Fresh fields

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She visited the British Museum today in the company of my Somerset correspondent, her old friend Venetia.

We woke to a bright and breezy day today, very bright and exceedingly breezy.

After breakfast, I went out to check on some camassia that Mrs Tootlepedal had told me was growing behind a bush.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre to have coffee with her ex work colleagues, while I entertained Dropscone at home. He had been playing in a golf match up in the borders yesterday, and reported that he had played quite well.

When Dropscone departed, I had plenty of time to wander about without doing anything useful. It looks as though we should have a good crop of apples this year.

My favourite flower of the day was the Rosa Moyesii making the most of a sunny morning.

I went in and kept an eye out for birds.

The seed in the feeder is going down much more slowly than earlier in the month. Our flock of siskins seem to have found somewhere better to go.

As it was too windy for comfortable cycling, even on electric bicycles, Mrs Tootlepedal and I drove down to Canonbie for a sheltered walk by the river.

It was a good choice. We parked at Canonbie Church, and walked down the River Esk for a while, and then cut across a field so that we could walk back up the Liddle Water which joins the Esk a short way down stream.

It was quite warm when the sun was out, and the lambs had taken to a shady spot.

We were happy to walk in the sun.

At the corner of the river, the path leaves the bank for a while. Mrs Tootlepedal skipped up the steps provided . . .

. . . and I followed at a more sedate pace.

The path took us through a strip of woodland between fields and the river. On one side there were signs of the fishermen who use the path . . .

. . . and on the other, a deer flashed past us in the field.

On every side there were wild flowers . . .

I think that the little white flowers in the bottom left corner are sticky chickweed. They were in the fields that we crossed.

When we took the path up the Liddle Water towards the Riddings Viaduct . . .

. . . we were in terra incognita for us, and we had to look for the path at times. It left the river at a bend . . .

. . . and went through gates, over bridges and up to the road back to Canonbie . On the road we met the wind but had fine views too.

The road was rich in wild flowers.

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that the top left picture shows orpine. I could recognise the buttercups and clover.

The most striking wild flower show that we saw was this clump of birdsfoot trefoil opposite Canonbie School.

We called in uninvited on an old friend who lives beside the church to see how she was, and she kindly offered us a cup of tea, and in my case, a biscuit too. We took up this offer, and had a good catch up before heading back to the car . . .

. . . and driving home in time for our regular Zoom with my brother and sisters (and my Somerset correspondent Venetia, who was visiting Mary).

It was a very good walk, especially at this time of year and in our present dry conditions. I hope to do it again soon and visit both the meeting of the rivers and the viaduct.

After a very blowy week, the wind has finally dropped as I write this in the late evening. We will not be sorry to see it go.

The flying bird of the day is a pigeon.

An excellent tootle

Today’s guest picture is a reminder of the sort of sunrise that you can see in East Wemyss if you are up and about at 5 A.M. Our son Tony was.

Owing to a busy afternoon and evening, I am starting this post very late in the day, so the text may be a bit skimpy.

We woke to a wet and windy morning, but things soon got better, and we had a fine day, albeit with a persistently strong wind.

Morning consisted of idling about, coffee with Margaret, and more idling about. I filled in the time by taking pictures in the garden. I took too many and they will appear in panels.

A welcome but rare insect, a seedy dicentra, lichen on a paving stone and a white butterfly.

Yellow rattle on the drying green.

Various bees and a red admiral butterfly.

More poppies beside the dam at the back of the house.

After lunch I upped my game a bit and interspersed the idling with sieving compost and dead heading Icelandic poppies. And taking more pictures.

Fresh Icelandic poppy, fresh rose, fresh irises, and fresh blossom on the rowan tree.,

Mrs Tootlepedal spotted some rooks feeding their young.

Then I went for a walk along the river to the Kilngreen where I had an ice cream (I saw the meadow pipit later in the walk) . . .

. . . then along the Baggra, where I saw wood avens . . .

. . . and lots of hawthorn blossom.

