Getting about

Today’s guest picture comes from Fiona, my Newcastle correspondent.  She is on a family meander around the Highlands and sent me this picture of the village of Penman where they are staying.  The village will be familiar to anyone who has seen the film ‘Local Hero’.


The forecast was quite right and we had a wonderfully sunny day today with the added bonus that it was not too hot for most of the time.  Perfect.

I had big plans for the day which would begin with a visit to fill the Moorland feeders as the regular Wednesday feeder fillers were off to Edinburgh, followed by an interesting time in the bird hide getting great woodpecker pictures.

This part of the plan didn’t go so well.  I got up in nice time to fill the feeders but found that two bird watchers had already filled up the hide with themselves and their equipment.  Two’s company and three’s a crowd so I filled the feeders and came home a bit grumpily.

A butterfly on the buddleia cheered me up.

peacock butterfly

…and I spotted a dunnock on the plum tree from my own bird hide (the kitchen window).


In spite of the sunshine it was pleasantly cool but some birds seemed to be feeling the heat all the same.


The second part of my grand plan was to leap on my fairly speedy bike and bicycle miles and miles.  I secretly had 100 miles in my mind but once again a certain disinclination to get myself organised was manifest and by the time that I got going (after a crossword, some coffee and a bit of toast, it was nearly eleven o’clock so I changed my ambitions from imperial to metrical and settled for trying to do more than 100 kilometres.

This went well.

Although I used mostly familiar roads, I managed to pick out a route that I hadn’t been round before and even included a few miles on a completely new road.

As I went along, there were always interested spectators…

sheep at Eaglesfield

…and fine bridges.

River Annan at Brydekirk

The River Annan at Brydekirk

As I was snapping the bridge, I noticed a luscious crop of unpicked blackberries…


…but sadly their survival was down to the fact that they were out of reach down the river bank.

Brydekirk is a typical village with a pub at one end of the street and a church at the other.   This was just one of the many churches which I passed on my journey.

church at Brydekirk, Dalston and Mousewald

These are churches at Dalston, Brydekirk and Mousewald

There were some big skies when I got out of the hills.

big sky at dalston

This one was taken at the spot where the vapour trails show that airliners turn left for America.

My new stretch of road involved climbing a stiff hill out of Dalston.  When I got to the top I came to an unexpected junction and stopped to consult Google Maps on my phone.  As it happened, I stopped opposite a patch of wild flowers which was playing host to about twenty butterflies.  Trying to take pictures of very small fluttering objects with bright sun shining onto the viewing screen, wearing dark glasses and just having cycled up a steep hill may explain my inability to bring you this wonderful sight in all its beauty.

butterflies near dalston

This was the best that I could do

The ridge gave me some good views while I was up there.

Views of Nith valley

Google maps came up trumps and I soon swooped down the other side of the hill and crossed the very busy A75 at a suitable crossroads.  I was not following a very well used road…

road near Mousewald

…but it took me safely down to Mousewald and thence on to Powfoot on the Solway shore.

I passed a field of alpacas near Powfoot and noticed that there were a couple of donkeys in with them.

alpacas and donkey at Powfoot

When I got to the sea shore at Powfoot, the sea was a long way off…

Powfoot view

…but I could see the English side very well.

Out on the sand banks, there was a family vainly trying to get a paddle…

Powfoot view

…and beside me was a very colourful lichen.

lichen at powfoot

The light wind was behind me now as I pedalled through Annan and on to Gretna where I stopped at the Old Toll Bar for a cup of tea and a teacake.  To my surprise, I met another Langholm cyclist who had also stopped there on his ride.   We sat and chatted for a while and discovered that we were doing roughly the same distance but in completely different directions, his route having taken him south of Carlisle.  He was going quite a lot faster than me too.

I polished off my teacake and set off to add an eight mile loop to my route to Longtown which took me through this woody tunnel near Justicetown.

Justicetown road

Once I got to Longtown, I took the straight way up the main road back to Langholm, stopping only to note some fine daisies on the Canonbie bypass…


…and a daddy long legs on a bollard beside the road.

daddy long legs

It had got quite hot for the last few miles of the trip and I was glad to  get home and sit down in the cool of the kitchen and have another cup of tea.  Although I had eaten well, two bananas, a filled roll and a teacake and drunk well too, three water bottles and a cup of tea, I had managed to lose a kilogram on the ride so it must have been a bit warmer than it felt.

Those interested in the details of the ride can click on the map as usual.

Garmin Route 24 Aug 2016

On a rough calculation, 71 miles translates into 113 kilometres so I did achieve Plan B at least.

