry and occasionally sunny day today but the rude wind had returned so I was not unhappy to have plenty to do that didn’t involve cycling.

In the morning I went to a meeting of volunteers at the Welcome to Langholm office where we heard an interesting and well presented talk by a man from Strathclyde University about a website that is trying to better organise visitors from abroad who are interested in their family heritage.  The idea is that they should inform us of their interests and desires before they arrive and we should inform them of our capabilities to meet their wishes before they have spent money coming to see something that perhaps is no longer there or meet people who cannot help them.  It sounded like a good scheme.

I walked round the garden when I got home while Mrs Tootlepedal planted out the tulips that she had bought at Alnwick yesterday.  She dug up some of this while preparing the ground…

honey fungus

….and wonders if some knowledgeable gardening reader could help her in identifying it.  She fears it might be some sort of honey fungus.

I looked at the established tulips.

tulips

tulips

It was a degree or two warmer today and the tulips were looking good.

tulips

I saw an unexpected flash of yellow in a red tulip…

tulip

…which revealed itself as a sport as the morning went on.

The cowslippy things are loving the conditions.

cowslips

…and the dicentra is doing well too.

dicentra

I was pleased with that picture of the dicentra but even more pleased with the next one that I took.

dicentra with bee

Bees are always welcome in the garden.

It was a good day for seeing welcome things.

frog

A very small frog in the pond.

I went in to have lunch and was given a couple of hard stares by a blackbird and a chaffinch.

blackbird, chaffinch

I don’t know what I had done to offend them.

The main business of the day was a trip to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and help her celebrate her third birthday.  In honour of that momentous occasion, I am putting  in three pictures of her taken today.  One was taken by her mother in the morning on Portobello beach…

Matilda in Portobello

…and one by her father at the same venue.

Matilda in Portobello

…and I took the third as Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda enjoyed the handsome butterfly wings that had been our birthday present to her.

Matilda and Ally

Time simply flew as we played, sang and danced the afternoon away, though I will pass over the fact that the birthday girl wiped me out when we played Pelmanism.  I have mastered dancing while sitting comfortably in a chair.

After tea with cake and candles, it was time for us to go home and once again the view from the top deck of the bus was very pleasant.

Edinburgh from the bus

Edinburgh showing that it has cherry trees too

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch winning the race to get to the feeder.

flying chaffinch

Matilda says hello and goodbye for today.

matilda

 

Up the garden path

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s holiday in Skye.  It  shows his daughter Susan, my fellow recorder player, enjoying a magnificent view on her birthday earlier this week in the company of one of her brothers.

Susan in Skye

We spent all day today crossing the country to visit the gardens at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland.   We were hoping to see 350 Japanese cherry trees in their full glory but we probably arrived two or three days too late.

alnwick cherry trees

There was plenty of blossom still out but a lot had already fallen and the leaves were starting to appear.  In real life the cherry orchard was wonderful but for the camera, the leaves got into the picture a little too much.  It was a dull day which didn’t help.  Having said all that, it was well worth the two hours of driving each way (and the rather stiff entry fee).

The gardeners have thoughtfully placed many swings among the trees and Mrs Tootlepedal had a moment of reflection on one of these benches.

alnwick cherry trees

We walked through the plantation, which is on the side of a hill, down a serpentine path…

alnwick cherry trees

…which was lined with fallen petals.

alnwick cherry trees

The plantation is still young and the trees will soon form complete arches overhead but for the moment, we could see the grey sky above.

alnwick cherry trees

The camera cannot convey how beautiful the scene was, far whiter in real life than the pictures show.  Rather oddly, I think a black and white shot coveys the colour better.

alnwick cherry trees

The gardens are very popular and even on a dull midweek morning, they were full of people enjoying the scenes.  A bit of blue sky for a contrast would have helped.

Apart from the cherry trees, the main feature of the gardens is a rather showy water feature….

alnwick garden water feature

…which bursts into life every half hour so that childish people like me can enjoy themselves.

alnwick garden water feature

Fountain at the bottom with sky high squirting behind

alnwick garden water feature

More fountains appear every moment until the entire cascade is alive.

There are other smaller water features all over the place…

alnwick garden water feature

…along with well trained hedges….

alnwick garden water feature

…both large and small.

alnwick garden hedge

The hedge on the left in the panel above is in a large walled garden. It is made up of crab apple plants and will look sensational in a few days when the blossoms come fully out.

The walled garden is divided into small ‘rooms’ each with with their own ‘walls’…

alnwick garden walled garden

…and tulips were the featured plant today. …

alnwick garden walled garden

…though there were other plants to see as well.

It is a great pleasure to wander through this recently created garden and see so many people of all ages enjoying the little nooks and crannies filled with plants and features.

I enjoyed these two clematis in one of the garden corners.

clematis

We left the flowers and cherries….

clematis

…and went and had a good lunch in the cafeteria before going to have a quick look at the town centre.

We passed the castle on our way.

Alnwick castle

There was a lot of extensive planting as you can see and we noticed a fritillary meadow and a scilla meadow as we went along.

I was much struck by two street names in the town….

Alnwick

A gate is a street of course and not a gate.  This is a gate….

Alnwick

…and it is this that the streets are within and without.

Within the gate is a market place with a fine hall…

Alnwick

…which has an attractive portico.

Alnwick

We didn’t spend long in the town and went back through the gardens, where Mrs Tootlepedal bought a plant or four in the plant shop, before passing this fantastic tree house….

Alnwick tree house

…on our way back to the car.

Google Maps had offered us choice of routes to Alnwick.  It is almost exactly opposite Langholm on the map but unfortunately there is a large lump of hills and moorland in between with no direct route.  We could either take main road to the south and travel 100 miles at speed and take two hours or go by more  minor routes to the north and (rather surprisingly) take two hours.

I chose to do both and went by the main roads to the south and came back by the more scenic northern route.  Just as Google said, they both took two hours, more or less exactly.

As the sun started to shine just as we left the gardens, we were a bit annoyed about our timing but it did make for a beautiful drive through the border hills on our way home.

We got home in time to fill the feeders, have some tea and then for me to go out to a practice with our Langholm Choir.  After 60 miles cycling yesterday and 180 miles driving today, I was quite tired but all the same, it was a useful practice and I enjoyed the singing.

I found a moment to catch a flying bird of the day when we got home.

flying chaffinch