Then it was up the track from Whitshiels . . .

. . . and onto the open hill . . .

. . . past the sheep pens . .

. . . and the three remarkable trees, still standing in spite of three storms and limited contact with the ground . . .

. . . onto the road beside the Scots Pines . . .

. . .which suffered quite a lot of damage in the first storm. But there are still trees standing.

I left the road and walked along the hillside to Whita Well and then back down to the town . . .

. . . by way of the Kirk Wynd, which was lined with wild flowers.

When I got home, I looked at the front lawn and thought that it might recover from the jackdaw attacks, if they don’t come back again.

After I had had a cup of tea and a slice of fruity malt loaf, Mrs Tootlepedal cut my hair and then I had a shower and a shave so that I was looking relatively respectable when the three other members of the recorder group arrived for our fortnightly meeting.

We missed nearly two years of playing thanks to the virus, but we are getting back into our stride again now, and we had a really enjoyable evening of good music and very acceptable though not perfect playing.

I was going to have this evening sparrow as flying bird of the day . . .

. . . but when I looked through my pictures, I thought that I ought to have this bee as flying insect of the day instead.

A windy walk

Today’s guest picture come from my cello playing friend Mike. He found this poplar hawk moth in his shed today.

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We woke up to a chilly, wet and windy day. The rain gave up after a while, and I was able to cycle round to the corner shop for supplies before Margaret joined us for coffee. Over coffee we found that we were not terribly surprised that a report into the criminal behaviour of the prime minister and his chief civil servant by a civil servant in the employment of the government did not call for the resignation of either the prime minister or the head of the civil service. The prime minister told parliament that he was very sorry for being found out.

By the time that Margaret left, the day had brightened up a bit, and the sun was shining on a pair of ducks who had paid us a visit.

They were scavenging for sunflower seeds. I found them in the pond a little later on, but they flew off before I could get a picture.

The rain had left flowers with some extra sparkle . . .

I went out to check on tadpoles in the dam and found the ducks had landed there . . .

. . .and looked quite at home.

Back in the garden, I found that the lupins are coming on nicely, and the ceanothus and geums are thriving.

I took some more random shots before I went in to make some soup for lunch. I was happy to see a rare insect on a euphorbia and the first flowers on a philadelphus.

The soup was a job lot of kidney beans, celery, cauliflower, carrots and onion in a chicken stock. It turned out to be very tasty, and will probably be added to my limited soup repertoire.

It was even windier today than it has been lately, so I abandoned any idea of a cycle ride, and went for a five mile walk ’round Potholm’ instead.

The sun was shining as I set out, and the honeysuckle in our front hedge was looking at its best.

I went up the road past Holmwood first, as I thought that this would give me the best protection from the wind. Engineers are replacing broken poles and rehanging telephone and internet wires which we were damaged in the storm last November. There is still a lot of work to do. The collapse of so many trees along the river bank means that I can look through a gap now and see the valley up which I would soon be walking.

I was pleased to find that my route choice was sound, and I was untroubled by headwinds as I walked along the road to Potholm. I had creatures great and small for company.

And the verges were full of wild flowers. Most have already appeared in the blog but I hadn’t seen chickweed or wall hawkweed so I recorded them, along with some fine fern and beautiful flowers on a rhododendron at the farm.

I looked down over the bridge across the River Esk . . .

. . . noticed the growth on the hawthorn hedges as I approached the bridge . . .

. . .and found that the recent rain has not added a great deal to the flow of the river under the bridge.

There has been a lot of work done in clearing up the mess made by the November storm in the woods beside the track back to Langholm on the other side of the river. I walked past several great walls of logs on my way.

When I got down to the Castleholm, I came across what I think is bistort beside the road and red chestnut beside the cricket field.

I kept an eye out for birds as I walked along the river at the Kilngreen, and was pleased to see a couple of grey wagtails popping about along the edge of the water.

An old friend was easier to spot.