It was still a beautiful evening after I had had my shower so a brief walk round the garden was in order.  There were more butterflies there.


It is wonderful what a bit of sunshine will do.

Strangely enough, I didn’t really feel like going on a flying bird walk for some reason so a Golden Syllabub rose, held up by my lovely assistant, will have to do as flower of the day instead.

Golden Syllabub rose



A day of contrasts

The guest picture of day comes from my brother Andrew, who looked up when he was visiting York Minster.

York Minster

Once again, we woke to a gloomy, damp day but it had the goodness to stop raining while I visited the dentist for a check up.   It was pleasantly warm as I walked home having been given the all clear but the garden was still looking fairly damp when I got there.


However, it was still and dry enough to tempt some insects out…

bees and butterflies

…and if you look closely, you can see three beasties collecting pollen from the poppy above at the same time.

insect on dahlia

I can’t make up my mind whether these rather fluffy yellow things are bumble bees or not.  I don’t think that the ones on the poppy are but I am less sure about the one on the dahlia.  Once again, I hoped to be helped out by knowledgeable readers.

My daughter has been in Portugal for a short break and very kindly sent me a tin of genuine Portuguese sardines so we had some very tasty sardine pâté for our lunch.  She knows that my brain needs all the help it can get from oily fish.

After lunch, the weather brightened up a lot and we walked to our church in glorious sunshine to celebrate the life of Charlie Edgar, a member of Mrs Tootlepedal’s Church Choir who died recently.  Mrs Tootlepedal  has had a long association with Charlie, both through the choir and the local amateur operatic society of which he was a mainstay for many years.   We sang two cheerful hymns and heard a very fine eulogy written and read by a friend so although memorial services are by their nature not something that you look forward to going to, this one was a very fitting tribute to a good man.

In spite of the sunshine, it was still a bit too soggy to contemplate some mowing when we got home so after a pause to catch up on the highlights of yesterday’s stage of the Vuelta on the telly, I got the fairly speedy bike out and did a very modest vuelta of my own.

It was perfect cycling weather – warm, sunny but not too hot and with a light wind to provide a little cooling when needed.

I went out of town up the Esk Valley and enjoyed the views as I went.

Gates of Eden

The ‘Gates of Eden’



Telford Library

The Telford Library at Bentpath founded to provide local antimony miners with books to read

As I pedalled up the road towards Bailliehill, I stopped to admire the heather..


…and looked back at the Esk in the valley below.

Esk at bailliehill

Soon, I had climbed out of the Esk valley and had dropped gently down to the start of the Water of Milk…

Water of Milk

Whereas farmers get very basic bridges, I got a fine stone bridge to cross a small tributary a bit further along.

Bridge near water of Milk

The road rose up from beside the stream and as I pedalled along, I could look across and see the tops of all six of the new windmills on Ewe Hill on the other side of the valley.

Ewe Hill Windmills

I was very pleased to see that they were indicating that I would have what wind there was at my back for the last ten miles of my journey.

As I rode up the hill at Callister, I passed some birds who are planning a trip of their own quite soon.


While I pedalled along, I reflected that the bicycle really is a wonderful invention.  A day or two ago, we watched the finest runners in the world run the Olympic marathon on flat roads.  Today, I went about the same distance over much hillier terrain and under my own steam in a time some ten minutes quicker than they had managed.   Running is a very pedestrian way of getting about, as they say.

Those interested in the route can click on the map below.

Garmin Route 23 Aug 2016

I was hoping to go for a little flying bird walk when I got back but the clouds had returned and the light was not promising enough to make it worthwhile so I wandered round the garden instead for a few minutes….

rudbeckia and nicotiana

Rudbeckia and Nicotiana are adding to our pleasure with colour and scent respectively


A second cardoon has flowered

sweet peas

The better weather had brought out more sweet peas

…and then went in to have a shower and make baked eggs in spinach with a cheese sauce for our tea.    I had some very tasty cheese to hand so this rounded off the day very well.

After tea, we watched the highlights of today’s stage of the Vuelta so we had a double helping of cycling to enjoy.  It looks as though it will be an interesting race.

We are promised a day of sunshine tomorrow.  We are very much looking forward to that.

The flower of the day is another in the long line of poppies.  I find them very hard to resist.

pink poppy




A tootle but no pedal

Today’s guest picture shows Matilda contemplating a possible friend whom she met at Jupiter Artland near Edinburgh.

