A different routine

Today’s guest picture from our son Tony shows that the sun shines all day in East Wemyss. In contrast to his usual early dawn shots, this was taken in the late afternoon yesterday.

I got organised and did some Archive work after breakfast and left the crossword for later. We had another dry and cool day here, and with no hint of sunshine it was easy to realise that autumn is here as we walked round the garden when I had finished. We will be beginning to look for colour and shape from foliage rather than flowers soon . . .

. . . but for the time being, as the nights still keep being kind, there are plenty of flowers about, especially fuchsias.

The new hydrangea has kept flowering long after I thought that it would be over . . .

. . . and the dahlias have not bowed their heads yet.

This was my favourite today.

As long as I keep dead heading them, the Icelandic poppies keep coming.

Normally the volunteering on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve is in the morning, and if I have any strength left, I might go for a cycle ride in the afternoon. Today, the volunteering was in the afternoon, and this left me with time to go round my familiar Canonbie 20 miles cycle ride before lunch. It was lucky that I had a little bit of time to spare as my legs seemed more interested in grumbling about how far they had walked on Saturday than speeding me along the road today. Legs have a mind of their own.

Although the light wind was from the south, it felt pretty cold and I was grateful that I had wrapped up well. The verges are almost free of wild flowers now and the hills have turned brown . . .

. . . so cycling becomes a more serious business than it was in the cheerful summer weather. The sound of migrating geese honking as they flew overhead underlined the changing season.

Leaves are turning, as this shot of the old telephone exchange at Canonbie shows . . .

. . . but there is still a lot of green about. I took a moment to walk through the little wood beside the Hollows Bridge.

Although it is small, it is very well furnished. It has a bench . . .

. . . with a view . . .

. . . any amount of half eaten fungi . . .

. . . and some slightly unsettling heads sticking up from the ground.

I think that this is the oldest inhabitant.

The bridge was looking autumnal . . .

. . . and so was the view from the bridge.

I got home to find a very sociable coffee morning just breaking up. Our friend Nancy had been there (bringing more Archive work), and our neighbours Liz and Margaret told me as they left that I could stop worrying now because they had sorted out all the evils of the world.

Cheered by this, I had a walk round the garden before my own cup of coffee and lunch. There was a selection of poppies to be seen along the vegetable garden fence . . .

. . . and two clematis too.

After lunch, we got our electric bikes out and pedalled up to the tree nursery at Cronksbank on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. It started to rain lightly as we got near so we parked out bikes in the barn and then helped Kat, the volunteer leader, and one other volunteer to plant out the 600 acorns which the the group had collected last Thursday. It came as surprise to find that we had collected so many, but the trays only made a small pile among the thousands of trees in the nursery.

I also gave a light watering to the whole nursery, and saw that the little rowans which we transplanted earlier seem to be doing very well.

The rain, which had stopped while we worked under cover, started again as soon as we got our bikes out to cycle home. It didn’t last though, and we had a pleasant four mile ride back.

There was time for a cup of tea and a shop bought biscuit before the weekly recorder lesson Zoom meeting with our son Alistair and our granddaughter Matilda. Matilda has made a very good start on the recorder but she came up against a little reality check today when she became aware that she might have to play more than once a week if she wants to continue to make progress. Recorder playing requires a lot of fingers to go in different directions at the same time and that requires practice. However, we had a good time, and when Mrs Tootlepedal joined the meeting, Alistair performed a remarkable conjuring trick with playing cards. For the life of us, we couldn’t see how he did it.

Unhappy with shop bought biscuits, I had another go at making squashed fly biscuits before our evening meal. With the help of some expert advice from Mrs Tootlepedal on making the biscuit dough, and a quick lesson on not rolling the dough out too fiercely, I made a better job of this lot than my first effort. Oven temperature was not quite right yet, so another go soon is needed to get a perfect result.

It was quite a full day and in the course of it, I completely forgot to look at the bird feeder. The only flying birds of the day today are some rather faint and fuzzy geese flying over my head while I cycled this morning.

Song, birds and bees

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He found a perfect moment this afternoon for a riverside view in Derby.

We had another cool, but not cold day here, and apart from some very light drizzle in the afternoon, it stayed dry. We were thus able to cycle to church after breakfast, where as part of a very small choir, we tried our best to add some colour to the congregational singing.

We had a coffee when we got home, and I had a check on the bird feeder. There were no birds on the feeder itself but a chaffinch was waiting nervously in the wings.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal went out to do some work on the very narrow strip between our back wall and the dam. She is hoping to create a wildflower bed there next year. When I went out to see how she was getting on, I took a picture of the old fashioned fuchsia which is doing very well against the back wall of our house.

I left her to her labours and went on a tour of the garden. There was only one butterfly to be seen and it wouldn’t settle for me. There were plenty of other objects of interest about. The mustard flowers in the vegetable garden were popular with one sort of bee . . .

. . . and the Lemon Queen was favoured by another.

Bottle flies preferred the astrantia.

I was going to say that there were some flowers without accompanying insects but when I looked I saw a tiny fly on this colourful Michaelmas daisy.

As you would expect though, there are no flies on Special Grandma.

A honeysuckle was looking a bit battered by the weather . . .

. . . but a poppy had found a sheltered spot tucked in between two fence uprights.

I like fungus but I wasn’t sure whether I should be pleased to see this variety growing out of a crack in one of our garden benches. Probably not.

Starlings were to be seen sitting chatting on the wire and occasionally flying away from it.

We picked some of our thornless blackberries, and I collected some apples and stewed them up with the blackberries. Mrs Tootlepedal made a puree of them later on which we enjoyed with some hot custard in the evening. Although the blackberries remain unforgivingly tart to eat direct from the bush, they are delicious in a well sugared puree.