I crossed the town bridge and walked along the Esk to the suspension bridge, hoping to see more waterside birds. I disturbed a small bird and it raced off across the river. From a distance, I could only get a poor shot of it, but it looks like a sandpiper to me. Nearer to hand, an oystercatcher marched along grumbling at me, but didn’t fly off.

I got home in time for a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike Tinker, who is back from a holiday in Wales, before Zooming with our son Alistair and our granddaughter Matilda. They had been in the west of the country at the weekend, where Matilda had won her class in a song and dance competition. She practices hard, so it was good to find that her hard work had paid off.

There was just time after that Zoom for a slice of freshly baked fruity malt loaf before we were online again, this time talking to my brother and sisters.

My sister Mary had been to an exhibition in the Maritime Museum at Greenwich, and showed us a delightful selection of pictures of paintings of Venice by Canaletto which had been loaned to the museum by Woburn Abbey. My brother and sisters are very active and we get a lot of pleasant surprises in our Zoom meetings.

The slow cooked mince made a third and final appearance at our evening meal, this time in the guise of a pasta sauce, and as we watched some very exciting highlights of the day’s stage at the Giro after the meal, Wednesday turned out to be a lot better than it had promised to be when we woke up to miserable wet and windy conditions.

The flying bird of the day is a sunny gull from my afternoon walk.

Faith rewarded

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce. He was amused by the placing of this bollard, and wondered whether it was there for drivers or sailors.

We had another sociable morning today, with both Sandy and Margaret coming round for coffee and conversation. When they had gone their separate ways, we got out into the garden for a while. The weather was variable but we found ourselves in a sunny moment and flowers were glowing.

I spotted a new rose . . .

. . . and enjoyed the sun on the cornflowers . . .

. . . and a new iris.

There were birds and bees to be seen as well.

Earlier in the year, we gave some of our surplus seed potatoes to Sandy, and he planted them in a sack. He told us today that they are doing wonderfully well. Our conventional potato patch is not doing badly either.

I went back in and looked at the birds for a while . . .

. . . and then went back out to enjoy more sunshine and flowers.

Apart from dead heading several Icelandic poppies, I didn’t do anything useful.

The forecast was for changeable weather, but as it was dry after lunch, I decided to go for a cycle ride. Regular readers who are familiar with the whimsical ways of our local weather gods, will not be surprised to learn that just as I started changing into my cycling clothes, it started to pour with rain very heavily indeed.

I had another look at the forecast, and it suggested that the rain would stop soon and then there would be a dry spell. The rain did stop soon but the shower had been so heavy that I certainly wasn’t keen to be out cycling when another one like that arrived. I dithered for a while, but as some blue sky appeared, I decided to trust the forecast and go for a ride.

The wet road was steaming in the sunshine as I left the town, and there were plenty of showers about but for once, they were over there, and where I was, the sun kept shining.

I looked back as I climbed the hill past Wauchope Schoolhouse and was pleased to find that the worst was behind me..

I chose an unadventurous route straight into the wind, with the plan to turn and head for home with the wind behind me as soon as it started to rain heavily again.

I was lucky, and I got as far as Paddockhole Bridge after ten and a half miles without a problem.

I even had time to stop and take pictures of vetch and wild garlic in the verges.

The only downside to the route was the strength of the wind. It was very breezy when I set out, perhaps as a result of a wrinkle in the air pressure connected to that heavy shower. I wasn’t in a mood to fight with the elements, so it took me over an hour to do the ten and half miles to Paddockhole. I came back in 44 minutes!

I didn’t want to push my luck with the weather, so I only stopped once or twice for pictures on the way home. This is a favourite view up the Winterhope valley, as it gives me an excuse to pause halfway up a steep hill.

My timing was good, and it started to rain again not long after I had got home. Once again though, the rain didn’t last long and I was able to have another wander round the garden.

The celery plants which we bought in Fife have settled in well in their high tech individual greenhouses . . .

. . . and the nectaroscordums are starting to flower.