Matilda at Jupiter Artland

It was raining again when we got up this morning but by the time that I set for the High Street to visit the Archive Centre and then go to take my turn offering information to visitors, the rain had stopped.

The tourist information has been relocated to a prime spot in the Market Place and is both more comfortable for the volunteers and more accessible and obvious to visitors so my two hours passed by pleasantly enough and I even gave useful information to several visitors.

I had intended when I got home to do some dead heading, have some lunch, mow a lawn or two and shoot off for a cycle ride but I was absolutely overcome by lassitude for no particular reason and only managed a little dead heading, a single lawn and no cycling at all.

I didn’t even take many pictures.  This was partly because I was tired and partly because the sun refused to come out until the evening and partly because there wasn’t anything new in the garden.  I did take one or two though.


The cosmos conitnue to show the benefits of the dead heading

poppy and insects

The drier weather had brought some insects back out

There was only one fleeting glimpse of a coloured butterfly although there were quite a lot of white ones about.

two spot white butterfly

I summoned up enough energy to sieve some compost and whatever else you can say about our weather this year, I have to admit that it has been very suitable for the compost which is maturing at a good speed.

Mike Tinker came round for a cup of tea and he told me that the possible salvia which appeared on the blog a few days ago….


…is definitely a lobelia siphilitica.   So that is one up to him and the New Hampshire Gardener.  The curious name is based on the fact that it was thought to be a cure for syphilis.  As it seems to be poisonous this might be a cure of the ‘kill or cure’ variety.

After he left, I took the slow bike out on a fruitless search for interesting birds by the river.  They were very scarce to the point of invisibility.

herring gull

A non flying herring gull stayed firmly rooted to its rock until I gave up and moved on.

I was reduced to taking a picture of a slug….


…which was feeding on a huge fungus at the roots of one of the beech trees which is going to be felled on the Lodge walks.

When I got home, I noticed that the nigella seems to be getting ever pinker.


I find that these flowers are called Love in a Mist and I can see why in a way but what the octopus is doing there, I can’t imagine.

Just as it was time for me to go in and get my tea, the sun came out and kissed its favourite flower.


After tea, I was too busy to take advantage of the good weather as I had arranged for Mike and Isabel to come round and provide a harpsichord and cello  accompaniment for Luke and me as we played our Loeillet trio sonata.  This was great fun and Luke played really well and we got through all four movements in fine style.

When Luke left, Mike and Isabel stayed on and we played a Quantz trio sonata, a couple of Handel recorder sonatas, had a guided tour round the garden and finished off with a bit of Mozart.

Although I was still very tired and didn’t play at my best, we enjoyed ourselves as usual.

I was sorry not to be able to find a flying bird today but the arrival of a second paper white poppy makes up for it. The sun came out just in time for me to catch it at its best.

white poppy

Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia, who has temporarily deserted Somerset to visit friends in Yorkshire where she saw this traditional scene at the Shipley cricket ground.

Shipley, West Yorkshire

At least it stopped raining here today for the most part but it remained grey and windy which was a disappointment.  I had foolishly stayed up into the wee small hours of the morning to watch Mo Farrah win his second gold medal so I was even greyer than the weather.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir and since cleanliness is next to godliness, I tidied up the kitchen in a leisurely but thorough manner while she was out.
When she came home, we had a stroll round the garden, catching up on the dead heading that we had missed in the rain.

Non gardeners may be baffled about the repeated references to dead heading but plants grow flowers to produce seeds and if the seeds are left, the plants think that their job is done and stop producing new blooms.  With flowers like poppies and cosmos, taking off the heads of the flowers that are over before the seeds are set, encourages the plants to produce new blooms and keeps the colour in the garden going.  Tough on the poor hard working plants but great for us.

The proof of the pudding….


It works for cornflowers too…


…though they are more fiddly to dead head properly.  That is why, the gardener and I try to start each day with a walk round the garden, snippers and a bucket in hand.

The dahlias are others that benefit from dead heading.


A light drizzle started so Mrs Tootlepedal went inside to put a few miles in on her bike to nowhere upstairs and I made some potato latkes for our lunch.  Since we have a good crop of potatoes and onions from the garden to get through, potato latkes may appear quite frequently on our menu over the coming weeks.

After lunch we foolishly turned on the telly and two hours later were still sitting there as the Olympic men’s marathon finished.  Luckily this is the last day of the great event so we may get our lives back.

Overwhelmed with a sense of guilt about our idleness, we leapt up when the race finished and while Mrs Tootlepedal went out into the garden, I got the fairly speedy bike out and went for a briskish pedal round my standard 20 mile loop.