While the blackberries were stewing, I had a look out at the birds. The feeder was busy . . .

. . . although one bird found that eating a seed was hard work.

There were always birds waiting in the willows . . .

. . .and quite often a bird on a perch got a shock.

I made some lentil soup for lunch, and then it was time to go to Carlisle for another three hour practice with the Community Choir ahead of our concert next week. We worked hard.

It was early evening by the time that we got home, and we were grateful to have nothing to do for the rest of the day.

The flying bird of the day is a starling looking very elegant.


Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony in East Wemyss. Instead of yet another brilliant East Wemyss dawn, today’s picture shows one of Tony’s best friends chilling out.

After the heavy rain of yesterday, we woke to a calmer and drier day today, and I was able to walk up to the Market Place market without any call for an umbrella. After purchasing the necessities of life – honey, fish and beer – at the market, I walked along the High Street and over the town bridge. The scene was a lot more peaceful than when I was there yesterday.

I picked up some supplies, milk and carrots, from our corner shop, settled my account there, and walked home in mellow sunshine.

I got back in time for coffee and a squashed fly biscuit or two with Mrs Tootlepedal and Margaret.

When Margaret left, we walked round the garden. Yesterday’s heavy rain seemed to have had more of a refreshing effect than a damaging one. There was no shortage of cheerful flowers to photograph, and I photographed a lot of them.

. . . in addition to the flowers, there were windblown walnuts and apples to pick up.

We are right on the northern limit for walnuts and only a couple of the shells contained eatable kernels, but the apples are very tasty this year.

The flowers in the vegetable garden were looking good too . . .

. . . and as I walked back to the house, I passed tiny snowberry flowers with big white berries beside them, very tempting Charles Ross apples which are not ripe yet, and the flourishing nerines.

I had given my sore knee some tough love with vigorous composting, staggering around the woods looking for acorns and a twenty mile cycle ride, and fortunately it had reacted by becoming a lot better. I considered a longer cycle ride or a good walk today to give it a full health check. The forecast suggested strong winds and occasional showers, so a walk seemed the best option. Needless to say it started to rain very heavily as soon as I went to put my walking socks on, but it soon stopped and I set off to walk round the back of Whita Hill.

I started along the Murtholm as the clouds cleared, crossed Skippers Bridge and walked along the road beside the river in lovely sunshine, and then came to the bird hide where I met a rainbow . . .

. . . and shortly afterwards, I met the rain. With great cunning, I had brought my umbrella with me, so I laughed at the weather gods.

Once again, I took an excessive number of pictures on my walk. It is all too easy to get carried away with so much scenery on all sides. As a result, multi panels have been called into action again to squeeze far too many pictures into this post, but the wonderful peltigera canina lichen fruiting bodies which I saw on the wall beside the road to Broomholm deserve a place of their own (even though it is not a very good picture).

The Tarras looked quite peaceful when I came down to the river near Rashiel.

On my way from the bird hide to Cronksbank, I passed some plants of interest ( to me at least).

Annoyingly, when I got to Cronksbank in the light rain, I could see the sun shining on Whita Hill on the opposite side of the Tarras valley. Later in the walk, when I got to Whita in some more rain, I could see the sun shining on Cronksbank. It was that sort of day.

The weather got better as I went along as you can see from this set of pictures, the top two taken on one side of the river and the bottom two on the other.

I wisely took the little footbridge over the Tarras Water at Perterburn, as the ford when I looked at it from the far side, seemed as though it might have required armbands and a snorkel for me to get across it.

I walked up the track from the ford past these impressive pine trees . . .

. . . and then strolled along the track from Middlemoss to the Copshaw road with great pleasure as the sun was at its best . . .

. . . and I could enjoy the cloudscapes.

When I got to the road, a flicker of movement in the long grass on the moor caught my attention. There were goats to the right of the road, and then I saw some to the left as well.

Leaving the goats to graze, I headed up the road across the moor, dry to start with. . .

. . . but caught in some heavy rain before I got to the White Yett.

I could see some sun breaking through clouds ahead of me, but it was still raining when I passed the MacDiarmid Memorial . . .

. . . and things didn’t improve as I started to go down the hill back to Langholm. The rays of sunshine looked no closer than they were before.

I didn’t despair though, and by the time that I got to the pine trees at Hillhead, only a few hundred yards down the road . . .

. . . it was a different day.

And it got better, the further downhill I went. It was a lovely early autumn evening when I got to Langholm.

It had been a very good walk with plenty of variety to keep me entertained. My knees had enjoyed the outing too, making light of ten miles and 1000 feet of ascent in almost exactly three hours of walking (with a quarter of an hour added on for taking too many pictures).

Mrs Tootlepedal had had a useful afternoon in the garden, so we were both pretty content with our day.

I had a look out of the window after I had had a cup of tea and several squashed fly biscuits, and saw a siskin and a greenfinch sharing the feeder.

We had fish which I had purchased at the morning market for our evening meal, and that rounded off the activities for the day.

The (just) flying bird of the day is a siskin, caught a fraction of a second before it landed.

Over excited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a very odd sight.

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

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

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

I crossed the Sawmill Brig . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A pedal and a tootle

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

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

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

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

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

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

We found a melange of fungi crowded together . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A mystery knee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A robin kept a close eye on proceedings . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think that it is having an identity crisis.

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

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

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

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Slow going

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . which looked inviting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The flying bird of the day is probably a goldfinch.

Flying off the handle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . and going.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No time for a walk

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

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

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

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

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

. . . so there was pressure on the perches.

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

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

. . . and the Lemon Queen was busy too.

I took a picture of a glowing geranium . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A productive visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then they got a walk round the garden too.

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

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

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

I had put out some lunch for the birds too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bee was visiting the astrantia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.