After an early evening meal, the weather looked set fair enough to allow Mrs Tootlepedal and me to get out for an evening ride on our electric bikes. The sun wasn’t as kind as we had hoped and it was a little chilly, but we still enjoyed our outing to Cronksbank, taking the road past the bird hide.

At Cronksbank, we looked over the nature reserve . . .

. . . and set off back to Langholm, before it got too chilly

We did pause to take pictures of horsetail and broom . .

. . . and we spent some time beside the Tarras Water . . .

. . . listening to a rich variety of bird song (but without seeing any of the actual birds that were singing).

Once again the electric bikes proved to be a sound purchase, as they made getting up the three very steep hills on our eight mile jaunt a pleasure rather than a penance. Mrs Tootlepedal has done 175 miles on hers since we bought them a few weeks ago.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

Scones, jam and cream

Today’s guest picture of these lovely roses comes from my brother Andrew.

On a grey and occasionally rainy morning, Mrs Tootlepedal was hard at work soon after breakfast making scones. I rushed round to the shop and bought biscuits and a pot of double cream. The reason for this preparation? The imminent arrival of our church choir friends Anne and Mike for morning coffee and refreshments.

The scones came out of the oven, the cream was whipped, raspberry jam was put on the table, coffee was brewed and everything was ready for our guests. In spite of a rain shower, they arrived bang on time, and we had a tour of the garden before going inside.

Entertaining guests has been a rare event over the past two years, so it was exceedingly nice to sit and chat with Anne and Mike for an hour.

When they left in better weather than when they came, I got busy cutting grass and polished off the front and middle lawns with the push mower, and the vegetable garden, the drying green and the greenhouse grass with the hover mower.

The front lawn is still showing signs of the jackdaw attack, but it has improved a bit . . .

We are leaving half the middle lawn unmown to encourage wild flowers and pollinators . . .

. . . and the hover mower is set high enough for plenty of daisies and dandelions to spring up almost the moment that I have finished mowing.

During the day I took several flower pictures, and because I took too many pictures today, I have put them into two panels although they were taken at different times of day.

A new geum has come out, aquilegias and poppies are popping up everywhere, and another early rose has arrived.

The ‘wild’ sweet rocket and Icelandic poppies were joined by the first irises of the year which had come out when the day warmed up later on.

After I had finished my mowing, I noticed another fungus in a flower bed and the first lupin flower of the year . . .

. . . and I couldn’t miss this vibrant collection of colours beside the front lawn . . .

. . . or the abundant clematis over the garage doors.

After lunch, I intended to go for a medium length cycle ride, but I had to talk to my mobile phone provider first as the operating system on the phone had been updated recently behind my back using up all my mobile data allowance for the month. As my phone is set only to update when I am on my home wi-fi, this was a shock. I was able to connect to an technical adviser very promptly, and he sorted the matter out very cheerfully, especially considering that he was personally feeling awful, hardly able to speak for a sore throat, and possibly suffering from Covid. The joys of working from home. This all took some time though, so when I did get going, I limited myself to a trip round my familiar Canonbie circuit.

It was pretty windy, and the first few miles up the Wauchope road were a real battle. However, things took a turn for the better when I took a turn southwards at Wauchope Schoolhouse. I was blown down to the bottom of the by-pass in a very satisfactory way. I naturally expected some hard work back in to the wind on my way home, but I got a pleasant surprise. It was one of those rare days when for some unfathomable reason the wind helps in both directions. The pedal home was a breeze.

I had time and energy to look about. There was a lot of clover beside the road at one point . . .

. . . and not only is clover a very pretty flower which attracts photographers . . .

. . . but it attracts bees too. This is just one of them.

I stopped again at the Hollows, glanced down the river, saw a beech tree by the bridge looking well, and met grass and silverweed beside the road through the village.

My final stop was to note that the invasive Pyrenean Valerian is taking over the whole roadside near Irvine House . . .

. . . but on the plus side, it was attracting bees too.

My new handlebars are obviously not holding me back, as thanks to the kindly wind, I did the twenty mile trip more quickly than any effort for the last year and a half.