When I got back, I found a large heap of evidence of gardening activity.


Some crocosmia which has outstayed its welcome.

Mrs Tootlepedal is full of ideas for next year’s garden.  She likes the way this bed at the end of the front lawn has turned out…

front lawn bed

…and is intending to have a similar bed on the other side of the centre path.  This will entail digging up and shifting a very large and ancient azalea but she is not daunted.  She never is.

I had a good walk round while she continued her tidying up activities.  I have been too gloomy about the plum crop.   It looks as though it will be very fruitful….

plum tree with plums

…if we can just get enough sunshine to ripen the fruit.  I have sampled the first few to ripen and they are tasting delicious.

In the vegetable garden there is lots to look at as well.

Beans, courgette, turnip and potato.

The fruits in the bottom right frame are potato apples and are not for consumption as they are poisonous.

My current favourite flowers have survived the rainy days very well and are looking better than ever.

cardoon and lily

The cardoon flower is the only one of several heads to have come out.  If the rest actually flower, it should be a great sight.

The poor old Golden Syllabub on the other hand is really not enjoying the weather at all and I had to hold the flower up in one hand to get a picture at all.

Golden Syllabub

This is a pity as it is a very pretty flower in good conditions.

I like clematis a lot and Mrs Tootlepedal has a good selection out at the moment…


…but they too could do with some better weather to bring out the best in them.

While we were in the garden, we were disturbed by the clatter of hooves as several horses and riders passed the end of our road.

horses in Henry Street

We didn’t know what the riders were up to but we were glad that we were not still living in reiving times when the clatter of hooves in this area might signal the loss of your cattle and the burning of your house.

I was hoping to go for a bird watching walk after I had changed out of my cycling gear but the clouds overhead were thickening all the time and by the time that I had looked at the perennial nasturtium…

perennial nasturtium

It is having a second flush at the moment

…it had become too dark for the zoom lens so I retired indoors and stayed there.

Although the Olympics are over, we will have the daily highlights of the Vuelta (Tour of Spain) cycle stage race to keep us entertained over the next three weeks.  If you could get fit by watching sport, we would be the fittest people in the world.

No flying bird of the day then but a fine flower to make up for that.







Show time

Today’s guest picture shows the interior of Selby Abbey in Yorkshire which my brother visited last week.  If that is a red carpet, the Abbey carpet cleaner obviously does a very good job.

Selby Abbey

It was raining when Sandy and I went down to Canonbie early in the morning to put up our pictures for the annual Flower Show photographic competition.  We were able to find space to present our pictures well and went back to Langholm for breakfast, well content to leave things in the hands of the judges.

It stopped raining for a few minutes after breakfast so I sneaked out into a rather soggy garden.

Flowers were doing their best to ignore the dampness.


The lilies are sheltered from the worst of the weather.

An exposed bunch of cosmos in an old chimney pot have to put up with everything but keep smiling.


The dahlias in the front beds seem impervious to wet weather.


At the other end of the garden, the rowan tree is laden with berries.  Usually the birds make short work of the berries and they disappear pretty quickly but this year they are being left on the tree for the moment at least.  Maybe they are not quite ripe yet.

Rowan Tree

Although we are not feeding the birds at present, there are plenty of blackbirds about.


I think that they are eating my autumn fruiting raspberries to keep themselves happy.

I didn’t stay out long as the rain soon began to fall again and it kept going….and going.

It was still raining when Mrs Tootlepedal, Sandy and I went back down to Canonbie to see the flowers and vegetables and check on the photo results.  In spite of the rain, a very active dog agility show was being held on the football pitch outside the hall and we stopped to watch a nippy dog or two before we went inside.

There was a good entry of photos so I was modestly pleased to find a first and two seconds among my entries but Sandy was really pleased to find two firsts, two seconds and a third among his efforts.  He even won a trophy.

Sandy at Canonbie

The recent white poppy from the garden brought me my winning ticket which was no less than such a beautiful flower deserved I thought.

As usual there were some beautiful flowers on show but the vegetable classes were rather under subscribed and I hope that Mrs Tootlepedal and I might manage to put in some vegetables next year.

It was still raining when we went home but not long afterwards, it eased off and since it looked at though the worst might be past, I went for a short riverside walk in the hope of seeing some birds.

I was not disappointed. As I walked along Elizabeth Street on the banks of the Esk, I saw a goosander…


…many wagtails…


..and a dipper…


..all busily at work along the water’s edge.