I haven’t got my time organised at all when it comes to writing this post, probably as a result of easting too many scones with raspberry jam and cream, so all the birds shots are coming in a lump at the end today.

There are increasing numbers of sparrows turning up at the feeder to join the redpolls and siskins . .

. . . but by way of variety, a bunch of rooks turned up today and made free with the fallen seed.

They arrived in numbers . . .

. . . and one settled on the plum tree . . .

. . .and remained calm when another flew low over its head.

A jackdaw on the feeder pole looked a bit cheesed off by this invasion.

The day brightened up a lot as the afternoon went on, but by the time that we had had a cup of tea, Zoomed with my brother and sisters, and eaten our evening meal, it seemed too late for a electric bike ride. We subsided into easy chairs instead, and watched the Chelsea Flower Show.

The flying bird is one of the rooks, making off with a crop full of sunflower seeds.

A starling invasion

Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s walk home from Street. I like this pastoral scene a lot. There is a river running through it.

We had a cold, damp, windy day with very little or nothing to be said in its defence. We walked to church under umbrellas, and found ourselves part of a tiny choir. There was a good congregation in attendance as it was a christening service so it was a double pity that the choir was so small and the hymn singing was bedevilled by technical hiccups in the screens used to display the words to the congregations, a remnant of Covid restrictions when hymn books were banned.

On the plus side, it had stopped raining when as we walked home.

After a cup of coffee, I prepared mince and vegetables for the slow cooker, and then looked at the birds but only found a couple of sparrow to watch . . .

. . . so I went out to prospect for new growth in the garden.

A second oriental poppy, the first rose of the year, new rhododendron flowers and another blue aquilegia were to be found . . .

. . . along with increased productivity from peony, rhododendron, potentilla and Veronica.

For me the star of the day was this azalea . . .

. . . but it was damp, so I didn’t stay out long.

There are no tadpoles in our pond but I saw some tadpoles in the dam before I went back in and practised songs for the Carlisle Choir.

When I had another look at the birds after lunch, siskins and redpolls had turned up.

They hadn’t quite got the idea of living in harmony with each other.

The siskins and redpoll did not stop long, as young starlings arrived . . .

. . . and they in turn left to make room for an adult . . .

. . . with increasingly heavy family responsibilities.

My heart bled for the harassed parent, popping up and down from the feeder to feed the endlessly demanding youngsters.

I did think of going for a short walk before the afternoon choir, but the weather was not encouraging. It was raining as we drove down to Carlisle, so at least we weren’t missing a good cycling opportunity while we were singing.

The choir practice was well attended. It was hard work, with good concentration needed throughout, but it went well, and was as satisfactory as a practice in an unsuitable venue can be.

It had stopped raining as we drove home.

We did think of an evening outing in the improved weather, but by the time that we had enjoyed the slow cooked mince and watched another starling family saga . . .

. . . the moment had passed, and we sat down to watch Countryfile and the highlights of today’s stage of the Giro instead.

We are still waiting for the repairs to the church organ to be completed. When they are finished and we are back in the choir loft, Sundays will be better days, regardless of the weather.

The flying bird of the day is one of the redpolls, seen in the poor morning light before the arrival of the starlings.

On the trail of the lonesome pine (again)

Today’s guest picture is another of my sister Mary’s delightful studies of Regents Park in London. She goes there to play tennis and always looks about on her way.

We woke to rather grey and windy weather with a forecast of some rain to come in the middle of the day. We were in no hurry to get up and rush about, though I did manage to get to the corner shop for supplies before Margaret came round for coffee.

After coffee, we expected rain but it didn’t come, so Mrs Tootlepedal cycled off to do some shopping and I wandered round the garden. We have got quite a lot of wildish flowers in the garden these days.

The yellow rattle in the top right corner of the panel above is there to discourage the grass on the drying green from growing so that Mrs Tootlepedal can develop a small mini meadow of wild flowers. It is doing a really good job and the grass has been much discouraged. The ajuga (bottom right) is providing excellent ground cover with the bonus of pretty colour.

Chives and gooseberries are looking very promising.

I went in to cook some soup for lunch, and while it was simmering, I looked at the birds.

Business at the feeder was a bit slow, so I took my bird camera outside just at a moment when a lot of rooks obligingly flew overhead.

While I was outside, I checked to see if another oriental poppy had come, but there is still only one in flower. It is a good one though.

I went back in and looked out again. The willows were providing a perch for a goldfinch.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned, and we had lunch, but not before I had noticed a young starling paying a very brief visit to the feeder.

The forecast rain amounted to no more than a few drops, and the afternoon looked to be set fair, so I ignored the brisk wind and went for a cycle ride.

However, I found that I couldn’t ignore the brisk wind when I got going, and I was very happy to stop from time to time to take pictures and rest my legs. There was a good variety of wild flowers to stop for. The Pyrenean Valerian (top left and bottom right) is out in force in places. It is spreading its footprint every year.

I noticed two hawthorns, one pink and one white, standing side by side near Canonbie.

A field had been cut for silage since I last went past.

I extended my usual Canonbie circuit by five miles today, and went further down the main road before turning off to start the journey home. I had been cycling into the wind, so as I turned off, the wind became a fierce cross wind. Luckily I had some good hedges and woods to protect me from the worst.

I passed the farms of Batenbush and Cubbyhill, before taking the road to Englishtown and Glenzier (called Evertown on the signpost) . . .

The signpost has an ingenious design which would let another direction pointer to be added if this had been a crossroads and not merely a trivial junction. As the Cumberland County council was abolished in 1974, the signpost has lasted and been maintained well.

Once I had gone through Glenzier, I took the road over the hill rather than the main road back to Langholm. This took me past my second favourite breed of cattle . . .

. . . and let me stop to take some more pictures of the pine tree that I had noticed yesterday.

It has got a lot going on.

Any thoughts of rain had disappeared as I cycled along, and by the time that I was five miles from home, it was a glorious afternoon . . .

I had a quick tour of the garden azaleas and rhododendrons when I got back . . .

. . . before going in to join Mrs Tootlepedal to have our afternoon cup of tea. ( I was going to write that I joined Mrs Tootlepedal in a cup of tea but that might have been open to misinterpretation.)

As it was such a nice day by now, although still quite windy, Mrs Tootlepedal and I got out our electric bikes and we pedalled up to see the interesting pine tree. The helpful electric motors make light work of pedalling into a brisk breeze, and we got up the hill to the pine without any great difficulty.

We didn’t get any closer to identifying the tree but we thoroughly enjoyed our outing anyway. The light was wonderful, and the trip back home, downhill and downwind, was fun. We did the ten miles in just under an hour, and had worked up a good appetite for our evening meal.

I took three pictures on the way home, showing Mrs Tootlepedal on the road with points of interest to the right and left of her.

We rounded off the day by watching the highlights of a very exciting stage of the Giro d’Italia.

The flying bird of the day is one of the rooks. It had flown a bit lower than the others.

From little acorns . . .

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia. She was passed by this fine vehicle as she was walking home from the village of Street.

We had a somewhat cooler, much greyer, and just as windy day today, but fortunately, it stayed driy as Mrs Tootlepedal and I drove up to Broomholmshiels to join Kat and the the volunteer team helping in the Tarras valley Nature Reserve.

We were set the task of spotting and marking any oak seedlings we could find among the old oaks in Longwood.

We set to work . . .

. . . and although I had thought that this might stretch my capabilities to the limit, once we had got our eye in . . .

. . .we found and marked about 100 seedlings in a remarkably short time.

The purpose of the exercise was to spot the seedlings while the grass and the bracken are short. The seedlings won’t survive where they are under the thick cover of the old oaks, so they will be transplanted. However, they can’t be transplanted at this time of year. The team will be able to spot the markers and dig up the seedlings in the winter, and then replant them elsewhere on the reserve.