I walked up to the Langholm Bridge, hoping to see some flying gulls but when I peered over the bridge, I was delighted to see a whole family of goosanders sitting on the gravel at the Meeting of the Waters.


As soon as they noticed me, they took to the water…


…and after a moment to get organised, paddled gently upstream in a perfect peloton, eight strong.


I don’t know much about goosanders but I take it that these are a family  as I have never seen more than two or three goosanders together before.  I am open to any comments from readers who are goosander experts.

Seeing these birds was a real treat but I left them in peace and walked over the bridge and on through Clinthead gardens towards the Kilngreen.  There are always a lot of sparrows in the garden hedge but today, they were sitting on the fence and enjoying the view upstream.

sparrows at Clinthead

There is clearly a pecking order.

This is the view that they were taking in.

Meeting of the Waters

Once again, the rain had obviously not fallen evenly over our area and you can see the Ewes Water flowing into the Esk from the right is running much more vigorously than the larger river.

The birds had mostly gone to rest for the evening so there was not much to see and I walked on home over the Castleholm and the Jubilee Bridge, enjoying a little burst of late sunshine as I went.

Cricket Pitch

The cricket pitch looking serene


A view of Whita over the roof of Langholm Academy

With the end of the Olympics in sight, I am looking forward to an early night or two next week and readers of this blog may hope to get slightly less incoherent posts.  Watching Taekwondo and handball is strangely addictive.

The flower of the day is the Cardoon which is  developing a fine punk haircut…


…and the flying bird of the day is a gull over the Esk.

black headed gull

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary’s visit to Oxford and shows some punters quanting. (I am using punter here in the sense of people having an inexpert go at something.)

Excitement at Magdalen Bridge

As forecast, our fine weather came to an end today.   A grey day was brightened by the arrival of Dropscpone with the traditional bag of Friday treacle scones and it at least waited until lunchtime before the serious rain started.

This allowed me to get the drying green, the greenhouse grass and the front lawn mowed and to get a bit of useful dead heading in as well.

By the time I had done this, the rain was coming down so the only photographs that I took in the garden today were of views from the shelter of the back door and I put them in here without comment.

back door view

back door view

back door view

back door view

I didn’t mind the rain in the afternoon as I had a busy time preparing my prints for the Canonbie Flower Show tomorrow.  When I had got everything sorted, I had to drive down to Canonbie to get my entries in and pay for them.  Rather annoyingly, I wasn’t able to take my prints with me and put them up as the photos are only accepted tomorrow morning.  This means an early start for me and Sandy as space is at a premium and if you want an eye level slot, you have to be prompt.

In the evening, Mike and Alison Tinker came round and Alison and I had our first burst of music for some time.  Considering how long it was since we had last played we did remarkably well, often playing in the same key and finishing pieces at the same time.

In training

Today’s guest pictures were sent to me by Langholm exile Tom and show that the South Africans are just as good at spoiling beautiful scenery with power lines as we are.


We enjoyed the last day of our good weather today and I had a busy but uneventful time.

It started when Sandy came round to borrow my trimmer to trim his entries for the Canonbie Flower Show (who rather annoyingly use a non standard size for their entries).

Then I popped out for a quick 20 mile bicycle ride (and because of the very light wind, it was quite quick by my standards).

Then there was time to look round the garden and see some of the new flowers which have arrived, some quite routine…



…and others, more exciting.




The first hint of colour in the cardoons

There is a lot of colour in one of the beds along the front lawn.

Special Grandma at her best

Special Grandma at her best



dahlia and astrantia

dahlia and astrantia

There are clematis flowers to be seen elsewhere.  One is a curious green and white affair where it is hard to tell the flowers from the leaves and the other is in the wrong place or so the gardener tells me.


And the Golden Syllabub has finally produced a reasonable bloom.

Golden Syllabub

So in spite of it being the season of berries…


…and seeds….

next years poppies

Next year’s poppies being prepared

…we are still in cheerful mood.

Especially as I ate the first plum of the year today.

The rest of the day was spent going to Edinburgh to visit Matilda, who was in excellent form.


A little football on the lawn revealed that she has an excellent left foot and can shoot straight.

We had a good time playing in her tiny garden and enjoyed a meal of various curries before walking back through the town in a very mellow evening light…

Calton Hill

…and catching the train home again.

Our drive from Lockerbie to Langholm was illuminated by a generous moon and I took a picture of it when we got home.

full moon

In fact, I took two pictures with different exposures and very different results.

Full moon

A tree just got into the picture in this shot.

The flower of the day is one of the prolific poppies (and friend) which brighten our garden up at the moment.



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