As we walked back to the cars, bluebells on the open hillside showed where old woods had been cut down in the past.

When we got home, we had a cup of coffee and a blackbird posed for me.

After coffee, we trimmed the grass along the dam, and then Mrs Tootlepedal did some work in the garden, and I wandered about. I noticed that the oak seedlings from local acorns that Mrs Tootlepedal is growing in her cold frame are coming along very well.

They will be planted out too.

I spotted some new flowers, geranium, Limnanthes douglasii (poached egg flower), peony and Sweet William . . .

. . . and some old friends, azalea, choisya, ceanothus and astrantia.

The cow parsley is blooming marvellous!

I went in and looked back out at the birds, and found a redpoll perched on the willow twigs.

The twigs are thriving and will make an excellent shelter for the bird feeder.

After lunch, I had another look at the bird feeder and found mixed company . . .

. . .and then, while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to her stitching group, I felt strong enough to brave the very brisk winds and go for a twenty mile pedal round my Canonbie route. I went the ‘wrong’ way round again, getting as much shelter as I could while pedalling into the wind. It was very grey but I stopped for a few pictures as I went round.

The natural rhododendrons are coming out . . .

. . . and some of the hawthorns are sensational. This one has a horse chestnut in the background.

Some of the farmers have already taken a cut of silage off the fields, and the birds were busy looking for worms.

I saw clover, crosswort and hawkbit in the verges . . .

. . . but the most interesting thing that I encountered was this pine.

I have passed this way many times and never noticed it before. It was hard to miss today.

I have no idea what sort of pine it is and would welcome suggestions. Google thinks that it might be Pinus Massoniana, a native of Taiwan!

I got back just as Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her stitching, and we had a cup of tea. The weather was getting gloomier and gloomier, so I had a last look round the garden before the rain started.

The veronica is starting to show a few flowers . . .

. . . and the shy clematis by the front door is opening up a little.

My two oldest sisters have been on jaunts lately, one with my brother, and we got hair raising tales of travel excitement from them in our regular Zoom meeting in the evening. The oddest was from my sister Mary. She was waiting on a platform for a train which, when it came, whizzed through the station without stopping. General consternation!

Our changeable and windy weather is set to continue for a few days, so I am glad that I managed to get a windy bike ride in today. There may have to be more battles with the elements next week.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin, considerably brightened up in the photo editor.

A restful day

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Caroline. She was given these roses by a neighbour who had cut them off because they were overhanging Caroline’s garden path.

We had another fine and warm day here, but the wind blew so briskly all day that it discouraged me from walking or cycling. Perhaps the pollen is affecting me a bit too, as I did not have much get up and go today.

There is plenty of pollen about.

I started the (fairly) active part of the day by having coffee and scones with Dropscone. By this time next week he will be a year older than me, but I thought that he was looking very well for man of his age. He went off with some rhubarb.

I filled the feeder and a siskin gave me a reproachful look when I interrupted its eating.

When I was out seeing Dropscone off, I had a look round and noticed an oriental poppy on the back wall of the house beside the dam . . .

. . . and I went to have a closer look.

While I was at the back of the house, I saw a few flowers on the fuchsia.

It doesn’t look as though it is going to come to much this year.

I wandered round the garden too, looking for new flowers which haven’t appeared on the bog this spring yet. I found a poached egg flower . .

. . . and a geranium.

. . . and more and more alliums.

Among old friends, the sweet rocket is looking lovely . . .

. . . and more of the azaleas and rhododendrons are coming out each day it seems.

The Japanese azalea combines well with some Spanish bluebells in the back border . . .

. . . and we are looking forward to the moment when the ordinary peonies come out to join the tree peony flowers.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I did a little shopping, and since some unseasonable raspberries fell into my shopping bag, I made four pots of raspberry jam after lunch. You may wonder at my need for raspberry jam, but there is nothing like it for adding delicious flavour to Greek style yoghurt as far as I am concerned.

In the afternoon, we went out into the garden, and I made myself useful by earthing up the two potato beds and then sieving some more compost.

By the time that I had done that and taken a few more pictures, I had to go inside for a sit down, passing under the back door clematis on my way.

I had photographed the more modest clematis by the front door . . .

. . . some promising azalea buds . . .

. . .and many Welsh poppies and daisies in the lawn . . .

. . .when I should have been doing something more helpful.

I spotted a dunnock out of the window when I went in.

I did spend a little useful time while I was indoors going over the hymns for next Sunday. We are hoping that the church organ may be back in use this week after its extensive repairs.

Mrs Tootlepedal made one of her excellent fish pies for our supper, and while it was cooking, I had a last look round out of the back door and enjoyed some excellent colour without the need for any flowers.

I hope to be feeling a bit more peppy tomorrow as there is volunteering on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve to be done.

No flying bird today but I got a slightly fuzzy picture of a flying bee instead.

The hills are alive . . .

Today’s guest picture comes from Paul, my Lancashire correspondent, who is currently in the Lake District. He visited Levens Hall, famous for its topiary.

We had a fine, warm but pretty windy day here. Mrs Tootlepedal spent a lot of it in the garden, but she found time after coffee with Margaret to cycle a mile up the road with me, and explore the hillside above Bessie Bells. It was covered in bluebells.

It was wonderful to wander along the hillside among the flowers, but it would take a better photographer than me to be able to convey properly the scene to people who weren’t there. I did my best.

The eye sweeps over the whole hillside, while the camera just takes in one small portion at a time.

There are some very ancient and rather bent and battered hawthorns on the steep slopes . . .

. . . and I combined both a hawthorn and bluebells in a single shot.

I was surprised to spot a peacock butterfly among the bluebells.

Before we cycled home, I took the opportunity to cross the road and scramble down the river bank. The recent rain has put a little power into the Wauchope Water cascade.

The sunny weather was bringing out the best in the garden flowers today . . .

. . . and we are getting some colourful corners developing.

I got a birds eye view of the front lawn from an upstairs window. The damage inflicted by the jackdaws on the grass is very evident.

After lunch, while Mrs Tootlepedal was busy weeding and tidying in the garden, I went for a walk up Whita.

Whether it is because there are more aeroplanes flying, or because of the air conditions of the day, the sky seemed very busy.

I walked up to the monument at the top of the hill, and then took the track along the ridge towards the south. If it had been a less hazy day, the view would have been extensive. As it was, it was still impressive to stand on the very last of the border hills and look over the Solway plain.

I followed a track made by the local mountain biking community as I went down the side of the hill.

It starts gently enough, but the slopes are steep and the track twists, curves, leaps and swoops its way down the hill. I staggered, wobbled, slid and stumbled my way down, but arrived safely at the bottom, enjoying the views when I had time to look up . . .

. . .and admiring the fine oak at the old railway line . . .

. . . before coming down the steps to Skippers Bridge. The view from the bridge confirmed that we are at peak green.

I kept my eyes open for flowers as I went up and down the hill.

As I walked home along the Murtholm track, by happy chance I met Mark, a blog reader who had kindly sent me details of two interesting hill walks. We agreed that we would try one of them together in early June if we can find a suitable day with suitable weather. I am looking forward to the challenge, as it is a demanding walk.

I got home in time for a cup of tea and an oatmeal and raisin biscuit before the regular Zoom meeting with my brother and sisters.

After a light evening meal, Mrs Tootlepedal chose a testing ten mile route over the hill and through the Gates of Eden for our evening cycle ride. Luckily, the electric bikes make testing routes like this good fun, and we had a very enjoyable outing. I only stopped once for a picture. It shows the view that you see when you have passed through the Gates of Eden and are looking down into the Ewes valley.

We got round the ten miles in just under and hour, and that rounded off a very interesting and rewarding day.

I had very little time to watch the birds, but I did spot a siskin and a redpoll exchanging views in the morning . . .

. . .and in the afternoon, I managed to find a pigeon willing to model as flying bird of the day.